When we get to other issues which are involved, then political and economic and ethical concerns come in and scientists are just citizens in those areas. So scientists shouldn’t be decisions makers in how their work is used. But they have a special responsibility to ensure the public is informed. It’s rather like an analysis which my colleague Michael Tier gives, it’s like if you’ve got teenage kids. You can’t necessarily control what they do but you’re a poor parent if you don’t care what they do and what happens to them.
Likewise if you’re a scientist, the ideas you come up with are your creations as it were, and so you ought to care about what use is made of them in the same way, even if you can’t control it. And so in the same way I think scientists ought to, ought to care. And should try and inform the public and inform politicians. And in informing politicians that is better done via the public because if there’s public pressure then the politicians will take an interest.
And incidentally if the public is to be an informed citizenry everyone needs to have some feel for science. Because so many of the issues which confront us today — whether it’s health, energy, or environment, or transport — they have a scientific dimension. So if the public debate is to rise above the level of slogans, everyone needs to understand a bit about the science. And the scientists themselves should take a lead in ensuring that that happens. But they should accept that they have no expertise on the politics, the ethics, or the economics.