Science and terror

July 22, 2005

As the person whose research informed last week's article "Science blase on terror", (July 15) I wish to correct the impression given that I believe science is indifferent to terror.

The article makes various loose spillages and generalisations and relies on rather regrettable language that, taken together, create an image that I do not wish to endorse.

The most important fault is the wholly negative characterisation of the scientists who took part in our seminars. Certainly, the particular questions about life-science research we sought to discuss in our seminars - whether the results and techniques generated through research into infectious disease and other topics of investigation might unintentionally facilitate the production of biological weapons - is one that has only recently received substantial attention. But being hitherto largely unappreciative of certain questions about biosecurity does not amount to being "blase on terror". As your leader noted, recent terrorist attacks pose tough questions that can't be dodged. This, I would add, should include questions for the actions of politicians, community leaders, scientists and, yes, even publishers.

Brian Rappert

Exeter University

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