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In 2019, the United Kingdom's high-tech polar research vessel will begin exploring the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Before its maiden voyage, it needs a name.
Britain's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), who run the UK's polar research program, hoped to stir excitement for the expedition by asking the public to help name the watercraft. NERC put up a poll and teased, imagine one of the world's biggest research labs travelling to the Antarctic with your suggested name proudly emblazoned on the side! One name stood out, receiving far more votes than any other: RRS Boaty McBoatface.
The name was so popular voters crashed the NERC's website, according to the Guardian. When the poll closed on April 16, 2016, RRS Boaty McBoatface accrued more than 124,000 votes — about 84,000 more than the runner-up. Alas, not everyone was convinced of the name's brilliance.
After the poll, Science Minister Jo Johnson suggested decision-makers "want a name that fits the gravity and the importance" of the boat's purpose. The NERC plans to review all 7,000 submissions before its final decision — which ultimately resides with NERC's Chief Executive Duncan Wingham, who has not directly commented. If he stands with his colleagues, Wingham may choose to shipwreck RRS Boaty McBoatface before she even sets asea.
Polar research is vital to our understanding of climate change and the health of the world. Giving schools, parents, and other fans a chance to explore with the charismatic RSS Boaty McBoatface gives the NERC a whole new platform to share the science behind these important issues. If the downside is being undignified, imagine the multitude of upsides — not the least of which is an engaged and interested public.
Urge Chief Executive Duncan Wingham to embrace public enthusiasm, and christen the NERC's new vessel the RRS Boaty McBoatface.
Dear Chief Executive Duncan Wingham,
In March 2016, you asked for the public's help in naming the NERC's new research vessel. When polls closed one month later, the public's decision was clear: RRS Boaty McBoatface.
From the beginning, you've made it clear that the NERC will make the final decision on naming the ship. However, we believe that as an advocate for conservation-based scientific research, it is your duty to name this world-class ship the RRS Boaty McBoatface — in the name of public enthusiasm for science.
Although the name may seem silly, it has the potential to bring enormous opportunities for polar research publicity. As you may know, garnering public interest for oceanic research is difficult, and may at times seem impossible. But if a breach in research vessel naming convention can change all that, why not embrace the opportunity? Giving students and fans the chance to follow the adventures of the RSS Boaty McBoatface could open the world of oceanic research to a whole new generation!
The public showed confidence in you with a £200 million government grant to build this state-of-the-art ship. By honoring the public's vote, you have a chance to return that confidence in a significant way.
We urge you to help keep the public interested in polar research. Turn the RRS Boaty McBoatface, and the NERC, into household names!