In the past, science was a fringe issue for the public. More recently, however, debates over genetically modified food crops, cloning, and stem-cell therapy have stoked public fears. Politicians often add little to the debates because they don't understand the science; in turn, scientists' reticence adds to the public's bewilderment.
With so much legislation now based on scientific research, scientists need to be involved in the decision-making. "I feel very strongly that scientists have not gotten as involved as they should have done in many of the key issues," says Kathryn Arnold, research assistant at the Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Glasgow.
The Medical Research Council is planning to require public communication as part of its grant criteria, and the UK Royal Society has run a program for three years to get scientists and politicians talking: the MP (Member of Parliament)-Scientist Pairing Scheme....