|Corporate science communicator humiliated (30/4/2004)|
For what the Royal Society were considering rewarding Prof Greenfield for, see item 2.
1.Greenfield fails to get on society shortlist
Baroness Greenfield has not been included on the shortlist for membership of the Royal Society, The Times Higher can reveal. The Times Higher reported in February that Baroness Greenfield, a professor of physiology at Oxford University and the first female director of the Royal Institution, had been nominated. Existing fellows will vote on shortlisted candidates at the end of May.
Some fellows had threatened to resign if she was successful, arguing that her work did not merit the honour. But others said her efforts to engage the public in science made her worthy of consideration.
Fellows received a confidential copy of the shortlist for 2004 this week.
Sources have confirmed that Baroness Greenfield's name is not on this list.
The Times Higher's columnist Nancy Rothwell, Medical Research Council research professor at Manchester University and a specialist in neuroscience, has been shortlisted.
The Royal Society's sectional committees met in January to draft longlists of candidates from 535 nominees. When pressed, a spokesperson admitted: "The candidate in question was considered by the relevant sectional committees... in January, and the decision was taken then that she, along with the majority of other candidates, would not be placed on the longlist for this year."
2.Susan Greenfield - a GM WATCH profile
Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE is a leading neuroscientist and Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University. Since 1998 she has also been Director of the Royal Institution (RI).
She makes frequent TV and radio appearances, and has written popular science books and articles for the press. In 1998 she was awarded the Michael Faraday medal by the Royal Society for disseminating science to the public.
She has been described as 'our most visible scientist and, with her RI appointment, one of the most influential.' That influence is felt at the highest levels. She has been part of a consultation with the Secretary of State for Industry on science funding. She has also given a consultative seminar to Tony Blair on the future of science in the UK and has reported that, 'Tony Blair is really into the meshing of private and public scientific research.' She has also submitted at Blair's request a memorandum for his consideration on Genetics, Science and Risks. She is also a Forum Fellow at the World Economic Conference at Davos.
Greenfield has been at the heart of efforts to control how controversial scientific issues, like GM crops and cloning, are communicated to the public - most notably, via the Science Media Centre (SMC), which she played the key role in founding, and via her work with the largely industry-backed Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), whom Greenfield advises.
She was pivotal in the SIRC and RI co-convening a Forum to lay down 'Guidelines on Science and Health Communication' - a code for the media and for scientists as to how science stories should be reported. Among the Forum's members were Sir John Krebs , Chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency , Lord Dick Taverne who went on to become the Chairman of Sense about Science , and Dr Michael Fitzpatrick , who is part of the Living Marxism network.
According to another member of that network, Tony Gilland, in an article for Spiked, 'For Greenfield, the importance of such a code of conduct is clearly demonstrated by the frenzied media coverage generated by Arpad Pusztai's pronouncements on "poisonous" GM potatoes in February 1999. ...One of the problems in this instance, says Greenfield, was the media spotlight "focusing on one maverick".'
The SMC developed out of the work of the Forum, with Greenfield seeing the need to go beyond guidelines and have an organisation that would engage pro-actively with the media, taking the role on issues like GM crops that would otherwise be left to the industry. Lord Bragg, President of both the Science Media Centre and the RI, made clear in a debate in the House of Lords that 'this issue has an economic dimension which is of crucial importance to this country. Put bluntly, if ignorance stirred to hysteria by sensationalism were to get in the driving seat, thousands of highly skilled and remarkable opportunities for self-fulfilment, wealth creation and knowledge formation would be lost. The more we know, the more we can make of what we know. There isthe sniff of the born-again Luddite in the air, and that could be destructive to our future as a trading country whose increasing wealth depends increasingly on its brains.'
Bragg's linking of commercial considerations with the role of the SMC would appear to sit happily with Greenfield's known views. She has frequently expressed her approval of the highly entrepreunerial character of contemporary science . She happily identifies herself as one of those accused of 'selling their souls' to the private sector. Her attitude is best exemplified by her own research funding where she not only secured GBP20 million pounds from a pharmaceutical giant (the then Squibb Corporation) for her Oxford Department, but has since co-founded her own privately funded firm, Synaptica, which aims to become a leading neuroscience-based biotechnology company within five years.
A Price Waterhouse Cooper report takes Synaptica as a model for how scientists can gain greater financial rewards out of their biotechnology research: 'Last year, for example, The Sunday Times (January 30, 2000) reported that Dr Susan Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution, had taken out a patent on a naturally occurring brain molecule which could hold the key to curing Alzheimer's and Parkinsons diseases. Oxford University, where Dr Greenfield is also Professor of Pharmacology, has taken a 30% stake in Synaptica, the company Greenfield and her colleagues set up to research the peptide before selling the results to a pharmaceutical operation. This approach like that in many biotechnology start-ups clearly involves assuming a much bigger share of the risk/reward ratio than is normally the case in Pharma, yet the industry needs just such people. We predict that a growing number of companies will therefore adapt the model for themselves and that the research scientists they employ will ultimately have a financial as well as a personal stake in the molecules they are studying.'
In one of her Millenium lectures, Professor Greenfield defined one of the key criteria for 'good science' as better industrial exploitation of 'the real practical advances that arise from research.' She complained that UK performance was only 'respectable without being spectacular' in this area. She measured this in terms of the number of patents being generated by UK science, concluding,' UK science needs to translate its strength into better industrial performance'.
To achieve more efficient commercial exploitation of scientific research you need a supportive environment in terms of both *political policies* and *public attitudes*. According to journalist Peter Riddell, 'This is allied to her belief in the need for more inter-changes between scientists and politicians and the media. In the end, it comes back to understanding the potential and opportunities of scientific research. So there is no contradiction between Professor Greenfield's role as a media star, as a distinguished scientist and as an entrepreneur. All three are linked.'
In order to forward her linked-agenda Greenfield has shown a willingness to work with very diverse allies. On 9th May 2003 a London conference titled 'Panic attack: interrogating our obsession with risk' was held at the RI. It was advertised as being organised by Spiked with the RI and with the far right pro-technology group Tech Central Station. Michael Fitzpatrick and Bill Durodie were among multiple contributors to the event who were part of the Living Marxism network. Peter Marsh, director of the Greenfield-advised SIRC was another contributor and the SIRC were also named as a sponsor as were the far right International Policy Network .
This is not the only time that Greenfield has actively cooperated with the Living Marxism network, whose members eulogise science and technology and want no restrictions on cloning or genetic engineering. In summer 2000 Greenfield was the co-convenor with Tony Gilland and Helene Guldberg, two prominent members of that network, of the event 'Interrogating the Precautionary Principle'. This was organised by the Institute of Ideas and held at the Royal Institution.
In this context of close cooperation with prominent members the Living Marxism network, it is interesting that the director of the Science Media Centre - an organisation for which Greenfield says the RI served as 'midwife' - has as its director Fiona Fox. Fox is a long-term member of the LM networ whose extraordinarily controversial contributions to the Living Marxism magazine involved denial of the Rwandan genocide and providing a platform for dissident Irish republicans in favour of continuing a campaign of terrorism.
But it is not just Greenfield's dubious alliances that are open to question. Jon Turney, who teaches science communication in the department of science and technology studies at University College London, describes Greenfield's attitude to communicating science as both dangerous and unhelpful. Turney writes, 'if large numbers of people fail to achieve some ideal of scientific literacy [as Greenfield suggests they should] this may be because they have got the message that they have no real purchase on scientific decision making, not because they are incapable of mastering technicalities.' (How Greenfield got it wrong - http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4649498-111396,00.html)
Although Greenfield periodically attempts to present herself as a feminist, it is not difficult to imagine her outlook may have been affected by her marriage (until 2003) to Peter Atkins, the SmithKline Beecham Fellow and Tutor in Physical Chemisty at Oxford. Atkins has been described by the writer and journalist Bryan Appleyard, in an article about the science establishment's 'attack dogs fired by the ideology of scientism', as 'AlScientism's most crazed ideologue'! (Mugged by the science mafia, Sunday Times, November 30, 2003)