On Wednesday morning Sense About Science set up camp outside the Department of Health (almost opposite Downing Street) and, in white lab coats and red rosettes, started offering free diplomas to passers-by. The event was to raise awareness of the DoH’s proposed regulatory framework for practitioners of complementary and traditional medicine, which would serve no purpose other than to give such people a sheen of legitimacy. I was there taking photos, and it went well.
Passers-by were asked to take a short questionnaire on traditional tales. For example: if you go out with wet hair, will you catch a) a cold b) a fish c) a frisbee? If they answered four questions correctly they were awarded a diploma certificate, and leaflets about the DoH proposals.
There was some understandable resistance at first, but once people realised we weren’t selling anything they became much more receptive. I’d say maybe 1/3 of those approached stopped to listen, and most of these agreed with the cause. 10^23 veteran Rosie signed up two on-duty policemen, various people exiting the Department of Health building walked away with diplomas, and another group went through the entire process in Spanish.
Some people were less enthusiastic, though we felt the two doctors who chastised us for making a mockery of their profession may have missed the point. Someone else said ‘only speaka Spanish’, which seemed suss, and others tried to sign us up for their own causes, which they happened to be carrying leaflets about. George Osborne and Danny Alexander walked by at one point, and 2 SaS-ers valiantly gave chase, but sadly to no avail. Dr. Evan Harris was there too, and recorded various clips for YouTube, and me.
It was a fun event, and many passers-by were enthusiastic about the cause. The lab coats were a particularly nice touch, as they really gave the event an organised and professional look1. Eye-catching, too – there were quite a few of us milling around (I had a lab coat on too, though didn’t approach anyone), and we certainly stood out. Hopefully the DoH will have taken notice too.
- er, which isn’t to suggest it wasn’t. It was! Just that these things don’t always come across visually, no matter how hard you plan. [↩]