Smarter UK

If there were pills that could make you smarter, would you take them?

Smarter UK is a facilitated classroom debate for 13-16 year-olds that explores the ethical implications of using drugs for cognitive enhancement.

Resources for teachers are available from

Smarter UK was funded by the Wellcome Trust and sessions took involved over 7,000 students in Bristol, Cardiff, Cambridge, Glasgow and Oxford between autumn 2011 and spring 2013.

Session format

Sessions, which were delivered by professional science presenters and supported by a neuroscientist, start with a sketch where two executives discuss an advertising campaign for a new smart drug. This introduces the key issues.

Students then discuss the ethics of cognitive enhancement in “Vote with Your Feet”. The classroom is marked out with a continuum of opinion from “yes” through “not sure” to “no”. In response to a question, students have to distribute themselves along this line, each standing at the point that best represents their opinion. This provides young people with the opportunity to consider the varied and complex issues associated with human enhancement.


The project was evaluated by David Shakespeare from Square2Learning.

90% of students who took part in the evaluation said the session was interesting, over 80% agreed that the session was enjoyable and more than 65% said they wanted to learn more about the topic.

Comments included: “Amazing please come back”, “Very enjoyable – like to learn more like this”, “I learnt about things I hadn’t really thought about before” and “Makes me want to learn more about neuroscience”

Full evaluation report

We have also written our own end of project report which contains reflections from ourselves, our delivery partners and some of the neuroscientists involved with the project.

Graphic Science final project report

Smarter was piloted in Bristol and Glasgow in 2009. To find out more about the pilot please visit the Smarter page.

Delivery Partners

The delivery partners for Smarter UK are listed below. Teachers interested in holding Smarter UK sessions should contact their closest delivery partner.

Bristol: Explorer Dome

Ben Brown or Shaaron Levermont
Explorer Dome
Mailbox 42
179 Whiteladies Road
Bristol BS8 2AG

Tel: 0117 914 1526
Email: or

Cambridge: The Naked Scientists

Dr Hannah Critchlow
Naked Neuroscience
Naked Scientists
Department of Pathology
Cambridge University
Tennis Court Road

Tel: 07846 168684

Cardiff: science made simple

Becky Holmes
School of Physics and Astronomy
Cardiff University
14-17 The Parade
CF24 3AA

Tel: 02920 876 884

Edinburgh: Glasgow Science Centre

Susan Meikleham
Glasgow Science Centre
50 Pacific Quay
G51 1EA

Tel: 0141 420 5010 ext 234

Oxford: Science Oxford

Bridget Holligan
Science Oxford Live
1-5 London Place

Tel: 01865 810020

Advisory Panel

Development of the Smarter UK sessions and resources has been overseen by an advisory panel comprised of:

  • Professor Barbara Sahakian, University of Cambridge (Chair)
  • Dr Anne Cooke, University of Bristol
  • Dr Hannah Critchlow, University of Cambridge
  • Nick Hillier, Academy of Medical Sciences
  • Bridget Holligan, Science Oxford
  • Katherine Mathieson, British Science Association
  • Jon Walford, Chew Valley School
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