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« Political inertia | Main | A right royal dogmatist »

Science policy to the left of me

The Guardian has started a new science policy blog, featuring a variety of writers some of whom will be familiar to readers here. They seem to span the whole spectrum of political views, from the slightly left-wing through middlingly left wing to plain bonkers.

I wonder, however, if there is anyone in the science policy community who is more inclined to free market solutions? 

Or is this just a left-wing project?

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Reader Comments (25)

James Wilsdon - Professor of Science and Democracy! Now there's a hybrid to conjure with! What could go wrong?

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Any of them scientists or engineers?

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

It all looks a bit incestuous to me. Science Policy Research Unit and Economics at Sussex (Wilsdon, Mazzucato, Bell), RS Science Policy Centre (Wilsdon, Stilgoe, Bland).

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

One of them promises not to mention Feynman, so not much scientific involvement then. Three are from Sussex. It was a start-up uni in the 60s, full of left-wing nutters then and it appears nothing has changed since.

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

They are the willing dupes of politicians, ready to supply arse-covering 'evidence' to support any policy you like. This feeds in to the 'telling you what to do' proscriptive part of leftism pretty well. It doesn't fit into the 'looking after poor people and helping them to improve their lives' bit except inasmuch as it involves knowing what's best for them and telling them what to do.

There's an element of uni-based empire-building, there's an element of pretending to be important, having 'access' and stalking the corridors of power. But they are left standing in those corridors when the decisions are made in the smoke-free room.

Any decent right-winger would go nuts trying to participate in this ****fest.

I don't have a term for the whole science/policy boondoggle, but for the green elements I suggest Econanism.

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

No-one from UEA?

The Beeb doesn't want to be associated with any more scandals, I guess...

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Sounds like most government advisory positions to me, i.e. your views will be listened to as long as they support the governments policy. So I fully agree with the view:

"They are the willing dupes of politicians, ready to supply arse-covering 'evidence' to support any policy you like"

Feb 13, 2013 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin Crockford

Jack Stilgoe...

...was senior policy adviser at the Royal Society, where he looked after work on the science base, innovation, emerging technologies and public engagement. He is on the editorial board of Public Understanding of Science...

PUS.? They've got all their public engagement ducks lined up, haven't they? People pay money for this kind of expertise?

Feb 13, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Have just read the first post off this blog:

which quotes a another blog:

The main thrust is that too much science has the effect of polarising the politics and giving everyone some evidence to support their views. View I have a certain amount of sympathy for. However it could also be seen as a defeatist position which rather crudely put says that I have my political view and I will just strainght ignore the science either way

Feb 13, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin Crockford

I can't make up my mind whether the title of this post is a nod to Tennyson's 'cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them' or to Stealers wheel's 'clowns to the left of me jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.'

Feb 13, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub


Econanism - very good. I once read an account of an economist sounding off against wanky models. He was so annoyed by his colleagues' gullibility regarding model outputs, that he let it be known that he had created his own model, called ONAN. He was then very surprised to be inundated with requests for access to ONAN from many quarters. Apparently, (he concluded) the level of general knowledge among economists is not very good.

Feb 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaleC

'I recently agreed to be climate change editor at the New Left Project. One of the other editors suggested we ban comments that doubt global warming. We haven't decided yet. I'm still unsure. In some ways this is a valid point: why should we be in the business of publishing views we profoundly disagree with? That doesn't mean we want to censor such voices, we just don't have to go out of our way to make space for them. They can go elsewhere. Some sites might flourish on disagreement, but the entire web doesn't have to be like that....Personally, I'm a fan of blog comments. I always dive below the line, even if I also ignore a lot of what I find there.' Alice Bell

Feb 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

The main thrust is that too much science has the effect of polarising the politics and giving everyone some evidence to support their views. View I have a certain amount of sympathy for.

Well, it becomes irrelevant if you subscribe to the Law of Infinite Cornucopia, thus:

The law of the infinite cornucopia…applies not only to philosophy but to all general theories in the human and social sciences: it states that there is never a shortage of arguments to support any doctrine you want to believe in for whatever reasons.

And it was over 20 years ago since Kolakowski said that -- it must be even more true now.

To my mind, that means that one's stance on climate change is overwhelmingly a cultural and political choice, except for the very top level of physicists, statisticians and economists.

And that excludes virtually all of the Sunday drivers who drive the IPCC report process.

Feb 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

The Guardian is an upper middle class newspaper that represents the interests of the liberal educated upper middle classes. Its two main policy thrusts are corporate multiculturalism and corporate feminism, also known as cheap labour. Both are designed to destroy the power of the working class male. There is nothing left wing about the Guardian.

Recent stories about ATOS and workfare are designed to appeal to the compassion of their readers. To be compassionate, one doesn't have to channel Rosa Luxembourg, one simply has to be familiar with the New Testament. It is that compassion that has been cleverly used against its readers to promote global warming.

The million pound a year chief executive, Carolyn McCall who orchestrated the global warming campaign has moved on to higher things and is now saving the planet as chairman of Easyjet. Petit bourgeois cynicism, not socialism.

Feb 13, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff


"Any of them scientists or engineers?"

My first thought. They wouldn't want to upset their readers with a bit of real scientific enquiry, would they? Although, you have to wonder if the scientific method by-passed them completely, as they must have studied some of it on the way to their 'science and democracy' degrees, surely?

As Daniel Kahneman put it: "smart people are no less prone to cognitive bias than anyone else, but are prone to believing that they are immune to error".

Rhoda +1

Feb 13, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The Grauniad says "introducing our new bloggers".
Of course these bloggers are anything but "new" - it's the usual suspects.
Wilsdon already blogs for the Graun, Nature and the Roy Soc.
Alice has her own blog, appropriately called Through the Looking glass, plus the "New Left Project".
Stilgoe already has his own blog called Responsible Innovation and also writes for the Graun.

Feb 13, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"One of the other editors suggested we ban comments that doubt global warming. We haven't decided yet. I'm still unsure."

So Alice thinks that banning comments from people who dare to question her might be a good idea? If GW is such a certainty, why discuss it at all..?

Feb 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

DaleC Apparently, (he concluded) the level of general knowledge among economists is not very good. We can conclude in particular that they are unfamiliar with the bon mots of Dorothy Parker.

Feb 13, 2013 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Slop

rhoda: "Any decent right-winger would go nuts trying to participate in this ****fest.

I don't have a term for the whole science/policy boondoggle, but for the green elements I suggest Econanism."

Having myself been dragged up in the back streets of Liverpool, I always look for people to look up to and emulate, if only go be accepted by my betters. In the case of rhoda three words describe her to me: formidable, erudite and fragrant. It is therefore with some surprise, not to say disappointment, that I see here use the word ****fest, which for an hour or so I took to mean lovefest, being of a slower mind than most, until I realised she wouldn't have had to * the letters in lovefest. So I tried innumerable four letter words to fit into the ****fest eventually stumbling upon one that fitted when I stubbed my toe on the corner of my desk here. No, I thought to myself, it can't be from a woman who is the epitome of manners and decorum. Then I thought, "Good on you, you've got this one right as well."

Feb 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I just want to add that I dislike these people as much as anyone else round here. I think they are opportunistic, bureaucratic yuppies who will do anything for money.

It is worth noting however that probably the most credible AGW sceptic in the world, Roger Pielke Jr. is a progressive policy analyst who believes in government sponsored research.

Feb 13, 2013 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I chose **** only because I was unable to choose between the four words which presented themselves. Whatever the reader cares to substitute will do.

Feb 13, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Pharos, I was bought up in rural NZ by self-educated parents of fierce intellect who were as about as far as they could have been from the politics of the Left so I understand your point, but Rhoda's contributions here usually chime strongly with me; her use of the * is merely a sharpish sauce that adds flavour to the dish she presents.

Feb 13, 2013 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

There is a left wing project going on around the world to save the Guardian, the once near bust newspaper is now all over the main google news page, in various countries. Somebody is working hard, saving this non profitable green bible.

Feb 13, 2013 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Delingpole pins the big business sponsored Guardian to the wall.

Climategate: George Monbiot, the Guardian and Big Oil

But who is it that sponsors the Guardian?s Environment pages and eco conferences? Why, only that famous non-fossil-fuel company Shell. (Though I notice their logo no longer appears on top of the Guardian?s eco pages: has the Guardian decided the relationship was just too embarrassing to be, er, sustainable?)

And which company has one of the largest carbon trading desks in London, cashing in on industry currently worth around $120 billion ? an industry which could not possibly exist without pan-global governmental CO2 emissions laws ? BP (which stands for British Petroleum)

And how much has Indian steel king Lakshmi Mittal made from carbon credits thanks to Europe?s Emissions Trading Scheme? £1 billion.

And which companies were the CRU scientists revealed cosying up to as early as 2000 in the Climategate emails? There?s a clue in this line here: ?Had a very good meeting with Shell yesterday.?

And how much was Phil Jones, director of the discredited CRU, found to have collected in grants since 1990? £13.7 million ($22.7 million)

Feb 14, 2013 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The comments above suggest not many have actually listened to the audio. I downloaded it and played it onn my MP3 player whilst doing other things.

The introductions took 8 minutes! It was generally a left-of-centre sneering competition, but there were some highlights. Somebody asked about the credibility of peer review, data availability, etc. It was universally agreed that peer review is a joke and that trying to get scientists to share data so they could be checked out, was impossible. Funny, that. Nobody told the Climate Community, or my MP.

Feb 15, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK

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