University of Leicester academics win award for new book on developments in biomedicine

Posted by er134 at Nov 13, 2013 10:01 AM |
Dr Chris Willmott and Dr Salvador Macip receive the European Prize for the Popularization of Science

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 13 November 2013

Image of the academics with their award available on request at: er134@le.ac.uk

Two academics from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, Dr Chris Willmott and Dr Salvador Macip, have been awarded the European Prize for the Popularization of Science at a ceremony in Alzira, Spain.

The prize was awarded for a book the scientists wrote, provisionally entitled ‘Playing God: the new dilemmas at the frontiers of medicine and science’, which looks at a range of current and forthcoming developments in biomedicine.

Dr Willmott said: "We wanted to produce a book that would encourage people to reflect on the issues for themselves rather than simply telling them ‘the answer’.

"Each chapter begins with a short scenario, after which we pose a series of questions inviting the reader to think through some of the pros and cons of the innovation described. Some of the stories are fictionalised accounts of issues which have already occurred somewhere in the world. Others are looking a little further into the future and are therefore a little more speculative.

“Nevertheless even these illustrate situations which researchers are actively trying to achieve, developments which might be here sooner than we think.”

Dr Macip added: "Of course, some readers may choose to plough straight on from the scenario and read our insights on the scientific and ethical questions.

“But we wanted to flag up the opportunity for them to at least see how the potential developments made them feel and why giving them our take on the matter.”

Topics discussed in the book include preimplantation diagnosis (a technique associated with "designer babies" in certain sections of the press), human cloning, genetic enhancement, growing spare parts for surgery, brain scanning, forensic use of DNA and immortality.

An appendix offers some insight into the tensions associated with the conduct of scientific research in contemporary universities.

The purpose of the European Prize for the Popularization of Science is to reward the efforts of individuals who have had distinguished careers as writers, editors, lecturers, and as radio/television programme directors or film producers, which has enabled them to help interpret science, research and technology to the public.

The annual competition, running for the 19th time, was open to manuscripts written in English, Spanish, Catalan or French. The prize of €12,000, sponsored by Universitat de València, Edicions Bromera and the City of Alzira includes publication of the book, initially in Catalan. Negotiations for other language versions are currently underway.

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