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Speaker: Science and Democracy

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    So for the cannabis debate there is simply nothing he could say that already has not been said – the PMs office knows all the arguments and evidence and they have decided their policy based on ideology not evidence IMO.

    Snap.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    These clowns

    See that's the kind of thing I'd say to their faces too :).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    I then received, in particular from CRI scientists who are, as one correspondent reported, “gagged from talking to the media on topics that might seem critical of government policy from 2 months out from the election”.

    If this is the case, the best thing scientists across all sectors can do to restore trust in science (and to save the profession) is to become whistleblowers en masse in a petition to Peter Gluckman and the PM.

    It is what the UCS did in the US in 2004 to fight the Bush Administration’s corruption and gagging of scientists;

    http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/center-science-and-democracy/promoting-scientific-integrity/scientists-sign-on-statement.html#.VCTP1Hl00dU

    Your profession is in exactly the same position – the threat is immense and the prospect if nothing is done urgently is very, very dim. The moneyed-up multinational forces working against you are ruthless.

    Unity of the profession without fear or favour is vital, not only for science but for democracy.

    The time for conciliatory proposals has passed. Time to organise.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    Even more significant were the Prime Minister’s comments to the BBC, where he stated that he could always provide another academic to give a counterview.

    Not quite – you missed the important bit. What the PM actually said is this:

    Sackur: Yeah but he’s a scientist, it’s based on research, it’s not an opinion he’s plucked from the air.

    Key: He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview.

    The key words here being “like lawyers” – meaning, I can buy whatever science I need to defend what it is I want to do

    And that is exactly what he is doing to scientists within our CRIs. He is buying both their scientific integrity and their silence.

    Note how Sackur refers to Mike Joy as a scientist, but Key refers to him as an academic. Why? I suspect, because in the back of his mind he subconsciously knows he can buy most NZ scientists at the moment, but can’t quite (yet) buy most NZ academics.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Humph Applebey, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Appreciate the reply and link Russell – I hadn’t come across that report or article before and now see at least Gluckman’s attempted some dialogue on the subject using evidence. It does make a mockery of the role of science advisor when evidence that goes against National’s agenda is ignored.

    It was ignored, just as the Law Commission’s thoughtful review of the Misuse of Drugs Act was ignored.

    I’m not sure if there’s a ministry, department, society or foundation in NZ that hasn’t written about the cannabis law being a disaster. If only it was illegal for politicians to ignore all that evidence which continues to criminalise people…

    No wonder there’s no chance of a referendum. Dirty politics indeed.

    Since Sep 2014 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • JC Carter, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    o because if you read his essays he fully references his data. Where he doesn't know himself he can access scientists who do know and can give you the citations.

    So on one side we have an ethics document that attempts to tell scientists to stick to their area of expertise, yet on the other you are allowed to if you reference your data/access other scientists?

    Nothing prevents any scientist from referencing any commentary or accessing other scientists which makes the section in the ethics document pointless. Cannot have it both ways.

    Space • Since Sep 2014 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    And that is exactly what he is doing to scientists within our CRIs. He is buying both their scientific integrity and their silence.

    No he isn't. He buys the CRI boards of directors and the SETs. Since they are like him, businessmen and accountants and they understand being bought and sold.

    Stupid scientists like me don't get it. We speak out, even if what we say opposes the government's preferred position. And unless we breach intellectual property (which exists just the same in the Universities) we can pretty much say what we think. BTW I take IP pretty seriously.

    Providing we are clear that it is our personal opinion (educated or not) and not the position of the company for which we work.

    In my experience there has not been a case in our institute where any scientist has been forced to say something they did not believe to be true nor any case (excepting intellectual property issues) where they have been told to stay silent.

    One caveat there is that sometimes we don't talk about preliminary results. That can look like being silent on data but mostly it's about trying not to be wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to JC Carter,

    Nothing prevents any scientist from referencing any commentary or accessing other scientists which makes the section in the ethics document pointless. Cannot have it both ways.

    Huh? I don't understand the problem. If I read the relevant literature in order to become knowledgable about a subject and then pass on that knowledge with relevant citations then there is no breach of that ethical document.

    If however, I comment on surgical techniques as if I have some expertise, without having done any research and giving no citations then I have breached ethics.

    The point is I am using my exalted position as a scientist (snort) to sway opinion in an area where I have no expertise - that is just plain wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    .. we can pretty much say what we think… providing we are clear that it is our personal opinion (educated or not) and not the position of the company for which we work.

    So if I interpret you right, the company opinion (I assume you mean the CRI as a company?) can and is at times at odds with personal opinions of some of its scientists? This would be expected as it sounds like you are talking about values-based opinions (i.e., whether a freshwater standard should be wade-able as opposed to swimmable), as opposed to scientifically based findings on the state of a particular freshwater resource.

    But the author of this article suggests some CRI-based scientists are encouraged not to speak up on, say, whether the Government’s national policy on freshwater management is ‘good or bad’ in the lead up to an election. Are you saying such instruction (whether explicit or inferred) is not your experience?

    Perhaps then, if you are from a particular CRI - there are different management approaches?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    As a complete aside, I'd like to say
    that CRI would be a fun place
    to answer the phone on
    'Talk Like a Pirate Day'...

    ...as you were.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    Are you saying such instruction (whether explicit or inferred) is not your experience?

    Exactly. I've never had any instruction from management that I could not air my opinions. As long as I don't speak for PFR and I don't.

    And yes I'm from PFR and the water quality questions were (I think) NIWA.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Humph Applebey,

    I’m not sure if there’s a ministry, department, society or foundation in NZ that hasn’t written about the cannabis law being a disaster.

    Don't forget the two select committee inquiries ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Nicola Gaston, in reply to JC Carter,

    Thanks JC. I would clarify that the CoE requires that scientists "not present themselves as experts outside their areas of expertise". Nothing to prevent them from commenting on other matters with reference to published science - but that is of course true for everyone.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Jack Harrison, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The obvious path into a marijuana law is to have it used for medical purposes.

    Sarah Silverman showed us how easy it is to carry in modern U.S society, a pen full of liquid. It's a medicine people. It's not a great long term party drug but it's a good medicine. That deserves all the dignity of dosage information, side effects and a knowledge and a study of the different hybrids grown.

    wellington • Since Aug 2014 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    While like any person Professor Sir Peter Gluckman may have faults this is an extremely unfair characterisation of him.

    He is a very good scientist in his own field and as science adviser he has tried to advise without burning the delicate bridge between the adviser position and the office of the PM.

    Agreed – and to throw a reality check into the mix here, no matter what stripe the government is an “adviser” is precisely that. Free and frank expert advice is a wonderful thing, but there’s plenty of papers in the National Archives that prove you can’t make your political lords and mistresses take a blind bit of notice if they just don’t want to. (c.f. Michael Cullen’s dismissal of Treasury’s 2005 briefing to the incoming Government as the usual triennial “ideological burp.” Which, on one level is fair enough. Cullen's job was to advance a fiscal and tax agenda Labour had an electoral mandate for, not rubber stamp Treasury briefing papers.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    SETs

    ?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    no matter what stripe the government is an “adviser” is precisely that

    a lesson I've learned, yes

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Thanks, interesting. I’d be keen on any comment on a particular issue I’ve been watching for years: State of the Environment reporting.

    Only two have ever been completed nationally (1997 and 2007). The National Party campaigned across two elections to support SoE reporting in legislation and to give responsibility for it to the Parliamentary Commissioner of Environment. See here, for example;

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/5475347/Environment-commissioners-powers-growing

    However, when it came to actual legislative proposals a decision was made to give responsibility to Secretary for the Environment (who reports to the Minister for the Environment) and the Chief Government Statistician. With the PCE having an advisory role. See here;

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10910158

    As a scientist in a CRI, do you see this as a concern?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    (c.f. Michael Cullen’s dismissal of Treasury’s 2005 briefing to the incoming Government as the usual triennial “ideological burp.”

    Umm don't think Treasury is a very science based dept. Could be wrong tho'. All those numbers... looks kind of sciencey.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to andin,

    Umm don’t think Treasury is a very science based dept. Could be wrong tho’. All those numbers… looks kind of sciencey.

    I really hope the departmental Chief Executives probably drafting BIMs as we speak aren’t just random weirdos picked up off the street. They can contain all the free and frank advice, impeccably reasoned and entirely worthy, in the world from people who have a sound grasp of their departments and relevant public policy issues but their Ministers are under precisely no obligation to follow any of it.

    But that’s a digression, because I was just agreeing with Bart that Humph Applebey’s sneer at Peter Gluckman was unfair. He’s an adviser, and sneering at him as some kind of National Party hack because he’s not doing a three-point flounce out of the room not only misunderstands what his job actually is, but isn’t particularly useful either.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    SETs

    ?

    Senior executive team

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    ah, same as ELTs then :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    As a scientist in a CRI, do you see this as a concern?

    As a random scientist in a CRI whose expertise is not in environmental science or monitoring or reporting ... my opinion is of little more value than most :).

    What I can say from experience with any kind of high level reporting is that it's mostly bollocks anyway.

    When you report on any science, including the environment, the important stuff is in the detailed data. It matters that this river has no oxygen, or that grazing land has lost its topsoil, or that this particular reserve has been invaded by rats.

    But the reports that make it up to management level have no fine grained detail. All they want is some random number to quote to the minister or one (good) example of work being done.

    State of the environment reports are I guess a little different but my personal guess is that if you want to really know the state of the environment you need to spend an hour each with about 20 scientists from different fields to get the real picture. While the commissioner could and probably would do that her summary could never include the detail.

    So for me it really doesn't matter who assembles the final report. If the government really wants to know they need a minister for the environment willing to spend the time listening to (not arguing with) the real experts and then a cabinet that is willing to defer to the minister's judgement.

    But as I said I don't know for sure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Phew!
    Here's one problem we can relax about...

    US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks
    "Increasingly, we've moved not only from a security focus to a resiliency focus," said Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at Homeland Security

    They'll lead the way on tenable urban planning....

    "The challenges are fairly unique in a dense urban environment," said Zarrilli."There is no one single answer to the problem of climate change.

    oh, nevermind...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    BIMs

    oh stop it with the whacky acronyms... :))

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

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