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On monoliths

Alan Kendall, the UEA geologist whose first-year course incorporated slides taken from Climate Audit, has defended the university's reputation in the comments on my post highlighting his scepticism.

I am entering the debate now because my university (UEA) is becoming subject to unnecessary scorn being branded disparingly as "a third-rate university" or the old tag repeated that it is the "University of easy access" in this and other blogs. This derision being made by those who are incensed by a small number of UEA employees, notably in CRU

UEA is a small university, yet is ranked 3rd in the Times Higher Student Experience Survey 2011; ranks in the Top World 150 universities, in the top 100 European universities and in the top 20 UK institutions, For its size it punches considerably above its weight. I am proud to have taught there and to be associated with it.

Those who are critical of the attempts by some to curtail the type of first-year teaching I used to give also miss a very important point. It was my School (ENV) that allowed me to teach the unashamedly anti-AGW lecture in the first place. More than that I was actively encouraged by the School's Dean at the time. If you wish to find a place where academic freedom showed itself, then you couldn't do better than to quote my case in UEA, a university that to some is a den of malfeasance and thought control. I am, of course, not condoning the actions and mind set of some of my colleagues, but neither have I criticized them - and I don't intend to start now.

IIRC Paul Dennis has also spoken highly of the support he received from the authorities in the School of Environment.

No public sector body is completely monolithic, it seems.

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Reader Comments (157)

Could commenters calm down a bit please.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:19 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Perhaps, in these times, Burke should be ammended: For evil to triumph it is necessary only for mistaken men to pursue a Cause. (Especially if they have a sufficient tax-funded subsidy to find plausible reasons for a desired regime of prescription and prohibition.)

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson


I can't see anyone here calling for the "Destruction of the UEA", but the proper airing issues revealed by the Climategate emails and a proper enquiry and remedy.

I imagine it cvan be difficult when working for a taxpayer funded institution that is supposed to be upholding the tenets of scientific freedomm of enquiry, especially when one small enclave starts acting in a way that is contrary to its very raison d'etre.

But to simply "let it slide", is a niave option.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

'I am entering the debate now because my university (UEA) is becoming subject to unnecessary scorn being branded disparingly as "a third-rate university"'

The trouble is, Kendall is entering the wrong debate. Were he to express his opinion on the quality of 'science' done by the the university's most publicly visible department, the question of whether the UEA deserves the branding of 'third rate' would very likely answer itself.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

I have considerable sympathy with Alan K's position, in that whistleblowers tend never to gain from whistleblowing.

What we see in Climategate is not so much outright fraud from UEA as ineptitude, groupthink, innumeracy, confirmation bias, activism, and "poodleism". By poodleism, I mean that the scientists appear ready to be bought and paid for by the WWF and the energy industry, whose agendas in this instance are basically the same even if they expect different outcomes. So of course they focused on areas that served their paymasters' interests. When they found stuff that didn't square with the story they wanted to tell, instead of explaining it, they explained it away. It's essentially paid activism in pursuit of someone else's agenda.

This are mostly deficiencies of personality rather than dishonesty. But even if Alan K had found direct evidence of scientific fraud, UEA, as his employer, would expect him in the first place to report it to his line manager. It would be the same in any office. If you catch someone fiddling their expenses, you don't call the police yourself, you notify management of your concerns.

It is not at all clear to me what one person can do against an entire department whose work is going down the tubes in the face of a management structure that's very, very anxious to hide the decline. Alan certainly could not have gone public.

I remain unmoved by claims of quality for UEA though. It may well be in the top 20, but we used to have 55 proper universities so this is a resolutely middling position. it's not in the Russell Group and claims for quality based on what students think of the place don't impress. The creative writing course is indeed very well regarded, but I have to wonder how it qualifies as a proper subject for tertiary education. I don't think any Russell Group university thinks it is, so maybe the course is good because it has no competitors and the teaching talent has nowhere else to go?

Apparently the entry tariff for BSc Climate Science has increased this year to ABB. Last year it was BBB. If you consider that 55% or so of A-Level candidates get a B or better, it seems clear that the calibre of entrants to this degree has historically been in the middle or perhaps even the bottom half of the class.

This also hides the fact that getting ABB in, say, Physics and Double Maths is a lot harder than getting ABB in Geography, Biology and D&T, for example. It's also clear, from the mishmash of degree disciplines whose surface the degree scratches, that graduates must come out with a superficial knowledge of a lot, but deep knowledge of nothing much. They certainly cannot do statistics, for example. These are not the people whose counsels I'd rely on when it comes to spending £17billion a year on managing the sky; they're just too mediocre, and wholly capable of groupthinking their way to a foolish consensus.

When you have a consensus of appropriately-qualified researchers in the world's top 5 universities agreeing with the Team, and when you have a consensus of energy price, population and technology forecasters with a proven record of accuracy all agreeing with the Team, then we can talk. Until then, this is just some stupid idea concocted by the bottom half of the class.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Foxgooose at 9:46 AM
“I managed a couple of modest A Levels and a mediocre engineering degree at a regional poly - and the climategate revelations lead me to the depressing conclusion that the future of the planet might lie in the hands of people like me. Terrifying”.

Don’t worry. I wasted a large part of my youth in left-wing groupuscules bent on putting the world to rights, and I assure you the future of the planet lies in the hands of people like me.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Alan thank you for your post and for your further comments. I can see that my earlier comments were OTT and I apologise if I personally caused you offence.

You are seeking to defend UEA as an institution. A noble objective but one that I would suggest is doomed to failure. In the eyes of the public (at least the small number who take an active interest) UEA and CRU are synonymous. So any attempt to defend UEA must needs be seen as defending CRU. The more so because the management of UEA is seen as complicit in the misdeeds of CRU. A whitewash or two is always counter-productive. So whilst I admire your efforts to defend the rest of UEA, as I say, you are on to a loser.

Whilst Jones Briffa et all are in employment there the reputation of UEA is in my opinion as low as it can get. Sorry but that is the way the world works.

And these guys and their colleagues in the IPCC cabal are responsible for governments adopting policies that are causing real harm today and every day. This is simply inexcusable.

It is sad to see that yours was a lone voice. Unfortunately academics as a whole have to accept responsibility for not speaking out against the wrongdoing. If CRU represents 10% of UEA the other 90% should be up in arms. The fact that they are not does not speak well for academe.

Sorry but I would not let any of my children anywhere near UEA.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Iank Thank you for replying to the comments.

The fact that you conveyed your criticism to the university authorities is of course commendable, but you seem disinclined to allow commenters here their "god given right to criticize" I do not claim any divine right to criticize bad behaviour I regard it as an inalienable right to do so, as is my right to praise good actions. Which I readily do here for your lecture to your first year students to look at all the evidence before coming to conclusions. Maybe the same lecture to the CRU section might be the way forward?

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale


Sir, thank you for the clarification and for expressing your concerns from within. I for one wish you well and apologise if you feel that some comments, probably mine included have only contributed to your plight.

You have been subjected to the ever increasing feeling of injustice that will not be slated until the obvious malfeasance is publicly recognised and a transparent structure put in place to ensure that it is a thing of the past. That is the responsibility of the University management.

The problem is as you state is: - “but mine was almost alone voice and easily ignored”

In my opinion what you have done in 24 hours on a blog will do more to redress the reputation of the University than the management along with their expensive “spin doctors” have achieved in their 2 years of obfuscation.

Thank you

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Alan Kendall is right to defend his university. There are a couple of peripheral players in the global warming cabal at my university, but I cannot criticise the whole place because of them. Now that we’ve had two instalments of Climategate, it’s time for the Vice Chancellor of UEA to get to grips with the problem. The omens are not good, as he has not shown leadership but has concentrated instead on sweeping things under the carpet. The only solution is the removal of those who have orchestrated this deceit. It’s over to you, Professor Acton.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterFZM

One of the troubles with "climate science" is that it is in its adolescence: It thinks it knows everything. Maybe it will grow up some day.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

You can actually do a BSc in Climate Science at CRU? Does that mean that you can get student loans to cover your tuition fees and living expenses that you have to pay back in the future?

Does that mean that there are young people actually willing to pay to be indoctrinated?

I wonder how long it will be before those happy BSc Climate Science graduates from CRU realise that they have accumulated all that student debt in exchange for what must be about to become one of the most valueless degrees of all time. Would you employ one if their CV came across your desk? I feel sorry for them, I genuinely do.

They should have gone for the Degree in surfing instead - better employment prospects and more fun to boot.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Muck has stuck the UEA as a whole, as opposed to the CRU in isolation, becasue of the way Davies and Acton, presumably with the support of the rest of the senior management, responded. They have sought to defend the indefensible, and the inquiries that followed Climategate 1 were so bad that I cannot see how Davies and Acton have any credibility left. As long as the university is content to continue to keep joke scientists in post, it'll continue to have a credibility problem in my view.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

"I choose not to add to the criticism heaped upon some of my colleagues; in my judgement this would add little - I'm sure that they are fully aware of my opinion of them. To refrain from adding to their woes is my right and those of you who choose to question my motives here only shine a light on their own predjuces."

Who is questioning your motives?

I can't believe the number of people who want to say: "oh I am attacked by both sides. Blah, blah".

Every single action of criticism/attack carried out on the UEA will in the long run, contribute to its improvement. It always hurts to see outsiders doing the clean-up that insiders ought to have done, Mr Kendall.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

The bullying here of Alan Kendall, a single voice in a department of trolls, is shamefull. Utterly shamefull!

Alan Kendall lectured on what he thought appropriate, and caught heat for that. Instead of being supported here as a lone voice in the wilderness, he's being bagged by Russell Group boosters.

When Russell Group universities and alumni grow the balls to take on the CRU, future criticism of UEA will be valid. As it stands, Alan Kendall was hung out to dry by ENV and is still being hung out to dry by gutless Russell Group institutions and individuals here.


Dec 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

An interesting debate, not least because virtually everyone (even the egregious Zed'sDeadHead) seem to more or less assume that the UEA will be seriously damaged, or even destroyed by the antics of CRU, aided and abetted by Acton & Davies.

Frankly, whilst empathising with Ian K's position, I really wish that it was at all likely that the cleaning out of this Augean stables was remotely in prospect. Were it to happen, then obviously many good people (doubtless including Ian K) would be unfairly and adversely affected. Who knows whether even the "Creative Writing" course would survive (although I would grouchily suspect that English Literature might survive such a blow)?

But what happens to the honest, hardworking employees of any company or organisation when it closes down due to the incompetence or malice of those in charge?

Life isn't fair.

I will forgo reminding people in detail about all the demonstrable and serious damage already caused to the British and World Economy, and individual lives damaged or lost, due to the self serving antics of the CRU "Team".

But, personally, I think that the problems in CRU will just be brushed smartly under the carpet, just indeed as Climategate 2.0 already has been. Who expects the Beeb, the Grauniad, BedWettington, BuffHuhne or Eddie Milipede to even blush next time they talk about the "robust" and "settled" climate science?

I'm only surprised Prince Chuckles hasn't dropped by to give his support. In another month the New Year Honours list will be out. What odds will you give me on members of the Team being given gongs?

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I appreciate your efforts to add balance to the discussion here and previously in getting your students to consdider alternative viewpoints. Moreover you are correct that many comments here are a bit over the top. However, I would not under-estimate the damage done by the reviews/whitewashes undertaken by UEA's administration. You may well have been encouraged by your department but the behavior and lack of integrity of some in the UEA administration are appalling.
P.S. If you want to see real vituperation there is plenty to be found at RealClimate, ClimateProgress and in the negative reviews of skeptical AGW books e.g., Spencer and Laframboise, at

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie


Has anyone seen the new movie trailer from Minnesotans for Global Warming -

"The Cause"

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

Alan Kendall's experience with the UEA is as the Norwich accent having differing vowel sounds that distinguish it from the Norfolk dialect that surrounds it. Distinctly different from our evaluations.

The place may have been known as the University of Easy Access, but because of Phil Jones et al, I fear it will be known in future as the University of Easily Negotiable Virture or CRUd for short.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

While I sympathise with your position as a lone voice in your university, and while I can understand that it would be more than just difficult, as lone voice, to criticise colleagues who were huge stars in the international ClimSci environment, I do take issue with the attitude of "it is not my subject, so I can't say anything".

The scientific method applies to all studies into our natural environment. Therefore all and any natural scientist, no matter what their research speciality is, can and must comment and even condemn the way this method has been abused by those CRU stars.

If scientists cannot be trusted to defend this unique way of investigating all that surrounds us, then the general public, with only a smidgeon of science education, will in the end question all natural sciences, all, from astrophysics to zoology. This is because they will lose trust especially when they see that other scientists are unwilling to lift their heads above the parapet and say that wrong is wrong, and even more so when they see how much of their taxes is going to pay for something which should have been queried years ago.

I cannot believe that someone like you has fallen for the ludicrous accusation we've heard over the years by those ClimSci people that nobody who is of the ClimSci tribe could possibly understand their arcane stuff, and so are not entitled to criticise.
If you look at the CG2 e-mails you will find that the members of that ibe have had sufficient doubt about their products to have a go at each other, for years.

What they have been doing was and is politics, and we all, as part of the body politic, have wright and a duty to ask and criticise.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans


Thanks for the link.
Had a look, wow!

Now all we need is for Elmer to get his crew together and give us one of their songs to celebrate CG2!

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

On the subject of Universities attended, I'm afraid I have to admit that I went straight from Grammar school to attend the same university as ex-PM John Major, although I spent a lot longer studying there than him. It also had/has a very long PG phase.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Sorry, Hector, but if someone wants us to spend £17 billion a year on a problem that exists based only on an argument from authority, the precautionary principle says you do some due diligence on the purported authority.

You do this exact same thing yourself - every time you pass some nutter in the street wearing a sandwich board that reads "Repent, for the end is nigh". But you don't repent. You don't repent because the nutter is insufficiently authoritative to support his claim. Either you don't believe the end is nigh, or if you do, you don't agree repenting is the best response.

This is the same thing, different only in degrees. Phil Jones is the religious nutter telling us the end is nigh, essentially because he just knows, right? Well, sorry, but if Phil and his buds are all so smart, why aren't they hiding the decline at a proper scientific university such as Cambridge, Imperial or Edinburgh? These places actually teach and award respected degrees in the stuff that's too hard for UEA. Physics; maths; hard stuff like that. None of Mike's Nature tricks there. They don't work. There's no green theory of gravity.

If there are no climate science degrees at Russell Group universities, that would likely be because they deem the subject beneath study.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@ Mike Jackson:
At the very least, the 'bunce' will be in contributions to shared overheads - overheads which still have to paid regardless of whether a specific grant application is successful. With economies of scale reducing the ratio of overheads to operational costs as operations expand, it is beneficial to attract funding to expand operations, and the more funding, the more beneficial. That is of course is true if the accounting is of unblemished purity, but in reality the decision as to whether a particular cost goes to operations or overhead is always a matter of opinion, which can lead to those overheads being shared being bigger than they might be.

@ Alan Kendall
I winced a bit at some of the comments, but to me that is just the 'wild west' nature of the internet.

It seems to me that the way Edward Acton handled the enquiries inevitably raised the stakes from a few academic employees to the institution itself. The tragedy is that other parts of UEA may well be good or outstanding but will be nevertheless be dragged down. In such a situation in the private sector, the best employees leave, sales drop, profits disappear, and a rival, better managed concern buys the remaining business at a rockbottom price, washing off the tarnish and allowing the phoenix to rise again. In public sector academia, there is no such cleansing process. All an individual can do is to leave and go somewhere else, hopefully better managed.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobbo

It's a sad fact, often impressed on us at school, that a few prominently misbehaving members of an organisation cause the whole organisation to be tarred with the same brush. It may not be just or rational, but it's the way people see the world.

Martin A and others have made the valid point that the way the university authorities chose to deal with the Climategate emails leads to the conclusion that there's a lack of integrity reaching beyond a rogue department and into the upper levels - the leadership - of the university.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

This newish university was not around when I was looking about in the late 70's for someone to teach me Mathematics. I suggest that the CRU has made the university and created an artificial status for it, I may be being unkind, but I think not. Unfortunately imo the CRU has trashed the UEA reputation that it artificially gained from it's dubious research. Sleep with dogs and fleas and all that.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCamp David

'@lanK Dec 2, 2011 at 11:02 AM

Dr Kendall - I am sorry you feel bent out of shape by some of the postings in response to your defence of UEA.

You are the lightning conductor that stuck its head above the parapet (if you get my drift).

The majority of posters on this blog feel a deep sense of anger and frustration at the wrongdoing that has been going on in the CRU - from conspiring to evade FOI laws, hiding doubts and reservations about scientific results through to attempts to derail the careers of scientists and editors. The university, through its VC, then set up a corrupt "enquiry" which declared that nothing much had been wrong - adding immensely to the sense of outrage.

It's a fact of life that people evaluate an organisation as a whole.

Years back, I went to an opticians, with every intent of ordering some varifocals. I was given some unhelpful and confusing answers to my questions and was then informed that further questions would be wasting their time.

A week later, I received a letter from their head office, noting that I had not ordered spectacles and asking if everything had been satisfactory. I sent back a short note saying that I had asked some questions but the answers had been confusing and unhelpful. To my surprise, I then received another letter, saying how their head office had investigated my complaint and in fact I had been given every possible assistance and that my questions had in fact been answered extremely clearly and with great patience.

Would you be surprised to learn that I have never dealt with that chain of opticians again, even though no doubt the opticians in their other branches are helpful and communicate well?

Ditto with UEA - there are no doubt many conscientious and honest academics beavering away there but, having seen how its VC, who represents the organisation as a whole, set up a rigged enquiry and was untruthful in presenting evidence himself, it is the organisation as a whole that, for many here, is culpable.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Mike Jackson Dec 2, 2011 at 11:15 AM

By closing down this particular section the university is no worse off unless climate research income>climate research expenditure in which case there is something wrong and can I have my money back?
Answers on a postcard ...


No, things don't happen in isolation like that in universities.

The University Grants Commission (or whatever it is called) looks at external grants when assessing universities. As with Michael Mann, who could not have done any wrong because of his ability to bring in funding, grants awarded to a university is used as a measure of its standing, when the UGC assessing what taxpayer support should be given for the coming years. To those that hath shall be given....

So you see why Acton would be appalled at the idea of the CRU being shut down?


Dec 2, 2011 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

"The guest lecturers are astonishing"

As is the CRU :-)

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Having read most of the Climategate emails, many of the Climategate2 emails, read the evidence submitted to the Muir, Oxburgh and HoCS&T inquiries and read the reports following those inquiries, I agree with many here that it is intolerable for anybody having seen the evidence to remain silent and not to condemn Acton and Davies and the climate "scientists" at CRU and many others who have supported them. Unfortunately, in today's political climate (and intolerance of anyone not PC - such as Jeremy Clarkson), the corruption will continue. There is too much political investment and too many livelihoods at stake, for anything officially to be done about CRU and the fraudulent nature of the activities of its staff and UEA management.

All true scientists should be condemning these climate "scientists" and their backers at every opportunity.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

If there are no climate science degrees at Russell Group universities, that would likely be because they deem the subject beneath study.
Dec 2, 2011 at 2:12 PM | Justice4Rinka

You've put the point I tried to make earlier very elegantly and succinctly J4R.

Why is the fight against the greatest threat humanity has ever faced (apparently) being led, at a third grade academic institution, by a bunch of mediocre "2-A level" minds who struggle with an Excel spreadsheet?

The only answer I can see is that these guys invented their own "pseudo-science" as a hobby to gratify their egos and serious scientists ignored them as being beneath contempt - until a bunch of activists hijacked the project as a substitute for the worldwide collapse of Marxism.

The rest, as they say, is history (hopefully).

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

Alan Kendall - I sympathise with you and your position. It's easy to criticise from the sidelines but I hope that you can also understand the frustration of many people here.

The voices of far too few scientists and academics have been raised against the egregious activities of CRU and co. You may have done your best internally (and that deserves praise) but unfortunately it seems to have had little impact visible to the outside world. While ever the voices of scientists and academics are publicly silent then the wrong doers can still claim a "consensus" behind them.
Every critical voice raised against them makes that claim of "consensus" harder.
Every critical voice raised against them eases the pressure on the few lone voices.
Every critical voice raised against them makes the medias almost total one-sidedness harder to maintain.
Every critical voice raised against them makes it harder for politicians to legislate on the basis of bad science.
My voice, and the voices of most people here, raised against them makes damn-all difference, the voice of someone who teaches at the same campus could be a real contribution.

For someone who has done good work there it may seem over the top for people to want the wider University which institutionally supports and defends CRU to be closed. However, in the context of economies being trashed, companies going under and the likelihood of people dying in houses they can't afford to heat, directly as a result of the bad science practised by CRU and Co, then I hope you can understand that people might think that the closing of one institution is a small price to pay.

UEA may not have to be closed down but what it does need is for the cancer to be rigorously cut out, both in the CRU and the administration which defends it.
Over the last few years UEA has had the choice of either maintaining a reputation for nurturing and defending bad science and egregious behaviour or gaining a reputation for determinedly weeding out wrong-doing (however late in the day).
So far, it has consistently chosen the former course. Are you surprised that people here are reluctant to give it any more chances?

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Lest anyone harbour the idea that the Russell Group of Universities is whiter than white, remember that Sir David King currently works at Oxford University, was Master of Downing College, Cambridge and was Professor of Physical Chemistry at Liverpool. He may not have orchestrated the team’s activities, but he has been vocal in promoting their point of view. Let’s remember that Ian Kendall is telling us about his actions at UEA: he could not control the actions of others, only his own actions. Let’s also remember that anyone who speaks out against the prevailing power (usually the company management, but in this case, influential people in CRU) finds himself in an awkward position and may be putting his career at risk. Would any of us have done more than Ian Kendall? Put the blame where it lies: on those CRU ‘scientists’ who failed to uphold honesty in science and on the UEA Vice Chancellor for not excising the disease swiftly after Climatgate 1.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterFZM

Alan Kendall was described by his colleagues as a "loose cannon" whose opinions were considered to be not that of the School of Environment.

So it is very noble of Alan Kendall to stand for UEA when it is clear UEA people thought very little of him.

So I imagine that his defence of the UEA and that School (ENV) comes under the category of "useful idiot".

It also implies that there people at UEA who are now angry and are hurting over the damage done by ClimateGate 2.0 - now that is a good thing.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

A minor correction - the post to which Alan responded was the one linking to Maurizio's post about Alan's course, not the one linked to above the post here by Andrew.

I too feel sorry for Alan and for many people at UEA, because I suspect that due to climate science having become so strongly associated with UEA, that may impact in the fullness of time on that university's reputation. The university's senior management, and prominent CRU members, have accepted almost no fault on any level, and that will probably turn out to have been unwise.

I'd also like to reiterate some things I said on the same thread: First, it is simply not the case that AGW alarmism is limited to less highly ranked institutions, either in the UK or internationally. Penn State is a very good research university. In the UK, David King has recently been affiliated with BOTH Oxford and Cambridge. There are many other examples. Second, even if this were to have been the case, it does not in itself prove that the people doing that sort of research are second rate. There are extremely smart people working in lesser-rated universities - and less smart ones working in top places (plus, of course, the many people falling into the two other obvious categories). In my view, it is a dangerous delusion to think that believing in AGW is a sign of lesser intelligence. The high political impact of AGW-based policies relies on the wide appeal of AGW ideas to very clever people.

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

In the private world, a contemporary parallel to UEA might be found in events surrounding News of The World. The newspaper title was undermined by a small number of high-profile employees secretly acting beyond the bounds of their remit. It was easy to expose and demonstrate the nature of their activities leaving the proprietors reluctantly accepting the gross abuse of trust that had taken place under their management and swiftly closing the whole enterprise down. Regardless of how anyone felt about the position the newspaper occupied in society, Murdoch's decisive response reinforced a mutually-held agreement of what journalism and isn't. What a pity that, in the pubic sphere, we can't find the same protection for science.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

@ Foxgoose

The only answer I can see is that these guys invented their own "pseudo-science" as a hobby to gratify their egos

Yep. In much the same way, sociologists talk about children being in an "unstructured play situation" when they simply mean a sandpit to make sociology sound weightier than it is.

In 1996 a physicist called Alan Sokal got a piece of total gibberish published in a lit crit pseuds' magazine called Social Text. He speculated that it would be harder to do the reverse, i.e. for a literature pseud to get a piece of rubbish science published in a physics journal as a prank. I used to agree, but now I doubt it. I think if you wrote a piece of garbage climate science, you could probably get published - not least because in Climategate 2.0 we have it from the horse's mouth that on-message rubbish can get published.

@ Jeremy

it is simply not the case that AGW alarmism is limited to less highly ranked institutions...David King has recently been affiliated with BOTH Oxford and Cambridge.

Point taken, but we aren't talking about there being an entire department that is stuffed with high-calibre Cambridge scientists who, working properly and independently, corroborate CRU's conclusions. The point about CRU and the consensus is that it is maybe 40 people globally. Per Jones, if you talk to 4 people including himself, you've talked to everyone who matters.

This is another of the many features that marks CAGW out as a religion. The fact that all priests agree with the dogma is presented as evidence that the dogma is right, except that they all got to be priests in the first place by professing belief in the dogma.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


Your embedded link should I think be the Maurizio hat tip thread

Thank you Alan and despite the baptism of fire I dont think anyone means it personally to you.
But it might have been a better idea to have contributed to the blogging debate earlier.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Peter S:
Abuses at the News of the World and other News International titles went on for years with the knowledge of, at the very least, some of Murdoch's closest associates.
They did nothing to clean up their act even after one of their reporters was jailled. In fact they tried your "one bad apple" excuse and carried on as before.
Murdoch and co paid off people for years to keep their paper's behaviour quiet and he only closed the News of the World when his BSkyB bid was threatened. This was only after cases like the hacking of a dead girl's phone (which jeopardised police inquiries, and raised hopes that she could have been still alive), caused widespread public revulsion.

To use this as an example of the probity of the "private world" or as a contrast with the behaviour of CRU will backfire spectacularly.

Can't we concentrate on debunking CAGW?

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Oh this blogging is SO addictive.
I note a near uniform shift to blaming UEAs administration, particularly Ed Acton the Vice Chancellor. I have no intention of being an apologist for his actions, but I really would like to see some appreciation for the position that he is in and perhaps be a little more understanding. I have met the man on several occasions and to me he was kind spoken and humane. He is, if my memory doesnt fail me, an academic dealing with russian history. In other words he has little background in science, let alone climate science. His job is to head the executive team that runs UEA. In order to deal with the fallout from Climategate he would have needed to seek advice. The advice he undoubtedly got came from CRU, from the Science Faculty, and from a pro-Vice Chancellor. All of these people would have given the best advice, as they saw it. This later would have been supported by commentary from learned bodies (like the Royal Society) from government agencies and the like. I don't know what this advice was, but I would lay bets that it was uniformly supportive of defending CRU and for the best of motives - as they judged the situation.

I don't believe in the claims of deliberate coverup that are so commonly made. Instead I believe that the majority of those involved act in the best interest of the university they serve and because they believe (rightly or wrongly) they are right. Ed Acton's activities regarding Climategate are a minute part of his job. To demonize him is simply wrong.

You may be interested to learn that another who has been demonized, Kieth Briffa, was the first to actively and publically defend my right to express my climate change opinions.

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered Commenter@lanK

Good point J4R.

The fact that very senior distinguished scientists like King, Beddington and Nurse have academic links with Rusell Group Uni's has really got nothing to do with the development of "climate science". All these are individuals who have traded previous (and much deserved) scientific prestige in their specific disciplines for political power and influence - directly in government in the case of King and Beddington.

My observation, in my own career, of business people who used their success as a springboard into political roles was that their subsequent performance seldom matched their initial promise.

It's obvious really, people usually succeed because of a talent in a specific area. Trading their success for a broader role in politics or administration is a vanity project with all the pitfalls that vanity is heir to.

I would be happy to be proved wrong, but I'm not aware of any research groups in top class universities who have worked to confirm or otherwise the basic science behind the CAGW hypothesis.

(I'm excluding institutions like King's "Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment" at Oxford which seem to be multi-disciplinary bandwagon activities - thrown together to hitch onto the climate gravy train)

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

"it is a dangerous delusion to think that believing in AGW is a sign of lesser intelligence"

Fair enough, but continuing to believe in it after acquaintance with the surrounding facts and the behaviour of its protagonists does imply a certain degree of gullibility. Assuming, of course, that those who profess the faith actually believe - I suspect that many of them are simply on a runaway train...

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P


"I have no intention of being an apologist for his actions, but I really would like to see some appreciation for the position that he is in and perhaps be a little more understanding."

I believe he saw his job as defending the university over a storm in a teacup concerning a very prestigious department dealing with a matter which was highly loaded politically. Of course, in a matter of this sort, the department won't have done everything right, and that's when you want a good man to fight your corner.

Wherever he looked for advice in the scientific establishment or government, he'd find confirmation that it was a storm in a teacup and encouragement to deal with it expediently. He was in a position to bring a card house tumbling which a lot of people in positions of influence wanted to remain standing.

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Actually reading about Alan Kendall and his endeavours to provide an unbiased viewpoint at UEA was like a breath of fresh air amidst the stench of corruption. So well done Alan on that front but I must admit to being more than a little exasperated at those academics who have actively supported the 'Team' for no better reason than they were fellow academics.

It brings to mind that disgraceful petition from Julia Slingo at the Met Office that followed hot on the heels of the first Climategate release of mails.

The actual wording of the petition meant that there were none who could truthfully sign it yet more than 1700 did (in their defence I can only surmise they were fearful for their jobs and grants) -

"We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. The evidence and the science are deep and extensive. They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity. That research has been subject to peer review and publication, providing traceability of the evidence and support for the scientific method. The science of climate change draws on fundamental research from an increasing number of disciplines, many of which are represented here. As professional scientists, from students to senior professors, we uphold the findings of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which concludes that Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."

In fact there were signators from virtually all UK universities including my own. I simply cannot adequately express my abhorrence for those members of the team and people such as Julia Slingo who have put their colleagues in this invidious position.

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Acton conducted a whitewash enquiry. He allowed himself (and this is the best interpretation for him) to be railroaded into putting AGW selectmen on the enquiry team, and to fail to engage with any of the critics, and to skip important actions such as looking at the context emails, the ones we are seeing now, for further evidence. He cannot be forgiven no matter what his motives, no matter what his specialty, no matter how unfit he is for the position. If the reputation of the UEA is in doubt, it is not down to critics here or elsewhere, but to the actions of UEA administration and staff.

Dec 2, 2011 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda


................. the best interests of whom?

Certainly not UEA, that institution has suffered considerable reputational damage.

Certainly not science, the public are now less likely to listen to what scientists have to say.

Climategate 2.0 gives credence to what we were told by UEA, the Royal Society, Russell, Oxburgh, Met Office, et al, stated there was none to find - intellectual corruption at the heart of climate science.

That failure to investigate by turning a blind eye to the allegations and the evidence at hand means that the buck stops with the likes of Acton. He failed to act in the best interests of UEA by protecting a coterie of climate scientists who clearly were acting in their own self-interest, ultimately to the detriment of science.

PS I am told that Rupert Murdoch is a nice old gentlemen who is a very good father to his children.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

If I remember correctly, and I think Hector Pascal could back me up on this, I have supported UEA on a couple of occasions.

But at the same time, if I criticize UEA or its leading lights, it is for what they have perpetrated in their respective institutional capacity against science rather than as individuals.'

Here we have, a respected university protecting its reputation and image, not in the eyes of the public or posterity, but in front of the powers that be. It employs a shadowy public relations firm to 'get its side of the story out', in cahoots with which, it orchestrates a framing of the legitimate questions of climate skeptics as being non-sequitors.

Do you recall Nietzsche's 'Genealogy of Morals'? The only crimes that humankind remembers are those which it is punished for.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

The snobbery of some of the comments on UEA is deplorable. Take this remark as just one example:

If there are no climate science degrees at Russell Group universities, that would likely be because they deem the subject beneath study.

Whatever you think of the theory of CAGW the idea that the climate is unworthy of study is utterly ridiculous! Well established institutions can get stuck in a rut. Oxbridge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not compare all that favourably with the leading German universities of that period.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in an earlier message, it was one of the top Russell Group universities that has emerged with a damaged reputation as a result of the Libyan revolution.

Finally, as some of the other commentators on this blog have mentioned, Alan Kendall should be praised for his open-mindedness instead of being criticised by people who might not have been so willing to rock the boat if they had been in his place.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

It is my suspicion that Trevor Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor and long-term CRU insider, has his greasy mitts all over the UEA's disreputable and dishonest dealings.

Alan K almost admits this in his carefully worded contribution above.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

[Snip - manners]

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergnomish

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