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Beddington going

The Cabinet Office is advertising for a replacement for Sir John Beddington, the government chief scientific adviser.

The last three occupants of the post - May, King and Beddington himself - have been, to say the least, eccentric old coves. All of them have specialised in computer modelling and they have all seemed guilty of an unquestioning belief in the pronouncements of in-silico sybils, occasionally with disastrous consequences. Beddington has compounded these failings by appearing to work as a tax-funded lobbyist on behalf of the scientific civil service rather than someone who toiled for the public benefit.

It would therefore be nice if Beddington's replacement was:

  • someone grounded in the empirical sciences
  • someone who saw himself as a public servant.

I'm not holding my breath.


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Reader Comments (33)

Going to be difficult because Beddington wasn't a scientist so made awful mistakes such as believing the IPCC scam. And a replacement would have to be made from people who are basically technicians because true science has been bred out of the system,.

Therefore choose an engineer with a PhD in an applied-physics based subject to get the right blend of empiricism and tough character to face down the lunatic greens who have never had anyone with guts stand up against them.

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

What a wonderful metaphor: the "in-silico sybils", as a description of GCMs. With that in mind, perhaps the replacement for Beddington should be a Tarquin - who refused to pay the high price for the prophecies in the Sybilline books.

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:38 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Thank you for the heads up. I have sent them my CV. I am not a scientist but I am convinced I can do a better job.

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I'm not holding my breath either.

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Oh what a shame! The EU got Anne Glover first. Bless.

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Advertised in the gruniad no doubt...

Mar 27, 2012 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfused

According to the job description in the advert:-

'Candidates for the role will be eminent scientists with a strong track record of research in their chosen discipline. They will also bring recognition and a professional network beyond their own area of specialisation.'

That would immediately rule out May, King and Beddington, as all three would be totally incapable to conduct research to differentiate their a**e from their elbow. Good luck to anyone applying, but I would put serious money on it going to a pro AGW/green mouthpiece, and the lucky applicant has already been chosen.

Mar 27, 2012 at 8:06 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Is objectivity too much to ask?

Beddington, he won't be missed because he was just another nodding dog on the guvmint payola.

Mar 27, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

'It would therefore be nice if Beddington's replacement was:
■someone grounded in the empirical sciences
■someone who saw himself as a public servant.'

Government 'policy' on science immediately rules out anyone who is grounded in the empirical sciences for this job. Likewise, any candidate will be expected to serve the goverment, EU and IPCC, not the public.

Mar 27, 2012 at 8:43 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Nominations -

Professor Geoffrey Boulton, OBE
Phil or Steve Jones (cat to make final selection)
Peter Gleick (assuming parole conditions allow)
Dr Philipp Dorstewitz (ghost writer of Gadaafi's son's LSE thesis)
Dr. Kamran Danshjoo (see

Kamran Daneshjoo is well qualified ('prior attempt at committing arson at the Penguin Book Store in London','large chunks of text, figures, and tables in a 2009 paper co-authored by Kamran Daneshjou, Iran's science minister, are identical to those of a 2002 paper published by South Korean researchers', etc.). He may, however, be too scrupulous a scientist for the climate change portion of this responsibility.

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I nominate "Mad" Jimmy Hansen.

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat


HORIZON documentary on BBC 2 at the moment

Usual thing loads more Hurricanes
Caused by guess what

And its getting worse its the end of the end and we are all going to die
Blah Blah Blah

Dont mention same number of Hurricanes just more news media around to report them
More people living by the seaside

We going to let this one go or are we going to write to Points of View

Anyway Big Fat Gysie wedding is on Channel Four or CSI

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Madame Ceausescu, she's a world class chemist.

Whaddya mean she's dead ?

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

Professor Philip Stott.or Professor Emeritus John Brignell.

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:21 PM | Registered Commenterperry

Well from a distance I'd say that if they want someone who'll give solid advice and be able to do a decent job for our science, technology and engineering sector, they could do a lot worse than Prof. Michael Kelly:

No idea if he would be interested or available.

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

And when the music stops...

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Bish - it's worth following the links through to read the job description at Russell Reynolds Associates:
Foreword from Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary

I am delighted that you want to know more about the position of Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) – the Government’s most prominent scientific expert. It is a key post supporting the Prime Minister, other members of Cabinet, Heads of Department (Permanent Secretaries), and myself, in ensuring that government decisions are based on the best possible science and engineering evidence.

This role provides the opportunity to give advice on some of the biggest issues facing the UK government. Successive GCSAs have provided essential advice at very short notice at times of national emergency and international disasters such as the ash cloud incident in Iceland and the tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Japan. They have also identified and pursued long term international issues such as the implications of climate change, where science and engineering are creating opportunities or where new insights can help the UK better to manage major risks. Working closely with other heads of analytical professions, the GCSA leads the Government Science and Engineering professional community and the network of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers.

We are looking for someone who commands respect at the most senior levels in the academic community and who is also capable of being credible at the heart of government; someone who is able to build consensus and understanding, but who can also provide independent insight and robust challenge where that is called for. The UK has many world leading scientists and engineers. If you are passionate about ensuring that the UK government is also world leading in its ability to draw on the best advice that science and engineering can offer, then we very much hope you will consider this role.

I hope you will be excited by the opportunity which this post presents and, if you think you fit the bill, we would be very pleased to hear from you.

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet


already added my comments to the radio times page which was the only place I could find:

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterMangoChutney

BBC HORIZON really bigging it up

Record breaking weather this and that

Usual rubbish

Isnt more mad weather just more people around complaining about it

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Now they are talking about building pontoon Cities in Holland

More to do with the demand for land for Econonic development not the risk from flooding

Mar 27, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Now they are at the Met Office

And the Met Office and the people there are asking for a few million for a super computor and more satellittes

Last girl on there has just said the weather is now more extreme than it was 30 years ago

Horizon has finished and i can watch Terry Wogan on Never Mind the Buzzcocks

Mar 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Bob Ward must be a shoo in!

Mar 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hewitt

Refreshing. Announced in the THE rather than the G. And a professional recruitment outfit assisting. But I'll bet the shortlisted candidate still has to pass through the EU-approved sustainabilty policy screens of the DECC, DEFRA, NERC, Environment Agency, Royal Society post-normal science axis none the less. Hell to pay if they ever engaged a free-thinking loose cannon. Especially with his get one free auto-knighthood.

Mar 27, 2012 at 10:42 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

It is rather interesting, is it not, that any prospective candidate for the job will be expected to be capable of building a consensus and of providing independent insight and robust chalenge.

Well even the last two must be fairly novel requirements for the job - but building a whole new consensus? they must believe the last one is on its last legs!

Mar 27, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Nominations -

Professor Geoffrey Boulton, OBE
Phil or Steve Jones (cat to make final selection)
Peter Gleick (assuming parole conditions allow)
Dr Philipp Dorstewitz (ghost writer of Gadaafi's son's LSE thesis)
Dr. Kamran Danshjoo

I would like to nominate Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf aka Baghdad Bob -- Saddam Hussein's former Information Minister who would get on TV swearing up and down that there were no American troops anywhere in Iraq even though you could hear the whine of a Abrams tank in the background.

Now there is a man who knows how to stick to the party line. Just what they need, he is.

Mar 28, 2012 at 2:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

My nomination goes to Patrick Stewart, who has relevant experience. He even had to deal with climate change once.

Mar 28, 2012 at 3:45 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Ah! Bedwettington!

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

Here's wishing him a quiet and peaceful retirement.

Preferably in a nice padded cell so he can't harm himself.

Mar 28, 2012 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

The Foot and Mouth fiasco was a harbinger of the harm that zealots with computer models can do:

'In front of King, Anderson's team explained to the MAFF representatives how their computer model was now predicting that, without a drastic switch in strategy, new outbreaks would, by early May, be reaching 400 a day. In other words, MAFF's strategy was failing hopelessly. The only hope of bringing the epidemic under control, the computer had shown, was massively to accelerate the slaughter rate, according to Anderson's '24 hours/48 hours' formula, and in particular to step up the contiguous cull.

King was now certain that Anderson's model was the key to a dramatic change of strategy. As the number of outbreaks soared past 400, MAFF had shown itself as wholly inadequate to the task. Anderson's strategy, backed by all the authority of a sophisticated computer programme, seemed to offer the only hope. That night, March 21, with King's blessing, Anderson went on Newsnight to tell the nation that the disease was 'out of control' and that his 24 hours/48 hours strategy was the answer. This was a calculated slap in the face for MAFF and Nick Brown, who weakly protested next day"the phrase 'out of control' implies that we are being beaten, and that the disease is being allowed to let rip, I believe that is not the case". But, as King had engineered, the power had now moved decisively away from Brown and MAFF, into his own hands. On the same day, March 22, on his way to a meeting of EU heads of government in Stockholm, Mr Blair made a flying visit to Cumbria, where he ran into a hail of abuse from groups of local farmers and their families. He was visibly shocked by the scale of the slaughter, which brought home to him as never before what was really going on out in the countryside. He was also for the first time warned of the far greater disaster which might be looming when millions of cattle, still under cover for the winter, came out in the spring to graze on pastures which might have been infected by sheep. He admitted that the government now had"massively to gear up to the scale of the challenge". And behind the scenes there was now one man above all, Professor King, who was advising him on what was to be done. ' (

I notice that May has been working on computer modelling of banking systems in recent years ( We have seen a near collapse of the banking system since, and although I resist the post hoc ergo propter hoc temptation, I do note it is there.

Beddington's speciality seems to be grinning rather than modelling, and of the three, he seems the most sensitive to what others are saying if they make sufficient impact and will do a 'spin and grin' about it. For example, he has cautioned against dismissing 'climate sceptics', although I am not aware that he has in practice done anything in practice other than exclude them from the corridors of power that he ambles along from time to time. Note this article ( for example. In it he is reported as saying each of these things:

John Beddington said climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.

"Certain unqualified statements have been unfortunate. We have a problem in communicating uncertainty. There's definitely an issue there. If there wasn't, there wouldn't be the level of scepticism.

"All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, `There's a level of uncertainty about that'."

Professor Beddington said that uncertainty about some aspects of climate science should not be used as an excuse for inaction. "Some people ask why we should act when scientists say they are only 90 per cent certain about the problem," he said."But would you get on a plane that had a 10 per cent chance of crashing?"'

So he covers it all. Will he be telling the government that the ability of computer models to forecast climate is hovering around zero on the competence scale? Or will he be talking of appreciable risks of catastrophe supported by these models. And would we all, Met Office et al excluded, be better off if he wasn't there to do that?

I think so much harm has been done to science and policy by the climate change fiasco that the informed public would be happy to see Coco the Clown appointed as Chief Scientific Advisor. We might all then rest assured that even the MPs would be able to put his advice into a sensible perspective.

Mar 28, 2012 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I suggest Russell Grant. After all he is a well known spokesman for the science of astrology and while only "97% of climate scientists" say their discipline is real 100% of practicing astrologers say their's is.

He would also have the media recognition which, to David Cameron, is the primary concern and represents the image the New Conservatives aim to project.

Mar 28, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Prof. Julia Slingo OBE

Mar 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The Chief Scientist`s role is to provide the politicians with cover (the scientific advice) for the policies they pursue and, most important of all, a get out of jail card when that is deemed to be necessary. This necessity will arise if and when science advice is changed, thus causing all policies based on earlier scientific advice to be made redundant. The significance of this particular appointment will only be clear when we learn the name, background and interests of the new Chief Scientist. Only then will we know if he intends to follow the established course or, in the time honoured fashion of all new appointees to positions of power and influence who change course, takes the opportuniy to blame his predecessor. We need a C P Snow to track and record the inevitable struggle in the Corridors of Power.

Mar 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Mar 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM oldtimer

... in the time honoured fashion of all new appointees to positions of power and influence who change course, takes the opportuniy to blame his predecessor ...

Good point. Years back, a valued mentor, when I changed jobs, pointed out that I had three months during which I could reveal problems I had found. After that, it would be too late and I would have to carry the can for anything that turned up.

Mar 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I'll miss Sir John Beddington.

"We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality... We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method."

Well said.

Mar 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ Bowers

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