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scientists react to Prime Minister’s speech on science

In a speech at the Royal Society, Tony Blair called for an end to the suspicion and mistrust that sometimes surrounds the work of scientists, and highlighted the need for “a robust, engaged dialogue with the public”.

Prof Bill McGuire, Director of the Benfield Grieg Hazards Research Centre at University College London, said:

“Science can only develop a more positive image by a more open information dissemination policy that engenders trust. It is essential that scientists be encouraged to open up more if the public is going to get both sides of the story and not always suspect that there is a hidden agenda.”

Brian Cass, Director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, said:

“We are very grateful for the Government’s overt support for UK research over the past two years. A number of legal and policing changes were made last year that gave greater protection to researchers, research organizations and secondary targets. This has helped to defend UK research but threats, intimidation and violence still occur. We need to see further practical action in terms of legislation and law enforcement to ensure we tackle the continuing activities of the hard-line activists.”

Dr Roger Morris, Professor of Molecular Neurobiology, King’s College London, said:

“The BSE crisis seemed to crystallise the growing public mistrust of science. Scientists should now take a large role in repairing that damage by spending more time communicating the research that they do. I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s comments, because we need to positively address this problem.”

Dr Stephen Minger, Lecturer in Biomolecular Sciences and a member of the Centre for Neuroscience Research, Kings College London, said:

“I think the climate for stem cell research in the UK is probably as good as anywhere in the world – certainly so much better than in the United States. The regulation is tight and clear – when we were granted a license to work with stem cells, it was made absolutely clear what we can and cannot do.

“I agree with Prime Minister Blair that it is this kind of strong regulation that will help inspire public confidence and deal with the public fears in this area.”

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Developmental Genetics at the National Institute of Medical Research, said:

“I am very pleased with the Prime Minster’s comments which will gain support from many within the science community. It’s really important to keep the public debate about stem cell research going – so that when the time comes to make the big decisions about what to do with the science, the debate is already an informed one.”

Diana Garnham, Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“It is very encouraging to see support for research from such a high level. The Prime Minister is shining a light through misleading campaigning of so many anti-science pressure groups.”

Professor Christopher Leaver, Sibthorpian Professor of Plant Sciences, Oxford University, said:

“I welcome the prime ministers reaffirmation of his support for scientific research in general and the development of GM technology in particular. The UK knowledge base and opportunities generated by research in plant science in general and GM technology in particular is vital in providing informed advice to both politicians and the private sector. Thus allowing us to address the major challenges facing the improvement of worldwide food security and sustainability.”

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