Climate of secrecy stifles science

15th September 1995 at 01:00
Outmoded Government secrecy is preventing scientists from playing a larger role in public life and hindering development in key areas like defence and transport, according to the outgoing president of the British Association.

In his keynote address to the BA's annual conference at Newcastle University this week, Sir Martin Rees, who is also the Astronomer Royal, attacked "the meagre input of scientists into the general political process in this country".

"This," he told the audience of scientists and educationists, "precludes informed debate on technical issues, where well-thought-out new ideas are needed: energy, environment and transport policy as well as defence."

In the United States, he said, there is a "revolving door" between government jobs and universities. "Over here on the other hand, Government service is generally a lifetime career. The more pervasive secrecy inhibits well-informed open debate."

He called for a new top-level discussion forum bringing together Government policy and academic advice - playing a role similar to that of Chatham House in foreign policy.

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