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Leading journalist to address the impact of science controversies

The editor-in-chief of the influential science publication Nature is to give a talk at Cambridge about how scientists should react when their research comes under attack in public debates.

The recent climate change controversy has thrown the scientific research process under the microscope. Scientists' response to it and other controversial issues, including the MMR vaccine and cognitive enhancing drugs, will be discussed by Dr Philip Campbell (left) in a Gates Distinguished Lecture entitled Science - Facts and Frictions - on 28 April.

He says: "The processes of science in these cases were no different in kind from those in calmer territories, such as cancer research, where the public not only trusts researchers but directly donates half a billion pounds every year in their support. Why are there such contrasts? And what can scientists and others do in response to such attacks?"

He says some scientists and a few institutions have started to address the public directly through the Internet. He is particularly interested in groups of scientists who regularly produce blogs in order to help the public and journalists gain access to their perspectives on scientific developments and controversies.

Dr Campbell himself became involved in the latest "climate gate" debate when he stood down from his post on the panel set up to investigate claims that climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia covered up data. This followed the disclosure that he had given an interview defending the researchers' conduct. He said his decision was made in order to ensure that the ability of the review team to carry out its investigation would not be called into question.

As Editor-in-Chief of Nature, Dr Campbell heads a team of about 90 editorial staff around the world. He takes direct editorial responsibility for the content of Nature's editorials, writing some of them. He is the seventh Editor-in-Chief since the journal was launched in 1869.

Dr Campbell's role as Editor-in-Chief of Nature publications is to ensure that the quality and integrity appropriate to the Nature name are maintained, and that appropriate individuals are appointed as chief editors. He sits on the executive board of Nature's parent company, Nature Publishing Group.

Lindsay Chura, external officer of the Gates Scholars Council which organises the Gates Distinguished Lecture series, said: "It is a tremendous honour to have Dr. Campbell deliver a Gates Distinguished Lecture. The title of his lecture - Science: Facts and Frictions - highlights the dynamic interplay that exists between scientists and our wider society. With so many scientific controversies blanketing the headlines in recent years, this topic is relevant to journalists, policy makers and researchers across all domains of science."

The talks are open to the public. Dr Campbell's lecture will be held on 28 April from 18:30-20:00 at the Queen's Building Lecture Theatre at Emmanuel College.

Article by the University of Cambridge Press Office.

Posted on 27/04/2010

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