Embrace Boaty McBoatface, environmental science needs the publicity

The naming of the Natural Environment Research Council’s new £200 million boat was opened to the British public and the winning name with 124,000 votes is Boaty McBoatface. However, despite the vote, there are some strong suggestions that the public will be overruled and the boat will be given an entirely new name. Whilst I understand that a more serious and science based name would be appropriate, I feel that getting rid of the name chosen by the public is the wrong decision. Whilst this is a bit of a joke, we should embrace the name and build upon the publicity it is getting. Environmental sciences are often underfunded, and stories from the field can be bleak and overlooked. However, since Boaty McBoatface the Natural Environment Research Council has seen their Twitter following increase dramatically, and traffic on their website has been so high, it has crashed a few times. Media coverage has spread across the world, including here in Canada.

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Surely the point of the ‘name the boat’ campaign was to create some public attention and to connect people with the boat itself. By throwing out the name and choosing another they risk a backlash, and most importantly a loss of interest. If through this campaign one person has learnt one thing about environmental science, then it surely was a success. Why not through the vast attention it is getting, use this publicity and the #BoatyMcBoatface to highlight the scientists that will be on board the ship and their work. To me, this seems like an opportunity many science based organisations would dream of, if you look on social media, there are thousands of people who are genuinely excited and interested in the ship. The name is not only catchy, memorable and let’s face it, funny, it is also a chance to connect with the wider public and younger generations; if they play their cards right the Natural Environment Research Council could inspire and build an interest in the field that spreads beyond Boaty McBoatface.

It seems a shame to waste the chance of highlighting environmental sciences, and after all it is just a name, it has no implications on the research conducted on board. In a few years time if the public attention dies down, then it can be changed, there really is no harm in trying out the chosen name. I really hope that the Natural Environment Research Council takes this unique opportunity and embraces Boaty McBoatface.

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Connel Bradwell
I am an environmental educator, wildlife blogger, birder and conservation graduate. Based in the UK and Canada. Love the natural world, my personal blog can be found at www.dailynature.net.

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