Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Polygraphy is an ... affront to scientists"

[Posted by reader_iam]

The discussion in the comments attached to this post about some scientists at Los Alamos protesting polygraphs and random drug testing is as interesting as the post itself. Here's a snip of the e-mail from LANL employee
Brad Holian that is included at the link to the "LANL: The Corporate Story" blog:
Polygraphy is an insulting affront to scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for employment for many scientists at Los Alamos. Like polygraphs, drug testing may also be subject to intentional abuse by managers and false-positive errors, but imposing a "random" program upon workers at Los Alamos, or any other institution that aspires to being a place of scientific research, is unnecessarily expensive and an un-American intrusion upon our Constitutional privacy--just another example of the mentality behind "warrantless wiretapping."

Besides being open to nefarious abuses (such as being imposed more often upon outspoken, troublesome workers), random drug tests are convenient tools for lazy managers. A direct supervisor who is worth his or her pay, maintains close enough contact with workers to be able to detect and stop work that is not safe or secure, should inebriation or undue influence of drugs be observed. Upon being told to stop work, the worker in question can be called into the manager's office and told to enter into medical treatment; the worker's subsequent failure to do so can then trigger more justifiably serious measures, including firing. But "random" people ought not to be subjected to the indignity of drug testing, unless there is real probable cause--but then, it's not random, is it?

The point about polygraphy is interesting. The phrase "should inebriation or undue influence of drugs" [emphasis added] is curious.

I don't know enough about either the science of polygraphy or the more recent situation at LANL to offer serious comment about this post. (I will say that in principle I've always had problems with random drug testing precisely due to probable cause issues.) But perhaps some of our readers, or fellow bloggers, do. Any takers?

Hat tip, Slashdot.