Word of the week: Experts

    22 May 2020


    A person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field. An authority.


    The UK government ordered a national lockdown after following the science from experts in pandemic modelling. They have discovered that the authority of science can be used both to justify a policy and excuse it afterwards when it fails.

    For many years politicians have launched waves of initiatives which are ‘evidence-based’ or ‘follow the science.’ The rules for engagement with experts are simple:

    1.    Pick your favourite expert

    Politicians recognise that ‘evidence-led’ policy is difficult when there is such a range of evidence, that leads us in different directions. When dealing with contradictory evidence, it is important to ensure that any policy is evidence-led, by carefully selecting experts who will produce the required evidence in support of a proposed policy. The careful selection of experts enables policy-led evidence to be produced in support of evidence-led policies

    2.    Produce a number, any number

    In modern times, experts use computer programmes to produce numbers that inform policy. Computer models can generate a series of forecasts and predictions on demand, by applying the appropriate assumptions. Some programs randomly produce numbers until an appropriately large number is generated. The big, scary number provides the evidence required to justify a radical policy.

    3.    Launch an evidence-based campaign

    Experts take a special interest in the drinking and eating habits of the general public. One year, experts railed against saturated fats. In another year, salt was identified as a major cause of ill-health. Now, it is sugar. Government Ministers have successfully responded to experts at every stage. It is feared that experts will soon identify food itself as a major cause of death.


    “We are following the science which shows that experts produce the best evidence when they are commissioned by politicians, to produce it.”