The Many Faces of the Public Domain
Edited by Charlotte Waelde and Hector MacQueen
Chapter 14: The Public Domain: Ideology vs. Interest
Ann Bruce* 1 Introduction This chapter considers the issue of science in the public domain and reflects how different interests and ideologies are dealt with in this context. I take the ‘private’ domain to represent the situation where the decision-making influences rest primarily with bodies of scientific and other ‘experts’ acting in private, for example, in government advisory committees. In this model only the specific scientists involved are deemed to have ‘competence’ in the area of science, to give advice on risks, likely consequences and future prospects. Over the last decade or so, this model of decision making has been increasingly challenged. There have been growing demands to recognise the role of a wider range of people and publics to influence decisions in science, and I take this to represent the move of science from the ‘private’ to the ‘public’ domain. Why has this happened? Part of the answer is a perceived crisis in confidence in established scientific advice. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (2002) describes it as follows: Public confidence in scientific advice to Government has been rocked by a series of events, culminating in the BSE fiasco, and many people are deeply uneasy about the huge opportunities presented by areas of science including biotechnology and information technology, which seem to be advancing far ahead of their awareness and assent. There are therefore two aspects to this pressure to move science into the public domain: ensuring that scientific evidence is used appropriately to make...
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