You mischaracterize the impact and continued relevance of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) by presenting an incomplete picture (Nature 493, 452; 2013).
In 2012 the RI delivered 87 evening events. Of the 46 held in the Faraday Theatre, the mean attendance was 288, much higher than might be expected from a small marketing budget. The thriving schools programme featured 136 lectures and workshops, reaching nearly 13,000 students last year alone. The RI runs mathematics and engineering masterclasses for schoolchildren at more than 140 UK locations. Our activities score very highly using the industry-standard Generic Learning Outcomes, which gauge enjoyment, inspiration, knowledge and understanding.
Thanks to its unique position and unrivalled heritage, the RI attracts the best scientists and science communicators across its programmes, including psychologist Stephen Pinker and physicist Brian Cox.
Even if one thinks that public talks are irrelevant in this age of “the Internet and mass media”, then the RI is still a powerful player. Our televised Christmas Lectures had an audience of 4.2 million in 2011.
The RI Channel website launched just over a year ago and showcases some 300 videos, which have so far attracted almost 1 million views. Some highlight recent RI events, others feature re-digitized footage from our archive, and there are high-quality videos from scientific institutions across the world.
I accept that mistakes made by the RI have led to the current situation. The growing popularity of its programmes — live, broadcast and online — isn't one of them.
See go.nature.com/12ymkg for more debate on this topic.
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Cardew, G. Royal Institution is ever more relevant. Nature 494, 35 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/494035a