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It's critical

24 October 2011
Appeared in BioNews 630

A week is a long time in fertility and embryo research policy. First, there was the Nuffield Council for Bioethics report Human Bodies: Donation for Medicine and Research. Then the European Court of Justice ruled that stem cell processes which require the prior destruction of human embryos or are based upon the use of human embryos are not patentable. And finally,the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has made major changes to sperm and egg donation policy.

Policy and debate in this area seem to have entered a critical phase. The future of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority is far from certain, while the Human Genetics Commission will close next year, and what type of committee will take its place has yet to be finalised. What is certain is that science will keep advancing, and will keep raising big questions which need to be answered. It is critical therefore to have an independent organisation like the Progress Educational Trust (PET), which publishes BioNews, to keep a critical eye on developments and inform debate.

The policy work which PET does - responding to consultations, attending and brokering stakeholder meetings, and analysing developments and their likely impact - is unfunded. To carry on this work, it is critical that we increase the number of regular donors we have in our Friends of PET scheme.

That is why we are launching our Critical Friends Appeal. If you value critical thinking, please support us by becoming a Friend of PET today. We need to increase our critical mass of core funding through our Friends scheme, if we are to continue to do policy work.

PET itself is a critical friend to policymakers. We help them when we think we can have a positive impact on policy, but we also provide constructive criticism when we think they have got it wrong. BioNews comment pieces are just one way in which we influence policy, by providing the widest possible range of interested parties with a platform to stimulate debate.

I will close the launch of the appeal with some critical acclaim from Lisa Jardine and Alan Doran:

'As the regulator of the assisted reproduction sector in the UK, we know that every day brings new techniques, new possibilities and new dilemmas. BioNews is, in our view, unique and indispensable. It is unique in the way it informs and explains. It is indispensable in that it combines technical understanding with a fearlessly independent stance. We look forward to many more years of being able to rely on it, to raise the level of debate and understanding'.

Become a critical Friend of PET today. Find out how by clicking here.

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