THE man at the helm of the Government's Science Year has declared that he aims to shatter the subject's geek image for good.
Nigel Paine, newly installed director of the Science Year, which starts in September, said: "We need to capture children's interest by showing that science is about young, successful, cool people, not old men. We need to involve women, celebrities, music and TV as well as schools and teachers."
The former chief executive of the Technology Colleges Trust has acknowledged the scale of the task he faces. But he insists that the pound;20 million expected to be secured for Science Year will make it bigger and better than the literacy and numeracy years that have gone before it.
The Government will be handing Mr Paine pound;8 million and pound;1m will come from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, the lottery-backed body that appointed him and which is leading the year-long project. The rest of the cash will come from private sponsors.
NESTA has until September to put together a "groundbreaking" campaign.
The Science Year post came up at the perfect time for Mr Paine. He quit the Technology Colleges Trust in December after barely a year in the job and was recruited and appointed to his new post within weeks.
A former head of the Scottish Council for Educational Technology, he will put technology at the heart of his new challenge. He said "Children are huge consumers of science and technology in the form of mobiles, TVs, computer games, videos, DVD, but as yet, they are not controllers.
"At primary school, science is a favourite subject because it is practical and exciting. We need to ensure this feeling is contiued. With the key stage 3 strategy and the new A-levels we have the best chance ever," he said.
Mr Paine aims to highlight the varied career opportunities for science graduates.
He said: "Look at the interest in media studies. But work in the media is not all it's cracked up to be and only a tiny minority make it. Science opens up exciting job prospects and these are jobs that can change the world."
And then there is teaching. One of the aims of Science Year is to address the recruitment shortage in science subjects and attract people who can make the subject exciting.
Mr Paine's appointment has been welcomed. The Association for Science Education and the British Association for the Advancement of Science, both involved in theyear, think he is the right man for the job.
He recognises the need to make an immediate impact. One idea is to establish a network of mentors, professors and industry experts, who will tutor teachers and pupils.
But the success of the year can only be measured in the long-term. Mr Paine said: "We have to change the world and that will happen if work we start this year is still going on in four or five years' time."
SCIENCE YEAR 20012002
A year-long series of events in schools, and a TV advertising
* promote the idea that science is fun
* increase pupil engagement and take-up of science in further study and
* involve the scientific community and strengthen links between schools,
industry and higher education
* celebrate achievements in science and identify role models - especially
for girls and ethnic minorities.