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New chief champions computing science

Scotland's new chief scientific adviser wants schools to treat computing science on a par with physics, chemistry and biology.

Muffy Calder, pictured, whose appointment was announced this week, believes it is just as important, but has been hampered by widespread misunderstanding.

She fears that many young people do not appreciate the difference between ICT and computing science; even university students who choose the subject can arrive with fundamental misconceptions.

Many young people see computing science in terms of the internet or designing games, rather than programming, explained the University of Glasgow professor of computing science and dean of research.

"Just because you can drive a car doesn't mean you know how it works," she said - before adding that, apt though the parallel was, the world would need many more computer programmers than car designers in the years to come.

Professor Calder, who grew up in Quebec, is excited by the prospect of Curriculum for Excellence opening new avenues for science, but said "the devil is in the detail".

She wants pupils to see that science, far from being an abstract and arcane pursuit, is the key to solving the big problems of our times, such as energy consumption. "It sounds corny but it's true - science is cool," she said.

Professor Calder, who succeeds Anne Glover, will take up her role from 1 March for a minimum of three years.

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