Tuesday 13 September 2011

Stop Accepting Tax Cash, Stirling, And Your Problem Is Solved

Patsy has highlighted an article by Donna Edmunds at The Commentator which is well worth a read.

It concerns Stirling University's illegal refusal to abide by the Information Commissioner's decision - which I quote here - that they should release data to Philip Morris International.

So desperate are Stirling that, as Edmunds has discovered, they have set up a Facebook group specifically to create the illusion of some upsurge of popular revulsion at the very idea. Sadly, of the first five entries, four are paid to comment since they work in public health, and only one is not from Australia. From that unpromising start, it just goes downhill once the call to action alert drags in vested public sector interests from across the net to spout how outrageous it is that a University should be made to observe the law.

Some of the comments are hilarious:

Elaine Rodger - I was surprised and appalled in equal measure to know that it was even possible to try to use the FOI legislation in this way.
Surprised and appalled that Freedom of Information legislation should make information - paid for by taxes that we, and companies, are forced to hand over - available to those who fund it, so she is. A law doing exactly what it says on the tin? How ridiculous!

Carole Furlong - They shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the data. if they want to do thier (sic) own research on the best way to get young people addicted to a lethal product, they should fund it themselves.
Great idea Carole, love, except that your piercing logic has been somewhat destroyed by ... Stirling University.

[Professor Gerard Hastings, of the uni's Institute for Social Marketing] said: "If Philip Morris ran focus groups asking 14-year-olds what they thought about smoking, there'd be uproar.
Hmm, we'll take that as a non-starter then.

Vicki Snelgrove - [...] if there was an agreement not to share data beyond the study then surely the uni is bound over to their participants...
This is the most wibblingly arrogant of the lot. A University, according to Vicki, is bound more by the people it chooses to canvass than it is by the law of the land. Despite the fact that - in accepting funding - the University would have been well aware of their obligations to satisfy the terms of the FOIA 2000. In fact, it would have been stated categorically in the document they signed before being given the cash. It's a standard clause when dealing with any public sector organisation.

If they want to offer promises to their subjects, perhaps they should have refused the funding in the first place. They quite simply - under the law - can't have both.

Just a quick aside, but doesn't this hint at the increasing sense of independence from accountability that all public health bodies now seem to operate by?

ASH (at least, this time, the English version) slung their oar in too.

Martin Dockrell - Our Government is supposed to be protecting health policy from the tobacco industry lobby machine. Handing over this information is putting our universtities (Freudian sic?) at the service of Britain's biggest killer.
No, Martin. It puts our Universities at the service of those who pay for them. Remember us taxpayers? You know, the poor saps who pay your mortgage - and, indeed, that comment you just wrote on our time - you hideous tax-sponging creep?

Sam Warren - assurances were made to the participants in this study on how their data would be used and this data should NOT be shared.
As above. Such assurances were arrogant, misguided, and illegal.

Claire Valentin - They should read the published research like everybody else. This FOI request clearly has wider implications for anyone doing research, in a number of respects.
Yes it does, Claire. It means that if you want to keep research hidden, pay for it your bloody self.

Becky Freeman - Absolutely not. Sharing confidential research data with an industry that will surely exploit it for its own financial gain cannot be permitted. How could the public ever trust public health researchers again?
You're making a wild assumption that any of us trust you as far as we could throw you, Becky. Of course, I can't throw you very far because you live in Australia, so what the fuck has it to do with you?

Robert West - It takes courage and determination to stand up to this kind of bullying.
Join the club, Robert West of CRUK. It is government legislation which is the 'bully' here. You don't seem too concerned when you use such a thing to your own advantage, do you?

But the best of the lot comes from Australia's undisputed Champion of anti-smoker hatred..

Simon Chapman - The day Stirling should share its data, is the day that the tobacco industry shares its data on how much it now earns from underage smoking and its forward projections on what today's and future generations of child smokers will mean to its bottom line.
I had so much to say about why Philip Morris have no obligation to reveal data in the same way as Stirling University definitely do. Fortunately, Tim Worstall has already articulated it wonderfully on the tangential subject of think tank funding.

I’m entirely happy with entirely voluntary disclosure on such matters: what individuals do with their money is up to them, just as what brand or style of bread you buy is private to you. What the money which has been raised from us at gunpoint gets spent on is rightly a matter of public record.

That Friends of the Earth Europe gets more than 50% of its funding from the EU, funding supplied so that it can lobby the EU, is important information. That Alcohol Concern gains some 90% (these numbers are from memory, do check them at Fake Charities if you wish) of its money from government, that the salt puritans, the smoking bansturbators, are similarly funded is equally important.

And I’ll even make a deal. When Deborah Arnott’s screen and radio appearances, public utterances, are accompanied by a “this wanker is paid for out of your taxes” warning then I’ll make sure that my income, and thus my funding, is similarly disclosed. Until then you’re all cordially invited to fornicate and travel.
And this is the problem Stirling face. Once they accepted tax-funded cash, they were legally obliged to abide by The Freedom of Information Act and, consequentially, the Information Commissioner's decisions. They knew this when they took the money, they will have signed a document to register acceptance of that fact. Stirling registered their objections to the ICO and they were roundly rejected. End of. Game over.

Philip Morris, however, accept only money freely given to them by consumers, so are under no such obligation ... however much Chapman would like to fantasise about it. The difference could not be more stark.

Here's my advice to Stirling University, in Chapman's parlance for easy comprehension.

The day Stirling should be able to hide its data, is the day that they refuse all funding from the taxpayer for all of their activities. That means no more research grants; no more government subsidies; no more tax-funded salaries; nothing. Then, and only then, can they withhold information which is covered by the law.

To quote Martin Dockrell's ASH after the jailing of Nick Hogan.

A spokesman for anti-smoking lobby group ASH said: “The smoking legislation is very clear."
As is Freedom of Information legislation. Rules is rules. Go private and leave our taxes alone, or cough up the info and stop bleating.

Your choice.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Gotta love Aussie half-wit Becky Freeman's comment:

"How could the public ever trust public health researchers again?"

There's nothing like hiding your raw data and breaking the law to keep it concealed to inspire trust, is there?

Anonymous said...

Edward 1st,,Longshanks,he knew how to sort out the bare arsed ,
thistle chewing ,croft dwelling Picts out
These Jock academics need something
sharp and nasty up their frocks.

English Heavy Horse

George Speller said...

I just don't get it - if they refused to give the data to PM what was to stop any of us getting it and handing it on to them? There was no way they could keep a lid on it. Of course I would expect to get a packet of fags in return . . . .

Dick Puddlecote said...

Ah, but George, you wouldn't have lawyers to tell you how to appeal properly. Anti-smokers like to preach to mushrooms (people who are in the dark), they don't enjoy having their religion tested.

Of course, if you were rich and able to fight against their government funding out of your own pocket, they'd just accuse you of being in the pay of tobacco and follow the same sorry charade they always do.

Doesn't alter the fact that they are breaking the law, though. Flapping their arms around and acting all defiant has but one aim. To con some vacant MP into changing the law in their favour.

Evil as sin, so they are.

Anonymous said...

Guess who is signed up to support the university's refusal.
Lesley FriendsoftheDeer Dove


Now we know the type of people that are supportng this cause !!

Eddie Willers said...

Aaaah! Me old mate Marty Dockrell weighs in again - how well I knew him, alas, at the National Asthma Campaign.

I won't insult him - regular readers already have the measure of the 'man' - suffice it to say that he has become ever more sanctimonious over the years.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I remember Lilac Hamster quite well. She was a very horrible and evil online anti-smoking personality to run into. Her mouth was foul and her attitude was hateful, always full of contempt for anyone who did not share her anti-smoking zealotry.

Legislative tit for tat. FOI is turning out to be a wonderful method for extracting truth from the publicly funded anti-smoking industry. Maybe we need FOI requests on all of them, for everything, seeing as they're not actually charities anyhow.

john miller said...

They are hiding behind a false premise.

Data collected for medical research should be blind, that is the anonimity of the donors - in this case, those donating their remarks - is crucial in acheiving unbiased results.

So, if the source of the data is traceable to an identifiable person, it is flawed research and irrelevant.

One concludes, then, that either Stirling have conducted crappy research and are to embarrassed to admit it, or they made the data up.

As for telling the law to get stuffed, well, let's all try that one and good luck to the students who refuse to pay their fees. Try the "Stirling Defence" boys and girls.

Frank said...

The whole thing is flawed. Let's accept anonymity but how then do we prove the veracity of the 'remarks'? how do we know that a particular individual made those remarks? That they weren't simply attributed to them by others? that the whole thing isn't just made up? With anonymity, we can't.

The whole thing is a waste of time and money. We're back to medieval beliefs. It's rubbish, whatever it may say.

handymanphil said...

"Robert West - It takes courage and determination to stand up to this kind of bullying."
Yes Robert it certainly does-especially when you are called Linda Bauld and produce the biggest load of bilge entitled "Evidenced Review" and still maintain that the smoking ban has had no ill effect on businesses! FOI's uncover lies & fabrications-I have a feeling Stirling University has buckets full of them !

Fredrik Eich said...

"Martin Dockrell - Our Government is supposed to be protecting health policy from the tobacco industry lobby machine. Handing over this information is putting our universtities (Freudian sic?) at the service of Britain's biggest killer."

Britain's biggest killer? He must mean old age. Is Martin Dockrell worried about handing over information over to an army of coffin dodgers? I would have thought the Royal Navy would be a bigger concern considering they could wipe out every major city in the UK if they wanted to. Unless he means infection but bugs can't read, so he must mean coffin dodgers. Yes, that must be what he is talking about.

Sam Duncan said...

“good luck to the students who refuse to pay their fees.”

They don't need it. Or rather, they already have it in spades: Scottish students all refuse to pay their fees, with the full support of the government.

WV: “exintic”. What the once world-leading Scottish education system is, as spelled by a Scottish stundent.

Michael J. McFadden said...

"Simon Chapman - The day Stirling should share its data, is the day that the tobacco industry shares its data on how much it now earns from underage smoking and its forward projections on what today's and future generations of child smokers will mean to its bottom line."

I believe the US tobacco industry already did such sharing under the Master Settlement Agreement. If I'm remembering correctly there were 13 separate mentions of the underage market in the 30 million pages of documents found -- and no real evidence of any having been covered up. Might some have been destroyed somehow? Possibly, I'd personally guess even probably. But on the other hand I'm pretty confident you'd find the same thing in the alcohol industry and automotive industry: they know perfectly well that today's 16 year old turns into a viable long-term customer in the future. Should all alcohol and automotive advertising be yanked from the sports world because of that? Might not be a bad idea ... it might free up some of the networks to broadcast something more interesting than overgrown kids chasing balls all over the place.

The engineering of this story in incredible. The tobacco industry IN ITS OWN REQUEST asked (if I'm correct) that any personally identifying data should be removed. I'm amazed they even granted that much since it still leaves the door wide open to fraudulent manufacturing of data. When drug company research is done for approving a new and possibly dangerous drug are THOSE researchers allowed to hide their data from examination?


Anonymous said...

DAMN IT! Have Stirling revealed the data or not!!?

If they have not, then the responsible people should be in jail by now. Where are the midnight magistrates?