Have a say in science? 1

December 19, 2003

Lord Winston may have gone too far in his suggestion that science cede control to the public, but some responses to him simply proved his point ("Critics lambast Winston's idea", THES , December 12). Lewis Wolpert considers it "ridiculous" that the public should have a say in whether stem cells can be used for research.

But for those who attach some form of sanctity to those cells, Wolpert's views will seem nothing less than totalitarian.

The point is not that minority religious groups should dictate the scientific agenda, but surely that the public has a say in what constitutes an appropriate object of research and in which areas the money should be spent. Funding frequently follows topics that an elite minority believes "sexy", without considering whether the public shares the same priorities.

A few more council-estate tenants on the research councils might be an appropriate first response to redress this situation.

Justin Thacker
Hemel Hempstead

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