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Ignorance in academe

Tim Worstall has a lovely post looking at a new Campaign for the Public University. The campaign, featuring the cream of UK academia says it is "seeking to defend and promote the idea of the university as a public good".

As Tim explains, they seem to be a bit mixed up about what a public good is though. Which is not very impressive for the cream of UK academia.



Marshall rethinks

A few weeks ago I reported on a skirmish in the battle over the University of Virginia's struggle to withhold emails from the state attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli. A state congressman, Bob Marshall had proposed legislation that would allow for government employees to be fired for breach of FOI legislation.

Now, we hear, Marshall's bill has been rebuffed by a subcommittee of the legislature and he has been told to try again.

[T]he bill Marshall offered before the FOIA/procurement subcommittee of the House general laws committee contains language he didn’t intend. It allows a judge to terminate the employment of a public employee if they’ve been found guilty of violating FOIA. Marshall, who does not possess a law degree, offered a disclaimer. He’d simply asked for staff to create a bill that contained punishment for violating FOIA, he said.

“I just asked … to draw me up a statute where there was something punitive there,” Marshall said


Conservation of worry 

This was sent to me by a reader. It compares discussion of climate change and nuclear war in books by date. Click here for source and a larger version of the graph.

Hattip to Luca Turin for the graph and also the basis of the headline.



More BBC propaganda?

Sure looks like it. It's been, what, months since the BBC last gave global warming enthusiasts free rein to spout their views, so why not? I mean, what is the BBC for if not for acting as the voice of the vested interest?

The latest addition to the BBC's impressive back-catalogue of one-sidedness is an hour of the new president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, looking at "attacks" on climate scientists. I don't know why they didn't just redub Climate Wars with Sir Paul's voice. It looks to be pretty much the same programme. They're probably planning the next one already.

Details here.

BTW, I wonder if they interviewed McIntyre?


Josh 69

More cartoons by Josh here.


BBC on the atmosphere

BBC radio is running a three-part series on the atmosphere (H/T Phillip Bratby), presented by Gabrielle Walker, a former climate change editor at Nature. The most recent episode apparently features Chris Rapley, the boss of the Science Museum, discussing radiative physics. Phillip isn't sure he's got his facts right.


A copy of that cold winter forecast

When the kerfuffle over the Met Office's winter forecast blew up, I wrote to the Quarmby team to see if they had actually received a copy of the Met Office's cold-winter forecast, which was apparently sent to the Cabinet Office. It is alleged that the forecast should have provided sufficient warning to the government machine to ensure that everyone was ready for what happened in December.

Today, rather later than I expected, the Quarmby team have responded and have helpfully provided a copy of the forecast:

Met Office Initial Assessment of Risk for Winter 2010/11

This covers the months of November, December and January 2010/11, this will be updated monthly through the winter and so probabilities will change.


3 in 10 chance of a mild start

3 in 10 chance of an average start

4 in 10 chance of a cold start


3 in 10 chance of a wet start

3 in 10 chance of an average start

4 in 10 chance of a dry start

Summary: There is an increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season.

Looking further ahead beyond this assessment there are some indications of an increased risk of a mild end to the winter season.


Josh 68

More cartoons by Josh here.


News from the House of Commons

Hot off the presses:

The Science and Technology Committee’s First Report of Session 2010–11, The Reviews into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit’s E-mails, will be published on Tuesday 25 January at 00.01am (HC 444).

Embargoed electronic copies of the Report will be available from 11am on Monday 24 January. Copies of the embargoed Report will be available to media representatives and witnesses only on request.

Why do I have no great sense of expectation here?


Universities and FOI

There is an article here about the application of the Freedom of Information Act in universities. Michael Jubb, Director of the Research Information Network, discusses the lessons from Climategate and the Muir Russell report as well as looking at the ways universities would like the Act to be change.

There is discussion of extending the "Scottish exemption" to English universities. This exemption, which I'd never heard of before, would allow information to be withheld ahead of publication in a journal. I can't see anyone objecting to this. Data relating to unpublished papers would be of little interest to sceptics, since they couldn't be relied upon in the IPCC reports. That said, you would have to be sure that there was no question of withholding it further on the grounds that it was going to be used in another paper.

The other point to make is that (I think) this exemption would only apply to the FOI Act and not the Environmental Information Regulations, so would have little impact of sceptics searching for data.


Donna skewers greens

Donna Laframboise is off again, ripping the IPCC to shreds on the basis of the submissions of insiders to the IAC review.


The calibre of the participants has been declining.

It seems that knowledge and scientific contributions are increasingly at discount in selection of authors compared to the personal connections, affiliations and political accommodations.

Many authors are absent and also some hardly contribute.

...selection of lead authors is based on a mix of competence and politics

Read the whole thing.




The Association of Chief Police Officers, the private company that runs bits of the police service in the UK is to lose all operational duties after one of its undercover officers appears to have gone native, getting (ahem) emotionally involved with one of the green activists he was supposed to be monitoring.

This will therefore include the National Domestic Extremism Team who investigated the "well organised and well funded conspiracy" of global warming sceptic who (allegedly) infiltrated CRU.

Now own up - how many of you have been sleeping with undercover police officers?


Drivel ahoy

You always know when the Guardian knows it's publishing drivel. They switch the comments off. Today's contribution from Leo Hickman is one of these, and my goodness you can see why they wouldn't want anyone airing an opinion on it.

It turns out that GWPF has published its first set of accounts and that most of its income comes from donations rather than membership fees. Leo seems to have a problem with this, but I would have thought that the vast majority of charities working in the area of the environment are funded by donations from trusts and wealthy individuals. Or more likely different bits of government.

But more by way of donations than membership fees is all there is to this story, ladies and gentlemen. The rest is just innuendo, in a Guardian-y sort of way. That being the case, guess who pops as the article's talking head?

Yes it's dear old Bob. (Why do the Guardian still treat him as a reputable source?)

Responding to the publication of the foundation's accounts, Bob Ward , policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said: "We can now see that the campaign conducted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which includes lobbying newspaper editors and MPs, is well-funded by money from secret donors. Its income suggests that it only has about 80 members, which means that it is a fringe group promoting the interests of a very small number of politically motivated campaigners."

He continued: "We do not know whether the foundation's secret donors have vested interests in its campaign, which involves disseminating inaccurate and misleading information to the public and media about climate change, such as trends in global temperatures. This is outright hypocrisy from a group that constantly accuses climate researchers of not being open enough."

It's hard to know where to start with this, apart from noting once again that switching off the comments may have been wise. Well-funded? We really need a photo of the GWPF office. That's "office", not "offices", folks. And what about the rest of it? It's hilarious. I mean, we may not know whether GWPF's donors have vested interests (although they say that none are connected to the energy business), but we are 100 percent certain that Bob is funded by a single very wealthy environmentalist. We know that he is on the board of the big-oil funded Science Media Centre.

No shame, some people.

But still the Guardian are happy to publish him.

(With the comments off, of course).


Shale bonanza

Matt Ridley looks at the shale gas revolution, which he says changes everything. Well, perhaps. But then again perhaps not everything. The impression you get from Andrew Orlowski's article on the same subject is that Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change are entirely unmoved by the bonanza taking place around the world and indeed on our own back door here in the UK.

No doubt some wag will soon start to refer to the denizens of DECC as "shale gas deniers". It's just as well we are above that sort of thing here.


Universities and critical thinking

Much good fun to be had at Donald Clark's blog, which concentrates on education and in particular, e-learning. Today he's looking at a survey of what students actually get up to at universities and whether they are actually learning critical thinking.

Do universities really teach critical thinking? This huge CLA longitudinal study on 2,322 students for four years from 2005 to 2009 across broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, suggests not. Richard Arum of New York University found that they were woeful at critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication. 36% showed no significant gains in "higher order" thinking skill. 45% made no significant improvement in critical thinking.