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Honorary Graduate's Speech, Dr Peter Briggs, Doctor of Science (DSc)

Dr Peter Briggs, Chief Executive (1990-2002), British Assocation for the Advancement of Science, received his honorary degree on Monday, September 9, 2002 during a University of Leicester degree congregation which formed part of the opening ceremony for the BA Festival of Science. The following is his response after the degree ceremony oration. 

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, ladies and gentleman I am delighted to be honoured in this way by the University today. 

Vice-Chancellor, your letter inviting me to accept this degree was utterly and completely unexpected. I was at first completely taken aback and then rather thrilled.  For in honouring me the University also honours the BA from which I have been inseparable for the last twenty-two years. 

Two years ago the House of Lords report on Science and Society articulated some of the factors that attracted me into the BA in the first place, namely that science and technology interact with our lives in subtle and complex ways, that people’s responses to new developments often reflect deeply rooted values and attitudes. And if such developments are to be utilised beneficially there must be opportunities for genuine discussion about them involving both scientists and other stakeholders including the public. 

As you heard, I came to the BA from an organisation dedicated in combating poverty in the poorest parts of the world. People have long recognised that science and technology can play an important role in alleviating poverty but only if they are harnessed in ways that are sensitive to the social, environmental and economic realities of the people in countries concerned.  More recently in the past few years we have realised that there are in fact many science related issues that have an immediate impact on our own lives.

The BA with its catholic understanding of what constitutes science, its open membership that attracts such a wonderfully eclectic group of people to this festival and its branch network that spans the UK is an ideal body to foster and inform discussion of these issues. The growing number of our institutional and corporate members reflects a recognition of the key role that the BA can and should play.

Universities are the source of much of the expertise that is essential in these discussions, they also play a major role these days in their local communities, economically, socially and culturally and are no longer the ivory towers they were once perceived to be. That is certainly true of this University which has welcomed the BA with open arms, it has contributed with energy and enthusiasm to the festival providing speakers, resources and facilities that will help to ensure that this week will provide opportunities for all of us to become better informed, for there to be real interaction between scientist and others and for young and not so young alike to be inspired. 

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, the BA is delighted to be here and I am proud to be an honorary graduate of this University.

[Edited]
September 2002

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Last updated: 26 September 2002 17:00
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