Federation of American Scientists Case Studies in Dual Use Biological Research Module 8.0: Public Reaction Case Study
Topic: Discussion

It is easy to ignore or diminish the concerns of the public regarding scientific research, but this may have greater consequences than many scientists realize. Scientists need the support of the public in order to fund their work. In addition, elected officials are beholden to the people they represent. It is the concerns and fears voiced by ordinary citizens that these law makers hear and pay attention to, making them likely to pass legislation regulating the types of research that can be done and by whom. Don’t forget, such concerns color the decision making of legislators when it comes time to determine how much money science will be appropriated each year. Scientists need to remember that they are members of the public as well and recognize that the concerns of the community must be addressed and that the support of the community is key to ensure the future of science funding.

Since 9/11 and the anthrax attacks of 2001 the public has begun to pay more attention to scientific research and its oversight. Scientists don’t realize how powerful the public is, and if proactive steps aren’t taken to allay their concerns, then scientists may face new legislation or regulations that will impede their ability to do research and may face reduced funding in the long term.

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