Scientists face 'shocking levels' of vilification over discoveries
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 24 January 2011
Scientists are being subjected to shocking levels of personal vilification and distrust, Britain's most senior scientist has warned.
Sir Paul Nurse, the new president of the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of sciences, urged scientists to take on those critics who have cast doubt on the veracity of scientific discoveries ranging from the link between climate change and man-made carbon dioxide to the benefits of GM crops.
Sir Paul said many scientists felt under attack from critics in the blogosphere and the mainstream media, but rather than retreating into their ivory towers they needed to speak directly to the people who paid their wages.
"Scientists have got to get out there. They have to be open about what they do ... even if it does put their reputation in doubt," Sir Paul said in a BBC Horizon documentary that airs tonight. "This is far too important to be left to the polemicists and the commentators in the media. Scientists have to be there too. We've got an unholy mix of the media and the politics and it's distorting the proper reporting of science and that's a real danger to us if science is to have its proper impact on society."
Sir Paul, who won a Nobel prize for his work on cell biology, said science was used to dealing with controversies but the vilification and distrust levelled at some scientists had shocked him.
"I think today there is a new kind of battle. It's not just about ideas but whether people actually trust science... Science has created our modern world so I would like to understand why scientists are under such attack and whether scientists are partly to blame," Sir Paul said.
Climate science in particular seems to have polarised public opinion, especially in the aftermath of the leak of emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which one media commentator said had exposed the "greatest scientific scandal in the history of the world". Yet four independent inquiries have cleared the scientists involved of scientific fraud or misconduct and have explained that the most damning quotation from the emails, which talked about a "trick" to "hide the decline", referred to nothing more than a fairly standard scientific technique of splicing two sets of data.
"This seems to be the greatest scientific scandal that just didn't take place," Sir Paul said.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...