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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Listen to public, says Dolly scientist
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
The leading genetic scientist involved in the cloning of Dolly the Sheep has called on his colleagues to take note of public concerns about the progress of genetic science.
Professor Ian Wilmut led a team at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh that led to the birth of Dolly, the first cloned mammal, in 1996. She was revealed to the public following year.
Speaking at a seminar on public confidence in biomedical science at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Prof Wilmut warned there was a danger in missing scientific opportunities because of public fears and misunderstandings.
He said research projects should continue to be innovative and ambitious or there would be a "real danger" of missed opportunities.
But he added: "We must deal with the public's concerns in order to get their support, not only through charitable donations but also in Parliament in supporting their MPs.
'Society should decide'
"There should be very ambitious research projects and we should not be at all shy or embarrassed about that. You are much more likely to find something new and interesting if you are looking where no one has looked before."
"But decisions on techniques and treatments cannot be left to those directly involved, such as scientists, doctors, patients and family, because they are too closely involved.
"Rather society, through informed public opinion should provide a framework for these decisions."
Prof Wilmut told the conference there was a "clear obligation" on the academic and commercial communities to explain their research objectives, their potential value and any risks associated with them.
When asked if he and his team had been lucky that Dolly had been a sheep and not a reptile and even the name itself had been designed to make her more easily accepted by the public, he replied: "I agree that we were very fortunate, she is very photogenic.
"As for the name Dolly, that came from the new stockmen who were sitting up with Dolly's surrogate mother in the latter stages of labour.
"They were thinking of the fact that the cell used came from a mammary gland and arrived at Dolly Parton, the credit is theirs."