Saturday, July 14, 2007

Scientists and Their PR Responsibilities

Good advice on the role of scientists in the ongoing debate about embryonic stem cell research can be found on Nature's new blog on stem cell issues.

Monya Baker, San Francisco news editor for the magazine, commented on the recent testimony that the Bush administration squashed dissenting view among its appointees, which we should note happens with almost any powerful presidential administration, or for that matter, gubernatorial(see stories about how Arnold appears to be micromanaging the state's smog board).

Baker said it was important for scientists to be publicly engaged lest Luddites carry the day. She wrote:
"To be part of the solution, scientists must spend time away from the lab bench. The scientific community should get its views (and the evidence for them) into the public sphere, writing letters to editors and politicians, speaking to schools and gatherings.

"When scientists do so, they balance enthusiasm with caution, caveats with imagination. They should be able to tell personal anecdotes without fear of being mocked by their peers. To maintain credibility, not to mention civility, scientists should understand opposition to stem-cell research and describe which opinions are backed by data, which are not, and which exist independent of data.

"Consistent efforts can help turn a raucous debate into a reasoned one."
We add that it takes repetition, repetition and more repetition to have an impact.

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