As a working scientist I would like to thank Dita De Boni for this piece in yesterday’s Herald:
Govt loath to let facts come between friends
National Party loves ‘helpful’ science, but turns nasty if findings irk its mates
I know John Key is an exceptionally busy man, but it was good to see him take the opportunity to pile on the opposition party back-bencher, the very last man on the Green Party list, and give him a serve for being “barking mad”. … You see, it is important that we follow the National Party’s lead, and respect science at all times.
That is to say, all times except for the times when scientists come out with stuff that makes us feel uncomfortable and make our friends in industry unhappy. Then we should see fit to dump on it from a great height. We may turn it into an equation, thus: Science = good (very good, if supporting it = political point-scoring).
Annoying Science with Expensive Ramifications = bad.
De Boni has summarised the Nats’ attitude to science perfectly. She looks at their treatment of climate change science, of Mike Joy and his work on our water quality, and the “tacit approval” of (Slater’s) attacks on research in on the dietary effects of sugar. Then…
The Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, supports new rules governing what scientists can say in public because Governments are concerned scientists are straying into advocacy (i.e. saying things they don’t like) rather than sticking with their area of expertise.
One proposal that might ordinarily cause alarm is that scientists be gagged from speaking on controversial topics two months before an election, and at all other times, get permission from PR teams before doing so.
We going to have rules to muzzle scientists now? Really? How exactly does that square with Universities’ statutory role as critic and conscience of society? It would be a stupid battle for Gluckman to squander his reputation on.