According to their information sheet their aims are to:
- work with scientists to respond to inaccuracies and attacks on science
- work with scientific bodies to promote the benefits of scientific research
- explain to stakeholders how and why science is different from opinion
- bring scientists into direct contact with interested groups and opinion formers
- provide a facility for every kind of organisation to contact scientists about controversial or worrying issues
- arrange briefings on scientific developments for non-specialists
And they state:
"Scientific evidence should be central in debates about science, medicine and technology. It is vital for clear public deliberation, scientific development and good policy. Often, though, evidence is ignored or even misrepresented. From scares about the contraceptive pill, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation, society has paid with unfounded anxiety, poor decisions, and lost opportunities for research and development.
Sense About Science responds to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society. We do this by promoting respect for evidence and by urging scientists to engage actively with a wide range of groups, particularly when debates are controversial or difficult.
We also work proactively for a wider understanding of the nature of evidence and recognition of the value of scientific enquiry."
It probably tells about my pessimistic world view that I've expected their site to actually be a well hidden attack on science. Like, we just want a reasonable discussion about intelligent design, and all of our listed Professors who bought their PhD online, confirm the dairy compartment in my fridge was intelligently designed such that butter does *not* fit in. I've turned their site upside down, but could neither find any suspicious advertisements (buy your PhD HERE), nor any support of obvious crackpottism, or attacks on scientific methods altogether. They explicitly state they regard peer review as an essential ingredient of science:
- the principle of independent peer review
- scientific inquiry free from stigma and intimidation
- constructive discussion"
They offer to answer to inquires by email and phone, and their administration and funding* seems to be sufficiently transparent. If you're a scientist you can join their database (called 'Evidence Base'), or contact them by phone and email with inquiries, questions or pointers to press articles that could be misunderstood.
Overall it looks to me like a great idea that I hope will fly.
More Info from SourceWatch
* According to LobbyWatch: Funding is said to derive from 'corporations and learned societies'. Funders include the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the 'life science' company Amersham Biosciences plc, BBSRC, BP plc, GlaxoSmithKline, ISAAA, John Innes Centre, The John Innes Trust, Mr M. Livermore (a biotech PR consultant who formerly worked for DuPont and has links to Scientific Alliance and IPN), the biopharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca plc, Pfizer plc and Oxford GlycoSciences plc, Dr M. Ridley (links to IEA, Julian Morris etc.), and the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and the related Health and Science Communication Trust.
Thanks to Klaus!