UK: Can the politics bail on scientific advise?

21 07 2010

“All too often governments make political policy choices rather than evidence-based ones. This approach has caused deep consternation among the scientific community in the UK, where a schism now exists between the government and its scientific advisers.
The trouble started last October after David Nutt, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), was sacked for publicly speaking out against the government’s decision to ignore the ACMD’s advice on cannabis.

In November, the scientific community, though understandably angry at the way in which the government had treated a respected scientific adviser, decided to respond in a constructive manner. 90 senior scientists, scientific advisers, and Sense about Science—an independent charity promoting good science for the public—drafted a set of principles on the treatment of scientific advice and sent them to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The principles fall under three themes: academic freedom to express views openly without restriction, independence of operation, and proper consideration of advice by ministers. The code enshrined what scientific advice to government should be—independent of political interference and ideology.
How did the government respond? It redrafted the principles to suit its agenda. Most notably, the government dropped academic freedom as a principle and inserted “trust and respect”. Under this heading it states that: “The government and its scientific advisers should work together to reach a shared position, and neither should act to undermine mutual trust.” However, asking scientific advisers to collude with government to reach a “shared position” on policies would undermine the independence of scientific advice. Essentially, these revisions represent an attempt by government to avoid any future public dissent from its scientific advisers.

The government must now listen to the concerns that have been raised over its version of the principles and revise them accordingly. Doing so will restore the confidence of both the scientific community and the public in ministerial policy making. It will also help to repair the damaged relationship that exists between the government and its scientific advisers.”

This is what the Lancet wrote about the issue in February this year. Since then, a new government has been formed out of a coalition between the Tory (conservatives) and the Lib-Dem.

But yet, nothing has been done to ensure independent scientific advice to be considered by the parliament.

It looks like ex Prime Minister G. Brown left the draft in a secure place or that the new government has other more important issues (?!)

Source: The Lancet





Dutch coffeeshop closed to tourists?

11 09 2009

The Netherlands used to be one of the most progressive countries in the world when it came to softdrugs.

The Dutch policy of regulating rather then prohibiting has obviously worked, as the percentage of regular (soft)drugs user is lower then in almost all european countries and even the United States. The only problem is that cannabis was never actually legalized – in contrary to what many people believe – cannabis is still an illegal substance according to Dutch law. This has led to the unworkable situation where people can buy small amounts at the coffeeshop but the coffeeshops can’t buy their weed legally.

This “decriminalization” policy is a weird situation, but it has worked for years. However, in the past couple of years the political climate seems to be changing. Some elements in the Dutch government are doing everything in their power to stop people from having a bit of fun. In this context it means closing many coffeeshops, having coffeeshops owners choose between their liquor licence and their “coffeeshop” licence and now even closing most coffeeshops for tourist.

The proposal that will be discussed in parliament today is that of a members-only policy for all coffeeshops and tourists are only allowed in the larger coffeeshops. It is not exactly clear yet what this means for Amsterdam and other major cities, but it is another giant leap in the wrong direction. The Dutch government will put forward a new bill somewhere in the coming months which will (hopefully) give more clarity on how the future is going to look.

All we know is that if this proposal is actually going to come into effect it will cause more problems then it will solve.

Source: nrc.nl








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