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Geneticists' Views on Science Policy Formation and Public Outreach

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Publication Date: January 2005

Author(s): Debra J.H. Mathews; Andrea Kalfoglou; Kathy Hudson

Topic: Health (Medical research and technology)

Keywords: Attitudes; Public consultation; Ethics; Geneticists

Type: Other

Coverage: United States


Though much research about the public's views of scientists, genetic research and its moral, ethical,
and social implications exists, little has been done to investigate how scientists view their own role(s) in public discussions and policy formation related to genetic research and technologies. We interviewed 20 academic geneticists in the United States about their perceptions of the roles they and others (e.g., professional societies, the public, ethicists, and elected officials) do and should play in the formation of science policy, the communication of science to the public, and the public discussions of moral and ethical issues raised by scientific advances.

The participants in our study thought that scientists should be more actively involved in public outreach and science policy formation, but frequently they felt illequipped
and unsupported by their peers and institutions to pursue these activities. Furthermore, many were skeptical of or did not trust elected officials--who they consider uninformed about the issues and too driven by political agendas -- to formulate sound science policy. They do, however, have faith in the ability of scientific societies to influence policy effectively, and some thought that societies should play a larger role, both in science policy and as a liaison between scientists and the public.

Finally, participants offered suggestions for increasing the involvement and influence of scientists in science-policy
formation and public discourse.

In American Journal of Medical Genetics 137A:161-169 (2005).