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Public consultation crucial for science: Higgins

There should be a big debate on nanotech and policy makers should recognise the value of public opinion, says the British scientist.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2005 05:29 PM IST

There should be a serious debate on scientific questions such as GM foods, nanotechnology and genetics and policy makers and scientists should recognise the value of public consultation, a UK scientist said on Thursday.

"The public funds science indirectly...It has little control of the uses made of that science...," Julia S Higgins, Vice President of Royal Society, London said delivering a lecture on "Responsibility of being a Scientist".

While public derives benefits from science, it also suffers any ill consequences of the applications directly and pays again for any clean-up operations, she said.

"This is a mismatch of risk and control," she said adding new and innovative ways needed to be found to take into account the public concerns into science.

Scientists have an absolute responsibility not only to do their work well but also to be open to the judgement and opinions of the community in whose name and at whose expense they are doing it, she said.

Observing that few scientists had the skills for communicating directly with the public, she said "but we all have a responsibility to engage at an appropriate level in the dialogue now developing between science and the public."

Such public consultation was important for any democratic society and "only by entering a real dialogue admitting the risks as well as hailing the potential benefits of new knowledge will we maintain the respect and trust of society, and restore it where it has been damaged," she added.

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