Brian Heap

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Professor Brian Heap is the former Foreign Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society, and is Master of St. Edmund's College, Cambridge. He has also been a Director of Science for the BBSRC, a member of the Government's Expert Group on Cloning, and NATO Science Committee member for the United Kingdom.

In 1989 he became Director of Research of the AFRC Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research (Babraham, Cambridge and Roslin, Edinburgh) and became Director of Science in 1991. He was appointed President of the Institute of Biology in 1996.

Recently Heap has chaired the Sense About Science Working Party on peer review which meets at the Royal Society. Members of the Working Party include Peter Lachmann, Tracey Brown, Fiona Fox, and Tony Gilland. The Wellcome Trust has declined to either fund or be part of the Working Party because, 'The proposed make-up of the Working Party is extremely narrow' and its work 'runs the risk of being seen as a closed and defensive strategy'. The Wellcome Trust also describes the project as being based on 'many assumptions' and little 'direct evidence'. (More on the close working relationship of the Royal Society and Sense about Science)[1]

The Working Party is looking at the Pusztai case amongst others. Although the Royal Society has been amongst Pusztai's sternest critics over the issue of speaking out about his findings prior to peer review, Heap has admitted [2] that biotech companies often release their findings to the mass media before undergoing peer review in order to help keep up their share price.

Heap helped produce the Royal Society report Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use[3] which was used to reassure the Blair government that there were no significant problems with GM crops.

Heap was also on the Royal Society group that organised a partial 'peer review' of Pusztai's work while it was still unpublished - an act The Lancet described as 'a gesture of breathtaking impertinence to the Rowett Institute scientists who should be judged only on the full and final publication of their work.'[4]

Heap has been involved with bioethics at the European Commission and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and, together with Derek Burke and Mike Gale, contributed to the Nuffield report on GM crops which contains an appendix which is highly critical of Pusztai. Pusztai has characterised this appendix as 'misleading and full of inaccuracies... unscientific and most unfair.'

When the Lancet published Pusztai's research, after it had been successfully peer reviewed, Heap attacked the publication of the paper and claimed it showed that the rats were being starved and that this, and not the GM food in their diet, accounted for the damage they sustained.

As a member of the Government's Expert Group on Cloning, Heap supported research on embryos and therapeutic cloning. According to Heap, producing embryos by nuclear transfer using the Dolly technique was a new way to learn more about ourselves and how to treat serious illnesses


  1. ^ Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews,Strange Bedfellows, The Ecologist, May 2003.
  2. ^ Norfolk Genetic Information Network,1,000 Farmers to Rally Vs Irri/Grappling with a Mutated Vision, 30 October 2002.
  3. ^ Royal Society, Genetically modified plants for food use and human health, 4 February 2002.
  4. ^ Fixing The Nuffield Report