The president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), Julia Higgins, has called for scientists to take responsibility for their actions.
The president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), Julia Higgins, has called for scientists to take responsibility for their actions. This may not come as a surprise, but one of her main concerns is that the public sees scientists only as boffins in white coats. What of all those folk with scientific training and qualifications who decide to leave their discipline behind?
She has coined the term ’invisible scientists’ for these ex-chemists, biologists or physicists. The scientific responsibilities of that group - who have left the lab behind to become, for example, traders in the city or managers of multinational businesses - cannot be underestimated, says Higgins. ’The invisible scientist... is in a much better position to understand and to interpret the arguments about technical and scientific advances and thus to encourage informed debate in the public domain,’ she said.
Talking about the more traditional research scientist, Higgins said: ’I do believe that scientists have an absolute responsibility not only to do their science well but also to be open to the judgement and opinions of the community in whose name and at whose expense they are doing it.’ Citing Nobel prize winner Geoffrey Wilkinson as a perfect example, Higgins stuck up for ’curiosity-driven research’, noting that Wilkinson’s award for the structure of ferrocene came ’decades before this type of structure was shown to be a really important catalyst for making better, stronger plastic materials’.Katharine Sanderson/Exeter, UK