Social Media Mythbusting with Prof Brian Cox and Lord Drayson

Social Media as a serious vehicle for citizen engagement: One of the most interesting stories of the year so far happened yesterday. Brian Cox tweets something in the morning, a hashtag is created, a storm ensues, the Science Minister – who is in California at the moment – is shocked by the thousands of tweets he has received, he responds, he investigates, he debunks.

The details – and I might even have been involved.


Prof Brian Cox is probably THE science superstar of the new generation. I know my son identifies him as the guy who got him to get serious about science (and my son then wrote a school essay about the Large Hadron Collider.) He uses both facebook and twitter, and his updates are identical, so I could never figure out what he actually engaged more with.

At 7.51 he tweeted and updated this: The UK continues in its bid to relegate itself to the 2nd division of scientific nations. We need a campaign. To which I sent him a comment on Facebook, letting him know about the @reply I sent him telling him we need a hashtag, and we can create a campaign around this (I know, a bit complicated, but it clearly worked.)

And what do you know – at 9.20 we had a hashtag. At 9.29 I retweeted it to some of my friends who I know would be interested in the subject, as it’s connected to the Digital Britain debate. The hashtag #saveukscience was born, you can see all discussions by doing a quick twitter search.

At 3pm, Lord Drayson, the UK Science Minister, tweeted this: Just logged on in California (ahead of mtgs next week in SF & Silicon Valley) 2 read rumours re CERN. I will investigate & report asap.

An an hour later, this BTW- twitter really is amazing. I cant imagine any other way of communicating so directly with my “constituency”. Its v cool. #SaveUKScience

And four hours after that, he said: I have got 2 the bottom of CERN rumour. It is complete rubbish. STFC have no plans 2 exit CERN. Period. Those who RTd rumr pls RT this

So in this case we have a rumour debunked by the highest possible authority when it became clear how many people feel very strongly about this – Lord Drayson also said: Important fact re CERN. UK involvement is via an international treaty which can only be changed with my approval as science minister.

Next time who knows what it will be.


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