Feeds

Royal astro-boffin to MPs: Stop thinking about headlines

'Nuclear biz is screwed, chill out about carcinogens'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

"In politics the urgent seems to trump the important," venerable astro-boffin Lord Martin Rees told a committee of MPs yesterday, saying that it there needed to be "bipartisan consensus on long-term issues" such as energy and the environment if Britain is to haul its sorry ass into the next century.

Giving evidence to The Public Administration Committee, Rees reprised some of the points he made in his 2010 BBC Reith lecture series, where he discussed how "celebrities and newspaper people" had too much sway over how the public perceived scientific issues.

The committee was tasked with investigating strategic thinking in government – and how to make MPs do it.

Energy came up as biggest area of scientists' anxiety. Both Rees and his fellow speaker, David King of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, said the failure of Britain's nuclear energy plans were a big concern. Rees said that at current rates, Britain wasn't even training enough people to maintain the safety arrangements on current nuclear facilities, never mind making strides in research and development.

"I'm not sure we can underestimate the long-term problem in nuclear power," he said. "When the current generation retire, we will run out of nuclear safety experts".

And then, lamented the boffin, the public tend to worry about the wrong things. The public had "a disproportionate sense of risk" he said:

"We fret too much about carcinogens in food, but don't worry enough about bio-error, bio-terror, cyber crime and things which are far more serious: these low-probability, very high consequence events."

Ignorance prevented people participating in important debates, he added.

Still the Astronomer Royal wasn't advocating some boffin-o-crat science state: "It's not just scientists who should decide these issues," he said, "they should decide it after wide democratic discussion. But for those discussions to get beyond tabloid slogans we need to get wider knowledge of these issues beyond the tabloid slogans." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.