mirrorshard: (Default)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
This Guardian article by Sarah Boseley talks about new government proposals to ensure that official advisors and ministers "agree on a position", and why scientists aren't having any of it.

To add to it: it's a one-way relationship. Science informs policy, not the other way around. Trying to do it both ways risks getting into a feedback loop, where the scientists end up telling the ministers something very close to what they already know, and confirming their prejudices.

Insisting on agreement also makes the Minister look both weak and dishonest - if he has the courage of his convictions, he shouldn't be afraid to disagree. It's not as though all scientists agree with one another, and they're rarely afraid to say so.

Besides... they're advisors. If you always agree with your advisors, people will start wondering whether you actually do anything yourself - or whether there's any point in them, and if they're being brave enough.

Yes, Minister

Date: 2010-02-14 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
Joy. [says the Govt scientist/interpreter of scientists to Ministers]

Luckily all the Ministers I've had to deal with to date have had a lot of respect for scientific opinion and not been afraid to spell it flat out to stakeholders who don't want to listen.

I did, once, answer our minister who asked "If you say X is so, and XYZ is a reasonable conclusion from that, why shouldn't I stand up in the COmmons and say we're doing XYZ" with "That would be a brave and courageous decision, Minister."

At this rate I might have to practice saying "If you must do this bloody stupid thing, for the love of god don't do it in this bloody stupid way" with a tone that makes it clear I'm quoting and not making a personal insult...

Date: 2010-02-14 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-next.livejournal.com
The government came to us and said, "We want to reduce alcohol abuse, especially binge drinking, because treating alcohol-related illness is getting expensive. Here is some money so that you can write us an advisory report telling us the best way to do this."

And, behold, three of our best researchers got on the job, and did deliver up to the government the best report that could be produced, given the evidence available. (They also made it clear that the evidence available wasn't actually that good, as any scientist should do in the circumstances.) And the report suggested unto the government that the best way to go about what they wanted to do would be to increase the price of alcoholic drinks by x%, and set a minimum legal price for various types of drink. The available evidence suggested that this would discourage binge drinkers, but not cause too much pain to those who drink sensibly.

And the government said, "We're not doing that."

And so it goes.

Date: 2010-02-14 03:59 pm (UTC)
reddragdiva: (Default)
From: [personal profile] reddragdiva
Well, no shit.

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