Thursday, 27 March 2014

RFP constraints

The Health Promotion Agency has issued a Request for Proposals for research on the effects of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. Appendix 1 is interesting.

When I set out my contract with the Brewers' Association, I made sure to specify that I owned any documents produced. This both ensured that they wouldn't seek to bury anything they didn't like, which I really doubt they'd ever have done, but more importantly that it would very well be seen to be the case that they could not.

Here's Appendix 1 to the RFP, as copied from the PDF emailed to me by a loyal reader with access to the GETS system. For those with access to the system, it is RFP RSC0203/13-14/03.
Government Model Contract (GMC) Form 2 SERVICES (2nd Edition)
HPA intends to include the following additional clauses to the Form of Contract:
Publication of Deliverables12.7 The Supplier will not publish the results of the Services undertaken pursuant to this Contract.
12.8 The Supplier acknowledges and agrees that the Buyer may publish information about this Contract, the Services, and the Supplier. The Buyer agrees to acknowledge the Supplier’s role in delivering the Services in any published information.
There could be good reasons for this. Suppose that folks previously contracted by the HPA had produced really terrible work that didn't pass internal peer review but that the supplier published it anyway, advertising it as an HPA-funded project. I have no clue whether this has ever happened as I know nothing about their internal review processes. Avoiding that kind of outcome seems a plausible good reason for gagging any contracted suppliers.

It remains the case that I have rather more academic freedom than those doing government-funded work.


  1. I certainly have no problems with that type of clause. If I pay for something, its mine - I will decide when it gets released (if it will get released), and in what form/context. Particularly in government you expect your employees to be discrete and, these days, you expect the same from contractors. I have never meet anyone in the private sector (i.e. a private contractor) who had problems with this clause, but I have meet many from universities who do.

  2. The worry with this kind of thing in sensitive areas is that it can be used to bury uncomfortable findings. I put 95% chance that HPA is doing it here for quality control and to prevent embarrassingly bad projects from being tied to them and hurting their reputation. But it's hard to set a policy that allows that kind of vetting that doesn't also allow for the sinking of research that goes contrary to what some Associate Minister of Health might want to be true.

  3. Agree, VMC. Like I said: 20:1 in favour of this being the right call, and especially in an election year where they could take some heat for being seen to be campaigning if a supplier gets a bit excited.

    But, there's nothing in the RFP saying "may publish after the election, or after lag of x months".

    I'm not wanting to damn the HPA here for this one, just pointing out that funding from government is not without strings.

  4. I have issued one or two of those myself and I agree the motivation is mainly to have total control over the process so that there are no surprises. I know it sounds petty but sometimes its as simple as an agency like HPA wanting to be sure their logo is bigger than the contractor's on the published document.

  5. here is Mr Eric saying he has more freedom that Government funded.
    But Mr Eric is funded by the NZ Government. He is Canterbury University funded.
    Like that socialist down there in Dunedin Bryce Edwards, also funded.
    Why do not we just get rid of this political University.
    Close Canterbury political and Dunedin political ,let them earn a trade qualificatiun.
    Eric is funded.

  6. Every tax dollar spent on a yacht race is a tax dollar that couldn't be spent on public healthcare. So I'm pretty sure that, in a pragmatarian system, insufficient demand breadth would remove a yacht race from the "menu".

    What about football though? Would the average joe rather spend 1 tax dollar on subsidizing the popular pastime or on public healthcare? No idea. But at least he would have no choice but to internalize the cost.

    It gets interesting when we imagine taxpayers being able to order from any country's "menu". How well subsidized would the World Cup be? Maybe more well subsidized than the Brazilian EPA? Personally, protecting the rainforest is a far more urgent priority than watching a ball get kicked back and forth.

  7. Academic Freedom comes from the University. If the University can't influence Mr Eric, then it doesn't matter where they get their funding from.

  8. Critic and Conscience is supposed to be part of the job here, so I'm supposed to be paid to do some of this stuff.

    That said, I'm remarkably insensitive to those incentives the University puts in front of me. I do what I think is right and important.