Science union warns don't shoot the messenger

Science union warns don't shoot the messenger

In response to the sacking of the government’s chief drugs adviser Prof David Nutt, science union Prospect has reaffirmed the important contribution of independent scientific advice to government policy making.

The union is concerned that whereas ministers are happy for scientific advisers to speak out when their views align with government policy, they too readily treat them as scapegoats when scientists genuinely hold a different perspective.

Speaking on behalf of 35,000 scientists, engineers, managers and other specialists in government, Prospect’s Head of Research Sue Ferns said:

“Whilst we accept that scientific advice contributes to policy making along with other considerations, there needs to be transparent justification when decisions are taken that are not consistent with the scientific advice received.

“The government’s ‘intelligent customer’ capacity has been progressively eroded, including through contractorisation of scientific facilities and expertise, and this latest decision risks further alienating the scientific community.

“This is not only an issue for high profile figures, like Nutt, who chair government committees, but for many Prospect members employed as government scientists.”