The current storm in a teacup strikes me both as petty and the focus of undue attention. Scientific advice is just that. It is advice about the science of an issue – no more and no less. It is only one sort of evidence to set alongside other sorts, which might include perceptions, political practicalities, administrative realities etc. For any scientist to get upset that their advice was not swallowed whole is naive. To expect to be able to offer advice as chair of a QUANGO while publicly criticising the government is even more so.
This morning, the story seems to have developed into a crisis – the scientific research community, so called, is going to withdraw its advice from government. If ministers won’t listen to their advice, why give it? If they are going to sack people they disagree with, why go for the job? I wonder how this ‘threat’ (which amounts to very little since there is no such community) stacks up against recent calls for the cutting of public service waste and, specifically, the many QUANGOs in this country. Suddenly, the very same opposition politicians and journalists seem all in favour of a QUANGO. Suddenly, they see the value of independent expert advice! Surely this is an opportunity to dismiss one such QUANGO?
How quickly the debate spins itself into knots.