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RE: Article from the Chicago Sun-Times

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Scott: 

If Dr Corley was writing for an informed audience (that is, an audience of
structural engineers), his lack of disclosure would be poor judgment but
otherwise not a big deal. The problem was that he was writing for the
general public. And they deserve to know that he represents a particular
viewpoint (just as Charlie or I would identify ourselves as representing
AISC when we speak with the general media).

Scott Melnick
AISC

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	Scott Maxwell [mailto:smaxwell(--nospam--at)engin.umich.edu] 
Sent:	Thursday, September 11, 2003 9:00 AM
To:	seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject:	RE: Article from the Chicago Sun-Times

Charlie,

To bottow a phrase from you, "Oh my."

How do you know that his opinion would be any different if he was a fellow
employee at AISC?  Maybe he truely believes what he stated and would still
do so no matter who he worked for.

I agree that the lack of disclosure of his ties that if known by all could
be seen as a potential conflict of interest is not a good thing.  But,
truthfully, beyond allowing some who knows to be able to exercise a little
"grain of salt" judgement when "assessing" his opinion, should such a
potential conflict of interest alone really absolutely determine in your
mind whether or not he is execising an undue bias?  If so, then would that
not mean that your potential conflict of interest (you do work for the
steel industry's trade organization) alone could be used to damn all of
your opinions as being biased?  Personally, I _DON'T_ think so.  It
certainly helps that you are upfront about your potential conflict of
interest, so it does not appear that you are "hiding" anything in an
effort to give yourself more credibility (or better yet to take some
credibility away due to a perceived bias).  But, then a cynic could just
say that your are using that "honesty" to hide behind while still putting
forward "bought and paid for" opinions (and although I am typically rather
cynical, I need to point out that I DEFINITELY don't believe such a
thing...just playing "devil's adovocate").

The point is that he could truly believe that fire protection "things"
other than fire sprinklers do provide a much better life safety protection
than fire sprinklers.  He then could be "creatively" phrasing his
arguement in an attempt to support what he believes is something intented
to protect life safety.

And like or not, this can even be true in politics.  While there are
policies that the Bush administration has put forward that I don't like or
agree with, I won't deny that many, if not all, are things that he truly
believes are for the good of the country.  Now, admittedly, I tend to
distrust _ALL_ politicians to a large degree and personally believe that
the whole political system is largely "on the take" from special
interests, I also believe that at least to some degree that is a personal
"flaw" (i.e. lack of trust with little hard evidence to really back it
up...but lots of "potentially conflicts of interest" or circumstantial
evidence).  Due to my "flaw", it just becomes a matter of who the
politician is "in bed with".

Still just because Bush came from the oil industry, I don't automatically
make me assume that when he wants to go drilling in Alaska that he is
paying back his buddies.  The potential conflict of interest just makes
me kind of go "hmmmm" and toss around a few grains of salt in my head.
Similarly, just because Edwards was a trial lawyer, I don't automatically
think that his opposition to civil suit monetary limits being proposed by
some in Congress is a form of payback to his buddies.  Rather, the
potential conflict of interest just makes me kind of go "hmmm" and toss
around a few grains of salt in my head.

Now, I have to apologize for bringing politics into the discuss, but I
thought it helped to illustrate the point further.  And I tried (hopefully
sucessfully) to avoid making politically charged comments/opinions (i.e. I
tried to be an equal opportunity "basher").  And for the record (again), I
am at least slightly to the "left" of "center" (others would say more than
slightly, but such descriptions are always somewhat relative to where the
preception of the describer is coming from) so that all can be fully aware
of my potential bias/conflict of interest on those things politico.

Enough philosophical thoughts for now.  Back to our regularly scheduled
geekie engineering thoughts.

Regards,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI

On Wed, 10 Sep 2003, Carter, Charlie wrote:

>Scott,
>
>I've reacted as I have to this item because I view it as an intentional
>attempt to push an agenda without any acknowledgement of the pusher's
>conflicts of interest in having been hired to spin and advocate on the
>subject. You and I knew it existed, but does everyone who needs to? I
>consider it completely unethical to offer hired opinions while attempting
to
>characterize them as if they are unbiased. Our opinions are supposed to
be
>the same whether they are for the buyer or seller, aren't they?
>
>I don't think all of the statements made are true and I think many are
>misrepresentations hidden in some cases behind creative phrasing that is
a
>lot like depending on what the meaning of the word "is" is. I see no
place
>for this in any process that is intended to protect life safety.
>
>Charlie
>



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