We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Evidence on Trial Public Lecture - Divided by a Common Language: how can words confound the evidence?

1st February 2016, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE, FRS (University of Cambridge)

As a scientist Professor Dame Athene Donald likes to think she uses language precisely and that everything she says is backed up by evidence. She expects others feel the same whatever their discipline. The reality is she can use a word like ‘stress’ to mean something mechanically precise; for others it conveys simply feeling there’s too much going on in one’s life. She regularly ‘plays’ with her data but it doesn’t mean she's massaging or cheating; in Climategate this became a big issue. Moving between disciplines, between science and policy or taking science to the public all pose major challenges if the evidence is to be accepted by everyone.


Athene Donald is Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and Master of Churchill College. She researches soft matter physics, the physics of the everyday world including food and personal products, but these days spends more time on committees than in the lab. She was elected FRS in 1999 and appointed DBE in 2010. From 2010-14 she chaired the Royal Society’s Education Committee, during which time she was also her University’s Gender Equality Champion. She attempts to use words precisely on both her personal blog and the Guardian Science blogs.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Map – The Calman Learning Centre is denoted at building number: 43.