Should cannabis be legalised? This thorny political issue will be debated by teams of school children in a national competition designed to challenge the pupil's scientific knowledge. The event is part of the Festival of Social Science organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and will be staged at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
The Great Pharmacy Debate 2010 is now in its second year and will pit eight teams of GCSE pupils from around the country against each other in a series of head-to-head debates on a range of topical issues, culminating in a grand final.
"Each team will take part in three rounds of debates discussing three themes, one of which they know about in advance and two others that will be revealed on the day in the form of 'inspirational talks' from two distinguished guest speakers," says Briony Hudson, the event's organiser.
Each round will be scored by judges including pharmacy students who have been specially trained by the English Speaking Union. The two teams with the best performance will then fight it out in the grand final. The final will be judged by Ms Hudson, and the two guest speakers, Professor Jayne Lawrence, chief scientific advisor to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and Dr Adam Hedgecoe of the ESRC's Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics.
"The aim of the event is to engage with schools to share what we do here and to give the participants an understanding of the history of pharmacy and of current pharmacy trends," says Ms Hudson. "The pupils are aged 14-16, and this is a good age to engage them because they will be starting to think about what they might like to do in the future. There will be plenty of opportunity for them to talk with the students currently studying pharmacy, who will be helping out on the day."
The subject for the final debate will be based upon a display in the museum that has historical and topical relevance. The winning team will be presented with a replica pharmacy jar and books for themselves as well as their school.
Economic and Social Research Council