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« Donna power - Josh 131 | Main | Harrabin - an official response »
Friday
Dec022011

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)

@lanK,

Well played sir! I for one greatly appreciate you coming here to express your point of view. I'm sure there must be many good things to be said about UEA. And it's interesting to hear that some of those individuals that we have come to distrust may even have some positive qualities! It's very easy to start demonising people.

May saner heads prevail.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

P.S. I'd never heard of the Russell Group until this conversation. (Good old Wikipedia.) I'm struggling to think of a less valid concept to hinge a debate on.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Alan Kendall makes two very good points.

1) Communicating in the Blogging world is addictive.

and

2) It is important to remember that there is more to people than comments they make. Whatever you all feel towards Edward Acton, Dr Kendall has interacted with the man personally and personal connections - at least in my opinion - are important.

I find myself in frequent agreement with most of the people who post here. But I also can recognize when someone presents their views in a well reasoned and gentlemanly manner. That comes through very clearly with Dr Kendall's posts.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Laughs!
Those who say that colleagues at Universities should not criticize each other's work have obviously never taught coal mining courses, or petroleum engineering courses for that matter.

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeading Out

Since I'm not from the UK I won't try to discuss UEA's relative prestige or standing there. Here in the USA I've never heard of it except in the CRU/Climategate context, and I suspect few people anywhere know of UEA except in this regard, for better or worse.

Dr. Kendall can feel all the loyalty he wants to his UEA colleagues, but some of them certainly don't seem to have treated him decently or respectfully.

There is an "interesting" review of Climategate emails pertaining to Alan Kendall on this thread:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/25/new-climategate-1-and-2-combined-search-engine/

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Funniest satire yet from Iowahawk - on life at UEA/CRU:-

The secret life of climate researchers

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/11/iowahawk-geographic-the-secret-life-of-climate-researchers.html

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

OK, Alan, you've done what you can, and as you still work for UEA it's understandable that you can say no more. I'm glad you did what you could.

But I still feel these words of yours are chilling as I can see them in the mouth of so many who turn away from criticizing improper behaviour:

"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."

Now, this is exactly the position of the whitewash 'investigations' into what went on at CRU, or Penn State, or wherever: maybe things could have been done differently, perhaps people could have behaved a bit better, but there will be no criticisms and no sanctions.

This is also how it comes over in the emails of individuals. Michael Mann's actions and behaviour have been disgraceful, and known to be so within the wider climate community. But few are prepared to cut their ties with him, or publish work that shows his work to be an outlier because they are afraid of what he might do to them, because he is a world class bully. Jones et al at CRU have actually found themselves sucked into more and more bad behaviour by associating with Michael Mann - I believe this is amply evident in the latest release of emails. One of the biggest mistakes the climate community made was to embrace bullies, thinking that it would advance 'the cause', rather than sidelining them as much as possible as dangerous and damaged goods.

"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump"

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

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.

I would implore you to consider the implications of short-termist actions which are simultaneously both a service to a seat of learning and also a disservice to science. When all said, Acton recruited Oxburgh to play "a blinder". Acton promised he'd recruited Russell to examine the science, and still merrily paid the exorbitant bill after Russell failed to deliver. Acton made promises to the HoCSC which he didn't fulfil.

Regardless of how unimportant the integrity of science is to Acton, it is of absolutely fundamental importance to society. Though I admit that I imagine Acton to be a lovely man to know personally. But I can not and will not pretend that his short-sightedness with regard to the behaviour and determined defence of the CRU. He employed methods which appear to all the world significantly lacking in integrity and consequently has been nothing short of a travesty for the UEA and for science more broadly. By Acton's hand, wrongs have been done in addressing many historical wrongs. Unacceptable, Alan.

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.

I would be surprised if many readers here would be surprised at this, actually. Though we frequently heard that the Climategate emails were unreadable because of a purported lack of context, many commenters have concluded that Briffa was/is the least willing "Team" member, that things today might have been much different if Keith had been more "alpha male". It was even suggested by sceptics many times that, if Climategate did turn out to be a leak rather than a hack, Briffa was the most likely individual responsible.

[BH adds: Oxburgh was recruited by Beddington]

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Sorry for my abysmal sentence structures.. trying to get ready and go see if York's Clifford's Tower has daffodils...

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Couldn't resist posting this extract from Iowahawks's devastating satire above:-

The ear-piercing screech of the swarm warns the intruder that they will cut off his peer review unless he retreats. But the the hungry skeptic is not so easily dissuaded, and returns to the hive with a Freedom of Information Act form demanding a copy of the hive's raw data.

This sends the climate researcher drones into a wild frenzy as they scramble to find and conceal the scent of the preprocessed data. To bide time the Alpha Grantwriter offers the skeptic a copy of the hockey stick graph. The skeptic threatens a lawsuit with his stinger. Thinking quickly, the Alpha Grantwriter performs an elaborate dance, communicating that the original data has been eaten, possibly by graduate drone. He presents the skeptic with the dead bodies of 10 drones as a peace offering.

Finally stymied in his efforts to reach the data, the skeptic flies away. The hive lives on.

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

Before I go, Alan, I just want to add my own note of thanks for your willingness to engage. We do ALL appreciate it, I'm absolutely sure. Don't be put off by any apparently acid words.. commenting on blogs brings a sense of a need to be succinct (and I'm really crap at that) and I'm aware I come across as abrupt, maybe angry. Not so, promise.

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Alan Kendall,

Don't take it too hard. I doubt many here would have done more than you have done, though they'd doubtless like to think they would have. I ask them all to look back on their lives and ask if they've ever backed away from doing something because of the potential flak. I know I have, but more than that, I once didn't back away and it did no one any good, least of all me.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

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


"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."

I'm sorry Alan, you have been extremely open in what you have to say here, bearing in mind this blog is read by all and sundry, including your peers, but when you say that, 'I don't believe in claims of a deliberate coverup', that it was all done, 'in the best interests of the university', you have to understand that as the results of what the CRU were doing - in the 'best interests of the university' - was to lock the tax-payers of this country into the spending of trillions of pounds of remedial expenditure (not to mention that many may die as a result of not being able to afford heating - because of Huhne-tax), it was not a good thing on which to remain silent. But I salute your 'coming out' now.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Hi Alan,

Many thanks for your contributions - your perspectives on UEA are instructive and insightful.

Could you comment on UEA's joint venture with a Chinese company: http://climatologyplagiarism.blogspot.com/2011/11/eco-energy-cities-plc-joint-venture.html?

Would such a joint venture typically have any visibility at the vice chancellor level, or would this simply be an example of one 'apple' acting on his or her own?

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I do not believe Mr Acton became first aware of CRU "Team" problems post "Climategate1".

There was enough coverage Pre- Climategate - to question CRU "Team" actions.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim;)

Alan: I was NOT suggesting that you were in any way responsible for people dying as a result of the Huhne Taxes. Forgive my poor articulation.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

@lanK Dec 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM

I have met the man on several occasions and to me he was kind spoken and humane. (...) Ed Acton's activities regarding Climategate are a minute part of his job. To demonize him is simply wrong.

I disagree completely. He may be a charming and delightful man to meet on several occasions but that is utterly beside the point. It may be that he has a ton of other stuff on his to-do list but that too is beside the point. It may be that he knows far more about the politics of the Kremlin than he knows about climatology but, again that's beside the point.

He accepted the job of VC with its salary, status and perks. Problems come with the territory.

Suddenly finding that one of your flagship departments is rotten at the centre, with the evidence posted for anyone to download from a Russian server, can't be a pleasant surprise to greet you one morning and would not be something I'd want to have to deal with.

But he's the guy in charge. Denying that there has been wrongdoing equates to conniving in it. If the only repercussions to affect Acton are a bit of demonisation, then he's got off essentially scot-free.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

@lanK -

Thanks again for answering (yeah, blogging is addictive ...).

Most institutions would try their best to avert a perceived threat.. Of course they would try andget the best advice. However, when their own reports (the Oxburgh and the RS inquiry) show that these were more in the way of cover-ups, one might ask why we should let this pass.
After all, this is not simply an internal squabble between scientists, not by a long chalk.
The latest e-mails make quite clear that the CliSci tribe had actual doubts about their results and about what they were doing. But they never made these doubts public, not once.
Instead they hounded those who did. If, as you say, you look at WUWT, then you cannot have failed but become aware of this.
Because of this, the politics especially here in the UK have followed their cry that something must be done, and we have factories close and relocated because of Carbon trading, we have plastered our most beautiful landscapes with wind turbines in the name of CO2 reduction, while our power stations are going to close, and no new nuclear stations are being built.
What do you think of living with brown-outs and black-outs because of scientists not making their doubts known but hounding those who do?
What do you think of paying much higher energy bills because of green taxes, based on something which is only taking place in the minds of green activists and the scientists who behave more like those activists than scientists?

That is what has made people increasingly angry.
And when we see how dissenting scientists are hounded, their papers kept from being published, even to suggestions a PhD should be revoked, by that self-same tribe, why should we nod our heads and say, well they did mean well?

Oh - and let us not forget the role the BBC has been playing in all this, as propagandist-in-chief, for over ten years now.

Noble cause corruption is still corruption, and corruption of the mind is far more pernicious than the simple monetary one. Especially when those so corrupted are teaching the next generation.
Are you happy that students are being taught that consensus is all in science, and that dissent cannot be allowed?
Will you let that pass because everybody only wanted to do what is best for the UEA, or more nike even, for humankind and the planet?

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Is Acton the only Vice-Chancellor in the history of UK universities to have an ASBO ('Undertaking') from the Information Commissioner to his credit?

This is what CRU and climate science has done for him.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

I must underline Martin A's last post, that accountability and responsibility are not about who is "nice" or pleasant or kind.... I know nothing of Acton except what I'm reading about online..... but once this matter came to his desk it was a major responsibility to handle it properly.... and not a 'minute' aspect of his job any longer.

btw, for some examples of how "The Team" behaves in regard to dissent (these are primarily US people involved but the IPCC and Phil Jones and others at UEA have been part of the email groups involved):


http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/02/ncars-dr-kevin-treberths-ugly-intolerance-of-dissenting-views-from-other-scientists/

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/02/team-ugliness-an-call-to-get-a-skeptics-phd-thesis-revoked/

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Simon Hopkinson Dec 2, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Be very wary of Briffa, or you might catch a cold like I did!

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/5/29/quote-of-the-day.html#comment13018620

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

@lanK Thank you for entering into the discourse here it is much appreciated. There is of course varied positions that people take on the science but there should be a general agreement on ethics. I think Acton should have considered the undergraduates at UEA with the stance he took and the direct actions he made to avoid any real inquiry taking place. This will always add a certain taint to UEA which would have been minimal if he had just let CRU defend themselves.

Over at WUWT there is another ethical case involving Pat Michaels where an attempt to rest his PHD away was being orchestrated by Tom Wigley and low and behold he cc to Phil Jones & Kevin Trenberth among others with his unethical attempt

So it seems to be inherent in the team to disregard ethics.

Your entering into the spirit of blogging and facing the brickbats thrown here does you an immense amount of credit and will have earned you great respect. I wish you well.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

@lanK sorry but we saw with the 'reviews' that is approach is wider than just CRU , it was the chiefs within UEA that orchestrated these occasions , and lets remember there not children nor stupid but highly education adults that are familiar with how this process 'should be run ' be decided not to becasue protecting CRU was seen as important , and with cash it brings in you can see why.
If the problem is CRU's behavior advisedly effects the public opinion of UEA its down to failures of UEA management that created this situation in the first place . That Phil is back on office and that he and rest of CRU have not modify their behavior one bit show that not only did UEA management fail in the past but that they continue to fail .

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Alan K: Thank you for commenting here; I think this is the most appropriate place to do so. I think you are a brave teacher and should be highly commended for that. I won't add to the "friendly fire" that has greeted sticking your head above the parapet, though I find it understandable, given the circumstances. I am reminded of a conversation I had as a student with a university department head. He ended our exchange with this:

"Jorge, you may be under the impression that at UXXX, teaching comes second and research first. I assure you, that is not so. At UXXX, research comes second. Committee work comes first and teaching third."

I believe you are someone who puts teaching above all else, as it should be.

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

According to UEA's website, they have a 'commitment to Knowledge Transfer'.

H'mmm. Perhaps that idea has yet to filter through the walls of the CRU?

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Yes, may I add from "across the pond" that I applaud Dr. Alan Kendall for commenting here, and most of all for daring to give some dissenting information at UEA in the face of virulent hostile "groupthink" from The Team. It is difficult for most people to say anything at all when they know they risk personal attacks, professional hostility, and (potentially) ostracism. The attitudes seen in some of the CG1 and CG2 emails are appalling to any honest, open-minded people, and Dr. Kendall has had to spend at least his later professional career around Phil Jones and company.

Dr. Kendall, if you should see this, I do hope that you will consider engaging more in public commentary here and on WUWT, Climate Audit etc. Someone of your background, knowledge, and experiences has so much more to contribute to public understanding the UK, USA, and worldwide. I for one would look forward to reading anything you have to say.

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Dec 2, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Martin A

I was about to make a similar comment. Whether of not Acton is a very nice guy is totally irrelevant. He took a top job. Taking tough decisions is part of the territory. And whether he was naive, or stitched up like a kipper by others in top levels of UEA management, the fact is that when faced with the fall-out of Climategate 1 he flunked it. It may well be unfair on others in UEA that the university is being tarnished by all this, but the reason is that the situation has been handled very badly by the UEA's management.

For what it's worth, IMHO the emails show Briffa in rather better light than some of his CRU colleagues; he was clearly prepared to argue his case in private. But how far can the 'not criticizing colleagues' principle be taken?

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

@lan Kendall

I first heard about you here. What I saw I liked, and I hived off to read more about you and I liked you even more. I wondered if you could have been the "whistleblower". I don't think I could claim to have done any different or any better if I had been in your shoes. And that is important to remember.

But I am not in your shoes. Like most here, we've seen a backwater "fun" science that has crossed the lines from "fun" that did not need to be accountable, to a science with direct effects in spades on global policies and costs. At that point, "engineering" standards should have been adopted, but the crossing-over point was not noticed, and the present state is the consequence of that. There is now a lot of repair needed.

Because of my concern about the devastating effects of bad science, and my love of good science, I have been researching Climate Science for a few years now. I was, originally, a "warmist" and activist at that. It took me quite a while to be sure I'd studied enough evidence but eventually I wrote up my discoveries (with support and criticism from many others including experts) to try and help others find their way through the maze that Climate Science has become. http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/Science/Curious.htm

Alan, I often find the blogs too loud and opinionated. But they have also been my teachers, friends, even family, to support my distress at the corruption of science. I can only try to ensure that every post of mine, at least, contains SOME relevant science or scientific attitude, and, as far as is possible, remains courteous.

Sure, unfortunatly "groupthink" emerges here too, every bit as much as in UEA for example. Then an outsider enters and is appalled, often rightly so.

Alan, please, hang on in here. Don't just use us for your lectures!!

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

Alan Kendall has confirmed that freedom to express individual opinion exists in UEA. Very well and good. But it clearly can involve risk and unwelcome attention, such as having to endure innuendo from the Guardian like this, (and suspicion from the plod, especially since he refused to sign that infamous Met Office petition).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/04/climate-change-email-hacking-leaks

Paul Dennis has achieved a great deal more to uphold the repution of UEA by holding to ethics with great courage - in stark contrast to anything attempted by the university hierarchy, which added insult to injury. And he has achieved this without shopping his peers, just by respecting open access data and recognising and engaging in serious sceptical debate.

Alan Kendall, your opinions are very welcome here as far as I am concerned, and I sure I speak for the majority.

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Quote: If you wish to find a place where academic freedom showed itself...

Yes, we saw that, thank you.
No control, No shame, No worry about if it’s correct legally, morally, ethically, or literally.
Complete freedom has come with a heavy price. Thank you...not.

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Does 'Easy Access' refer only to the 'wimmen', or to the entry requirements? Jackpot - one gets both!

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenier

Anyone who refused to sign that disgraceful Met Office petition deserves our utmost respect and Paul Dennis more than most.

As for the instigators.... please let us not forget just how their shockingly and deliberately skewed science has affected the most vulnerable amongst us. Many of our elderly are currently suffering in inadequately heated homes thanks to the rapidly escalating energy bills due to policies founded on this so-called 'science' . Just how much has the current recession been exacerbated by these policies -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2001189/Ministers-fall-climate-folly-warns-ex-Civil-Service-chief.html

http://topnews.co.uk/217209-elderly-people-dying-cold-related-illness

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is 'noble cause corruption'. It is nothing of the sort.

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Sorry, but the longer 'they' cover up, defend the indefensible, circle the wagons or refuse to condemn what is clearly worthy of condemnation, it will be regarded as a 'third-rate' university, a bunch of collaborators and ethically deficient.
One would expect from more from a 'Poly'. UEA clearly doesn't rise to even that standard.
Rankings? Ratings? While Phil Jones/Mike Hulme lead schools /departments/faculties? Have you ever heard a horse laughing?

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenier

Denier @ Dec 2, 2011 at 9:23 PM

Easy entry, I guess.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkeptik

From Tom Nelson - an email showing that Phil Jones signed his department up to the 10:10 "exploding kids" campaign.

http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2011/12/phil-jones-2009-sonja-retired-i-am-lot.html

Did they ever have time for any academic work?

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

Could I add my thanks to others who have expressed support for Alan Kendall. It is easy to uphold the right principles in some settings, and CRU UEA was clearly not the most supportive environment for his principles.

The first instinct of university administrators is probably to cover issues with snow, and that strategy is OK for their institution if they can get away with it. But it is an even more damaging strategy if it fails. Remember that in Watergate (the original 'gate') the real problem for Nixon's credibility was the cover-up.

Dec 3, 2011 at 12:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Which would be worse? A world shaped by dodgy climate science, or one run by that portion of skeptics which is puffed up with holy indignation?
About even in my estimation.

Dec 3, 2011 at 1:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Cruickshank

"UEA creative writing is second to none" [snip]

Oh well Bish! I understand why and will desist! Can I come out of the naughty corner now?

Dec 3, 2011 at 4:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

@lanK -
Thank you for continuing to engage here.

"I have met the man on several occasions and to me he was kind spoken and humane."
- that is a plus, for sure, but it does not bear on the issue.

"He is, if my memory doesnt fail me, an academic dealing with russian history."
- that is another (small) plus. Kremlinology would be a great background for digging into Climategate 1.

"I believe that the majority of those involved act in the best interest of the university they serve"
- Err, No. They likely thought they were acting in the best interests etc, but they were wrong.

"Ed Acton's activities regarding Climategate are a minute part of his job. To demonize him is simply wrong."
- In a leadership role you get to - you have to - decide what is important and what is not, where to focus and how deeply to go into detail, who to trust and who to supervise. Acton failed here, instead of digging up the drains, he went for the easy ride - "Blinder played" etc. It is not demonising to say that he failed. When the leader fails, everyone suffers, fairly or unfairly. You are correct in the sense that he should not have been put in the position he found himself in, but to me , that is part of a top job, either you deal with it or you don't. Acton chose to deal with it the wrong way.

Dec 3, 2011 at 6:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobbo

Woke up this morning with some trepedation - had I stirred up another hornets' nest by trying to defend Ed Acton's position? Was very pleasantly surprised and I thank those who tried to understand my own position on these matters and those who have been supportive.

To those who are unforgiving or would still wish to demonize the University Administration, I offer this further attempt. The Vice Chancellor has little grounding in Science, thus must take advice. The overwhelming advice he must have recieved was favourable to CRU's defence. My e-mail to him would have been "blown away", buried or explained away by people he trusted to give him good advice. Did he get any other contrary advice, there's no way I can know.

Some of you, in my opinion, suffer from the same affliction as those you criticize. You are utterly convinced you are right, that you know the "truth". Your opponents also know their "truth" but they have the bigger guns. Someone like Ed Acton was in the middle and reacted to the strongest advice he recieved. If you wish to cast blame, cast your nets wider to include all of those, most outside of UEA, who offered advice contrary to your views.

I commonly ask my students to try to put themselves in other people's shoes when they try to make sense of a scientific controversy. I believe this is good advice and perhaps should be followed more. I would not have wished to be in Ed Acton's shoes, he would have been criticized whatever he did.

Dec 3, 2011 at 6:45 AM | Unregistered Commenter@lanK

"Some of you, in my opinion, suffer from the same affliction as those you criticize. You are utterly convinced you are right, that you know the "truth". Your opponents also know their "truth" but they have the bigger guns."

I may have to make you quote of the day. This is important advice. As I work on my history of Climategate this is a question I keep having to come back to - who was dishonest and who was misled?

Dec 3, 2011 at 7:58 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

@ alan K

'Someone like Ed Acton was in the middle and reacted to the strongest advice he recieved. If you wish to cast blame, cast your nets wider to include all of those, most outside of UEA, who offered advice contrary to your views'

Well up to a point, Lord Copper. It is clear that Acton was receiving strong advice from Davies, who - with a working lifetime of immersion in CRU - is hardly the most independent voice. But there were plenty of other viewpoints expressed on the blogs had Acton chosen to look for them (*). But he didn't.

If it is the role of the Chancellor merely 'to react to the strongest advice he is given', then I offer my services as a great replacement for Acton. I am quite happy to do what my 'advisers' tell me, turn up for dinners, pat a few undergraduates on the head when they have passed their exams, sign whichever papers are put in front of me and make small talk at drinks parties.

I own my tuxedo outright and can read a speech prepared for me reasonably competently. The excellent remuneration and many freebies will provide some recompense for having to look at UEA's ghastly architecture and being located in the middle of nowhere.

You will note that I do not claim any leadership nor academic skills. It seems that they are redundant on this role. No need for the Chancellor to think about wider issues than what adviser A told him will best advance A's position. No need to question the old boys network surrounding the 'independent enquiries'. No need indeed to rise from the intellectual torpor ...beyond being kind and pleasant to other members of the academic staff.

That you (rightly) think so little of your own Chancellor's abilities is not really a sign of support, but is instead a mark of how low your expectations for that position have sunk.

* We already know that Jones could not use Excel without able-bodied assistance. Surely it is too much to imagine that Acton cannot use Explorer or Firefox without an aide to press the buttons for him? Surely?

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Acton may have taken strong advice (and lots of political pressure) to whitewash the issue, but he received plenty of evidence which he should have taken the time to read. He could have acted impartially. Instead, the country and millions of its citizens continue to be ruined by the policies in place to "tackle the biggest problem the world has ever faced", namely global warming (aka climate change) which is based on the Team's bad science. My life, and that of dozens where I live, have been and continue to be taken over by an expensive and time consuming battle against the evils resulting from "tackling climate change". Many people are in complete distress over having useless wind turbines ruining their lives and their health. It doesn't help that they are actually paying through the nose to have their lives ruined by ruthless foreign-owned energy companies.

That's my rant over for this morning - I must get back to writing more evidence for the next wind farm public inquiry; and then there's the one following that. And I must send in objections to more useless individual turbines and fields full of useless solar panels. And then there's the Atlantic Array offshore wind farm to get involved in - yet more of our money going to Germany to triple the price of our electricity.

I had hoped to retire and take things easy, but ......

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Marion Dec 2, 2011 at 4:40 PM: 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.

Met Office: As Chief Scientist Julia is responsible for providing scientific and technical strategy; ensuring the organisation adheres to good scientific and technical standards, and directing and managing research and development with the Met Office. She also represents the office, on science and technology, across government.

Slingo's petition made the Met Office an equally guilty party to the misdeeds of the CRU even if it had not been previously. Had she read the emails before organising the petition? Whether she had or not is beside the point - they were available for her to read if she wished. By denying that the existence of the crimes, the met office became a party to them. The corruption has spread far and wide.

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Latimer Alder Dec 3, 2011 at 8:02 AM We already know that Jones could not use Excel without able-bodied assistance. Surely it is too much to imagine that Acton cannot use Explorer or Firefox without an aide to press the buttons for him? Surely?

Dunno. Didn't the computer expert in the Russell "enquiry" have difficulties with Firefox that precluded reading the emails in the time available? If the UEA's VC be more IT savvy than their enquiry's computer expert?

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

@lanK Dec 3, 2011 at 6:45 AM

I'm not sure how long (or how often!) you've been lurking here; but for the most part, we are a polite, articulate and informed "congregation". I also don't know how many of the emails you might be familiar with - or the extent to which you might be familiar with the "findings" of the various "enquiries" pursuant to Climategate 1.0.

While I have no experience in academia (beyond that of one who obtained a BA in the pre-post-modernist era), some of my best friends are academics - and some have also served in the highly political realms of University administration.

At that level, some choose to do their own "due diligence" on controversial/contentious matters, while others depend (as you mentioned) on the advice of others. In our many conversations over the years, I found it remarkable that their experiences within upper-academia were not dissimilar to my own within large (and small) bureaucracies.

Acton's expertise, if I'm not mistaken, is in the field of history. As an historian, surely he should have recognized that it was incumbent upon him to ensure that the terms of reference of the Muir Russell and Oxburgh "enquiries" were such that:

a) they respected the House of Commons SciTech committee's recommendation that the enquiries be open (i.e. public)

b) all relevant evidence be taken into account and opposing voices duly heard

Regardless of how nice a chap he might be, that Acton chose not to ensure either of the above (particularly the latter), suggests to me that - as Justice Gray pointed out to David Irving, at a particular point during the course of Irving vs Penguin Books and Lipstadt (2000) - at the very least, "he was remiss in his duties as an historian".

As a consequence, we have no way of knowing who really said what to whom - nor which "evidence" i.e. emails and documentation were actually examined and taken into account. There was no opportunity for any of the primary "accusers" to be heard - or to rebut the "responses" (such as they were).

All we have to go on is that which we've seen in the HoC SciTech hearings, the emails and the "reports" of the "enquiries".

I don't believe we are "demonizing" Acton - or UEA. We are merely basing our opinions on that which we have seen. I wouldn't have wanted to be in Acton's shoes either. But I rather think that if I were, I would have done my own "due diligence" before embarking on a course of actions (including the contracting with Acton's evidently admired Neil Wallis) which has brought no credit to the reputation of UEA.

And with all due respect, Prof. Kendall, I would humbly submit that this is not a "scientific controversy", but a highly political "contentious issue" - as it was called in the bureaucratic hierarchies with which I am familiar :-)

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Demonizing? I don't think so. I do not call Acton evil or even ill-intentioned. It is demonstrable however that he did a bad job of the enquiries from the point of view of fairness and probity. It is for each of us to decide whether it was intentional or incompetent, if we think it matters.

I am reminded of Sassoon's poem..

‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
* * *
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Dec 3, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

AK, "Some of you, in my opinion, suffer from the same affliction as those you criticize. You are utterly convinced you are right, that you know the "truth". Your opponents also know their "truth" but they have the bigger guns."

This paragraph really concerns me.

This is not about truth, this is about being able to express doubt. I find it remarkable that someone like AK cannot not understand this basic right either in science, the body politic or the public domain.

If by having bigger guns by means of intellectual corruption is an acceptance of might is right then people like AK should never have been allowed to teach young people.

There is definitely something rotten at UEA. We are right to doubtful of what is being done and said.

No one should be sending their child to this institution.

Dec 3, 2011 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@Rhoda: Great find from Sassoon! It has an incredible resonance and has gone straight to my collection of poems and writings I keep. Thank you.

Dec 3, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Dec 3, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

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