Last December, the president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, wrote to The Times, saying: “Scientists have a responsibility to work with and correct those who misuse and misrepresent science to support their particular politics or ideologies. We must remain vigilant to ensure that evidence comes before opinion.”
We all have opinions and beliefs. Scientists are not immune to being influenced by them, hence the warning from Sir Paul. This problem is known as “white-hat bias” — where a scientist deliberately or unintentionally selects evidence that supports their opinion. Opinion comes first and the evidence is flawed. Regulation must address real problems and not support prejudice and opinion. So what does this mean for the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG)? It was set up in 2010, when politicians invited relevant stakeholders to produce advice on the potential effects of lead ammunition on wildlife and human health.
The fact that the LAG was even established shows that the evidence for new regulation was not proven. Political theory calls this the “agenda-setting” phase. In the absence of concrete evidence in support of change, stakeholders promote their agendas. It can be the very definition of a grey area. The LAG is reviewing studies and publications and trying to agree what those studies might mean and if definitive advice can be produced.
I have no doubt that those politicians involved in LAG’s establishment believed it would follow a clearly defined, unbiased process, adhering to government guidelines and principles of modern risk assessment and review. The LAG drew criticism early on. At only its second meeting, it agreed to allow “grey evidence” into the process. If you mix the grey areas of opinion-driven agenda-setting with white-hat bias, we will end up with more than 50 shades of grey.
Risks must be defined using sound evidence. Thereafter proposals to address those risks must meet the principles of Better Regulation. Governments of all political colours now accept that over-regulation is a bad thing. To that end, processes have been put in place to protect against the overzealous, the holier-than-thou and the demonising.
Read more at Lead ammunition: wheres the science? - Shooting UK