Monday 21 May 2012

How To Rig The Evidence For A Consultation


We now know the public consultation on plain packaging has been fixed to deliver the result Lansley's crowd are expecting, thereby confirming that Sir Humphreys exist in abundance even in this era of faux transparent government.
"A basic rule of government is ... never set up an inquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be."
The findings of people paid to find exactly what they have been paid to find is one thing. It can be challenged if the bias of those doing the 'finding' is obvious ... which it will be.

However, they would still point to the 'evidence' as being a cast-iron back up for their 'expert' opinion. The problem is that the (pfft) expert evidence is cut of the same cloth.

Here is the document (pdf).

The first thing you might notice if you do a word search on it is that the lead author, Crawford Moodie, is referenced 80 times in all in the review. This is because it is mostly a collection of studies conducted by the people who wrote the bloody thing. Studies either authored or co-authored by fellow lead names Linda Bauld, Ann McNeil, Kathryn Angus and Gerard Hastings, are also quoted as sources of *cough* independent research.

As far as I can see, out of the 37 studies cherry-picked selected by the report's authors, 16 were written or co-written by those who compiled the evidence review on which Lansley's department is relying for information.

If such woeful bias is allowable for something as important as a systematic evidence review, I think I'll have to pitch for my own slice of the easy money. I can find 37 articles saying the whole idea is crap. OK, so 16 were written by me and my mates, but what the hell? It's 'science', innit.

Look a bit deeper and you'll notice even more cliquey manipulation.
The authors would like to thank ... Dave Hammond for his contribution to the development of the protocol.
Yeah, I haven't a scooby what 'development of the protocol' means either, except that it sounds like someone casting their eye over the methodology.

Perhaps that's why Hammond - who is almost certainly going to be one of the aforementioned expert subjective assessors - is mentioned 83 times in the review, with no less than 12 studies by him being cited. What a big head, eh?

Other names you might recognise as source material are renowned impartial 'scientists' Deborah Arnott, Martin Dockrell and Simon Chapman.

The review states that they filtered the studies from a starting list of 4,518 citations. How bad the others must have been to leave just 37 which were predominantly authored by the same people conducting the review can only be guessed at. Scribblings on the back of a fag packet, presumably. Is tobacco control really that bad, or are these people just advancing their one-sided agenda under a cloak of impartiality?

I have my own opinion, but will leave you to decide.

What makes it even worse is that four of the names at the top of the review are quoted as being from the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI). These are meant to be independent reviewers of accuracy and rigour. EPPI is referenced throughout to give a cosy, scrupulous sheen to the pack of lies 'evidence'.

Except that - considering the high level of self-referencing going on - the EPPI's own guidelines have not so much been broken as shattered.
A protocol is one component of an open, consultative approach to undertaking reviews. It is also argued that if the review's methods are defined explicitly at the start of the review, reviewers are less likely to be influenced by, for example, their knowledge of study authors or by study findings.
Knowledge of study authors and findings doesn't get more acute than being the people who wrote them, surely. And I don't believe there is much in the text to say something like "this is a review which we wrote about some of our own work" by way of defining 'explicitly' what is going on here.

Perhaps the EPPI lot were just eating doughnuts and chatting about what they watched at the cinema last weekend while tobacco control's prime tax spongers were concocting over a hundred pages of steaming horse shit. It certainly doesn't appear that they did much examination, but then perhaps that wasn't demanded by gimp Lansley's whip-handlers at the Department of Health.

So, thus far, we have a proposal which wasn't in any manifesto; government shovelling artic-loads of money towards lobbying itself; an evidence review which includes tobacco control referencing their own (already paid for) fantasies; and a set of expert opinions to be taken from the same people who imagined, demanded, got paid for advancing, and submitted biased 'evidence' for, plain packaging of tobacco.

Now, if you can see any involvement of just one member of the public in that democratic process, you're a better man than me, Gunga Din.


philhandyman24-7 said...

Dick, an excellent piece as per but you only have to look back at the "Evidenced Review" by Linda Bauld to see what utter crap they pay each other for to promote what 'they' want. The review was so good that she (Bauld) lost 2/3rds of her bar working subjects yet still concluded she was right, stated yet again that the hospitality sector had suffered no losses & that smoke-free was welcomed by 100% of non smokers and nearly 101% of smokers! Oh, and she never bothered to reply to my 'most pleasant criticism' of her 'pile of steaming horse-shit' :) so i doubt they will turn a hair at regurgitating another dollop of it!

David said...

Any begrudging respect I had for anti tobacco officialdom disappeared years ago. I totally despise them now for their inability to push any health based agenda based on impartial research. It's pathetic - they HAVE to resort to such tactics then brag about their 'expertise' and ''successes', which now amount to no more than having devastating impacts on business and society. They have no integrity. Almost as bad is their reliance on the dumbed down, brain dead, meek MSM and weak, hypocritical governments. 

Jay said...

I'm glad you're writing about all these "impartial and fair studies" as well as the consultation being rigged, because I'm going to send all of your posts to my MP (a Tory who voted for the smoking ban) and demand that he speak out against this farce. He won't, of course. I know that. You know that. But there will be a record of it.  For whatever good that will do...

I think what we need to consider is organising a proper letter-writing / e-mail campaign to send to all of our MPs.  I'm not sure where to start on that, to be honest. It needs to come from individual consumers and not a group. We need to send letters every other day.  The consultation is only part of this issue. We must be more organised and put pressure on those who supposedly represent us.  Secondarily, we need to borrow a page from tobacco control and attempt to install pro-smoking politicians into Parliament -- on the quiet of course. We need people to stand against the nannies come election time.  We should try to help them come up with the £500 fee, if necessary, and to get the necessary electoral recommendations.

Right.  I know it's wishful thinking.  But if only.... you know .... if only we could inspire a few folk... we could get it done.

lleweton said...

Superb analysis Dick. Must have taken a lot of work.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Nice idea,. Jay. Perhaps if Junican is around it might be something for his CSG to take on. :) 

For the Duration said...

Wise up,get real,wakey wakey ,sniff the Nescafe
a million letters would not make one Iota of difference
Westminster dont do listening,deaf to pleas,not interested in anything
not on their pre set agenda,Jack and Jill dont figure.
Shroud  wavers,Notting Hill chattering Gibbons,mealy mouthed Liberals,
trendy gender benders,half baked celebrities,limp wristed hippies and
a motley coven of twisted intelectuals,thats who MPs share their trough
with in their pretence of Democracy,with them they slurp the cess of
disregard for the ordinary,the simpletons on the street.
If you want attention something more eye catching is required
something with a bit of depth


Trooper Thompson said...

A circle-jerk of epic proportions. It's a wonder they don't all keel over with dehydration.

Lysistrata Eleftheria said...

Thanks Dick. That was what I was waiting for. Now I am seriously and steamingly angry.
It's the abuse of science as much as anything. All that money that could have been put into something proper, you know, like research into cancer or dementia or pain relief.
Instead we have a self-referential wank of the rich elite of the anti-smoking industry. Again.
Oh - and Phil is right - the Bauld Review (this was the promised government review of the ban) was a complete travesty with incomplete data.
They don't even need to pretend to be scientists now. They are Gods and the money keeps pouring in to the Anti Tobacco Industry research and to Anti Tobacco public health initiatives.

moonrakin said...

The issue here must be plain to all - we have a bunch of conceited, delusional groupthinking unaccountable gits in the driving seats of our public bodies.

The plain pack alcohol, the climate change, the energy policy, the foreign policy, the economic policy, the transport policy .... the list seems endless - a procession of delusional incompetence populated with self regarding prats who believe themselves untouchable.

In this case - any decision can be challenged post facto.. via judicial review - the problem as I see it is that these so called public servants are excluding authoritative third parties in the required debate - and they are not - repeat, NOT allowed to do that = by law.

It's time to pick up the legal cudgels - The Civil Servant's Code of Conduct is a legally binding arrangement and from what I know of this matter - these gits have ridden roughshod through it's provisions.


Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, I've heard about that code elsewhere before, I'll have to have a good look at it when I get time. ;)

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