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« Will renewables kill off Scottish independence? | Main | Lüdecke et al »
Tuesday
Nov082011

Beddington hearing

Sir John Beddington is about to be grilled by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on the role of chief scientific advisers.

The video will be here from 11:30am UK time.

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Reader Comments (43)

Grilled or roasted? We can only hope...

Nov 8, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Half-baked more like.

Nov 8, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/science-and-technology-committee/news/beddington-evidence-8-nov-/

A little more info here.

Nov 8, 2011 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Don't expect much from this old-chums-club.

Nov 8, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

It might be a good time to issue this reminder to committee members.
http://duckofminerva.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-praise-of-falsification.html

Nov 8, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

'the role of chief scientific advisers.' to give politicians what they what and never mind the actual science and to get for science from the politicians what it wants and never mind the actual facts.
Given his track record does anyone want to bet its going to be anything else but a back slapping contest ?

Nov 8, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

I think, I think, I think, I think, I think

Nov 8, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

What's happening at the BBC? Panorama did a pretty good hatchet job on wind farms last night.
It is a must see.
Has the Beeb just discovered reality tv :-)
Sorry Ot I know
Beddington what can one say about this oh so fragrant man?

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

What!!!!

Now the "scientific advisor" is openly stating they have a remit over engineering. This is absurd. It is like putting vampires in charge of a bloodbank.

Where is the "chief engineering advisor" .... NOWHERE!! .... Nowhere because these people have consistently tried to portray engineering (i.e. the money making subject that made great Britain) as a minor discipline under science.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

For "Scientific advisor" ... one should read "political advisor pushing 'post-normal' science"

They are more like the Vatican inquisition ... a group within a group to push a certain political dogma within science and government and ensure that all government departments are towing the post-normal science line.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Mike - surely you know we owe our wealth to the City?

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

So how does the Uk do this.

We take an end of career prof in a subject like population biology - surface science - and just at the time when they are slowing down we give them a job as govt chief sci advisor. The chief sic advisor gets a knighthood by default.

So, will they be any good, have a knowledge base that is wide enough for the job.

Will they, if needed, rock the boat?

and on the Lords S & T committee Lord Krebs, Lord Rees, Lord Winston ...old boys club.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldboy

I just cannot believe people like this are given any remit at all over engineering.

I did six months research into renewables which proved beyond doubt that people like this had an entirely negative contribution to success. In other words, success was inversely proportional to the scientific "support" ... or to put it another way, the only UK renewable technology which was a success was the only one which people like Beddington were kept well away from.

If anyone at all listens to this man over engineering, we should all pack up and move abroad because there is no hope at all for UK manufacturing and industry with guys like this anywhere near the helm.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Stacey
Just watched Panorama on iplayer - an eye opener indeed. Obviously weak beer for us, but strong beer for the middle classes who watch this. Huhne just unbelievable in his naivete.

Beddington - less of a grilling, more of a round of lightly toasted crumpets and tea I suspect.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterduncan

I don't want to continue off piste but
"What's happening at the BBC? Panorama did a pretty good hatchet job on wind farms last night.
It is a must see.
Has the Beeb just discovered reality tv :-)

Stacey please watch it again but more closely. They gave Hune a massive slot to disprove the progams premises which he did admirably by lying through his teeth. Like Gillard he promised that energy would be cheaper in the future. What was brilliant qwas that they managed to blame it all on Blair.

Nov 8, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The House of Lords will debate the main principles and purpose of the Protection of Freedoms Bill today.

Thirty Members are scheduled to speak during the second reading of the Bill which looks to curtail the use of CCTV and the DNA database, reform the child protection regime, and change the basis on which law enforcement bodies can enter private property.

Watch the debate live on Parliament TV (from approximately 3.30pm)

What does the Protection of Freedoms Bill cover?
extend Freedom of Information rights by requiring datasets to be available in a re-usable format

http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2011/november/protection-of-freedoms-bill-2nd-reading/

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Mike Haseler - as a retired engineer myself, I spent forty years trying to explain to people what an engineer was - and that no, I wouldn't be taking a look at the exhaust on their Audi any time soon....
Anyway - you're right of course - engineering is not some sort of 'subdivision' of Science - there should (nay, MUST) be a Secretary of State for Engineering, who would by definition be an engineer. Sadly I don't know if there are any at all in the Palace of Westminster (except presumably the Facilities Manager)....

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Duncan

"a round of lightly toasted crumpets and tea"

That sounds about right. Plus congratulations on the blinder played, followed by cake.

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

@Nov 8, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Stacey

Not really, did you see the 'Will it Snow?' on BBC 2, get your vodka out and it's a shot everytime they use the world climate change.


'House of Lords Science and Technology Committee' - You trust these guys to even know what they're talking about?

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva


They gave Hune a massive slot to disprove the progams premises which he did admirably by lying through his teeth. Like Gillard he promised that energy would be cheaper in the future.


But will anyone believe him when he says it will be cheaper?

Another straw in the wind:
I was extremely surprised the other night when I changed TV channels and found the lonely shepherds' dream, Kate Humble, presenting a programme about cold winters, and what I saw of it had no-one from East Anglia, but someone from (I think) Reading University mentioning that it's just remotely, conceivably, possible that variations in solar activity might have some effect on earth!
What's going on at the Beeb?

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commentermalcolm

The Beeb is a-shiftin, as I've said many times on here. And I can trace it inexorably back to Climategate. Although the public face of the Russell enquiry was the publically 'clear' the team, I suspect behind the scenes the word was put about Whitehall and the Establishment in general that this was a massive pile of poo, and they need to start backpedalling ever so slowly over the next year or two.

And thus it has come to pass.

Nov 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

@Nov 8, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Stacey

"'House of Lords Science and Technology Committee' - You trust these guys to even know what they're talking about?"

Britain was built on engineering excellence: railway engineers, shipbuilding engineers, construction engineers, manufacturing engineers. Britiain used to be the world's manufacturer.

Then along came people like Beddington who said: "engineering is just the appliance of science, and therefore it needs a scientific mind, and therefore scientists should decide ... scientists should be in charge".

So they got the Lords to change "the House of Lords Science and commons Engineering Committee" to "the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee." In one fell swoop obliterating everything that made Britain great, since when Britain has been in a sharp manufacturing and economic decline with lots of scientists in white ivory towers "inventing" things which if they are any use to man or beast (which most aren't) end up being made in China.

It was the total failure of science to create any success outwith a few small areas of achievement that was fundamentally, the reason why the scientists needed global warming. They knew they had lost the economic argument: science as a single club policy (without engineering) was leading this country into the mire, and then they realised that without industry, there's little or no point having all these scientists ... because what is the point in inventing things if there's no one to make them!

.... unless you can prove that science is going to "save the planet".

So, instead of science being part of the toolbox of economic growth, they ended up being the pied piper toward economic doomsday with massive energy rises and subsequence collapse of any remaining industry and commerce.

And they think we should take them seriously?

Nov 8, 2011 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Many years ago the BBC had a debate on the state of "British Engineering", and why it was fading away via the brain drain to the US and Japan and elsewhere. This was probably early 80's.

The program started with a summary of the current state of things, and was then opened out to a Question Time like format, where it became clear that the audience had no idea what was being discussed.

There was one memorable rant from a mother in the audience, who's son had been an engineer with the railways, like his father before him, and how terribly they were treated these days, and most of the audience cheered along, as the panel slowly realised that this woman was talking about train drivers.

As a young electronics engineer at the time, I was hoping for an interesting program, but it was a farce.

Nov 8, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

steveta_uk, I think I remember it.

I remember when I first worked at Timex I realised the government were actively encouraging people into engineering. At first I thought this was good, but then I did a basic course in economics (a higher) and realised that what in fact the government were attempting to do was to devalue engineering by creating an over-supply so that the wages dropped, intake dropped, employers saw little value in engineers (they were two a penny because of the way government pumped them out).

It was clear 30 years ago, that what we needed was a program to severely restrict the number of engineers and thereby massively increase their value, to start attracting the best brains and common sense into engineering, so that the engineers started running all the top companies.

instead we've had 30 years of treating engineering like dirt. Of oversupplying engineers so that anyone daft enough to go and do it gets paid a pittance ... and because only daft people who don't care about the money go and do engineering ... it's not exactly the best kind of people to run commercial companies.

And that in a nutshell is why the UK is carp at engineering.

.... that and the BBC, who seem to have a institutional dislike to engineers. (I've often wondered if there is a lot of ill-feeling between program staff and the engineers who control the equipment? Which they take out on all engineers?)

Nov 8, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

I find it astonishing that commentators here think that a greater government focus on engineering would be good for engineering. When has government focus been of any benefit to anything except for vested interests and rent seeking parasites?
The less the government thinks/knows/does/interferes the better.

Nov 8, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

David C,

you are right ... the less the present government and science establishment have to do with engineering the less chance they have to really destroy it completely.

In other words, I agree that at the moment they are so useless that any "help" by government is the death knell of that industry/project/company.

But that is not how it should be. Government should not only be able to be helpful, they should understand industry and manufacturing and be able to implement policies so that they do no harm.

And yes! The history of UK government involvement has been a total abysmal disaster. Mainly because people like Beddington who haven't the first clue about engineering just can't help telling government that the way to "improve" engineering .... is to put much more money into science.

... and to raise energy prices
... and to increase elf-and-safety
... and to get rid of outdated ideas like "reliability" and "design integrity"
... and to "modernise" (aka bring in more scientists)
... and to "invent" (aka throw out the good stuff that works and bring in new that isn't reliable and costs and arm and a leg until the company goes bust like Proven wind)

Nov 8, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

David C,

another way people like Beddington have been so damaging is in the way they fund research. I spoke to Proven years ago and I was surprised how much contact they had with the local university. However ... it was all "we had a chat", "they were useful".

The simple fact that there was some guys with a lot of knowledge who this engineering company could go and talk to was the difference between success and failure.

But then in came Thatcher's "project" and finance driven research. In came "consultancy" and specific projects. It was all finance driven, and whilst the academics would loved to have helped local companies, they didn't get those all important "points" for just helping small companies unless they could formulate their "problem" as something that needed "inventing".

in other words, if Proven had wanted to University to "invent" a windmill, they would no doubt have got funding. But if they just wanted to chat on a regular basis on their reliability problems and perhaps do a few quick calculations and "mentor" Proven ... No funding for just doing things better with a bit of help from academics.

And remember the Japanese approach which was so successful was just "product improvement" ... a thousand small improvements which added together made a totally different and improved product.

UK approach: "get people who have no knowledge at all of the customer or reliability to invent a new device in a lab ... using none of the lessons learnt about reliability and customer needs from previous products ... and then expect the cheapest engineers in the world to solve all the reliability problems which they had solved on all the previous products just in time for some cretin with no engineering knowledge in finance to decide that they could get rid of a few more engineers by getting another grant to do more research and invent another product ... aka make it totally unreliable again and get the UK customers to product test it".

Nov 8, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

David C,

bad in the 70's, when I was put through various engineering studies, that was funded by GEC where I worked part time, and indirectly funded by the government of the day.

Of course, back then companies like GEC and other major UK engineering outfits had the clout to influence government policy, and hence could get at least partial funding for sandwich courses. In my view, this wasn't a bad thing, but little was done to retain the newly trained talent, and much went abroad.

Today, such funding is nowhere to be found, baring a few city financial institutions and legal firms. For the nouveau riche an unpaid internship as a politicians lacky seems to be a meal ticket for life.

For us ornary folk and there chillen, there's nothing.

Nov 8, 2011 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"bad in the 70's" -> back in the 70's" (previous post) (where's the edit button?)

Nov 8, 2011 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

We have been exceptionally unlucky to have someone like Beddington as Chief Scientific Adviser, although given the state of the science 'establishment' in the political classes, I fear it could have been even worse. His superficial thinking and utter lack of penetration is illustrated by his view on sea level rises and his unforgiveably naive view of the IPCC:

'Our current rising sea level is often given as evidence of anthropogenic influence on the oceans, though usually when data from only the past decade or two are taken into consideration. An example is frequent comments by the UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, who has said that global sea level has increased by about 10 cm in the last 50 years and that is evidence of mankind’s influence. At first sight it is a dramatic and compelling statement for mankind’s effects on this parameter. Beddington also said, “the general issues on overall global temperature, on sea level and so on, are all pretty unequivocal”.

Source: http://www.thegwpf.org/the-observatory/3943-sea-level-another-thing-the-ipcc-got-wrong.html

The same piece, by David Whitehouse, concludes:
'...the current observed trend in sea level has its origins in the mid-nineteenth century before man’s influence on the climate became apparent (according IPCC estimates.) the fact that it is a straight line for the past century is also significant as it betrays no imprint of recent warming..

So, the statement by Professor Sir John Beddington, who has said that global sea level has increased by about 10 cm in the last 50 years (and so man must be to blame, unequivocally) is highly misleading, and a partial representation of the data. Whilst it is true that the sea level has increased by 10 cm in the past 50 years (coincident with a period of global warming), it also increased by 10 cm in the previous 50 years when man could not have been to blame!

For some reasons, this science establishment, as revealed by the Royal Society for example, is particularly confident about sea level rises as evidence of man's influence on climate. The recent, as well as the more distant, behaviour of sea level suggests they have backed the wrong horse to lend support to their politicking. More here: http://climatelessons.blogspot.com/2011/11/climate-classroom-projects-testing.html

Nov 8, 2011 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

...chief social anthropologist...?!

...everyone in the UK watching these buffoons will inevitably lose the will to work. (Assuming there is anyone left bothering to work).

Nov 8, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I just endured the first half of the video- till I could stand no more- dull as ditchwater. If you can get through to the end of that without nodding off, you deserve my admiration.

Nov 8, 2011 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

steveta_uk

I was a GEC apprentice in the 80's. B-tec course at technical college, work placement into the apprenticeship scheme, was it called a Manpower Services Commission course, memory fades, long time ago.
Anyway at this training school in GEC they were churning out 20 technicians a year, some of us getting jobs within GEC, others moving on. Building rigs and testing PCB's at the end of several soldering production lines of about 30, ahhm, young ladies each. Learnt a lot in those years.
To progress after the Government funding stopped though you had to wait for an Engineer to retire, or die, the jobs were for life, until sites started closing. Made redundant for the first and last time but really gratefull for the training.

Nov 8, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

In spite of several comments above Huhne was clever enough not to say that energy would be cheaper as a result of his policies. He said it will be cheaper than it otherwise would have been! (without his intervention) Disgraceful rubbish but we wont do the cause any good by misquoting him to the glee of the warmists.

Nov 8, 2011 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

In spite of several comments above Huhne was clever enough not to say that energy would be cheaper as a result of his policies. He said it will be cheaper than it otherwise would have been! (without his intervention) Disgraceful rubbish but we wont do the cause any good by misquoting him to the glee of the warmists.

Nov 8, 2011 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

We have one consolation.

None of us must endure a breakfast meeting with the Chief Scientific Officer.

( Despite we are inevitably picking up the tab)

Nov 8, 2011 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

A Secretary of State for Engineering.
Now, which ex-lawyer MP would get that job?
Since we seem unable to get an ex-forces politician as Secretary of State for Defense, you can bet your bottom dollar, that it won't be anyone with any engineering experience at all.
Hey,maybe we can get Pauchuri to change nationality?

Nov 8, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Beddington may have his work cut out keeping engineers in check. The abstract business of science may well be able to survive on the public teat but the actual business of delivering could not. Thank the USSR for proof of that.

Engineers warn Alex Salmond has no 'practical strategy' for keeping lights on in Scotland

Nov 8, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth
Nov 9, 2011 at 12:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevYYZ

Mike Haseler

"I remember when I first worked at Timex I realised the government were actively encouraging people into engineering. At first I thought this was good, but then I did a basic course in economics (a higher) and realised that what in fact the government were attempting to do was to devalue engineering by creating an over-supply so that the wages dropped, intake dropped, employers saw little value in engineers (they were two a penny because of the way government pumped them out).

It was clear 30 years ago, that what we needed was a program to severely restrict the number of engineers and thereby massively increase their value, to start attracting the best brains and common sense into engineering, so that the engineers started running all the top companies."

Are you serious?

Engineers running all the top companies? I think management is one of the great weaknesses of the UK economy but replacing them all with engineers is a joke. I thinks engineers are as likely to become good managers as any other group but it takes a special kind of person to be a good CEO and many enineers would be as useless as many that we have in place right now.
I also see no evidence of an over supply of engineers
There was an article in the DT yesterday or today about a new Engineering "foundation" with government money pledged advertising for ( I think) 14 engineering post grads for an advanced manufacturing project. They got one applicant.

Nov 9, 2011 at 3:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Dung, agree, I don't believe there is an over supply of engineers, or technicians for that matter. Mike H's position seems to reflect yhr thoughts of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the 60/70s, when indeed Engineers were low paid in comparison with other professions. Though not brilliantly paid now they have narrowed the gap considerably because of the massive growth spurt and th concomitant shortage of engineers of all disciplines (and skilled engineering project managers).

BTW. It was the engineers in the RS who demanded they make the nonsense on their website about AGW reflect a tinsy bit more of the reality.

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

ssat

Also, engineers generally have to make things work, an alien concept to Prof. Beddington, I'm sure. On the upside, having been a N.Sea oil man, I would expect Mr Salmond to take notice.

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"having been a N.Sea oil man"

Alex Salmond, not me, although I did spend a day on West Sole Alpha once, which raised my admiration for the helicopter pilots several notches.

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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