Royal Institution of Great Britain

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The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 and claims a 200 year history of communicating scientific issues to the general public through its events, including ones aimed at children and schools, and other activities.[1]

In 1998 Baroness Susan Greenfield became director of the RI. She was made redundant by the RI in January 2010 and reportedly within hours of the redundancy was locked out of her grace-and-favour flat in central London. She said that she would sue the RI for sex discrimination.[2]

Housed within the RI is the Science Media Centre (SMC) which was launched in December 2001 with the appointment of its Director, Fiona Fox. Fox is part of the Living Marxism network, which has also teamed up with the RI for events, e.g. the conference "Panic Attack" in May 2003 was included in the events for post-16 year-old schoolchildren and advertised as, 'A conference organised by Spiked and the Royal Institution, in association with Tech Central Station.' The editor of Spiked is the former editor of Living Marxism (LM) and its General Manager is LM's former co-publisher. Tech Central Sation is a far right pro-technology group that operates under the slogan, 'Where free markets meet technology'. On its home page Tech Central Europe lists Spiked's sister organisation, the Institute of Ideas, directed by Fiona Fox's sister Claire Fox, as an affiliated think tank.

The event was recommended by the RI as 'particularly suitable for students taking AS Science for public understanding'. The speakers included:

  • Mick Hume, editor of Spiked and columnist with The Times

There was no disclosure of the fact that all three speakers were once leading members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and continue to work to promote an agreed agenda which includes fervent opposition to any restrictions on GM crops, cloning or other genetic technologies. Several other contributors to the event at the RI, including Ann Furedi and Bill Durodie, were also part of the RCP/Living Marxism network but again their close connection and ideological agreement was not disclosed.

The affiliations of some of the other contributors would have been more apparent to AS students who accepted the RI's recommendation of its event:

James Glassman, host of Tech Central Station

Dr Peter Marsh, director of the Social Issues Research Centre

Sallie Baliunas, enviro-sci host at Tech Central Station

Like Tech Central, the mainly-industry funded Social Issues Research Council, which numbers the RI's director amongst its advisors, is also passionately pro-GM.

This is not the only time that the RI and its Director have cooperated in putting on an event with the Living Marxism network (see Susan Greenfield for more on this). Leading network member Dr Michael Fitzpatrick was also part of the Forum on Science and Health Communication that the RI co-convened with the SIRC in order to lay down a code for scientists and the media on the reporting of science stories.

The Science Media Centre largely grew out of the work of the Forum. Susan Greenfield says it led her to realise that more than a code was needed in order to influence the direction of breaking stories in the media. Both the Forum and the Science Media Centre, as Greenfield told Tony Gilland for Spiked, go back to unhappiness with the media coverage of the Arpad Pusztai affair.

Although the SMC is housed in premises that belong to the RI, it claims to be an independent venture with its own funding and governance. According to the SMC's Consultation Report of March 2000, 'In fact, Baroness Greenfield is herself very clear that the SMC will be independent of the Ri. In her view the Ri's role has been to act as "midwife" to the SMC which will now work on behalf of scientists and the scientific community as a whole.' However, the apparent distance between Greenfield and the RI, on the one hand, and the SMC appears partly illusory. This can be sensed from the SMC's Consultation Report which reports on a consultation process SMC staff undertook to determine 'the day-to-day priorities of the new service'. This refers to Greenfield and her views 9 times in its 23 pages, using such expressions as 'Baroness Greenfield has always been clear about her vision of the Centre's position' .

Greenfield is on the SMC's Science Advisory Panel, while the RI's President is also the SMC's President. On its website the SMC quotes its charity number, but the number is that of the RI, and even the SMC's website is only a semi-autonomous part of the RI's website. The SMC's Director, Fiona Fox, is part of a network with which Greenfield has shown she is more than happy to cooperate, while one of the other two staff members, Becky Morelle, who is responsible for 'communicating the Centre's key messages' to the media not only came to the SMC from the RI, where she worked in Greenfield's office, but was previously a student of Greenfield's at Oxford. All three SMC staff members are listed as staff of the Royal Institution.


  1. About Us, Royal Institution website, accessed December 2008
  2. Robin McKie and Rajeev Syal, Top scientist Susan Greenfield told to quit her job – and her flat, The Guardian, 10 Jan 2010, acc 27 Apr 2010