The chief executive of Newcastle’s International Centre for Life (Life), Linda Conlon, has been elected to a top role with the global body representing science centres and museums.
Linda becomes the first woman from Europe (and only the second European in its 42 year history) to be elected Chair of the Association of Science and Technology Centres, (ASTC).
Based in Washington DC, ASTC’s members total more than 660 organisations from 50 countries, spanning the continents of the world. They include the world-renowned Exploratorium in San Francisco; Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo; the UK’s Science Museum Group and Questacon, Australia’s national science centre. Globally, it is estimated that some 95 million people visit science centres each year.
As chair of ASTC, Linda’s role is to promote excellence and innovation in learning outside of the formal environment of schools and academic institutions. She will also lead ASTC in its efforts to help members address critical global issues such as climate change where an understanding of and engagement with science is essential.
Speaking about her new role, Linda said: “I am honoured and thrilled to be elected as Chair of ASTC. Science centres operate in different countries with different political regimes and different pressures but what unites them is a real passion for engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in science.
“Developments in science and technology are increasingly shaping the world in which we live and are moving forward at an unprecedented pace, frequently leaving people confused and sometimes afraid of what it means for them. Science centres are trusted by the public. They are very good at translating complex science in an engaging and meaningful way and making it relevant to people and the lives they lead. I believe that we have an essential role to play in building trust between the science establishment and the general public.”
ASTC provides a wide range of services. It offers programmes for its members to share best practice; it creates opportunities for professional development in the sector including an annual conference that attracts almost 2,000 delegates; and it conducts extensive research on trends in the field.
The following individuals have offered congratulatory messages:
Alastair Balls, Chairman of Life, said: “It’s a marvellous honour for the International Centre for Life that it’s Chief Executive has been elected as the Chair of ASTC. What ASTC will get from Linda is a straight-talking, sharp-eyed, energetic, highly personable leader, cool in a crisis, who will bring excitement to the role, make friends on your behalf and act as a statesmanlike envoy in the challenges on many continents in the period ahead.
“Science Centres are in the front line of public participation in the great events of the 21st century. This is a wondrous adventure and Linda is great person to lead us through its next phase.”
Bill Bryson, former Chancellor of Durham University and author of the award-winning science book, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’, said: "This is splendid and exciting news. It is testament to the outstanding work over many years of Linda Conlon and of the great Centre for Life in Newcastle. I couldn't be more pleased."
Lord Willetts, Chair, British Science Association and former Minister for Universities and Science (May 2010 - Jul 2014), said: "The British Science Association wants to see a world where science is recognised increasingly as an integral part of culture and society, and not something that is purely the domain of the professional scientist or academic. It is wonderful news, therefore, that someone from the UK has been elected to champion the role of science engagement internationally and I offer my warmest congratulations to Linda Conlon on her achievement."
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Science and technology are vitally important sectors creating jobs for the future which is why I promoted these strengths on a recent investment trip to China. The Centre for Life with its pioneering research is a key component in Newcastle as a Science City so I am delighted that Linda as chief executive has been appointed to this internationally important position.
“The fact that she is the first woman from Europe to be appointed as Chair of ASTC underlines her undoubted professionalism, and I wish her well in this exciting new role.”
Lucy Winskell OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Business and Engagement) at Northumbria University and Trustee of the International Centre for Life, said: “I am delighted to hear about Linda’s appointment to this prestigious post. It’s fantastic news for the North East, where science and technology are so important to innovation and growth, as well as for the International Centre for Life, and of course, for Linda.
“It is a real pleasure to work closely with Linda and her team as part of Northumbria University’s ongoing and successful strategic partnership with the Centre for Life and I’m sure this appointment will help create even more opportunities for exciting international collaborations.”
Professor Roy Sandbach, Trustee, International Centre for Life and the North East LEP’s innovation lead, said: "Wonderful news! The North East is truly fortunate to have such a great representative in a truly important global role. Linda leads the Centre for Life brilliantly. She plays a vital role in the development of a regional culture that embraces science & technology. Her international appointment reflects and rewards her personal contribution and is certainly something for us all to celebrate."
Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation, Newcastle University, said: "This is superb news and deserved recognition. It's good to see a champion for science, education and the North East honoured in this way.”
About ASTC: Founded in 1973, ASTC has over 650 members in 50 countries. It includes not only science centres and museums, but also nature centres, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, space theatres, and natural history and children’s museums. Its members also include companies that offer products and services to the field and non-profit organisations that have an interest in science education. www.astc.org
About Linda Conlon, Chief Executive, International Centre for Life:
Linda Conlon is responsible for managing the International Centre for Life, an innovative science village in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England. It brings together a University medical research institute; two National Health Service clinics; biotechnology businesses; science engagement and education, and ethics on a single city centre site.
The unique project has fostered inter-disciplinary collaboration among the 600-strong workforce, achieving some spectacular results and resulting in international acclaim – for example, the world’s first cloned human embryo was created at the Centre.
The public science centre ignites and nurtures a curiosity in everyone for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It offers a comprehensive programme of science engagement; Europe’s biggest programme of hands on science workshops for students in state of the art laboratories; lectures; debates; outreach to disadvantaged communities and under achieving schools; and professional development for teachers. It is the home of Maker Faire UK, which has taken place in Newcastle for the last six years.
The Centre is financially self-sustaining through its own income generation efforts and does not receive revenue funding from central or local government.
In addition to her role as ASTC President, Linda Conlon is a member of the international committee charged with delivering the next Science Centre World Summit in Japan in 2017. She is a former board member of the European Collaboration of Science and Discovery Centres and a former chair of the UK-based Association of Science and Discovery Centres.
Linda Conlon is a governor of the Laidlaw Schools Trust, which comprises a major secondary school, two primary schools and a nursery in the west end of the city; a business mentor for small charities and voluntary groups in North East England; and an executive member of NE1, the Business Improvement District Company for Newcastle.
She has travelled extensively, lecturing and advising other bodies setting up science centres in the UK, Europe, the United States and China.
Linda Conlon's career before the world of science centres was in regional development and urban regeneration, where she was involved in the creation of major high profile waterfront developments, helping to bring in £1 billion of investment. Before that, she ran her own marketing consultancy and in her early career, worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the multi-national company, Procter and Gamble.
Amy Patterson (Amy.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tel: (0191) 243 8267
Notes to Editors:
The Centre for Life is a pioneering science village based in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne where scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses work alongside people in the fields of education, public engagement and business.
Now established as one of the most successful of the country's 14 landmark Millennium projects, Life is an independent and self-funding charitable trust with a robust business plan that eliminates reliance on public funding for its operating costs.
Almost 600 people from 35 countries work on site. What unites everyone is a passion for science.
Life's mission is to be the best place in the UK for enthusing and engaging everyone in science and to provide support and state-of-the-art facilities on site so that world class scientific research in medicine can flourish.
On site partners include Newcastle University, who chose Life as the location for its Institute of Genetic Medicine; the NHS Newcastle Fertility Centre; the NHS Northern Genetics Service and several young and vibrant biotechnology companies.
At the heart of the science village is the Life Science Centre which attracts around 250,000 visitors per year. As well as a family audience, Life's public engagement programme attracts a broad audience to its edgy evenings combining cocktails and science; stimulating lectures; and special sessions for pre-schoolers and teenagers. Life also provides the largest schools' science workshop programme in any European museum or Science Centre.
Information is updated regularly on our website.