In recent years, the UK government has trumpeted the importance of science. Tony Blair described himself as ‘born-again’ on the subject and Gordon Brown, while still Chancellor, opened up the coffers. But the money available to scientific research seems to come at a price. Scientists are increasingly expected to fulfil demands that are less about the pursuit of knowledge than the instrumental benefits – and potential ethical perils – of their research. Today’s scientists are expected to keep one eye on the ‘knowledge transfer’ potential of their work and another on possible risks. Questions about the likely benefits for the economy, healthcare or the environment are high on funding bodies’ minds, as are questions about the likelihood of ‘success’.
Are these reasonable demands to make of scientists? Should the public funding of basic science be tied to potential beneficial outcomes for society, or are we closing down possibilities by asking science to deliver prematurely? What barriers does science face in the 21st century and what can we do to challenge them? Is a more open ended approach to the pursuit of knowledge possible, and if so is it desirable?
Longer, healthier, happier? Human needs, human values and science
, Raymond Tallis
Risk and Alcohol, Children and Science
Watch Claire Fox News examine three different areas where risk has become a major issue.
Claire Fox News, 18 Doughty Street TV, 11 June 2007
Research pressure in universities is barrier to scientists communicating work to public
"With rapid advances in scientific research, all scientists have to find opportunities to increase public awareness and public involvement because we cannot take public support for granted," says Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council Royal Society News, 28 June 2006
What do we want from science?
Science has been devalued and dethroned. It has lost its unique role for the human species in delivering knowledge to transform and develop our status on planet earth
Thomas Deichmann, Battles in Print
How to revitalise science? Send a Briton into space
By continuing to opt out of human space exploration, Britain will lose its best chance to show children how exciting science can be.
Alok Jha, Guardian
, 29 October 2006
Masters of the universe
The public may think that scientists are control freaks who want to order the universe in safe compartments. In fact, the reverse is true: constant revolution is what they really desire
Robin McKie, Guardian
, 26 May 2007
Enemies of Science
The biggest threat to science doesn't come from the extremist who burns down farms in solidarity with research animals. It comes from those who claim to respect the way science creates knowledge, but then misinterpret, distort or ignore that knowledge.
Alok Jha, Guardian
, 12 November 2006
A word-class science base: Emulating Uncle Sam
The high visibility afforded to science on the other side of the Atlantic is impressive, demonstrating that the subject can capture the imagination of the mainstream
Sir Richard Sykes, A Scientific Vision for the 21st Century, Newton's Apple, 15 October 2006
White coats defeat the grey suits in a clash between science and Whitehall
Scientists are borrowing the tactics of environmentalist and consumer groups to decide the future of fertility clinics and research in to incurable diseases
Mark Henderson, The Times
, 12 October 2007
Keeping the research in an embryonic state
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John Gillott, 20 March 2007
Standing up for science
James Heartfield, 6 December 2006
Time to stop monkeying around
James Panton, 27 November 2006