Scientists declare 'Boaty McBoatface' contest a success

AP News
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Posted: May 10, 2016 11:32 AM

LONDON (AP) — There's no sinking feeling for the scientists who inadvertently gave the world Boaty McBoatface. In fact, they're buoyant.

The leader of Britain's Natural Environment Research Council said Tuesday that its name-the-ship competition, which drew global attention when it was won by a jokey Mc-moniker, was "an incredible success."

Parliament's Science and Technology Committee grilled council officials about the contest, which invited the public to help name a new 200 million pound ($288 million) polar research vessel.

Boaty McBoatface was suggested by a former BBC radio host, and drew 124,000 votes, more than three times its nearest rival.

Despite the vote, the vessel was christened Sir David Attenborough in honor of the naturalist and broadcaster — though one of the ship's remotely operated submarines is being named Boaty McBoatface.

Some Boaty-backers took the decision badly, expressing anger that their views had been disregarded.

The committee is studying science communication, and wanted to know whether the research council considered the contest a success — or, as committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood, put it, would staff have to "walk the plank?"

Council chief executive Duncan Wingham said that far from being an embarrassment, the contest was "an astonishingly great outcome for us. In addition, it has put a smile on everybody's face."

"Although Boaty McBoatface was the tagline that took the story around the world, we can see evidence time and time again of people reading about the boat, reading about the science and learning more about the work that we do," he said.

The council said half a million people visited its website during the competition, and 214 million Twitter users were reached through the hashtag boatymcboatface.

Wingham said the council hoped to continue to generate interest from what Blackwood called the "Boaty brand."

"We have engaged with a great deal of young folk," Wingham said. "That is why we are very keen to continue the name, albeit on a smaller vessel."

As for what the future might hold for Boaty, he said "the submarines themselves will have many adventures."