Failing to give full advice to the PM

The Herald reports:

A would generate millions in revenue and save lives, the Prime Minister has been told.

The briefing from the Ministry of Health’s chief science advisor Dr John Potter was given at Jacinda Ardern’s request.

Its release to the Herald will intensify debate on the measure. An opponent has labelled the advice “poorly documented” and seemingly misleading.

Potter’s briefing was unequivocal – each of 19 bullet points in the document helped make the case for a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Dr Potter is the Chief Science Advisor of the Ministry of Health. You would assume this means they cover all known literature – even that which doesn’t align with their personal opinion. Science is not meant to be about opinion.

But Eric Crampton points out:

Imagine that you were the Chief Science Adviser for a Ministry.

You need to produce a short briefing note to the new government for some issue in your Ministry’s remit.

Your Ministry had, just a couple weeks earlier, released a comprehensive report on the topic that your Ministry had commissioned from a top economics consultancy. Your Ministry had had the report since August, but had only just released it.

What the hell must be going through your head if your briefing note to the Prime Minister via the office of the government’s Chief Science Adviser presents the opposite conclusion to the commissioned study and doesn’t even mention that the commissioned study exists?!

This is appalling. They just ignored their own comprehensive report because presumably it didn’t align with their personal opinion. This undermines the whole value of having Chief Science Advisers.

Crampton summarises:

if you’ve got a report your Ministry commissioned and you disagree with it, better practice would be to note its existence and why you disagree with it rather than pretend it doesn’t exist. Yeesh.

If I was the Prime Minister I’d be very upset that a Ministry was misleading me by omitting a key report.

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