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Ivory Tower: a report calls for R&D plotlines in soap operas. So here we go…

Cast in order of appearance

Alistair Jarvis: Danny Dyer
Nicola Dandridge: Barbara Windsor
Chris Whitty: Steve McFadden
Gavin Williamson: Martin Kemp
Michelle Donelan: Gillian Taylforth
Ottoline Leyser: Patsy Palmer
Amanda Solloway: Pam St Clement
Patrick Vallance: Ross Kemp
Dominic Cummings: Leslie Grantham
Boris Johnson: Shane Richie

Augar Square in Walport, a fictional borough of east London

1. Interior: The Prince Andrew pub

Alistair Jarvis: Blimey, I ain’t seen this place so busy since the release of the REF 2021 submission guidelines.

Nicola Dandridge: It’s the end of lockdown innit.

Ali: There was me finking they were discussing the R&D roadmap.

Nicky: Leave it out Ali, they’ve all got a £10 voucher off pub grub from that there Rishi Sunak.

Ali: Would you Adam and Eve it. If only investment in research and innovation could capture the popular imagination like money off a trip to Nandos.

Nicky: That’s why the Wellcome Trust and the Campaign for Science and Engineering have called for R&D plotlines in popular shows, like ours.

Ali: Those muppets. That’s what Tomorrow’s World is for, and Doctor Whatchacallher?

Nicky: Who?

Ali: I don’t know do I, it’s doin’ my nut in, all this science and innovation.

Nicky: ‘Ere we’re out of pork scratchings. Fancy nipping down the cellar and getting some, and while you’re down there see if you can work on our application to the Strengths in Places fund for an experimental beer garden and micro-brewery.

Ali: I’m tellin’ ya Nicky, leave it out. We’ll never get funded for that. Strength in Places is all about directing research money away from London and we’re true cockernee eastenders.

Nicky: Just change the barrel will ya.

[Jarvis goes into the cellar, a man comes to the bar]

Man: A sparkling mineral water please.

Nicky: Oi, ain’t you seen the sign? Social distancing, no standing at the bar.

Man: Look, sorry, just the water.

Nicky: ‘Ere don’t I know you? You’re chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

Chris Whitty: What if I am, who wants to know?

Nicky: You’ve got a cheek showin’ yer face around ‘ere.

Chris: Leave it out Nicky, that was years ago.

Nicky: It might feel like years ago, but the Downing Street press conferences only ended last month.

Chris: I’m sorry if you feel the presentation of testing statistics was not up to international standards.

Nicky: The only fing that’s world class about you lot is the gaslighting.

Chris: And the number of citations by UK scientists in top-ranking journals.

Nicky: Yeah that an’ all.

Chris: Look, can’t you give me another chance. Once all this is over, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll initiate a full review into agency performance during the pandemic.

Nicky: Too little too late sunshine. Get out of my pub!

2. Exterior, a market stall

Gavin Williamson: Lower degree qualifications, get yer luvverly lower degree qualifications.

Michelle Donelan: ‘Ere give me a couple of those for my kids.

Gav: You sure Shell, they’re really for other people’s kids.

Shell: Nay, I reckon too many young people are going to university when they’d be much better off learning a trade.

Gav: That’s my girl. What would you like? I’ve got some nice HNC’s in plumbing.

Shell: I fancy something in refrigerator engineering or TV repair.

Gav: Are you sure about that Shell? When the economy and technology change your kids could be left behind, wouldn’t you rather they had a range of highly adaptable and transferrable skills at degree level?

Shell: You are a plonker Gav, people will always want to watch TV.

Gav: Alright Shell, it’s your money.

Shell: And the customer is always right, Gav.

Gav: Except when they want to go to university.

Shell: ‘Ere you got any of those six-month kickstart work placements that everyone’s talkin’ about?

Gav: Ain’t got none in Shell, they’re like gold dust. But, it’s like I always say, what this country needs is a German-style further education system.

Shell: You sure about that Gav?

Gav: Yes, there needs to be a greater commitment to apprenticeships and training.

Shell: No, I mean the whole German fing. I’d keep that to yourself round ‘ere.

Gav: In Walport?

Shell: No, in the cabinet.

Woman: Sorry, I couldn’t help but hear.

Gav: ‘Ere ain’t you that Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation?

Ottoline Leyser: Yer, what off it?

Gav: What you doin’ listenin’ in. You some kinda copper’s nark?

Lotty: No, I was just finking that if you want to ‘ave a German-style FE system, don’t you first of all ‘ave to ‘ave a German-style economy.

Shell: And a German-style school system.

Gav: Look, if you want that sort of fing then go to Aldi, this is a British market.

Shell: Leave it, Gav, she ain’t wurf it.


3. Interior, taxi firm Portakabin

Amanda Solloway: Mandy’s Cabs… where do you want to go?… leave it out, none of my drivers are goin’ south of the river at this time of night. Not unless you want to contribute to a necessary discussion about the culture of research and those parts that universities are responsible for… no? Well suit yourself, get an Uber.

[Puts phone down, a man walks in]

Mandy: Well, well, well, if it isn’t Pretty Paddy Valance.

Patrick Vallance: Hello Mandy, long time no see.

Mandy: You’ve got a nerve.

Paddy: It weren’t my fault Mands.

Mandy: Don’t you Mands me, you ran off and left me to raise the UK R&D roadmap on my own.

Paddy: I was busy Mands.

Mandy: Busy with that Boris Johnson. Too busy for real science.

Paddy: I was trying to save the country Mands.

Mandy: You had your head turned by the glamour, by the press conferences, and the op-eds in The Sun.

Paddy: There’s been a pandemic Mands. I couldn’t help that.

Mandy: It was literally your job to help that.

Paddy: But, I’m back now Mands, and ready to roll my sleeves up and take care of the roadmap.

Mandy: You were supposed to be the chief scientific adviser, and you abandoned me just when I needed you the most.

Paddy: I’m sorry Mands.

Mandy: What did I know about science and innovation? I hadn’t a Scooby, I had go to Walport library every night and read copies of Nature and Woman’s Weekly.

Paddy: Wasn’t it closed during lockdown?

Mandy: Actually, it closed four years ago because of austerity, but I got a key from someone.

Paddy: Who?

Mandy: Someone who’s been helpful to me, when I needed them.

Paddy: No, Mands don’t say this.

Mandy: He’s kind and thoughtful and has such a big brain, even if his eyesight’s not so good.

Paddy: How could you, Mands. After all we’ve done together.

Mandy: You had your chance, Paddy, I’ve got a new scientific adviser now.

Paddy: Who is it? I need to know.

[Enter Chris Whitty]

Chris: Oi Mands, call us a cab, that Nicky Dandridge is rabbitin’ in my ear. She’s a right pain in the Gregory.

Paddy: Is it him? Mands, how could you? He doesn’t know about science, he’s just a medic.

Chris: ‘Ere you watch yer mouth pretty boy. Epidemiology is as important a branch of science as any other.

Mands: Don’t be daft Paddy, it ain’t him.

Paddy: Who is then? Tell me.

[A man in a beanie enters]

Chris: Is it me or is it a bit crowded in this Portakabin.

Mandy: Yeah, social distancing and that.

Man: Are these people boverin’ you Mands?

Mandy: Yeah, just a bit.

Paddy: So, it’s him.

Mandy: Yeah, it is.

Paddy: This is the one who has been advising you on science and innovation?

Mandy: Paddy, I’m sorry.

Paddy: I thought he was a tramp on the street outside.

Mandy: He’s Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the prime minister and patron of an advanced research projects agency for blue skies and high-risk research with the potential to translate into economic benefit at scale.

Dom: Valance you muppet. You come round here again and I’ll slice you.

Chris: Look out Paddy, he’s got a knife.

Dom: Nah, I mean I’ll see that your department takes a budget cut of 30 per cent in the forthcoming Spending Review.

[A man enters carrying a baby]

Paddy: It’s getting like Wemberly circus in ‘ere.

Dom: What’s all this?

Man: It’s the child of innovation, a new guiding light for our nation.

Chris: But who is the mother of invention?

Mands: I’m so sorry Paddy…

Paddy: But who is the father of necessity?

Man: Well, gosh, tally ho and whiff whaff. I used to be the Mayor around here you know.

Paddy, Chris, Dom: Mands!!

[Doof, doof, doof… titles.]

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