An Introduction To QED

QED (Question, Explore, Discover) is a skeptical conference in the UK that is a “weekend celebration of science, reason, and critical thinking” as the name would emphasize. It’s the result of a collaboration between the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics, taking place at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester. The first event was held in the spring of 2011 with just over 300 attendees, and growing to about 400 the following year.

The event includes two days of talks, a Gala Dinner (for a bit extra) where attendees have a nice meal with the speakers, free saturday night entertainment, and a mixer to kick the weekend off on the friday. The talks include around a dozen main stage speakers, as well as a break-out room to give attendees more choice and availability of talks. Speakers have covered a wide variety of subjects, from the standard skeptical topics to more straight science talks, along with things like music history (Voices of the Dead from Sarah Angliss) and mathematical juggling (Juggling Theory and Practice from Colin Wright). Speakers have included Bruce Hood, Deborah Hyde, Steven Novella, Richard Saunders, Chris French, Simon Singh, Joe Nickell, Jon Ronson, Kylie Sturgess, Eugenie Scott, George Hrab, and just announced at the time of this writing, Richard Dawkins, Ben Goldacre, Brian Thompson, and many more. Saturday night entertainers have included Robin Ince, Paul Zenon, Richard Wiseman, Matt Parker, Alun Cochrane, and Helen Keen. Along with talks, QED also offers panel discussions (such as Skeptics Beyond the Pub and Ghost Investigations Today) and live podcast recordings, which have included InKredulous and The Pod Delusion.

In addition to all the great talks and entertainment, this conference really focuses on the social aspect of the event. People are encouraged to spend time at the bar, chatting to friends and mingling with new faces. The highlight of QED for many is just this, the atmosphere and the great conversations with like-minds. Speakers and other guests join in with this and spend time out in the bar with the attendees, giving them the chance to chat with the great people they’ve just seen on stage.

The conference is run entirely by volunteers, including the organisers who don’t profit a penny from the events. QED aims to break even, and any money made goes to charities such as Sense About Science, The National Autistic Society, and the Good Thinking Society. Starting in 2013 a percentage will be reinvested for the next event as well. This enables the tickets for the event to be as low as possible, to-date always under £100, with full-time student tickets available for even less than that.

QED is designed solely to give attendees the best experience possible. This means choosing a venue that has disabled access, free wifi, a convenient location for people coming in from out of town, and a layout for quick and easy access to all areas such as the break-out room and bar. It also means, starting in 2013, offering childcare for its attendees.

The next event is going to be April 13-14th 2013 at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel, tickets priced at £99 and £59 for students. Gala Dinner tickets are selling for £45 and go fast. Tickets went on sale September 20th, get yours soon as they expect to sell out!