UN agencies have own interests at heart
The WHO and UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, have been hasty in their use of scientific findings to further their own institutional interests, says an editorial in The Lancet.
The WHO is accused of breaking a promise by issuing a press statement about research into an insecticide-treated malaria bednet programme in Kenya (see Blanket bednet coverage best, say researchers) without mentioning uncertainties in the scientists' paper or waiting for peer-reviewed publication.
The editorial describes the move as "reckless" and "an ill-considered rush by WHO against the advice of wiser scientific minds".
UNICEF is accused of rushing out a press release — without detailed data — about "a major public health success" in the fight against global child mortality. The suggestion, which the agency denies, is that it was pre-empting a paper reporting disappointing progress in efforts to reduce child deaths.
The editorial says it understands the need for urgency in translating research into policy, but adds, "The danger is that by appearing to manipulate science, breach trust, resist competition, and reject accountability, WHO and UNICEF are acting contrary to responsible scientific norms... Worse, they risk inadvertently corroding their own long-term credibility."
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