The power of grant money – on display at James Cook University

This is worth repeating, because it was a very prescient forecast by President Eisenhower when he left office. From his farewell address:

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.


By 

I have been reading an excellent book by Stuart Macintyre and others (No End of a Lesson, Melbourne University Press, 2017) about the ‘Dawkins revolution’ and what happened in the ten years after it. Throughout that period I was at first part of the group making the changes, and then, as Vice-Chancellor, someone who had to cope with them. My own book, Critical Mass How the Commonwealth got into funding research in universities, really stops in 1991, when I went from the Australian Research Council to the University of Canberra. Reading No End of a Lesson brought back so many memories of life after the ARC, and indeed during its formation.

One important memory was the way in which  universities became fixated (if they were not so already) by the importance of getting research grant money, notwithstanding that there were other most important functions that universities performed. As I pointed out in a speech in the UK in 1990, research had already become the mark of status, not just for academics, but also for universities, and was dominating appointments and promotion. The more research you did, the ‘better’ you were. And the easiest, but quite flawed, way of measuring research excellence was to see how much money an individual academic had ‘brought in’ to the University. From the 1990s onwards research money has been the token of excellence, and woe betide those who don’t do their bit or, worse, impede those who might be trying to do so.

I have mentioned this shift in perspective in the past with reference to the late Professor Bob Carter, who was ousted from a position of honour at his university because he criticised aspects of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) movement that has infected Western society in the past thirty years. I can readily imagine the ways in which deans would argue to the vice-chancellor: ‘Here we are trying to get decent amounts for global warming studies, and here’s this retired professor making waves denying the importance of what we do!’ No young and aspiring scientist would want to cause waves of this kind when there is so much pressure to bring in grant money — and there’s a lot of it about for global warming, and trips overseas, and important conferences to attend, and government committees to inspire. Carter was a retired emeritus, and then banished from the university, which meant a loss of library privileges.

Well, the pressure to conform is happening again, and at Bob Carter’s old university, James Cook University in Townsville. This time the proposed villain is a professor of physics, Peter Ridd, whose interests include coastal oceanography, the effects of sediments upon coral reefs, past and future climates and atmospheric modelling. I have met Peter Ridd, and I know something about his work. He has been head of the Department of Physics for ten years. His intellectual reach is wider than my short summary here, but I have put in what gives him some status in the world of global warming.

He has been in the news before, drawing attention to the need to change the peer review system, and to what he sees as exaggerated claims about the dangers that threaten the Great Barrier Reef, alleging that scientists or spokespeople for scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and government organisations like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) were not behaving in a scientifically scrupulous way in announcing new claims and about danger. He was not alone in saying these things. The chairman of GBRMPA himself protested that headlines saying that ’93 per cent of the reef is practically dead’ or that 35 per cent or even 50 per cent of the entire reef is now gone’ were rubbish. A former chairman said that ‘environmentalist were ‘exaggerating the impact of coral bleaching for political and financial gain’. Ridd said that a paper by JCU scientists foretelling the end of the reef was simply ‘laughable’. Bleaching is a natural event, and occurred long before there was human activity anywhere near the reef. What is more, reefs recover, sometimes quite quickly.

Nonetheless, the university told him he was ‘not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues’. Do it again, he was told, and we’ll try you for ‘serious misconduct’. I’ve written about this before, and indeed the above is an introduction to the news that JCU indeed decided to discipline Professor Ridd, and started the process in late August last year. What for? The University’s statement is that it was disturbed by Professor Ridd’s comments on Sky news, to the effect that ‘We can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies… The science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated, and this is a great shame.’ Such statements, said the University, were ‘not in the collegial and academic spirit of the search for knowledge, understanding and truth’. Further, his comments had denigrated AIMS and were ‘not respectful and courteous’. In a letter tabled with the court, the University said that his comments could damage the reputation of AIMS and the University’s relationships with it.

On this occasion, Professor Ridd decided he had had enough, and launched his own court case against the CEO, claiming conflict of interest, apprehended bias and actual bias. It happens that the University’s Vice-Chancellor is a director of AIMS, which produces an obvious conflict of interest. The University then told Ridd he was not to ‘disclose or discuss these matters with media or in any other public forum’. His lawyers pointed out that either the University was incompetent or it was guided by bias, which the University’s lawyers denied.

Peter Ridd was kind enough to write to me  about the alleged misconduct involved in talking to the media about the misconduct allegation, and later alerted me to the fact that there was deemed to be further misconduct  involved in writing to me! I wish him well in all of this, which is so unnecessary, and so inimical to the cause of scholarship, argument and the advancement of knowledge.

I can appreciate the dilemma facing the Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University, for there is no doubt that research grant money is really important. I have to say that I did not have a comparable problem in my eleven years in the role, despite the pressure on everyone to get grant money if they could. Nonetheless, there is no doubt where I think the right is. A scientist who says that other people’s work is flawed has to show cause. In the case of the Great Barrier Reef that is not hard to do. There has been a lot of loud noise based on small pieces of work. It is not widely understood that the Reef is a vast system, and that it is not closely monitored. You would need hundreds, thousands, of researchers and assistants to do that. And there are lots of natural and cyclic causes for changes to the Reef’s coral. These events have happened before, and they will happen again. The correct response from those he has criticised is to respond in the proper way, show that Ridd is wrong, and that their work can withstand his criticism.

To the best of my knowledge that has not happened. Instead, Professor Ridd has been attacked in an ad hominem way. It seems to me utterly wrong for his own University to try to ‘discipline’ him so that he does not criticise others. That is not what science is about. It doesn’t matter what relationships JCU has with AIMS. If the AIMS work is poor, or inflated claims have been made about the importance of its research, the University ought to be able to point that out, and suggest that better work ought to be done, or that claims should be more subdued.

Ah, but this is the Reef, an icon of the environmental movement. And there is a lot of money about for ‘research’ that is ‘consistent’ with the notion that doom is at hand. Like Professor Ridd, I think that the University has gone down utterly the wrong track, and the sooner it departs from it the better. As it happens, the book I referred to at the beginning of this essay, No End of a Lesson, gives instances of other high-handed behaviour from Vice-Chancellors. They are not emperors, and should never give the impression that they think they are.

Advertisements

92 thoughts on “The power of grant money – on display at James Cook University

  1. Okay, now let’s see what the overhead rate is at that university for admin fees charged to the grant.

      • I was a co-inventor of a process while studying for a PhD. Us inventors shared just under $9000 of the $150 000 sale of the patent. I think the lawyers got the bulk but I suspect someone in admin did better than me from the resulting bonus.

    • About a week and a half ago, I was speaking to a person who received their PhD from George Mason University within the last few years. I was shocked to find out that the university took 49% of all grants (as far as I know, this is still the case). None of that money goes to a stipend for the researcher or anything along those lines. He said this was fairly standard across universities.
      So if you are doing a research project and applying for grants, you have to basically double your budget in order to have enough money. Frankly, this seems fraudulent in my opinion. I am sure there are loopholes allowing it, and that the people distributing the grants are aware of this nonsense. But if a grant comes from donations to a foundation, I doubt most of the donors know that about half of their donations are not actually going towards research.
      I also have a hard time believing that very many of these schools are actually providing services that justify that amount of money being confiscated.
      There are so many reasons universities should be limited in the amount of grant money THEY take, and this article shows two more: extreme bias and conflicts of interest.

    • In the US, the NSF and NIH closely monitors and sets limits on institutional overhead from grants.

      • @Chris “Evidence to support your doubt?”
        What a Joke. It wouldn’t be doubt with evidence, it would be proven case.
        I find your question very revealing of your lack of thinking, and perfectly coherent with your belonging to CAGW church
        You need evidence to support the claim, which should be easy in this particular case.

      • Yes there are strict limits on what overhead can be charged, the institution usually negotiates a rate with the government. The rate for indirect costs is about 60%, max allowed for admin costs is ~26%.The percentage a PI can earn via grants is usually limited (usually 2.5 months salary is typical, bear in mind that many faculty are on 10 month salaries). Usually audited every five years or so.

    • One of the problems we dealt with while running a grants program was the extremely high overhead universities charged grants. It ran from a low of 25% to a high of 86%. Now note the principle investigator’s salary and benefits and his technicians’ salaries and benefits also came out of the grant. Several private laboratories charged the least but still had problems. We had to watch each grant carefully and required the PI to list all other grants they had applied for or received. Why? PIs often charged 100% of their time, therefore salary and benefits to each grant. In the USA that is illegal if enforced but it happened regularly. Interestingly the PIs all got paid the same when they were charging 100% to each grant. So if they obtain three or four grants in a year they didn’t get that much more salary, it went to the institution.

  2. Thank you, Anthony, for shedding light on Australia’s shame. I was livid when the now late Bob Carter was banned from his own university’s library. Thanks for publicizing this shameful encore!

  3. Just like the rest of the AGW narrative supporters they’ve convinced themselves they are morally correct. Damn the science, full speed ahead to save the world. This is the thought process underpinning the propaganda around AGW.

    • It must be easy to convince yourself you are saving the world if you are paid to convince yourself you are saving the world.

      • Not allegedly, he really was “Deep Throat”.
        But the quote was written for the movie. Its not in the book, and it wasn’t actually ever said by anybody in the context of Watergate.
        Hollywood has a lot to answer for, in many ways.

  4. The usual “scientist” reaction: Shoot the messenger.
    All revolutionaries do that. They also decide who is the messenger.

  5. Follow the money…. into the swamp of nonscience.
    In living parody, the grant-grasping nonscience zombies must quickly ‘kill’ any remaining scientists exhibiting rational and reasonable brain power.

  6. Australia is a continent, roughly the size of the United States. The Great Barrier Reef is about 1/22nd the size of this continent. Roughly, that equates to the size of California in the US.
    Now, there are some differences. The coral polyps haven’t determined to build an impossible to build high speed rail system. And, they’ve made that smart decision despite the fact that coral polyps don’t have a brain. And, the fish that inhabit the reef haven’t yet agreed to pay California style taxes.
    But, aside from those differences there’s probably quite a few similarities we don’t know about. You see, if we were fish, living solely in water, we might think that California was completely the same from top to bottom and from east to west. We wouldn’t comprehend how a place that flooded last week also has one of the hottest, driest places on earth (Death Valley). We wouldn’t realize that a 30 minute drive could take you from dry, flat, palm tree desert to snowbound, evergreen studded mountains. And, as California has a multiplicity of environments within environments, something the same size quite likely has the same multiplicity of diverse environments which behave and are affected differently. The fish might recognize this diversity where they live while failing to recognize it where they don’t. What’s our excuse?

    • It isn’t impossible to build a high-speed rail system – several countries have done so. It is just incredibly difficult for California to do it.

      • Most likely because the people governing California have the mental capacity of the aforementioned coral polyps.

      • “It isn’t impossible to build a high-speed rail system – several countries have done so. ”
        But only one, AFAIK, succeeded in making a high-speed rail system without throwing taxpayer money at it to have it work every day. Japan.
        All other lose money (including France’s, Germany’s, Spain’s, …)

  7. Nothing is more corrupt than these organizations that collect money to save reefs…..
    ” Bleaching is a natural event,” ….unless you don’t believe in evolution

    • Considering AGW says the way we are now is how we should be all the time and change is very bad, I doubt many actually believe in evolution, no matter what they proclaim.

  8. Bob Carter’s +30 years at James Cook University ended with them taking away his office, his unpaid adjunct professorship, his email address and even his library card.

  9. Ridd is to GBR as Susan Crockford is to polar bears. To be catchingbthis much flak means he is over the GBR target also exposed by Jim Steele.

  10. What an utterly disgusting affair! One realises in the abstract how compromised universities have become – but hearing a real account involving real people really brings it home. All I can say is that it will all end in tears and only hope it will be the tears of these charlatans.

  11. Wait minute! Wait a minute! Coral is a tropical animal. It loves warm water. That is why is thrives from about 24 degrees to the equator. Can someone then please tell me why people are beating their breasts in concern for the GBR that the oceans might be warming?

    • Its a bit complex but what happens if it gets too hot is a symbiotic organism gets expelled and the coral goes white. It then may die but usually gets repopulated with similar organisms. Similar strains further north can cope with the heat so even permanent warming is not a death sentence as its meant to be warmer nights at higher latitudes ie the coral doesn’t need to cope with cooler waters in winter unless globally warming also causes that.

      • I have dived several parts of the GBR over a period of 50 years.
        I estimate that between 1 and 99% of the reef has been bleached – periodically.
        I also estimate that of the areas that have been bleached, between 1 and 99% of those corals have recovered.
        I am a very accurate estimator.

      • If so (if the coral and its surrounding eco-system) are warm-water-optimized, or are warm-water-evolved, then two questions:
        1. Would not warmer waters – even if caused by added CO2 to the atmosphere – increase their mass and areas?
        2. How were the northern Hawaiian Islands – the early ones at the beginning of the string up by Midway in today’s cold waters – growing with coral above the volcano tips? Because they started further south on top of the hot spot, but the coral died as the island was pulled north on the tectonic plate?

      • When grant money takes precedence over academic correctness, the system has failed – ABYSMALLY.

  12. The central problem is that the universities have lost sight of their goal and purpose, which is to educate students. The more grant money there is, the less time the associated faculty have to teach. (I realize, some of them are very bad teachers.) What the grant money does is to relieve the State of having to provide tax-supported funding for the university. What needs to happen is a return to education as the purpose of the university, with “research” being–as it was until recently–a by-product and evidence of what is being taught.

  13. Matt Ridley wrote an article showing that nearly all the advances in science were made in the private sector, Universities contributed virtually nothing. I cannot find the reference at the moment, does anyone have it?

    • Ridley ignores the huge amount of searching that must go on before some path of development is found that can produce a technological result. Basic scientific research is about querying the universe about how it operates. It’s not about developing technology.
      In the sciences, there’s always only one right answer. There is an infinite number of wrong answers. Among the wrong answers, there is a large faction that seem reasonable a priori. The reasonable wrong answers need be tested to know they’re wrong. Hand-waving doesn’t cut it in science (or engineering).
      Lots of academic research is about testing the wrong answers and publishing the right ones. It’s a search for a bit of gold in a huge amount of bright yellow dross.
      Technology companies don’t do that. Corporate R&D is not blue-sky, like academic research is (or should be). It’s focused, directed, and is required to pay off.
      Technological companies know where to look for fruitful results because of the research conducted by scientists.
      If academic science were required to be run like corporate R&D, you’d see innovation dry up in a generation because no radically new frontiers would be opened.
      Technological companies also employ the people trained by academic scientists to think in physically analytical ways.
      X-ray crystallography was discovered by Lawrence Bragg, an academic scientist. The wool industry advance Ridley cites involves learning that stretching wool aligned the molecular strands which improved the X-ray diffraction pattern.
      Even that discovery was achieved by an academic scientist, William Astbury. Watson and Crick used that method, but to suppose that their advance depended critically on wool industry innovation is nonsense.
      The various anecdotes here about abuses by individual academics describe truly unfortunate breaches. I have noted a few myself, where I work. But such abuses do not typify the professional atmosphere in the academic sciences, certainly in my experience.

      • Pat Frank January 29, 2018 at 5:14 pm
        X-ray crystallography was discovered by Lawrence Bragg, an academic scientist. The wool industry advance Ridley cites involves learning that stretching wool aligned the molecular strands which improved the X-ray diffraction pattern.

        With his father William Bragg a professor at Leeds, Lawrence came up with Bragg’s law and his father developed the X-ray spectrometer.
        Even that discovery was achieved by an academic scientist, William Astbury. Watson and Crick used that method, but to suppose that their advance depended critically on wool industry innovation is nonsense.
        Astbury was also a professor at Leeds, in a building near to where the Bragg’s worked and carried on their legacy (he had been a member of WB’s research team). Crick and Watson didn’t use his technique, that was Rosalind Franklin, whose results C&W used to develop their model.

  14. The author does, however, ” ….appreciate the dilemma..” for the vice chancellor – the grant money is important!!! How can illbegotten monies be important for dishonest application to deceptive hysterical research on a so-far non-problem?? Vice Chancellor Emeritus, clearly you are saying what is being done is necessary- that you would have done the same thing.
    Going along to get along probably killed 100million people in the last century. Dr. Ridd is to be admired and supported for his scholarly integrity and his efforts to root out scientific misconduct of most scientific endeavors these days.. It would be better to do without grants that end up doing harm many billions of times more costly to the world than the size of the grants. Sir this is the definition of the worst kind prostitution. At least standard prostitution gives a product of value to the “grantor” and the the grantor tak3s the grant money out of his own pocket.

    • Does JC U call itself that? According to the World University ratings it is in the band of rating 201-250 , and No 9 in Australia. Penn State ,BTW. is no 77 and U East Anglia is at 188. So these small groups of climate activism must shine out brightly amid fairly dull and modest centres of learning and this explains why the administrators have to use such bully boy tactics to preserve them .
      https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2018/world-ranking#!/page/8/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/stats

      • I studied geophysical sciences at a University in the UK in the early 1980’s. For your application you had to select 5 universities and rank them in your order of preference. For the better/top universities you would not get in without ranking them 1 or 2. You would get called for an interview. You would then get a conditional offer dependent on your A level grades. You would usually need a minimum of three A levels and good grades (eg BBB or ABC – don’t forget A Level grade inflation began in the mid-1990’s and are now estimated to be 2 grades higher today than for the same level of difficulty 20 years ago).
        Everyone put down University of East Anglia (UEA) as option 5. The reason was that everyone knew you would get an offer without interview so if your exams went badly wrong you would always have an offer of some sort. The offer I got from UEA was two E’s at A Level. Fortunately I got the results I needed and went to my first choice, but UEA wasn’t called “University of Easy Access” without good reason. Bear in mind this was at a time when only about 8% of the population went to university, unlike now where its close to 50%.

  15. And while we’re at it, what about the elemental rights of carbon. Since I am a carbon based life form, why is carbon being segregated from the periodic table? Isn’t it about time that universal rights become the basis of an end to carbon sequestration? I got in touch with my inner carbon essence and got happy with myself. Do greenies have it in so because they are incipient racists? Crude oil and coal are both jet black. Is that why there is so much prejudice directed toward carbon? Research should be conducted on these momentous questions. Where can I apply for a grant?

  16. I always wonder about those whacky claims of GBR lack of resilience to “climate change”. Considering when just 20,000 years ago the sea level was 140 meters lower, today’s GBR structures are sited on what was then dry coastal land.
    And then how can today’s reefs exist as SLR from 18Kyr ago to 8 Kyr meant it averaged around 1.2 meters/century, so that somehow they won’t survive some minor acceleration from 2-3 mm/yr by 2100? The climate barkers are simply absurd.

  17. As I have maintained in other forums, most academic scientists are simply intellectual prostitutes. The controller of the grant money simply lets it be known what results and conclusions are required, and the science departments then produce them.
    Give me control of all research grants and I will guarantee to have the scientific establishment solemnly declaring that the world is flat, and I’m not joking.

  18. It sounds like these universities are caught in a kind of welfare trap. They have been dependent on the flow of grants for so long that they have no idea what to do the day after the grant money is terminated.

      • When it was created, the staff of the Australian National University were horrified to discover that they were going to have to teach students. They had thought that all they would have to do was research. And bank all that lovely grant money.

  19. Elementary research on “carbon dioxide refrigeration” reveals a host of articles making it obvious that carbon dioxide has been a mainstay gas in the refrigeration industry for over a century, because it so quickly releases heat; just the opposite of what enviros claim. If that has been common knowledge in the refrigeration industry for so long, why haven’t kracpotologists picked up on it?

    • Because even in the academic world, most people are followers whom are susceptible to groupthink and afraid to go against herd. Not to mention the repercussions imposed on those that are thoughtful and brave enough to go against it that this article describes.

  20. In the post truth world, you need to think with your feelings and if you want to know the “truth”, you’d better check to make sure there is a cult approved meme to support it.

  21. Perhaps, the grant system should be reformed to use “modern farming techniques.”
    They could get grant money for some number of years, then have a fallow year.
    Biblically, it would be 6 years of grants and then a fallow year.

  22. The big scare tactics work.
    The Aussie government has just announced a $60 million purse to “save” the GBR.
    Again.

    • The GBR is under threat (again) – from the crown of thorns. This should not be taken lightly.
      I am of an age that I can remember the reef before the first and most devastating cot outbreak and can assure you that what we have now is but a shadow of it’s former glory. It’s future can only be guaranteed if the cot can be controlled. People may want to read the work of Dr Robert Endean, a pioneer in this field. Sadly he died while his work was incomplete (it always is) but nobody has run with it since.
      One good way to spend this money would be in deploying a cot killer drone which has been developed by a team from QUT in Brisbane. It can search autonomously for hours finding and injecting the cot when found. I have not heard anything new about this for a couple of years now. 🙁
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-31/cotsbot-hope-new-robot-will-stop-crown-of-thorns-starfish/6738320

    • What? Are they going to pay all the trougher GBR researchers to STAY AWAY !!
      GBR would do far better without their interference.

  23. It was tragic when the late Bob Carter was banned by his own University James Cook University in Townsville which took away his office, his adjunct professorship, his email and his library card. History is now repeating itself with Peter Ridd being molested by the same James Cook University in Townsville. Once again, the lure of easy grant money to keep the machinery oiled trumps serious scientific investigation. This is an incredible shame upon James Cook University.

  24. What Ike and Orwell and Aldous Huxley suggested as a warning to us all
    has been taken as procedural handbook – thereby confirming the accuracy of the warning.

  25. The only observation I would like to add relates to our extensive Pacific and Indian Oceans shell collection. The most interesting pieces we have are the Murex shells and pieces of coral we collected on the Nullarbor Plain, 600m above sea level, coated in red dirt.
    Falling sea, rising land, I’m not a geologist, but I know where we found these pieces.

    • The Nullarbor a Plain is only 64 m above sea level, not 600. Lived out there for a while and yes, sea animals could be seen in the mud layers down to 30m.

  26. Climate “Science” on Trial; The Prophet Eisenhower Warned Us About Climate Scientists
    In his farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned America about the dangers of a “scientific-technological elite” addicted to government funding abusing their power and betraying the public’s trust. The Climategate Emails and recent NOAA Whistle Blower accusations are proving him correct on an epic scale. It is time for the government to end funding of CO2 … Continue reading
    https://co2islife.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/climate-science-on-trial-eisenhower-warned-us-about-climate-scientists/

  27. As an optimist with faith in the existence of inherent honesty in most humans there must be a fair percentage of people in these corrupt organisations who know what is going on but are unable to act owing to fear of losing their jobs. I say to them you CAN do something. You can stay within the organisation and keep very detailed records of everything that goes on. Keep all the emails, memos, keep records of conversations, get it all recorded, duplicated and securely stored. A time will come in the future when this information will be helpful, possibly even crucial, so you will have done your bit to help when SHTF and there are some retributions.

  28. the search for knowledge, understanding and truth all of these ideas are consider a ‘impediment’ if they give the ‘wrong ‘ results in climate ‘science’ hence why you need to have no interest not ability in theses to be a ‘leader’ in this field .
    In short thinking this is the objective of the research is to miss realty by a country mile , the prime objective is to support AGW and the gravy train if offers.

  29. I think the corruption begins long before the grant research–it starts in PhD programs leading toward academic positions. The process might be analogized as the intellectual equivalent of Navy SEAL training. The students are implicitly threatened with being washed out if they don’t conform to the standards and whims of their committee. This threat continues after graduation in the pathway to getting tenure, which typically lasts five years or longer.
    Since I got the PhD after 25 years in industry, I may be more aware of the differences from successfully getting into many other types of careers. Having successfully navigated the whole process by receiving tenure, my comments do not reflect a negative attitude about something I did not get.
    There was a lot of pettiness involved. I heard a story from the provost of the university where I was studying about a PhD candidate who was having problems. One of the members of his committee said he wouldn’t approve the dissertation if there was a single reference to a scholar the committee member disagreed with (or maybe just didn’t like). This was a problem since that scholar was cited a lot in the dissertation. The committee negotiated, and finally arrived at the Solomonic solution of a separate copy of the dissertation for that committee member: it had all references to the disfavored scholar removed and the text edited to compensate for the redactions.
    Another example is Richard Feynman, whose pithy and quite relevant comments about scientific integrity get quoted here a lot. He was a part of the abusive situation at his school. See http://mathematigal.com/home/2014/7/14/feynman-is-not-my-hero
    A person who has lived through that process is unlikely to buck the system even if the situation is not as politically charged as “climate change.”
    Every so often you hear about a PhD student killing one or more members of his committee. Although the perpetrators are most likely unhinged, I can understand how the circumstances might be a contributing factor.

    • The question should also be asked if the stress contributes to these individuals becoming unhinged.

  30. Not surprising, I have a colleague who works at JCU. The place is a money grubbing sham. Grant money is outstandingly important as they are struggling to make profit as student numbers continue to fall. Essentially, JCU has happily had a monopoly in this part of the world for 40 years and has had no need to innovate. Recently however, with the advent of online learning and other regional universities opening campuses nearby, JCU suddenly has to compete. You only need to look at the last few years of industrial disputes, criminal cases of sexual abuse by staff members and overall increasing research on funding to see that the place is going downhill. The VC continues to get pay increases on her million dollar salary whilst begrudgingly making increases to staff pay in the face of strident union action. Total shambles and a shadow of its former respectable reputation.

  31. Whether you agree with AGW or not the above article should be a worry. No wonder they are able to claim a 97% consensus. Dissenting views are threatened with their jobs. One would think Universities would be the first places to support free speech and opposite views when supported with data. It seems if this threatens grant money then it is a problem.

  32. I live just a few miles from JCU and my blood boils whenever I read about them. I will not forget the shameful way they treated Bob Carter.

  33. This is what happens when scientists decide to vent their feelings in public.
    “We can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies… The science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated, and this is a great shame.’”
    Did he back up this claim with evidence?
    “It seems to me utterly wrong for his own University to try to ‘discipline’ him so that he does not criticise others. That is not what science is about.”
    It is fine and good when researchers critique other research scientifically. It’s entirely another thing when someone goes to the media and claims entire institutions can’t be trusted by the public. To understand how egregious a claim this is, one has to think about the fact that the integrity of the climate science community has been attacked systematically for decades by a well-oiled propaganda machine with a goal of convincing the Right that climate science is useless for prediction because it’s so full of uncertainty and corruption. It’s been very successful, and the climate science community is going through a great struggle to regain the trust of the public it once had. For researchers to intentionally try to destroy that trust, evidence supporting claims of wrongdoing should be well-supported indeed. So, where is it? Or is Ridd just nursing a grudge?
    If the media screams “bleaching, catastrophe, doom!” that is the fault of the media, not of scientists.
    ‘It happens that the University’s Vice-Chancellor is a director of AIMS, which produces an obvious conflict of interest. ” Why is this a conflict of interest?
    Even if coral reef does experience some cycles of natural bleaching, that is much different from saying that there have been no large bleaching events or that humans have played no role in it. And if coral is bleached too long, it dies. What’s Ridd’s problem with the research?
    “There has been a lot of loud noise based on small pieces of work. It is not widely understood that the Reef is a vast system, and that it is not closely monitored. You would need hundreds, thousands, of researchers and assistants to do that.” Are you suggesting that no good science can be done because the reef is too big? Ever heard of subsampling?
    “The correct response from those he has criticised is to respond in the proper way, show that Ridd is wrong, and that their work can withstand his criticism.” BUT THE CORRECT WAY FOR HIM TO RESPOND IS TO PUBLICLY CASTIGATE TWO SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTIONS? Don’t you see the hypocrisy here?

    • I guess I’m the one who should respond.
      (i) absence of checking and replication, Ridd had said this several times before, and urged the Reef science world too get past the notion that ‘peer review’ means that papers published are without blemishes. Indeed it is plain from the sheer scale of the GBR (about the size of California, the to check everything would require a very much larger corps of researchers than exist in Australia in this field, and probably in the world. What happens is that people go to a couple of reefs or even a dozen, and describe what they find and generalise their findings to the whole Reef.
      While the Brodie and Pearson paper is behind a paywall, they wrote a piece for The Conversation which does indeed make extreme claims, that unless what they want is done the Reef will be ‘terminal’. This type of exaggeration is extremely common.
      (ii) I know nothing about an alleged ‘well-oiled propaganda machine’ and neither Ridd nor I are part of it.
      (iii) The [Vice-Chancellor] has two incompatible roles, one as the CEO of the University and the other as a director of an organisation that has been criticised by the member of staff. She needs to extract herself from one or other role (or better still, both).
      (iv) With respect, I don’t think you understand enough of the issue to be able to allege hypocrisy.

    • The “Right” has a well-oiled propaganda machine?
      The “integrity” of the climate science community has been destroyed by ITS OWN corruption, bias, lies, exaggerations, and propaganda. There is no “well-oiled” right-wing promotion nor propaganda in effect at all. (By the way, that is supposed to be “well-funded”, not “well-oiled – Get your paid-for left-wing socialist-enviro-paid talking points correct before you write them!)

  34. I would like to suggest a Crowd..Funded Trust(????) for defending qualifying Skeptics who are being thus elbowed..out of academic positions. It cd be a Fund or an ad hoc operation but with the outreach, and clout to rally..round individual deserving causes.
    Properly established, I wd pitch..in $1,000 for starters. We desperately need to support our Skeptics from the sinecure..seeking, fund..lusting, over..paid, under..principled, crooked, purveyors of Snake..Oil so..called Science.
    Over to you bright lights for advancing this cause!! Established by whom? Managed by whom? Administered by whom?
    Not me, much as I wd love tobe involved in a minor position.

  35. A great article laying bare our country’s biggest environmental/scientific scandal. Professor Ridd has to be congratulated for his courage to right a dreadful wrong. I know people in the USA who have stopped considering a retirement trip to Australia because they believe the GBR is dead. The damage to tourism in Queensland, and in particular Far North Queensland where I live, has been immense. Indeed James Crook University does have many shiny new buildings, I drive past it often.

  36. Maybe the Royal Society should change its motto from ‘Take nobody’s word for it’ and add ‘Except the consensus’

  37. On a German TV-channel an unknown climate-scientist recently explained that in order to “get a name” he had to do the “media-circuit” (and ring the climate-alarm bell). Otherwise he had no chance to get research money because the competition was to strong.

  38. As an occasional “pen friend” of the late Prof. Bob Carter it should be noted that he had no theories, he just looked at imperical graphs and information to tell the World what was going on. I viewed his presentation in 2010 in Berlin a few days ago. The first slide was of the last 6 million years from deep sea samples from Vostock, down to 3 million years…..and it was warmer than today. Bob looked for information from public libraries. I found a slide from 5 million years ago yesterday on the internet through wiki. It was warm 5 millon years ago to 3 mllion…therafter cooler down to today. As Bob said “there are thousands of examples that Planet Earth has been much warmer by
    2-3 deg C in the past”.
    Once Bob gave an Historic Graph of CO2 you knew what is going on….Life on Planet Earth, required several millions of years of high levels of CO2 to make it habitable thanks to CO2 courtesy of Volcanoes…..circa 4,500 ppm.
    Not only is CO2 innocent, but the change in the Sun Cycle without Sun Spots in the last two months is in line with what was experienced in the Dalton Minimum 1700’s…..very cold….Thames frozen over etc……
    Global Warming? I wish!

Comments are closed.