21 January 2007

Cooking up some PR

Given that much of cooking is chemistry, it isn't unreasonable for the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) to turn to a chef when seeking publicity as it has in its latest press release, Chemical engineers look for the ‘Jamie Oliver’ factor.

The challenge will be to find "50 ‘ChemEnvoys’ who will take up the gauntlet for chemical engineers worldwide, promoting their essential contribution to the world we live in". Engineers in general have a hard time explaining what they are up to. Chemical engineers may find it even more difficult than the rest of the pack, given that they deal with those nasty "chemicals" that everyone loves to hate.

Some put the engineers' poor record in communications down to the fact that they spend a lot of their time writing arcane reports that only other engineers can understand. Another line is that the whole life of an engineer is spent worrying about, and solving, problems. Scientists, on the other hand, can dream to their heart's content and make all sorts of fanciful claims. They aren't the people who will have to turn their discoveries into inventions. That will be down to the engineers.

All power to the IChemE's elbow. But even if they can find, and train, 50 brave souls, they will have to put a lot of effort into getting the message across, not least because the media have never worked out how to cope with engineering as a subject.

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