Correct, timely and unbiased information is the key to public’s participation and understanding of science.The changing science and technology culture all over the world has placed newer demands on science communicators,more so in developing countries where they form the vital link between science and society. However, little has been discussed about what ethics and values should guide them.
India, which has a strong science and technology infrastructure, a free press, a palpable people’s science movement and an evolving free market economy, offers a typical scenario. Communication of science to this multicultural and multi-religious population of 850 million has traditionally been restricted to introducing “scientific literacy.” But issues like AIDS, Organ Transplantation, DNA Fingerprinting, Genetic Engineering, Sequencing the Human Genome, Drug and Vaccine trials, New laws for food, drugs and pharmaceuticals, Surrogate Motherhood, Intellectual Property Rights, GATT, Seed Patents Versus Farmers’ Rights, Environment and Biodiversity, Future of Space Technology and Technology Transfer, etc. have called for a more informed public opinion wherein science communicators have been faced with newer ethical dilemmas. Would open discussion about AIDS and sexual practices promote promiscuity in a conservative society? How and when should people be informed if they are suffering from an incurable disease? These, for example, dictate a need for introducing new ethics and values in education of physicians. International networking of science communicators will provide the framework on which strategies for these can be evolved.
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