Monday, January 01, 2007
--Pat, the Dog
Scientist Organizes Resistance To Polygraphs
Posted by kdawson on Monday January 01, @04:53PM
from the drugs-lies-and-security-clearances dept.
George Maschke writes: "Brad Holian, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is using a blog to organize resistance to plans for random polygraph and drug testing of Lab scientists. Holian writes: '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.'"
by PurifyYourMind (776223) on Monday January 01, @04:56PM (#17425252)
The idea is to convince people to *believe* that the polygraph machine is scientific and will detect their lies so that they're more likely to not lie, or are nervous while questioning, or even don't take the test at all and just spill it beforehand. It's psychological intimidation, kind of like forcing confessions of bad thoughts in a cult environment. That's one reason you see those "you shall not be subjected to polygraphs at work" posters at your job... a nasty employer could really intimidate people (e.g. union organizers) with it.
by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday January 01, @05:22PM (#17425530)
So polygraph is a very expensive baseball bat?
"It would be a shame if something were to happen with your kneecaps..."
by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Monday January 01, @04:57PM (#17425266)
I guess I can understand polygraphy IF it's at all accurate. After all, they are dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security. As for drug testing, I think it should only happen if an employee is exhibiting other problems at work, if then. And it also depends what drug is being tested for. Is there any evidence that enjoying the occasional herbal treat harms work performance in any material way?
by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Monday January 01, @05:16PM (#17425482)
Have I met, worked with, or been exposed to obvious stoners that are clearly and continually unfocused, un-energetic, bad on short-term memory, and always looking for free food at meetings?
There's a huge difference between drug use and drug *abuse*. Profile based on behaviour, not based on chemical testing. If someone's a lazy obnoxious git, by all means fire him if he doesn't shape up, regardless of the reason.
This is like the difference between a red-faced drunkard and someone that has a glass of wine at dinner.
P.S. Brad Holian comments, "As to the title of the SLASHDOT post, 'Scientist Organizes Resistance To Polygraphs,' I would argue that I'm not really 'organizing' anything. I'm merely saying, 'What if 25% of the staff at LANL were to sign these short letters? Could LANS, LLC really fire that many, or would they change course?' The probability of any change in course is absolute zero, if no one says a word."
Brad: So far, I see you are joined by one LANL staff member; ergo, the probability may be small, but it's non-zero.
--Pat, the Dog
want. You can refuse the insulting
random drug test (which will just
result in your getting fired). But
the truth is, without a union
contract, you're pretty much screwed.
LANS can do what ever the hell they
want. As an individual you don't
matter to them. You can be a Big
Frigging Scientist and Member of the
National Academy of Science, the
APS and a fellow of the IEEE and they
will still fire your ass. It is
only the collective work force
they can't fire or shove these
policies down. But the problem is
we all stand as individuals, not
Via con Dios
As for drug testing, I don't like the idea, but at least it's an objective chemical test, whereas polygraph testing is based on the subjective whims of the polygraph interrogator. Being polygraphed is not a pleasant experience and has no place in a scientific institution. I would rate it right up there with rod-dowsing for water.
But let's cut to the quick. The scientific staff at LANL need to realize their situation has radically changed. We're all just "Average Joe" contractors now -- one of millions employed to do the work of the US Government. LANL scientists have lost their Premium Brand label with the implementation of the new contract. Job protections are also gone. Soon enough (probably after June 1st), a significant portion of the high-paying jobs at LANL may suddenly disappear. Which means you would be well advised to keep your yellow liquid extra-squeaky clean.
Learn to deal with this new environment if you hope to survive at LANL. As much as some may wish for the old days to return, they are gone forever. You can get angry or sad about it, but it won't change anything at this point. Getting emotional about it will just make your life miserable. Learn to adjust, or plan on leaving. Those are the only real options you've got at this point. And when you're feeling particularly bad, remember that there are lots of people who would love to have a job with the pay and benefits that we currently get at LANL. Be thankful, on occasion, for what you've got, especially when you consider that you may not have it for much longer.
The short answer, Brad, unfortunately is YES. The long answer is HELL YES.
I'm responsible for the title of the Slashdot.org posting. In retrospect, I agree with you that "organizes" may not be the best word. Perhaps "coordinates" or "advocates" would have been more apt.
In any event, I applaud your efforts and your moral courage in speaking truth to power. I hope that my posting to Slashdot.org has helped to bring needed attention to this issue, and that others at LANL will join you.
With regard to random polygraph screening, those who are unwilling to go as far as to refuse to submit can still engage in passive resistance by informing their polygraphers that they understand that polygraphy is a pseudoscientific fraud and refusing to fall into the trap of attempting to explain why they may have "reacted" to any questions. One should not allow oneself to be put in the position of having to explain why an invalid test may have yielded inaccurate results.
George W. Maschke