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back to article Stop snubbing top scientists' advice, Lords tell MPs

The government must tap up its top boffins sooner and heed their advice before putting policies into action, a House of Lords committee report concludes. The Science and Technology Committee, which has been looking into the role and function of Blighty's chief scientific advisers (CSAs), said that the government's experts were …

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Re: Placebo != Homeopathy

If you want placebos, then obviously you'd want the best placebos the market has to offer. And that would obviously carry a bit of a premium in the cost. Well worth it though, placebos are generally cheaper than real medication.

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Re: Placebo != Homeopathy

Pharma are probably the biggest opponents of homeo out there.

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Alien

Homeopathy

"Professor Sir John Beddington, a government CSA, told the committee that public funding of homeopathy was "crazy" since there was no scientific basis for the alternative treatment, and said he had expressed that opinion plenty of times."

Actually there is a scientific basis for it. It's called the placebo effect. If you think it's doing you good it may make you feel better, a bit like religion really.

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Re: Homeopathy

The placebo effect is indeed useful in treating patients. This doesn't mean however that the NHS should be subsidising a quack industry that produces nothing but very expensive sugar pills.

Maybe the NHS should just take on Tate & Lyle as an alternative supplier for this 'medicine', they could save themselves a packet.

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Re: Homeopathy

Sod it. The placebo effect keeps me in work. When I get called out to a machine and the very act of my walking into a room and touching the keyboard causes the problem to magically fix itself, or more usually just a reboot does the trick, people believe I have some magical power to cure their computer woe. I reckon 50% of my shouts are resolved by "magic" like that, and people are willing to pay for that belief. My bank manager and I do not complain!

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very problematic

the issue here is that making policies based on scientific data (and thus the latter evaluation, adaptation included in the scientific method) would severely impede the ability for corruption....right now laws can be bought (as proven by the laws written by the likes of monsanto and the recording industry), even though it is overly clear the laws have the opposite effect of what they claim to be doing (case and point: drug policy mainly benefits: police (budget) and criminals (high profit margins), but hurts the people it's supposed to protect (the people)....

TWO things need to be done:

-a politician, caught with corruption needs to be banned from ANY public office or even seat on the board of a company FOR LIFE

-any law made needs to be evaluated a while after being put in "production" and either be removed, or adapted if it does not do what it's supposed to

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I agree

I have always thought that acts of parliament should carry a brief statement on what they are intended to *do*. It would be a viable defence in court to demonstrate that the prosecution does not meet the stated aim. It's one way to stop "anti-terror" legislation being used to pursue litterbugs.

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Yag
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Are those guys sane?

"The document also recommended that, in general, CSAs should be recruited externally, instead of being civil servants, to help maintain their independence."

"The Lords said that the advisers should also work part-time, so they could maintain their links with academia or industry."

Sure, they will maintain their independence while working part time for an industrial lobby...

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What is the f***ing point of *having* a group of Chief Scientific Advisors

that are not being consulted from day *1* of an issue.

As a practical matter it is all in the question you *ask* them.

Govt's would get *much* more useable advice if they said "This is our policy, what is the best advice you can give us to allow us to *implement* it " (given that it was thought up by some inbred mother***er trousering a bunch of back handers from a bunch of suppliers).

*Very* smart govt's might start by asking "In your expert opinion is this a *sensible* policy in the first place?" But the later is a *long* way off IMHO, *unless* that is *part* of their remit, as it was in Prof Nutt's case.

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Anonymous Coward

I find it hilarious

that every single time I make a disparaging post about AGW there are always 5 thumbs down. There are only 5 of you guys? I'd have thought that whoever is paying could afford more than 5.

AGW just isn't worth defending any more. Climate science is an embarrassment to real science. Everyone knows it and it would be better for science in general if they would retreat from the doomsday scenarios of their own accord before they're definitively hung out to dry by some real scientists who get to the bottom of the problem.

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Re: I find it hilarious

> Climate science is an embarrassment to real science.

Any alchemy is probably, in hindsight, an embarrassment to chemistry, and the idea of a poisonous ether causing disease is probably an embarrassed to biologists. No serious chemist would claim he could turn lead into gold, but without the history of alchemy would we have arrived at modern chemistry? We all start somewhere!

Just because a few theories turn out to be wrong - even Einstein and Hawking have had a few of those - does not invalidate the entire area of study. Climate science has made huge progress in the last 20 years around, for example, earthquake predictions, and flood predictions. Valuable science, which saves lives.

History has shown that corporate lobbying around science, and funding by SIGs, does tend to bias the results. There was scientific evidence that lead pollution in the air was caused by lead additives in petrol, and that this caused brain development issues in children, but the lead industry lead a witch hunt for 20 years to burn the credibility of opposing scientists. Some 20 years after the initial study the evidence was irrefutable and lead in petrol was banned in most western countries. But the science, despite politics, did continue for 20 years and they did eventually get the right result.

So pro-AGW, anti-AGW (I'm neither, as I've seen no conclusive evidence one way or the other) probably doesn't matter. In the long term we do only have one planet, and it has been shown to be rather inhospitable to humans at various points in it's history. Study to understand that, and improve our understanding of that, can only be a good thing.

And yes, less politics would be nice, but pretending that can be magicked away is probably naive given the reliance on corporate funding.

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"We were told it was going to happen. We were not consulted"

Of course, don't you know that your job is simply to advise Government *how* a policy that they've already decided on can be implemented.

You're not supposed to be consulted on whether the policy is actually a good idea.

- Signed: Sir Humphrey

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Coat

*chants*

What do we want?

Evidence based policy!

When do we want it?

After peer review!

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Re: *chants*

That's catchy.

I've half a mind to organise a protest just so I can yell that outside parliment.

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Unhappy

In Canada

In Canada, government researchers aren't allowed to discuss their findings without The Harper Government's (That's what our PM calls himself) approval.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/tory-muzzling-of-scientists-blasted-139568143.html

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"The report [PDF] added that boffins had been sidelined or ignored on offshore wind strategies, ID cards and NHS and Department of Health funding of homeopathy." -- not to mention David Nutt who was fired for having a view contrary to the one that the MPs held.

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"British government top boffins"

is that a euphemism for mumsnet?

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min

if..

...in the 80s, luminaries like Feynman were unable to have their (definitively) expert opinions heard without some sort of stakeholder decrying them, what chance do today's boffins have at being heard. it's easier for them to just accept the cynical life and get bought.

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You'd almost think

politicians were basing their policies on what is fashionable and makes them look popular.

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PLT

EMC experts have been telling the government about the problems with in house PLT for ages with no notice being taken. It now interferes with DAB, slows down ADSL is power hungry and has the potential to cause problems with Smart meters.

Idiots

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Unhappy

An interesting list

"The report [PDF] added that boffins had been sidelined or ignored on offshore wind strategies, ID cards and NHS and Department of Health funding of homeopathy."

All "policies" which (AFAIK) *senior* govt ministers wanted and all of which turned out to expensive, unworkable, stupid or *all* of the above.

Would wind turbines (even *offshore* ones) have been taken up with such fervor by the Ministry if the Minster had been told to his face "You do understand that at *most* they will work 30% of the time and you'll need a load of fast response (IE gas turbine) generating capacity for the *other* 70% of the time?"

Just a thought.

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