From today people will be able to question researchers directly on any aspect of plant science that comes up in public discussion, from one simple portal.
Ash Dieback disease, GM crops, bees and pesticides, mycotoxins in food, biofuels… Plant research is central to decisions about future energy, land use, wildlife, environmental protection, pest problems, nutrition and food safety. People care a lot about these subjects but get frustrated by conflicting stories and research reports and find that information is rarely in a form that responds to their questions.
Now, leading research institutions and learned societies across the UK have come together to make themselves available in a public panel, where people can put down questions and opinions for response.
Frances Downey of Sense About Science established the panel following recent debates: “Plant research institutions had brilliant outreach going on. But the many questions attracted by our recent land use debates, and on Rothamsted’s GM wheat research, revealed two problems. One was that you have to be quite ‘in the know’ about the most suitable place to find answers. The other was that researchers responding privately to individuals isn’t feasible when lots of people want to be involved. With a public panel, where everyone can read and follow up, we can persuade experienced researchers that the time is well spent. This kind of public-led, expert-fed approach means the agenda is also set by what people are actually concerned by, which sometimes contains a few surprises.”
Panel members have been nominated by: BBSRC, the Biochemical Society, Genetics Society, James Hutton Institute, John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, Society of Biology, Society for Experimental Biology, National Farmers Union, Society for General Microbiology, UK Plant Sciences Federation and Royal Horticultural Society.
The Plant Science Panel is here: http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/plant-science-expert-panel.html
Questions can be sent via Twitter: @senseaboutsci #plantsci, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Baillie, Chief Executive of the Biochemical Society: “We must take care to listen to and respond to the public on the issues surrounding plant science innovations. The creation of the plant science panel is an important step forward, allowing the public to directly question scientists on important and controversial scientific issues in this area.”
Sense About Science is a UK charity which equips people to make sense of evidence: www.senseaboutscience.org