Ideas for Chemistry FM radio programmes for science week 2010

Nathan Gray, an MA student studying Science and Environmental Journalism, is funded by one of our project bursaries to help develop the radio programmes for Science Week. He’s decided upon five programmes and has drafted up the following for comment among the project team. It’s still under discussion but provides a good idea of what to expect. In his own words…


There will be five radio programmes, each lasting roughly 15 minutes. Each programme will have a key theme that holds together the information within the programme.

  • Background information on the topic
  • interview(s) with figures of authority in the field
  • real life applications of the technology
  • case studies
  • finishing with a summary of key facts that can be related back to the intro/hook from the beginning of the programme.

The five programmes will give examples of famous cases from forensic science past. Using ‘case studies’ of:

Possibly famous murders (using different poisons to explain different bits of forensic chemistry), and even some cases of false cases/contamination (eg. Phantom of Heilbronn, or Barry George?). Each programme covers one case study in depth, introducing the problem, figures of authority to help solve the problem, background science, account of the real life case & conclusion.

1. Murder by Poison

Case Study(s): TWO CASES FROM MOLECULES OF MURDER: Litvienenko & Polonium, + 1 other – organic substance??

Order: What happened in each case, what chemical/drug/poison was used, the science bit, how case was solved.

Areas of Chem covered/explained Radiation, Isotopes, Structure of Organic Particles (depending on second example), Testing for chemicals/radiation in body (autopsy),

Key Contacts for Interview: John Emsley, Scotland Yard Counter Terroism (dealt with Litvinenko case initially), Health Protection Agency (HPA), Other people involved in recent cases?

How to commit the perfect murder

Litvinenko timeline

Possible Q’s for interviewees

  • What happened in the Litvinenko case?
  • Why were suspicions of poisoning raised?
  • Why did it take so long take so long to figure out Litvinenko was not poisoned by Thallium, but actually was suffering from radiation poisoning?
  • Explanation of what radiation poisoning actually is?

2. DNA Profiling

Case Study(s): Case where somebody was convicted of murder & later released when DNA evidence proved innocence. – There are several stories of this in the US, but cannot find anything in the UK as yet? The more local the better?

Areas of Chem covered/explained: DNA Profiling, Methods of testing, ?

Key Contacts for Interview: Prof. Sir Alec Jeffery’s (developed genetic fingerprinting techniques). Police Involved in case? Person that was wrongfully convicted? Coroner, ‘Expert witnesses’. Staff & research students @ university re: testing methodology. National DNA Database,

Possible Q’s for interviewees:

  • What happens when forensic evidence that is used to prosecute somebody turns out to be wrong. Misinterpreted or contaminated evidence.
  • What is contamination? Why might it happen? Is it a big problem?
  • The use of genetic information to ‘prove’ innocence or guilt in criminal investigations…
  • What is DNA profiling? How does it work? Is it reliable?
  • What does DNA profiling involve – Taking samples, DNA isolation, Amplification by PCR, Testing the DNA – matching?
  • How is the ‘match’ tested?
  • How hard/easy is it to get reliable, non-contaminated DNA evidence from a crime scene?
  • How the NDNAD is run, (possibly looking into the ethics/morals of DNA databases?).

Anecdotes of cases where people convicted? Also from cases of contaminated evidence etc E.G Birmingham 6 & ‘Phantom of Heilbronn’.

3. Life of a Forensic Toxicologist

Case Study(s): Follow a forensic toxicologist, what sort of cases do forensics deal with regularly? Is it all Glitz & glamour – talk about standard cases of dugs overdose testing, plus possibly other sorts of investigations, such as testing @ crime & fire scenes. Death’s from drug overdose/CO poisoning etc.

Areas of Chem covered/explained: Chemical Structure of drugs/fire accelerants/explosives etc – Organic Chem. Any other ideas to tie in?

Key Contacts for Interview: Gail Cooper

Possible Q’s for interviewees:

  • What would a ‘normal’ day in forensics involve?
  • What sort of cases are the most common in your experience?
  • Why are these sorts of chemicals so dangerous? (In response to common cases).
  • Stories/Anecdotes of cases (local of famous?)
  • How we can tell if somebody has been using drugs from trace evidence on them?
  • How we can test for signs of drug use by measuring secondary metabolites that are made in our bodies when we take drugs?
  • What are some of the techniques/procedures you use in day to day forensics (using anecdotes as an example to discuss various analytical tests – need some examples of these tests to get started!)

4. Forensic Entomology

Case Study(s): Example case where entomology was used to solve crime investigation Suggestions welcome! – Maybe Dorothy can suggest a good case study for this programme?

Areas of Chem covered/explained: Chemical attractants for incests? Signs of decay? Any other ideas to tie in?

Key Contacts for Interview: Dr. Dorothy Gennard

Possible Q’s for interviewees:

  • What is entomology?
  • Why is it important?
  • What can we tell about a body/scrime scene from the types of insects there?
  • How can you tell that sort of thing?

5. Canine Detection

Case Study(s): Drugs bust? Arson Story? Suggestions welcome!

Areas of Chem covered/explained: Structure of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, Any other ideas to tie in? Aromatic Compounds?

Key Contacts for Interview: Dave Coss

Possible Q’s for interviewees:

  • What are detection dogs mainly used for?
  • Why are they used?
  • Are there other methods of detection of chemicals that can be used at crime scenes?

General thoughts…

I’ve been having a think about ‘regular’ guests for each show; I think it would be very useful to have somebody (possibly staff or student from chem. Dept) as almost a resident expert / co presenter who can explain some of the more complicated bits of chemistry. –

I am happy to do the majority of presenting if needed, however would need assistance in fact/checking proof reading of my explanations for some of the more complicated areas, so it might make sense if anyone was willing? Again just an idea, your thoughts/input welcome.

A Possible Series introduction…

Every time we come into contact with something there is a trace; we are constantly leaving evidence of contact with other people, objects and substances.

However it is only recently that science has been able to accurately identify such small clues.

Science & Technology now provide the police and legal system with masses of information from forensic techniques.

In this programme, we will take a look at …

Notes on Structure of a Factual Science Programme

  • WOW! Fact. Something that will initially grab the attention of the audience.
  • Pose an interesting question, about something loosely related to the first fact.
  • Offer a brief answer to the question? An introduction to the ‘detail’ of the show.
  • Case Study 1 – Example that gives an intro to some detail
  • Relate back to Q
  • Interview?
  • Case Study 2 – Second example, that possibly builds on the first
  • Interview(s)
  • Relate back to subject
  • Summary

‘Three act structure in documentary’

Act 1 – Set Up – Inciting Incident – An Event upsets the world/somebody that sets them on some sort of ‘quest’ or desire. Offers a central Question

Act 2 – Conflict/Progressive Complication – Person involved faces obstacles in their ‘quest’. Pursuit of the central question.

Act 3 – Conclusion – ‘quests ’darkest hour @ a final obstacle, Ups the Suspense, Supreme effort helps them reach Goal. Highest emotional point, answers central question.

The Student as Producer and Student IPR

I must preface this post by saying that this is a personal reading and interpretation of existing guidelines and by no means a formal or complete statement of the University of Lincoln’s IPR policy. It was written primarily for a different project I am involved in, but because our OER project involves the work of both staff and students, there are overlaps from my discussion below that seem relevant to the project.

In our chapter, The Student as Producer. Reinventing the Student Experience in Higher Education, Mike and I argued that:

further attention needs to be paid to the framework by which the student as producer contributes towards mass intellectuality. This requires academics and students to do more than simply redesign their curricula, but go further and redesign the organizing principle, (i.e. private property and wage labour), through which academic knowledge is currently being produced. An exemplar alternative organizing principle is already proliferating in universities in the form of open, networked collaborative initiatives which are not intrinsically anti-capital but, fundamentally, ensure the free and creative use of research materials. Initiatives such as Science Commons, Open Knowledge and Open Access, are attempts by academics and others to lever the Internet to ensure that research output is free to use, re-use and distribute without legal, social or technological restriction (

The University’s Policy on Intellectual Property Rights, defines ‘Intellectual Property’ as

…the product of the human intellect that may have commercial value, including copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works, and ideational property, such as patents and industrial processes” and is defined in detail as any:

•    Concept, discovery, invention, process, procedure, development or improvement in process or procedure;

•    Data, design, formula, model, plans, drawings, documentation, database, computer program or software (including related preparatory and design materials); and

•    Idea, method, information or know-how;

made, discovered or created by  a person whether alone or with others whether or not in the course of their employment which relates to the business or other affairs of the  University.

In compliance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, sections 11 and 215, the legal position on the ownership of Intellectual Property is as follows:” Ownership of any such property that has come into existence in the course of employment is vested in the employer”; however, not all IPR generated by staff during the course of their employment necessarily belongs to the University [my emphasis]. There are two exceptions as set out below:

(a)    Where the University agrees to waive its right to IPR generated by employees, for example, the University does not make any claim on the rights of employees, or income earned by members of staff, from academic publications or other creative works, [my emphasis] unless commissioned by the University; or where the staff member has undertaken private consultancy and the University has no interest in the IP generated. (See sections 3.6, 3.7, 4.5) or as given in the Academic Contract Section 17.6 relating to copyright.

(b)    Some IPR may be generated on research or other third party contracts which give the third party (usually the sponsor or funder of the research) rights over some or all of the IP.


Under section 39 of the Patents Act 1997 and section 11 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 (see above), the University claims ownership of the following forms of Intellectual Property:

5.2.1    Works generated by computer hardware or software owned or operated by the university;

5.2.2    Films, videos, multimedia works typographical arrangements and other works created with the aid of university facilities;

5.2.3    Patentable and non-patentable materials;

5.2.4    Registered and unregistered designs, plant, varieties and topographies;

5.2.5    University-commissioned works not within 5.2.1), 5.2.2), 5.2.3) or 5.2.4);

5.2.6    Databases, computer software, firmware, courseware, and related material not within 5.2.1), 5.2.2), 5.2.3), 5.2.4) or 5.2.5), but only if they may reasonably be considered to possess commercial potential;

5.2.7    Know-how and information associated with the above.


However, the University agrees to allow individuals to retain intellectual property rights on:

5.3.1    Copyright and royalties from books, articles, artefacts, dramatic, musical or artistic works and other scholarly work produced in furtherance of the member of staff’s professional career (apart from those commissioned by the University);

5.3.2    Audio or visual aids to the giving of lectures; or

5.3.3    Computer-related works other than those listed in 5.2.1 – 5.2.7 above.

This suggests that in most cases, the IPR for scholarly research publications and teaching and learning materials created by academics is retained by the individual(s) who produced them. However, in the case of the Student as Producer, we must also consider the ownership of student IP and whether it ensures similar freedoms to that of academics.

University of Lincoln Student IPR Policy

The university’s Policy on Student Created Intellectual Property, outlines the circumstances and conditions which vest “the copyright and all other intellectual property rights which may subsist in the results of research undertaken by the Student and all other materials created by the Student in the course of their studies with the University.”

It acknowledges in the first instance, “that its students own the IP in materials that they create in the course of their studies with the University unless there is a written agreement to the contrary.” The Student Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, should be completed and signed by all post-graduate research students. Undergraduates and taught post-graduates are required to sign it at the discretion of their faculty based on whether the research “has the potential to generate commercially exploitable IP.”

Where an Agreement is requested and signed, the university “undertakes to treat students in the same way as members of staff for the purposes of the commercial exploitation of that IP.  This is done by applying the University’s Policy on Intellectual Property Rights and associated procedures as if students are employees.”

The Agreement grants a license to the student to use their research for assessment and examination and to commercialise the IP based on a prior agreement with the university. The Agreement requires a five year non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement where the research is of a confidential, proprietary or secret nature.  The student enters into a sole relationship with the university and agree to co-operate where necessary in the commercialisation of the IP, waiving all moral rights arising out of their research.

In return, the student “will be compensated in accordance with the University IP Policy (for the purposes of which the Student will be considered to be an employee of the University).”

JISC Legal Investigation into Student Work and IPR

JISC’s report is “an analysis of the intellectual property rights (IPR) issues associated with student created work in UK further and higher education.”  They report from their focus group discussions that “a common thread was that student work should be made part of the IPR policy. Achievement of parity in the treatment of staff and students as regards the provisions in the IPR policy was stressed during the discussions.” They also found that “the provisions of an IPR policy must be explicit on ownership of IPR and students are made aware of their IP rights at the time of offer of admission.”

The report highlights that

Institutional policies will have to take into account the varieties of situations in which students create intellectual property throughout their learning and research. The context may vary according to the type of work, the level of work, the discipline and the department in which it is produced. Institutions should be aware of the possible risks which arise through non-consideration or poor consideration of IPR issues. Also, whatever the eventual policy of the institution, it needs to be recognised that the student will not be able to grant rights in third party material contained in his work, and that the institution must develop procedures for recognising and respecting those third party rights in reuse of the work.

Significantly, they state that

An institutional student IPR policy must be validly incorporated within the student-institution contract, and this will require giving proper notice of the policy. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, which are likely to apply to the student-institution contract, make unfair contract terms void in non-negotiated contracts. Institutions will therefore have to ensure that the terms of their policy are defensible as being a fair division of ownership, reward and recognition for the IPR created by students. Ideally, this justification should be made explicit in the policy, or in guidance accompanying the policy.


Where IPR is created through the collaboration of staff and students , the IPR policy in respect of staff, and that in relation to students, must complement each other in giving certainty as to ownership of the resulting IPR.

The report concludes that

a blanket requirement of assignment [of student IP to the institution] is unlikely to meet the test of fairness in the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Any requirement of assignment should be accompanied by an explanation of why this is being requested.

A suggested approach to is to “Require a licence to be granted in favour of the institution”

This is likely to be a fair and effective approach in most instances. The terms of the licence should cover all uses and potential future uses, and will still be subject to a test of fairness as a term in a consumer contract.


Research engaged teaching and learning may, in some disciplines, generate research output which is deemed of commercial value. In the case of the post-graduate research students, this IP is assigned to the university upon enrolment. In the case of undergraduate and taught post-graduate students, an agreement is sought with the student at the faculty’s discretion. If student IP is commercialised by the university, the student is rewarded on the same favourable terms as a member of staff. There does appear to be at least one conflicting clause between the staff IP policy and the student IP Agreement. The overall IP policy that governs staff and students states that “The right of the author (and personal to him) to be acknowledged as such and to ensure that his work is treated in a suitable fashion.  This right, being personal, is separable from any copyright concern.” The student Agreement, states: “To the full extent permissible by applicable laws, the Student hereby waives moral rights arising as a result of research undertaken by the Student and all other materials created by the Student in the course of their studies with the University.” This may be an oversight in the writing of the Agreement that needs further attention and/or clarification.

Student IP generated during the course of research where individuals are allowed to retain IPR (i.e. the university automatically waives copyright and other IPR), include teaching and learning materials and so-called scholarly work such as publications.

In line with the guidance from JISC Legal, the IPR policy for both staff and students does, in terms of collaborative endeavours, “complement each other in giving certainty as to ownership of the resulting IPR.” However, the requirement for post-graduate researchers to complete and sign an agreement upon enrolment, may conflict with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

The university’s IPR policy does not preclude staff and student collaboration in research nor does it appear to restrict such collaboration and eventual dissemination of scholarly work produced through staff and student collaboration. By vesting the copyright of scholarly work in students and staff, they are then “free to use, re-use and distribute without legal, social or technological restriction (” However, it would be advisable to seek further clarification on the use of open licenses for scholarly work and teaching and learning materials.