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The GSE Story: The story of scientists and engineers in government

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The GSE Story is now live, and you can view and download it.

The Government Science and Engineering (GSE) team have been busy over the past couple of months bringing together the rich history of science and engineering in government.

This GSE Story highlights the successes and achievements of scientists and engineers in government across history. It includes examples of innovation and collaboration, and how their work has had an enduring global impact in areas such as poverty, disease, climate change, crime and counter-terrorism. It aims to build pride in, raise the profile of, and encourage fresh talent into the GSE profession.

In order to bring this history of government science and engineering to life, we asked COGNI+VE to tell the story through a combination of written words and illustrations.

To view the presentation images, click on the arrows below the presentation embedded above. To read the full narrative alongside the presentation, you can download the full PowerPoint presentation by selecting the 'in' icon on the bar below the embedded presentation images. This will take you to the SlideShare website. You can also share the presentation, by selecting the curved arrow icon on the bar below the embedded presentation (or bottom left of the bar if the icon is not showing).

Alternatively, if you cannot access the PowerPoint presentation through the SlideShare website, you can download and share A PDF version of the GSE Story.

GSE stories from the past

While creating the story, we found examples of extraordinary people, creating extraordinary solutions, in extraordinary circumstances. Most of us are familiar with the amazing code breaking carried out by Alan Turing at Bletchey Park during the war years, (if only from the 2014 Benedict Cumberbatch featured release, The Imitation Game…). But did you know that around the same time, government scientists Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson climbed 7000ft in one day just so they could rigorously prove that their wartime austerity diet provided enough energy for the nation?

Much like McCance and Widdowson, the GSE team had a mountain to climb with regards to the amount of stories to choose from. It soon became clear that the history of science and engineering in government was an intricate story; interwoven with social, political and economic change as well as a lot of hard graft.

We were proud to uncover good examples of the important role played by women in government, showing that science and engineering has always been diverse. Beryl Power’s new register of “Persons with Scientific, Technical, Professional and Higher Administrative Qualifications” meant that the best scientific and engineering minds were put where they were needed most during World War Two. Brilliant and gifted individuals like Olga Taussy-Todd did work at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) that went on to underpin modern computer coding.

Present day stories

We discovered that current science and engineering work in government is also driven by innovation, discovery and investigation. Right now, Genomics England is collecting data from 100,000 patients and families, to help find cures for rare and highly infectious diseases. And the Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is at the end of the phone when an emergency occurs, co-ordinating experts to provide science advice to the Prime Minister at her Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) meetings.

The story as a tool

The story is a tool for you to use and discover. We want you to read it with colleagues, your department and beyond. For example, you could:

  • Lead a departmental workshop, drawing on the examples that your organisation has contributed to the story
  • Share the story with new starters to introduce them to the rich history of GSE

We'd like to know how you use the story in your organisation, so please get in touch via email to

The story continues

The story is far from over and we will continue to share other case studies that we collected but could not fit into the main story. We'd like to share your stories too, so please do continue to send us your favourite examples of government science and engineering work to

Finally, remember to sign up for email updates, to keep up to date with the latest work and stories from the profession.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Salim Rahim posted on

    Thanks for the updates GSE. My only other comment is please adopt sustainable behaviours in your work-place.

  2. Comment by George Onslow posted on

    I would love to read this but MOD computers block the content on both Explorer and Chrome

    • Replies to George Onslow>

      Comment by Rosie Powell-Tuck posted on

      Hi George, thank you for raising this issue. We are looking into publishing our story in an alternative format that we hope will enable you to download it. Do keep checking back here for updates.

    • Replies to George Onslow>

      Comment by Rosie Powell-Tuck posted on

      Hi George, you can now download a PDF version of the GSE story via the link included in the text above. Do let us know if you have any further issues.

  3. Comment by David Brook posted on

    Who did the art?