Kath Eleveld holds the discussion group Café Scientifique at her pub, the Keystone.

Picture: Chris Whiteoak. (Ref: SA106089)

Pub landlady has the formula for scientific study
by Melanie Hall
FROM heating test tubes to pulling pints, one Guildford pub landlady has returned to her roots by hosting a group that is drawing science back into the conversation. Kath Eleveld is helping take science to the masses by holding discussion group Café Scientifique at her pub, the Keystone in Guildford, swapping lecture theatres for comfy chairs and clinking beer glasses. The group meets every month, where scientists talk about subjects ranging from consciousness to human cloning. The topicfor Monday’s meeting will be on the destruction of the world in a ball of fire – not very upbeat for the festive season perhaps, but on the upside, it is still 7,590 million years off. The decision to host the group harks back to Mrs Eleveld’s time studying materials science at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. Describing her route from science to pubs, she said: “It’s a bit of a twisty one. I did my degree with a year of research, but by the end, I realised it wasn’t for me and I didn’t want to pursue the research side of it.” After joining a management scheme, she then moved into running pubs with her now husband, managing the George Abbot in Guildford before taking over the Keystone. It was the birth of her daughter, who is now 18 months’ old, that brought Mrs Eleveld back to science. “Watching her see things for the first time really reignited that passion,” she said. “My first memory of science is when I was eight – I bought a chemistry set, and I loved seeing all the colours change. I will be buying my daughter a chemistry set too.” Café Scientifique, which runs worldwide, started in Guildford in June this year, and Mrs Eleveld said the response has been fantastic. “It’s been amazing, right from the word go,” she said. “We had 45 to 50 people turn up for the first meeting. “The groups are free, we just ask for donations. For the first one, we didn’t have any money for publicity and so we just relied on word of mouth and it’s been growing ever since.” Mrs Eleveld said she did not think Guildford’s proximity to a science research park was the main reason for the surge of interest, pointing out that groups based in smaller towns were attracting a good crowd. She added: “I try not to promote it too much to professional scientists. “It’s important to get across that it’s open to all, not necessary academic people – it’s a free debate.” Previous speakers have included controversial former government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt, and topics for next year range from the decline of bees to the truth behind vampires, with speakers booked in for every month until next September. The group’s first talk of the new year will tackle the topic of bad science reporting in the media and how the public’s misperceptions can often stem from the way the subject is dealt with by journalists who do not understand the data. Jim Al-Khalili, a physicist and professor of public engagement in science at the University of Surrey, praised groups like Café Scientifique for helping inform the public in an accessible way. Professor Al-Khalili, who is a regular face on TV through presenting documentaries including the BBC’s The Secret Life of Chaos, commented on the traditional set up of public lectures. “The people who come and listen to them are the sorts of people who are already interested, so it’s like preaching to the converted,” he said. “But this style is more informal and relaxed, and that’s the way science communication seems to be going.” For Professor Al-Khalili, science coverage in the media is good these days, although the threat of libel remains an issue in preventing scientists and reporters from discussing certain problems in science. “In my area, which includes astrophysics, what can I say that’s libellous?” he said. “But with health issues, it’s much more of a problem, and it’s highly important that scientists are able to speak up if there’s problems.” The next Café Scientifique will meet at 7.30pm at the Keystone pub on Monday December 13 with a talk called End in Fire: The Ultimate Fate of the Earth.

Staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital celebrate one year as a foundation trust. Picture: Alistair Wilson. (Ref: SA106097a)

Hospital marks anniversary of trust
THE Royal Surrey County Hospital is celebrating one year as a foundation trust. The hospital trust, which celebrates its first birthday on November 30, said it had been a significant year. A spokesman from the Royal Surrey said: “We are very grateful for the level of support we have had from staff, patients and the local community. “We now have nearly 14,500 foundation trust members. This is an extremely positive response and we would like to thank all our members for taking the time to get involved in the Trust. “We hope to continue to grow our Trust community and are always looking to welcome new members.” The Trust said that more than 300,000 patients had attended the outpatients department, which equates to around 1,100 people each day. Meanwhile, 20,000 operations have been carried out and the radiology department has carried out almost 170,000 examinations. During the past year, 3,300 babies have been born. The hospital has been named as one of the best healthcare employers in the country, with a placing in the Health Service Journal’s Healthcare 100 list. In addition, it has also been named as one of the top six performers in the county for orthopaedic treatment and outcomes in the Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2010. Work is almost complete on a £3 million pathology unit expansion on the Lavis Suite, which aims to benefit cancer patients. Meanwhile, the new elective surgical unit and the expanded medical assessment unit have opened their doors. The hospital said this was having an impact on reducing the number of patients requiring inpatient beds. Finally, the Trust has just appointed a new chairman, Peter Dunt – who is a former Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy begins duties on December 1.