A closer look at the evidence 2

December 8, 2006

The story "Ministers vilify researchers" is timely and important.

Our experience with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs over the past three years as former members of its Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) leads us to offer the following advice to any independent natural scientist contemplating advising Her Majesty's Government - don't, unless you are happy to be lied to and are prepared to be treated with contempt if you don't "toe the line".

Furthermore, if our experience is any guide, you may well discover that you get precious little help from your peers because so many of them, although sympathetic, rely on funding from the Government for their livelihoods.

We also learnt the hard way that government-employed scientific advisers are no guarantee that science will be accorded its proper place in developing policy.

It has not always been like this, and it is not like this elsewhere. Both of us have extensive experience of providing advice to governments; and before our CoRWM experience, we had not encountered anything remotely as perverse.

The current culture in the UK is highly counterproductive to good policymaking, and it places public health and democracy itself at serious risk.

Keith Baverstock
Former head of the radiation protection division at the World Health Organisation

David Ball
Professor of risk management
Middlesex University

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