Does Science Need the People?
Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, contributed to a BBC Radio 4 programme on involving the public in science and policy making. Sir David was interviewed by Geoff Watts and spoke about the public perception of the BSE disease and the impact it had on the introduction of GM foods.
Sir David said that the government acted to protect the British beef industry in a way that went beyond scientific advice. As a result there was a collapse in trust in the government on these issues, which coupled with the aggressive campaign pushing GM products, meant people could not see benefits and the new technology failed to gain public support.
The programme moved onto discuss the public opinion on nuclear energy generation. Sir David said current political paralysis over the nuclear new build programme is a throwback from a shift in public attitudes following the fire at Windscale atomic plant in 1957, where the government hid facts during the reporting of the disaster. He stressed that governments must be open and honest with the public on research into nuclear power, emphasising that any secrecy will only heighten public suspicion.
Listen to the full programme here.