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UK gov urges science to engage with public

And stumps up £1.2m to encourage dialogue

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The UK government will spend £1.2m between now and 2006 to encourage science to engage with the public, the minister for science and innovation Lord Sainsbury announced today. "Sciencewise" grants will fund projects "to facilitate dialogue between scientists and the public" on new technologies which may have "new ethical, safety, wealth and environmental complications".

The government has identified key areas in which it considers more chat between boffins and Joe Public would be beneficial:

  • Increasingly intelligent computer systems
  • Nanotechnology
  • Understanding brain processes
  • Animals and medical research
  • Energy and climate change
  • Trust and security in the use of IT and the internet

Lord Sainsbury said: "New technologies create new exciting opportunities but can also raise concerns and fears. The science and society agenda is about building a series of inclusive debates to explore the ethical, safety, health and environmental implications of emerging technologies. We have the opportunity to harness the potential of new science and technology for the good of all but there is understandable public unease about the rapid introduction of new technologies and their regulation. We need much greater consideration and debate by scientists, industry and government and the public of the regulatory issues raised by new technologies."

The Sciencewise grant panel will be chaired by University of Bristol professor Kathy Sykes. Full details are at www.sciencewise.org.uk. ®

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