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Teaching the scientists of tomorrow

programme of interactive science
events (debates, hands-on
exhibitions, cafes, etc.) hosted
at the University of Exeter and
across the city.
The scientific activities —
targeted to schools, families, the
general public, committed amateurs
and professionals alike — attracted
a lot of attention from the media,
creating a highly energized net-
working environment.
To fit in with the theme of this
year’s festival, “the responsibilities
of being a scientist in the 21st cen-
tury”, set by Julia Higgins (BA
science: stimulating
public debate
The British Association for the
Advancement of Science (BA)
Festival offered something for
everyone via its all-encompassing
The Biochemist — December 2004. ©2004 Biochemical Society
by Sheila Dargan
(Education Projects
Learning curve
Teaching the scientists of tomorrow
Human cloning
President) the Biochemical Society
hosted a session entitled “Human
Cloning: Risks, Sensationalism and
Securing Profit”, organized by the
Education Projects Manager.
The Human Cloning session
comprised five talks by profession-
als from different scientific areas
(research, media, etc.), followed
by a chaired debate. Despite a
competing programme of parallel
science, the session attracted a
large audience (116), comprising
secondary school pupils and teach-
ers, the general public, education
managers and distinguished scien-
tists. Post-event evaluation sug-
gests that those who attended
considered the session valuable
and typical feedback included, “It
was interesting to understand the
different approaches regarding this
subject considering we do not go
into that much detail in school”
(A-level pupil), “It was nice to see
so many schoolchildren at the
event” (teacher), and “Fascinating
talks and lively debate” (scientist).
Cloning Dolly: biological
opportunities and
“Cloning Dolly provided a
wealth of biological
opportunities, and raised
many ethical and moral
Professor Keith Campbell from
the University of Nottingham
gave the opening talk. After
The Biochemical Society’s “Human Cloning” session at the BA Festival of Sciences, Exeter, UK
(8 September 2004). © Biochemical Society.
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The Biochemist — December 2004. ©2004 Biochemical Society 55
Learning curve
Dr Donald Bruce, Director of the
Church of Scotland’s Society,
Religion and Technology Project
(SRTP) gave the penultimate talk of
the morning, explaining that the
SRTP was set up in 1970 to address
ethical issues in technology. Donald
is a member of the BBSRC
(Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research Council) advisory
committee on public issues and an
observer to UNESCO (United
Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization) and Council
of Europe bioethics committees. He
has been involved with the debates
over animal and human cloning since
tions to the political and public
debate over research on stem cells
and cloning.
Cloning — who’s
fooling who?
“Anyone who claims to have
cloned a human is almost
certainly guaranteed a place
on the front page but who
is fooling who here? Are the
would-be cloners fooling
the journalists; are the
journalists fooling us? Is
the HFEA fighting a losing
battle trying to referee?”
Alison Cook, Head of Press at the
Human Fertilization and
Embryology Authority (HFEA),
gave the third talk in the session.
She explained that HFEA is a non-
departmental government body
which, in addition to regulating and
inspecting all UK clinics providing
IVF (in vitro fertilization), donor
insemination or the storage of eggs,
sperm or embryos, is also responsi-
ble for licensing and monitoring all
human embryo research being con-
ducted in the UK.
Playing God? Un-hyping
the cloning debate
“Human cloning fascinates
people but the debate
has been by confused by
science fiction connotations,
exaggeration, muddle
and desires for notoriety.
Beyond the hype the
intuition that making
cloned people is intrinsically
wrong has a sound and
communicable ethical basis.
But ‘therapeutic’ cloning
claims have misled many
about stem cells”
describing the basic biology of
cloning, he went on to outline
the opportunities that arose and
that associated techniques that
may be applied in animals and,
potentially, in humans.
The scientist’s perspective
of the controversy of
human cloning
“Human reproductive cloning
is a red herring — it is
unethical to attempt because
it technically unsafe, there
are no compelling reasons
to try and it is illegal in the
UK. However,cloning to
derive human embryonic
stem cells has many potential
benefits, notably to help
understand and cure genetic
disease and to make progress
in regenerative medicine.
Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of the
Division of Developmental
Genetics at the MRC National
Institute for Medical Research,
gave the second talk of the session.
Robin has a PhD in Embryology,
worked in the laboratory that first
derived embryonic stem cells from
mice and is currently a Fellow of
The Royal Society. He has pub-
lished over 120 scientific papers
and has made frequent contribu- Professor Lord Robert Winston. © Biochemical Society.
Dolly. © Roslin Institute (
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The Biochemist — December 2004. ©2004 Biochemical Society
Learning curve
1996, through close engagement
with researchers and policy makers,
and has written, spoken and broad-
cast widely on cloning issues.
Lord Robert Winston
Lord Robert Winston is Professor
of Fertility Studies at Imperial
College London and Director of
NHS R&D (National Health
Service Research and Development)
for The Hammersmith Hospitals
Trust. As a peer, he takes the
Government Whip (Lord Winston
of Hammersmith since 1995) and
speaks regularly in the House of
Lords on education, science, medi-
cine and the arts. He was the recent
Chairman of the House of Lords
Select Committee on Science and
Technology, is a board member of
the Parliamentary Office of
Science and Technology (POST)
and regularly presents BBC
science programmes.
Professor Winston gave the
final talk of the morning, focusing
on the role of the HFEA in the
regulation of embryo research,
and led the session into a lively
debate, chaired by Professor Kevan
Gartland (Biochemical Society’s
Education Committee Chair).
Learning curve
From left to right: Keith Campbell, Robin Lovell-Badge, Alison Cook, Donald Bruce, Kevan Gartland and Robert Winston. © Biochemical Society.
Forty years have elapsed since
‘promoters’ entered the biological
lexicon, and yet they have never
appeared in course specifications
or standard A-level texts. ‘Cellular
factories to manufacture proteins’,
rightly, have an important place in
A-level courses. The emergence of
a biotechnology industry able to
make otherwise rare and precious
This year, the Edexcel Examination board asked A-level biology
students to explain how the position of anthers and stigma in
thrum-eyed and pin-eyed primroses might affect cross-pollination
(for eight marks).This seems to reflect a saddening lack of ambition,
the latest example in a sequence of arcane riddles that have
involved the coppicing of trees and the effect of ‘woodland rides’ on
vegetation. I doubt I am alone in suspecting that students consider
such ‘retro’ topics boring and notably silly tests of ability. However,
such obscurantism seems less culpable than the lack of interest in
the role of promoters in controlling gene expression.
Pupils will respond
Has academia anything to contribute to school science?
by Michael G.
(National Institute for
Medical Research, Mill Hill,
London, UK)
Robert Winston has now taken
over from Julia Higgins as BA
President and has set the theme
of next year’s festival in Dublin
(5–9 September), “Setting the
Agenda for Science”. Following
the resounding success of the
“Human Cloning” session, the
Biochemical Society is hoping to
host a session on “Biochemistry in
the Sustainable Environment” at
the 2005 BA festival. For more
information on the BA festival
please visit:
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