Some current projects
Public-Good Plant Breeding
Early in 2003 Sense About Science
organised an event on ‘Public-Good Plant Breeding: what are
the international priorities?’, in association with the Natural
History Museum, the BBSRC and the John Innes Centre. With addresses
from Professors MS Swaminathan, Peter Raven and Phil Dale, it contributed
to an international debate among plant scientists and development
organisations on the extension of the Green Revolution, the priority
needs to be met and the scientific capacity to deliver. This initiative
is now being taken on and developed in the UK by the national plant
research institutes with ongoing input from the Sense About Science
network of scientists and NGOs.
To watch videos of the presentations, please click
The meeting arose from the pressing need for international
debate about the current challenges and opportunities for plant
breeding as the Green Revolution reaches its limits. Growing pressures
on the global food supply are creating further demands on land for
food and animal feed production. While some regions over produce,
others remain unable to grow what they need.
At the same time, we are seeing the development
of new crop varieties to address yield, pests, diseases, salinity,
drought and environmental impacts. We see new techniques for innovating
plant varieties, and the development of plants with new roles, such
as for alternative energy sources and as hosts for vaccine and antibody
The meeting on 22nd May was just the start. It
established that it is time to review plant breeding internationally;
to think beyond the confines of narrow arguments about some techniques
and beyond what appears currently possible to fund or commercialise.
To consider plant breeding outside of these short-term constraints
needs an international discussion on the problems to solve and the
scientific capacity to do it.
The discussion is open until 2004. To receive
further information about contributing to this discussion, send
an email with your details to Enquiries@senseaboutscience.org.
Sense About Science established
a multi-disciplinary working party on how to equip a broader public
with an understanding of peer review and the relative merits of
research claims in the public domain. It includes an investigation
into the social consequences of unfounded research claims, particularly
in the medical sphere. The target audiences are parliamentarians,
Government and policy bodies, university communications, research-based
companies, educationalists, NGOs and the media. This is reflected
in the make-up of the working party, which includes the Association
for Science Education, Science Media Centre, and Parliamentary Office
of Science and Technology, as well as eminent scientists. It works
closely with a parallel working party on how scientists use peer
review by the Royal Society. It is due to report early in 2004.
Vandalism of Research Results
Sense About Science has organised a survey of
research institutes about vandalism of trials of new plant varieties
and other field and laboratory work, which will be set in the context
of the reaction to animal testing work and other research where
vandalism overrules public views and social needs.
Voice of Young Science
Young scientists’ voices are often
absent from many science-based public debates. Sense About Science
is currently establishing a forum for young scientists to debate
and respond to contested issues about science, progress and safety.
One-day discussions about media and public responses to contentious
scientific issues will be held in January 2004 and April 2004. Please
contact Ellen Raphael if you would like to participate: Eraphael@senseaboutscience.org