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RE: Article from the Chicago Sun-Times

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Scott:

And how many people in the "general public" are truly going to know what
AISC is and to what degree your affliation with them will or will not bias
your opinion?  I know a lot of structural engineers that don't really
understand the difference between a trade organization and a technical
organization (even though AISC _IS_ in my opinion not too terrible
"trade-like" or in otherwords too biased).

In otherwords, you identify yourself as being with AISC.  OK, so Dr.
Corley identifies himself as being employed by CTL.  How exactly does that
help the general public see the potential bias.  They would need to know
that CTL is affliated/owned by PCA, which is then a trade organization for
concrete (technically for cement, but we are splitting hairs).  How many
in the structural engineering world (or even just this list) knew that
information prior to Charlie pointing it out (and, yes, I knew having
worked for ACI and thus knowing Dr. Corley, as well as who and what PCA
and CTL are).

Regardless, you are still correct that some disclosure would be the
prudent thing to do.  After all, just about EVERY article in structural
engineering related magazines (Structure, Structural Engineering, etc)
usually has a one or two sentence "biography" of the author.  To me, the
intent of such a bio line is for "bragging" status for a company, but it
also serves as a disclosure.

But, then keep in mind that the disclosure thing can be a two edged-sword.
Sometimes you might make some comment that is truly 100% your belief
(and not your employer's) that gets attributed to AISC just because your
work for AISC and people know it.  That was a big reason why when I did
work for ACI and still participated on the list I used a private email
address...the point was that nothing I said was anywhere near being
official word from ACI.  The intent was to try and make sure that when I
give some stupid information (i.e. incorrect) nobody would mistake it as
coming from ACI, but rather just from dumb, little ol' me (and believe it
or not, I have been wrong at least once in my life...but don't tell
anyone <grin>).

Regards,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI


On Thu, 11 Sep 2003, Melnick, Scott wrote:

> 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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