Recently I attended a Media course held by my Sponsors, BBSRC (Biotechnology & Biosciences Research Council) on dealing with your research, its media profile and how to promote your science in the best light for mass media appeal.
On the course were a few delegates from Rothamsted Research Institute, and crucially this was on the day that Field Testing of Genetically Modified (GMO) Wheat Field Trials had been approved. On the one day course we were tutored on exactly how to discuss our data with a wider audience and got some great feedback and tips.
I never thought that the ramifications of this course and the people I had met would end up making such an impact in public science engagement and Publicity. Today on Twitter Rothamsted has launched a campaign appealing to GMO Activists who are planning activism against this research for May 27th. On their website, the group known as Take the Flour Back are outlining plans for this “decontamination” and they are citing their reasons for staging it.
The response video and supporting letters from members at Rothamsted very maturely and Calmly deals with these issues, I think it is particularly nice how they emphasise the transparency of their research. I myself am publicly funded and feel the moral duty for this but by stating it overtly and in the public arena I think Rothamsted is taking a very progressive approach in opening dialogue. Admittedly I am clearly biased in the argument, but I feel that is due to the lack of material argument on the activists’ side. I feel that if they were to enter into a meaningful and open negotiation and actually learn what it is that we aim to do as researchers they may begin to doubt their position.
Many claims made on the protesters’ website is based on Prejudice and assumption, with the odd all-out fantasy peppered in amongst it. If both scientists and activists could take a critical and more importantly INFORMED analysis of their positions then maybe, just maybe this could be a productive process.
I understand that in the GMO argument however emotions can run high as it can drag in all sorts of issues where personal beliefs are projected onto the fundamental science, leading to statements such as “Playing God” AND ” FrankenCrops” and if we could suspend this maybe it could help.
I feel the researchers at Rothamsted have by their calm and collected nature appealed to the greater sense in people. Hopefully the Public may see this and start to question the reactionary motives being protesters actions. We will wait to see what happens on May 27th and I personally hope Biosciences doesn’t get set back any further.. willful ignorance is horrible