Researchers as lobbyists

There is something deeply disturbing when scientific researchers cross the line to become lobbyists in the latest Nanny State™ expansion. Sure, explain one’s findings and the implications of those findings. Allow others to test the methodology. But do not become a passionate advocate for a new incursion by the Nanny State lobby into our liberty in the name of health and safety.

Take this article from The Australian about roadside tests for drowsy drivers. As Noodle said to me, why not hand out free amphetamine pills? Or No-Doz? Or rely on the private sector to provide the Driver Reviver rest stops? But to have random Police stops to check for drowsiness is a step too far.

It’s enough to make you wish you never got out of bed – random roadside saliva tests to catch fatigued drivers.

The tests are one of the big goals of a new multimillion-dollar research project aimed at waking up dozy Australians.

Driver sleepiness causes two in ten serious car crash injuries in Australia, says Monash University Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, the project’s research leader.

He believes a roadside test for drowsy drivers is achievable.

“It is something that law enforcement agencies all over the world have been looking for.”

He also envisages new devices that test a worker’s sweat or saliva before they operate machinery.

Smart office lighting and personalised shift schedules are other key goals at the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, which was opened at Monash in Victoria on Wednesday.

Its multi-disciplinary team from 26 universities, tech companies and government agencies also aim to find better ways to diagnose insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

Getting a good night’s sleep was not as simple as it sounded, said Bob Baldwin, parliamentary secretary to the minister for industry.

“Over 20 per cent of the population are affected by a sleeping disorder.”

The government is investing $14.5 million in the centre over seven years.

“We want a more comprehensive approach to the management of alertness,” said Prof Rajaratnam.

The aim was to transfer neurobiological knowledge into the real world.

New office lighting systems could reset the body clock and directly activate the brain to improve alertness and performance.

“It could give workers a boost to get through their shift, feeling clearheaded and up to the job,” Prof Rajaratnam said.

“Sleep disorders are highly prevalent in our society.

“By identifying the vulnerable individuals, we could develop targeted treatments and vastly improve the safety and performance of workers.”

The centre offered a world-leading opportunity to solve issues related to fatigue, said chief executive Anthony Williams.

“We’re planning on a range of personalised, state-of-the art tools that will improve alertness, boost performance and make our country safer.”

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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35 Responses to Researchers as lobbyists

  1. TIM of Kilsyth

    Be Alert because Australia needs more lerts .

  2. H B Bear

    We are slowly moving towards a natural conclusion, where Nanny will come and tuck us up safely in bed each night.

  3. Mayan

    The saliva tests for various drugs only test for presence, not impairment. I’m guessing that this will sense the presence of something, but not impairment. Oddly, the mining industry, which has people doing risky things, has permissible limits for some drugs. Those limits are based on research which evidently wasn’t conducted by chronically phobic bed wetters.

    It seems to me that the current fad in favour of extreme risk aversion is itself a major risk, the consequences of which are likely to do untold damage to our society.

  4. nerblnob

    Presumably they would happily prevent night shift police, firies and ambos from taking to the roads? What a great contribution to health and safety that will be.

    And, pray tell, these drowsiness checking patrols out on the roads in the wee hours, how are they staying awake?

    Oh for the days when you could buy yippie beans under the counter in big boiled lolly jars.

  5. Rafe

    Newton’s Laws of Experts.

    The bylaws, Newton’s Laws of Experts, are as follows:

    •First Law: every expert persists in his state of rest or opinion unless acted upon by an external grant;
    •Second Law: the rate of change of opinion is directly proportional to the applied grant; and
    •Third Law: for every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.

  6. Rabz

    Just f*ck off and leave us alone, you loathsome, totalitarian creeps.

    FFS.

    :x

  7. .

    But to have random Police stops to check for drowsiness is a step too far.

    This is totalitarian bullshit. He can jam it up his rose scented bumhole.

    I get up very early sometimes to drive to work. I’d lose my job essentially and be treated like someone out their mind of large quantities of crack or angel dust?

    Fucking bullshit.

    This guy wasn’t beaten up enough as a kid. The smug, stupid prick.

  8. Squirrel

    Yes, there’s a safety issue, as there is with most things in life, but this sounds like another nice little earner for the research-product development-marketing, legal and government (more fines!) industries – another idea whose time has come.

  9. Demosthenes

    Please tell me this is a reprint from the Onion.

  10. Route 518

    Oddly, the mining industry, which has people doing risky things, has permissible limits for some drugs.

    Really? No, it doesn’t. If you test positive to illegal drugs, you won’t be hired or you’ll be terminated, at least in the companies I have worked for.

  11. Bruce J

    Yet another way for an unemployable academic to justify a grant to support him/her into celebrity status with his/her equally useless colleagues.

  12. Ant

    If the political class were really that worried about road safety, they would focus on building freeways, at least between our major population centres, rather than pissing it away on stupid stuff, such as desal plants.

  13. .

    True, Ant.

    Also upping speed limits on rural roads and clearing verges properly and making decent intersections and re-engineering bad corners, and making all seals respectable.

  14. Noddy

    Squirrel
    #1171784, posted on January 30, 2014 at 10:33 am
    Yes, there’s a safety issue, as there is with most things in life, but this sounds like another nice little earner for the research-product development-marketing, legal and government (more fines!) industries – another idea whose time has come.<

    True Squirrel…also the evils of 'sleep deprivation' is well documented and not helped by 'government induced' daylight saving.
    How can you 'save daylight'?
    It smells like more lucrative bureaucratic interference in our daily lives coming!

  15. Bushdoc

    The notion of a saliva test for fatigue, is not just scientifically problematic, but would be a lawyers picnic. It is one thing to create a test for external toxins, i.e.. alcohol, THC, narcotics and amphetamines, Etc, but to create a test which measures a specific endogenous protein or mix of proteins that has both a high sensitivity and specificity for something as nebulous as fatigue ( unlike a heart attack where their is a specific protein released by cardiac muscle death), is I think, some researcher kite flying for funding, knowing that bureacrats are fundamentally lazy and not given to critical analysis.
    Currently the gold standard test for sleep apnoea is a sleep study. Any spot test would require a definition of what is the normal range. What other events/ medications licit and illicit and herbal – homeopathic and other medical conditions could give rise to false positive and false negative results. This is where this could become a lawyers picnic. Just think how much fun lawyers have now with laser speed cameras and add the multiplier of pathologists, biochemists and physicians giving evidence or and against a positive test.
    Finally how many shift workers including doctors nurses emergency services workers would potentially get caught in the net, just driving home after a 12 hour shift. You have got to love the nanny state.

  16. Motelier

    You have to let the nanny state get as much money as soon as they can.

    There is a technological improvement coming that will completely dry up the funding for the state from fines and such.

    I would love to get one. Huffington Post

  17. Paul

    10 in 10 car accidents are caused by people being in cars, therefore we need to fine people who commit the irresponsible act of getting in their cars. Fining is of course the most “cost effective” way of dealing with this scourge. All that’s then needed is an emotive TV campaign (with a catchy slogan) to demonize those who get in cars as anti-social, and before you know it everyone’s on board.

  18. Gab

    Driver sleepiness causes two in ten serious car crash injuries in Australia, says Monash University Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, the project’s research leader.

    I’d like to see the evidence of this assertion or doesn’t that matter because a “professor” said it is true?

    Looking at road fatality statistics, we are at 1948 levels based on actual numbers as shown in graph 24.22 and per 100,000 head, graph 24.23, the rates are the lowest they have ever been, both shown here.

    This is a professor concocting ways to get funding, nothing more.

  19. .

    Good work Gab. This bloke is a dishonest arsewipe and he’d sell his butt and children’s liberties for grant money.

  20. Gab

    I see the professor has been heavily involved in sleep research but cannot find any article or paper linking to traffic accidents, however he is worth his weight in gold for obtaining grants. So I imagine he’s sitting around one day with his acolytes, brainstorming how to get more funding…sleep researcher…hmmm…there’s lots of road accidents…hmmm…drugs and alcohol is covered, what else is there, ooohh I know, sleep disturbance…wait for it, I’m connecting the dots…Eureka! why of course, people fall asleep at the wheel all the time and must cause lots and lots of accidents, okay well two in ten (let’s say), there, I’ve done it again!

  21. Pedro the Ignorant

    . . . Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, which was opened at Monash in Victoria on Wednesday.

    When I first read Orwell’s “1984″, I scoffed. Nobody would ever submit to that level of government interference in their lives.

    I was wrong.

  22. Leo G

    Driver sleepiness Misuse of statistics causes two in ten serious car crash injuries in Australia” – CRC research project leader and Monash University Professor Shantha Rajaratnam.

  23. Zatara

    Is it just me or does it seem the concepts of probable cause, warrants, and unlawful search and seizure just scream out to be discussed here?

  24. 132andBush

    and personalised shift schedules are other key goals

    I’d like to “personalise” my shift schedule.

    9am to 4:30pm five days a week, 1hr counter lunch. Would feel like a holiday.

    I’m sure the crops would get planted, sprayed and harvested etc during these hours.
    Might be a problem when planting inexplicably runs into harvest for that same crop!

    Another example of how little some people know about what is required to keep the country functioning.

  25. Eddystone

    The management of our ambulance service makes a big fuss of “managing fatigue”, so does the union.

    It’s largely a weapon to shift blame onto individuals, or to beat management about the head, depending which side you’re on.

    Naturally, to we baggy-arsed ambos front-line service deliverers, “managing fatigue” means

    a) taking a sickie
    b) sleeping in the crew room.

  26. Noddy

    Driver sleepiness causes two in ten serious car crash injuries in Australia, says Monash University Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, the project’s research leader.>i>

    I like it … give him all the money he wants!
    They might leave us older (or is it senior?) drivers alone.
    It might be a good idea to try the ‘Burdizzos’ on Professor Shantha Rajaratnam first then he will not give us much cause for worry.

  27. Dan

    Paul
    #1171829, posted on January 30, 2014 at 11:20 am
    10 in 10 car accidents are caused by people being in cars, therefore we need to fine people who commit the irresponsible act of getting in their cars. Fining is of course the most “cost effective” way of dealing with this scourge.

    Cars are only dangerous when filled to the brim with that nasty distillate or petroleum. The answer of course is to criminalise fuel.

    Seriously though. Is the copper gunna give you a lecture about being tired or actually give you a fine for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle? This is loony bin stuff

  28. Rabz

    Is it just me or does it seem the concepts of probable cause, warrants, and unlawful search and seizure just scream out to be discussed here?

    Agreed. I strongly urge you to go and discuss it with the nearest fence post (aka bureaucrat, politician, academic), for all the good it will do.

  29. Eddystone

    Seriously though. Is the copper gunna give you a lecture about being tired or actually give you a fine for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle? This is loony bin stuff

    Actually, the cop should show you his own fatigue result, so you know that he is safe to drive on after fining you.

    It is the responsibility of all citizens to uphold the law.

  30. Gab

    If this actually goes ahead where will it lead?

    Copper/Ambo/Firey turns up for work

    Gets tested first for sleep deprivation. Fails

    Gets sent home.

    Media screams out for more funding as front line services are at all time lows.

    Same story for people operating machinery in factories.

    Will this (proposed) test also be extended to nurses, doctors and surgeons?

    And then there’s the accused’s defense: Your honour, my client is not responsible his actions, for the murder/rape, as tests show he was sleep deprived…

    but to create a test which measures a specific endogenous protein or mix of proteins that has both a high sensitivity and specificity for something as nebulous as fatigue ( unlike a heart attack where their is a specific protein released by cardiac muscle death), is I think, some researcher kite flying for funding, knowing that bureacrats are fundamentally lazy and not given to critical analysis.

    Well said, Bushdoc, all of it, but in particular that excerpt as it foretells what will happen: millions upon millions in “research” funding to devise a strip of paper that or handy gadget to detect sleep deprivation. It may take a decade, it many never successfully eventuate, but who cares when funding, courtesy of the taxpayer, is on tap.

  31. nilk

    I like it … give him all the money he wants!
    They might leave us older (or is it senior?) drivers alone.It might be a good idea to try the ‘Burdizzos’ on Professor Shantha Rajaratnam first then he will not give us much cause for worry.

    Actually, no they won’t. I know someone who was doing a phD at Monash on the subject of “older driver education”, to which my response was, “what, don’t old people know how to drive?”

    That particular person already had a psychology degree and an advanced degree in Leftardiness, so it looks like you’re in the next target demographic.

  32. Eyrie

    “The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, and social. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the esteem of our peers. For most people, wanting to know the truth about the world is way, way down the list. Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens regard with dislike and mistrust. There is probably a sizable segment in any population that believes scientists should be rounded up and killed.”

    Despite having science and engineering training, what with climate “science” and all I’m beginning to have some sympathy for the POV in the last sentence.

  33. Derp

    If this actually goes ahead where will it lead?

    What’s more likely from a roadside test?
    A pat on the head with a concerned request to go sleep.
    An expensive ticket and ever increasing quotas as coppers lurk outside hospitals.

  34. David

    Thanks HB you just stuffed up my afternoon. I clicked on your link expecting a picture of some sweet little old granny to admire.

    It is bloody Rocksoff and I had almost forgotten the poisonous shrew. Now I have to start therapy all over again

  35. Myrddin Seren

    “By identifying the vulnerable individuals, we could……”

    Get them fired – ermmmm – made redundant as soon as humanly possible.

    The push to replace every programmable role occupied by a human with an untiring, sickie-free robot is already well under way. The Law of Unintended Consequences means less people will be employed and sooner the harder the Blue Tape OH&S vigilantes go at it.

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