Credibility Loss in Climate Science is Part of a Wider Malaise in Science

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball


The corruption of climate science by some misguided individuals in the quest to “save the planet” is the most egregious example of the larger problems facing science in general. The problems are causing rapid erosion of credibility in science and environmental issues. Some are talking about the growing problems, but few even want to acknowledge them until it directly impinges their work and career. The public is becoming increasingly aware and angry about the intellectual and political elitism that is the source of the decline in standards and values. A central theme to the Brexit vote in the UK and the rise of Donald Trump is the rejection of the elite trio of the financial, political, and academic enclaves that are destroying people’s lives.

After 40 years of working, watching, and dealing with the misuse of climate science; studying the history of science; working to improve education at all levels, and dealing with real world issues, I developed a sensitivity and much wider awareness. I also adopted George Washington’s slightly less cynical than Machiavelli’s observation that

“We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.”

From personal experience and involvement with the education system from Kindergarten to post-secondary, I know the problems of science are entwined with and amplified by the failures of academia. The ivory tower of the University of East Anglia and the lesser ivory tower (minaret) of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) are examples of the problem. Read the leaked emails and see how they worked together to hide the truth. In most cases of academic malfeasance, the administration, mostly comprised of academics, cover up obfuscate and fail to hold the miscreants to account. I stopped going to department meetings when it was discovered that a colleague had taken a student’s term paper and used 97 percent of it word for word as the basis for a research study for which he received payment from the government. Over my protests they did nothing except to say unless the student made an accusation, there was nothing they could do. I spoke to the student who said he was not going to become known as the student who ‘fingered’ a professor because he wanted to go to graduate school. I fully understood having gone through that political exercise (fiasco).

I know from my experience and discussion with others that such stories are endemic throughout academia.

The major problem is the always present, but widening disconnect between universities and the real world. The Ivory Tower has divided into discreet specialized towers not able to communicate with each other but collectively inured against examination from the real world. They won the town and gown fight centuries ago, particularly at the Battle of St. Scholastica Day in Oxford on February 10, 1355, and haven’t been back to town since, except to demand more money or impose unrealistic theories and unworkable ideas. The public is increasingly resentful of institutions that promote illogical, unrealistic, theories that negatively affect their lives, including costing many lives.

There are a widespread malaise and loss of direction in western society promulgated by bizarre ideas and theories produced by completely unaccountable academics. How can anyone promote ideas that were so wrong and did so much damage, like Paul Ehrlich, yet continue to practice? Most non-academics know they would lose their jobs immediately. Of course, academics wrote the rules on tenure so they cannot be held accountable. It is another of those anachronistic ideas from the Middle Ages. As Prince Philip said, universities are the only truly incestuous systems in our society. Sadly, and devastatingly, all these academic ideas permeate and undermine society, and virtually none add to the greater good, including preparing young people for the real world. In every other phase of education, the person must be trained and qualified to teach, but not at the universities. They are hired on the basis of a research degree, which requires a level of introspection and character that is generally the antithesis of good teaching. Most pass off the teaching to more unqualified graduate students and a majority do very little research in the time made available. I know first hand how little most of them do. Even if they teach, it involves a few hours a week for about one-third of the year.

Lack of accountability is endemic among the financial, political, and academic elite trio. It is no wonder that the modern attitude, especially among the young, is that you only broke the law if you got caught. Even then, it is most likely nothing will happen to you or anyone who benefits from your absolution if you are in the elite trio. So the malfeasance expands as the practices and false rewards continue.

A misguided article titled “The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientistsbegs a multitude of questions that speak to the wider problems. They begin with a quote from neurosurgeon Paul Kalanthi.

“Science, I had come to learn, is as political, competitive, and fierce a career as you can find, full of the temptation to find easy paths.”

The article lists the seven problems. (My comments in regular font.)

1. Academia has a huge money problem.

No it doesn’t.

2. Too many studies are poorly designed.


3. Replicating results is crucial – and rare.


4. Peer review is broken.


5. Too much science is locked behind paywalls.


6. Science is poorly communicated.


7. Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful.


The authors fail to note that most of these problems are self-inflicted. All these problems and much more exist in climate science. Remarkably, the authors conclude that “Science is not doomed,” which tells you what is wrong with academia and science.

Three of the issues, 2, 3, and 4 are so fundamental that unless they are corrected science is doomed. Also, they are not the only problems. A partial list would include;

· the use of science for political agendas;

· the willingness of scientists to produce science to support those agendas;

· the willingness of scientists to let their political bias color their science and their public activities – there is no better example than James Hansen;

· the willingness of scientists to participate in scientific research primarily to advance their career;

· the willingness of scientists to remain silent when they must, or should know that what the public is told is incorrect – I am unaware of any government or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist who challenged Al Gore’s movie and especially his claims about sea level rise;

· they mention poor communication of science to the public but fail to mention the constant stream of contradictions on almost every topic;

· they fail to mention the role and bias of the media or how some scientists exploit that bias;

· they fail to mention the failure to follow the scientific method of asking a question, carrying out a review of the literature, constructing a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by gathering evidence, analyzing the data and reaching a conclusion;

· they appear to consider only the opinions of academic scientists when much of the damage is done by bureaucratic scientists

Items 1 and 7 mention funding and academia. In the article, they explain,

Their gripe isn’t just with the quantity, which, in many fields, is shrinking. It’s the way money is handed out that puts pressure on labs to publish a lot of papers, breeds conflicts of interest, and encourages scientists to overhype their work.

Today, many tenured scientists and research labs depend on small armies of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to perform their experiments and conduct data analysis.


These grad students and postdocs are often the primary authors on many studies. In a number of fields, such as the biomedical sciences, a postdoc position is a prerequisite before a researcher can get a faculty-level position at a university.


These outlines the feudal system that exists in universities. You have patrician tenured faculty, most doing very little work. I know because I was there for 25 years. They use “graduate students and postdoctoral researchers” as feudal serfs. This is all confirmed at graduation ceremonies when they appear in their Elizabethan finery.

There is no shortage of money in academia in the US. One graph in the article illustrates the point by showing a steady increase since 1970 (Figure 1).


Figure 1

The problem is not adequate funding. It is too many people getting too much money for useless projects because there are too many people in universities. It is too many people going to university. The blunt truth is that for the majority of students it is a socially acceptable form of unemployment. Students getting less than a B average should not even be in university; for them, it is simply Grades 13, 14, 15, and (16). Some of this over attendance is because immigrant or newly successful middle-class families want their children to attend university. How many times do we here of graduates saying they are the first in their family to attend university? This creates the mentality that every child that enters Kindergarten is going to end up in university. Inherently, this makes any that don’t get there, failures.

One of many incorrect assumptions made in education is that it can increase a person’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). The difference is between nature (IQ) and nurture (education). Aristotle defined the issue when he pointed out that you can have a mathematical genius of five years old, but you will never have a five-year-old philosophical genius. Aristotle’s point was that most of the subjects’ students study in school require life experience, which they don’t and can’t have.

A. E. Wiggan explained,

Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables man to get along without education. Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.

The academics also convinced the public that only their narrow definition of IQ is relevant. It is intelligence that has little or nothing to do with the real world. Most academic research is done purely to get degrees, promotion, and tenure. Most add nothing other than volume to the cacophony of incomprehensible data. The article quotes Michael Burel, Ph.D. student, New York University School of Medicine.”

“Far too often, there are less than 10 people on this planet who can fully comprehend a single scientist’s research.”


And that is the problem, but it is the problem of Burel and science, not society. The inability of science to explain their work is the scientist’s problem. However, one of the reasons most people don’t “comprehend” is because most of science is of no consequence to people. If science wants the public to continue funding and prevent political exploitation the onus is with science to show the relevance of their work; and there it is, that dreaded word, “relevance.” The failure of academia is exposed by their argument that they don’t have to show how their work is relevant. Most of the science that benefits people is produced by business and industry.

The give away in the entire climate debacle were the actions taken before and after the emails were leaked. The resort to denial of freedom of information requests for data, use of intellectual property claims to prevent other scientists replicating results. The examples in climate science appear to be extreme. The list of seven indicates it is simply an exposed example of a widespread failure in academia, promoted and protected by the financial and political elite. This does not mean it is restricted to a particular political belief; it is equally problematic in institutions of the rich and poor, left and right because it is a complete society breakdown. Ironically, it was Osama bin Laden who said the West had lost its moral direction. He was right. The problem is I don’t want his moral system either.

We can solve many of our problems quickly by closing down 75 percent of our universities. Recognize that there are a multitude of skills and abilities far more important than those pursued by academia. Make those who remain in academia show the value and relevance of their work.

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tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 2:21 pm

I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: If you want to fix what has gone wrong with academic research you must eliminate government funding of research. As long as the overwhelming majority of research funding is from government you will get politicized science and science whose conclusions always support the policy needs of the government. The point of government funded research is to provide “evidence” in support of established policy goals. Honest research is not possible when government is the major supplier of research money.

Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 3:55 pm

I don’t necessarily disagree with you …… but.
Private interest money any different?
Such as drug pharmaceuticals.
Just being the devil’s advocate.

Chris Z.
Reply to  Hans
July 24, 2016 4:41 pm

No, treat science as an ART pursued by those who are sure it is their vocation, and will spend THEIR OWN money to fund their research. Nothing funded by a third party should be taken seriously.

Reply to  Hans
July 24, 2016 4:44 pm

There are already devil’s advocates after the pharmaceutical industry called lawyers. When a drug company releases a drug that isn’t up to snuff or is based on data which have been manipulated, you can be sure that trial lawyers will be after them, whether it is justified or not.
Who fulfills the same role for government funded junk science?

Javert Chip
Reply to  Hans
July 24, 2016 5:49 pm

Your question: Private interest money any different?
My answer: it depends on the motivation of the research. IBM, Apple (and others) have great research motivated by some dimension of “profitability” (profit, market share, commercial viability, first to market). Research motivated by political correctness, personal aggrandizement, political cliques, depend more on “marketing” than “profit”. Disciplines (psychology comes to mind) having a tenuous relationships with ‘profit” are left to the mercy of government (“aka: political) funding.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 8:39 am

Chris, Most of the rich have little interest in money. Traditionally, scientists relied on the support of a noble patron. However, the number of sufficiently wealthy patrons are few and far between. If I made a few billion, I might support some research.
Some big ticket items, such as CERN, the Hubble telescope, or the majority of large observatories, would be impossible to do without governmental support as they have no tangible benefit in the foreseeable future, and are beyond the means of even the Gates to fund.
While eliminating government funds to remove bias sounds good in principle, astronomy and experimental physics would reach dead ends very quickly, and many other branches would be stifled.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 8:40 am

Correction. “Most of the rich have very little interest in science, and those with interest in science have little money”. Somehow the middle part of that sentence got omitted.

Reply to  Ben of Houston
July 25, 2016 9:31 am

@Ben of Houston – actually the first comment was not too far from the truth either. 😉

Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 10:55 am

Private interest money any different?
1) comes from multiple sources which nullifies any private prejudices
2) would not finance silly and irrelevant research

Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 11:05 am

3) And most importantly: does not waste other people’s money!!

Joel Snider
Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 12:55 pm

The difference is, with private sector money, the government can act as an overseer, in order to police corruption. There is no such body to act as such for the government.
Moving from private sector to government funding is a ‘frying pan into the fire’ scenario. All the same corruption, no corrective mechanisms, and access to money without having to ask or explain.

Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 1:34 pm

Obviously, the quote from Dr. Ray Stantz applies:

Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve ~worked~ in the private sector. They expect ~results~.

Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 3:21 pm

There are too many scientists for it still to be science. There just aren’t that many people in the world who care what is true.

Reply to  Hans
July 25, 2016 3:28 pm

There are already devil’s advocates after the pharmaceutical industry called lawyers.
Actually the ambulance-chaser lawyers are vultures pecking a dead carvass. Thanks to them, real drug development has stopped. Except for some end of life / late cancer indications where pharma at least has a sporting chance against the chasers. No pharma company in the USA is likely ever again to develop a drug for a disease of childhood. This is the legacy the lawyers have left their lawyerlets.

Russ Madden
Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 4:08 pm

I agree. I think government-funded research — as does government-funded education, in general — violates the First Amendment. The government has no business deciding which are or are not acceptable ideas in any area of life, most especially in education. Not to mention that there is no enumerated power/delegated authority in the Constitution for the feds to be involved in these areas in the first place.
I am baffled — well, not really… — why this is so difficult for so many people to understand. Just as with religion, we need a complete separation of government and education.

Reply to  Russ Madden
July 25, 2016 1:00 am

“Just as with religion, we need a complete separation of government and education”. True. But for education, as in “separation of powers” (legislature, executive, judiciary) government funding is still needed. Separation of powers is rarely done well (legislature and executive usually too tightly linked), so no matter what model is used there will be problems.

Stephen Greene
Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 5:50 pm

This is further proof of loss of credibility

Reply to  Stephen Greene
July 26, 2016 1:21 am

If you summarised what it says, I might watch it.
But you could not bother, so I will not bother.

Bob boder
Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 6:02 pm

100percent agree

Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 7:14 pm

Little if any of the global warming government funding is usable.
Lying about butterflies, or thin shelled sea animals, or forest fires, or weather, or polar ice that isn’t melting, or mis-modeling the future really doesn’t need funding. 3/4ths of global warming climate science funding goes to mismodeling the future.
There is some science relative to weather prediction that was and is government funded. The rest of it can be dropped. This applies to psychology and a number of other pseudo-science fields that get government grants.
The lawyer function is still needed. Peer review, or at least serious peer review, should be an independent function done by non-scientists who can debar the sloppy or dishonest and grade the scientists eligibility for future grants. This would take a lot of the careerism out of the field.
But congress should ban by law any grant RFP that has the words “global warming” or “climate change”.and require a job action against any bureaucrat that writes one. It is settled science and undeserving of any future funding.

Reply to  tom gasloli
July 24, 2016 10:56 pm

I agree Tom.
Other countries should be pushing the limits of humanity’s knowledge forward, because they are better equipped, their education is more inclusive, and they have better intellectual resources.
China has the world’s best 2 computers now: Tianhe-2 is twice as fast as the USA’s best, and Sunway TaihuLight is five times as fast. There’s very little point in wasting money trying to do green-field research that the Chinese could do in 20% of the time.

Reply to  Seth
July 25, 2016 12:59 pm

Agree – provided that the Chinese whizzo-machines will do the sort of green-field research in – say – climate, weather, and forecasting. we’d all like that, especially if there was no political bias at all [and even better, if there is access to imperfect but unadjusted weather records].
An alternative, of course, may be a field more congenial to the funders [the Chinese state, I guess] – such as – oh, imagine it’s creating performance-enhancing drugs that are easily detected in Slavic athletes.
Me – I’m just saying.
Now, maybe you could think of other fields.
Auto, careful to be careful – as that nice Mr. Putin, philanthropist, might know where I live.
I wouldn’t want him to drop half a ton of gold on me.

Reply to  Seth
July 25, 2016 4:35 pm

provided that the Chinese whizzo-machines will do the sort of green-field research in – say – climate, weather, and forecasting.

I’m sure they’ll be used for a wide range of projects.
The Chinese government and high powered computing being what they are, some of their time will probably be spend on cryptography.

Walt The Physicist
Reply to  tom gasloli
July 25, 2016 11:49 am

Perhaps, the problem in not type of funding but rather its very competitive nature. The decision of what proposed research to fund is made by some body of “peers” in both government and private organizations that fund science. In particular, this committee of “peers” choosing research that will provide “broad impact”. How do they know? They don’t and, therefore, the funding goes to either shyster who lies the best or to a “well known” or “established” scientists or to the buddies of the committee members. I would suggest that public funding of scientific research should be based on quota going to the government labs and public universities based on some established number of researches. And let these scientists do whatever they chose to do.

Joel Snider
Reply to  tom gasloli
July 25, 2016 3:15 pm

TomB: I have used that quote a hundred times! Thank you!

Reply to  tom gasloli
July 25, 2016 6:43 pm

Tom, the majority of money spent in research is from “special interests” either directly, or is directed tax money through their influence on the folks that dole out tax money. An immense amount of funds spent in science comes through just a few sectors: commerce, defense and medicine. The Commerce Department is soundly in the pockets of whoever can offer the best issues for campaigning and medicine is a close second. Defense has a wonderful world full of nasties and all they have to do is point toward the Middle East and say, “DAESH, we need more money.” Of course now, thanks to Putin, we can also look to eastern Europe and a growing threat of sophisticated Russian war tech like the Sukhoi PAK FA.

Bob Johnston
July 24, 2016 2:25 pm

We can solve many of our problems quickly by closing down 75 percent of our universities. Recognize that there are a multitude of skills and abilities far more important than those pursued by academia. Make those who remain in academia show the value and relevance of their work.
I disagree with the idea of closing down universities because that would create the problem of determining which to shut down. T ome a much better idea is for the US government to stop guaranteeing student loans, which would shut off quite a bit of the spigot, particularly to those that are going just for the social aspect.
With the money spigot shut off, universities would have to begin competing for students and as a free market guy I think that would be a beautiful thing. Choices would have to be made that would be for the benefit of the students and not faculty and administrators. The schools that compete the best would be the most successful; schools that fail would then be shut down.

Reply to  Bob Johnston
July 25, 2016 4:18 am

“a much better idea is for the US government to stop guaranteeing student loans, which would shut off quite a bit of the spigot, particularly to those that are going just for the social aspect.”
No only the social aspect, but the money aspect. Student loans are just like a guaranteed four-year job. Works out real good during those four years. Afterwards, It becomes a financial burden, and the student has to live with his/her parents while trying to repay the loan.

Reply to  TA
July 25, 2016 1:34 pm

The vast majority of jobs today could easily be filled by specialists from 2-year certificate programs, dare I say “trade schools,” as opposed to those with academic degrees. The ability to do research, and field a broad exposure to “liberal arts” is not relevant to being an x-ray technician, a code writer, a fiber-optic cable installer, a vet tech or a hairdresser. College traditionally was for the upper 6% of society, not anyone they can drag in there, qualified or not. The percentage worthy of an education in the hard sciences, with true scientific integrity, is even lower. We need to also get rid of the junk courses that are cranking out “social experiments” aka “special snowflakes.” I wouldn’t hire one of THEM to muck out stalls!

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Bob Johnston
July 25, 2016 9:16 am

I think the best change in that situation would be that facilities would consider cost in their actions. The building spree on so many campuses to keep up with the Jones’s has caused huge, unnecessary facilities to be built to attract students who are separated from their bills by government guarantees and the assumption that the size of their student loan debt is unimportant.

July 24, 2016 2:31 pm

“How many times do we here of graduates saying…”

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Paul
July 25, 2016 9:05 am

Could be “How many times to we here have graduates saying…”

July 24, 2016 2:50 pm

This problem started to emerge i the late 1970’s when universities changed undergraduate science requirements for non-scientists to one temr of lab science, two of elective science and ONE TERM OF SCIENCE AND SOCIETY taught be professors in sociology, english, philosophy, history and other nonscientific fields.
George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FSA

Curious George
Reply to  George Devries Klein
July 24, 2016 6:33 pm

These days that class would be taught by Professor Naomi Oreskes.

John Coleman
July 24, 2016 3:01 pm

An excellent essay Dr. Ball. Thank you for sharing it. As the son of an arrogant, communist college professor I watched the broken system flourish all through his professional life. In his final decade he and his superiors created a whole new curriculum for him to Chair, simply so he could have increased earnings and power in his final years.
I fear our federal government in the United States has become much like our universities and much like the British Royalty. The halls of Congress have become palatial with the elected royalty acting like monarchs.
Yes, the Trump movement is powered by citizens who resent the entrenched power structure that controls their lives. And, Universities have become so financially burdensome that young people live their post grad lives in demeaning debt. While at the Universities the research funding draws the most knowledgeable teachers out of the class rooms.
And this system also keeps we global warming skeptics unable to gain entrance in the hallowed halls on campus or in the capital.
The greatest generation has been replaced by the powerless generation..

Reply to  John Coleman
July 28, 2016 9:21 pm

The problem goes much deeper than a stagnant, self-serving academic community. It’s the moral decline of our society.
I’ve been watching for months now as apologists for Ms Clinton come up with euphemisms for holding your nose and voting. Here are the citizens of the most powerful nation in the world deciding which of two moraly repugnant individuals should be at the nation’s helm.
Being born unamerican is an undisputed disqualification for this position, but lying is just fine…What do you expect of a poor academic then, who’s never had the slightest hope of accumulating 126 million dollars, let alone a billion, no matter how many lectures he gives?
Can you blame him or her for lying and cheating to get the tenure and grants needed to stay, even tenuously, in the top ten percent income bracket? And surely you can’t expect such pathetic creatures to produce great scientific discoveries as well?
I remember when youngsters were still taught that “the end doesn’t justify the means”. What happened to that? Nowadays the end justifies just about anything, starting with deceit and not stopping at murder. Many people openly applaud that, and very few protest it. So we have moral obscenities such as Guantanamo, and allies such as the Turks and the Saudis.
For anyone who can rationalize that, faking climate change has to be an ethical walk in the park…

July 24, 2016 3:18 pm

It’s the taxdollars. They corrupt everything they touch.

July 24, 2016 3:36 pm

Some people just do not value a seach for truth, just affirmation of what they already believe. There does seem to be a parallel with government funding of both religion and science, with a strong tendency towards corruption of either.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 25, 2016 4:41 pm

More than some flatter themselves by thinking they are truth-seekers, when what they really seek (and easily find) is affirmation for their prejudices. Even the smart and educated can indulge in such pseudo-intellectual fantasy. Especially the smart and educated, because they’ll consider themselves above such irrationality, which ironically makes them more vulnerable to it.
Of course, another deflection tactic in academia is to indignantly sputter that it’s not the truth(s) that matter, but the SEARCH for them. Teaching HOW to think, not what, etc. Trying to distract you from the reality that this noble-sounding venture is naught but a snipe hunt.
“Seeking truth, eh? What will you do with it when you find it?”

July 24, 2016 3:51 pm

This is a disturbing report. Our institutions need reform.

Wim Röst
July 24, 2016 3:51 pm

In a time when we were less democratic, science was funded by the government. Science was independent and the development of science (and technology) helped nations (and so their governments) to become mighty.
In more democratic times (I mean: right now), government is also funding research. But, the position of the government is changed(!) Voters decide about the continuation of the present administration. And government is taking positions, for example in the long term investment in renewables. Therefore government doesn’t want to be corrected by reality (in this case: no dangerous warming at all, beneficial effects of a moderate warming and CO2) and/or science. In case of the climate, government stopped with learning from science and government is even dictating the results science has to produce.
As the climate controversy shows: a very dangerous road, away from reality, away from science and away from the scientific method. Governments just want one thing: to continue as long as possible on the present road, wrong or not.
Good night, voters, it will take a lot of time before you realize that you are tricked by the system, a system no one dares to criticize, if it was only because we don’t have a better alternative. But, in case of science there is enough reason to make science independent again, independent from the confirmation carousel. An independent science with the scientific method as the leading principle.
Because only that will be beneficial for society. As it was in the past. And sorry government, you have to adapt to reality and to the insights of real science. And not the other way around.

Reply to  Wim Röst
July 25, 2016 1:41 pm

Climate science is only one area; another is the constant flood of junk epidemiology. Every day, thousands of words spewed like keyboard diarrhea about “Eat this, not that!” when in point of fact data proving ANY “diet” is superior over another is totally ungettable–you would have to lock a couple of hundred thousand people up for life like lab rats, and feed them only the experimental substance while controlling behavior 24/7. A true randomized, controlled trial is impossible to accomplish. The laughable alternative, “self-reported” food intake estimates over years and decades, such as the over-trawled Nurses’ Health Study, is the best example I know of “garbage in, garbage out.” And yet the media shovel the same stuff, different day to a gullible public who actually believe each new “breakthrough!”

Michael Jankowski
July 24, 2016 4:06 pm

Probably splitting-hairs a bit, but I think #7 is “true.” I consider the serfs you described to be “young academics.”
When I was a grad student, my advisor was going for tenure. There was a committee that set the requirements she had to achieve for consideration. Nobody on that committee had achieved in their career what she had to.
And it has been true for almost 20 years now that it is very difficult to get a tenure-track faculty position in most science and engineering fields at elite US universities without a post-doc. And until you get tenure, all bets are off.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 24, 2016 6:28 pm

Some universities don’t have tenure anymore. They have specified number of years contracts.

Anna Keppa
Reply to  Barbara
July 24, 2016 7:00 pm

What percentage?
What percentage of public vs private universities?
What percentage of STEM profs vs. liberal (heh) arts?

Todd F
July 24, 2016 4:18 pm

Well that’s radical. Unfortunately radical has come to mean conventionally political. For the academics, this means progressive, since any direct mention of Marxist/socialist premises (axiomatic in academe) is now out of fashion.
But wouldn’t it be great if the mind destroying general education practices of today could be wiped away? Anarchy would be a relative improvement. It happened to scholasticism. Why not here and now? The pretentious, phony shell of erudition needs to be punctured.
Self education by following ones current interests and reading widely while writing at length about this work for one’s own benefit needs to be celebrated.

Pop Piasa
July 24, 2016 4:36 pm

It’s just part of the new progressive science, Dr. B – you get a notion that attracts the “what’s happenin’ now” crowd, and then do lucrative research to prove your fancy is reality. You must also first be appointed “an authority” (which gives you immunity from defending your findings or even making your data and calculations public, so your science is reproducible). The new science is power for those who have the gall to excercise it.

July 24, 2016 4:40 pm

“The corruption of climate science by some misguided individuals in the quest to “save the planet””
Some misguided individuals and also a well guided United Nations which has figured out how to use this device to serve its own bureaucratic agenda.

Reply to  chaamjamal
July 25, 2016 1:45 pm

Where is the United Nations when they could be doing their supposed JOB and creating and maintaining neutral-zone repatriation camps for all the refugees that are clawing and drowning their way to an over-burdened Europe? THAT’s what they were formed to do–ostensibly, keep “world peace” or at least blunt the sharper edges of civilian disruption caused by war. NOWHERE is energy and monetary policy or “saving the planet” mentioned in their charter.

L Leeman
July 24, 2016 4:43 pm

Well Tim, you kind of hit the nail on the head when you wrote that there are too many people in universities.
As far as really good science goes, the ones that actually can do the jaw dropping stuff are few and far between and it’s my opinion that you can’t really LEARN to be a gifted scientist. You can develop a preexisting rare talent for it, yes, but although most enrolled in science classes are learning something, abd they may accidentally actually use it in life, it’s not anything they will be very good at.

Reply to  L Leeman
July 24, 2016 4:52 pm

If you manage to graduate with a science degree and the government gives you :gifts”, I guess that makes you a “gifted scientist”. (Paging Michael Mann.)

July 24, 2016 4:52 pm

every thing the government touches turns to s#*t. Education is a prime example from kindergarten on.

Reply to  jvcstone
July 24, 2016 4:53 pm

The Midas Touch in reverse?

Character Driven
July 24, 2016 4:56 pm

Good article. Frustrated about the grammar and spelling errors that keep me from passing this along to those who could otherwise benefit from the information presented.

July 24, 2016 5:13 pm

Students getting less than a B average should not even be in university…
..but they, and everyone, are told, without a college degree they can’t get a job
and we have to import illegals to do the jobs we won’t do
or something like that

July 24, 2016 5:29 pm

As W.M. Briggs (Statistician to the Stars) says (quoting the line from “Aliens”), “Nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Reply to  Jerry
July 25, 2016 8:58 am

July 24, 2016 5:32 pm

Professors stealing student’s work, well it beats doing it yourself !

4 Eyes
July 24, 2016 5:37 pm

Dear Mr Ball, Thankyou for your essay. I think what you say can be extended to non-science disciplines at Universities. As far as tenure goes, a retired economics professor friend of mine, asserts that a lack of tenure is leading to a drop in teaching standards because all efforts has to go into publications – basically publish or perish – because that is the overriding measure used to assess performance and hence determine funding. He also acknowledges that tenure has its downside! My conclusion from our regular discussions is that a new set of KPIs is required to assess a University’s performance. The new metrics clearly have to be different from the current ones and must be hard nosed and measurable – not soft or subjectively vague. Things that come to mind to me are employment rates of graduates, time for a graduate to get a job, percentage of initial enrolments that graduate, govt dollars required to achieve an employed graduate (qualified by relevance of degree to the job), plus products and quotients of these simple measures (e.g. there is no point in passing everyone if they never get a job compared with graduates from competing unis getting jobs, etc.), percentage of graduates that reach executive level in private enterprise (moderated to the size of the various institutions), percentage of research papers that are eventually debunked, percentage of graduates that reach board level in relevant professional societies. These metrics would require a period of time to acquire for satisfactory application but doing this might force a university (not just a professor) to take a longer term view about its modus operandi. A lot of university Vice Chancellors (I’m in Australia) may not like tight demanding metrics but, really, if the university does not do well on the above measures why on earth have it and then why fund it with taxpayer dollars. In Oz VCs now receive million $ salaries so they should be subject to serious scrutiny.

July 24, 2016 5:45 pm

Couldn’t agree more Dr Ball. I’ve been arguing many of these points with teachers and university types for years, especially regarding the fact that not going to university equals failure. In fact of all my friends who were extremely successful in life none ever went to university.
There used to be an old saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”.

Reply to  RexAlan
July 24, 2016 6:52 pm

There have been many instances where those who can do and have done decide to teach. The problem these days is that when capable teachers are mandated to teach ideology in place of skills, they quit the profession.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  RexAlan
July 24, 2016 8:53 pm

And those who can’t teach, teach teachers. Those who can’t even teach teachers become politicians.

July 24, 2016 6:06 pm

“We can solve many of our problems quickly by closing down 75 percent of our universities. ”
This quote will be shocking to many, but….Bravo!!! It had to be said.
We say of certain people (or of ourselves), “He (or I) doesn’t (or don’t) get out enough.”
The simple fact of the matter is that often The School Of Hard Knocks is the best college. It pays to get out into the cruel world.
It is also said, (in the Eagle’s song “Lyin’ Eyes”) that, “every form of refuge has its price.” Although that song is about a trophy wife, it just as well could be about a gigolo, or a frightened youth hiding in his mother’s basement, or many, many people in academia. (Also about people with certain “government jobs.”)
The problem with hiding and paying the price for a “form of refuge” is that you live in a sort of ingrown and virtual reality, that increasingly strays from the cold winds of real reality. The scientists, usually interns, who do the actual field work are the ones who are closest to the Truth. The old, embittered professors who ossify in armchairs and deem themselves smart (and deem interns naive chumps), are the ones who have drifted, seduced by their own fear and laziness, from the Truth.
Why do people settle for such a low existence? Why would anyone become a trophy wife, or a gigolo, or live in their mother’s basement, or in an academia that mocks Truth? Well, as a man who once retreated and hid in my Mom’s basement, I’d say part of the reason is fear, and being gutless. However another part involves not seeing a better way. One has tried to be a Boy Scout, but has run up against the slimebags, the corrupt, the liars, and so on and so forth. One not only loses faith in their fellow man; one also loses faith in oneself. What is there left to have faith in?
Have faith in the Truth. The Truth doesn’t need us, to remain True. A lie may run around the world before Truth has put on it’s shoes. However after a lie has done all that running, what does it find? Truth remains as True as It ever was. Truth stands unscathed even if every man on earth denies it. It is a power worth cozying up to, for if you stand by the Truth, then Truth will stand by you.
Those involved in engineering know Truth is important, because if they allow Murphy’s Law to stray them too far, things can come crashing down. What is less obvious is that the exact same principles apply to pseudoscience as well. That is why scriptures talk about “houses built on sand”, and how they cannot stand.
I would like to congratulate Dr. Tim Ball for taking his stand, for it seems founded on Truth. We are going to need others like him, because some “in power” have built upon sand, and when their engineering comes crashing down, they will be utterly useless, because they have been strangers to Truth and don’t know what to do when Truth happens.
You other climate scientists, and you politicians building on sand, this song’s for you:

Reply to  Caleb
July 25, 2016 5:51 pm

““We can solve many of our problems quickly by closing down 75 percent of our universities. ”
Going by the British experience, we don’t need to close them down, we need to turn them back into what they were before the insane policy of dishing out degrees to all and sundry according to the logic that as people with degrees earned more than people without, then if everyone had a degree, then everyone would earn more money (I actually heard a Minister of Education proclaim that). so they turned all the old technical colleges, polytechs and colleges of further education into “universities” teaching all sorts of ersatz subjects such as “ethnic dance with black lesbian dwarf issues” and more ‘ologies’ than you can shake a stick at, thus overnight degrading degrees to effective worthlessness and stopping the training of necessary tradesmen such as plumbers, mechanics, builders and a myriad of other trades far more useful than the vast majority of ivory tower academics will ever be.
So we need to change the percentage of students who go to university back to 5% of the population and resurrect the technical colleges and apprenticeships with night classes and day release to go back to producing useful, employable members of society.

Jim G1
July 24, 2016 6:10 pm

Poor undertanding of research methodology and statistical analysis along with money seeking specific results as well as political agendas are rampant in research, even, or should I say particularly, in the medical field. Excellent article.

July 24, 2016 6:29 pm

It seems there has been a change in the response to climate change scare articles in the MSM. The WaPo article “Two Middle East locations hit 129 degrees, hottest ever in Eastern Hemisphere, maybe the world” drew a lot of critical comments.

Curious George
Reply to  verdeviewer
July 24, 2016 6:36 pm

Don’t worry. They will simply disable comments, just like BBC.

Reply to  Curious George
July 24, 2016 7:03 pm

WaPo usually relies on trolls to bury negative comments. That doesn’t seem to have worked in this case.

July 24, 2016 6:35 pm

So Tim, who made you a scientist? Did they show the relevance of their work, or did they hope that putting the work into making you a scientist would advance knowledge and the human condition?
You really need to watch it with the “relevance” demands. It’s almost impossible to tell winners from losers…. useful understanding from mere data. It’s that way in most areas of human endeavour. Talking like an accountant is a precursor to making unreasonable demands and then shutting down a program. So, who made you the boss that gets to decide what’s relevant?
And just for the sake of clarity, *all* of the science that makes money is performed by business. Did making you a scientist make money for your university? If so, congratulations, you are a commodity, a product of the science business, & you have relevance, income, and your own approval. Don’t you see how justifying science by making money rather than making knowledge leads down a dark path? Fraud makes far more money than knowledge, and it is considered highly relevant at the time. Think about it.

July 24, 2016 6:43 pm

Excellent analysis, Dr. Ball. Academia has become increasingly divorced from the real world and corrupted morally and financially. When I was a freshman at Michigan, 1968, out of state tuition was
$770 a semester, which my middle class parents could afford. Now few middle class families can send their children to an elite school without student loans or scholarships. Academia becomes more and more a game, or perhaps a cult or priesthood, practiced inside its own walls, but subject to the god of government grants. Even back then, we used to call Ann Arbor “Twelve square miles surrounded by reality.” I studied math, physics, the history of science and philosophy, but dropped out when i saw the academic life wasn’t for me. Some of my classmates became college professors. I’m glad I didn’t go that way.

July 24, 2016 6:53 pm

With the school curriculum now in the hands of Ultra-left extremists, the move to pseudo-science in our education system starts early. There have been suggestions that when teaching mathematics in Australian primary schools, a portion of the time should be spent learning about ‘indigenous’ number systems.
Add this the highly enlightened policy of supplying each Australian school student with an obsolete laptop. Somehow, all this will make us a ‘smarter nation’.

July 24, 2016 7:00 pm

For an example of how poorly science can be done, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) with all those pretty pictures of the brain doing things is a real horror. Almost none of it is to believed — less than two years ago it was found that over half the subjects in studies were asleep after 5 minutes. The tools used to analyze the statistics were misapplied until this year. For the gory details please see — It’s pretty technical but you should be able to follow most of it.

July 24, 2016 7:24 pm

Great article and observation. Companies on Gov’t financed projects get contracts based often on how many PhDs they have on staff. The more, the better their chance. From my experience, in many such companies, some 1/3 are PhDs where none is needed for the type of work performed. Only a 1/2 a century ago, when I graduated from a technical high-school, among the 60 graduates, only two applied for a Un. education. There were several straight “As” among those 60. Today I hear most everybody goes to college. The national wealth lost due to the 4 + years of productive work not performed combined with the huge employment at the places of higher education, not just for professors, makes us all poorer. Then some go for a PhD afterwards for the lack of job offers.

July 24, 2016 7:38 pm

There is an excellent book, The Master and His Emissary by Ian McGilchrist, a noted neurosurgeon. He goes a long way to explaining why too much university is bad for society (although he doesn’t put it in those terms).
Briefly, the brain’s left hemisphere is devoted to language and logic. The right hemisphere provides context. In other words, the right hemisphere is the brain’s BS filter. People with damaged right hemispheres will believe anything as long as it is not self-contradictory. They will usually underestimate the difficulty of tasks and will be disappointed with the results of their efforts.
University education privileges logic and analysis. In other words, students are forced to develop their left hemispheres. Their right hemispheres are left to lie fallow. They become very good at logic and sophistry and very bad at detecting BS.
Good liberals love their fellow humans. Bad liberals love a theory. I contend that university produces such bad liberals. In his book Voltaire’s Bastards, John Ralston Saul shows convincingly that logic and analysis have replaced reason. Society has lost its collective BS filter. The result may, in the long run, be the downfall of western civilization.

July 24, 2016 8:32 pm

OT but interesting…
…N.Y. Times ……”Scientists: Pacific Ocean helps predict heat waves ”

July 24, 2016 9:09 pm

This sort crap is typical of the genre-
Simple really. My parents called them toilets and you did your business and didn’t hang around in them. And the boofheads wonder why normal people have an increasing disconnect?
Then there’s the climate research scolds-
Normal folks can only take so much taxpayer subsidised crap like that before they switch off completely and vote for anyone who gets right up their noses. What other form of protest do they have?

Clyde Spencer
July 24, 2016 9:10 pm

Something that didn’t get mentioned is that grade inflation started about the time of the Viet Nam war as a misguided attempt to help young men avoid the draft. When I taught at Foothill College in the ’70s, the professors gave an average of 50% As and Bs. That trend has apparently continued in an attempt to keep enrollments high and get more income to support the proliferation of administrators. I read recently that many universities now only give As and Bs! One of the consequences is that scientists and professors who got their education during the early period of grade inflation are now in senior positions and their early students are now mid-career. Many of them probably wouldn’t have gone on if the original 4-point grading system had been maintained. So, one might ask the question, to what degree are we saddled with climate scientists who probably should have gone into another vocation?

Gary Pearse
July 24, 2016 9:28 pm

These mod scientists have zero problem showing that their work has relevance. The Cambridge Arctic ice specialist Wadhams is far inferior to virtually all who post here on the subject (although he probably has become mentally ill, predicting Iceless seas every year and seeing assassins in the shadows killing off ice specialists!). Yet newspapers publish his obviously absurd predictions probably because of the alarmist hook. Hey he is from Cambridge the school of Sir Isaac Newton. We also have disciplines of Climate Change philosophy, psychology, sociology,… NASA is going to jack up warming 19%to match the models. Sec of State Kerry sees refrigerators and airconditioners as more dangerous than ISIS…. Only a Donald Trump can shut all this crazy Euro marxbrothers stuff off. Don’t look to science/academia to solve it.

July 24, 2016 9:48 pm

‘The article quotes Michael Burel, Ph.D. student, New York University School of Medicine.”
“Far too often, there are less than 10 people on this planet who can fully comprehend a single scientist’s research.”’
How depressing. A Ph.D, student who does not know the difference between “less” and “fewer”.

Tim Hammond
Reply to  RoHa
July 25, 2016 10:12 am

Since they mean exactly the same thing and always have done, it’s your comment that’s depressing. The claim that “fewer” is somehow “correct” in this instance is based on a bizarre notion – that we at so point appointed somebody to make hard and fast rules on English usage. We didn’t. English speakers have used fewer and less interchangeably for as long as we have reliable records. The current fad for claiming a distinction is just ignorant snobbery based on a strange and obviously false assumption about fabricated rules.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
July 24, 2016 10:23 pm

Today [25th July 2016] the daily newspaper “The Hindu” presented a story titled “The sullying of scientific literature”. The story is given as follows:
In a rare and highly commendable move that has sent out a strong message to the Indian scientific community, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research has dismissed a senior scientist working at its Chandigarh-based Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) over serious charges of data fabrication in at least seven papers published in peer-reviewed journals. At least three papers published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE were retracted once preliminary investigation carried out at IMTECH revealed that the data were cooked up. Though Swaranjit Singh Cameotra was not directly involved in data fabrication, his complicity in the scientific misconduct became clear. The scale of misconduct by Dr. Cameotra is way lower in comparison to the South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk and the Japanese stem cell researcher Haruko Obokata, but it is nevertheless significant. A senior member is responsible for data produced by his team. As the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has laid down, being complicit in multiple instances of scientific misconduct merits firm action. An editor of one of the retracted papers said the reviewers were unable to spot the fabrication as the “data appeared solid”, though all the three papers had the same theme of a bacterium isolated from a natural environment metabolising certain chemicals. It is, however, quite surprising that no one at IMTECH suspected any foul play as the scientist published 15 papers in 2013.
The only bright spot in the otherwise sorry episode has been IMTECH’s readiness and willingness to get to the root of the problem rather than brushing the allegations under the carpet, as many scientific institutions in India regularly do. One of the biggest handicaps that journal editors face when confronted with evidence of scientific misconduct by Indian researchers is non-cooperation by institutions in thoroughly investigating such matters. This is the reason why certain fraudulent practices by Indian scientists have seldom been exposed. One of the best ways to tackle this ill is to set up a nodal body on the lines of the ORI in the U.S. Any case of scientific misconduct brought to its notice should be investigated by the respective institutions and the matter taken to its logical conclusion. A body on the lines of the ORI should also be actively involved in “preventing misconduct and promoting research integrity through expanded education programmes”. This will go a long way in reducing instances of misconduct by scientists. It will also greatly help to reduce the amount of trash that sullies scientific literature and prevent other serious researchers from wasting their time repeating meaningless experiments.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Wim Röst
Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
July 25, 2016 1:14 am

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy: “One of the best ways to tackle this ill is to set up a nodal body on the lines of the ORI in the U.S”
Can anyone tell, which position the ORI takes in respect to the tampering of the temperature data? Any action?
P.S. In Holland, Belgium and Germany scientists are dismissed after fraude with data.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Reply to  Wim Röst
July 26, 2016 1:24 am

Few years back, a young girl submitted her research papers to a top journal in the area of medicine. The papers were sent peer review. The so-called peer asked his students to read them. He rejected the papers. Later he published the same with some changes along with his students. The girl noticed this and brought to the notice of medical council. In fact the peer hold top positionin medical council. If am correct the paperswere with drawn and the peer was removed from the medical council.
I submitted a paper to an international journal in early 90s. One reviewer gave critical observations and recommended for publication. Another reviewer gave excellent comments and at the end said, it can also be fitted linear curve. The regional editor rejected the paper based on this one line. Both the reviewers are familiar with me. In fact on second peer, I made same observation on his paper [departmental internal review].
Based on that I was very angry. I wrote 100 page letter to the editor-in-chief on peers and their poor quality publications in the journal. The editor-in-chief sent my letter to three regional editor, who agreed with me. Later editor-in-chief asked me to divide the paper in to three different articles, which were published along with the authors comments [in two papers]. Later editor-in-chief asked me re-submit my paper. I didn’t do that as I published that in my book — book review was published in that journal.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Wim Röst
Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
July 25, 2016 1:35 am

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy: “One of the best ways to tackle this ill is to set up a nodal body on the lines of the ORI in the U.S”
Can anyone tell which position the ORI takes in respect to the tampering of temperature data?
P.S.: In Holland, Belgium and Germany scientists are dismissed because of data fraud.

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
July 25, 2016 4:49 am

Thanks for that article, Dr. Reddy.
From the article:
“As the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has laid down, being complicit in multiple instances of scientific misconduct merits firm action.”
Where have these guys been all this time? They ought to be crawling all over the climate departments of NASA and NOAA.

Reply to  TA
July 25, 2016 8:52 am

You’ve somehow misconstrued what firm action means. A rapid promotional shift into climastrology with The Firm. Can’t have all that talent going to waste.

July 24, 2016 10:26 pm

Great article, Dr Ball. It confirms what many have thought, or even known, for a long time.
I cannot see see a quick way out of this quagmire. It operates along the lines of a closed loop system. The government(s) are hooked on gaining more power, control and tax dollars – presented to them (on a plate) by the early scare-mongering scientists (and people like Gore) who gave them the utterly perfect target for demonization: CO2 – and the means to gain even more control over the public while raking in vast amounts of extra taxes. They are not going to give this up without a battle royal.
The government influences, nay directs, scientists and educators to support them by way of grants to provide them with supportive junk science research. This is strongly supported by all the eco groups and NGOs who benefit from increased subscriptions (and power through lobbying).
The media follows along, like a tail-wagging dog, happy to print all their doom-laden speculative nonsense in the knowledge that scare stories sell.
And at the bottom of the chain, or loop, is the gullible public who, if they did but know it, really hold the reins of power by way of their democratic vote.
How long though is it going to take before a majority of the public realises what is going on?
We can all assist by doing what we do on here so well: spreading the words of truth.

July 24, 2016 10:59 pm

If Greenland is melting, why is the ice coverage all the way down to the southern tip of Greenland?:
As of July 24th 2016:
I think it should be melted at least 20% up from the southern Greenland if this arctic melting is real…

David S
July 24, 2016 11:53 pm

The education process has been corrupted not just at university but also at primary and secondary levels. The domination of the left has ( in Australia) led to propagander and brainwashing a process that is being rebelled against by the older generation of voters who have not been subjected to this Politically correct brainwashing. Academia has a lot to answer for in trying to convert the non committed to their way of thinking and the lack of tolerance for opposing ideas is a disgrace. Hopefully the wheels of change is upon us and maybe if it was to become fashionable to be a skeptic the world may be a better place.

Reply to  David S
July 25, 2016 5:02 am

“The domination of the left has ( in Australia)”
It’s everywhere. Unfortunately. The Left has hijacked the education system.

Reply to  TA
July 25, 2016 7:44 pm

It was the Left’s idea to begin with. Literacy in the US just before the advent of public schools and compulsory education is estimated to have been in the 90th percentile. The old system of “communities handle the education of their kids” was working just fine. Public schools were shilled as a solution to a non-problem, with the ulterior motive of putting a degree of separation between schoolchildren and their communities, to facilitate re-education/indoctrination.

Reply to  David S
July 30, 2016 12:02 am

Im part of a small group in Australia who are working Are addressing the science education disintegration in Australia and then elsewhere. See copy and paste from my recruitment email below
To summarise the group project.
We plan a nationwide coordinated series of very public ‘Formal Complaint’ submissions to the State Departments of Education. The subject will be the poor standard of Science Education at all levels in Australia. The submissions will be filed by individual residents of each state on either the same day or sequential days, sometime hopefully within the next 6 months. Slowly, but surely is the way we want to go.
We want to attract media attention via (1) letting the media know in advance (2) copying all media into the public submissions (3) Maybe, hand delivering a written version if we can get media coverage (4) Any other suggestions ……………..
If you are interested in joining our effort here in Australia please email me at …with the subject line. FORMALCOMPLAINTS RE SCIENCE EDUCATION DEGENERATION

Reply to  David S
July 30, 2016 12:05 am

The Montessorie education system may not be as polluted as the public or the establishment private schools.

Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 12:15 am

United Nations writing and review process for IPCC is an extraordinary good example of how science has become politicized:comment image
And anyone thinking that IPCC is unbiased should have a look at how heavily biased IPCC was from the very beginning:
Report of the second session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 28 June 1989
The Principles governing IPCC work are more or less free from sound scientific principles – no mentioning of scrutiny or application of a sound scientific method there.
Rather than imposing scientific principles on IPCC, United Nations allowed IPCC to be governed by:
– the unscientific principle of a mission to support an established view(§1)
– the unscientific principle of consensus (§10)
– an approval process and organization principle which must, by it´s nature, diminish dissenting views. (§11)
And – while I am at it – Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainty shows how subjectivism has been introduced and endorsed by IPCC. That is the document behind the laughable subjective confidence terminology used by IPCC.
I suggest that all interested in how United Nations and IPCC use the name of science should have a look at the documents I linked to above. And if anyone wonder if the principles, processes and guidance notes governing IPCC complies with sound scientific principles, I suggest to have a look at the first 26 soothing pages of the following work: The logic of scientific discovery.
Ironically, by promoting and using unsound scientific principles, United Nation has become a kind international problem of cultural character that it was put up to achieve international co-operation in solving:
Article 1
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
3) To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural , or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all …
Within their charter – United Nations could have:
– Discouraged strong politic influence on science
– Promoted openness and scrutiny within science
– Discouraged attempts to silence opponents and free exchange of thoughts
Rather than promoting freedom, openness and scrutiny within science – United Nations is leading the decline in standards and values.

Wim Röst
Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 3:35 pm

Thanks Science of Fiction!
About the Graphics above:
1. “Governments, organisations nominate experts”. WR: Governments.
2. “Authors prepare final drafts of report and SPM”. WR: I am missing the (extensive) Technical Summary, text made by the scientists. The text of the (small) final SPM, the Summary for Policy Makers, is rewritten by governments. And read by the Media, who THINK that they are reading ‘the scientific point of view’. But it IS the Government’s point of view. From governments, with their own agenda.
In this way the public is tricked.

Wim Röst
Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 3:36 pm

Sorry, Science or Fiction – typo

Reply to  Wim Röst
July 26, 2016 5:10 am

Not a bad typo! It got a chuckle from me. 😉

John Francis
July 25, 2016 12:23 am

Absolutely agree!

Johann Wundersamer
July 25, 2016 12:35 am

On this day in history in 1355, took place the St Scholastica Day Riot.
Some of the students made derisory comments on the quality of the beer, as students are wont to do, nothing much has changed over the centuries.
The king, Edward III, ordered an investigation, which found in favour of the University. The Mayor and Bailiffs were ordered to walk bareheaded through the town and attend a Mass for the souls of the dead, on every subsequent St Scholastica’s Day, and to swear an oath to observe the University’s privileges, and, if that were not enough, to pay an annual fine of 63 pence to the University.
Wrong answer! Right answer: “Reinheitsgebot”!
It’s not about the kings students, and not about beer – it’s about contaminated water, about poorly maintained wells – and that threatens the king and his men, the mayor, the landlords and all the women in his reign. In an area without sanitation, without sufficient knowledge about health precautions.
The only thing the people knew:
You live longer when consuming refined, or heat treated water:
The families tea, the men ‘on the streets’ since centuries got the ‘fastdrinks’ whine and beer.
Not the first battle about nutrition. But obviously a milestone – however poor handled.
Thanks for the link – interesting read!

Jeff (a different one)
July 25, 2016 2:55 am

The academic science model is a lot like a Ponzi scheme, where young (new) researchers are exploited for the benefit of the (tenured) ones who got into the system early. I left academic research when I saw 125+ applicants for every open job in my field, most of whom were well qualified. I had small aspirations- I didn’t want millions of dollars to start an Institute for the Study of Something-Or-Other- and it was obvious that was going to kill my shot at a job. The schools want that beautiful, beautiful overhead (spending a dollar from my small grant meant the university took another 60 cents for itself). Luckily, I found a job teaching science at the high school level, and it’s paradise compared to the university environment. It doesn’t bring the prestige of calling myself “professor” (or the salary), but I’m using my PhD well, and it pays off the moral debt I owe society for funding my education.

July 25, 2016 4:26 am

One serious side effect of the proliferation of money in academia is that encourages group-think. Those seeking money imitate those who have successfully acquired money. This leads to hordes of researchers all pushing the ‘frontiers’ in the same direction. innovative thinking is left behind.

Reply to  tadchem
July 25, 2016 5:06 am

A good point, tadchem. It sounds like the state of Climate science today.

Dave M
July 25, 2016 4:34 am

There may be a larger problem in science but only climatologists engaged in widespread manipulation of data and a pattern of “shutting up” legitimate voices who didn’t agree with their crusade.

Reply to  Dave M
July 30, 2016 12:20 am

the evidence against some of the pseudo scientists in Australia for fraud is strong. The government won’t do anything. We need to find a lawyer who will take on legal,action for us on a no win no pay basis. If we can’t find that then we need funding from the Coal industry. Then we need the good fortune to go to,court when there is an honest judge on duty. If this happens the evidence will show that whatever the climate is, or is not doing. People like Karoly, Dargaville are hiding the true evidence from the people. In a just worldly, they will be held accountable by the law.. If you know a lawyer pls put him in touch with me Il show him/her the evidence

Mrgaret Smith
July 25, 2016 4:38 am

I see that all or most of the doctorates connected to ‘climate science ‘ become professorships these days. What are the criteria for this title as it seems writing papers of drivel gets you one?
I used to think it was excellence rather than pleasing the ‘progressives’.

David Cage
July 25, 2016 6:10 am

Life as a young academic I regret to say is stressful as hell for some. The behaviour of some like Pachouri is regrettably more prevalent that many would like to admit and once the student has built up a significant debt to get the degree some are abusing the leverage of the next grant to broaden the services they expect from their young researchers.

July 25, 2016 6:43 am

Typo in the paragraph below Figure 1:

How many times do we here of graduates saying they are the first in their family to attend university?

Should be “hear”.
Thank you Dr. Ball. Having worked in and around post-secondary education for a long time, I agree with you. I have witnessed it first hand. The arrogance and indeed ignorance at that level is astounding, and shows no signs of abating.

July 25, 2016 6:59 am

I was always amazed that Carl Sagan consistently wrote of the failures of the education system, but lacked the courage to specify current examples that might implicate the sitting academia — it was always some ancient examples or otherwise vague generalizations.

July 25, 2016 7:21 am

Of the three demographics you mention; politics, finance and science, the first two never really generated as much respect and trust as the latter. In a practical way, subverting it for political ends made perfect sense. Also, I think it was a cynical trend that will come back to bite them very hard.

Mark - Helsinki
July 25, 2016 12:54 pm

Great article, only last week I had a go at Kate Marvel in a twitter convo with Tol and McIntyre for being a parasite on tax payers and producing nothing that had any impact. I told her to get a real job. My reason, she and Tol were doing a bit of academic sneering at Britons who voted out of Europe.
Dr Ball, you could be describing Theoretical Astrophysics, much to the dismay of many “believers” on here, another field of largely junk UN-repeatable science, especially when experiments cost billions and they wont share their data and such, Higgs Boson Cern, particle physics is a tragic joke, and yet everyone thinks it is the business.
This quote
“Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables man to get along without education. Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.”
This adds up to far more than the words within.
Great article, science is in desperate state, all science

Mark - Helsinki
July 25, 2016 1:00 pm

All the real world impact Cern has had is the ingenuity they had shown in creating the capacity to do experiments. hyperlink, data storage and so on, real impacts, otherwise, not one of the main questions of particle physics has been answered.
Cern has been largely a massive waste of money, yup that is not gonna go down well here 😀
People like Gal Yam and Hawking have been talking nonsense for years and made a great living out of it.

Mark - Helsinki
July 25, 2016 1:02 pm

and now the tax payer are funding a new area, feminist philosophy. A safe space in academia lol

Mark - Helsinki
July 25, 2016 1:02 pm

Too many “sciences” are in fact pseudo sciences

July 25, 2016 1:14 pm

Another problem are the many science illiterate people, who do not have the basic skill to discern the Pseudoscience that are often obvious to us at first glance. They swallow the pap so easily because they take it for granted that it is what the “experts” say,therefore must be true.

July 25, 2016 1:58 pm

“We can solve many of our problems quickly by closing down 75 percent of our universities. Recognize that there are a multitude of skills and abilities far more important than those pursued by academia. Make those who remain in academia show the value and relevance of their work.”
You are making the same mistake that the socialists/leftists make. They believe that some person or group can make better decisions for individuals future than individuals making decisions about their own future.
My own view is that all we need to do in education is get rid of the government created market distortions. Market distortions that allow people who cannot afford to go to an expensive college to go to them based no getting loans. Essentially, remove most government money from education. For any government guaranteed education loan, make the loan and amount of the loan conditional on the job market for the degree that the person is going for. Don’t offer loans for first year students as many will drop out. Basically, in order to get a loan, the person needs to show that they can pay the loan back (there are jobs available for people who get the degree that allow someone to reasonably pay back the loan amounts assuming that they get the degree). And second, they are serious about the education as they already have completed their first year with passing grades.
Next, get rid of politically motivated government research money.
If there are no government funded market distortions, I believe that the education market will take care of itself.

July 25, 2016 3:13 pm

There are too many scientists for it still to be science. There just aren’t that many people in the world who care what is true.

July 25, 2016 7:48 pm

This video has been doing the rounds of Oz media as news-
I shouldn’t laugh but the lefty media being outraged someone else is stealing their thunder with ‘feelings are facts’ is hysterical. As ye sow, so shall ye reap eh?

July 25, 2016 8:58 pm

I do not know how well your 7 points describe other fields (including climate science), but I can tell you on the basis of 35 years of experience, the last 9 as a department head at a moderate sized public university, that most of them are just plain wrong with regard to biomedical research. In fact, the importance of reproducibility and transparency is being emphasized by the major funding agency for biomedical research in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health. Every grant application must now include a section that addresses reproducibility, quality assurance of reagents, and openness. All NIH funded research results that are published are publicly available within 1 year of publication, even if they are published in paywalled journals. NIH requires investigators who it funds to provide both research materials (such as plasmids and knockout mice) and raw data to investigators who request them. Typically a relatively brief period of time is allowed for the originating investigator to be the first to publish using the resources or data, but I have received access to both resources and data from other biomedical researcher on several occasions within a year or two after publication. It has been the routine practice of most journals at the beginning of the genomics and proteomics era to require publication of raw data in a public database before results using those data can be published. Huge amounts of raw sequence data and gene expression data are available in databases such as Gene Expression Omnibus. If anyone doubts the conclusions I reached using high throughput data sets, they can access the raw data at no cost and very easily and can check my results using the raw data that I generated.
My personal experience in biomedical research has been that every major research finding in my lab that has been repeated by someone else has yielded similar results (and two of my papers have been cited by other investigators more than 100 times). In fact, in one of the few cases in which I published results that were opposite to those reported by another research group, the other group investigated the situation further and later published a paper indicating that the difference between our results and theirs was caused by genetic divergence in a mouse strain maintained separately by different companies for 45 years. When they used mice from the same company as we did, they got the same results.
As a department head, I can tell you with absolute certainty that most faculty members in biomedical fields work much more than 40 hours per week and that tenure is an extremely stressful process. The major funding agencies for biomedical research fund less than 10% of grant applications submitted in any particular review session. Imagine having to be in the top 10% of people in your field to avoid getting fired. It happens all the time and is one of my greatest concerns as a department head, because I would have to initiate that process if a faculty member I supervised was not granted tenure.
One of the reasons I became a skeptic with regard to CAGW was the shocking differences between the standards that I have lived with for my whole career in biomedical research and the standards revealed by the climategate documents in climate science. Even more shocking to me was that most mainstream climate scientists actually defended the unacceptable behaviors revealed in those documents. However, it bothers me when people who have no direct experience with other fields of research paint all researchers with the climate science brush. I believe the public is getting its money’s worth for biomedical research, and if you check the statistics for many diseases, you would probably be surprised by the dramatic improvements over the last 30-40 years in morbidity and mortality results, which are mostly due to research-based therapeutics. In fact, in spite of the obesity epidemic in the U.S., life expectancy has increased steadily until very recently. So, should we stop investing and simply be satisfied with our current situation, or should we continue to fund work to address obesity and other conditions for which effective treatments have not yet been found?

Brian H
Reply to  Steve
July 25, 2016 11:17 pm

Most improvement comes, I gather, from dietary and standard of living improvement — prominently refrigerated storage.

Mark - Helsinki
Reply to  Steve
July 26, 2016 7:11 am

“must now include a section” Since when? and before that?

Brian H
July 25, 2016 11:13 pm

Dr. Ball, you might like to read the short book “The Tyranny of Testing” from a few decades back. It proposes that IQ means “Iquination Quotient”. Iquination is the ability to score well on IQ tests.

Mark - Helsinki
Reply to  Brian H
July 26, 2016 7:14 am

IQ tests entirely biased. How high is Hawking’s IQ and he said “a singularity is infinitely dense and infinitely hot” Theory of everything. No matter how high the IQ, people can still talk utter scientific nonsense

July 26, 2016 1:18 am

From the peer review process I went through, to get my paper published, I would make another observation – over-specialisation. My paper was, perforce, multi-disciplinary. And yet the reviewers were far from being polymaths who could cope with this broad spectrum of topics. You could see where they specialised, and where they were groping in the dark.
One reviewer said that since the concentration of CO2 does not change with altitude, plants could not be starved of CO2 by increasing their altitude. Yes, here is a scientist who does not know the difference between a gas concentration and a partial pressure at altitude. I did suggest in return that the reviewer went to the top of Mt Everest, and see if he-she could breathe as easily there as at sea level. After all, the concentration of O2 does not change with altitude……
But because of my CO2-altitude ‘error’ my paper was rejected !! Yes, this is the state of modern academia.

July 26, 2016 12:28 pm

Mark, this requirement started with applications submitted this year. Previously no formal statement of this type was required. However, I have served on many grant review panels, and I can tell you that most investigators included this type of information anyway. I think the new rules are mostly in response to a few papers that indicate issues with reproducibility of biomedical research, especially in the basic science studies that lead to development of new cancer drugs. I don’t doubt that there are a number of observations that get published that cannot be easily reproduced. However, this clearly sometimes reflects the complexity of biological systems and the number of variables that must be controlled for. A classic example was the discovery of a new complement component, properdin, by Louis Pillemer. Another investigator could not repeat Pillemer’s results and published this and mentioned it at scientific meetings. Pillemer committed suicide soon afterward. As research continued, other investigators were able to repeat Pillemer’s findings, and he was vindicated, unfortunately posthumously. The point is that biological systems are extraordinarily complex and we often don’t even know all the variables that need to be controlled to assure consistent results. However, this does not mean the results are useless, it simply means that it can take time and more than one lab using more than one approach to determine which results are “correct”. This is yet another reason that we shouldn’t decrease support of the biomedical research enterprise any more than has already happened.
Most biomedical researchers I know have some degree of humility, which is why I was so surprised by the inordinate certainty expressed by most climate scientists. I still regard this as very odd. A few seem to have seen through the fog (e.g., Judith Curry), but it seems that most still retain their unfounded certainty.

David Cage
July 26, 2016 11:22 pm

As long as something that claims to be science says; here are my results , the methods I used to get them, the raw data, the modifications I have made to the data and why, I do not care if it has a known use or not or if it is commercially viable or not.
A study in gay transexual dwarfs in Transylvania that meets these criteria still qualifies as science while climate scientists who attempt to remove all unmodified data, selectively use only data starting at a definable low point to prove man made temperature rises, fail to admit that changes like the clean air act produce serious temperature increases or that in cleaner air the Stevenson screen is no longer a true measuring standard compared to its use in even marginally polluted air, do not.
From data I have had access to, while no science is perfect there are two that are more suspect that most. Research into the effectiveness of drugs, often covertly sponsored by the originator while pretending to be independent and climate science. The science fraternity are openly critical of the former but by supporting the latter have become tarred with the same brush.

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