Sunday, February 10, 2008
Some advice for UCLA
UCLA professor Edythe London's home was vandalized again. So far, no one has taken responsibility for the latest event: the apparent use of an incendiary device that caused some charring of her front door.
See A smoldering controversy at UCLA. Los Angeles Times. February 9, 2008. [You might have to register to read the article.]
I wrote about London's research when her house got flooded.
UCLA's response to this has been all knee-jerk. They've done little to explain London's research. I doubt that the PR writers spinning out statements know with any specificity what she is doing.
I have some advice for UCLA and university vivisectors in general, though I realize that my recommendations are idealistic and based on a totally unwarranted presumption that they would want to act honorably, with integrity, and that they have the conviction that they are working in the public's best interests. OK, maybe the existence of such vivisectors is pure pie-in-the-sky hypothesis, easily debunked, and naive, but how should people with genuine integrity act when their publicly-funded activities are criticised as cruel and heinous?
The honorable and ethical course would be to suspend any animal use until the following steps have been taken.
1. Explain, in writing, in detail, in lay terms, what exactly is being proposed, why, and point to examples of any clear unambiguous related work that demonstrates why the studies in question might be helpful. This should be posted on the university website and should be linked from the homepage and from main pages of the related departments.
2. Invite written public comment on the above. These responses should be posted on the webpage referred to above.
3. Respond, in writing, in detail, in similarly lay or technical terms, to each submitted written comment. These responses should be on the website.
These three steps seem to be the very minimum needed before any course of study that could be deleterious to the research subjects should be allowed to commence; if public opinion matters.
Further steps that would reduce the liklihood of the sort of reactions London's studies have evoked include:
1. Open the protocol review process to the public and invite comment.
2. Increase public membership on oversight committees to at least parity with the vested members.
The only way to overcome the distrust of the public would be to:
1. Open the labs to unannounced public inspections.
2. Install webcams in every lab and animal holding room.
Hunkering down won't make the issue go away. Refusing to provide details implies that there is much to hide.
at 11:55 AM