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New PLoS Biology series – public engagement in science

Over the past few decades, numerous initiatives have sought public input on the development of potentially controversial research, from stem cell and human embryonic research to genetic engineering and nanotechnology. The reasons for soliciting public participation vary—though most initiatives assume that such participation is in the public interest—as do perspectives on just who constitutes the “appropriate” public in such endeavors.

PLoS Biology is exploring the nature, aims, and consequences of such initiatives in a new series, Public Engagement in Science, starting today, under the guidance of Nikolas Rose, professor of sociology and director of the BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society at the London School of Economics, and Claire Marris, sociologist of science and senior research fellow in BIOS at the London School of Economics.

This series aims to investigate, through specific case studies, whether, and under what conditions, it is possible to engage the public in scientific issues in meaningful ways in decision making about the nature and consequences of innovation in the biosciences. It features engagement initiatives that go beyond merely collecting views of the public to those seeking to influence the trajectory of scientific research, and the culture of scientific institutions.

In the first article “Interactive Technology Assessment” and Beyond: the Field Trial of Genetically Modified Grapevines at INRA-Colmar,” Jean Masson and colleagues describe their experience using an approach called the interactive technology assessment strategy to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders for a field trial of genetically modified grapevines in French winegrowing country, where resistance to innovation runs deep.

To learn more, please read the Editorial, “Open Engagement: Exploring Public Participation in the Biosciences,” by Rose and Marris.

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