Letter: Appliance of science

Sir: Science is concerned with deductions from statistical facts, which are free from human bias. Race, sex and nationality do not come into the calculations. Yet European scientists, French and others, we are told, cannot agree about whether or not British food is safe to eat.

It appears as if some scientists in Europe draw conclusions which have a national bias. So where does that leave non-scientists?

Let us not bother just yet with who is right, the French or German or British scientists. But we must ask how they can differ about beef and what else they could differ about. Do Welsh scientists have different answers to some problems from English scientists? Are there problems to which women scientists have different answers from men? Do Indian, African, Chinese or American scientists reach different conclusions from the same data?

The pressing question arises about which we, the public, must be clearly informed. Can a scientist be assumed to be free from bias when he reports on scientific matters?

The only way to remove doubt is not just to remove the beef ban, but for all to say, in this and other cases, which scientists were wrong and why - if anybody knows. This is the only way science keeps it credibility - by generating reproducible, accepted data.

Professor R J P WILLIAMS

Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory

University of Oxford