An Open Letter puts the University of Queensland in a dilemma over John Cook's '97% consensus' paper

Rud Istvan, sends this open letter along for publication and writes: This puts UQ on the horns of a terrible dilemma. The preferred political response is always to sweep such a situation under the rug and ignore it.

The letter follows.

Prof. Alistair McEwan, Acting-Pro-Vice Chancello, University of Queensland

Ms. Jane Malloch, Esq. Head Research Legal, University of Queensland

Mr. Graham Lloyd, Environmental Editor, The Australian

Prof. Richard Tol,  University of Sussex


Prof. McEwan:

On May 20, 2014, you issued a formal statement concerning the controversy published by The Australian on 5/17/14 surrounding Cook et. al, 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 024024, ‘Quantifying the Consensus’, hereinafter QtC. That statement presents the University of Queensland (UQ) with an ethical and legal dilemma. I call your attention to it expecting UQ will do the right thing.

Your statement makes it quite clear that UQ considers QtC was done under the sponsorship of and with support from UQ. This is indisputable. The solicitation for volunteer raters for the analysis that became QtC was: UQ released a statement about the importance of QtC in the UQ News on January 16, 2014 headlined, “UQ climate change paper has the whole world talking.”

Your 5/20/14 statement said in part:

“Only information that might be used to identify the individual research participants was withheld. This was in accordance with University ethical approval specifying that the identity of participants should remain confidential.”

And that is precisely your dilemma.

The published paper itself identified all the individual research participants (raters). They were either named authors (with affiliations provided, for example second author Dana Nuccitelli affiliated with UQ associated website SKS, as noted in UQ’s 1/20/14 news release, or were specifically named without affiliation in the paper’s acknowledgement. Lest you doubt this, following is that portion of the paper as originally published.



Your dilemma is this. If the UQ ethical approval exists as you officially stated, then the paper as published grossly violated it. QtC is therefore unethical according to UQ policy, and should be withdrawn forthwith.

We need not cite here all the governing Australian principles that UQ is obligated to follow under such unfortunate circumstances. Those include but are not limited to

There is 2014 retraction precedent concerning another unethical climate related paper from the University of Western Australia. If, on the other hand, there was no such ethical approval, or that approval did not require concealing rater identities, then you have officially misrepresented grossly invalid grounds for withholding the anonymized additional information needed for replication, such as date and time stamped ratings by anonymous rater. Said information has repeatedly, formally been requested by Prof. Richard S.J. Tol (Sussex University (U.K.), and an IPCC AR5 lead author) for his legitimate research purposes concerning what UQ said is a seminal paper. That data should still exist, and should be provided to Prof. Tol under UQ Policy 4.20.06a §8.2 and §9.1 (as last approved 11/28/13).

Either way, you and UQ both appear in a very bad light. It appears that UQ congratulates itself on gross ethical breaches (especially when basking in so much notoriety), while at the same time withholding anonymized primary data underlying a self admitted important research paper in contravention of UQ written research data policy. Either retract the admittedly unethical paper, or retract the grossly mistaken excuse and release the requested data to Tol.

I note in passing there is a third possibility, to wit Tol’s requested data does not exist. In which case, QtC should be retracted for being unsupportable if not also unethical. As you are probably aware, there have been many recent instances of unsupportable research subsequently retracted. These include but are not limited to papers from Ike Antkare in 2010, and many recent papers from the SCIgen group (which interestingly bears surficial similarities to SKS) now being retracted by Springer and by IEEE. Those two precedents may be particularly germane to UQ’s instant dilemma.

This letter is as copyrighted as those Ms. Malloch writes concerning this matter on UQ behalf. You and anyone else in the whole wide world are hereby granted permission to freely reproduce it in whole or in part. I suspect some may.

I look forward to whichever decision (retraction or data provision) you think best for UQ under the aforesaid circumstances.

Sincerely yours, s/s

Rud Istvan, Esq., JD/MBA


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Ken Hall


I’ve kept the link to retraction watch I made for Recursive Fury as a bookmark….
Not sure I’ll need it in this case, but here’s hoping.

Mark Bofill



Ha ha – an absolutely top drawer response to the idiots at UoQ ! Well done Sir


Oooooh, tricky one. I also note that the Minister of Education is aware of UQ’s conduct.
Here’s how they will respond:
1) ignore it
2) say the author has no standing
3) say “I know YOU are, but what am I?”
Meanwhile Lewandowski will conclude that the author is mentally ill, and write Recursive, Recursive Fury.


Excellent letter, but what’s next if they ignore it?

Matthew R Marler

Did you actually mail the letter to the addressee?



My goodness. That is one beautiful example of clear and concise logic. I am very interested in how this is going to come down. Surely the university can not ignore it.

george e. conant

popcorn anyone??

I like it. What’s the betting, though, that they’ll just ignore it. They can’t answer it without admitting some fault on their part, and they sure won’t want to do that.

The University of Queensland folks will ignore the letter. After all, it is copyrighted and they cannot admit they have read it.


Doesn’t “research participants” refer to the subjects of the research, i.e. the authors of the papers reviewed, rather than the raters?

I am just a simple Red Neck. I understand the ethics here, but what about the “science”? Most will find the ethics issue somewhat trivial. Since the “science” is not mentioned, it must be “OK”??
Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)


Ignoring it will just prove implicitly that they know they screwed up royally. Thinking I could really use a cold beer with all that popcorn. Gonna be a long season….

Maybe they can download a copy from mediafire or rapidshare and say they didn’t know it was copyrighted.


Mods, not sure if the error is in the original or through transcription, but the addressee at The Australian is ‘Graham Lloyd’.
[Changed, thank you. .mod]


Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

Mac the Knife

Rud Istvan,
A masterful analysis!



They will ignore it and hope it goes away. To the left, Integrity is a quaint, outmoded notion; PR is all that matters. “Create your own reality” and such assorted bumper-sticker drivel are examples of the vacuousness of progressive philosophy.


THis is the ONLY way to deal with these people. They WILL take notice because most likely it will appear in major Australian newspapers..I for one as an UQ ex alummi will not be donating any more funds to UQ until all the higher staff and AGW fanatics Vice-chancellor etc are removed as well as Cook et al.


Will any Australian newspaper publish Rud Istvan’s letter?
Will any radio or tv station do news item on it?
Will any member of Parliament bring the letter up in a session?
All of the above I Hope.
Great job Rud Istvan,

here we go

Chad Wozniak

@Eliza –
Good for you, not contributing to UQ so long as it engages in these shenanigans.
I cut off my alma mater, University of California, Santa Barbara, after learning of the extent to which this institution has been subverted by the left and is touting global warming. Not a red cent will they get from me till they clean house of these people.

I love this – the analysis many many intuitively ‘got’ put into ‘woids’. From L. visc M. to Rud – the actual print via conductor WUWT. As others intimate, see other media now pick up and run with it – at the end of the day the media love a story, whatever ‘conflict’ they can comment on, which ever way they want to sell it, it’s all a ‘reveal’ on the dispicable deed(s).

The ethics process was designed to protect participants. I can’t see anyone taking up Mr Istvan’s concern for their welfare if they have no complaint.
Retraction is for the journal. They would retract if asked by the authors, but it’s unlikely they would do it at the behest of UQ.

Roger Dewhurst

Ms. Jane Malloch, Esq.
Oh dear!!!!!!!!!!!

Rud Istvan

Eliza, I have regrettably done the same for my 3x alma mater Harvard over Oreskes.
Donitkin, it was a transcription error. Plus. I obtained his actual email through LinkedIn, as Google won’t provide it. Trust me (heck, not me, Internet servers) he has it.
Earwig42 perhaps. Prof. Tol is himself on the case per three emails to me yet today very late his time. We both hope it can reform the scientific process. It was sent to UQ first with Tol cc’d. I gave them oh, about an hour to reply before…
All, I will not let UQ ignore it. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, it will become another essay in my forthcoming next book, several ‘readers digest’ draft essays from which are already posted over at Climate Etc.
Regards to all fellow sceptics. It was never about the science. So let’s play Chicago style politics.

Doug Proctor

Not all requests need have responses …. as long as the requester does not pursue and obtain legal direction from the courts to make a response.
The simplest way lies, misdirection and error continue their merry lives is if the ones responsible simply stonewall, look blankly and say nothing. I works for marriages (heading for divorce, that is).

The biggest criticism I had about Cook’s study was the fact that it was so stupidly designed, almost as if he wanted there to be as much subjectivity as possible, which I’m sure he did. Surveys of opinion should never be carried out by anyone with a personal involvement in the outcome.
If Cook and the U of Q really wanted an answer to their question, they should have turned it over to the university dept that would be qualified to conduct such an opinion survey (probably someplace in their business school). The first problem I see is that the data Cook was using (research papers) was almost certainly obsolete and not relevant for the question of what climate scientists believe at the present time. I don’t think anyone cares what they thought 10 years ago, or whenever those papers were written. This, in and of itself, is reason enough for rejecting Cook’s survey. But there’s more. If you want to determine what a person believes about a subject, you ASK HIM. You don’t grab some papers he has written, probably years ago, and engage in what amounts to reading tea leaves in order to determine his opinion as of today.


Brad says “Ignoring it will just prove implicitly that they know they screwed up royally. ”
I doubt it. I suspect that they will take the stance that the open letter doesn’t warrant a response.
It’s the same argument they use as to why they won’t openly debate skeptics.


With due respect to Mr. Istvan there were raters that participated in this project who were not listed as authors or acknowledged in the paragraph he cites. Further, not all of the folks in the acknowledgement section were raters.
The identities of two of those people are known via info from the leaked forum. The others identities are not known and it is entirely possible that they requested their identities not be revealed.


See here.
17 of the 24 raters identities are known via publicly available information.

Green Sand

Nick Stokes says:
May 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm
They would retract if asked by the authors, but it’s unlikely they would do it at the behest of UQ.

Pressure, Nick, pressure, just like it builds in the atmosphere nobody knows just how it builds, nobody can yet “model” it!
Precise enough?

James (Aus.)

Has UQ any wind farm investments?

Rud Istvan

DGH, in the event you are correct, that is yet another reason for having the paper retracted. it’s very acknowledgement was false. Thank you, although that was probably not your intent,
My advice when playing Chicago style chess is, ‘think ahead’.

Green Sand

DGH says:
May 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm
With due respect to Mr. Istvan…

Three Musketeers Sir!
All for one, one for all! Is a “rater” immune? Does one “rater” leave his publicised comrades to take his share of the accolades? Nyet comrade!

Green Sand says:
May 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm
does one Rater make a paper be ? ;>)

I would not believe word one from Dana or John even it that talked out of their […] like the pet Detective . ;>)

Ursa Felidae

I’m confused…..
The project, so I thought, was to read abstracts and declare belief/or not in CAGW.
Are the researchers in this case also the research participants?
So are we to judge the mental states of said research participants then?
Perhaps the 97% is simply the bias of the researchers/research participants?

M Seward

Think about this – the people at UQ are supposed to be the smart ones, part of our intelligentsia! At this rate academic intelligence is headed for oxymoron status like army intelligence. Except it won’t be a cheap joke, it will be accurate.


Well put, Mr. Istvan!
Perhaps UQ will now experience the “missing heat”…..
Certainly some light needs to be shed on this purported “science”….

Rud Istvan

Ursa Fidelae, that but one of the reasons Dr. Tol requested the underlying data. But one.


The art of spankage. Bravo. It even makes my butt hurt reading it.


Perhaps this will cause Ms Malloch to reach for the Maalox.


@Steamboat Jack
If the methodology is unsound, there is no science.


what is it with our aussie universities?
20 May: Guardian: North Korea: an unlikely champion in the fight against climate change
Pyongyang is cooperating with global strategy on climate change, writes Dr Benjamin Habib. The question is, why?
(Benjamin Habib for The Conversation, part of the North Korea network)
(Dr Benjamin Habib is a lecturer in politics and international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.)
***Renewable energy may be the most appropriate vehicle for increasing generation capacity because unlike large centralised fossil-fuels, renewables can be scaled locally which reduces their up-front cost.
For example, a UNDP-sponsored project is installing small-scale wind energy systems at sites across North and South Pyongan Provinces, helping to alleviate energy shortages affecting these areas by decoupling them from reliance on the coal-generated electricity grid…
Most significantly, renewables offer North Korea considerable scope for technology transfer, infrastructure upgrades and income through the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.
Technology transfers for such projects do not violate the import restrictions of dual-use technologies listed under the UN Security Council sanctions regime against the DPRK. The income potential derives from the carbon credits generated by North Korea’s renewable projects, which can be traded on international carbon markets…
***Together, the projects already online in North Korea account for 193,475 carbon credits. At the EU spot price for carbon credits of $5.66/ton (3.36 pounds/ton) as of July 2013, North Korea’s current portfolio of carbon credits are worth a mere $1m per year.
LaTrobe: Staff profile – Dr Benjamin Habib. Lecturer
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
School of Social Sciences and Communications

Chip Javert

Col Mosby says:
May 22, 2014 at 3:24 pm
The biggest criticism I had about Cook’s study was the fact that it was so stupidly designed, almost as if he wanted there to be as much subjectivity as possible, which I’m sure he did.
I think most of us strongly agree with Col’s point about the trivial nature of this supposed research.
I suspect this was intentionally done so a “97% consensus” figure could continue to be published for consumption by the large audience of fairly uninformed population.
I’d bet the strength of the worldwide push-back to this academic cow-pie has come as a huge and unpleasant surprise to UQ and the authors. The resulting pseudo legal activity may simply be yet another attempt to play to the (presumed) larger uninformed audience.


pat says:
May 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm
This is a case of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. North Korea surely helps fight CO2 by having virtually no economy & causing the premature deaths by starvation of most of its population, thereby reducing emissions of the evil gas.
On reflection, I see that North Korea is really the dream world of CACA advocates, if only they were its rulers instead of violent psychopathic totalitarian monarchists. Oh, wait…
Never mind.