[ASC-media] Media release: Scientists and Their Bodies Must Be Transparent

Control Publications science at control.com.au
Thu Feb 20 13:56:11 EST 2003

20 February 2003

For immediate release

Scientists and Their Bodies Must Be Transparent

Regaining public confidence in science requires scientists and their
organisations ³to become transparent and informative and to welcome debate,²
according to Lord Robert May, President of the Royal Society of London,
founded in 1666.

An Australian, Lord May is Royal Society Research Professor of Zoology in
the University of Oxford and has been Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK
government (1995-2000). He has won major international prizes (Crafoord,
1996; Balzan, 1998) for his pioneering contributions to the theory of
ecological systems.

Writing in the March edition of Australasian Science magazine, he advocates
that the Code of Practice for Science Advice adopted in the UK ³is relevant
to policies and ways of supporting the science base in Australia and other
democratic nations. The central theme is that of openness and transparency,
engaging dissident voices in debates, while striving to manage risks in a
proportionate manner, subject to acknowledged uncertainties².

More broadly, the Code also adheres to the ³Seven Principles of Public Life²
enunciated by a House of Lords Committee Life [the ³Nolan Principles², after
its Chair and former Lord Justice of Appeal, Lord Nolan]. It advocates high
standards by holders of public office of Selflessness, Integrity,
Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership. The Code
stresses the need for scientists¹ advice to government to be openly

Lord May writes: ³The crisis in public trust is one of the greatest
challenges facing scientific policymakers today. To ignore such widespread
fears would simply be wrong, even if it were possible. But, to follow the
weather-vane of public opinion is not always the solution either².

³However good our innovative ideas and delivery may be, they will have
difficulty in being realised if general public assent is not secured through
thoughtful and open discussion. I believe this is how it should be and
tomorrow¹s world has the chance to be better for it.²

He highlights the need for professional education ³to reflect the need to
engage not only the technical issues, but also the ethical questions and
public concerns². 

Lord May¹s comments are published in conScience, the newsmaking column in
Australasian Science magazine in which scientists express forthright views
on national issues.

EDITOR: Lord May¹s comments are apposite to Australian science policy. As
reported in this issue, the government has refused to release the
recommendations to Cabinet on national research priorities of its scientific
expert committee. Only Cabinet¹s decisions are known.

Please cite AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE as the source of this story.

Lord May can be contacted at the Royal Society (+44 20 7451 2507) and at
Oxford (+44 1865 271 276). For the full text and for permission to reproduce
the entire article (700 words), call the Editor, Guy Nolch, on (03) 9500
0015. Copies of the Code of Practice and the Nolan Principles are also
available. A recent photo of Lord May in action in Australia can be obtained
from Peter Pockley; phone (02) 9660 6363.

Guy Nolch
Editor, Australasian Science
Control Publications Pty Ltd
PO Box 2155
Wattletree Rd PO  VIC 3145

Phone (03) 9500 0015
Fax (03) 9500 0255
Web: control.com.au
ABN 46 006 591 304

More information about the ASC-media mailing list