Limiting scientific debate: A change in the AGU policy on Presenting Alternative Scientific Viewpoints

AGU_logoGuest essay by Roger A. Pielke Sr.

In the August 20 2013 issue of EOS both the AGU Statement on Climate Change [ ] and my comment on the Statement [ ] were published. However, I was not permitted to publish my Minority Statement in EOS, but only refer to its URL on another website.

In this post, I want to share with you the policy announced by the AGU President, Carol Finn, in two e-mails to me. I extracted the text on this subject from her e-mails to me (which were also copied to others at the AGU, so that these e-mails should be considered open communications).

First, I want to reiterate the supposed AGU policy on Forum articles in EOS from their website link I have highlighted a specific sentence.

Forum contains thought-provoking contributions expected to stimulate further discussion, within the newspaper or as part of Eos Online Discussions. Appropriate Forum topics include current or proposed science policy, discussion related to current research in the disciplines covered by AGU (especially scientific controversies), the relationship of our science to society, or practices that affect our fields, science in general, or AGU as an organization. Commentary solely on the science reported in research journals is not appropriate.

Maximum length: 1500 words; usually figures are not included, but when they are, each counts as 400 word equivalents.

My minority statement certainly fits within this Forum framework.

However, a (new) AGU Policy that, in my view, limits scientific debate within the AGU was announced by the AGU President.

Following are the relevant extracts of e-mail text from Dr. Finn’s communication to me:

As you know, Eos is the official transactions of AGU. Your draft alternative to AGU’s climate position statement falls outside of an official transaction of AGU, and therefore cannot be published in Eos.

Forum articles cannot be extended commentary on a previously published Eos article, such as the report on the new climate change position statement.

Quite frankly, I am disappointed that as prestigious a professional society as the AGU, of which I have always been proud of my association, has now decided to limit the exchange of scientific perspectives within the primary medium of communication within our society (EOS).

This AGU venue of publication has now become more of an advocate for particular perspectives than a venue to advance our knowledge of science issues. While in this case, it is dealing with climate science, the issue actually goes to the core of any controversy within any subject areas that are represented by the American Geophysical Union.


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Seems the AGU thinks politics trumps science now. We need a debate, they don’t want one because they are afraid of the outcome.

I think it’s interesting that according to AGU a picture is worth 400 words…

john robertson

Thou shall not notice the mann behind the current.
This is typical academia, dissent is evil and shall be forbidden.
Policy? Policy is for the wee people.
Me thinks your institution is dead on its stump.
Thankfully Anthony has been demonstrating the future of scientific discussion here at WUWT with great success and charm.


It looks more like the science of gate keeping.

Karl W. Braun

Maybe the creation of a new AGU is in order.


The AGU is morphing into a flat earth society, ironically.


Dr. Finn appears to believe she is preserving the credibility of the AGU, but the opposite seems to be true.


How disappointing.


It sounds like they’ve moved policy closer to intent but no closer to need. Score one for the gatekeepers. Twitter has more freedoms.

M Courtney

Since Peter Gleick was welcomed back to its meetings I have never understood why anyone with any integrity is involved with the American Geophysical Union.
The AGU has no integrity. So why be associated with them?

Disko Troop

The silence from the members is quite deafening…

Most consensuses are not based on science. All
cults are a consensus. But few cults are based
on science. Some cults are based on avoiding
science. Global warming is just that, a cult
based on avoiding science. But it even goes a
step further, global warming is a cult that
avoids science and camouflages this avoidance
by fraudulently representing itself as science.
solvingtornadoes dot org


Why is it that the well connected elites have such a fondness for railroads, particularly big, fast, expensive railroads that take you where they want to go and you can only get onto this railroad with their permission (peer review). I wonder if Dr. Finn realizes how superfluous her railroad is in the age of an information superhighway where everyone has an on-ramp and can select their own destination?


Science by decree, policy or position paper is not science. but one of religion where members who wish to express alternative points of view about the official dogma are excommunicated.

Pat Frank

Carol Finn’s statement is just a convenient pretext. Opportunistic pretext is widespread among climate science officials as a preferred means to shut out critical debate. Pretext provides the internal dissimulatory latitude that allows them to get their way without confronting their own dishonesty.
In the first quote above, Carol’s personal latitude turns upon the subtle re-definition of “official transaction” in her two uses of it. The first time around, it means publication in an official AGU magazine. The second time around it means official position of the AGU organizational management. But as Carol has used the same phrase twice, she can pretend it means the same thing in both instances. Thus: latitude to avoid confronting her dishonesty.
The second paragraph is untrue, as EOS has traditionally published the give-and-take of critical commentary. For example. The description of EOS Forum on the EOS site itself contradicts Carol: “Forum contains thought-provoking contributions expected to stimulate further discussion, within the newspaper or as part of Eos Online Discussions. (my bold)”
Carol just renames critical response to be “extended commentary,” and decides that disallowing the latter is OK because the words are different even though the contextual meaning is the same. Thus: latitude to avoid confronting her dishonesty.
So there we have it. In the first instance, Carol utilizes the same phrase but opportunistically applies different meanings, while in the second she utilizes different phrases but opportunistically applies the same meaning. All done as a pretext to suppress debate, while maintaining the internal fiction of integrity.
Red Queenitis, internalized, in action, and in view before us all.

– Sounds like Pielke is in the American Gospel Union
… and he is having a hard time cos he’s going against Their Gospel

So EOS joins Scientific American and National Geographic, far removed even from my canary’s cage? So much to read, so little time. Thanks for the warning note.
About “Red Queenitis”; Humpty Dumpty said it well, “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less. The question is, which is to be master—that’s all.”


Carol got the job to do this one single job exclusively. The only rational response is to continue arguing for what you consider to be correct.

Welcome to the Age of Scientific Denial. It is not the skeptics who refuse to debate and openly discuss the contradictions of climate science.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Limiting scientific debate: A change in the AGU policy…
I called up this article after seeing the title, thought it was an accidental reposting of an old story, seemed very familiar.
But why should it matter if AGU limits debate? They’ve embraced Post Modern Science (PMS). They have all the facts they need or want. The time to debate is over, now it’s time to get on with the advocacy!


——–They’ve embraced Post Modern Science (PMS)——- [snip -over the top -mod]

M Courtney

Matt says at August 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm …
No, it is not gender related.
This is corruption stemming from a disregard for the truth.
They had Peter Gleick (male) as their ethics expert. And they weren’t ashamed when he was exposed.
Walk away from them and shake the dust from your shoes


The Galileo Syndrome is spreading


How will professional science unwind itself from CAGW?

Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
AGW Climate Change Zealots highlight the decline of our society. Their anti fossil fuel campaign is morally indefensible as it is the poor who are impoverished and die due to “skyrocketing” fuel costs the poor cannot afford to pay for. Their faith in government to control our energy resources attracks corruption like a magnet. Green energy is inefficient, high price and fails to deliver the energy promised. A few insiders get richer while the poor get poorer. Tax payer money is siphoned off and handed over to looters and profiteers like Solyndra.

Berényi Péter

Is Dr. Finn authorized to change the rules?

Theo Goodwin

Pat Frank says:
August 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm
Your little essay is brilliant, brilliant, and brilliant. I wish everyone had your appreciation of the language.

It seems to me people looking for discussion will simply set up a common discussion forum and people will go from EOS to the forum. Then people will start skipping EOS altogether and start at the forum, much as we do with WUWT now. Then people might start skipping AGU together because it will have ceased being responsive to the interests of its members.

Chuck L

Other than AGW acolytes, I don’t know why any legitimate scientist would want to belong to such an organization. Absolutely disgraceful.


How long will it be before dissenting viewpoints are classed as “anti-societal” and subjected to forced psychiatric “rehabilitation” in state institutions? This was the practice only with political dissidents in the USSR! Are American academicians trying to go one step further?

Gail Combs

Disko Troop says: @ August 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm
The silence from the members is quite deafening…
It would be interesting to look at the membership numbers 15 years ago vs the membership numbers now. Unfortunately I am afraid too many people rate being a “Team Player” much too highly to actually think about leaving. (I think the term sheeple is more accurate BTW)

Arno Arrak

You may be a minority but so am I. I did not submit any comments on their position statement but now that I see what they are up to I just might. They will keep hearing from me if they choose to not respond.


How odd Pielke should chose a blog notorious for its censorship of inconvenient ideas to communicate his distress.
An alternative hypothesis explaining his rejection by EOS is the unsubltle distinction between:
“thought-provoking contributions expected to stimulate further discussion”
and the mind-numbing predictability of a tag team like Pielke <i.pere et fils.
The only more predictable avatar of scientific incivility one can name is (SNIP)
REPLY: Russell Seitz of Harvard (who has previously identified himself here) runs one of WUWT’s blog spawn websites – what’s interesting is that he put the (SNIP) in there, that isn’t a moderator signature and there is no record of any moderator interaction with this comment. Looks like the notorious “Sou” at “hotwhopper” fell for the Seitz trick. LOL! – Anthony


Only thoughts approved by the politburo will be published.


Dear Albert,
I must apologise for the fact that we cannot include your equation, E=MC2 because we are
unable to print a reduced sized number two.

Ha! I just looked up the AGU webpage, just for fun, and this is what is running as their top news item: “James Hansen to Deliver Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture”.
Really? Really? and it keeps getting better. Next story: “New research shows that in 2010 and 2011, enough water collected in Australia to temporarily halt a long-term trend of global sea level rise.”
This is sheer, unhinged, moonbattery. There is no excuse for anyone with integrity to remain affiliated with these clowns. Whatever value this organization may have once had, it’s nothing but fraud and nonsense anymore.

Robert of Ottawa

Was the AGU founded by a certain Russian pseudo-scientist called Lysenko?
These establishment scientists are going to support the political purposes of their funders, the statist establishment.
Hey, we need the grants money!

Robert of Ottawa

herkimer said @ August 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Science by decree, policy or position paper is not science. but one of religion
Allow me to correct you Herkimer, science by the means your describe are about power, which leads to money. Google Lysenko.


“New research shows that in 2010 and 2011, enough water collected in Australia to temporarily halt a long-term trend of global sea level rise.”

So rivers in Australia don’t empty into the ocean? I knew it was a strange place with Christmas in the summer and all that, but not that strange. So, if all the water in Australia was suddenly dumped into the ocean, how much would the global sea level rise? Would it even amount to 1 millimeter?


The AGU has become anti-science. Why do any of the AGU’s members continue to pay their dues? It is time to get a membership list and to make sure that the members know what they are supporting. It is also important that this membership list be published so that others know who these “scientists” are and what they support.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From “Russell” on August 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm:

and the mind-numbing predictability of a tag team like Pielke <i.pere et fils.

*sigh* Pielke “father and son”
How badly are they programming the automated smearbots that they alternate between English and French?
Granted, after reading about the supreme hacker expertise at SkS they seem like possible originators, but I’m not quite certain…

Gail Combs

Russell says:
August 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm
How odd Pielke should chose a blog notorious for its censorship of inconvenient ideas to communicate his distress….
If there is censorship here why am I seeing your comment HMMMMmmmmm?

William C. Luth

The stated positions of the AGU management, as illustrated by Dr. Finn are what led to my resignation from AGU a couple of years ago, after more than 50 years of membership. I have published in JGR , EOS, and Abstracts volumes, and attended annual meetings in San Francisco and Washington/Baltimore until 1996. Conversion to the current state of affairs leaves me with a sense of disgust mixed with regret.


@ Jean Parisot says:
August 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm
How will professional science unwind itself from CAGW?
Only after eco-totalitarism runs its course, like any other totalitarism in history including the worst. History repeats itself… sadly.


Would someone please edit the following, which is posted at AGU’s website, so that it more accurately reflects what they do in practice:
The purpose of the American Geophysical Union is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.
To achieve this mission, AGU identified the following core values and behaviors.
Core Principles
As an organization, AGU holds a set of guiding core values:
The scientific method
The generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge
Open exchange of ideas and information
Diversity of backgrounds, scientific ideas and approaches
Benefit of science for a sustainable future
International and interdisciplinary cooperation
Equality and inclusiveness
An active role in educating and nurturing the next generation of scientists
An engaged membership
Unselfish cooperation in research
Excellence and integrity in everything we do
When we are at our best as an organization, we embody these values in our behavior as follows:
We advance Earth and space science by catalyzing and supporting the efforts of individual scientists within and outside the membership.
As a learned society, we serve the public good by fostering quality in the Earth and space science and by publishing the results of research.
We welcome all in academic, government, industry and other venues who share our interests in understanding the Earth, planets and their space environment, or who seek to apply this knowledge to solving problems facing society.
Our scientific mission transcends national boundaries.
Individual scientists worldwide are equals in all AGU activities.
Cooperative activities with partner societies of all sizes worldwide enhance the resources of all, increase the visibility of Earth and space science, and serve individual scientists, students, and the public.
We are our members.
Dedicated volunteers represent an essential ingredient of every program.
AGU staff work flexibly and responsively in partnership with volunteers to achieve our goals and objectives.


Jos at says

Here, in my view, professional organizations like AGU and EGU are failing. Rather than writing position documents about climate science they should worry about the integrity of climate science and making sure that science can evolve wherever it wants to go. If we – by way of our professional organizations – are not defending the integrity of science, who will? It is a safe bet that no one else does.

Individual scientists worldwide are equals in all AGU activities

Looks like the AGU must have redefined “equals” (or perhaps “all” … or maybe both!)
The AGU appears to be following in the footsteps of the U.K. Royal Society: Its advocacy foot is leaping forward, while integrity (with so little support to sustain its pace) trails so far behind, it is rapidly crumbling to dust.

Bob Diaz

When you limit or restrict scientific debate, you step out of the field of science and into the political world where truth is murdered for political gain.


More of the same. Just look at what the IRS did to the opposition of the administration prior to the last election.
They created complete atrophy within an organizing party. How you say? Simply by stopping their abiliy to formally fund as a group. Brilliant strategy after the trouble in 2010, more importantly, effective.
The political climate for the AGU is no different, and trained by the same bunch, for policy sake.
Sad really, but scary just the same. Right in front of you.
It seems to me the lack of calibrating ones moral compass leads to the failure of successful navigation in the end.
Just my take>


Roger Pielke Sr. Sir – I am one who CHEERS whenever I see your name. Long may you speak out.