Brussels, 11 Sep 2002
Mirroring the efforts of the European Commission to strengthen dialogue between scientists and citizens, the UK is to conduct a study analysing how the government should receive advice on science communication policy. The UK has also launched a consultation document on potential areas for government funded research.
The British Association will carry out the study on science and society, consulting with a wide cross-section of those involved in science communication. A report will then be handed to Lord Sainsbury, the UK's Science Minister.
'In general the UK public are very supportive of scientific research [...] But we need today, in a period of rapid scientific advances, a more effective dialogue between scientists and the public,' said Lord Sainsbury, announcing the study.
'We have moved decisively away from the era in which it was enough for science communicators simply to educate the public about science and its benefits. What is needed now is an effective two-way dialogue and debate between those who do scientific research and the public.'
In a recent speech on science, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair also emphasised the importance of bridging the gap between science and society, saying 'we need better, stronger, clearer ways of science and people communicating. The dangers are in ignorance of each other's point of view; the solution is understanding them. We need, therefore, a robust, engaging dialogue with the public. We need to re-establish trust and confidence in the way that science can demonstrate new opportunities and offer new solutions.'
A separate consultation paper identifies subjects which should be studied under the next phase of the UK's Department of trade and industry's forward looking 'Foresight programme'.
From the list of 12 potential subject areas and any new suggestions from others, a few will be selected to add to two areas already being studied: flood and coastal defence, and cognitive systems.
The 12 possible subject areas are: cyber trust, the lifecycle of products, land use, energy for the future, untreatable infectious diseases, 21st century infrastructure, knowledge exploitation, creative leisure, intelligent infrastructure systems, brain science and drugs, intelligent search engines and new technology for health. The consultation will run until 4 December 2002.
For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.nds.coi.gov.uk