Monday, 23 July 2007

Science and technology committee

When the government makes policy, especially relating to science, it would be an advantage if there was evidence that the policy was likely to work. This is what the parliamentary science and technology select committee does. Unfortunately, it seems that the committee is in danger of becoming a casualty of the recent cabinet reshuffle and associated re-organisation. What had been the Department of Education has been split into two departments: one dealing with schools and children, and another dealing with universities, innovation and skills. This second department will have its own standing select committee, and as a result the science and technology committee will be abolished. A number of influential scientists are worried that the new committee will not have time to cover the issues addressed by the science and technology committee, getting bogged down in political issues such as university tuition fees.

I found this particularly interesting, as over on Ben Goldacre's site (again) there's a very interesting discussion on how you might go about trying to make evidence-based social policy. You would think there was a need for more scientific scrutiny rather than less. One example would be members of cabinet wittering about how cannabis is getting stronger, despite all the available evidence showing that the strength has stayed roughly the same. Or telling us that prison works, even though all the evidence says quite the opposite.

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