The prestigious 2004 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award, approved by the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was bestowed upon the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC).
Work of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee has enhanced opportunities within the field of modern genetics, explained AAAS Science and Policy Director Albert H. Teich. The committee was established in 1974 to advise the Director of NIH on scientific, medical, ethical and social aspects of recombinant DNA research. Such research, which involves combining natural or synthetic genetic segments to form new DNA molecules that can replicate inside a living cell, might someday result in new strategies for curing or treating various diseases by correcting genetic errors. When the field was in its infancy in the 1970s, Teich explained, there was widespread public concern about potential hazards; the RAC was established in response to those concerns.
Since its inception, "The RAC has played a central role in developing responsible research practices and establishing criteria for the safe use of this promising but unproven technology," added Mark Frankel, director of the AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law program. The RAC criteria were first set forth in Guidelines published in 1976 and they continue to be revised periodically.
"Because the RAC carries out its work at open meetings," Teich said, "it has served as a valuable forum for public education. It has kept scientists aware of their responsibilities and at the same time has helped to defuse some of the original fears surrounding recombinant DNA research, while preparing
Contact: Ginger Pinholster
American Association for the Advancement of Science