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A few days ago I wrote about the reactions to a talk given by polar ice specialist Peter Wadhams, whose utterances at a Royal Society conference had elicited a mixture of amusement and amazement because of their lack of scientific rigour.

In an interesting development it seems that Wadhams has retaliated by attacking the conference organisers - Gavin Schmidt, Mark Brandon and Sheldon Bacon - for the latter two, writing letters of complaint directly to senior officials at their universities. The response of the organisers is here, and it's quite amusing, as it seems that Wadhams is even holding them responsible for things tweeted by people outside the meeting.


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Reader Comments (81)

While it appears that Wadhams is completely out of touch with the 21st century, I do wonder sometimes at the volume of live tweeting from meetings.

How many people are actually paying attention to the presenter? How many have their heads down to their phones?

Oct 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM | Registered Commentersteve ta

My feelings as well. How can you properly be paying attention to a presentation if you're busy tweeting? For sure at some stage you'll miss a vital slide or remark and end up looking like an idiot.
I'm afraid I can no longer get worked up about Arctic sea ice. Even the assumption on which this whole episode is predicated (Arctic sea ice extent and volume have been decreasing rapidly in recent decades. This is widely thought to be a function of anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases for the most part, combined with a polar amplification of the temperature signal related to amplifying feedbacks in those regions) is itself open to debate since it assumes that everything in the garden was lovely prior to 1979 and appears to take no account of any other possibilities including wind and currents.

Oct 8, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Assumptions being made here. Some can pay very close attention while writing notes, whether those notes going onto paper, into a computer, or ... dare I say, going out on Twitter.

Oct 8, 2014 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Oh dear. I was already aware that Wadhams is ... er... a bit excentric, but not so far out as to present deliberately and transparently misleading graphs at a meeting like this.

Oct 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commentertty

I don't care much for the alarmism, and the methods of Prof Wadhams, but I do have some sympathy for him being treated so disrespectfully. It strikes me as quite rude for an involved scientific researcher to be creating and reading online messages during such a presentation rather than giving the speaker their full attention. I would expect bored or naughty schoolchildren to be doing that at an event in which they had little interest. I might also excuse journalists or other commentators using tweets to keep their bosses or their followers informed of what is going on if the event was a public one of great topical interest. But not scientific researchers listening to a fellow researcher making a presentation. That is degrading all round.

Oct 8, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

We wish to respond to these false accusations which include (1) misrepresentation of our Twitter communications (tweets), (2) his repeated employment of language intended to insult and belittle, (3) implicit legal threats through the use of the (inaccurate) description of our tweets as “defamatory” (definition: intentionally false communication), and (4) his sending of complaints to senior managers of our home institutions and to senior officers of the Royal Society. These actions are intimidatory and could be described as academic bullying.

Lets see.
1. Miss-represented requesting data in any convenient format for requesting a excel spreadsheet
2. Repeatedly characterises others as "deniers" and funded by "Big Oil"
3. Ask Steyn, the NRO etc about that one.
4. Standard practice, just ask Soon and Baliunas

Who exactly was Gavin referring to when he cosigned this response?

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I don't remember seeing such a public spat between upholders of the consensus before. Isn't this precisely the kind of public disagreement that the creation of the consensus was supposed to avoid?

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

The Mannly thing to do in these circumstances is to sue....

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Wadham is just looking for someone to blame for the implosion of his apocalyptic claptrap.
Prophecies are best written after the predicted event.
Second best is for the prophet, who has profited as well as Wadham, to be dead or at least retired before their drivel gets disproven. Wadham is facing the third outcome: Still being alive as the charade falls apart and people see the phony wizard behind the curtain.
As to twittering during an alarmist's presentation: What is there to respect in the first place?

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Could it be that the Royal Society is finally waking up and living up to its motto? They even called him out for shortening his graphs in order to eliminate the inconvenient uptick of the last few years. Given their recent track record for a total lack of scepticism where 'Climate Change' is concerned, he probably thought that no one would mention it for fear of being called a denier.

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Ah, the Streisand effect.

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Brandon, Bacon & Schmidt deserve some criticism too. They say "(The Express and the Guardian are two high‐circulation UK daily newspapers)". No, they are UK dailys but they are not high circulation. The Guardian most definatly is not.

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

'The science is settled' - so what could they possibly be arguing about..?

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Wadhams - a living example that: "Old Professors never die, they just lose their faculties."

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRayJ

"...his sending of complaints to senior managers of our home institutions..."

Something that no member of "The Team" would ever do.

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Peter Wadhams seems to have a similar approach to criticisms as Michael Mann. Such behaviour is somewhat puerile and no place in a scientific meeting.

Having read some of the tweets, I can't see why he would be so upset. They all seemed to be light-hearted and not really insulting.

Are we beginning to see the AGW crowd split into the diehard alarmists and those concerned about being associated with the more extreme elements of AGW?

Oct 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

I'm with John Shade, I think it is bad manners to be tweeting, texting or whatever when someone is presenting a paper. At the most recent conference I was at, in August, many of the delegates were senior people in the mining industry. It was understandable that people might have their phones on silent and keep a sly eye on emails and calls and duck out if necessary, but I saw nobody endlessly on their phone. I don't think many in the mining industry are on twitter or Facebook but I think in the main the feeling was that people who prepare and present papers are entitled to be afforded respect, demonstrated by people paying attention to their talk.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

I have blogged on this dispute. We sceptics ought to support Bacon, Brandon and Schmidt here, since they are doing exactly what we’ve been demanding for years – criticising the alarmists the alarmists in their midst. They make this point in their defence document. They in turn accuse Wadhams of intimidation and bullying. It’s an interesting dispute not just from the climate science aspect but also in regard to the use of twitter, and of course free speech. I find myself in rare agreement with William Connolley!

Some of the tweets from Gavin were a bit sneery. But that's his style, as everyone knows, and many of us have been on the wrong end of his snarky comments. Wadhams also must surely be aware of how his work is viewed by the mainstream.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

If the Wadhams of this world still teach, then I presume that their courses carry the caveat "do what I say and not what I do".

If not, then many of our up-and-coming young climate-ists are being trained early to deploy the Default Mikey Response to any level of criticism of their work: hurl abuse.

And so the whole depressing saga goes around.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

I wonder, is Gavin going through neutral before going in to reverse.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrianJay

Are we beginning to see the AGW crowd split into the diehard alarmists and those concerned about being associated with the more extreme elements of AGW?
Oct 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM | CharmingQuark

There will be more and more infighting as the whole thing slowly falls apart.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Interesting quotes which all skeptics would like to see more often in this hypefest masquerading as science:

"..It is a common misconception that 'science' is seen as a kind of machine that ingests measurements and outputs facts. The truth is that at the sharp end there will differences, sometimes subtle but occasionally dramatic, and we assert it to be entirely healthy that disagreements should have been aired so directly."

"His forecast is statistical, in that a line is fitted to past observations and extrapolated into the future. However, the line is....curved; and the curve accelerates downwards after the last data point. The last data point in the plot shown at the meeting was 2011, and so took no account of the rebound of the last two years (2013‐14)".

"Prof Wadhams states that uncertainty surrounds many of the changes occurring in the Arctic, and disagreements among scientists remain as to the underlying processes and projections of future change, to which we add: yes, and these should be aired freely.

"We also agree that scientific disagreement is a healthy and indeed necessary part of any scientific field, to which we add that this holds whether the speaker is a post‐doc or a professor."

"If Prof Wadhams does not wish his opinions to be criticized, we would assert that he not give public talks or interviews, and should he continue to want to do so, that he not use arguments that are as poorly sourced as the ones used on this (and previous) occasions."

Alas the climate clique are not so immune to such over-extrapolation of the science, avoidance of uncertainties or misuse of stats. as they'd like to believe nor are they open to much criticism of their own shakily-founded work, especially if the critics are less than thoroughly pessimistic about fossil fuels.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Well, that response by the aggrieved trio was one of the better examples of academic snark I've read recently - I'd forgotten just how bitchy academic spats can be! I loved the bit about them not being clear on how old one had to be (their ages ranging from mid 40s to mid 50s) to be entitled to disagree with Wadhams. Ouch! Take that, you old git.

More seriously, much as people may deplore tweeting during presentations, it's a fact of life and isn't going away. FGS, MPs tweet while sitting in Parliament these days. And while I am one of those who needs to pay attention to every word or lose the thread, to my chagrin I have discovered that not everyone is like that. What's more, the speed with which some people can text is amazing.

But it is indeed fascinating to see larger and larger cracks appearing in the "consensus". I can't pretend, after all these years of struggle by the forces of reason, not to derive just the odd bit of schadenfreude-type pleasure from it.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:32 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

lots of adjectives and people attacking in your post..

swipe a bit before your own porch before you attack people who criticize people in the newfounded mini establishment ,I would say.

We should not want to replace warmism establishment with a new non-warmism establishment.
The way forward is NO estabishment.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Credit where it is due. Schmidt reiterated his view that the Arctic methane "time-bomb" theory is flawed and too alarmist even for his tastes.

However, characterising the strongest criticisms as being either "green" or "blue" does little to enhance the scientific nature of any debate, even if true. Does he wish it to become more political? The effect of such labels on floating voters might be very unpredictable.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

To the commenters above who deplored the "live tweeting" during the presentation of the paper - did you take note of the part of the response that claimed that such tweeting was disclosed in advance to the presenters, apparently without any objections having been raised until after the fact, and was not limited to Wadhams' talk?

I fail to see how that can be fairly criticized as not paying attention to the presentation, rude, degrading, bad manners, disrespectful, etc.

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterfortunatecookie

ptw, what on earth are you talking about? What "estabishment" (sic) am I espousing?

Oct 8, 2014 at 1:59 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

There are few things worse than presenting while looking at the tops of heads of all delegates. I'm surprised that any conference organisers would sanction such behaviour. Nothing an academic has to say cannot wait a couple of hours or days. To me, common decency dictates that, if you are in a conference hall, you should give the presenter your undivided attention. It's called manners.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

And, ptw, btw, what's not to like with adjectives? To make sense of your criticism, you have to construe 'adjectives' as 'opprobrious adjectives' , Of these, I can find find only two in Johanna's post - 'bitchy' and 'schadenfreude-type'. Hardly 'lots'?- and (IMHO) in no way out of order.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterosseo


People picking their nose, eating with their mouth full or Australian PMs eating their ear wax may be facts of life that are here to stay, but that does not make them right in polite, decent society. But then engineers, especially of the mining variety, are sainted individuals who display a strength of character that scientists in academia can only dream of.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

"There are few things worse than presenting while looking at the tops of heads of all delegates."

DocBud, you have indeed had a fortunate life. A very, very fortunate life, if that is in your top five worst things that can happen.

In pre-twitter days, I attended many a conference where delegates did crossword puzzles, read the paper, did work from the office or even read novels during presentations. Get over yourself.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:35 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

It's interesting that you cannot miss a word without losing the thread. I have same problem. I also cannot absorb (if that's the right word) anything in fewer than three readings. FWIW, Edward Gibbon wrote that he had same problem.


Oct 8, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

I apologise, Johanna, how dreadful that I should inhabit a world where people show respect to fellow professionals and to their employees who are paying for them to attend a conference. I'll try to get over myself and live in your bogan world.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud


I have been writing and presenting papers for over 30 years. Typically, the call for abstracts will be around 8 to 12 months before the conference. Final papers will be expected 2 to 5 months before the conference. It is not usual for authors to be given presentation requirements and information before these deadlines. Often, final instructions as to the nature of presentations will only be provided at registration. Even if one doesn't like the nature of these arrangements, it would be difficult to pull out at this stage. All one can do is make a note to avoid that particular conference in the future.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

There are comments possible from both perspectives because they are both true. I was quite early to the pdf documents yesterday. This is not as much a 'criticism of bad science' issue as it is a norms and propriety one.

Yes there is live tweeting and live blogging but why do it if you are the organizers? Your sole job is to be nice to the speakers and conduct the event (the actual event, not the tweeting of it as some idiotic RS promoters might have assumed). If the RS wants event-tweeting it should protect the people it promotes to do so.

How would it appear if Wadhams was introduced on stage by a host, who at the same time quickly pulls out his/her cellphone and types out a sarcastic tweet 'How about we get to the science *after* this talk'?

As always, it is not the sheer ridiculousness of a position that invites sarcasm or laughter. That is a privilege that belongs only to people on the outside - sceptics, or children. What enables open sarcasm is a loss of power. I will hazard a guess that, within the scientific 'community', Wadhams has become a bit isolated or doesn't have big guns with him. Taking a swipe at him must have felt natural. I may be completely wrong and the Schmidts of the world may be constantly criticizing other climate scientists and openly deriding them on Twitter. I don't follow Schmidt.

Why is this not a science issue? As hunter notes, what science is there? The critical 'funny tweets' could have been written by anybody, let alone the slayers of Arctic alarmism Gavin Schmidt and Sheldon Bacon.

The joint document mightily belabours to establish there was no sarcasm involved and only healthy scientific criticism. A single tweet is enough to disprove it: 'Some anticipation for Peter Wadhams. Audience members already crying'.

Oct 8, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentershub

Twitter and Facebook are producing generations of morons with a complete inability to pay attention or concentrate for a second. Add that to the smartphone and we have a recipe for global cretinisation.

Just saying...

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

johanna, people do cross-word puzzles etc or doze off at conferences . You can even be tweeting. Not all topics are interesting always to all attendees. But live public mockery of the speaker on twitter while maintaining a dignified facade at the venue? Did any of the funny tweeters raise their hands and ask the same questions direct to Wadhams?

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Registered Commentershub


"Nothing an academic has to say cannot wait a couple of hours or days."

I'm absolutely with you on that point! I just with we could include politicians in with academics here. Twitter is for quick comments, jokes and broadcasting simple statements. None of these have any place in an academic (or political) setting. I am - quite frankly - appalled at the level of tweeting allowed from parliaments around the world as the potential for the spread of damaging misinformation is way too high.

The problem with any comment that can be contained in 140 words is that it will almost certainly be liable to misunderstanding, even if it is not downright misleading. How many people have already been damaged by simple misunderstanding is unknown, but there are documented cases of the wrong person being identified in tweets from - supposedly - authoritative sources, not to mention deliberate manipulation aimed at destroying reputations for political or personal gain.

For the RS to actively encourage this is just another step in their descent into populist irrelevance. Yes, Twitter is a fact of life and you can't stop people using it, but to elevate it to a level equivalent to rationale debate sends the wrong message.

Sorry for sounding like a grumpy old man (based on Peter Wadhams definition I would be too young to qualify), but I get heartily fed up of being asked to accept the descent of social interaction into snarky sound bites.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

As others have pointed out, some scarists /warmistas are clearly getting too alarmist for mainstream alarmists.

And, FWIW, Johanna hit on a couple of very amusing parts of the document.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

You can quickly debunk a lying speaker with twitter ! a meeting, you can check a fact on the net, and quickly tweet out a debunk of what the speaker is saying
.. no wonder some people are against tweeting in meetings !

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:16 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

reminds me of RATS in a sack figthing each other , long may it continuie

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Extremely rude and unpleasant people are often shocked and upset to be on the receiving end of the same behaviour, or even to be called on it.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

enough of this airy-fairy, namby-pamby, wishy-washy, arty-f@rty, wibbly-wobbly analysis
get to the real point here - the turds are at each others throats

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

The irony, it burns. Gavin being excoriated for not going along with the crazy? How sweet!! Gavin of "Real Climate" fame being threatened for not being enough of a warmista?

I personally have no interest in giving a talk that is being tweeted. The medium is to fragmented to capture a scientific talk.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle


The sort of conferences I attend do not have an expectation that any of the authors of papers would be lying. One may disagree with the content or conclusions of a paper, which one can raise in the Q & A session or later over a coffee or a glass of wine, but there is no need to suspend professional courtesy. It seems that climate science operates under a different set of mores than other scientific or engineering fields which I consider a great shame. I'm happy to have robust debate but debate should remain at the level of content and not descend into puerile personal attacks.

Professor Wadhams is almost certainly wrong, but the tweets cannot be described as fact checking or debunking.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

There seems to be a bit of defence of pomposity going on here.

I think that shub has a good point about the organisers having a conflict of interest. Having organised one or two events myself, it strikes me as a bad idea. Your job is to make the event run smoothly, not to maintain a running commentary, which is bound to lead to tears before bedtime.

Of course, there is no way (or reason) to stop attenders from tweeting to their hearts' content.

But conferences are a dime a dozen these days, and most presentations are boring and trite, at best. If you have encountered the presenters in your professional field before, the chances of hearing anything new are minimal.

The notion that they are per se somehow deserving of reverence is absurd.

Oct 8, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

You are quite right, Johanna, you cannot stop attenders tweeting, it is up to them to decide whether they are ignorant tossers or people who are able to respect that speakers have invested a significant amount of time and effort in writing their papers and preparing their presentations, and that, in most cases, someone else is paying for their jolly in some exotic location and has some expectation that they might learn something from it.

It says much about you that you consider expecting simple, common courtesy as defending pomposity.

What professional field do you work in where the "presentations are boring and trite, at best" and presenters offer nothing new from one presentation to the next? As you feel that way, I certainly hope that you never ask your employer (if you have one, I'm self-employed so have to run conferences passed MrsBud) to send you to a conference.

Oct 8, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

Could texting, tweeting, sleeping ;-), etc be a form of communication Bi K-Moon commented on a few weeks ago?

If it's good enough for a leader of the UN .... well ... he leads the world in one sense of the imagination. What's wrong with that?

Oct 8, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered Commentereyesonu


"bitchy" is very norty wimmin unfriendly.
Males have been thrown in jail for unleashing the wrong "feelings" in very afraid.
be4 u know it they call rape

joanna can use bitchy off course, as is par for the course in our double standards society, but you be very very worried now.

we cannot have an anti warmism establishment.
For all we know the earth can be warming or we might get other side effects of , say, too much co2.

A better strategy is to claim for equal access in warmism freeloading, and to advocate more sensible warming mitigating effects which would come in handy when it would be cooling instead.

so mitigating warming: close down the bbc, reduce state to 5%, privatize education health and miltary.
put in place regulation and taxation that makes it uneconomically unavoidable for councils to build ringroads and more bike lanes. force our fine politicians and warmism professors to work from home with a video link.

Oct 8, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

If Johanna and DocBud - valued commentators both - could please put a lid on their irrelevant in-fighting, the rest of us would be a whole lot less bored.


Oct 8, 2014 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

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