1. Nikolaos Aggelopoulos said:

    There is some truth in the statement “Having experienced years of extremist violence, the UK scientific community has had to think carefully about their communications strategy. The result is a UAR-led campaign of transparency among UK institutions which not only preserves animal research, but also engages the public as a valuable partner in the conversation about science.” However, it is not the complete picture. Several labs were closed over the years, some research was stopped, universities sometimes pursued an overcautious to the point of unhelpful policy in (not) supporting primate research in particular, some scientists moved abroad not entirely out of choice and the view of the survivors may differ from those whose research suffered by some types of institutional response to animal rights activism.

    Openness has also not always been successful, though of course we all want to promote it. At around 2011, Nikos Logothetis agreed to a request by investigative journalists from the German TV channel ZDF to film experiments at the Max-Planck Institute. The journalists found nothing untoward, which would have made an utterly dull piece of investigative journalism, so they interviewed afterwards some activists and asked for their comments on the footage. They came up with statements along the lines that for animals to be performing so well in psychophysical tasks they must have endured psychological duress. Hopefully this bizarre “reporting” for entertainment purposes will one day be a thing of the past but caution should also be exercised where views are aired to a public not as familiar with science, the scientific method and the regulatory mechanisms as the scientists themselves.

    1. Lev Tankelevitch said:

      My apologies for the late reply. You are right that the process of opening up was (and is) not as straightforward and pretty as it may have been conveyed in the article. I appreciate your comment for highlighting this. Transparency and public communication is messy, but, in my opinion, the only way forward.

      You are also right that engagement with the public must take into account contextual factors, such as the public’s awareness of scientific methods and regulations. I believe that effective engagement should focus precisely on these issues – the challenge is that they are often less exciting to discuss than flashy headlines about new discoveries or depictions of animal “torture” in labs. Challenging, but possible. I have tried to make such an argument in my article here: /naturejobs/2016/11/04/the-black-box-effect-in-science-communication/

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

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