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September 18, 2002

BRAD DELONG LINKS to a story about stacked scientific panels at HHS. He's right that that's a bad thing. He's wrong, however, to suggest that it's a new thing.

UPDATE: An email from a reader reminds me that I should probably add a link to this post, which points out that NAS gun study panel member Steven Levitt denies that he's anti-gun. You might also want to read this post, this post, and this post for more background. As I suggest in the last post, the NAS panel might turn out to do a fair job, but the inclusion of people like Ben Civiletti -- whose only real credential is as an antigun politician -- makes its posture of scientific detachment dubious.

ANOTHER UPDATE: DeLong's giving me hell for the NRO piece, but rather rudely doesn't link back to this post, which is almost surely where he found it since it's over a year old. That also means that his readers won't know about the updates, above.

Oh, and Mark Kleiman also doesn't link to the post, but does link to the NRO article. Also, he has a rather mean crack about a broken link which suggests to me that he hasn't noticed that the article is over a year old.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kleiman did think that the article was new; he's corrected this and some other errors. Meanwhile Dave Kopel emails that he met the head of the NAS study at an Institute of Medicine conference, and that he (the study head) promised the study would be fair, but said he could understand how the membership and funding source could have caused us to think otherwise. Dave notes that there's a Heisenberg issue here -- was it always going to be fair, or did the criticism it got from us, and from others, encourage them to look more seriously at their approach? I guess we'll never know for sure.

Kleiman and DeLong seem to think that we shouldn't have criticized Levitt, since he's really smart and they think he's fair-minded. Levitt, however, wasn't the point of the piece, and at any rate charges of bias in someone making up a federal study committee that's likely to influence national policy are certainly of public interest. As a former official in the Clinton Administration, surely DeLong isn't arguing that only people's buddies are entitled to discuss questions of whether they might be biased or not. He should know better than that.

I should also note that my various writings about the Kass Council indicate that I'm an equal-opportunity critic where federal study committees are involved.