REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 328

Revolt news 25/05/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. Microwave News reports responses to the Ahlbom affair, including Ahlbom himself raising objections against rival Hardell, though the objections seem both spurious and irrelevant insofar as there is no financial interest established or even alleged for Hardell or his family. The Swedish authorities are looking into whether Ahlbom should continue on their committee.

2. In the light of several public objections to the IARC meeting to consider EMF from mobile phones (etc), I have written to the Director of IARC with concerns and constructive recommendations (APPENDIX A). The EMF assessment fraternity for both mobile phones and powerlines is closely linked with overlapping membership (like Ahlbom) even though the scientific detail is different. The probity of IARC’s work on EMFs is of direct relevance to Revolt.

3. Another potential conflict of interest issue arises with KEMA and its long-delayed review of undergrounding. The Economist article (news325.1) on a new pylon design attributes the design to TenneT in association with KEMA. It seems KEMA therefore has an interest in overhead (pylon) solutions in competition with undergrounding. The Economist article may well be based on information given by TenneT and KEMA; revolt news325.1 criticised it as inaccurate. The article described undergrounding as largely futile and made an unqualified allegation that losses were 40 times greater than for overhead lines.

4. Given (1) the suspiciously long delay of the KEMA report, especially after the firm assertions beforehand about the schedule and not taking further input, (2) the rushed and inadequate consultation at the start of the review, (3) KEMA’s apparent conflict of interest in pylons over undergrounding, and (4) the prejudicial statements fed to the Economist, all paint a very murky picture. The public cannot have confidence in the KEMA review, which must now be expected on the basis of evidence to be seriously biased in favour of industry and against undergrounding.

***** *****

APPENDIX A Letter 25-5-11 to Dr Christopher Wild, Director, IARC

Dear Dr Wild,

Monograph meeting 102: Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields

May I add my concern, and some constructive procedural suggestions, to your correspondence on the current considerations on RF-EMF and mobile phones, Monograph Meeting 102 (MM102) of May 2011.

This letter is not about the science; it is about procedure, probity and transparency, with a bearing on how to deal with this week’s MM102 meeting.

My core concerns here are with

(C1) the private process by which IARC selects its Working Groups, and the composition of its Working Group for MM102;

(C2) the one-sided presence as ‘observers’ of industry personnel and their potential direct and indirect influence;

(C3) the apparent lack of any clearly published external and independent audit of IARC processes in practice, both generally and specifically of IARC’s work on EMFs.

The inspiring address to MM102 participants, at http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/2011/monograph102.php , sets out the issues and emphasises the ‘eyes of the world’. However, taken together with private selectivity of participants, and with the many public concerns raised specifically about MM102, the address could also be seen as reflecting a camaraderie of collaborators reinforced over many years. The issue of social networking in a research elite, with mutual authorship and reciprocal refereeing, which can be overly defensive of a favoured view, has been described for example in the Wegman Report to the US Congress on the Hockey Stick Controversy in global warming. It is important that IARC is, and is seen to be, aware of such possibilities and perceptions, and perhaps taking some action at least to monitor and resist such trends.

From a long professional experience in academic research, management and governance, in quality management and audit, and in selection and appointment of senior personnel, and having considered the IARC Monographs Preamble, I would recommend as follows.

General Recommendation 1: The selection of experts and of group members should be made more transparent and balanced, with greater scrutiny and publication of interests. Minor or immaterial interests may be allowed but should be declared. External (to WHO and IARC) independent members should be involved in the selection process. The selected group composition should demonstrably reflect a balance of views, including minority views; this is stronger than the ‘consideration given’ approach of the Preamble. Given the complexity of modern biology and the difficulty of multi-disciplinary assessment, generalists as well as specialists should be selected. A statement should be published in each case showing how the selection and the selection process meet these requirements.

General Recommendation 2: As the presence of people with interests may have, and may be perceived to have, some influence on decision-making participants, there should be none of the following present in the discussions prior to decision making: Observer*; Invited Specialist*; Representatives* of national and international agencies; press. It is important that members should be able to discuss matters freely and tentatively, without fear of prejudicial consequences for example with future research grants. Published research of experts with interests (the Invited Specialists of the Preamble), for example working for industry, may be part of the evidence considered. If necessary for further clarification, experts may be called and cross-examined on specific points, preferably by prior correspondence to be included transparently with the evidence.

* refers to categories in the Preamble; I have witnessed the participation of such categories from my own direct experience in WHO and EU workshops – some are benign and helpful, others vigorously partisan

General Recommendation 3: A system of independent external audit of the whole decision-making process, both in design and in practice, should be installed. Such audit should report to IARC and WHO with detailed findings and recommendations, with a final summary version to be published after taking account of management response.

Specific Recommendation: If possible, this week’s MM102 Group should defer making any formal plenary evaluations; otherwise such evaluations should be deemed provisional only. A round of wider consultation should follow. The several bodies and individuals who objected to the meeting should be included in the consultation. If there is widespread acceptance of the evaluations, they should stand. If not, a new Working Group should be appointed in the manner outlined above, allowing some common membership. It will take time for the new Working Group to revisit the stages of selection and evaluation of scientific evidence or ‘data’. Then the new Group should meet afresh to form its evaluations.

I would be grateful if you would let me know what consideration these comments may receive and what subsequent action IARC may take to improve its systems.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Emeritus M J O’Carroll

***** *****

Statements made by the editor or by other parties and quoted for information do not necessarily represent the views of Revolt. Criticism of government and industry, and grievances from members of the public, are in the nature of Revolt's work, though we try to give credit where it is due. Revolt is strictly non-party-political and regrets any offence which may be inadvertently caused.

 

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