17 November 2009

Short Essay on Experts in Policy and Politics

I have a short essay on scientists in policy and politics up at www.publicsector.co.uk titled, Improving the contribution of experts in policy and politics. Here is an excerpt:
In recent weeks we have seen a range of conflicts between scientific experts and governments. In the United Kingdom the dismissal of David Nutt, chair of the UK Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), for making statements perceived to undercut government drug policies has received considerable criticism from the scientific community. In Australia, the government's primary research organization intervened in the peer review process to attempt to stop the publication of an economic analysis critical of emissions trading programs, which the Rudd Government is currently championing. And in the United States the Environmental Protection Agency has sought to limit what two of its experts can say as private citizens about their professional experience when being critical of U.S. climate policies.

What is going on here?
Find the rest here and The Honest Broker here (in the UK) and here (in the US).


  1. Good article Rodger. You say

    'The interaction between experts and decision makers is complicated'.

    Indeed it is, but the interface beween the British public and the tabloid press is extremely simple. Drugs policy is a very emotive issue and there will be a general election in six months. As I said before, the drugs committe has not acted in a forthright or principled manner until now.

    In the case of global warming, the broadsheet Guardian has descended to outright propaganda with George Monbiot regularly dropping (well)below tabloid standards.

    Unsurprisingly they exhibit the completely shameless two faced nature of the petit bourgeois character. While promoting moral behaviour from every paragraph, the website (including the environment section) is sponsored by advertisements for 4X4 cars, airlines with long haul destinations, oil companies (Shell), energy companies including E.On whose coal power stations it has campaigned against etc etc. The travel section is designed to appeal to the upper middle classes.

    Are they delusional or evil ? A bit of both in my view. They get up every day, they go to work and they carrry out a prescribed function which is paid for from a pool of public or private capital. Meanwhile the same class is responsible for most of the individual Co2 in the world. They sure as hell won't change because of a 30% rise in electricity bills.

    Sorry if that appeared to be off topic but scientists belong to the same social class as journalists and I prefer not to deal with that head on in your blog out of respect for your general stance.

  2. This is a wonderful description of how the world really works.

    Noam Chomsky explains to a completely bemused Andrew Marr, chief political correspondent of the BBC, that no one with the ability or intelligence to be an effective journalist would ever be employed as one (nowadays).

    I assume something similar applies to government science advisers notwithstanding Professor Nutt's (no doubt orchestrated) little uprising.