As we set out in our manifesto, the government is committed to making Britain the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and start and grow a business. We need to do more to help universities and businesses work more closely. Not just to commercialise past research, but to help inspire current and future research to meet the challenges of a fiercely competitive global market. Later today I am looking forward to attending the launch of the Professor Dame Ann Dowling’s review, which will no doubt provide many valuable insights into how UK businesses and universities can collaborate more effectively.
This view helps put the current debate on biotechnology into perspective. Biotechnology is a suit of tools that allows plant breeders to introduce a greater array of novelty into their plant varieties, and select which work, much faster than they could using conventional plant breeding techniques. There is nothing inherently evil or Frankenstein-like about genetically modified plants. However, if humankind does not concern itself with who controls this novelty generation and who decides which novelties to disseminate to farmers, then there is a real danger that large multinational companies may gain control over the food chain, driven by the economic logic of delivering higher returns to their shareholders, not the environmental health or sustainability of the planet.
To respond to the challenges posed by the heavy load of cases involving complex scientific matters, generally, and by the post Daubert/Joiner decisions, particularly, AAAS has proposed a Demonstration Project that would identify highly-qualified, impartial experts to advise and educate the courts in the scientific and technical fields involved in the decisions they must make. Daubert has asked judges to evaluate evidence for its admissibility according to criteria that scientists apply in their rigorous. review of each other’s work. Joiner has likely made this task more difficult by instructing trial judges that neither Daubert nor the Federal Rules of Evidence “requires a district court to admit opinion evidence which is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. [that is, when the sole authority for the assertion is the fact that the expert himself said it]. A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.”