What role should the public play in science?


Chronic fatigue syndrome is a severe, long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms, the most common of which is extreme mental and physical fatigue. Scientists haven’t been able to find the cause and current interventions focus on helping sufferers cope with the syndrome. These interventions are cognitive behavioural therapy and exercise therapy.

However, critics argue that this focus suggests the illness is ‘all in the mind’ and does not have a physical component. As a result, researchers looking at efficacy of these therapies claim they are verbally abused. But now, it may have gone a step further. Reuters recently reported that ‘a respected science journal is to withdraw a much-cited review of evidence on an illness known as chronic fatigue syndrome amid fierce criticism and pressure from activists and patients.’

Ian Sample speaks to Prof Michael Sharpe from the University of Oxford and to Dr Kim Goldsmith from King’s College London about what role the public should play and whether science should have boundaries to protect its integrity.