Project Rationale

The LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Project was set up in 2009 in collaboration with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge.

The LASAR Project was motivated by a concern that there is a strong public perception (reinforced by some popular media) that science and religion are in some sense opposites, that is that science is an atheistic activity.

In particular, we were concerned that school pupils may come to accept this as a normative standard: something that is both incorrect, and which could deter students who hold a religious faith from considering science as a suitable basis of future study and career.

Such an effect would not only be unfortunate when there is widespread concern about the limited numbers of young people seriously considering science careers, but in principle could set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people of faith are significantly deterred from science, then science could over time become dominated by atheists!


The aims of this project

LASAR is looking at this issue from two complementary directions. We are conducting research which will help us find out more about exactly what school students do think about science and religion, something of the factors which they feel influence their views, and how their ideas shift over time.

We are also developing workshops and website resources including videos  designed to support teachers in engaging secondary age pupils in the area of science and religion.

In this way we hope to make sure that there are sufficient accessible and balanced presentations to help pupils to recognise that this is a nuanced area where there are no simple answers (so scientists hold a wide range of faith positions and views on religious matters), and offer them interesting resources to stimulate their own thinking in this area.

Team (former and current members)

Prof Berry Billingsley (Professor of Science Education, Canterbury Christ Church University)
Prof Keith S Taber (Professor of Science Education, University of Cambridge)
Dr Mehdi Nassaji (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Martha Pipkin (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Dr Alessia Costa (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Dr Keith Chappell (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Dr Manzoor Abedin (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Zoe Knapp (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Fran Riga (based in Cambridge)
Helen Newdick (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Lucy Timms (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Peter Williams (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Chris Hatcher (Institute of Education, University of Reading)
Emma Newall (Institute of Education, University of Reading)


Advisory Board Members (past and current)

Prof John Hedley Brooke (Emeritus) Oxford University

Marianne Cutler, Executive Director, Professional and Curriculum Innovation at The Association for Science Education;

Michael Poole, Visiting Research Fellow in Science and Religion at King’s College, London;

Prof. Michael Reiss, Assistant Director and Professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University of London and a Priest in the Church of England;

Prof. Mary James, Associate Director of Research at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University. Professor James trained as a teacher of RE and taught for 10 years in schools before moving into educational research;

Dr John Taylor, Director of Critical Skills at Rugby School and the Chief Examiner for Edexcel’s ‘The Extended Project’, in which candidates explore science and philosophy.