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This year marks twenty years since the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published its seminal report on Science and Society. Produced in the wake of high-profile challenges to the authority of British science – over BSE and GM crops – the report diagnosed a “crisis of confidence” in science and technology, and called for the research community to move beyond a focus on public understanding to embrace “a new mood for dialogue”.
The Science and Society report was hugely influential at the time and is widely credited with triggering a policy and institutional shift towards public engagement, dialogue and deliberation. The report has fresh salience today, both in light of increasing Government investment in R&D and intense debates over evidence, uncertainty and decision-making throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
To mark this anniversary, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Research on Research Institute (RoRI) are organising a half-day online event on 22 September 2020. Our first panel will include contributions from Brian Wynne, Emeritus Professor of Science Studies, Lancaster University and special advisor to the original Lords’ Committee, and from Fiona Fox, Director of the Science Media Centre, which was founded as a direct consequence of the report. Our second panel will explore the continued importance of these debates, and their future directions. Finally, we will present new data from UKRI and Ipsos MORI’s Trust in Science Tracker, which has been monitoring how the public’s trust in science and scientists has evolved over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic.