- IoI Forum
- IoI Science and Health Forum
- Venue: London
- Date: Ongoing
The Institute of Ideas Science & Health Forum is an initiative aimed at professionals and other individuals with a strong interest in contemporary attitudes towards health, science and medicine. Click here for more details of its purpose and objectives. To apply to attend any of the forthcoming meetings please email: email@example.com giving your contact details and brief information about your professional role and interests in health.
Click here for information on the new series of forums.
Wednesday 14 November
Abortion Forty Years On:
Is a review of abortion law needed, and if so, on what grounds?
Introduction by Laura Riley (Press & Public Policy Manager for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS))
On the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act, and with the draft Human Tissue and Embryology Bill coming up for debate, groups from many quarters in the abortion policy debate are calling for changes to be made to the law. Abortion practitioners believe a review of abortion law is needed, for example, and argue for the removal of the requirement for two doctors' signatures to permit an abortion.
However, much of the discussion has focused on what 'the science' tells us about the fetus. The gestational limits to abortion have been questioned, based on a range of contested questions such as fetal viability, whether and when the fetus can feel pain, and fetal sentience. How useful is the scientific discussion to helping us decide what our abortion law should be? Where do the needs and rights of the pregnant woman fit into the debate?
Abortion issue at spiked-online
Pro Choice Forum articles and comment about legal, ethical and social aspects of abortion
Second trimester abortions in England & Wales
Ingham R, Lee E, Clements S, Stone N (2007)
Final report http://www.psychology.soton.ac.uk/research/cshr/
Lord David Steel, architect of the 1967 Abortion Act, admits he never anticipated "anything like" the current number of terminations when leading the campaign for reform.
A woman's supreme right over her own body and destiny is in jeopardy. Polly Toynbee. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2199554,00.html
What about the poor girl down at the clinic? Janice Turner
Beyond the shrill polemic. Madeleine Bunting: It is not anti-choice to want a more thoughtful debate on why women have so many abortions.
Wednesday 17 October
The new science of the mind – a policy makers dream?
Introduction by David Perks
Neuroscience holds great potential for our ability to understand the workings of the mind and its relationship to the brain. Claims are already being made for infallible lie detectors and the ability to understand consumers’ wants and desires better than they know them themselves.
Are we really on the brink of unlocking the secrets of the mind or is the quest to uncover the biological basis of consciousness similar to ‘phrenology’- the nineteenth century’s attempt to read mans’ character through examining bumps on heads? Why is there such a demand for theories of the mind in policy circles, ranging from education to law?
Can High-Level Cognitive Functions be Localized?
by William Uttal
Duped: Can brain scans uncover lies?
by Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 2 July 2007
A probe inside the mind of the shopper
by Jerome Burne, Financial Times, 27 November 2003
Langleben’s paper on his experiment using fMRI scanning to detect deception (2005)
Thursday 20 September
Is there a relationship between our mental health and the environment?
Introduction by Ben Pile, a freelance science writer with a particular interest in the politics and science of climate change. Visit his blog at www.climate-resistance.org. From October he will study politics and philosophy at York University.
According to Richard Louv, futurist and journalist, an epidemic of "nature deficit disorder" is afflicting children whose sedentary and urban existences deprive them of an essential relationship with the great outdoors.
The 2007 Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution suggested that urbanisation was a risk factor in mental health, and that greater access to parkland would benefit public health by reducing obesity, and even antisocial behaviour.
The mental health charity, Mind, has extolled the virtues of "Ecotherapy" and organised a lobbying campaign for an early day motion to raise awareness amongst healthcare professionals and carers about its positive effects on "self esteem", and "a general sense of well being".
A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that for every degree above 18 degrees C, there was a 3.8% rise in all suicides and a 5.0% rise in violent suicide.
The perspectives offered by these studies suggest that humans are highly vulnerable to their environments, and that urban development itself is a form of pollution which makes us mentally ill, leading to a range of physical conditions and abnormal behaviour.
But do these studies reveal inevitable and insurmountable problems with industrial society? Or are they attempts to make simple prejudices and political environmentalism superficially plausible, using scientific language? Do the problems identified in these studies even exist, or is there a tendency to pathologise generalised feelings of dissatisfaction and social problems, because contemporary politics gives few other ways of addressing such matters?
Wednesday 18 July
Current issues in fertility treatment
The Forum will look at proposed changes to the regulation of fertility and
related treatments. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has
recently carried out a consultation about reducing the incidence of
multiple births following IVF and is arguing strongly that the number
of embryos placed in a woman having treatment should be reduced. Is this a
sensible response to health concerns associated with multiple births? Or
does it undermine professional discretion and recognition of the centrality
of parents' wishes?
We will also discuss the proposals for changes to the statute law that regulates all treatments involving human embryos (The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act). What do we think of the proposals for a continued ban on sex selection for 'social' reasons, for how 'saviour sibling' techniques should be regulated, and is the Government right to say the law should continue to regulate the provision of treatment on 'welfare of the child' grounds?
HFEA documentation on multiple births:
DH proposals for the new law:
The Science & Technology Committee report on the review of the HFE Act:
Some commentaries on the issues for discussion:
On sex selection specifically:
Ellie Lee is a lecturer in social policy at Kent University and Co-ordinator of the Pro Choice Forum
Tony Gilland is the Science & Society Director at the Institute of Ideas
Wednesday 20 June
What can science tell us, or not tell us, about climate change?
Climate change has become an obsession across society, and is held to present the most catastrophic and overarching threat of environmental meltdown. No area of life now escapes scrutiny of its carbon footprint.
Climate change has also become a flashpoint for controversy over science. Sceptics are accused of denying the objective facts; environmentalists are accused of abandoning the scientific method in favour of spin and propaganda.
We will discuss what science can and cannot tell us about climate change:
- Are politicians hiding behind science to justify policy? What role should scientific advice play?
- What role does consensus play in science and climate science in particular?
- What role does the IPCC claim to play and how does this work in practice?
- Does climate change set limits to what we should expect from social and economic development?
Joe Kaplinsky is a science writer and postgraduate student at Imperial College, London.
James Woudhuysen is Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Measuring the political temperature, Josie Appleton
Mitigation of Climate Change: Summary for Policymakers, IPCC Working Group III
The other IPCC reports are useful background reading:
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers, Working Group II
The Physical Science Basis: Summary for Policymakers, Working Group I
The full Working Group I report has been published. The introductory chapter is a useful overview for those interested in looking at the science:
Chapter I: Historical Overview of Climate Change Science
Wednesday 16 May
Can the NHS can be democratised through patient and public involvement?
Creating a patient-led NHS is a Government ambition and a variety of legislation has been passed and number of initiatives launched to help further the aim. This is based on the belief that the NHS is doctor-led, undemocratic, hierarchical, paternalistic, inefficient and unaccountable, all of which have contributed to it being increasingly expensive to run and not the worlds’ best, yet.
Local Authority ‘Overview & Scrutiny Committees’ have been established to help tackle its perceived democratic deficit and Patient & Public Involvement Forums act as ‘critical friends’ to the Trusts that they monitor the work of. Initiatives such as ‘surveys’, ‘choose and book’, ‘copying letters to patients’ and ‘expert patient groups’ are all attempts at giving people a voice, empowering them and offering them more ‘choice’.
The discussion will explore how progressive the notion of a patient-led NHS really is and what role these initiatives play. Can/should the NHS be democratised? Who benefits from the legislation and these initiatives?
Brid Hehir is a Patient & Public Involvement Lead in a London NHS Trust
Hewitt unveils patient choice for all Care and Health
Form of torment Clare Allen
Power to the patients? - A personal and provocative view on the NHS "patient centred reforms" by the PPI Lead for a London PCT (July 2004) - Brid Hehir; and
Who wants to be an expert patient? - A provocative essay probing the ethics of "therapeutic policy making" (March 2005) - Stephen Bowler
Memo to doctors: you're talking a different language Sarah Head
Sick notes Liz Frayn
NHS to boldly go where patients led John Carvel
Wednesday 18 April
How essential is vivisection to scientific progress?
Animal welfare has come to dominate how we view animals. Whether as pet owners or scientists, the regulation of animal treatment is now dominated by the language of abuse. Recent coverage of Crufts 2007 focused on the forthcoming ban on the docking of dogs tails. High profile cases of pet abuse are constantly in the media. Some animal shelters now vet potential owners, even visiting their homes to assess their suitability, before handing over otherwise unwanted pets.
For scientists, vivisection can only be justified as a 'necessary evil', to be avoided if at all possible. It is a commonly held view that animal welfare is important in-and-of-itself, based on the notion that animals have interests (or even rights) comparable to humans. People who work with animals have experienced a gradual shift away from serving the needs of humanity towards serving the needs of animals.
Can an 'animal-centred' approach make sense to professionals in the field or to the needs of humanity more widely? Does the focus on animal welfare end up recasting people as potential animal abusers who need to be constantly regulated in their relationships with animals?
Fiona McEwan is a PhD student at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and a veterinary locum working in private practice and for a veterinary charity.
A beastly proposal. Fiona McEwan. http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/1495/
Stand up for animal research. James Panton http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/43/
Scientists impress MPs with work to minimise the use of animals http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/news.asp?id=414
Wednesday 14 March 2007
In 2005 the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology pushed for a more liberal regime for both embryo research and treatment. In this they were tentatively supported by some scientists. They also wanted to draw clear lines of demarcation between policy making, which they saw as being Parliament's job, and regulation, which they wanted to make more technical and safety-focused in character.
These proposals were only weakly reflected in the Government's White paper on the subject published in December 2006, and seem to have been lost sight of in the recent furore surrounding the applications to create 'hybrid' embryos for research purposes. The scientists involved are calling for their work to be regulated and the regulator - the HFEA - has been encouraged to lead a policy debate in this area by Parliamentarians.
This discussion examined the virtues of an explicitly liberal regulatory regime and highlight the downsides of the current framework. It will also look at why it is that embryo research is controversial today and consider what, if anything, has changed since the Warnock Report of the mid-1980s laid the basis for the current framework of ethics and regulation.
Speaker: John Gillott, co-author Science and the Retreat from Reason, and freelance writer.
(Especially the sections on research and the HFE Act)
Wednesday 21 February 2007
Global warming: Can science tell us how to respond to climate change?
The Stern Report released last year made it clear that the government has made global warming a mainstream political issue. Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” has helped put climate change at the heart of the next US election. The raising of climate change by mainstream politicians relies heavily on the use of science to make their case. But inevitably the presentation of evidence usually focuses on the worst case scenarios as a motivation for action. How far can science go in telling us how to act as individuals or a society in response to climate change? Or are there dangers for science in hitching a ride with the global warming bandwagon?
Speaker: Peter Sammonds, Professor of Geophysics, UCL
How about building nuclear reactors in Africa? - Daniel Ben-Ami, spiked
After this Stern admonition, our world will never be the same again... - David Aaronovitch, The Times
Nuclear power is the only green solution - James Lovelock
The Future of Energy - spiked debate
Wednesday 17 January 2007
The Obesity Panic
The health panic about obesity seems to know no end. We are constantly warned that being overweight is dangerous, and that obesity will soon be the biggest 'preventable' cause of ill-health, even overtaking smoking. That has meant an endless diet of keep fit and lifestyle shows, a crusade about school meals and a ban on 'junk food' advertising to children - including that famously poisonous concoction, cheese. Hospital patients have even been refused surgery if they don't slim down. What are the facts about obesity, and what should we do about it?
Rob Lyons, spiked-online
Listen to Rob's introduction to the discussion here:
Four big, fat myths, Sunday Telegraph, 27 November 2006
spiked issue: Obesity
Wednesday 6 December, 2006
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): dilemmas for patients, practitioners, and health care providers CAM enjoys royal patronage, celebrity support, and NHS funding. But where is the evidence for efficacy and safety? Les Rose, a biologist by training and a freelance consultant clinical scientist, will introduce the discussion.
To apply to attend any of the forthcoming meetings please contact Bríd Hehir at SHF@instituteofideas.com giving your contact details and brief information about your professional role and interests in science and health.
Wednesday 8 November, 2006
The battle for science education: ‘What is science education for?’ David Perks, head of physics at a London state secondary school, will lead the discussion based on his provocative new book What is science education for? In it, he argues that attempts to make school science more popular by making it more ‘relevant’ are giving today’s students a watered-down science education that will not produce the scientists we need.
Wednesday 5 July, 2006
The final in this series of Science & Health Forum meeting will discuss the Department of Health's White Paper 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say'. This 2006 document on health and social care focuses on integrated services
provided in the community and 'places greater choices and control in the hands of the people who use the services'. The document throws up a number of interesting themes for us.
Dr Liz Frayn who will introduce the discussion will focus on the following:
- public consultation and involvement in the development of government policy
-the idea of integrated services between health and social care
- and the notion that, in the words of Patricia Hewitt the government should be helping 'every individual and every community get the most out of life'.
Suggested readings: The White Paper plus other information about the consultation exercise. Liz recommends in particular Chapter 2: Enabling health, independence and well-being.
A critical review of aspects of the White Paper by Dr Mike Fitzpatrick can be found here where he suggests that elevating health to become the goal of all human endeavour is making more and more people ill.
Wednesday 7 June, 2006
Kevin Yuill will present 'Managing the end of life', a discussion on medical
ethics following the debate over Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying Bill.
Contact Brid Hehir at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended Reading: Intelligent design and educational stupidity by David Perks.
Wednesday 10 May 2006
Joint Education Forum and Health Forum event
"Raking over old bones: Darwinism on trial" Introduced by Dave Perks
Darwin's theory of evolution, probably the most far reaching scientific breakthrough of the nineteenth century seems to be under attack now almost more than when Darwin first proposed it. From Islamic scholars to the Intelligent Design movement in the US, there seems to be a concerted attack on Darwinism.
But is this really the return of God? Are the gaps in the fossil record big enough to let religion back into nature? Is there anything new in the modern creationists' argument? Or does the replaying of a 150 year old argument tell us more about a collapse of faith in science?
Why after all in Britain, where creationism is at best a minor preoccupation, does the merest mention of creationism create such a panic amongst the proponents of science? What is science really scared of?
Wednesday 12 April 2006
Avian Flu- a pandemic or a panic?
Stuart Derbyshire will introduce the discussion on the topic of the avian flu, and present some of the controversies around a possible outbreak.
Wednesday 8 February 2006
The meeting will be introduced by Joe Kaplinsky on the topic of the climate change controversy.
Wednesday 16 November 2005
The role of the medical expert
The meeting will be introduced by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick and will look at the role of the medical expert in light of the Paediatrician, Roy Meadows, being struck off the medical register by the GMC.
These articles provide useful background reading.
The Battle of Ideas Festival, 29 & 30 October 2005 at the Royal College of Art, London
Ethics on Trial
Living Longer – boon or burden?
Catching them young
For full details visit www.battleofideas.co.uk or call 020 7269 9220.
Wednesday 12 October 2005
Mothers’ experience of, and attitudes to, using infant formula in the early months
Dr Ellie Lee from the University of Kent will talk about a study she did with Prof. Frank Furedi, which addressed women's experiences of feeding their babies formula milk in the early months. She will discuss the problems that current health policy, 'informed choice' in infant feeding, creates for women, and for health professionals. Summaries of and discussion of the research findings can be accessed below, and those attending the meeting will be sent a PDF of the full report.
Wednesday 14 September 2005
Terrorism and community resilience
Introduced by Bill Durodie, Senior Lecturer in Risk and Security at Cranfield University. For the past three years, Bill co-ordinated a team of researchers looking at the UK response to 9/11. Part of this work compared social responses to crises and disasters across different cultures and across different historical periods. This showed the key factor determining how people behave in an emergency to be - not the cause of the emergency - but rather the sense of social meaning attached to it. It is this evolving social, cultural and political background that all emergency planners and responders need to appreciate and tap-into if their own technical solutions are not to become a part of the problem.
Wednesday 13 July, 2005
Introduced by Steve Bowler, lay member of South Sheffield Local Research Ethics Committee.
Thursday 16 June, 2005
A discussion of the consequences of blurring the distinction between mental health and mental illness introduced by Derek Summerfield, Hon Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London and Teaching Associate, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.
Thursday 19 May, 2005
Alastair McCapra, Head of Communications for the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, will introduce a discussion on risk communication. The discussion will focus on the dangers of generating unnecessary fears and the distinct roles of government, regulators, health organisations, commercial outfits and the press in the risk communication process.
The Institute of Ideas Health Forum - background
The Health Forum is a new initiative aimed at professionals and other individuals with a strong interest in contemporary attitudes towards health, science and medicine – whether they are healthcare practitioners, clinicians, scientists, social scientists or otherwise have an interest in these fields.
The purpose of the Health Forum is to create a space where critical ideas about contemporary health concerns, attitudes and policies can be explored, debated and further developed through discussion amongst a diverse and engaged group of people. The Forum follows the success of three smaller scale multi-disciplinary discussions that informed the programming of the IoI’s Health: an unhealthy obsession? conference. The topics for discussion were:
The 'medicalisation' of society
The role of the expert patient
The pros and cons of cancer screening and awareness raising.
Following the critical direction of the Health: an unhealthy obsession? conference the Forum will continue to explore the following broad themes:
The implications of blurring the distinction between health and illness.
Public regard for medical expertise and the relationship between the medical profession and patients.
Risk aversion and the falling regard for scientific medicine.
The role, usefulness and desirability of awareness raising campaigns.
The role, usefulness and desirability of behaviour modification campaigns.
The Health Forum will meet at least six times in the year and hopes to encourage its members to write and research and to exchange ideas and collaborate outside of these meetings. Key readings will be distributed before each meeting, and the sessions will consist of a very short introduction, leaving the majority of time for discussion. There will be ample opportunity for every forum member to contribute to the debate.
Membership of the Forum is by application and invitation. If you would like to participate please email email@example.com giving your contact details and brief information about your professional role and interests in health.