The director of the Science Media Centre (SMC), a charity that seeks to improve public trust in science, has been awarded an OBE. Fiona Fox, who has been given the award for services to science, founded the SMC in 2002 following a House of Lords report that called for better communication between scientists and the media.
The SMC's stated philosophy is 'the media will do science better when scientists do the media better'. Over the past decade, Fox has won the admiration of many in the scientific community. A 2005 editorial in the journal Nature paid tribute to her 'robust leadership', and The Times newspaper included her in its 2010 'Eureka 100 Science List' of the 100 most important people in UK science and engineering.
On the same day as her OBE was announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours, Fox told BBC News that she believed the UK government should be less restrictive in allowing its scientists to speak to the media. 'Most researchers now see speaking to the public as a crucial part of their role', she said. 'Government scientists stand out as a stark exception to that new culture and the SMC feels it is in our remit to raise questions about whether it has to be this way'.
Explaining why she accepted the OBE, Fox said: 'It was scientists who wanted to recognise me and the award is for my services to science. That feels good for a girl who didn't take a single science subject at O-level but has fallen in love with the whole scientific enterprise.'
Scientists who have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours include Professor Michael Stratton, director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and joint head of the Cancer Genome Project, who has been knighted. It was Professor Stratton and his colleagues who, in 1995, first identified the major breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA2.