Friday, 23 September 2011

SNS Director Pathetically Attempting to Roll Over on the Silencing of Controversial Research After Harsh Criticism from Scientific Advisory Board

Over just a few days, the sad affair of the Swedish private enterprise run thinktank-wanting-to-be seen-as-a-serious-research-institution Centre for Business and Policy Studies (SNS) that I posted about just the other day has taken another turn. First, yesterday, the scientific reference group that critically assessed the report of Laura Hartman issued a statement of which it is worth quoting a tasty chunk (in my translation):
 ...It is remarkable that such ambitious societal reforms have been undertaken without a simultaneous development of systems to monitor and evaluate the results of making the production of certain public services occur in a context of market competition. It is a considerable merit of the SNS-report is that it pinpoints these failures in the oversight and systematic evaluation of producers, private as well as public ones.

Then, today, the scientific advisory board of SNS released an unanimous statement harshly recounting the serious faults committed by the SNS management in this affair and demanding that the SNS direction and board immediately take action of three sorts: (1) to issue a statement where they, without qualification, express their support of scientific freedom, (2) express serious and honest regret over the faults committed in the handling of the case in question, and (3) openly commit themselves to promptly develop and make public a transparent and clear policy for to the effect that similar faults are prevented in the future. Of course, the underlying message is, "or we resign our posts", and that would indeed be the irreversible end of SNS.

The same day – today – the managing director of SNS, Anders Vredin, issued a public statement with the headline "I Acted Wrongly" – reported also here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Presumably, this statement is the first step in an attempt to accommodate the demands of the scientific advisory board. However, this attempts not only comes too late to be credible, it reeks of insincerity and unwillingness to recognise what is at stake. The most astonishing formulation runs like this:

Intending to stimulate a broad discussion with no holes barred with regard to the important issues of fact and analyses of the report [...], I did not want to allow Laura Hartman to actively participate in the debate.
He then goes on, in the best spirit of a religious dogmatic leader to profess:
...the decision was based on my own conclusion that there were defects in the SNS-presentation of the report. Defects that I should have noticed much earlier. Thus, the responsibility is mine.
So, in short a broad and unprejudiced debate on a research suggestion is best accomplished by banning the maker of this suggestion to participate in the debate. And when a popular presentation of a research report is faulty, the best remedy is to stop the one actually knowing the content of the report best from voicing her opinion. And the best of all: Anders Vredin "concluded" that the report was defective before said debate had even been conducted.

My – humble – conclusion is this: the ball is now with the scientific advisory board. If SNS can display nothing better that Vredin's pathetic excuse for behaving like a bought and paid for pawn, the scientific advisory board must show its hand. For, in light of Vredin's more than lame response to its call, the question must now be asked where the loyalties of this board lie. Is it with the opportunity to be cuddled by vested interests displaying impressive funding muscles if only you don't rock the boat, or is it with real science and real research?

It's up to you to make the choice.