British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS): archives

  • British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS)
Late 19th century-2018
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Contains papers relating to BSSRS, its working groups and associated groups. Includes: committee minutes 1970-1973; BSSRS Bulletin No. 1-61, 1976-1988; papers relating to Science for People magazine; promotional material; newspaper articles; a selection of essays and reprints of journal articles written by members of BSSRS and others; minutes from various working groups; booklets published by BSSRS; papers relating to the Radical Science Journal; papers relating to the BSSRS Community Action Group featuring the "Battersea Smell" and other projects, 1971-1972; papers relating to Hazards Bulletin; papers and publications from the Radical Statistics group.

Topics covered by the collection include occupational hazards, healthcare, societal inequalities, and other subjects relating to social responsibility and health inequalities in science and health.

The collection also includes the following BSSRS publications: - Science for People newsletter, 1978-1980 [incomplete set] - Hazards, an occupational health and safety magazine established by BSSRS members, 1976-1991 [incomplete set] - Workers Health International Newsletter, the sister magazine of Hazards, published in Sheffield, 1977-1994 [incomplete set] - Australian Work Hazards magazine, 1977-1988 [incomplete set]. - "Our Bodies Our Selves: A Course for Women, New printing of Women and their bodies". - Other books and publications collected by BSSRS members

Further printed and published material from the collection can be found via the catalogue here.


Late 19th century-2018

Physical description

12 boxes, 1 cloth banner


The material was accumulated by members of the BSSRS Archive Group, and consists of records created and used by a number of members of BSSRS. As such there was no overarching order, but the material was broadly grouped according to topic or the particular BSSRS group to which it related. With this in mind, the collection has been arranged to broadly reflect the structure of BSSRS and its various affiliated and associated groups, as depicted on the BSSRS website. Note that this is not a firm structure, and there are links between different parts of the collection that are noted in the relevant item records.

The collection has been arranged into sections as follows:

A - Administration and general papers: administrative papers relating to the overarching BSSRS network;
B - Local and affiliated groups: papers relating to the local and subject-based groups the constituted the BSSRS network, and other groups with links to BSSRS;
C - Associated groups: other groups not necessarily part of the core BSSRS network, but which were linked to or loosely affiliated with BSSRS;
D - Events and conferences: Papers relating to events and conferences organised by BSSRS, or to which BSSRS members contributed;
E - Subject files: papers relating to particular subjects but not necessarily directly relating to the activity of specific BSSRS groups:,
F - Publications by BSSRS: pamphlets, booklets and other items published by BSSRS;
G - Publications by others: publications from other sources that were collected by BSSRS members.

Acquisition note


Biographical note

The British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) was the centre of a 'radical science' movement in the 1970s, an influential movement among the scientific community and the general public. Formed out of a campaign in 1968 against university research on chemical and biological weapons, those who joined had a previous record of activism against nuclear weapons, through Scientists Against the Bomb, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or in other left movements.

The organisation was primarily concerned with the misuse of science and technological innovation and the impact on the environment, both for the health of workers and wider society. Their focus on industrial health was to encourage people to identify hazards in their working and living environments and to take responsibility to improve these conditions thus minimising the impact on their health. They offered to provide workers with noise metres and samplers for dangerous gases and vapours to support this mission.

Some of the issues discussed include asbestos, noise and vibrations, carcinogenic materials, oil, solvents, shift-work, welding, dust, pollution and depletion of resources. They published informative booklets to raise awareness of these issues, a newsletter titled Newsheet and a bi-monthly magazine Science for People.

There was a National Committee and many groups either directly related, or satellites of the organisation. The National Committee established working groups on particular topics and there were many local groups which developed organically and pursued local campaigns and published newsletters. The most active of these groups were located in Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Sheffield.

The main building where the BSSRS was based in London was funded by Joseph Rowntree and housed many other 'radical' groups, which included the Radical Science Journal, to which members of the BSSRS played an active part.

The main aims of the society are;

  • Explore scientists' individual and collective responsibilities

  • Demonstrate political, social and economic factors affecting science and technology

  • Draw attention to the implications and consequences of scientific development, thereby creating an informed public
  • Certain members of the society founded an archive group; collecting the materials created by the BSSRS and its associated groups.

    Part of this description was taken from the BSSRS website and part was created by the archivist. More information can be found on the BSSRS website

    The following collections are affiliated with the BSSRS;

    Tim Lang (collection reference PP/TLA) catalogued and stored at the Wellcome Library

    Alison MacFarlane and Radical Statistics (collection reference PP/AMF) stored at the Wellcome Library but currently uncatalogued

    Dot Griffiths stored at the Science Museum but currently uncatalogued

    Related material

    Archival material from BSSRS is also held at the Science Museum, which includes papers removed from the Horsell Road BSSRS office when they vacated (c.1990s), including minutes and other group documentation, and copies of Science for People and Radical Science Journal. Related material is also held at the Working Class Movement Library.

    Terms of use

    This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

    Ownership note

    The collection was donated in several accessions consisting of records that were brought together by the BSSRS Archive Group, and created and accumulated by various BSSRS members.

    Permanent link


    Accession number

    • 2554
    • 2646
    • 2240
    • 2536
    • 2630
    • 2582
    • 2575