Democratization is a great thing. Giving everyone a chance to be heard really is wonderful, and a true triumph of modern societies.
But sometimes, it can result in the unexpected.
Recently, the British research council called the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) held an online contest to name their new Arctic research vessel. They believed in democratization, and wanted to open the contest to everyone, in hopes of raising awareness of their efforts.
They succeeded, but not the way that they expected. They assumed that only those passionate about conservation and Arctic research would vote, and the name would be related to Arctic exploration. But when this contest went viral, a new champion rose to the top. Currently sitting in first place with more than 100,000 votes is the name RRS BOATY MCBOATFACE.
This is far more votes than expected, so the NERC has succeeded in raising awareness of their efforts. But now they are faced with an age-old challenge. A challenge faced by leaders all over the world. What do you do when the people collectively make a decision that you do not like? The NERC has said that the online vote is not binding, but you can be sure that there will be thousands of disappointed people if they choose a different name.
Personally, I think a fun name like the RRS BOATY MCBOATFACE would be a great campaign to get kids interested and involved in science.