Prince's influence 'bars science honours' (18/12/2003)

This seems rather surprising given that we're saddled with Lord Sainsbury, Lord Haskins (a frequent critic of the prince), Lord Taverne (called for the prince to be barred from the throne if he criticised GM again), Baroness Greenfield, etc. etc.

Burke is not a GM crop scientist, as the article implies, but he is one of the most fervent supporters of the technology - along with Lord Sainsbury, Lord Haskins , Lord Taverne....

For a profile of Burke: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=26
Prince's influence 'bars science honours'
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent
The Times, December 18, 2003
HONOURS for leading scientists involved in animal experiments and GM crop research have been blocked because of the influence of the Prince of Wales, it is claimed today.

Colleagues of Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, said that he had been denied a knighthood because of the Prince's opposition to his work on animals.

A second eminent scientist, Professor Derek Burke, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, has also been passed over for honours because of the Prince's objections, The Times Higher Educational Supplement reports today. Professor Burke has been one of the strongest critics of the Prince's opposition to GM crops.

The allegations follow the leak of a Cabinet Office document at the weekend. It suggested that Professor Blakemore had not been recommended for a knighthood because of "his controversial work on vivisection".

Professor Blakemore, a neuroscientist whose work with cats led to a cure for a form of childhood blindness, has spoken up repeatedly for the necessity of animal research.

He said yesterday that he had been "shocked" to read the document, which conflicts with government policy on vivisection, and that its contents had forced him to consider his position on the MRC.

"Now we discover that, in private, the Government itself considers such activity controversial and damaging to scientific reputation," he said. "Since the mission statement of the MRC includes engagement with the public about issues in medical research this situation makes my position at the MRC very difficult."

One senior academic, who asked not to be named, told The Times Higher Educational Supplement that the Prince had objected to Professor Blakemore's presence at the launch of a schizophrenia research centre funded by the charity SANE. The Prince is a patron of SANE, and Professor Blakemore sits on the charity's board.

Professor Burke said he had no evidence he had been passed over because of the Prince's views, but that many in the scientific community felt that the honours committee tried not to antagonise him. "There is a common public perception that if you speak out against the Prince it is likely to be held against you. It looks to me as if the honours system is being used to suppress dissent."

A spokeswoman for the Prince of Wales denied that he had objected to Professor Blakemore's presence at the opening of the SANE research centre, or that he had intervened to block an honour for the scientist. She declined to comment on his views about animal experiments.

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