Statement 2003

IAP Statement on Science and the Media

Policy for Science

The IAP General Assembly which met in Mexico City from 1-5 December has released five statements, signed by two-thirds majority of the IAP membership. The statements address a wide range of topics and are intended to influence policy makers both in individual countries and international organizations.

Should the scientific community interact more closely with the media in efforts to explain the work of scientists to a larger public?

Of course, it should. But the more difficult questions involve the responsibilities that the scientific community should shoulder in such efforts and the concrete measures that should be taken to enhance the capabilities of both scientists and scientific institutions in their interaction with the media.

On the one hand, the public often turns to science for answers to difficult issues that science itself may not be able to provide. On the other hand, today's cutting-edge scientific research does not readily lend itself to explanations that can be easily conveyed through the media, especially broadcast media. Today's cutting edge scientific research, moreover, often raises ethical issues that must be discussed among a broad cross-section of society before a consensus can emerge. In a sense, advances in science have raised immensely complicated issues that science alone cannot answer.

Fierce public resistance to the cultivation and distribution of genetically engineered food crops, even in developing countries suffering from malnutrition and hunger, indicate that the public - both in the North and South - is increasingly unwilling to assume that the products of scientific research are safe just because scientists say so. Likewise, public confusion - and often doubt - concerning the ethical propriety of cloning, whether for reproductive or therapeutic purposes, suggests that the scientific community has been unable to clearly explain such difficult issues to the public or, conversely, that the public is not listening when scientists do.

The scientific community and media each have distinctive roles to play within this increasingly complicated relationship between science and society. That's why a fruitful relationship between the two - one that proves of value to the societies in which they both function - depends on each understanding and respecting the other's roles. Therefore, the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) supports efforts to strengthen and expand:

  1. training programmes for building the capacity of science academies to interact with the media, paying particular attention to the needs and circumstances faced by academies in the developing world, and to the increasing conflicts over scientific issues in industrialized countries;
  2. programmes for media representatives to visit scientific laboratories in order to learn more about the work of scientists, paying particular attention to the needs and circumstances faced by print and broadcast media representatives in the developing world;
  3. workshops organized by academies with public information offices (PIO) designed for academies that do not have such offices to provide practical information on how PIOs function;
  4. workshops designed to improve the ability of scientists to engage the public in their work by developing the skills necessary to give public lectures, improve print and electronic material for public consumption, and serve as consultants on science-related television programmes, films and videos.

We, the undersigned science academies throughout the world, members of the IAP, support any effort done jointly by the scientific and the journalistic communities aiming at enhancing the fluidity of the information about discoveries in science, and at favouring public debates of high objectivity on the ethical issues which they may raise.

Science and the Media: Signatories

Latin American Academy of Sciences
Third World Academy of Sciences
Albanian Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina
Australian Academy of Science
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazilian Academy of Sciences
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society of Canada
Academia Chilena de Ciencias
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Academia Sinica, China, Taiwan
Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences
Cuban Academy of Sciences
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
Estonian Academy of Sciences
The Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters
Académie des Sciences, France
Georgian Academy of Sciences
Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Academy of Athens, Greece
Academia de Ciencias Medicas, Fisicas y Naturales de Guatemala
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Indian National Science Academy
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Royal Irish Academy (Acadamh Ríoga na héireann)
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
Science Council of Japan
Royal Scientific Society of Jordan
African Academy of Sciences
Latvian Academy of Sciences
Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Akademi Sains Malaysia
Academía Mexicana de Ciencias
Academy of Sciences of Moldova
Mongolian Academy of Sciences
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters
Pakistan Academy of Sciences
Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru
National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines
Russian Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Singapore National Academy of Sciences
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Academy of Science of South Africa
Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain
National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies
Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan
The Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
The Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society, United Kingdom
US National Academy of Sciences
Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela