“Have you ever heard of the ‘white lab coat syndrome,’ Dave? It’s what happens when people like you step outside their area of expertise. You’re a scientist, so you have authority only when you speak as a scientist. But when you speak as a sociologist or a political psychologist, you have no more authority than anyone else.
“Now here’s what I’d like you to do, Dave. I want you to go back to that threat assessment you wrote, and I want you to look for every personal-value judgment you made –I want you to look for every recommendation or evaluation you offered outside your area of expertise, and I want you to remove them all. I want you to rewrite that threat assessment, Dave, because you write these estimates for policy makers –for people who have the power to act and to allocate resources. This is an important one, Dave, and I don’t want the National Security Council to ignore this because of some casual remark you made as a nonscientist. Okay?”
Dave blinked twice. “Okay.”
“Fine. Are we done here? Thank you for your time, gentlemen.” Macy closed the binder, rose, and headed for the door.
All three men watched until the door closed behind her. Donovan turned and smiled at Dave.
“Still want to go out with her?”
— A bit of dialogue from Tim Downs’ thriller, PlagueMaker (WestBow, 2006), p. 245. My wife and I read this novel over Thanksgiving break and ended up in a competition to see who would finish it first. Downs plots his stories deftly, weaves in solid research about quirky subjects like forensic entomology, the bubonic plague, and fireworks construction, and writes believable dialogue for smart characters. Give his books a try.