This is officially the most exciting moment of my hobby as a writer. The Parliamentary Science and Tech Select Committee have published a very sensible report about the evidence for and against a change in the Abortion laws. The Minority Report is an extra report, bolted on as an appendix: they are there for when there are members of a select committee who don’t like the actual report.
In the case of this Minority Report on abortion, it’s a rollercoaster ride of pseudoscience and dubious data, signed by one Tory MP with the support of one other, and I highly recommend giving it a read. I’ve posted the PDF here, until it appears on the parliament website.
If you want a good example of how spectacularly weak the evidence behind this “Minority Report” is, then you need look no further than the bit where they talk about, er, well, me, bafflingly:
We were greatly concerned to read in the Guardian on 27 October an article clearly aimed at undermining the credibility of Professor John Wyatt, which contained detailed information about Wyatt’s evidence, which was passed by him to the committee after his oral evidence session, and which could only have been passed on to the journalist concerned by a member of the Select Committee. There should be an enquiry about how this information got into the public domain and as to whether such a personal attack represents a serious breach of parliamentary procedure..
My article did indeed contain detailed information about Prof Wyatt’s evidence, but I suspect any enquiry set up to examine how I managed to obtain that information would finish its work well before the first set of tea and biscuits arrived, since all the facts came from the written evidence published openly and in full during the select committee hearing. There’s nothing clever about what I do, let me promise you.
In fact as I made perfectly clear at the time, if you look here:
You will see in full all of the documents I used to write my article, examining the striking inconsistencies in Prof Wyatt’s unpublished claims.
How could I know that the committee contacted Prof Wyatt to ask him for the abstract for the research claims he made? Come with me, students of subterfuge, into my cave of secrets. Memorandum 52 on page 334 reads: “As requested I enclose the abstract referred to in my oral evidence.”
How could I know that the committee had gone back to Prof Wyatt and asked for clarification again? Because “Supplementary Memorandum from Professor John Wyatt 23 October 2007” (Memo 53 in the PDF of written evidence to the committee, page 337, if you love me, you love me for my disproportionate anality) begins: “This further memorandum has been provided at the request of Dr Chris Tyler in order to clarify the data presented in my earlier evidence.”
Seriously, it’s next level investigative journalism, this stuff. It’s like Watergate. It’s like those guys who got shot at in South America in the 1970s exposing CIA involvement in coups. This is the real deal. I totally downloaded the PDF. But I turned on the taps and put the radio on full blast first, just in case they’d bugged my flat.
In fact every single thing I wrote about in that article was freely available, a matter of record, in the public domain, when I wrote about it, no conspiracy, no nonsense, anyone could have written about those figures, and I wish we lived in a world where lots of other people had.
To be honest, I’m “greatly concerned” that a pair of tory MPs are “greatly concerned” about me having access to the written evidence for a select committee enquiry. Perhaps they’d prefer it if everything was done in secret behind closed doors, but luckily this has turned out to be a perfect illustration of exactly what science – and indeed government – should be about: transparency.
I respectfully invite you to contrast this transparency with the impossible task of getting in touch with Prof Wyatt through either UCL or UCH, or finding any of his claims published in a peer reviewed academic journal, or indeed any journal whatsoever, despite the data being collected between 7 and 11 years ago, and presented at a conference over three years ago.
“Minority Report” indeed.
At least give it a grown up name.