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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 Dec 3, 2011 at 6:45 AM 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.

Dr Kendall - I disagree. It is far from symmetrical. I don't think there are many here who claim to know the "truth". But we do know what we have seen.

Dec 3, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Hope this is not OT but I think the following is inspired/provoked by the kinds of problems revealed at UEA/CRU and other places:

Today there is an excellent proposal by a physicist at Duke University in the USA, calling for "McIntyre's Law" requiring open source data provisions for climate science publications -- indeed, I think it should be called "McIntyre's Principle" and advocated at once for all research activity in climate sciences, with or without any new legislation in various countries:


http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/02/foia-is-not-enough-why-not-legally-mandate-transparency-in-climate-research-a-modest-proposal/

I do have strong reservations about the author's (b) and (c) which could introduce new potential for abuses and "unintended consequences." Adding institutional and legal aspects beyond sheer openness and transparency is an understandable temptation in light of UEA/CRU abuses, etc., but I think the required data sharing/open access may be enough to get the climate sciences onto a sounder footing. More study would be required of any institutional/liability types of proposals.

However, his general (a) proposal to require climate science publications to always provided open source data for review should be instituted at once, with or without legislation.

It does not require any new law for journals, funding agencies, and research bodies to begin requiring this sort of practice in their own policies.

The serious abuses of scientific process revealed in the "Climategate" emails and elsewhere show why all data, computer code, and methods need to be open to easily accessible review by other researchers.

Dec 3, 2011 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

AK I am not convinced I know the truth about climate change but I am convinced that the leading lights at CRU have been acting as activists and not as scientists. That is the issue that concerns me. And they are still in post and still doing harm. As I have said before, as long as that situation maintains UEA will be regarded as a third rate teaching institution. That is how the real world works outside of academe.

The greater debate here - the thing that is really at stake - is the position of science (and scientists) within society. Your colleagues in CRU who you will not criticise have done immense harm to science. For me that is unforgiveable.

2 years ago (before Climategate 1) I wrote to the Royal Society expressing my concern at the way science was being undertaken by certain climate scientists. I naively thought that the Royal Society would take some pride in protecting the interests of science. How wrong can you be! They did not even answer. When this all unwinds as it inevitably will do, don't be surprised if you find that scientists of all walks of life are subject to the same sort of external regulation as other professionals are. It is clear that science is not capable of self-regulation.

Dec 3, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Dr Kendall

You said: " 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."

Dr Kendall, This IMO, is a fallacy in logic - a red-herring. Climategate 1 was NOT about "scientific controversy", as many "involved" would have us believe, and evidently sold to you, as well.

It was / is about manipulation. Manipulation of science, laws, people, political leaders.

ALL one needs do is substitute "science" for "sports" in the above sentence.

Your defense could be used for Graham Spanier of Penn State.

You said: "I would not have wished to be in Ed Acton's shoes, he would have been criticized whatever he did."

No Sir, an "open investigation" might not have been wanted - by some...BUT it could not have been "honestly" criticized.

The charges raised from "Climategate 1" was not about " science" [ Though, there is more than enough evidence of shaky science ]....It was about methods of manipulation, as stated above.

Dec 3, 2011 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim2ooo

@lank

Couldn't agree with you more. The idea that UEA is an academic monolith of the third rate kind is daft. But so daft that it is much funnier and easier to cartoon and to criticise as such. Sorry about that, mea culpa.  Of course, I know really that they are all doing their best in what must be very difficult times, and I extend that to CRU as well.

So what do we do? Give up and stay schtum? I do hope not. Free  speech and let the words fly.

Dec 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

@Iank

Have you read the BIshop's book and if so, may we have your considered opinion of it?

Dec 3, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Dr Kendall
I hold no "belief" - that would be unscientific. I espouse no "cause". I (as you seem to do) look where the evidence leads.
You, having stuck your head above the parapet, deserve approbation. FWIW, you certainly have my respect, even admiration.
Your University - maybe not so much. They will continue to be disrespected, condemned, the butt of jokes, unpleasant and snide remarks, and puns, as long as they protect and defend the cancer in their midst.
You may feel unable to condemn colleagues. We (I?) feel no such constraint. The motley CRU demean science. And ethics.
Slime spreads.
It even (cf the some of the comments above) taints you.

Dec 5, 2011 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkeptik

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