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Coquus Boleti

Registered: 10/09/08
Posts: 4,666
Loc: Jet City
British Scientists Challenge Government (AP)
    #11399592 - 11/06/09 06:31 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

By Raphael G. Satter
updated 10:00 a.m. PT, Fri., Nov . 6, 2009


LONDON - Scientists who act as government advisers must be free to discuss their findings and recommendations in public, even if they disagree with government policies, top scientists said Friday.

Their open letter was a direct response to the government's decision last week to force the resignation of David Nutt, its chief drug policy adviser, after he said the government had overstated the risks of marijuana — a drug he called far less dangerous than alcohol.

Alan Boobis, a professor of toxicology who advises the government on food safety issues, said the statement is an attempt to remind the government that, whatever its ultimate position, it should not try to fudge the facts.

"It's just to put that marker down," Boobis said in a telephone interview Thursday before the publication of the open letter by 28 top British scientists. "The science should not be misrepresented, no matter which way the policy goes."

The scientists are asking the government to agree to a set of principles which guarantee freedom from official interference, liberty to discuss their work in public and the right to have their recommendations heard.

The government said it was still formulating its response late Thursday.

The government enlists the help of scientists on 75 official committees to advise it on a host of issues, including drugs, disease and the environment, according to Dr. Evan Harris, a lawmaker with the opposition Liberal Democrats.

The recent controversy centers on the work of one of those committees — the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs — which was established nearly 40 years ago to guide the government's drug policy.

The government rejected the council's advice when officials stiffened the penalties for marijuana possession earlier this year, arguing that the science surrounding marijuana was too uncertain to take risks. In comments to justify the move last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown described much of high-grade marijuana making its way onto Britain's streets as lethal.

Nutt, a respected professor of neuropsychopharmacology, described Brown's comments as "completely irrational."

"I'm not prepared to mislead the public about the harmfulness of drugs like cannabis," Nutt said shortly after he was dismissed. Two members of his team have since resigned in solidarity and others are reportedly considering whether to follow suit.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he removed Nutt not because his views contradicted the government's, but because the professor actively lobbied against official policy.

"You cannot have a chief adviser at the same time stepping into the public field and campaigning against government decisions," Johnson said Sunday. "You can do one or the other, you can't do both."

It's not unusual to find controversy at the intersection of politics and science, said Tim Donaghy, an analyst with the Cambridge, Massachussetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists. He pointed to allegations that the George W. Bush administration had tried to strong-arm researchers on environmental issue or obscure climate change findings that didn't fit its agenda.

Assessments could often be "controversial or uncomfortable for politicians," he said. "But we need to allow those scientists to speak freely."


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Folding@home Statistics
Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 9,988
Loc: Turtle Island
Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: caphillkid]
    #11399640 - 11/06/09 06:39 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

I like where this seems to be going.. hope that one rock the gov't simple tossed out of their path causes a whole landside right on top of them.


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Ancient Aliens

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 15,105
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Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: shivas.wisdom]
    #11399751 - 11/06/09 07:01 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

his name is boobis :immature:

but really, this looks really good.


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Evil Overlord

Registered: 01/16/09
Posts: 491
Loc: The Forest
Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: learningtofly]
    #11399964 - 11/06/09 07:33 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

Nutt got the sack and Boobis is commenting.
For a 40 year old I'm feeling awfully 12 lately.

- I don't abuse drugs; in fact, I think I treat them quite nicely. -

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Registered: 01/22/09
Posts: 1,201
Last seen: 4 years, 10 months
Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: buddhabadger]
    #11401707 - 11/07/09 01:27 AM (8 years, 10 months ago)


Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he removed Nutt not because his views contradicted the government's, but because the professor actively lobbied against official policy.

Nutt was speaking for science and science speaks for reality. So Alan Johnson is saying official policy is being lobbied against by reality. When reality is working against you it's time to think about finding a new policy.

The creation takes hand of the chisel...

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Registered: 09/10/07
Posts: 852
Loc: UKUSANetherlands
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Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: AngryPhil]
    #11402639 - 11/07/09 06:51 AM (8 years, 10 months ago)

not sure if this has been posted anywhere yet...

David Nutt: Governments should get real on drugs

* 10:40 04 November 2009 by David Nutt
* Magazine issue 2733. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
* For similar stories, visit the Editorials , Mental Health and Drugs and Alcohol Topic Guides

IF THERE is one thing that politicians can and should do to limit the damage caused by illegal drugs, it is to take careful note of the evidence and develop a rational drug policy. Some politicians find it easier to ignore the evidence, and pander to public prejudice instead.

I can trace the beginning of the end of my role as chairman of the UK's official advisory body on drugs to the moment I quoted a New Scientist editorial (14 February, p 5). Entitled, fittingly enough, "Drugs drive politicians out of their minds", the editorial asked the reader to imagine being seated at a table with two bowls, one containing peanuts, the other the illegal drug MDMA (ecstasy). Which is safer to give to a stranger? Why, the ecstasy of course.

I quoted these words in the Eve Saville lecture at King's College London in July. This example plus other comments I have made – such as horse riding is more harmful than ecstasy – prompted Alan Johnson, the home secretary, to say that I had crossed the line from science to policy. This, he said, is why I had to go.

But simple, accurate and understandable statements of scientific fact are precisely what the advisory council is supposed to provide. Why would any scientist take up some future offer of a government advisory post when their advice can be treated with such disdain?

As well as ignoring its own advisers, the UK is falling out of step with international trends. When Portugal softened its drugs laws in 2001, drug use remained roughly constant, but ill health and deaths from drug taking fell. Decriminalisation quietly crept up the agenda in Vienna this year at a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where governments heard new, independent evidence on how the harms of criminalisation were outweighing the benefits. In August, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico approved a law decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs. And just last month, Eric Holder, the US attorney general, instructed federal prosecutors to stop hounding medical users of marijuana in the 14 states where such use is legal.

No one doubts that heavy users of marijuana are risking trouble with their mental health. What I have simply pointed out is that we need a consistent policy, recognising that heavy users of alcohol and tobacco are more numerous and are causing themselves – and others – even more trouble through their indulgence.

Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I'm not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate.

The current British government has said repeatedly that it wants its policies to be evidence-based, but actions speak louder than words. On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.

The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights. The message for the British government is a simple one: don't exclude rational argument in order to exploit a visceral public response. Politicians have to win the hearts and minds of their electorate. If your policy is informed by an underlying moral imperative, be open about what that is, and don't try to disguise it with a veneer of pseudo-science. We ignore scientific evidence at our peril.

David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, was chairman of the UK government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he was dismissed last week by the UK home secretary

"There never was and never will be,
Nor is there now,
The wholly criticized
Or the wholly approved"

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Registered: 05/20/08
Posts: 1,913
Last seen: 1 year, 8 hours
Re: British Scientists Challenge Government (AP) [Re: akb112211]
    #11410323 - 11/08/09 12:10 PM (8 years, 10 months ago)

I don't get why we let retarded people in the government. I mean you study politics and history and all of a sudden you can run a country? The scientists should be the people running the show (even though I don't even like the idea of a hierarchy to begin with). Scientists are good at finding out FACTS.

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