Video: Freeing our Data

I was on BBC’s Daily Politics show Thursday, 17 January 2013 discussing opening up government databases with Stephan Skakespeare who is leading the government’s review. The main point I hope I made is that access to data should be determined by what is in the public interest not necessarily that which can turn a profit.

2 Responses to “Video: Freeing our Data”

  1. Josef says:

    Good sortie here. Keep the pressure on Newsbrooke :-).

  2. Susanna says:

    I did a Freedom of Information Act request in January 2010, to the House of Commons, to see what hospitality – breakfasts, free lunches, lectures with buffet lunches or sandwich lunches from a particular corporate sector – had been offered to MPs but this information is not kept by the House of Commons.

    To obtain it, you would have to do a FOI Act request to each individual MP – but they are not obliged to reveal it. I have been informed by the House of Commons that MPs and Lords are not regarded as public authorities and so under the FOI Act are not required to provide data about what corporate entities provide them with free meals.

    The corporate sector goes to a lot of effort goes to cultivate relationships and food is one very good way of doing this. Drug reps (used to) courier in free daily breakfasts for hospital staff and for community health teams and pick up the tab. Short “educational” talks are accompanied by generous free lunches.

    If MPs and Lords are exempt under the FOI, how did you obtain all that data?

    The evidence that this kind of thing can shape behaviour is here:

    A study [1] tracked drugs that doctors prescribed, before and after attending all-expenses trips paid for by drug companies to drug-company sponsored conferences.

    The doctors’ prescribing patterns for only two drugs were tracked for 22 months before and 17 months after each conference.

    Ten doctors, invited to each conference, were interviewed about how likely they thought that such an incentive might affect their prescribing patterns.

    There was a significant increase in doctors prescribing both drugs after the all-expenses trips to the conferences and this alteration in behaviour took place even though the majority of physicians attending the symposia were quite sure that such incentives would not alter what they prescribed.

    A second study [2] that showed that:

    (a) gift-giving in radiation oncology was endemic; and
    (b) although each doctor was likely to consider himself or herself immune from being influenced by gift-giving,
    (c) he or she was suspicious that the “next person” might be influenced;

    There was a correlation between (i) the willingness of each doctor to accept gifts of high value and (ii) their sympathy toward this practice.

    From these two studies, it sounds as if decision-makers worry that others are too easily persuaded and are very confident that they themselves can’t be – even though their own behaviour suggests that something quite different may be happening.

    Here are the papers:

    [1]. Orlowski and Wateska.
    Chest. (1992; 102:270-273.
    The effects of pharmaceutical firm enticements on physician prescribing patterns. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    2]. Halperin et al.
    International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics: 2004 Aug 1;59(5):1477-83
    A population-based study of the prevalence and influence of gifts to radiation oncologists from pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers.

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