How science united for hybrid embryo debate

The Science Media Centre, with support from the Wellcome Trust and others, has launched a booklet showing how the scientific community helped inform the debate over hybrid embryos.

Hybrid-embryo

The booklet, 'Hype, Hope and Hybrids: Science, policy and media perspectives of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill', details how scientists, press officers and other media advisers worked together to prevent misunderstanding in the media over animal-human hybrid embryos - an important, but potentially contentious area of medical research.

Regulation to control the use of hybrid embryos in research became a key issue of parliamentary debate during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 2008. The scientific community's collective efforts gave the public and politicians the opportunity to hear from the scientists themselves what research was being proposed and how it might benefit society, and dispelled some misconceptions.

The successful passage of the Bill through Parliament shows how the collective voice of science can have a positive impact on political and media debates.

The booklet presents a commentary on the media coverage throughout the Bill's development and explores how organisations can work together to respond to - and influence - the political and media agenda during high-profile debates on controversial areas of science.

Hybrid-embryo

Launched at the British Science Association Science Communication Conference, the booklet features accounts from scientists, journalists, press officers, policy advisers, research charities and funders on how the debate unfolded from their perspective.

As Professor Martin Bobrow, Emeritus Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of Cambridge and Chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences working party on animal-human hybrid embryos, writes, "It is a story of success in ensuring that the facts were sufficiently clear and accessible, so that the decisions were properly based on underlying societal values and interests, and not distorted by ignorance, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation."

The booklet is produced by the Science Media Centre, with support from the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.