ESRC genomics forum - media calling notice: UK science policy: who decides?

Thursday 12 March 2009 

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act becomes law in April 2009. It promises groundbreaking legislation on assisted reproduction and embryo research, but was its development really a landmark in national scientific decision-making?

With contributions from leading figures in the worlds of science, policy, ethics and the media, the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, is holding a conference examining how this new legal framework was determined, and who really makes the decisions related to science policy in Britain.

The event is part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Science and takes place on Thursday 12 March 2009, 09.00 - 17.00 One Great George Street, Westminster.

Conference speakers include: 

  • Dr Stephen L Minger, Director, Stem Cell Biology Laboratory King's College, London
  • Phil Willis MP, Chair of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee 
  • Dr Katy Berry, Department of Health
  • Fiona Fox, Director, Science Media Centre
  • Prof Steve Yearley, Director, ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum
  • Sarah Norcross, Director, Progress Educational Trust   

Discussions will explore:

  • What was the formal process that ultimately led to the HFE Act?
  • What does it mean to make decisions 'democratically' in such a controversial area? 
  • What impact did key stakeholder groups - including scientists, the media and the Church - have on the public debate and legislative outcome?
  • What can the social sciences bring to our understanding of the public debate and decision-making process?  

Established in August 2004, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is a novel initiative in the field of social science research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

For further information contact

  • Emma-Elizabeth Capewell, ESRC Genomics Forum Press Officer
    Telephone: 0131 651 4746
  • Christine Knight, ESRC Genomics Forum Policy Officer
    Telephone: 0131 651 4743

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. As part of the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN), the Forum acts to:
    • integrate the diverse strands of social science research within and beyond the EGN;
    • develop links between social scientists and scientists working across the entire range of genomic science and technology;
    • connect research in this area to policy makers, business, the media and civil society in the UK and abroad.  
  2. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council to celebrate some of the country's leading social science research, giving an exciting opportunity to show everyone what the UK's social scientists are doing and demonstrating how their work makes a difference to all our lives. A programme of events can be found at the Festival website.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes.  
  4. The ESRC website offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities.