Honest brokering

I thought I might follow up on my previous post, with a brief discussion of an article by Sonia Sodha called [t]he anti-lockdown scientists’ cause would be more persuasive if it weren’t so half-baked. I found it interesting partly because of the furore over the paper we published last week, but also because of the source used to highlight how scientists should engage in public. Sonia Sodha refers to The Honest Broker, a book I discussed in a post last year.

As Sonia Sodha mentions, The Honest Broker sets out a typology of science engagement, with one of the categories being stealth advocates. Stealth advocates are those who hide their advocacy behind a facade of scientific objectivity. Sonia Sodha implies that this applies to those associated with the Great Barrington declaration. If you’re thinking of how one might counter those who promote outlier ideas, what’s presented in The Honest Broker might sound like an appealing narrative. I would like, though, to urge some caution.

In the climate context, the narrative presented by The Honest Broker is not regarded as particularly constructive. For example. accusations of stealth advocacy have more commonly be aimed at mainstream climate scientists who have chosen to speak out, than at those who are promoting mis-information. You can even find the author making this accusation against Realclimate authors in this comment. In case you don’t know, Realclimate is probably one of the most credible climate blogs.

Of course, you might find some useful typologies in The Honest Broker and I’m not suggesting that one should dismiss it entirely. I do think, though, that it’s worth being aware of some of the history when considering if this might be a useful narrative to introduce into another contentious scientific topic.

In a related note, I wanted to end this post by mentioning a new project called EScAPE, which aims to evaluate science advice in a pandemic emergency. The project team includes a number of people familiar to my regulars, and is led by the author of The Honest Broker.

If you’re naive, like I was once, you might think: great, a group of researchers who will help us to better understand how to use science advice to develop effective policy. If you do think this, you’d probably be wrong. Their contributions in the climate context is often regarded (in my experience, at least) as not being wildly constructive, at least if you think that we should be using science advice to develop effective policy.

Some have been vocal critics of consensus messaging. I was also involved in writing a response to one of their papers that misrepresented what was presented in an IPCC press conference. A couple have recently re-litigated Climategate, when stolen emails were taken out of context and blown out of proportion. The leader of EScAPE is also often the source of claims that are then used to argue against climate action.

You may think the above is a little unfair, and maybe it is. I’m mostly suggesting that it may be useful to be aware of some history. I do think there is quite a lot of overlap between what has been happening in the climate context, and what is happening now with coronavirus. There may be a benefit in trying to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

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86 Responses to Honest brokering

  1. In my hedonistic version of the US Declaration of Independence it goes … “the pursuit of Happiness, Liberty and Life” … but I think it needs changing to just … “the pursuit of Happiness and Liberty” …

  2. Steven Mosher says:

    did you notice something about the team?

    Korean member is no slouch

    https://stp.kaist.ac.kr/020102

  3. Steven,
    I hadn’t looked at the bios of all the team members, but I’m sure that are many who are very good.

  4. Steven Mosher says:

    16 women, 8 men
    ~9 POC

    looks quite diverse

    I find 3 of the 24 having crossed swords with you before Roger and 2 others.
    what am I missing in your attempt to poison the well

  5. Steven,
    Yes, very diverse. I’m not sure what you mean by “I find 3 of the 24 having crossed swords with you before Roger and 2 others”. I’m not trying to poison the well, just trying to highlight that there is some history that it might be worth being aware of. You would like to think that those whose work is mainly aimed at critiquing what others are doing, would be open to criticism themselves. You might of course be wrong (partly based on being blocked by one who I’ve never interacted with but who probably did so after me pointing out on Twitter that one might want to consider the work that some have done in the climate context).

    More seriously, though, this is just a blog that people are free to ignore. However, I find myself particularly irritated by researchers who feel that they’re in a position to discuss, or even define, the norms of science, who then don’t appear to practice what they’re preaching.

  6. Nathan says:

    Does ‘The Honest Broker’ declare that he is one of those ‘Stealth advocates… …who hide their advocacy behind a facade of scientific objectivity”?

    Because it does seem like he is doing that…

  7. izen says:

    ‘The Honest Broker’ is a metaphor derived from the field of financial transactions where they are an intermediary who gains a benefit or commission, often from both parties involved in the buying and selling of a commodity/asset.
    How far the metaphor can be stretched to fit those volunteering to translate scientific knowledge into political policy is unclear.
    In finance, the descriptor, ‘Honest’ in front of broker is ironic as it refers to an entity that is almost entirely fictitious.

  8. izen,
    I think Eli has often pointed out that it also misunderstands what brokers are meant to do. They’re not meant to simply lay out all options, they’re typically meant to narrow the options, based on what is available/possible and what the “buyer” wants/needs. He goes into more detail in his honest joker post.

  9. Rather than ‘re-litigating’ old quarrels I would simply point readers towards my paper on Covid-19 science advice, which I would be very happy to discuss! https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00612-w

  10. Warren,
    Thanks. I actually read that a couple of days ago. I thought it made a fair amount of sense, but my one thought was how we can really know if uncertainties were downplayed, or not. Uncertainty analysis is tricky at the best of times.

    I’m also not sure how, in reality, one can separate out the various roles. Do you add another layer of experts who aren’t the knowledge producers but who receive the information and the pass it on to the policy makers. If so, who are they? Will they understand the topic well enough to properly assess the information? What about, instead, encouraging policy makers to be more aware of how science is uncertain? Can’t they try harder to ensure that they get their information from a broad range of experts? I’m not suggesting that this is what we do, but it seems likely that all possible scenarios have strengths and weakness.

  11. Steven Mosher says:

    “In finance, the descriptor, ‘Honest’ in front of broker is ironic as it refers to an entity that is almost entirely fictitious.”

    yes, that attempt to valorize brokering seems a bit much.

  12. Steven Mosher says:

    “First, those directly involved in knowledge production, such as scientific modellers, are keenly aware of the uncertainties in that knowledge. Second, users of said knowledge are likely to perceive less uncertainty, believing, as MacKenzie puts it, ‘what the brochures tell them’. Third, those people alienated from knowledge production and use, or committed to a different technology, will have the highest perception of uncertainty.”

    thanks warren. This comports with my experience (long ago) as a war modeller.

    Within the ranks of modelers we all “knew” the uncertainties in our models.
    WE PUT THEM IN. We had to. We had no idea how effective a weapon that wasn’t built
    would be when deploy. So we made educated guesses. We ran sensitivities, which knob
    was most important. we knew every skeleton we buried. every ‘expert opinion’ we inserted
    every process we parameterized. and we knew the shit we ignored. dont touch that number
    everything blows up if you fiddle with it.

    During a briefing to “knowledge users” we of course could never discuss EVERY uncertainty.
    They had no clue how many guesses we made. We used a “validated” model. which usually
    just meant… “what we always use” or “what the government told us to use” We talked about
    the most sensitive uncertainties, usually only if asked. briefings can only last so long. .
    If you briefed too much nuance or focused too much on the uncertainties, people just
    ignore you, or they tell you to get to the point: is A better than B?

    The most horrible thing was watching “knowledge users” repurpose your materials. Whatever
    verbal caveats you made while speaking were tossed aside. “our best estimate” became
    ‘what models prove” Whatever uncertainties you actually documented were tossed aside
    because the user could never hope to explain them. You could literally watch your boss transform uncertainty into knowledge.. presto chango!

    And yes, there was always an outsider, who was alienated and promoted other technology.

    In my case it was this guy
    http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/54190/watchdog-hits-out-at-f_22-fighter-(mar.-14).html
    https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CRECB-2000-pt7/html/CRECB-2000-pt7-Pg10287-2.htm

    When I presented Riccione was there to challenge me. Why?
    Riccione did not believe in large avionics and long range missiles and stealth.
    His pet idea was building many small aircraft designed for close range
    combat. He was the godfather.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighter_Mafia

    At one point I had spend time every week in his office trying to convince him.
    He was there to make my life miserable. he would never be convinced. It was his
    job not to be.
    RIP Col.

  13. Steven,

    thanks warren. This comports with my experience (long ago) as a war modeller.

    Sure, but its not obvious that putting another group of people into the process will somehow resolve this. It seems to be that this is an unfortunate consequence of human nature. When making decisions we like to think things are more certain than they probably are. We should try to do better, but I’m not sure there is some simple way to deal with this.

  14. I can not wait for the American version of that paper …

    Pleasure at the peak: how uncertainties were overplayed in the US’s non-science advice on Covid-19

    Small Hands and “herd mentality” we must do that one, because it all comes down to so-called “gut feelings.”

    Science ,,, huh … yeah … What is it good for? … Absolutely nothing … Uh ha haa ha …

  15. Dave_Geologist says:

    The irony of the frenzy of players re-litigating March is of course that (not accusing Warren of this or anyone on this thread) most of those involved in the litigation were castigating Ferguson for being an over-pessimistic cry-baby back then and saying we locked down too soon or should not have locked down at all because herd immunity would save us. Some are still saying herd immunity flattened the curve not lockdown, even as second waves roll in here, there and everywhere. Or saying that the order-of-magnitude uncertainty range in some models was and is too wide to be useful in decision-making. And of course the worst will shamelessly segue into “but the uncertainty monster” as a pretext for not acting on the second wave because one estimate of the first wave was out by a factor of two.

    I’ll repeat part of my comment on the previous thread. Fig. 1b of the supplementary material to Have deaths from COVID-19 in Europe plateaued due to herd immunity? shows a strong correlation between deaths before lockdown and deaths in the six weeks after lockdown, i.e. into post peak in most countries. The timing of lockdown during exponential growth of the epidemic is as important as the exponent of the growth function. Deaths before lockdown should be a good proxy for prevalence a few weeks earlier, and assuming exponential growth through that period, for the existing infections baked in at lockdown which lockdown can’t prevent because it doesn’t un-infect people. Leave it a week late when deaths are doubling each week and you’re committed to double the deaths. Doubling twice a week, four times the deaths.

    Why we locked down too late is of course an interesting question, and not just academically as we appear to be sleepwalking into the same mistake as I type. One which I suspect has more to do with politics and economics than with scientific uncertainty. Why the first “Happy Birthday” non-lockdown lockdown before the proper lockdown? Why duelling Cabinet sources briefing against each other? Why decision-making by flying kites in friendly newspapers and watching for the reaction? How much did a desire to wait for the Easter school holidays play into timing, as it appears to be doing re the mid-term holidays? Was the (FT, I think) report right that Ministers and the Nudge Unit thought the public wouldn’t buy into it until after they’d been shocked by TV footage of people dying on trolleys in Lombardy?

  16. Dave_Geologist says:

    As I also mentioned in the previous thread, I think the surge of imported cases carried by mid-term holidaymakers returning from Europe will have contaminated R values based on infection rates or (time-delayed) deaths and calculated assuming organic growth. The organically growing cases which came over in January and early February were swamped numerically by European variants. Genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 spread in Scotland highlights the role of European travel in COVID-19 emergence and Preliminary analysis of SARS-CoV-2 importation & establishment of UK transmission lineages.

    1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 vs. 1, 3, 9, 27, 81, 243, 729 vs. 1, 2, 4+12, 32+24, 112+48, 320, 740 (I’ve assumed the same doubling rate in the holiday destinations so more people in each batch return home infected).

    Once cross-country jitter and smoothing is taken into account it would be hard to tell the second from the third series.

  17. Dave_Geologist says:

    Another point that was less well known at the time was the rate of presymptomatic infection. (I use that rather than asymptomatic because presymptomatic people can be contact-traced retrospectively when they become symptomatic, whereas asymptomatics back then were a complete unknown). ATTP, this maybe belongs in the previous thread, but can you change that in the IC model or does it change organically through the behaviour of the agents once quarantine or isolation comes into force?

    An important point is made by the authors here Reply to: Is presymptomatic spread a major contributor to COVID-19 transmission? (I link to their Reply to a rather misguided discussion of their April paper because they make it more forcefully here, as it was one of the points which had been missed or misunderstood by the commenters). The widely accepted figure of about 50% of transmissions presymptomatic comes from studies of countries which had already locked down and instituted some form of quarantine, hospitalisation or isolation of symptomatic cases: they should only have been able to infect household members or treating medical staff.

    Allow us to re-emphasize what we had fully acknowledged previously, that our estimated infectiousness profile was obtained “in settings with substantial household clustering, active case finding and quarantine outside the home”. Such interventions would have a stronger effect of reducing transmission after symptom onset, thus shifting the infectiousness profile distribution towards the presymptomatic period.

    Half seems counter-intuitively high for a respiratory disease where one of the main symptoms is a persistent cough. When modelling a pre-lockdown period and especially a pre-isolation period or a time when symptom definition was less clear and we were in the midst of the cold/flu season, you should probably assume a much smaller percentage of transmission was presymptomatic because there was a lot more unknowingly symptomatic transmission. That would impact the trade-off been different NPIs like closing schools, shops and workplaces vs. aggressive test-and-trace and isolation.

  18. Ben McMillan says:

    What gets me is that (especially non-automated) test-and-trace and isolation are only going to work if there are a small number of cases, and the smaller, the better it works.

    I’m having a hard time imagining a situation where you have a small enough number of cases that test-trace-isolate helps much and the optimal approach isn’t to make the number of cases even smaller… at some point, the easiest way to keep things in check is to go for zero cases, and do the work at the border.

  19. Ben,
    My understanding is that the idea behind these circuit breakers is to get the number of cases down low enough that test-trace-isolate can start to be effective. It may well be challenging, but it’s hard to see it’s somehow going to be more disruptive/expensive than some of the other options.

  20. Ben McMillan says:

    ATTP: I’m pretty sure the pressing concern is actually preventing the UK healthcare system from being overwhelmed (again). At this point I don’t think long term strategy influences decisions much: you must be more optimistic than I am.

    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/healthcare

    If we assume for the moment a competently administered nation, with a long-term strategy, then I agree that TTI is an excellent option. That forces you into a low-infection (or zero-infection) regime, though, which is effectively the ‘buying time’ approach. It would be decades before everyone was infected.

  21. Ben,
    Yes, I think you’re probably right that the reason the government is imposing new interventions is to protect the healthcare system. I was more suggesting that those arguing for circuit breakers (as opposed to those suggesting we head for herd immunity) is so that we can get the cases down to a level where test-trace-isolate could be effective. You’re probably correct, though, the government is probably not thinking quite this strategically/long-term.

  22. dave s says:

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même, Josie, as Francie might have said.

    In the naughty satire of Beyond the Fringe in1960, Peter Cook did an impression of then PM Harold MacMillan outlining a meeting with President John F. Kennedy:
    “we talked of many things, including Great Britain’s position in the world as a kind of honest broker. I agreed with him when he said no nation could be more honest, and he agreed with me when I chaffed him and said no nation could be broker” …

    Were we ever honest?
    We certainly seem to be broker, at least when it comes to properly funding the NHS.

  23. Dave_Geologist says:

    In my little thought experiment above:

    Series 1: y = 0.5 exp(0.7x) [R2 = 1]

    Series 2: y = 0.33 exp(1.10x) [R2 = 1]

    Series 3: y = 0.35 exp(1.15x) [R2 = 0.97]

    Not much difference between Series 2 and Series 3, even without adding noise.

  24. Steven Mosher says:

    “What gets me is that (especially non-automated) test-and-trace and isolation are only going to work if there are a small number of cases, and the smaller, the better it works.”

    Just the POV from Korea.

    There are two numbers they seem to worry about.

    1. Over running the ICU
    2 Over running the tracers.

    I have not seen stats on the “contacts per case or the cases per tracer.

    I would hope that Singapore and Korea would share these operational stats with folks

    so people could size the systems they need, I know in Singapore they have hours to file
    their first report of contacts

  25. dave s says:

    “There are two numbers they seem to worry about.

    1. Over running the ICU
    2 Over running the tracers.”

    The UK government quickly decided that (after its years of “austerity” defunding local government health protection) organising the tracers should be contracted out to Deloitte, so that the usual private enterprise “efficiency” could be shown by Serco and the like.

    Result: Under running the tracers.

    As of last week, the government’s Sage scientific advisers have concluded NHS test and trace is not working. – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/13/what-has-gone-wrong-with-englands-covid-test-and-trace-system

    Too few people are getting tested, results are coming back too slowly and not enough people are sticking to the instructions to isolate, they say.

    The system “is having a marginal impact on transmission”, as a result, and unless it grows as fast as the epidemic that impact will only wane.

  26. Ben McMillan says:

    Victoria, Australia at least has a time series of cases and tracing status:

    https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-coronavirus-covid-19-data

    Tracing was generally pretty successful, at least in terms of determining chains of transmission, if not breaking them. Levels in infection recently were likely higher than UK levels in July, so in principle an effective test-trace-isolate system should have been possible.

  27. Steven Mosher says:

    “Tracing was generally pretty successful, at least in terms of determining chains of transmission, if not breaking them. Levels in infection recently were likely higher than UK levels in July, so in principle an effective test-trace-isolate system should have been possible.”

    Nice

    In the beginning in Korea, it was easy to follow

    ‘The 8th case has 72 contacts, three of which are Patient Under Investigation(PUIs) with two confirmed cases and one currently being tested. Other contacts are in self-quarantine. The 8th case is an acquaintance of the 7th case, and they sat next to each other on the flight returning to Korea. Epidemiological investigation on the passengers and flight attendants are underway. She went to health facility, restaurant, and supermarket after having the symptoms, and the environmental disinfection on them is currently being conducted.”

    “The 16th case, a 42-year-old Korean female, has 362 contacts. Two of them, her family members, were confirmed (#18 and #22 confirmed cases), and other contacts are closely monitored. The hospital staff, in-patients and their families or care-givers, staying at the hospital on the day the case visited, were all tested regardless of whether they had in contact with the case. No one was confirmed positive, but people who contacted the case are currently in isolation. Depending on the onset of symptoms, they will be tested again.”

    human rights issues addressed here.
    excellent discussion and resources
    https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJPCC-07-2020-0081/full/html

    ” In Korea, the KCDC can request data from 27 organisations to map the times, locations and movements of individuals infected with the virus if traditional contact-tracing is insufficient.”
    “When there is a larger outbreak, such as in the Itaewon district, the KCDC was able to identify and contact individuals because they provided their details before entering bars and nightclubs. They also worked with telecommunication companies to identify who was in the district that weekend, resulting in 45,000 people being tested (Woodward, 2020). While cumbersome and resource-intensive, this approach ensured the control of this potentially huge outbreak.”

    “Digital contact-tracing has been used for approximately 35% of all cases in Korea (or 4,000 citizens) [8]. In a recent survey, most Korean citizens said that they prefer the protection of the public good over individual rights (Zastrow, 2020). Approximately, 80% of Koreans said that they would accept some privacy infringements to fight the epidemic (Pietrewicz, 2020). This would still leave several individuals who would not consent to its use.”

    ““The transparency with which the government has adapted its surveillance practices inspired public trust in an endeavour that would otherwise have aroused suspicion” (Jo, 2020). Despite the favourable views from the general public, it does not mean that the government has not and should not, care about privacy. For example, the NHRC recommended stronger privacy protection for individuals by “aggregating all patients’ footprints over time and redacting individual-specific information on age and gender” (Jo, 2020). The KCDC incorporated these insights and updated its guidelines in less than a week, with three main changes (14th March):

    “These regulations only permit limited access to data when responding to events such as the Covid-19 outbreak. The KCDC has exclusive access to this data, but it has to request it from the police and it is not available after the outbreak. Digital contact-tracing must be used for the sole purpose it was created: the identification of Covid-19 cases and the control of the epidemic.”

    “However, it must be made clear that digital contact-tracing needs to be combined with efficient traditional contact-tracing to fulfil its effectiveness (Cohen et al., 2020). The KCDC uses traditional contact-tracing and implements digital contact-tracing when it is fundamentally necessary. Traditional contact-tracing allows for identifying when digital contact-tracing should be implemented and avoids issues around solely automating all contact-tracing responses. Essentially, digital contact-tracing is implemented when traditional contact-tracing is insufficient.”

    singapore is kinda cool

    where you there?
    https://wereyouthere.safeentry.gov.sg/

    I think Singapore also turned the military into tracers.

    I imagine when this thing is over many governments will have a look at their emergency preparedness

  28. Susan Anderson says:

    Seriously OT, except that I’d say this is truly honest (unbrokered? unbroken?). I just have to share it because I think it is powerful and it lifted me today.

  29. izen says:

    @-SM
    “In a recent survey, most Korean citizens said that they prefer the protection of the public good over individual rights”

    Thanks for the insight into how S Korea and Singapore have run TTI systems to effectively control the spread and keep their excess death rate an order of magnitude smaller than Europe and the US have managed.

    Meanwhile in the UK there are raised voices to go for herd immunity because it would allow business to open up and be less economically damaging than a lockdown. They point to Brazil (!) as an example of a Nation that has a reducing infection rate because herd immunity is allegedly kicking in.

    But this is the promotion of the ‘public good’, or at least the economy over individual rights. The individual right not to be at a much higher risk of death or morbidity.

    The way the question is posed over public good versus individual rights implies a conflict or trade-off between the two principles. In reality TTI is the best way of maximising BOTH factors. The risk of infection is minimised and businesses, or the public good, can be maintained at a far higher level than in lockdowns or tiers of restrictions on the individuals and the economy.

    Given the obvious effectiveness of TTI in those Nations that applied it well it is puzzling why so many ‘advanced’ western societies have failed to pursue it. The excuse that it infringes individual privacy looks ridiculous given the close monitoring most Nations apply to their citizens/subjects. Whether it is electoral rolls, driving licence, tax returns, utility bills, school attendance, welfare systems, …
    It should be obvious that TTI is much less of an imposition on individual liberties than lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions on travel and meetings. Is it just a matter of cost, or political expediency to avoid a difficult and inconvenient policy ?

  30. Ben McMillan says:

    UK spending on test-trace is huge:

    https://www.ft.com/content/5dc5184e-0f6c-47db-a730-d173539c2d36

    There is money and political will, but it is generally considered to be a shambles as Dave S was pointing out.

    Even if it were working, things like online-only universities would plausibly make a bigger difference.

  31. Ben McMillan says:

    Hmm, not sure the Financial times link will work, but estimate is £12 billion on test-and-trace this year, ‘comparable to what the government spends on nursery and university education’

  32. Susan Anderson says:

    re herd immunity, that’s the latest push from our horrible leadership and their tame doctor. And we in the US are getting it bad.
    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-embraces-idea-herd-immunity-fauci-calls-concept/story?id=73634243

    President Donald Trump has in recent weeks increasingly aligned himself with ideas espoused by scientists pushing “herd immunity” to combat the novel coronavirus, a concept lambasted by public health experts as “dangerous” and called “ridiculous” by the federal government’s foremost infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
    ….
    And since his own bout with the virus, Trump has made claims about his own supposed “immunity” standard campaign speech fare. “I’m immune and I can’t give it to you,” he boasted Wednesday” — even though scientists do not fully understand how strong immunity may be or how long it might last.

    Shambolic vs. evil, not much of a choice. It seems to me Dominic Cummings is only slightly more presentable than Roger Stone. Just reading about Hannah Arendt and Eichmann in a lovely little tome, Nigel Warburton’s A Little History of Philosophy about “something far more common but equally dangerous: an unthinking man.” I do appreciate writers who make it easy to read, rather than loading their texts with pollysyllabic bits of professional jargon.

    This ties back to the “honest broker” material, sort of. Pielke Jr. and Lomborg have found a road to success, whether it’s from amorality or a road to fame in fortune doesn’t matter much, since it’s equally dangerous.

  33. Ben,
    £12 billion is certainly a lot, but if it could allow us to open up the economy even more than we have, then it may well be money well spent.

    Susan,
    Yes, as you can tell, I’m not a fan of the “honest broker” narrative. The idea that the honest approach is to provide policy alternatives seems to miss the point that a key aspect of providing relevant information is that is closes down options. It won’t close it down completely (there will still be a range of options) but it should eliminate those options that we would reasonably regard as unacceptable.

  34. Joshua says:

    >  I’m not a fan of the “honest broker” narrativ

    By implication, that narrative is inherently an attack. The implication is obviously that someone else is a “dishonest” broker.

    I’m going to invent a new fallacy: appeal to tribalism.

  35. Joshua,
    I think I made that basic point in the post I wrote about The Honest Broker. Even though the book does say that scientists can plays different roles, by calling one of them “The Honest Broker”, it’s clearly implying (or will be interpreted as implying) that the other roles are less than honest.

  36. izen says:

    @-Ben McM
    “There is money and political will, but it is generally considered to be a shambles”

    There is certainly money, the UK has spent more proportionately than most European countries for its PPE and track and trace.
    There is little evidence this represents a political will to benefit the general public or the healthcare system by providing rapid test results and protection for nurses and doctors. Several of the private businesses that got no-bid contracts to provide these services have failed to deliver usable PPE or effective track and trace.

    While this is a shambles for the public and the health service, by excluding the hospital system from testing and avoiding the usual providers of health services and products the government has very efficiently transferred these large sums of money to private enterprise that is often linked to the conservative party at least a significant donors, and in some cases as companies with party members as investors, directors, and beneficiaries of these businesses. The UK response to the need for PPE and track and trace has bypassed the public organisations that would have dealt with this in the past in favour of ‘honest brokers’.

    https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/politics/how-the-tories-normalised-corruption-report/14/10/

    “Andrew Mills of the microbusiness Prospermill advised the government’s Board of Trade. He also advised the finance firm Ayanda Capital, which is allegedly owned by a Mauritius-based tax-haven, Milo Investments. Prospermill had no PPE procurement experience, yet in April it registered on the Govt. Portal as a preferred PPE supplier. A lawsuit alleges that Prospermill sought financing from Ayanda Capital and that Mills allegedly requested that the government award an untendered contract to Ayanda to supply the Department of Health and Social Care with £252 million-worth of PPE, including FFP2 and IIR masks for frontline NHS workers.

    In early-May, mask guidelines were downgraded to allow FFP2 usage in what the government describes as “a pragmatic approach for times of severe shortage of respiratory protective equipment.” However, in August the government confirmed that 50 million of the FFP2 masks provided by Ayanda-Prospermill, would not be used because they potentially fall below safety standards; a claim strenuously denied by Ayanda. The 150 million IIR masks were delivered, but by August had still not been distributed.

    If the government had issued contracts to experienced suppliers, this would not have happened and NHS staff would have been protected. By September, the UK had the third highest health worker death-rate in the world (649 people) after Mexico and the US: a worse record than Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa.

  37. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Sure. And then, when people push back in a tribal fashion you can follow up by describing your attackers as stealth advocates who are politicizing the science. It’s a very foreseeable and predictable pattern.

    As long as I’ve been observing all of this, I’m not sure I can think of successful examples of people pushing through a process of trading gambits, to a process of engaging in quality dialog across different viewpoints. Except maybe in some policy development areas where a deliberate process of participatory democracy/stakeholder dialog where employed very explicitly.

    But maybe I’m biased on that? Kahan (who has disappeared in a weird way, BTW, if anyone knows what’s happened to him please let me me know) points to successful negotiations around sea level rise in Florida, where policies were developed by basically circumventing the hot button of “climate change.” Even if true, I’m not sure exactly how it’d be practical to scale up that approach more broadly, particularly when issues have already become polarized. But neither does participatory democracy/stakeholder dialog seem very practical when so much engery is directed towards tribal engagement.

    I’ve been thinking lately about how the two-party structure in the US might be a contributing factor. We used to be just as divided but there was more diversity within political parties and that better enabled policy implementation. Now political partisan polarization dominates and infects basically all policy development, and I think the “science” framing people attach to climate change is actually more of a confounding variable than something explanatory.

    Not sure how that theory plays out in the UK, but it might hold for looking at the more functional governments in Nordic countries.

  38. Ben McMillan says:

    I think that everyone agrees that test-trace-isolate, when done right, is potentially quite effective, has worked in various places, and is worth spending money on.

    But the actually-existing system in the UK is another thing. It’s a bit like building high speed rail: in principle I’m very much in favour, but you could replace the whole electrical generation fleet for the cost of HS2.

  39. Ben,
    Indeed, something can be a great idea in theory and difficult to implement in practice.

    Joshua,
    I think about this a bit myself. It feels like it has to do with trust. If you think others are engaging in good faith, then you becomemore willing to comprise and to acknowledge the strengths of other peoples’s arguments. If not, it all becomes about defending your position. A two party system probably doesn’t help, because any acknowledgement of a weakness in your own position provides ammunition for those who support the other position. There’s no nuance.

  40. Willard says:

    If we assume that dishonesty is attributed to persons, then appealing to some ideal honest broker is an ad hominem just like any other. Its indirection also contains what I think is called compliance gaining behavior:

    Compliance gaining occurs whenever a person intentionally induces another person to do something that they might have not done otherwise.Compliance gaining and persuasion are related; however, they are not one and the same. Changes in attitudes and beliefs are often the goal in persuasion; compliance gaining seeks to change the behavior of a target. It is not necessary to change a person’s attitude or beliefs to gain compliance. For instance, an automobile driver might have positive attitudes towards driving fast. The threat of a speeding ticket from a police officer positioned in a speed trap may gain compliance from the driver. Conversely, persuading someone to change their attitude or belief will not necessarily gain compliance. A doctor might tell a patient that tobacco use poses a serious threat to a smoker’s health. The patient may accept this as a fact and view smoking negatively, but might also continue to use tobacco.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compliance_gaining

    After all these years, it’s not that hard to understand how Junior’s framing works. His dad’s ideas were considered fringe. One way to mainstream them is to stretch the limits of scientific acceptability. By casting the IPCC as an honest broker, Junior can then induce that it needs to mainstream Senior’s ideas. (Perhaps also his own favorite policy options, but it’s unclear how Junior’s positions matter much for his usual concerns.) Otherwise the IPCC would be dishonest, or committing stealth advocacy.

    Altercasting is not always a bad thing. It is part of every normative endeavour. But to altercast the IPCC in a role it can’t fulfill (i.e. it’s not the Yellow Pages of scientific hawt takes) may not be the most honorable thing in the ClimateBall world.

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    “Thanks for the insight into how S Korea and Singapore have run TTI systems to effectively control the spread and keep their excess death rate an order of magnitude smaller than Europe and the US have managed.”

    There is something more.

    As best I can observe here is what Korea has done.
    I call it empirically driven containment

    There has been no “lockdown” (horrible term) instead there has been an empirically
    driven transparent containment.

    Tracing Identified churches as a source of clusters.
    Churches are targeted specifically with an escalating series of measures
    so they are asked to limit/change their behavior, then if outbreak continues
    then they are ordered to comply, then if they violate they are sued for the medical expense
    of other
    Gyms were handled differently, asked to wear masks, then the minute a cluster is recorded
    they are ordered to, and have indoor capacity limited.
    Internet cafes, coffee shops, etc. None are limited, masks are suggested, once you get a cluster
    boom, rule changes and escalates.
    This venue by venue approach leads to some interesting things
    Korea has a famous (notorious) “room salon” where Korean businessmen hang
    out with pretty girls ( and Uber execs haha, huge scandal) these rooms
    have never been restricted. They are basically crowded VIP bars. Why no restrictions?
    no cases.
    Nightclubs on the other hand went through a series of increasing measures
    A) ask people to wear masks and SIGN in.
    B) cluster breaks out, and they found that people gave fake IDS
    C) new measure, electronic records of entry.

    Restaurants is similar. no restrictions, then a cluster hit, now we have to sign in (written form)
    to eat out. This will be in force until someone gives a fake phone number ( Korea has a national ID )

    Same at the hospital. There were clusters. now when I go I have to sign in, get a temperature check.
    They trust that I give the right phone number.

    So after all this tracking they have the following
    1. A list of specific venue types that are known to cause problems. The PUBLIC
    knows this. The public knows that Gyms are a problem, dance studios are not.
    The public knows that PC cafes are a problem, dentist offices are not. They
    know that parks are safer than sales meetings
    2. There is no restriction by numbers groups of 25? or is 6? or 10? or 50?
    none of that nonsense ( I suspect people are pulling numbers out of their ass for this)
    measures are applied in an escalating fashion to SPECIFIC venue types that have
    an empirical record of issues ( I think there are something like 13 types of venues/events)
    3. Restriction by activity: We had clusters springing from large sales meetings
    Customers invited to large sales presentations. bang, that specific activity gets addressed.

    keys
    A) empirical knowledge of specific issues
    B) Public sharing of the facts
    C) Huge public trust and good compliance
    D) escalating and TARGETED measures that end with ultimate sanctions:
    they will MAKE YOU PAY for infecting others if you don’t comply

  42. An honest broker is one wiling to forgo a long or short commission if the only honest advice he can give a client is:

    “Don’t trade.”

  43. Steven Mosher says:

    “The way the question is posed over public good versus individual rights implies a conflict or trade-off between the two principles. In reality TTI is the best way of maximising BOTH factors. The risk of infection is minimised and businesses, or the public good, can be maintained at a far higher level than in lockdowns or tiers of restrictions on the individuals and the economy.

    Given the obvious effectiveness of TTI in those Nations that applied it well it is puzzling why so many ‘advanced’ western societies have failed to pursue it. The excuse that it infringes individual privacy looks ridiculous given the close monitoring most Nations apply to their citizens/subjects. Whether it is electoral rolls, driving licence, tax returns, utility bills, school attendance, welfare systems,”

    I also find it super puzzling.

    facebook tracks my friends family and co workers. So does linked in.
    do I care? Nope, signing up for this shit means I DONT CARE
    I don’t know about you but If I test positive the first thing I would do
    is tell the tracer to get my FB data and Linked in data.
    here are my friends, here’s my co workers, here’s my family, oh, here is my
    apartment building, please please alert them.
    A) I want them to know I am sick, this is real
    B) I want them to take whatever precaution they see fit

    The credit card companies know the places I visit, every fucking hotel chain on
    the planet knows I travel, the banks know, youtube knows, they all follow me everywhere
    ( not into the bathroom obviously) If I wanted to do something sketchy I would turn off
    my USA phone. Jesus. So If I caught a case of course I would dump my credit card
    purchase locations to the contact tracer: lets see.. grocery stores, restaurants, dentist,
    hospital, 7-11, etc. It’s not like you use your credit card at illegal places.

    So, I am personal freedom and privacy proponent. However, there isn’t a trade off here
    as you note. Accepting temporary
    minimal intrusions on my freedom and privacy is not an issue, especially since the data in question is already widely shared with the government and business.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    back to honest brokering

    “Science arbitration and honest brokering of policy alternatives are best done by committee, ideally, by legitimate, authoritative bodies which are well-connected to policy makers”

    if we drop the word “honest’ i dont see much of an issue with these two modes.

    Committees of science experts arbitrate the science. kinda like meta-analysis by committee
    Committees of policy experts detail the policy options.

    I see no issue with this. I see the division of labor.
    scientists arbitrate the science, they don’t detail or promote policy
    policy experts present policy options, they don’t debate the science.

    Hint, Roger ain’t an honest broker, not because he’s not honest, but rather because
    he tries to arbitrate the science

    real brokers don’t build buildings. they offer the customer a range of buildings to buy.
    if they are honest they have no interests in construction. they peddle options
    they only get paid if there are options.

  45. izen says:

    @-SM
    “I also find it super puzzling.”

    I think the puzzle can be solved by blaming Neo-liberalism.
    The UK provides an obvious example. The prevailing zeitgeist, at least on the right, is that small, minimal, or no government is best. That any service or product is produced more efficiently by applying the motivations of private enterprise, while State/government provision is always inefficient and somehow far more of a threat to individual liberty, freedom and privacy than if the same product or service is provided by a business.

    The US also shows that attitude, that people should only receive wages for doing something if it is part of a process that generates a profit for the company/stockholders/CEOs. It is what seems to be behind the opposition to furlough, or wage replacement with a stimulus payment.

    It is also why the idea of universal basic income is so strongly resisted in some quarters. Any process where people get paid without generating a profit for otters is seen as culturally illegitimate.

    And so the task of testing, tracking and tracing is NOT given to the existing National health service pathology labs, local government and existing welfare/tax systems, it is granted without tender or bidding to favoured entities in the commercial sector.
    Because nothing should be done unless it makes a profit within the free enterprise system.

  46. Dave_Geologist says:

    Re herd immunity Susan: some timely research on common-cold coronaviruses. Seasonal coronavirus protective immunity is short-lasting. TL;DR: as short as 6 months, more commonly 12 months. IMO for the duration of one cold/flu season, gone by the next one, as 12 months is probably the next re-infection opportunity after the summer.

    For practical reasons they chose a marker which identifies which of the four major cold coronavirus strains the re-infection was, only counting it as a re-infection if it was the same one, and not the full-genome testing required to identify sub-strains as was done for the UK genomic studies I linked to above.

    And just on time, about six months after the first wave, re-infections are popping up all over the place (this is a stricter definition, only a re-infection if it’s a different sub-strain from the original infection). Of course from the POV of the Covid patient or for herd immunity, it doesn’t matter which sub-strain it was. Some re-infections were less severe than the original infection, some worse. At least one was asymptomatic but had virus in his airways so was presumably an unknowing carrier.

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    Don’t know how authoritative this is: COVID-19 reinfection tracker. A Dutch news agency which feeds MSNBC among others. It has links to individual cases, some scientific papers or MSS., some news reports or pers. comms. Although the header is dated August it clearly has more recent updates.

    CASES 24, DEATHS 1, RECOVERED 23, AVERAGE INTERVAL 73 days.

    At least one person has died of a re-infection (there’s a link from the BNO News website to an MS. but I tracked down the official OUP accepted manuscript) Reinfection of SARS-CoV-2 in an immunocompromised patient: a case report. She was re-infected with a different strain after a couple of months. She was 89 years old and on chemotherapy so immuno-compromised by the standards of the wider population. But she’s exactly the sort of person the herd immunity crowd tell us we can successfully protect.

    Commentary I’ve seen says that antibodies hang around for about four months typically, roughly in line with other coronaviruses, and these early re-infections are probably exceptional. Still, not the herd immunity behaviour advertised. Not by a long shot.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    izen

    they just published this for other countries

    https://is.cdc.go.kr/upload_comm/syview/doc.html?fn=160276224199800.pdf&rs=/upload_comm/docu/0030/

    Key values

    Openness: open borders
    Transparency: open data
    Innovation: focus on innovation
    Civic Engagement: open engagement with the citizens

    so ya I’m a fan boy

  49. jacksmith4tx says:

    Bravo! Salute! Korea!
    I will spread the word. Doing this right is 100X better than what the US is (still) doing.

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    you enviro wackos will like that they took the opportunity to launch a Green New deal.
    yes they stole the name.

  51. Ben McMillan says:

    Description of the German approach:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/19/germany-covid-second-wave-virus

    UK cases are now a factor of 10 higher that the limit where the Germans think contact tracing is feasible (and much worse, of course, in the badly affected areas).

  52. Willard says:

    > if we drop the word “honest’ i dont see much of an issue with these two modes.

    One TL;DR from an earlier thread on Junior’s model was:

    There’s no need to conflate the roles to recognize that roles are not actions but social attributes, and that many roles carry similar actions. To segregate roles by actions without any care for symmetry leaves us with an idealized model that does not do its conceptual job. There are ways to salvage it. So much the worse if it comes at the expense of anyone’s branding.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/estragon-and-the-expert/#comment-158275

    Scientists can (do pure) research, advocate, arbitrate, and adjudicate. They can switch between modes without any problem. Sometimes they even do it in the same paper. Most if not all scientific papers contain the four modes that Junior idealizes with his quadrants. That has nothing to do with any conception of democracy.

    In a more recent context, appealing to brokering [could be compared to] a purity test. It appeals to an ideal we hold of the scientist as an objective and impartial judge. It is on par with Judy’s recurring appeal to INTEGRITY ™. The main difference between Junior’s and Judy’s trick is that Junior used it for positive altercasting, while Judy used hers for negative altercasting.

  53. izen says:

    @-SM
    “real brokers don’t build buildings. they offer the customer a range of buildings to buy.”

    They are part of the rentier class who make or build nothing, but profit from the ability to provide a seller of an asset with willing consumers. Often they are paid both by the constructor and the buyer for their ‘service’.
    I still think this model is completely inappropriate as a model for a system that can inform policy choices that are derived from scientific knowledge. The two processes differ at such a fundamental level that suggesting one can be applied to the other is like claiming there could be a broker who can translate architecture into ballet.

    @-“if they are honest they have no interests in construction. they peddle options
    they only get paid if there are options.”

    As ATTP has pointed out in the context of providing option, in the field of policy the job is not to provide MORE options but the eliminate the ones that are wrong, sub-optimal, and identify the best.

    I have noticed that there is a revealing communality in the response to both the science of Climate Change and the science of COVID. Those that find the policy implications of the best science inconvenient, perhaps because it would interfere with BAU, seek out ‘honest brokers’ that can provide an alternative option that negates the science.

    The most common alternative, seen repeatedly in responses, is the assertion that the policy options that best respond to both AGW and COVID are ‘actually’ part of a covert program to impose greater government control and extract larger taxes from the population. Often both are claimed to be part of a conspiracy to establish a global government, or at least regulatory system.
    There are an uncomfortable number of ‘honest brokers’ that are only too willing to get paid for peddling the option that COVID and AGW are a front for an ideological coup by the left. And a depressingly large number of people who are eager to buy into this narrative.

  54. David B Benson says:

    izen — In the USA
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_estate_broker
    although arrangements vary country by country.

  55. Steven Mosher says:

    “As ATTP has pointed out in the context of providing option, in the field of policy the job is not to provide MORE options but the eliminate the ones that are wrong, sub-optimal, and identify the best.”

    no. as a part time broker my job is not to pre judge options. but there is of course some selection bias.

    “best “implies i know all the buyers values.
    i may have an idea.

    lets take nuclear. a good broker may think its wrong, but you present it with pros and cons
    you dont weigh the pros and cons and decide not to present it.

    of course options never end like audits
    so there is a stopping rule.

  56. Steven Mosher says:

    also, you can present all sorts of wrong options to highlight the better ones.
    jesus.

    speed brakes on the yf23
    we offered 17.
    the more the better.
    some were dead wrong.
    including them for completeness and
    differential decusion making.

    i think you guys never did decision support

  57. Steven Mosher says:

    as for offering wrong options the science does this when it calculates the do nothing optiion

  58. Steven,

    lets take nuclear. a good broker may think its wrong, but you present it with pros and cons
    you dont weigh the pros and cons and decide not to present it.

    Yes, and I agree that a good broker shouldn’t be swayed by their own opinion. However, they should still narrow the options, even if this means there is still more than one possible option.

  59. izen says:

    @-SM
    “lets take nuclear. a good broker may think its wrong, but you present it with pros and cons
    you dont weigh the pros and cons and decide not to present it.”

    That really doesn’t work for issues like COVID.
    In your scenario an advisor would present the option of mask wearing and social distancing.
    Presenting other options that don’t include these actions would be misleading at best, and fatal at worst.

    Presenting the option that the pandemic is actually a minor problem that is exaggerated by some conspiracy to impose more control, or enable a left-wing coup is definitely sub-optimal.

    Is there an option OTHER than cutting CO2 emissions that can be put forward as a rational policy response to AGW?

  60. izen says:

    @-SM
    ““best “implies i know all the buyers values.”

    That only makes sense if the ‘buyers’ values are relevant to the options.
    The options to deal with COVID and AGW are independent of the values of the buyer.
    Unless the buyer wants to die, or wants the environment to deteriorate.

  61. Ben McMillan says:

    Historically, at lot of the most striking interventions in the public policy field by scientists have been in medicine and sanitation.

    The public expectation is that people in that field will be tireless advocates for keeping people alive and healthy, and that is indeed pretty much universally the case. Basically, a health scientist who feigned indifference to this stuff would be considered untrustworthy and aberrant.

    ‘There are two options, and I’m not advising you which one is better, but take the pump handle off, or let everyone get cholera and die’ is just not how it works.

    The idea that the government is a ‘purchaser’ of ‘policy options’ is just a bizzarre view of how science and government interact. Or is it a sort of stealth advocacy of its own, for some kind of radically different relationship between policy and science?

  62. izen says:

    @-Ben McM
    “Or is it a sort of stealth advocacy of its own, for some kind of radically different relationship between policy and science?”

    It is not a new phenomena. governments with a strong ideological bent (of either wing) are always prone to ignoring the evidence in favour of their beliefs.
    In science the evidence overrides the belief.
    In politics the belief often Trumps the science.

  63. jacksmith4tx says:

    Whoever put this project together might have an idea about decision making.
    https://goodjudgment.com/
    Check out their daily forecasts.

  64. Willard says:

    That’s Philip’s pet project, jack:

    https://goodjudgment.com/about/

  65. jacksmith4tx says:

    Willard, Thanks for the info. I have been watching it for sometime. Very dynamic and a bit sensitive to tiny changes but over time it is a valuable reference. Tip of my hat to Philip.

  66. Willard says:

    Since you like simulations, Jack:

    In the last few months, [teh Donald] has claimed the only way he could lose the next presidential campaign is if it’s rigged, deployed federal agents into Portland, Ore., to quell Black Lives Matter protests and threatened to block funding to aid mail-in voting.

    Earlier this year, all those things were scenarios laid out in a wargaming exercise designed to explore how the outcome of the upcoming presidential election could end in tumult.

    In June, about 100 political operatives, academics, journalists and former government officials gathered for a four-day simulation as part of the Transition Integrity Project to figure out what could go wrong in this year’s election.

    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/wargaming-the-u-s-election-outcome-the-grey-cup-s-battered-history-tomboys-befriending-mr-rogers-and-more-1.5693504/how-a-wargaming-exercise-predicted-the-past-few-months-of-the-2020-presidential-race-1.5693527

    There has been another simulation in the news yesterday, but that one involved too much wetware.

  67. jacksmith4tx says:

    Trump this…
    “Neil deGrasse Tyson warns asteroid could hit Earth the day before the election”
    https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/environment/521727-neil-degrasse-tyson-warns-asteroid-could-hit

  68. Steven Mosher says:

    “That really doesn’t work for issues like COVID.
    In your scenario an advisor would present the option of mask wearing and social distancing.
    Presenting other options that don’t include these actions would be misleading at best, and fatal at worst.”

    Ah er no.

    The arbitors for science ( one pielke mode of engagement) would
    1. Arbitrate the science.
    2. Present the evidence that masks work, and other NPI work.
    3. Typically run a model showing baseline ( no intervention/intervention)

    The Brokers of policy would then.

    A) present the Full NPI policy
    B) present the no NPI policy ( and all the bad shit that happens)
    C) present any half measure policies or combinations of policies that “make sense”

    A smart decision maker and policy maker team WANT a list of options that contain
    some obviously bad options to give the appearance of necessity to the decision.
    “We HAD to lockdown, because the only other option was massive death”

    here is another way to think about it in the covid context.

    1 I bet you no scientist on SAGE suggested that a good policy was to suspend privacy protections
    of digital data to aid in tracing.
    2. I bet you there was no policy broker who suggested this as an option. It was off the table

    basically at the start of this thing (lets say in the UK) a whole host of options where
    not considered, taken off the table, ignored.

    That’s because there isn’t a culture of innovation when it comes to policy.

    In other countries ( take AUS) options (like travel bans) taken off the table in other places where obviously on the table.

    However, we label the group of people who put more options ON the table, I think it is a useful
    function. I think it should be a dedicated function. And yes you can have too many options
    and yes some options will be dumb, and wrong, that’s part of the process

    I’ll end with this. I see the UK has some silly shit about groups of 6? where the hell does that
    come from? I have a hunch. and what other options did they consider?

  69. Susan Anderson says:

    from NdGT Twitter (in case it doesn’t post, the words:)
    Asteroid 2018VP1, a refrigerator-sized space-rock, is hurtling towards us at more than 40,000 km/hr. | It may buzz-cut Earth on Nov 2, the day before the Presidential Election. | It’s not big enough to cause harm. So if the World ends in 2020, it won’t be the fault of the Universe.

  70. Steven Mosher says:

    “The public expectation is that people in that field will be tireless advocates for keeping people alive and healthy, and that is indeed pretty much universally the case. Basically, a health scientist who feigned indifference to this stuff would be considered untrustworthy and aberrant.”

    the issue isn’t indifference the issue is innovation.

    Faced with a shortage of masks in the US what did scientists and health experts suggest.

    They suggested that masks might not work and that health workers need them
    This was picked up by the public, Doubt that? go look at the early threads HERE
    where people were beating me up for suggesting that masks work. The tool they used?
    “the science hasn’t proven it”

    faced with a shortage of masks in Korea what did they do? they selected an option
    of rationing masks, Hint? China had to do the same thing. Early on in the pandemic
    in china they came up with an innovation: masks sold buy vending machine: limit 2 masks
    per day per customer. Did anyone in the West suggest buying machines to make masks?
    Hell you can buy them on the internet. Nope options like that are never on the table.

    Faced with a shortage of beds in some states what did folks do in the US and other places?
    lockdown and fumble around trying to build some field hospitals. What did Korea and China do?
    They innovated. In china they converted school gymnasiums into isolation centers
    Asymptomatic cases were isolated. In Korea they did something similar. they converted
    1000s of empty offices into “life centers” so people who tested positive had a place to stay
    outside their homes.

    For test and trace, faced with a man power shortage what did Singapore do?
    Use the military. Cool option. What did the UK do? they let a contract to some private firm.
    What did New York do? the government hired people. Same old options. The machine is
    BUILT to come up with the same old options. It is staffed by people who only know the same old
    options. It is not built for innovation

    So my point is this. The function of “policy innovation” is important. heck for the west it could
    be as simple as copying what works ( haha, the west copies the east). To the extent that
    “brokers” aid in and promote innovation by putting different options on the table, they are a plus.
    You want to drop the qualifier “honest”? cool fine, semantic quibbles. Drop the term honest, no problem.You want to pretend
    that policy innovation isn’t needed ? Big problem.

    So lets say this. As I see the broker function defined by roger it is a part of a policy innovation
    function. Their job is to put more options on the table, not take options off the table. That function should probably be formalized.

    Going forward in both Covid and AGW you will need some policy innovation. Don’t expect or demand that all innovation comes from scientists and doctors. The vast majority of it will. But these groups are also blinded by over familiarity and bias. When faced with a challenge ( like a mask shortage) their tendency is to default to solutions that protect THEIR identity: “there is no scientific proof that masks work and plus save the doctors first, if they do.” That’s basically what they argued. It was insane. I mean seriously, I had arguments on twitter early on with scientists and doctors who were saying exactly that: “there is no scientific proof they work, plus the doctors need them.” Fundamentally blind to their own interest and identity. Thankfully as shortages eased and deaths mounted, they changed their minds. but None of them owned their mistake or learned
    how they abused the uncertainty in science to protect their self interest and identity.
    “we are doctors and scientists, trust us, masks are not proven to work, oh BTW we need them all.”
    If you sense a similarity with AGW activists having big carbon footprints you would be spot on.

    Oh ya final note , today we know what we knew 9 months ago: vitamin D deficiencies and zinc deficiencies both contribute to higher incidence of infections. This is why, Fauci, for example, takes 6000IU of Vitamin D per day. But neither he nor anyone in policy will suggest or recommend this for the general public. They know it can help. They use it themselves but suggesting a policy of “get your vitamin D checked” is off the table. and policies aimed at informing the public of the POTENTIAL prophylactic benefit are not allowed. WHY? because they have decided that telling people “it might help” could breed a “false sense of security”

    notice something?
    1. travel bans were opposed because they might create a “false sense of security”
    2. masks were also opposed because they might create a false sense of security
    3. rapid tests are also being opposed because they might create a false sense of security
    4. simple cheap methods of correcting deficiencies are also opposed because they might create a false sense of security.

    notice something?

    I had to laugh. I watch this channel of immunologists discuss covid weekly. When the topic of vitamin D came up A) they all argued the science wasn’t settled. B) they also admitted to taking couple thousand IU every day. That was funny. of course they would never suggest that for YOU
    because A) their identity prevents them from suggesting things with no proof B) they
    think YOU might develop a sense of false security.

    anyway.

    want more tips? you won’t get it from the policy machine because the policy machine is broken.

    Click to access Marik-Covid-Protocol-Summary.pdf

    Prophylaxis
    While there is very limited data (and none specific for COVID-19), the following “cocktail” may
    have a role in the prevention/mitigation of COVID-19 disease.
    ■ Vitamin C 500 mg BID and Quercetin 250 mg daily
    ■ Zinc 75-100 mg/day
    ■ Melatonin (slow release): Begin with 0.3mg and increase as tolerated to 2 mg
    at night
    ■ Vitamin D3 1000-3000 u/day
    ■ Famotidine 20-40mg/day

    and ya, wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t touch your face, avoid crowded unventilated closed spaces. and dont develop a false sense of security.

  71. Steven Mosher says:

    Now if you really want to see how the policy machine is broken look at the process for
    vaccine distribution

    There is a 216 page document detailing it.

    https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/a-framework-for-equitable-allocation-of-vaccine-for-the-novel-coronavirus

    under this policy who will receive the vaccine first?

    1. A inmate on death row
    2. a 55 year black male who owns a liquor store

    1. a 18 year old truck driver who makes deliveries for Eli Lily
    2. a 55 year old latinx woman who has lost her job?

    imagine what happens when you hold short public comment sessions, announce it exclusively to certain interest groups and take certain policy options off the table.

  72. Ben McMillan says:

    Some of the judgement calls made by scientists, and taken up as policy, in the early stages of the pandemic were definitely wrong in hindsight. And I’m happy that an approach that had a broader focus, rather than concentrating on a couple of measures might be a good idea.

    But none of this suggests we needed more scientists in the “honest broker” quadrant of the diagram (more like, you want them to do their brokering differently).

    Lets take political scientists, divide them up into four groups, according to both honesty and competence: is what is needed in political science more of them in the “honest competent” quadrant?

    I’m struggling to think of a historic science policy issue where the problem was insufficient indifference from scientists doing public policy work. Integrity, and things like regulatory capture are issues.

    I get the very strong impression that the goal of “Honest brokering advocacy” is not to improve science public policy, but to diminish the role of science and scientists in it (Izen was a bit blunter about this earlier in the thread). Science policy is at the interface between values and knowledge, and you try to push all the scientists out away from that border.

    I think we are seeing at the moment what happens when political appointees take over regulatory bodies and make them the servants of ideology, and that’s the kind of direction that goes. I think we expect scientists at an environmental protection agency to want to actually do that…

    What works is strong regulatory and advisory bodies, committed to clear values, and informed by untrammeled scientific judgement. They have a clear role and a well-defined interface with other parts of government and the people in the agency get on with the job that involves both values and knowledge.

  73. Joshua says:

    Actually,lot of people advocated ramping up the manufacture of masks and testing equipment with support from the federal government – as they did in Taiwan.

    Why didn’t that happen? The political expediency of catering to ibertarian fanaticism was part of the reason.

  74. JCH says:

    SM – nobody here remembers how to make vending machines!

    Went to vote on I think March 3rd) at a nearby church. Super Tuesday. Everybody in the election site was coughing and sneezing. Had read about the virus in China. Went to Home Depot for painter’s masks. They have a store brand that is very good. Out of stock. Went to the hardware store. Bought four high quality 3M HVAC filters. My daughter sewed up four masks where we could do replaceable filters. On the Friday after Super Tuesday the pastor at the church where I voted became the first COVID-19 patient in the county. Nobody else there had it.

    It’s about to blow here. If this virus is both more contagious and lethal if not exposed to summer heat, we’ll see how many critics of lockdowns are left in late November and December.

  75. Steven Mosher says:

    “Actually,lot of people advocated ramping up the manufacture of masks and testing equipment with support from the federal government – as they did in Taiwan.

    Why didn’t that happen? The political expediency of catering to ibertarian fanaticism was part of the reason.”

    you could source machines to make N95 masks (cost 50-150K per machine)
    It made perfect sense to
    1. Order a few ( there are over 3000 models of N95 mask machines on Alibaba)
    2. Reverse engineer them and Open source the CAD files to build them. Steal their tech.

    3. Initiate an RFQ for 10000
    why 10K, well there are 3000 cities with populations >10000, and 6000 hospitals
    Cost? if you bought them all from china 1 Billion, so you could probably build them
    in the USA for no more than 5Billion.

    Typical machines range from 60 to 120 pieces per minute that 60K to 120K per 16 hour day
    10000 machines ? your talking 600M to 1.2 Billion masks per day.
    machine takes a single operator, 3 shifts if you can keep it fed with material

    material for N95 is less than $1.5 a piece Surgical masks? <4 cents a piece.

    so at the start (Feb) moving fast would have got it done. Now some machines are restricted and
    cant be shipped to the US. but there are ways around that if you are resourceful, connected
    and determined, Buy machines, reverse engineer them, open source the cad files
    the machines ain't rocket science. Biggest issue is the risk of first purchase, since cash up
    front is the only way the Chinese will do business with you. You pays your money
    and hope to hell they ship. helps to have an American on the ground in china
    to vet the sellers. But in the end there is a risk of fraud and little effective legal recourse.

    yes 3M and other US sources will bitch and moan. tough.

    and yes from a free market place perspective folks would see this as an abomination. meh
    its masks.

    by the time the US gets around to it, committees, commissions, scientific studies, FDA approval,
    contracts, public comment periods, congress, courts, blah blah blah, the virus will have harvested
    the weak and all the social butterflies, leaving behind a country of trolls living in their moms cellar.

    The good news is that when Biden takes office in 2021 he promises to set up some commissions
    to study stuff!!!! that's the ticket! you know how those go. A committee to study how best to manufacture masks
    in the USA will of course also be tasked with addressing other structural problems
    Does the mask production use sustainable tech? What's the carbon footprint?
    how do we diversify the manufacturing base to insure than every faction is fairly represented?
    what about mask disposal? multilingual mask wearing instructions? are the masks ADA compliant? what celebrities do we pay to promote mask wearing? free masks for antifa! so many things to study so many interest groups to reward/placate.

    However, as bad as that will be, it probably beats doing nothing.

  76. Steven Mosher says:

    “Went to vote on I think March 3rd) at a nearby church. Super Tuesday. Everybody in the election site was coughing and sneezing. Had read about the virus in China. Went to Home Depot for painter’s masks. They have a store brand that is very good. Out of stock. Went to the hardware store. Bought four high quality 3M HVAC filters. My daughter sewed up four masks where we could do replaceable filters. On the Friday after Super Tuesday the pastor at the church where I voted became the first COVID-19 patient in the county. Nobody else there had it.

    It’s about to blow here. If this virus is both more contagious and lethal if not exposed to summer heat, we’ll see how many critics of lockdowns are left in late November and December.”

    ya when I left china late jan and arrived to a mask shortage in Korea I went to amazon
    and bought a shit load of N95, had to have them shipped to USA and then reshipped to Kor.
    Later had my brokers in China source local N95 and ship me a few hundred.
    at one point my buddy in HK had 25M masks, he tried to sell them to NY but the paperwork
    was crazy, sold to Germany. Finding the buyers was next to impossible. I contacted a few senate
    offices of senators who were publically screaming for masks. No response. Had a distributor
    in the US as well, importing was a bitch, he bailed. said there was no market.

  77. Steven Mosher says:

    “It’s about to blow here. If this virus is both more contagious and lethal if not exposed to summer heat, we’ll see how many critics of lockdowns are left in late November and December.”

    their denial won’t end. when government impose weak lockdowns and cases go up (less than they would otherwise) they will claim they dont work. when they do work, they will say its herd immunity

    They will be matched in their stupidity by the people who demand zero cases for 90 days
    the absolute safety nuts. You already have some teacher groups in the US demanding
    school closure for all of 2021.
    Wait until vaccines start to get distributed to a fraction of the population. You think trumpers
    were obnoxious about masks before, claiming medical exemptions.. Imagine when some of
    them get vaccines and demand special treatment because they had their shots or flat out lying
    At the start of vaccination mask mandates will still be in place in some locales. Expect
    some nuts to claim that they dont need one because they had their shot.

  78. Steven Mosher says:

    “What works is strong regulatory and advisory bodies, committed to clear values, and informed by untrammeled scientific judgement. They have a clear role and a well-defined interface with other parts of government and the people in the agency get on with the job that involves both values and knowledge.”

    hmm. simple question. with rapid testing what values does the FDA ascribe to?
    hint? the WRONG values. primarily because of the way they define testing: testing is to diagnose
    accurately NOT to prevent the spread. Consequently, they dont value the speed of less sensitive tests. despite what the science says and what practical experience says.
    And getting an agency to move quickly is against their core institutional values.

    “Companies, though, are by no means starting from scratch. Among those aiming to seek FDA authorization is E25Bio, a biotech startup based in Cambridge, MA. E25Bio makes rapid, paper-based antigen strip tests that target spikey proteins studding the outside of the novel coronavirus. The company has already developed a lab-based test that’s handheld and gives results in 15 minutes. It could easily be adapted to home testing, says E25Bio cofounder Bobby Brooke Herrera. The only difference between the lab test and an at-home test is that the lab test concentrates a person’s sample using a centrifuge.

    E25Bio developed and validated its lab-based test at the start of the pandemic, in April. But the test languished on company benchtops because it wouldn’t have met the FDA’s very high bar for sensitivity to win an EUA, according to Herrera. Since the start of the pandemic, the FDA has heavily favored highly sensitive tests, typically PCR that can detect even low-level infections, according to Mina. Companies, he says, have been racing to develop the most sensitive test at all costs. Sensitive lab-based tests can reliably diagnose patients. But at the peak of their infection their viral load would’ve been high enough that even a less-sensitive antigen or LAMP test could have picked it up.

    Even six weeks ago, “the FDA didn’t take that into consideration at all,” Mina says, although he adds that the agency now seems more willing, based on new language on their website, to exchange some amount of sensitivity for frequent and expedient tests (7). Herrera says that his company has been “screaming out loud” for five months, trying to get the attention of the FDA, Department of Health and Human Services, as well as government officials. He’s been eager to see the FDA grant EUAs for the kind of rapid but less-sensitive tests that could give faster turnaround results to patients in home.”

    When a company gets shit wrong, the market can punish them
    When a congress person gets shit wrong, they can be voted out.
    When a “regulator or advisory board” get’s shit wrong, you increase their budget! haha.

    So yes, theoretically you have this group of people who “get on with the job of values and science”
    but they have no incentive to get things right, no clear way to inject innovation, no way
    to measure their performance and improve it. The most important link is the least accountable.

    want to expose the weakness of this type of system? throw a process against it that is exponential in nature and requires fast imperfect reactions.

    Oh! the CDC has finally decided about masks.. months after the rest of the world knew.
    Meanwhile, India will be pressing ahead with rapid tests ( CRSPR based) UAE will buy them.
    you know UAE, they use dogs at the airport 92% accurate. not FDA approved of course.
    And ya for years we have known that zinc deficiency and Vitamin D deficiency are
    comorbidities for patients with the flu. But they are never listed as risk factors and supplementation
    is never promoted on a pre cautionary principle basis.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854541/

    19. Roth DE, Richard SA, Black RE. Zinc supplementation for the prevention of acute lower respiratory infection in children in developing countries: meta-analysis and meta-regression of randomized trials. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2010; 39(3):795–808.

    What values did agencies apply when looking at travel bans? The wrong ones obviously.
    In fact they probably picked the worst policy imaginable. One that let the virus in AND gave
    people a false sense of security.

    When the CDC made decisions about who should be in charge of tests they wasted weeks
    before allowing industry to help. Korea made the decision in a couple days.

    For years the CDC has allowed hospitals to submit bad data. Their reasoning? they had stats guys
    who could correct for it. Rather than pushing or mandating more accurate data in the past they protected their function: correcting data statistically. Birx came in with different values: Fast data.
    and the whole machine got fucked up. At no point in their past did you see the CDC prepare for
    a situation that requires fast accurate data. They were happy with slow bad data and their stats
    department fully employed.

    so ya, there is a function that “gets on with the questions of values and science” when they have the wrong values you get a disaster. They have no mechanism for checking their values, testing their values or trying alternative values.

  79. jacksmith4tx says:

    The abysmal US response has destroyed the credibility of it’s public health sector.
    Totally Under Control – Documents the pandemic outbreak up to the day Trump admitted he was symptomatic (probably positive during 1st. debate).
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13065386/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

    The pandemic has shortened the time till the Social Security & Medicare has to cut disbursements by a minimum of 2 years(best case) or 6 years(4 more years of Trump).
    https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2020/10/how-will-the-coronavirus-pandemic-impact-social-securitys-finances-heres-what-four-different-analyses-say

    This isn’t Herd Immunity, it’s plain old Thinning the Heard. Late stage Behavioral Sink syndrome.

  80. Ben McMillan says:

    SM: I don’t think you have convincingly linked the problems you perceive with the CDC to anything to do with ‘values vs science’. Also, I think there might be an elephant in the room.

    In the UK, the government is also trying to blame the scientists/institutions for the poor outcome (e.g. disbanding PHE). But the public (apart from the usual extremists) are not convinced.

  81. Ben McMillan,

    “Also, I think there might be an elephant in the room.”

    I have already told Moshpit, at least twice, that there are two words for that so-called elephant. Small Hands.

    NOAA, EPA, CDC, FDA. At some point, someone else needs to tell him to just shut the fuck up wrt the CDC. As in broken record much?

  82. Yeah, I left out the DOJ, FBI, CIA, DOS, DOD, DHS, …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_executive_departments

    Small Hands has two very big wrecking balls …

    They always come in pairs, or so I’ve been told.

  83. Pingback: Policy in the language of science | …and Then There's Physics

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