No scientists on the ACMD? Blame David Nutt. And all those who kept quiet
Scientists have only themselves to blame for the government's proposal to scrap the requirement that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs contain scientists.
In a dispute over drugs policy a year ago, David Nutt abused his role as a scientific adviser. He got high-profile support from Colin Blakemore. And the rest of the scientific community kept their mouths shut.
I argued in the Lancet, "Nutt has overstated what the science tells us and other scientists have not stepped up to clarify the position. Consequently, science itself has become a passive accomplice in Nutt's campaign, undermining the integrity of science and the goal of evidence-based policy."
And I warned in Research Fortnight, "If every scientific adviser has to be treated as an unexploded bomb, then there can be only one result: fewer scientific advisers."
I'm not unsympathetic to the difficulties of Nutt's position and what he was trying to achieve (see my analysis in Prospect). But there are serious consequences to the decisions made by Nutt, Blakemore and the rest of the scientitfic community last year. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Already I'm seeing a flurry of comment suggesting that this new government is turning away from evidence-based policy. But we need to be more self-critical. If that is what's happening, then scientists have only themselves to blame.