Take arms firms out of the Big Bang Fair

28/03/2014

The Guardian


Letter signed by over 100, including ForcesWatch

As engineers, health professionals, educationists and others who believe in the power of science and engineering as a force for good, we are writing to condemn the continued sponsorship of today’s Big Bang Fair by BAE Systems and other arms companies such as Thales, Selex ES, Doosan, Rolls-Royce and Airbus. It might seem like a joke: the UK’s largest youth science and engineering education event, named the Big Bang Fair, is sponsored by companies who make very big bangs indeed. Except the arms trade isn’t funny. All of these companies have a track record of supplying countries with appalling human rights records. Doosan is involved in cluster bomb manufacture.

The casual and unquestioned way these companies are allowed public relations space at educational events reflects a serious problem at the heart of modern British science. We need programmes which offer young people unbiased spaces to learn about science and engineering as it is currently constituted – including environmental and human rights concerns – and what it could look like.

If the government is serious in its support of science and engineering – not just a few choice companies associated with them – it must invest more fully in education so the Big Bang Fair 2015 need not be reliant on sponsorship which so narrows its scope. We were pleased to learn that several (though not all) of the fossil fuel companies associated with previous fairs have disappeared from the list of sponsors.

Big Bang 2014 is a slightly less dystopian vision of engineering than it has been in the past. Let’s drop the arms trade and do something truly inspirational in the future.