Keeping politicians out of the research lab
Here’s something that probably won’t make things easier for academic researchers. Republican Party members of the Michigan legislature have inserted a provision into a piece of legislation that will force the state’s universities to report regularly on how they are using stem cells in research. This is how the measure was explained by its chief sponsor, Bob Genetski:
‘We want to know exactly what’s going on with stem cells. It’s still a pretty big issue. We can at least keep a grip on what’s going on.’
With the greatest of respect to Rep Genetski, ‘keeping a grip’ on such issues is one thing politicians should not be doing. Stem cell research raises complex issues, some of them ethical, but these are not best handled as part of a political debate. They need to be addressed by ethics committees or watchdogs that include real experts in the field; political point scoring is not a good context for such discussions.
In fact, stem cell research is probably not well understood by the general public, who as voters may as a result seek to stifle procedures that have become vital in the quest for effective treatments of some quite appalling conditions. Some more public outreach to a wider public on this topic should help society to understand what it is and why it has such huge potential.
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