A Little Science in your Beer?

The British media landscape is preparing to host the new reality TV show. The concept: an innocent who sees his genetic profile revealed to millions of viewers. Flattered at the beginning, it quickly becomes disillusioned to learn that he is a carrier of cystic fibrosis. He even cause unexpected commercial break, taking offense that such information could reach the ears of the insurance company or employer!

Plausible? Whatever. In fact, this “issue”, staged as a play by the team of Frank Burnet, Program Director Graphic Science at the University of West England in Bristol, aims to bring viewers of the piece to reflect on social issues implied by the rapid developments in genetics.

Burnet’s team worked for seven years to develop interactive communication tools (plays in schools quiz in bars or supermarkets, animation workshops in science festivals) to allow Mr. Everything the-world-to better understand the complexity of new technologies and their impact on everyday life. In doing so, the researcher hopes to “revive the citizen’s interest in science but also to reconcile with scientists often perceived as strange beings, away from public concerns.”

The need is urgent if we are to believe several studies including a 2001 survey by Eurobarometer, revealing that almost two-thirds of Europeans feel informed about science and technology. But a citizen is uninformed citizen who is not interested and who will eventually come to ask whether it is useful to finance activities in which it does not feel involved.

According to Burnet, science journalists are in no way responsible. This situation is rather its cause in the gap between the information “inevitably one-sided,” as proposed in the media and the new needs of neophyte subjects face increasingly complex.

Add to this lack of information a little food scandal that would undermine the credibility of scientists, as was the case during the mad cow crisis in England, and you get an untenable situation. At this point, Mr. Burnet is concerned, that “the United Kingdom, there is a real fear on the part of the scientific community to see the public refuse to continue funding it.”

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