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Betts off

Richard Betts has kicked off a small Twitter kerfuffle today, taking umbrage at Matt Ridley's Times piece yesterday.

Matt has responded on his own blog today and I'm taking the liberty of reproducing his comment here.

After this article was published an extraordinary series of tweets appeared under the name of Richard Betts, a scientist at the UK Met Office and somebody who is normally polite even when critical. He called me “paranoid and rude” and made a series of assertions about what I had written that were either inaccurate or stretched interpretations to say the least. He then advanced the doctrine that politicians should not criticize civil servants. The particular sentence he objected to was:

Most of the people in charge of collating temperature data are vocal in their views on climate policy, which hardly reassures the rest of us that they leave those prejudices at the laboratory door.

He thought this was an unjustified attack on civil servants. However, if you read what I said in that sentence, it is that (1) people in charge of collating temperature data are vocal in support of certain policies – which is not a criticism, just a statement; and (2) that we need reassurance that they do not let that consciously or unconsciously influence their work, which again is not a criticism, let alone an attack, merely a request for reassurance. Certainly there is no mention of civil servants, let alone by name, and nothing to compare with an attack on me by name calling me paranoid and rude.

Is the first assertion true? I had in mind Jim Hansen, who was in charge of GISS, a data set for which serious questions have been raised about adjustments made that warm the present or cool the past, and who is prepared to get himself arrested in protest against fossil fuels. I also had in mind Phil Jones, partly in charge of HADCRUT, who also is not shy with his views. I was not thinking of Julia Slingo of the Met Office, because I do not think of the Met Office as a collater of temperature data, but perhaps I should have been. And then there’s Australia’s BoM. And indeed the RSS data, whose collater, Dr Carl Mears, fumes at the way “denialists” talk about his data. Hardly objective language.

Is my request for reassurance reasonable? In view of the Australian episodes, the GISS adjustments, the USHCN story from earlier this year (see here) – all of which raised doubts about the legitimacy of adjustments being made to the temperature data – then yes, I think I am. Do I think the data are fatally flawed? No, I don’t. I happily accept that all the data sets show some warming in the 1980s and 1990s and not much since and that this fits with the satellite data. But do I think such data can be used to assert that this is the warmest year, by 0.01 degrees, a month before the year ends? No, I don’t. I think people like Dr Betts should say as much.

As of this writing, Dr Betts’s latest tweet is:

If ‪@mattwridley wants to criticise climate policy then he's got every right, but attacking scientists is wrong.

Well, if by attacking he means physically or verbally abusing, then yes, I agree, but I don’t do it. I don’t call people by name “paranoid”, for example. But criticizing scientists should be allowed surely? And asking for reassurance? Come on, Richard.

The WMO “re-analysed” a data set to get its 0.01 degree warmest year. What was that reanalysis and has it been independently checked? I would genuinely like to know. I stopped taking these things on trust after the hockey stick scandal.

The thrust of my article was that the reputation of the whole of science is at risk if bad practices and biases are allowed to infect data collection and presentation, and that science like other institutions can no longer take public trust for granted. A reaction of bluster and invective hardly reassures me that science takes my point on board. For the moment, I remain of the view that

The overwhelming majority of scientists do excellent, objective work, following the evidence wherever it leads. Science remains (in my view) our most treasured cultural achievement, bar none. Most of its astonishing insights into life, the universe and everything are beyond reproach and beyond compare.

But Dr Betts’s reaction has weakened my confidence in this view.

I must say, this seems a bit out of character for Richard, particularly his retweeting of the "Ridley is wrong because Northern Rock" thing put forward by Mark Maslin (the latter declaring, "North Rock the ultimate failure of neoliberalism", thus rather making Matt's about politicised scientists for him). I always laugh when scientists try to poison the well in this manner. It does so damage their own credibility.

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Reader Comments (338)

Nobody acts irrationally. Expect something biggish from RB soon, somehow link to Ridley ' s point and therefore potentially hurt by it. Alternatively Richie is trying to collect brownie points from the boys after the scandal of authoring a Watts post.

In the meantime nobody has yet explained what use for skill-less regional climate models the UK government is expecting to get the output of from the MetO.

ps is Meth Office an expression akin to State Penn?

Dec 10, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

When a rather anodyne statement or two generates a rather furious and defensive response, it is rather revealing about the responder's mindset.

Dec 10, 2014 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterfortunatecookie

"It is all about politics and nothing to do with science. Just wish they would be honest and admit it."

Yes lets us forget about Climategate and also the silence of climate "scientists" at the height of alarmism - and even now they are somewhat muted.

Criticising (in the Bett's puerile language 'attacking') scientists whose work is shoddy and heavily politicised is certainly not wrong!

No, it is all about politics and climate "scientists" behaving badly!!!

Dec 10, 2014 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

"an unjustified attack on civil servants"

- who are by definition omniscient - OK ......

Dec 10, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I am sure Richard Betts' heart is in the right place and he does his job (both teaching and research) conscientiously. However he is not only a scientist but also a citizen and as a citizen he surely realises that his fellow climate scientists must share some of the blame for the imposition of extremely costly and damaging policies such as the Climate Change Act.

If a "consensus" of climate scientists had not predicted catastrophic global warming, or if they had been more modest in their claims to understand what drives climate change, then our energy policies would be saner.

Dec 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Me thinks he doth protest too much. Ridley touched a nerve which probably means that the misrepresentation of Ridley's words was the real interpretation by Betts.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Poor ol' Richard. How better to paint a target on the backs of scientists than to call them above criticism?

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I am sure Richard Betts' heart is in the right place and he does his job (both teaching and research) conscientiously

You don't actually mean that you are sure, do you? Because I'm a long way from sure. And, I class no-one involved in the climate scam industry as having their heart in the right place.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

When a rather anodyne statement or two generates a rather furious and defensive response, it is rather revealing about the responder's mindset.



Dec 10, 2014 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Well, I am sure that Roy is right on with the last clause of his first paragraph and the second paragraph.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


All these civil servants and climate scientists must live in a very cocooned little world if the slightest hint of criticism from the outside causes them to swoon away like a Victorian granddame who viewed an uncovered table leg in error.

Grow up peeps.

It is not completely unknown for those of the climactivist persuasion to utter occasional disobliging remarks about other folks. See for example the edifyng spectacle of Kev. Anderson trying to patronise the House of Lords with references to astrology, or the many references they make to 'deniers' and the Koch Brothers (whoever they may be).

What goes around comes around.

And those who claim to be scrupulously neutral in the proceedings could oblige us all by being equally critical of 'scientific colleagues' as they are of external commentators.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Ridley obviously touched a nerve, because Betts must know the temperature data has been fiddled. At GISS, at NCDC, at HadCru, at Meteoschweiz, at Aus BOM, at NZ NIWA, even the new ARGO ocean stuff. Richly documented including Paul Homewood's Luling Texas example (in the Judith Curry link) in essay When Data Isn't in newish ebook Blowing Smoke: essays on energy and climate. The foreward is by Judith. Other essays expose other climate skullduggery.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

In a similar vein and sentiment, there is a response to Matt Ridley's Times' article from Sir Paul Nurse in today's Times letters (paywalled)

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterVftS

Winston S. Churchill

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop."

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

He had a hissy fit last week because Tim Ball had pointed out some home truths.
Perhaps he needs another dinner party to improve his humour.
It seems the pressure is getting to them.
Keep it up men.
They don't like it up 'em!

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Catley

Matt Ridley is spot on.

We have seen endless example of climate scientists behaving badly. How dare RB claim that attacking climate scientists is wrong. When did scientists peddling flawed science and promoting alarmism, not to mention all the disclosures in Climategate become above reproach? They have been quick to insult those who question their science.

Accountability goes with professionalism, but not in climate science, it seems.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The fact that some climate scientists appear to be demonstrating noble cause corruption does not mean that all (or even most) climate scientists fall into this category. However if you read the comments here and at WUWT you get the impression that many people think that all climate scientists are corrupt. I think Richard is now reacting to what he perceives to be a slur on him as an individual (and all his colleagues).

I am sympathetic. As an industrial scientist, I too get incensed by the sweeping assumption that is frequently made in the media, by blog commentators and especially by NGOs that all industrial scientists are not to be trusted simply because they are employed by industry.

However I disagree with his tweet, as scientists we have no right to be placed on a pedestal above scrutiny, criticism or even insult. Scientists are human and we are all biased by our individual values. Some of us are incompetent, some of us are crooks and a few of us are saints. Some of us attempt to be objective and are disinterested in the policy implications of our work whilst others believe that our work demands political action. Some of us bend the rules for many reasons, to get preferment, to advance a cause or simply because we are lazy, but this applies to "some" and not to "all".

So yes, scientists should expect to be criticised for their mistakes and failings just like anyone else, but we should abjure tarring large groups of scientists with the same brush without evidence.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Heh, climate scientists, the alarmists among them, are a corrupt cause nobility. What really is so noble about their cause?

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Arthur - what "tarring" are we talking about. The public debate is with specific individuals, not the whole climate community. Most if not all of the individual climate scientists who are outspoken about their line of work, spend most or all of their time in the limelight advocating this or that solution to the climate change problem. Most or all of them end up asking for a stronger centralised statalist power and fewer rights for the citizens, because most or all solution imply people have been doing something wrong with their freedom.

And I have already mentioned the conflict of interest problem, as people who are paid to do X cannot be expected to declare that X is bunk.

Maybe these same individuals are able to keep their personal judgments and conflicts of interest away from their lab work. I'd say that's an extraordinary claim and it needs extraordinary evidence.

Science has never progressed because scientists were nice people. Science has progressed independently from the character of scientists in fact, and the scientific method is designed to minimise the flaws scientists inevitably possess as human beings.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

LIke Andrew, I am a little puzzled by Betts' reaction to this, as I was also puzzled by his reaction to Ball's posting at WUWT. Both seem out of character.
His suggestion that you aren't supposed to criticise civil servants seems a bad mistake on his part. You can't wear a scientist hat when it suits you and a civil servant hat when it suits you. In any event, my reading of Ridley's piece was that it was precisely the scientist that he was criticising. The fact that the scientist can and what's more does use what he fondly believes to be some sort of government immunity to hide behind really says all you need to know about modern scientific practice.
To resurrect a saying from several decades ago, "Bad show, Richard; jolly bad show!"

As for Nurse, probably the less said the better.
A google search for "crushed and buried + Nurse" yields 1,030,000 results, all (that I have found) relating to comments made by Nurse around the first week of September this year.
I find it quite alarming that a Nobel Prizewinner and titular head of the world's foremost Scientific society should be having such problems with his short-term memory and at such a young age. Either that or he was simply shooting his mouth off without bothering to engage his brain.
There is an alternative interpretation, of course. It's called "being economical with the actualité".
Since he is one of those who thinks climate sceptics are the same people who trash GM crops, I can confidently leave it to the rest of you to decide which it is!

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:40 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Furthermore if anybody complains about not having seen many people defend climate scientists at WUWT, read this, what is what is standard vocabulary thrown at skeptics in online climate debates:

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:41 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

What a cause! Savaging the world's poor, destroying opportunity for our descendants, making life more difficult for every single human in the present and binding tighter the chains of control of government. And for what? To cool the earth, when warmer sustains more total life and more diversity of life?

It is madness, and can't survive. But the bigger they come the harder we fall.

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Richard Betts on twitter:-

Funny how some folk used climate obs to claim global warming 'gone away', then with a new warmest year suddenly the obs become 'corrupted'!

And just how many main stream climate science papers has the obs of global warming 'gone away' spawned over the last decade?

Does the advent of a new warmest year now deem them all irrelevant? Has all main stream climate science research into the obs of global warming 'gone away' now ceased?

a new warmest year, 0.01 increase in a metric that is reported as +or- 0.10? Very scientific and way above any possible criticism:-)

Dec 10, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Omnologos, I was referring to the fact that some commentators seem to take the view that all climate scientists are corrupt.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent


...attacking scientists is wrong.
Get this, Richard Betts, when you and your co-scientists have anything to do with creating a state of affairs that allows politicians to take my hard-earned money based on shabby science and shoddy consensus, I'll criticise who the hell I like, And so should Matt Ridley - whether he ran a bank or a brothel.

When you can get the likes of Mann and Jones to cough up their data, code and methods they might get some respect. Until then, go clean out your own stables and don't criticise others who are urging you so to do.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

From the Guardian, following climategate. Scientist James Lovelock's excoriating view of the little rascals who do modern climate science.

on CRU scientists

I was utterly disgusted. My second thought was that it was inevitable. It was bound to happen. Science, not so very long ago, pre-1960s, was largely vocational. Back when I was young, I didn't want to do anything else other than be a scientist.

They're not like that nowadays. They don't give a damn. They go to these massive, mass-produced universities and churn them out. They say: "Science is a good career. You can get a job for life doing government work." That's no way to do science.

I have seen this happen before, of course. We should have been warned by the CFC/ozone affair because the corruption of science in that was so bad that something like 80% of the measurements being made during that time were either faked, or incompetently done

on computer models

I remember when the Americans sent up a satellite to measure ozone and it started saying that a hole was developing over the South Pole. But the damn fool scientists were so mad on the models that they said the satellite must have a fault. We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they're not complete models.

They're based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don't take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don't see how they can accurately predict the climate.

on predicting temperatures

If you look back on climate history it sometimes took anything up to 1,000 years before a change in one of the variables kicked in and had an effect. And during those 1,000 years the temperature could have gone in the other direction to what you thought it should have done. What right have the scientists with their models to say that in 2100 the temperature will have risen by 5C?

The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show.

We haven't got the physics worked out yet. One of the chiefs once said to me that he agreed that they should include the biology in their models, but he said they hadn't got the physics right yet and it would be five years before they do. So why on earth are the politicians spending a fortune of our money when we can least afford it on doing things to prevent events 50 years from now? They've employed scientists to tell them what they want to hear.

on scientists

Sometimes their view might be quite right, but it might also be pure propaganda. This is wrong. They should ask the scientists, but the problem is scientists won't speak. If we had some really good scientists it wouldn't be a problem, but we've got so many dumbos who just can't say anything, or who are afraid to say anything. They're not free agents.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I am a scientist myself. I think Richard Betts has got it wrong.

Scientists who become advocates deserve to be attacked for their policies. Scientists who knowingly exaggerate their conclusions when advising policymakers are just as bad. Scientists who downplay the uncertainties, or adjust the data..... I could go on and on.

Of course, climate scientists are as pure as the driven snow, except our grandchildren won't know what that means according to some climate scientists.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Maybe that 'Not as secret as all had hoped' 28Gate event was a two-way streeter, as this 'above-criticism' notion for noble servants of the public has also been tried out recently by such as the BBC's Danny Cohen and James Harding. Albeit on safe home turf and then faithfully repeated by family friends to in turn 're-report' as news.

Can't say it has done any better than when Lord Patten suggested the state's organs and staff hold others to account but do not get held.

But when they leave an 'or else' inference dangling, it takes a steady soul to not be a bit worried. £4.6 billion buys a lot of ways to make folks' lives awkward.

At least Dr. Betts is in no position to ban anyone, or get selective in editorial, but the option of blocking still remains the option to those whose affections for censorship can vary with ideology.

The Churchill quote via Green Sand above offers a fair summary of where certain once-respected organisations find themselves as a consequence, and why.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJunkkMale

I will bet that Richard and his pals feel a wee bit of heat.
The climatocracy seems unable to deal with a free and open society where people get to frely say what is on their on minds. Just another tell that the climate consensus is a bunch of cr*p.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I'm fed up with RB, his drive-bys, his sensitivity, his use of twitter to maximise publicity while failing to elucidate or discuss anything reasonably. I believe that he is officially sanctioned by the MET and/or the IPCC to defend climate science on the net. I am no longer interested in the 'I'm a scientist' stuff while denying that the MO is engaged in propaganda. I am no longer going to accept that questions unanswered and conversations left hanging right here on BH stem from innocent pressure of work.

I suggest a way to gain a little trust. Pick a medium that isn't twitter, be it WUWT or here, and stick to it. Answer the questions, don't get put off by robust engagement and be honest. If you don't speak for the Met Office, get someone who does.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Would the sort of highly intelligent, spirited, obsessive oddities who would potentially make top flight scientists even think of science as a career nowadays? Why immerse yourself in a world of bureaucracy, arse-licking, and lying?

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Matt Ridley is almost certainly seen as a real threat to the Green Blob by members thereof, hence the over-reaction from Betts, himself a distinguished member.

But to any sane observer familiar with Climategate, global data adjustments, repeated refusals to release data and activist-influenced climate policies there cannot be the slightest doubt that 'climate science' has become amongst the most corrupted professions in the world. Follow the money and follow the political ideology.

Keep at it, Matt,

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Colour me unsurprised.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Climategate - the gift that goes on giving...

Reputable professions outside academe usually want to get rid of the bad apples in their midst as they rightly recognise that their wrongdoings tarnish the reputation of the whole field and its practitioners.

To maintain their high public standing (and, of course salaries and lifestyles) it is worth them investing some time and energy in getting shot of the bad guys. The public are reassured that they can deal with the remaining good guys with confidence and it is a win-win all round (bar for the perps). All is as it should be.

But inside academe, and especially within 'climate science' we are in Alice's Wonderland. Everything is arse about face. Any criticism of an 'insider' is robustly repelled. The worse their transgressions the higher their internal reputation. The more egregious their errors - both of science and of morals - the more stoutly they are defended.

The public are not fools. We do not live in a tinybubble where possessing a PhD and publishing a 'peer-reviewed' modelling paper is the equivalent of a Papal Indulgence that washes away all sins and elevates the lucky winner into the Pantheon of Climate Saints

We look at their behaviour (even in their own words) and we wonder what would happen in our own workplaces and social circles if we consistently behaved with the same disregard for integrity and good behaviour? Would we be dismissed like the guy in accounts who was fiddling his travel expenses? Or severely disciplined for insulting and belittling our shareholders and paymasters? Ejected for concealing matters of direct relevance in ensuring our institution adhered to the law of the land?

We judge them by our standards. And we find many of them wanting. It is sad to so many 'within baseball' seem perfectly content to allow the rot to take over their field. It will not prove a productive strategy in the long run

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

rhoda +100

Somebody noted somewhere that warmists use twitter and sceptics use blogs. I think the difference is warmists only have sound bites while sceptics need to go deeper. One medium appeals to da youf or generation me, me, me and the other appeals to grown ups with jobs, homes and businesses. No wonder the warmists are seeing such success on reducing CO2 /sarc.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Matt Ridley is almost certainly seen as a real threat.....

I think there is growing realisation that Matt Ridley is far from being a lone voice in the exalted halls and not only in the UK.

Politicians are finally realising that there could be directly attributed downsides to their policies. They are now starting to question their advisers. The advisers are distancing themselves from the policy decisions (not me gov!), should be interesting to watch developments.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:44 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Looking back at the head of this post I realise that I am in total agreement with Mark Maslin
You're spot on, Mark. It is indeed all about politics and always has been. Science is only incidental to the entire climate change / global warming meme. The objective is now and always has been the enviro-activists' dream of low-tech, non-industrial existence and every climate conference and every IPCC report has been more than ample proof of the fact.
And too many scientists have been more than happy to be aboard the gravy train and scared witless that within the next few years it might finally run out of steam. And then you might have to do some useful work for a living. When, with any luck, you might find out just what damage the unholy alliance between pseudo-science and eco-fanaticism has caused for the people of this planet.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Greensand "Politicians are finally realising that there could be directly attributed downsides to their policies."

Apparently Douglas Carswell is speaking right now in the HoC on Energy policy and living standards

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"Reputable professions outside academe usually want to get rid of the bad apples" Latimer Alder.

Well, maybe not as much as they should but usually government puts rules and a police force in place to remove the bad apples where they can. I'd love to see Dr Betts explain what makes civil servants better than any other professional.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Here is Nurse's letter in the Times:

The president of the Royal Society puts the record straight about the responsibilities of scientists

Sir, It is perhaps telling that Matt Ridley (“Scientists must not put policy before proof”, Dec 8) does not hold columnists such as himself to the high standards of accuracy that he rightly believes should apply to scientists.

Among other inaccuracies in his article was the accusation that I have called on those who disagree with me to be “crushed and buried”. What I said was that scientists have a responsibility to work with and correct those who misuse and misrepresent science to support their particular politics or ideologies. This applies equally to scientists, politicians and newspaper columnists. I added that when serial offenders continue repeatedly to misinform people about science they should be crushed and buried, meaning of course, by the weight of argument and evidence. Fortunately the cases of Galileo and Darwin, to mention two famous examples, show us that science will win out in the end.

Matt Ridley is right that science is not perfect and that we must remain vigilant to ensure that evidence comes before opinion. But science has a powerful self-correcting mechanism, in that scientific evidence and argument are constantly reviewed, updated and challenged. That is why science is such a reliable way to generate knowledge about the natural world and brings great long-lasting benefits to us all.

Sir Paul Nurse

President, the Royal Society

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:53 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The most damaging attacks on scientists and science generally, have come from self proclaimed climate scientists. If facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.

Mediators often get caught in cross fire, and dismissed as irrelevant collateral damage

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Matt Ridley has every right to criticise policy, and to critique scientific conclusions if he thinks the methods are unsound. However, writing articles with headlines talking of 'corruption' and accusing 'most of the people' of allowing political views to bias their research is unjustified. (BTW it seems that his definition of 'most' is 'two' anyway.)

I rather amused me that until a couple of months ago, Matt was quite happy to accept the global temperature record, talking about the pause in warming etc. Now it seems that he's all concerned about the dataset. Funny how this concern only surfaced in the context of a warm year…..

I certainly don't think scientists are above criticism, indeed scientific criticism is very welcome. However I do think that wild accusations of political bias should be checked out first. Matt has not bothered to do this - he admits that he didn't mean to have a go at my colleagues in the Met Office, but that just reveals that he doesn't know who leads the research. He's just let fly with a random, scattergun attack on integrity without even really knowing who he's shooting at.

This is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who want a sensible, level-headed conversation need push back on. By all means let's discuss the science in good faith, and let's also encourage a discussion on policy. Undermining the integrity of scientists doesn't help either of these - it just keeps the whole debate polarised and poisoned with mistrust.

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:56 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Arthur Dent

"Omnologos, I was referring to the fact that some commentators seem to take the view that all climate scientists are corrupt."

Only 97% are corrupt!

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

"He then advanced the doctrine that politicians should not criticize civil servants."

Without having seen RB's words it's hard to guess what he had in mind. I think there is a convention that ministers do not criticise (in public) the civil servants in their department. But that obviously does not apply here.

But on what basis can it be said that civil servants in general should not be criticised by politicians? (If that is what RB actually said).

RB - if you read this, would you care to spell it out?

Dec 10, 2014 at 4:58 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Paul Matthews

Thanks for the link, can't the feed to work at present will keep trying

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:03 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Another simple truism is that nobody can openly tweet or use any social network to talk about one's job. The day Richard will pointedly criticise the Met Office, or will not jump to its defence heart and soul even when he wouldn't have done it had he been working for a building company or in a museum, Richard will be out of a job.

This is known to all and applies to all (employees). It doesn't even need coercion. I work in the investment banking industry and would expect to be thrown out of every door if I came out criticising my place of work.The only thing I could possibly mention is how great it is to work here.

That's why I do not write anything about my job.

This means there is no possible respite to the frustration of seeing a tiny slice of a person pop up here and there, constantly focused on one thing and one thing alone. We do not ever meet Richard Betts: it's the Met Office talking to us, in a certain way extraordinarily so as other institutions such as the police, parliament, the BBC do not even have a Betts to do outreach with.

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

An important issue that is perhaps being overlooked in this careful parsing of what Matt Ridley wrote is what impression his readers would have taken away as his 'message'. Probably many different things according to their prior views and how carefully they analysed the text, but my guess is that the 'typical' reader will have interpreted it much more negatively than Matt's claim that he was simply seeking reassurance. I think the 'typical' reader (if such thing exists) will go away with the impression that Matt thinks the temperature data may be severely and perhaps deliberately flawed. It is good that Matt now clarifies that he doesn't think they are 'fatally flawed', something that I hope he brings to the attention of his Times readership.

The same applies to the Times headline under which his piece was published: 'Scientists must not put policy before proof'. That's not making a claim either, but the clear implication is that at least some scientists *are* putting policy before proof. The strapline is more explicit: 'Environmental researchers are increasingly looking for evidence that fits their ideology, rather than seeking the truth'. Given this, I find Matt's defence somewhat disingenuous and Richard Bett's tweets understandably reasonable.

I don't think attacking science is wrong. Richard tweets that "attacking *scientists* is wrong" (my emphasis). There is a difference.

Last January I had a brief interaction with Matt after he, again in the The Times, implied scientific misconduct on the part of one of my colleagues yet when pressed on the matter he 'clarified' that he was only reporting others' opinions that climate scientists "might not all be infallible". Well that's something I can live with :-) I don't recall seeing him publish this clarification in The Times.

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Osborn

Betts stance would be more secure if he was challengeing the people on his own side for doing the very things he challenges other for doing .
I can understand why he can nothing about his boss , whose actual worth to the MET is not their scientific ability but their ability to ride the political wind , as see in the recent 97 million they got for yet another super computer. But there are plenty of others whose science is poor and whose personal behaviour is awful , but they remain untouched while he attacks other for putting out this poor practice and the highly political nature of area he works in and its need of polticals not sceince that came up with these many millions and not for the first time.

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Martin A

If a member of the House of Lords has a concern over the integrity of civil service staff, he should raise it with the minister responsible for the department instead of shooting his mouth off in the press.

In a large company, you don't see senior staff making unfounded accusations against junior colleagues in the newspapers - if they have an issue, they check things out first in order to see whether their concerns have any real grounds or not.

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

In a gesture of good faith, maybe Matt Ridley could acknowledge that at least three of the examples he used (WMO, BMO, and what Paul Nurse said) are wrong. The WMO did not say 2014 would likely be the hottest, they said one of the hottest, possibly hottest, on record. The BMO did not provide no evidence to justify the homogeneity adjustment of the Rutherglen data. They provided evidence here (Matt Ridley doesn't have to agree with it, but it does exist). Paul Nurse did not say that those with whom he disagreed should be "crushed and burned", he was referring to those who serially misuse and misrepresent science to support their particular politics or ideologies.

What seems to typically happen is someone writes an article full of errors, refuses to acknowledge these errors, and then complains when people get quite vocal in their criticism. Maybe we could avoid the latter if people acknowledged their errors in the first place. Additionally, maybe if Matt Ridley doesn't like the way people are responding to his article, maybe he should avoid implying that science (and climate science in particular) has a problem with corruption and malpractice.

Dec 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

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