Scientists are being subjected to shocking levels of personal vilification and distrust, Britain's most senior scientist has warned.
Sir Paul Nurse, the new president of the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of sciences, urged scientists to take on those critics who have cast doubt on the veracity of scientific discoveries ranging from the link between climate change and man-made carbon dioxide to the benefits of GM crops.
Sir Paul said many scientists felt under attack from critics in the blogosphere and the mainstream media, but rather than retreating into their ivory towers they needed to speak directly to the people who paid their wages.
"Scientists have got to get out there. They have to be open about what they do ... even if it does put their reputation in doubt," Sir Paul said in a BBC Horizon documentary that airs tonight. "This is far too important to be left to the polemicists and the commentators in the media. Scientists have to be there too. We've got an unholy mix of the media and the politics and it's distorting the proper reporting of science and that's a real danger to us if science is to have its proper impact on society."