Free to talk or not

April 21, 2000

Tom Wakeford ("Concern for science", THES, March 24) says that the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council bans scientists it funds from "becoming involved in political controversy on biotechnology or the biological sciences".

Untrue. The BBSRC funds research in universities and its own institutes. BBSRC-funded scientists in universities are university employees and are subject to its regulations. The BBSRC cannot, and does not, seek to exert control over their public activities. They are free to speak in any forum or against any science policy.

Scientists in the BBSRC institutes, however, are public-sector employees and as such are subject to general regulations covering partisan or political activity that maintain public service neutrality.

BBSRC institute scientists are free to speak in public on their personal research, unless it is subject to confidentiality clauses (most notably, where there are commercial or licensing considerations).

Indeed, it is central to the council's mission that the output of research should be widely communicated via articles, books and papers to the user communities and to the general public.

David C. S. White Director of science and technology BBSRC

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