Dame Bridget Ogilvie is the Vice Chair of the controversial pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science .
Dame Bridget's scientific reputation is largely built on pioneering research into the immune systems of parasites. She went on to become the director of the Wellcome Trust (1991-98), one of the world's largest medical research bodies.
Despite her close connection to the Wellcome Trust, they have refused to provide funding to Sense About Science. In a letter to the lobby group's director, Tracey Brown, in November 2002, the Wellcome Trust set out why, after careful consideration, it was declining either to be part of its Working Party on peer review or to provide any funding to Sense About Science. Amongst the series of concerns listed is the fact that, 'The proposed make-up of the Working Party is extremely narrow'. The Working Party, the letter says, 'runs the risk of being seen as a closed and defensive strategy', and the letter talks of the project being based on 'many assumptions' and very little 'direct evidence'.
Dame Bridget has been described as a 'a scientist with a deep knowledge of ... business practice in the booming European biotechnology economy'. She has also served on the board of two large public companies, one of them the pharmaceutical giant, AstraZenica plc.
Dame Bridget has also been a member of the National Council of Science and Technology and chair of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society; the chair of AstraZeneca's Science Teaching Trust (of which Peter Doyle is a trustee); and the President of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW).
Dame Bridget was one of four co-signatories to a letter attacking the British Medical Association's position on GM crops by the controversial GM supporter, Sir Peter Lachmann FRS. The letter expressed concern that the recent call from the British Medical Association for the halt of GM field trials 'should not be taken to reflect wider medical opinion... Such a precautionary approach, if allowed to take hold in policy, would have a deadening effect on progress.'
Subsequent BBC reports claimed that the BMA was changing its position on GM crops. The BMA responded with a press release criticising the accuracy of the BBC reports. Interestingly, the reports made reference to both Lachmann and Sense About Science. The reports made it seem that Lachmann was actually a spokesman for the BMA. This was later amended online to make it clear that Lachmann was 'a vocal proponent of GM' and merely 'a BMA member'. The BBC reports were by its science correspondent Pallab Ghosh. Ghosh is Chairman of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW). As noted, Dame Bridget is the ABSW's President.
According to Dame Bridget, 'Many of us believe we are experiencing a profound, world-wide change which amounts to a third industrial revolution. We are now in an industrial situation in which wealth creation and competitive advantage is increasingly becoming underpinned by creativity and knowledge rather than by the ability to organise labour, capital and resources, to make and run things efficiently and cost effectively.'
Dame Bridget also says that 'all Governments currently believe' the power and pace of scientific advances is the key to achieving economic success. She notes the contrast with 'the first couple of decades of my involvement in scientific research' when 'no one gave a thought to the notion that ones ideas might be patented and that scientists might make money from their activities. We did research for the public good. But the increasing cost and eventually power of the biological and IT revolutions have totally changed our perception.'