“biowarfare” and instead consider using more restrained descriptive terms such as “public health research” and “concern.” Zimmer agreed and noted his own frustration with inflammatory headlines. He observed, however, that some of the apocalyptic language used by the media came from quotes by scientists themselves.
Joe Palca, Science Correspondent, National Public Radio, spoke about what scientists think the public wants to know about science and the types of questions the public actually asks. Palca observed that scientists are often accustomed to communicating with a degree of subtlety and nuance lost on the public. He suggested that the scientific community needs to better understand the mechanics of providing accessible answers to questions that the public wants answered. Palca acknowledged that the media is often an intermediary in this process and reminded scientists that journalists often have final responsibility for what is communicated.
Throughout the workshop, a recurring theme involved the question of how best to create a regulatory framework in which the public has confidence. Suggestions included having the public decide which persons or what types of expertise should be represented in regulatory discussions.
Dr. Shapiro suggested that the group consider the role of private corporations in life sciences research. Dr. Kevles discussed his experience in 2001 at the 25th anniversary of the Asilomar Conference. He noted that, unlike previously, many life scientists now have ties to industry. He suggested that such relationships would provide a barrier to the creation of a disinterested set of recommendations similar to those put for that the Asilomar Conference. Kevles noted, however, that it is essential to involve corporations in governance discussions especially in light of many corporations’ positions as international actors. Dr. Cook-Deegan agreed and noted that many corporations devote a much more significant portion of their budgets to life sciences research than was the case in 1975.