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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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Sense About Science

Mon, 08 Jan 2007

It's difficult to go a day without reading some loon story in the newspaper or seeing a reporter making ludicrous claims based upon flimsy evidence. Whilst as a scientist it can be relatively easy to "debunk" some of these stories (or find more reliable information about it), the "general public" are far less aware of the scientific arena and methods of research and subsequent reporting upon it. And for every opinion "!based upon evidence", there is an equally compelling counter argument. Some "hot potatotes" include:

  • does smoking cause lung cancer?
  • is global warming occurring
  • what are the benefits and weaknesses of nuclear power
  • is stem cell research ethical
  • should we perform animal testing


The list is almost endless and there are no quick and easy answers. Thankfully the charity Sense About Science is trying to address the balance by presenting reasoned scientific information to the public. This is based upon a group of "grass roots" scientists who provide specialist input upon specific topics. The charity has a reading room of relevant titles for "public consumption", as well as a phone number that people can call for further advice (and this includes, for example, any kind of employee, employer or civic group, not just the general public). There is also information relating to how the scientific process works, including a useful introduction to peer review.

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