Last month Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council settled on a splendid idea to raise public awareness of science. Launching a website dedicated to naming the UK’s new state of the art arctic research vessel, the public were invited to submit and vote on names. Not having seen the site for myself I can’t speak to contest regulations, nor assume knowledge of approval or moderation. Whatever the guidelines – the call went out, submissions were made, citizens voted in good faith.
Within hours of a wise crack suggestion by former BBC Radio host John Hand, “Boaty McBoatface” took a commanding lead. When contest dust settled, Boaty McBoatface prevailed with four times the votes of second place Poppy-Mai (a baby girl with terminal cancer).
Panties in a wad, aghast Science Minister Jo Johnson gave the over my dead body to Boaty McBoatface. Johnson was firm, saying, “I think we were clear when launching the competition that we were looking for a name that would be in keeping with the mission.”
Yesterday “more suitable” designation went to fourth place Sir David Attenborough, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will set sail in 2019. Hoping to squelch a shit storm of public dissent, geniuses behind the debacle spoon feed voters a trite assurance – one of Sir David’s mini submersibles will bear the name Boaty McBoatface.
The UK screwed this up on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Ponder those dumb asses brain storming to raise awareness of science – think, think, think erupts into back slaps and chortles when one of them says “let’s have a contest to name our vessel”. Unanimous accolades seal the deal. Hearts beat faster as submissions roll in – ‘oh my goodness it’s working!”. Good, bad, we don’t care – people are voting. Gulp, what’s this? Boaty McBoatface – WTF?
Here’s the thing Jo Johnson, you asked the public to name a research vessel, you claimed desire to raise awareness of science. At any time you could have rejected names not “in keeping with the mission” or narrowed submissions to a handful of acceptable suggestions. You could have taken submissions and announced a winner without public input. But no – you tossed it to chance, conned people into thinking input mattered, then spat in their faces. Do you have any concept of what you’ve done?
Boaty McBoatface spanked the competition because it made us smile. McBoatface would have become an entity. You’re an idiot! McBoatface might have had millions of social media followers. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – where’s McBoatface, what’s McBoatface doing, ask McBoatface a question. On what planet would Boaty McBoatface not raise attention? You’re a nincompoop Johnson! Boaty McBoatface could have had story books, television programs, lunch boxes – your precious arctic explorer could have ignited a generation of scientists but for the fact you’re a dumb ass.