In my previous blog posts I have mentioned the importance of a good relationship between science and the media a couple of times. The MMR jab scare perfectly exemplifies the danger of a breakdown in this line of communication. With measles cases still rising, the papers are full of articles about where it all went wrong; who was to blame, and how such a fiasco could be prevented from happening again. In thinking about this, it’s very easy to point the blame squarely at the media. The journalists reporting the scare failed to understand the science, or lack thereof, behind the claims. But scientists must also take a more active role in maintaining a good relationship with the media.
The BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) published an exposé this weekend on what they call ‘the terrible plight of animals’’ at Imperial College London. A member of the group spent seven months working as a technician at the University’s animal facility, secretly recording the researchers and rodents in their day-to-day lives. The 10 minute long film is uncomfortable to watch, even as someone who believes that vivisection is necessary. But this is not because the BUAV’s spy managed to uncover routine torture, as they would have you believe. It’s because, if there were alternatives, no one would choose to put animals through surgery and euthanasia in a captive environment. Unfortunately, what this piece of propaganda neglects to mention is that the research being carried out is vital. There are no alternatives.
Margaret Thatcher passed away this week, but did you know that prior to her prime ministerial duties, the Iron Lady worked as a research chemist? In a completely unrelated train of thought, I’ve been pondering the five most “evil” scientists of all time….