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Discussion > Standards

Hmmmm. From the 'that explains a lot' department. Official GWPF policy is confirmed as
'misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements.'

Who knew?

https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/its-okay-to-lie/

Apr 4, 2017 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. But it does. ………….. the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually accurate. …… If someone says something others deem inaccurate then demand a say, not their silence. Whatever one’s stance one should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up, but don’t censor, even by elimination. …..

Yes, but what the real point is that elitism, and membership of priesthood, does not define right of speech. Or the actual suppression of such speech.

Just because someone cannot perform partial differentiation doesn't make their opinion any less valid.

Orthodoxy is not an absolute truth.

Of course there is the equal delusion that because I can perform something others other can not, that I am God. Or closer to him. If we regard God as maker of the rules, in the case of climate science, even ignoring the political and social corruption of the science, God is sitting on top of the mountain, we are all so far away. Even if some believe being one step up the slope gives them superiority of speech over others.

Every orthodoxy is eventually destroyed by its own rigidity.

Apr 4, 2017 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

PC "Who knew?"

They quoted Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, as saying: “The climate debate is an example of where people have claimed to be experts who are not.”

We did, you didn't.

Apr 4, 2017 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian is away.

The artificially straightened shaft of the Piltdown Mann's Crook't Stick is an error that the world will regret forevermore.
===================

Apr 4, 2017 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

For Phil:
//
25. Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually
inaccurate statements. But it does. Being able to speak freely without censorship is
fundamental to modern liberal democracies and is guaranteed under national and international
law. Qualifications are made with regard to libel, slander and defamation and, in some
countries, holocaust denial. The important point, and it took millennia and many lives to
attain it, is that the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually
accurate. It is freedom, not accuracy or responsibility that is mandated. If someone says
something others deem inaccurate then demand a say, not their silence. Whatever one’s
stance one should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up,
but don’t censor, even by elimination. If this is done, we risk losing something essential to
modern life.
June 2016
//

From:

Written evidence submitted by Dr David Whitehouse (COM0115)
SUMMARY

The scientific establishment has become very effective at gaining control of science
journalism.

Journalists need to be more independent and authoritative in their own right.

A wider diversity of stories and experts in the media is required.

A more investigative spirit is required, and more real scoops.

The willingness to break the pack mentality and say no to some stories that aren't important.
People will find them elsewhere on the internet.

More confidence among journalists at analysing data and in the use of statistics.

1. I have been involved with science communication and science journalism for over 35 years.
I started when I was a student and continued when I was a scientist at Jodrell Bank and
University College London. In 1988 I became Science Correspondent for BBC radio, and
from 1998 until 2006 was Science Editor for BBC News Online. I have been the most highly
scientifically qualified science journalist working in BBC News, and have won many awards
for my work.

2. My submission concerns the state of science journalism. I have several concerns
concerning its reliance on embargoes and press releases as well as its subservience to, and
lack of independence from, the scientific establishment.

3. The embargo system of news release is more firmly entrenched in science journalism than
in other forms of journalism. In my view this is not a good thing. It involves sending details
of scientific papers to journalists provided they agree not to publish until the embargoed time,
usually a few days later. The embargo system began in the 1960s. Journals say embargoes
create a level playing field amongst journalists and concentrates attention on serious research
that has been approved by other scientists. They add that it gives them time to time to work
on their reports, carry out filming and interviews, so that they get the science right.

4. In my opinion the regular use of embargoes by the major journals works against science
journalism. It is something that journalists adhere to because they have no choice if they want
to stay plugged into the journal's steady stream of stories. No other area of journalism has
such a cosy and secretive arrangement. With the embargo system it's easy to churn out story
after story, almost identical to other outlets, without leaving your desk. It encourages lazy
reporting, and props up poor journalists. What good journalist wants such a level playing
field? Journalists, if they are up to the job, are hunters wanting to get the best stories for their
outlets first, and are skilled in producing accurate reports to tight deadlines. Embargoes
encourage a pack mentality and reduces diversity between news outlets. The principle effect
of embargoes on science journalism is to neutralise competition. When it comes to "getting
the science right," journalists shouldn't need such convenient and organised help. Scoops,
what every journalist should want, are far less common than they used to be as the embargo
process militates against them.

5. The embargo system acts as a marketing tool for journals allowing them to maximise
publicity and thus be a bigger draw for advertisers. I believe it is wrong that research that has
been funded by the taxpayer is being manipulated for the commercial interests of a private
company or an international consortium.

Written evidence submitted by Dr David Whitehouse (COM0115)

6. Many scientists dislike embargoes and resent being unable to talk to a journalist about their
work if they subsequently want to submit it to a journal because it will be rejected if it has
already been aired in the media. Journals and the private companies behind them have no
business telling scientists who they can and cannot talk to, or hold their careers hostage this
way.

7. I see embargoes as an interference in the process of science and in the flow of information
between scientists and the public who pay their wages. It is an example of how the science
establishment controls science journalism.

8. The growth of the number of press releases and the rapid dissemination of them via the
internet has changed science journalism. They now dominate science news coverage. Science
journalism has contracted and been replaced by PR. News outlets have become much more
similar. The spectrum of stories being covered has narrowed. It is now possible to survive as a
science journalist just by paying attention to press releases from journals, pressure groups,
institutions, international bodies, governments etc and reproducing them almost unchanged,
and far more often than not unchallenged. This is especially the case for the BBC. A 2011
survey carried out by the University of London for the BBC Trust found that 73% of its
science stories came from press releases, and of those only one in eight contained a voice not
included in the press release.

9. In general the critical reporting side of science journalism has declined and no longer are
scientists held to account by the majority of science journalists. It is extraordinary the amount
of deference science and scientists receive in the media. Science journalism has lost its edge
and become uncritical and therefore not journalism.

10. Another example of the lack of independence of science journalism concerns the Science
Media Centre (SMC). It was established in 2002 and grew out of the recommendations of a
parliamentary report on past science communication mistakes. Relationships between science
and the media at the time was at a very low ebb due to the poor performance of science
specialists in covering, or even influencing, such stories as GM food and MMR. According to
the SMC's director, Fiona Fox speaking before this committee, the SMC was "set up by the
science community to gain control." It wanted to be pro-active and at the time of a science
story flood journalists with "ten experts in the Inbox," chosen by the SMC.

11. Before an embargo is lifted or when a news story breaks the SMC arranges for quotes
from experts to be distributed. It also assembles experts for press conferences, question and
answer sessions and horizon-scanning briefings. It also advises scientists and persuades them
to be amenable to be interviewed by the media. It aims to be the voice of good science, a
purveyor of sound scientific thinking and especially consensus and authority. Used
intelligently it can be a good thing. However, it has its significant risks when it comes to
science journalism, especially to the independence of the BBC which has become so intimate
with the SMC. The BBC played a substantial role in its establishment and on its board of
trustees and advisors. Currently the chair of trustees is an ex-Head of BBC Newsgathering,
and the current Director of the BBC World Service Group is also a trustee. The BBC's Health
Editor is also on its panel of advisors. No other organisation is so well represented in the
SMC's governance as the BBC.

12. The SMC has also played a prominent role in the BBC’s College of Journalism, formed as
a consequence of the Hutton enquiry. It often gives lectures, chairs debates in the college, or
moderates discussions between the BBC’s correspondents and scientists. It has even appeared
on the BBC's Talkback programme defending the BBC's science journalism. The SMC runs
events for BBC presenters and editors.

Written evidence submitted by Dr David Whitehouse (COM0115)

13. The experts the BBC features in news stories are very often the ones selected by the SMC.
It may be that they are the best experts, but that is not the point. In my opinion the BBC
should not outsource the selection of commentators and expert comment including specific
quotes from a third party. In doing so it loses its distinctive voice and its impartiality. If such
experts and SMC procured quotes are used then in the interest of transparency they should be
flagged as such. As it is the relationship is hidden from the viewer and listener.

14. I think it is unwise for BBC News to have embraced the SMC so wholeheartedly. It risks
being seen as not independent and too close to, even a mouthpiece, of the scientific
community. In January 2010 the SMC participated in a report for the government called,
“Science and the Media: Securing the future,” written by Fiona Fox, the SMC's director. In
the summary was the recommendation (the first one) to expand science training at the BBC
via the BBC College of Journalism.

15. Whatever its motives and well meaning its intentions the SMC is a not a press centre as it
describes itself, but a pressure group for science with the intention of influencing the media
and getting its view on air.

16. In October 2010 the BBC Trust issued editorial guidelines that were very clear about
resisting the influence of pressure groups.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/other/editorial_guidelines.shtml

4.4.20 Similarly, the BBC must remain independent and distanced from government
initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas, no matter how apparently worthy the
cause or how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial.

4.4.21 Careful thought will be necessary to ensure perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality are
maintained when content is scheduled topically and coincides with a third party’s campaign.

17. Fiona Fox said to this committee that the SMC was set up to enable the scientific
establishment to gain control. It is true that scientific establishment has been successful in
gaining control. They have been very effective at doing this and have been assisted by many
media outlets. It is another example of the lack of independence of science journalism.

18. Criticism and dissent, the views of minorities and the controversies they encourage, play a
special role in science. Science has a particular disdain for authority. The history of
scientific research shows that scepticism is essential for the progress of science. Without
constant criticism no flaws would ever been detected and no dominant paradigm ever
overthrown. The history of science has shown time and time again that widely held consensus
views often turned out to be wrong. Why should this suddenly be different today? It is my
belief that in the recent past such sceptics and minorities were encouraged and valued as an
essential part of the process of science because they, more often than not, discover problems
with the existing consensus or even develop a new view. In recent years however institutions
and universities have become averse to dissent as it affects the various measures used to
assess effectiveness and impact. This stifling of vigorous debate, however, is also stifling the
progress of scientific culture and progress.

19. The media, perhaps because so few reporters have scientific experience, goes along with
this and regards scientific authority as inviolate. In doing so they incorrectly define sceptics
and judge them as they would in the political sphere.

20. Another mistake the news media makes is giving too much authority to papers published
in peer-reviewed journals. They should be treated with more caution instead of being
definitive. A paper published is just an argument thrown open for debate. Often papers

Written evidence submitted by Dr David Whitehouse (COM0115)

presented as secure by the media are, unbeknownst to them, the subject of substantial debate
by the scientific community. There are examples of the media proclaiming one finding
following one paper and then proclaiming the opposite after a subsequent paper reaches
different conclusion suggesting that scientists have changed their mind when the timing of
such papers is often arbitrary.

21. A lot has been said about "false balance." This is said to occur when two contributors to a
news item take opposing views. One of those views may represent the majority of scientists
and the other a small minority. It is said that a 50:50 representation of two views gives the
public a false impression of the weight of the minority view as equal time is given to them
both. I think this is a dangerous censorial approach to science journalism.

22. Reflecting just the consensus and authority is not representing science. My view was that
one should rely on the craft of the reporter to place the interviewees into a proper context. If
they represent the majority opinion then say so, if their views are a minority, say so. This way
even if the report only uses one interviewee, be it majority or minority representative, the
viewer is left in no doubt as to the “position.” In addition, I do not accept that just because
there are two interviewees the viewer will assume, and go away with, the opinion that the
debate is equally divided. The public are cleverer than that. If they do get this impression it is
a failure of journalism.

23. Journalism is not just about relaying information, scientific or otherwise, and it is far more
than relaying authority. Science journalism is also about "shaking the tree," about asking
awkward questions, about standing in the place of those who can’t ask such questions, and
being persistent and unpopular. It is a vital aspect of democracy. Science journalism and the
science establishment have become too close for comfort. Journalists have become supporters
not reporters. Science journalism is neither an extension of the scientific establishment, nor
even on its side.

24. If the price of science journalism is for some to tolerate the presence on air or in print of
those they think are wrong then that is a price worth paying. If scientists have to debate and
repeat themselves, so be it.

25. Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually
inaccurate statements. But it does. Being able to speak freely without censorship is
fundamental to modern liberal democracies and is guaranteed under national and international
law. Qualifications are made with regard to libel, slander and defamation and, in some
countries, holocaust denial. The important point, and it took millennia and many lives to
attain it, is that the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually
accurate. It is freedom, not accuracy or responsibility that is mandated. If someone says
something others deem inaccurate then demand a say, not their silence. Whatever one’s
stance one should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up,
but don’t censor, even by elimination. If this is done, we risk losing something essential to
modern life.

June 2016
//

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/science-communication/written/34673.pdf

Report here:

https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmsctech/162/162.pdf

Apr 4, 2017 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

tl;dr The GWPF asserts that it's right to mislead the public by making factually inacurate statements is 'essential to
modern life.'

Apr 4, 2017 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Julian,

I think he meant Monckton ;-)

Heh.

Apr 4, 2017 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

There is something important about the nature of being an expert; one of the challenges for the public is that all sorts of people appear on the media and are identified as an expert, and just because someone is labelled an expert it does not necessarily make that so. There are standards and responsibilities, and the national academies have an important role in that respect. The learned societies have an important role. It is important that when experts appear they behave as experts commenting rigorously on the evidence and what the uncertainties are. It is difficult for the public if they are presented with apparently equal and opposite positions by people who call themselves experts. That is a challenge for all of us. The climate debate is an example of where people have claimed to be experts who are not.

Full quote from Prof Sir Mark Walport.

. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes.

From the introduction to 'Climate Change Evidence & Causes' from the Royal Society and US National Academies of Science.

https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/climate-evidence-causes/climate-change-evidence-causes.pdf

Apr 4, 2017 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Phil - "tl;dr"

Therein lies your problem.

Apr 4, 2017 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Mr Clarke: to quote Dr David Whitehouse’s own summation of what Not Banned Yet has taken the pains to try and tell you, but which your dismissal of shows you to be too lazy to inform yourself about:

Basically, freedom is paramount. You are free to lie, and I am free to challenge. Attack the lie, not the right to tell it.

PS Don’t lie.

Short enough for you?

Evidently, you prefer to remove the right to tell the lie, as attacking it is too much effort for you. Or, to put it in a more correct context, you prefer to remove the right to attack the lie, as you have nothing with which you can defend it.

Apr 4, 2017 at 2:41 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Wonderfully succinct RR, or as they say in my part of the world "beutiful".

Apr 4, 2017 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

The remarkable thing is that GWPF should feel it necessary to defend their right to mislead people. Obviously nobody who thinks they are on the side of facts and truth would think that a good idea.

Apr 4, 2017 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

Ah. Hello, William. You would appear to be another who does not understand what was being said; please refer to my earlier comment as to the message that the writer for the GWPF was trying to impart.

If you think that the GWPF are lying, they will allow you full voice to express your disagreement with them. They will not try to silence you; they will not threaten to prosecute you or persecute you. Can that be said of those on the alarmist side of this debate?

You also do not seem to see the scare-mongering of “extreme” weather, bleaching corals, “acidifying” oceans or nation-engulfing sea-level rises as misleading. Interesting.

Apr 4, 2017 at 3:30 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Fank u, Minty.

p.s. I fort it wuz “bootiful”…?

Apr 4, 2017 at 3:34 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR. The King of the turkey twizzlers has died, so pronunciation and spelling is up for grabs. Or as the song goes: "You say bootiful and I say beutiful".

Apr 4, 2017 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

You could actually say that science is actually one great big lie. And always has been. And almost always will be.

As we move forward at some attempt of a universal theory of existence, if you could measure today's knowledge against knowledge say 100 years in the future, we would be wrong. And we know it.

If the definition of accepted science is that it must be the truth, then science will die.

Apr 4, 2017 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket
A definition of acceptable science is that it must be the truth, as we currently understand it. Much of science is fairly static, disputes have long since been thrashed out, significantly more has been modified but still stands the test of time (Newton's equations are still perfectly valid, except in very special circumstances). Much, but not all, of climate science is aberrant, relying upon unproven (or even disproven) models and seemingly unable or unwilling to remedy past errors.

Apr 4, 2017 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

No argument, but today's scientific truth become tomorrow's lies. Science progresses. Even Newton will not be immune to that.

Free speech in science is important. For example, even if someone speaks the most absolute bollocks, it could be that I hate someone enough to humiliate them. And that from that humiliation initiative I learn something scientifically.

Creative scientific tension from any means is valid.

The motivation to progress science, to push ourselves to find answers to questions (questions that might not be the one we started with, or questions we may never have asked) has always, and must, come from energies beyond the simple scientific orthodoxy.

Hate and dislike and lying and dishonesty and greed have progressed science probably more than sitting under a tree contemplating an apple.

Apr 4, 2017 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Radical, it is very straightforward: don't want to be seen as dishonest? Don't lie. If you (GPWF in this case) lie nevertheless, justifying it on the basis that is your right to lie doesn't stop people from rightly deciding that you really are lying scumbags. It is clearly their right to lie if they want to, but it is not smart to advertise it.

Apr 4, 2017 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

By the way, I would never attack their right to lie. But also, as their lie are usually so well rehearsed, I see no point in attacking the lies either. I'd rather just attack them for being lying scumbags.

Apr 4, 2017 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

PC

"I think he meant Monckton"

OK, assume away, but why exclude the disappearing Arctic guy or the no more snow guy or the no MWP guy or the traps heat guy or the hockey stick guy...

Or are your experts different to the ones that make it up as they go along ;-)

Apr 4, 2017 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian is away.

William:

"Radical, it is very straightforward: don't want to be seen as dishonest? Don't lie. If you (GPWF in this case) lie nevertheless, justifying it on the basis that is your right to lie doesn't stop people from rightly deciding that you really are lying scumbags. It is clearly their right to lie if they want to, but it is not smart to advertise it."

Do you have any sense of irony?

Apr 4, 2017 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Sorry, William, but you still do not understand the message that Dr David Whitehouse is trying to promulgate. He does state quite clearly that you should not lie, but he also says that you should not be prevented from lying – just as the challenge to that lie also should not be prevented. Attack the comment, not the commenter.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in climate “science” – lies are being told, and anyone who challenges these lies is castigated, pilloried and threatened; indeed, there are many who advocate that anyone who questions the “science” be imprisoned – or even executed!

It is a shame that you are unable to see that, as you demonstrate in your follow-up comment – you prefer to attack the GWPF, itself, rather than any of their arguments.

Apr 4, 2017 at 6:09 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

//
Hmmmm. From the 'that explains a lot' department. Official Phil and William policy is confirmed as
'misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements.'
//

Standards indeed.

Apr 4, 2017 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

"Attack the comment, not the commenter."

Why?

And where do you see that in the sceptical world? How many risible cartoons by Josh unkindly depicting Michael Mann or other scientists have you objected to because they don't attack the argument?

Apr 4, 2017 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam