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Purdah – protecting the scientist’s voice

Published: 19 May 2017
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By Jono Bruun

The British Pharmacological Society has joined many other leading organisations from across the scientific community in signing a letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. The letter asks for clarification from government on how ‘purdah’ affects science and scientists in the run up to an election, and has received significant attention in the media over the past few days.

Over the last few years, the Society has been building its engagement with government, other scientific groups and our broader community of patients and the public. We’ve done this deliberately and carefully, as part of a plan to be helpful to decision-makers and to those who are affected by policy choices. We have championed the importance of pharmacology and clinical pharmacology to people at home and abroad. We have talked about the affordability of medicines to the NHS, about the misuse of drugs for physical and image enhancement and the associated risks to young people, about the impact of leaving the EU, about how we might learn more and improve future outcomes when clinical trials go badly wrong, and about how we can support the kinds of skills needed to discover, develop and deliver new medicines to a growing base of patients in years to come.

While the Society has not been directly prevented from speaking out on these issues during purdah, we recognise that there is a risk to everyone in the science community if valuable expertise and insight cannot be shared. As a body of scientists and clinicians whose work directly affects the health and wellbeing of patients, this feels like a critical issue.

So, we were proud to join colleagues from across the wider scientific community to sign this letter. We’re hopeful of a positive and engaging response from government, and look forward to continuing to promote the advice and support of our members on critical issues affecting public health, no matter when they arise.

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