The conduct of the NHMRC review into Wind Farms and Human Health has not complied with the terms of reference given to the Wind Farms and Human Health Reference Group. Beyond that, the review is riddled with critical flaws and inconsistencies in the selection of evidence upon which it draws and in the analysis conducted.
While no doubt unintentional, this has created a massive, systematic bias in the results reported from the review. The flaws that plague the review include:
- A critical departure from the announced terms of reference that effectively amounts to intellectual “bait and switch”.
- The wholesale exclusion of studies that even the review report inadvertently demonstrates are actually relevant. This systematic exclusion encompasses virtually all studies of sound and health from industrial and urban settings as well as virtually all laboratory research.
- The use of only a few articles, not all peer reviewed scientific literature, to make strong, sweeping claims to rebut the possibility of health effects from wind turbine noise.
- The attempt to distil conclusions down to simple numerical assertions that take no account of the physics underlying sound propagation from wind farms and the complexities in the spatial distribution of their sonic energy.
- One-sided application of the requirement for evidence to be peer reviewed scientific literature to exclude material supporting the existence of health effects while using contrary, non peer reviewed material.
- Careless arguments that ignore relevant data and use sloppy logic.
If the review reported on what it was actually asked, ie the existence of evidence on possible health effects of wind farms, then even after the restrictions imposed on evidence considered and the review’s own special use of data and logic, it would have had to report:
“There is evidence of possible health effects of wind farms under some circumstances.”
which the review might legitimately have qualified with the observation that:
“The precise circumstances under which various adverse health effects occur and the underlying mechanisms are not well understood.”
Instead, having ignored the actual terms of reference, the review stated:
“There is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans.”
The reviewers could, with equal veracity, have stated:
“There is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms DO NOT directly cause adverse health effects in humans.”
which would be important information for the authorities the review purports to advise.
Sadly, in its current form, the paper appears like a political document masquerading as a scientific one.
This inevitably calls into question either the attention to task, process management, or effective involvement of the Reference Group, given it is unthinkable that the multitude of review defects could be due to either incompetence or intentional bias.
The credibility problem it creates for NHMRC work on this topic can only be expunged by totally reconstituting the Reference Group and appointing review staff uncompromised by association with this debacle.
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