Monday, March 3, 1997
By now, perhaps only the crew of the Russian space station Mir could have missed the uproar over the cloning of a sheep named Dolly in Scotland. The intense public interest and fears raised by the prospects of cloning mammals has added urgency to long-standing questions about the role of ordinary citizens in shaping science policy in a democratic society. It should also erase any remaining hope some scientists may have held that society would let them be the final arbiters of controversial science policy questions.
Biomedical advances, many of which are based on basic research funded by the federal government, have prompted the public to demand and receive a role in establishing policies. AIDS activists, for example, have evolved from the noisy opponents of scientists, regulators, politicians and industry into their partners. Now, in many respects such as designing clinical trials and securing government funding, the most educated lay persons in the AIDS community share the driver's seat.