IoI Publications

Friday 31 May 2002 Science: Can we trust the experts?

Controversies surrounding a plethora of issues, from the MMR vaccine to mobile phones, from BSE to genetically-modified foods, have led many to ask how the public's faith in government advice can be restored. At the heart of the matter is the role of expert and the question of whose opinion to trust.

AUTHOR: Editor: Tony Gilland

Bill Durodie: researches risk and precaution at New College, Oxford University
Dr Ian Gibson MP: Chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
Dr Sue Mayer: Executive Director of Genewatch UK
Dr Doug Parr: Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK
Tony Gilland: Academy of Ideas

‘While science is necessary to inform democratic decision-making processes, it is not in itself democratic. .. To relegate the measured and experienced judgements of scientists to being just another point of view merely reinforces the notion that science is just another sectional interest, rather than a universal form of knowledge, potentially accessible by all.’
Bill Durodie
researches risk and precaution at New College, Oxford

‘What is wrapped up in this seemingly unchallengable concept of ‘sound science’ (who could argue for unsound science after all)? ... I believe that the phrase ‘sound science’ has become a rhetorical device to support a particular ideology - a political tool to control technological advance.’
Sue Mayer
Executive Director of GeneWatch UK and member of the government’s Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Committee

‘Clearly, there is little trust and respect for scientific experts at the current time. It is hard to see who else to trust if these experts are to be discounted. The sooner a wide variety of experts engage in the political process and with the public, the better.’
Ian Gibson MP
Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology

‘The inevitable presence of unknowable risks means that new innovations need a wider mandate than that some company product manager thinks it is a moneymaker. If one accepts - and I for one, certainly do - that science and technology innovation will be one of the most powerful forces shaping the future of society, by what right are the research agendas and technology choices being decided in closed rooms of specialists.’
Doug Parr
Chief Scientific Adviser to Greenpeace UK

PUBLISHER: Hodder & Soughton
SERIES: Debating Matters
ISBN: 0340848367


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