In the past few years in Europe there has been an increasing interest for the social aspects related to scientific research and technical innovations, thus encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to this theme. The European Union has become more sensitive to the social implications of science and technology and has adopted a precautionary attitude towards some fields of scientific research such as biotechnology. We can find traces of this attitude in the Directive 2001/18/EU that aims to forbid the use of marker genes also in those GMO that are not placed on the market (article 4). Among the precautionary measures adopted in the last years, the European Directive 2001/18 offers the opportunity to explore the relationship between science and society analyzing an actual case study. The safety of genetically modified plants (GMP) and the impact that the directive 2001/18/EC has on laboratories working on plant genetic transformation has been the object of an interdisciplinary project called Eco.gen.etic.com funded by the Province of Trento (Italy). Part of the project dealt with a qualitative survey on a sample of biotechnologists in order to discuss with them their point of view on this regulation and to shed light on the complex relationship between science and society. Interviews with researchers on marker-free techniques were helpful to recognize the communication short circuit between science and society and to tackle other aspects dealing with the relations between science and society. This confrontation has produced some interesting guidelines to overcome difficulties that are rooted in the paradigms that researchers use to explain their work and to plan their communication strategies. This contribution aims to point out those behaviours and attitudes that may foster or inhibit a fruitful dialogue between scientists and public. Based on the interviews with biotechnologists and on the remarks of the project team, this contribution tackles three main issues: first, the different conceptualization of nature between researchers and lay people; second, researchers’ interpretation of the European directive; third, researchers’ representation of the public and communication patterns. For each of these themes some suggestions are provided in order to guide researchers, but also those who are in charge with the regulation of this matter (bio-ethicists and legislators among others) to overcome the contrast between scientific reasons and social reasons. So far, in fact, this fracture has hindered a constructive dialogue on the utility, the risks, and, more extensively, the reasons and legitimacy of intervening on the genetic structure of plants.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The impact of politics on scientific research

GIOVANNA SONDA   OBSERVA-Science in Society

In the past few years in Europe there has been an increasing interest for the social aspects related to scientific research and technical innovations, thus encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to this theme. The European Union has become more sensitive to the social implications of science and technology and has adopted a precautionary attitude towards some fields of scientific research such as biotechnology. We can find traces of this attitude in the Directive 2001/18/EU that aims to forbid the use of marker genes also in those GMO that are not placed on the market (article 4). Among the precautionary measures adopted in the last years, the European Directive 2001/18 offers the opportunity to explore the relationship between science and society analyzing an actual case study. The safety of genetically modified plants (GMP) and the impact that the directive 2001/18/EC has on laboratories working on plant genetic transformation has been the object of an interdisciplinary project called Eco.gen.etic.com funded by the Province of Trento (Italy). Part of the project dealt with a qualitative survey on a sample of biotechnologists in order to discuss with them their point of view on this regulation and to shed light on the complex relationship between science and society. Interviews with researchers on marker-free techniques were helpful to recognize the communication short circuit between science and society and to tackle other aspects dealing with the relations between science and society. This confrontation has produced some interesting guidelines to overcome difficulties that are rooted in the paradigms that researchers use to explain their work and to plan their communication strategies. This contribution aims to point out those behaviours and attitudes that may foster or inhibit a fruitful dialogue between scientists and public. Based on the interviews with biotechnologists and on the remarks of the project team, this contribution tackles three main issues: first, the different conceptualization of nature between researchers and lay people; second, researchers’ interpretation of the European directive; third, researchers’ representation of the public and communication patterns. For each of these themes some suggestions are provided in order to guide researchers, but also those who are in charge with the regulation of this matter (bio-ethicists and legislators among others) to overcome the contrast between scientific reasons and social reasons. So far, in fact, this fracture has hindered a constructive dialogue on the utility, the risks, and, more extensively, the reasons and legitimacy of intervening on the genetic structure of plants.

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