Arco Timmermans Discusses the Remarkably High Number of Deleted References to the Steel Industry in a Definitive GGD Report on Lung Cancer in the Dutch IJmond Region
Arco Timmermans is Professor by special appointment Public Affairs at the Institute of Public Administration. On Dutch television programme 'EenVandaag', he discussed the remarkable changes that have been made in a report on lung cancer in and around the Dutch city of Beverwijk that was presented by the GGD (the Dutch municipal health services).
A concept version of the GGD report on lung cancer in the IJmond region mentioned that it was highly likely that the air pollution caused by the steel industry played a role in the high number of lung cancer patients in the region. In the definitive report, that was published some three months later, a remarkable number of these references have been deleted.
Arco concludes that it is unusual for the definitive GGD report to make less mention of the steel industry and refer more to other probable causes such as smoking and traffic. The question we should be asking is: why have these changes been made?
Why this difference?
The reasons are unknown. Little explanation has been provided about the differences between the two reports, there has been no mention of an incorrect calculation or something similar to do with the influence of the steel industry. Timmermans finds it hard to believe that in the period between the concept report (February) and the definitive version (June) new facts or data have suddenly become available. Arco: 'My only explanation would be that someone somewhere has been exerting influence or reasons have been invented to do something about that text.'
All organisations and companies try to minimise or prevent bad news, this can be achieved by trying to influence the research questions or results. This can be done informally, invisibly, as is often the case with lobbying. But you should still be able to explain the difference and that has not been the case here. Is the GGD making itself vulnerable by doing this? That could very well be, people will want to know the facts and why these two versions are so remarkably different. Transparency is definitely lacking.
Prof. dr. Arco Timmermans is Professor by special appointment Public Affairs at the Institute of Public Administration of the Faculty Governance and Global Affairs in The Hague. His teaching is about public policy in the Netherlands and the EU, interest representation and public affairs, for example in the mastertrack Public Affairs.