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Peter Ridd’s Court Case — Free Speech versus James Cook Uni

The court case is on Day Two of a three day process.

For the latest see GideonRozner on twitter

 

Peter Ridd Challenges James Cook Uni Sacking

Charlie Pell in The Australian, 2016

The first alleged breach of the code occurred in April 2016, when Professor Ridd emailed a journalist to allege that images given to the media by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were misleading.

Professor Ridd said the images of bleached coral reefs near Stone Island, off the coast of Bowen in north Queensland, were misleading because they showed poorly affected corals, which were selected over nearby healthy coral and used to show “broad scale decline” of reef health.

Field technicians working for Professor Ridd took photos in the same vicinity as the bleaching pictures supplied by the university and GBRMPA which showed “spectacular coral living there”.

Professor Ridd told the journalist in the email that the use of the pictures was “a dramatic example of how scientific organisations are happy to spin a story for their own purposes”.

At one stage Professor Ridd was told he could not even discuss the proceedings with his wife, leading Mr Wood to compare the proceedings to a coercive “star chamber”.

Jennifer Marohasy reminds us this incident was a trigger that set off Ridd’s eventual sacking.  Ridd objected to the reef near Stone Island in Queensland being used to tell a story of disaster when the reef around Bowen (nearby) is in blooming health. Peter Ridd took photos in 2015 showing that the same area was doing fine and pointed out that anyone could find both good and bad examples of reef in the area and selectively claim a climate change disaster. In 2016 Nature published a paper “characterising recent loss of coral cover” which AustralianGeographic and others used to sell a story of a reef catastrophe.

This is when the censure motion started. Graham Lloyd, The Australian, 2016:

When marine scientist Peter Ridd suspected something was wrong with photographs being used to highlight the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, he did what good scientists are supposed to do: he sent a team to check the facts.

After attempting to blow the whistle on what he found — healthy corals — Professor Ridd was censured by James Cook University and threatened with the sack. After a formal investigation, Professor Ridd — a renowned campaigner for quality assurance over coral research from JCU’s Marine Geophysics Laboratory — was found guilty of “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution”.

His crime was to encourage questioning of two of the nation’s leading reef institutions, the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, on whether they knew that photographs they had published and claimed to show long-term collapse of reef health could be misleading and wrong.

 This historic photo shows healthy reef above tide circa 1890.

Stone Island Reef, Queensland, Photo, 1890

Reef near Stone Island,  Queensland, Photo, 1890

This is allegedly the same area in 1994 showing a coral disaster

Stone Island Reef, Queensland, Photo, 1994

Reef near Stone Island, Queensland, Photo, 1994

Again in 2012, the area still hadn’t recovered — or so the story goes

Stone Island Reef, Queensland, Photo, 2012

Reef near Stone Island, Queensland, Photo, 2012

Peter Ridd photographs the same area in 2015 showing healthy reef

Note the same landscape in the background.

Stone Island Reef, Queensland, Photo, 2015

Reef near Stone Island, Queensland, Photo, 2015

The IPA have supported Peter Ridd in his battle for free speech, and are broadcasting updates:

Day one (yesterday)

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.8/10 (62 votes cast)
Peter Ridd's Court Case -- Free Speech versus James Cook Uni, 9.8 out of 10 based on 62 ratings

Tiny Url for this post: http://tinyurl.com/y6moubtn

53 comments to Peter Ridd’s Court Case — Free Speech versus James Cook Uni

  • #
    Bill in Oz

    How curious The JCU states “Professor Ridd ……was found guilty of “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution”.

    Bugger me !

    And here I always thought that our Australian scientists were provided with tenure and funding so they could do SCIENCE that has integrity and is honest..

    If JCU wants to promote a collegial academic spirit – code for dictatorial ‘don’t rock the boat’, they are very welcome to do so.

    But the price of such collegial stupidity is simple : NO TAXPAYER MONEY AT ALL !!

    There are other universities that are wiling to put scientific integrity & honesty first, second & third !

    As far as I am concerned JCU can wither & die !

    362

    • #
      Mal

      James Cook University? It’s should be renamed Cook the Books political science foundation.

      152

    • #
      Peter C

      If JCU wants to promote a collegial academic spirit – code for dictatorial ‘don’t rock the boat’, they are very welcome to do so.
      But the price of such collegial stupidity is simple : NO TAXPAYER MONEY AT ALL !!
      There are other universities that are wiling to put scientific integrity & honesty first, second & third !

      Agree Bill,

      Except which are the Universities that are willing to put scientific integrity first, second and third?

      I can’t think of any such Universities. Not my alma mater anyway.

      131

    • #

      The Cook University might view their reputation differently from promoting scientific integrity and academic excellence. In 2018 it was ranked 369 in the world, has increasing numbers of students, 5000 from overseas. It is also the World’s leading University for the study of coral bleaching. Exposing the lack of evidence to support climate-driven coral bleaching will damage the academic reputation of the University.
      But Cook’s academic reputation is already much lower than say the University of Western Australia, ranked 91. Also it much lower in terms of employer reputation at 9.9 v 58.6. Neighboring University of Newcastle (ranked 214) scores 26.2.
      One anomaly that could explain trouncing academic freedom. Academic reputation is a low 13.5, but academic citations per faculty are a reasonable 54.9.

      51

  • #
    Jennifer Marohasy

    Thanks for providing all this background, Jo. And for those interested in understanding more about Peter Ridd and how and why a physicist knows so much about coral reef ecosystems, I’ve just posted on this: https://jennifermarohasy.com/2019/03/whatwouldaphysicistknow/

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    • #
      Tdef

      A real scientist then. Not the new generation of pseudo scientists who decide on a conclusion first. Real scientists may soon be banned from consensus science. Possibly for non collegial behaviour which is otherwise known as rocking the boat. Facts have nothing to do with the new sciences. Rene Descartes would be under house arrest like Galileo.

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      • #
        glen Michel

        It is very hard for an individual who has invested much(me) in tertiary education over the years to find out in the last 25yrs or so, the totalitarian nature of the old seats of knowledge.Malfeasance is writ when these places are corrupted by appeals to lucre.

        192

    • #
      Bill in Oz

      Jennifer, thanks for the link !
      Well explained !
      Well written !

      81

  • #

    I know how difficult it is to take on these institutions, I had to do the same on my wife’s behalf once (and won), but you can’t let them get away with such things. I hope he is able to give it to them where it hurts.

    192

    • #
      AndyG55

      “where it hurts”

      Their hip-pocket.

      Their reputation can’t be damaged much further than it has been already.

      141

  • #
    robert rosicka

    This could very well be a turning point for true science and I hope the Govt takes notice after all that half billion could have been spent elsewhere .

    142

  • #
    pat

    hilarious video:

    TWEET: Mitch McConnell, US Senate Majority Leader:
    The Senate voted on the Green New Deal today: 0 Yeas, 57 Nays, and 43 Senators voted PRESENT
    VIDEO: 1min42sec
    26 Mar 2019
    https://twitter.com/senatemajldr/status/1110675494909956096

    71

  • #
    Kevin Lohse

    There are 4 photos, all labelled for 1890, but the accompanying text gives different dates for each photo. Can someone sort it out?

    82

    • #
      Ian Hill

      I noticed that too. I think someone forgot to change the year after copying the caption to each photo. I doubt there was colour photography back then.

      41

  • #
    TinyCO2

    Climate Science has hurt itself from the start by refusing to apply quality control to the work that has been done. The university should have listened to Peter Ridd and reacted by upping their game, not trying to shut him down. CAGW is supposed to be the most important issue of our time with massive implications for the planet, humanty, government and business but it has fewer quality rules than a medium sized business. After Climategate there was no excuse for this lackadaisical approach. Weirdly the field still thinks that sensational but dubious results are excusable.

    I hope the judge condemns both Peter Ridd’s treatment and climate science’s cavalier attitude to quality.

    182

    • #
      amortiser

      Judge Vasta was scathing today about how JCU reacted to Dr Ridd’s outspoken comments.

      He noted Dr Ridd’s criticism of the lack of quality assurance, checking and replication of the science conducted at the institutions.

      He said he would have expected to see JCU provide evidence of actual protocols in place to show that such verification was done or that they had taken steps to put such protocols in place.

      He was astonished that there was no mention of this in submissions. The JCU reaction to this criticism was a concerted and ongoing attack on Dr Ridd’s conduct.

      It was quite brutal. Hopefully an indication of how the case will be decided.

      81

      • #
        TinyCO2

        Any judge who has had companies before his court trying to excuse a lack of due dilligence should recognise a dodgy outfit when he sees one.

        20

  • #
    jack

    Godspeed Peter.

    One man with courage is a majority.

    Thomas Jefferson

    182

  • #
    pat

    is this a proper role for the UN?

    27 Mar: Jamaica Gleaner: Journalists urged to help with climate-change awareness
    by Christopher Serju
    Caribbean journalists have been challenged to up their game by helping regional populations to fully understand climate change, such as global warming, most of which are linked to the use or misuse of one finite commodity – land!
    “Climate change will be the most defining challenge of our times,” Dr Pradeep Monga, deputy executive secretary of the United Nations’ Executive Direction and Management Unit, told regional journalists in Georgetown, Guyana, recently.

    “We only have one planet, so we don’t have a Plan B for us,” he reminded the group. “So climate change has to be addressed as a priority because it encompasses everything – economics, social and environmental science. But the main thing is that very few people know climate change can be addressed through land management more than anything else.”
    Monga, who was addressing a media training workshop for a group of environmental journalists, said that the fragmented agenda with respect to land creates its own level of hardship…

    The message about key issues such as the linkages between land degradation and drought and how these can hinder the 17 Strategic Development Goals for which the United Nations has set a timeline of 2030 needs to be accelerated…
    Having done the initial work in documenting the dangers of climate change, scientists now need the help of journalists in sharing this information in ways that Caribbean people and especially parliamentarians will be convinced of the need to be proactive and act in a timely manner to save lives and livelihoods…
    http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20190327/journalists-urged-help-climate-change-awareness

    should journalists agree to be propagandists for the UN?

    40

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      Lets call the climate change thing , propped up with non-science abd spin what it truly is – industrial grade LYING.

      Simples.

      “Tell a lie big enough and often enough, and people will believe it”

      Joseph Goebbels

      62

  • #

    I have recently taken a look at the overall data supporting the case on for global warming causing coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
    I was surprised to find that

    1. From the HADSST3 sea surface records, the North and central GBR areas has shown no warming since 1980, and the Southern area less warming than the global average.
    2. Bleaching events mostly commonly occur as a result of runs of elevated temperatures. This means after summer heatwaves. The biggest observed mass bleaching events on the GBR reef were in 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017. The Summer data does not support this. Indeed for the GBR summer 2002 was cooler than average, and even 2016 and 2017 – where global average temperatures were higher due to a strong El Nino event, on the GBR SSTs were not much higher than average.
    3. What is quite clear is that observations of coral bleaching have vastly improved. From the 1990s detection of abnormal heat anomalies (which trigger most bleaching events) was developed at the level of approx 50km gridcells through comparison with SST records. In 2015 a new product was launched with 5km gridcells. The numbers of researchers on the water examining coral bleaching is orders of magnitude greater than thirty years ago. There is a clear observation bias. In the vast oceans if people look harder for a feature that is present they will find more examples.

    My findings, with data charts, is at.
    Is increasing Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching related to climate change or observation bias?

    A description of the improvements in satellites of increasing detection of thermal stress is in the introduction to
    Heron et al 2016 : Validation of Reef-Scale Thermal Stress Satellite
    Products for Coral Bleaching Monitoring

    122

    • #
      Kinky Keith

      Confirmation Bias is the issue Kevin.

      82

      • #
        PeterS

        Interesting to note that a paper was written showing that circular reasoning is the predominate factor:

        Abstract
        A literature review shows that the circular reasoning fallacy is common in climate change research. It is facilitated by confirmation bias and by activism such that the prior conviction of researchers is subsumed into the methodology. Example research papers on the impact of fossil fuel emissions on tropical cyclones, on sea level rise, and on the carbon cycle demonstrate that the conclusions drawn by researchers about their anthropogenic cause derive from circular reasoning. The validity of the anthropogenic nature of global warming and climate change and that of the effectiveness of proposed measures for climate action may therefore be questioned solely on this basis. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3130131

        112

        • #
          TdeF

          They always see what they expect to see.

          102

          • #

            More importantly the climate consensus shut out that which they do not want to see. That is why freedom of speech and the right for people to disagree are important. In studying economics I always learnt more from a well-expressed but flawed argument, than a poorly expressed but good argument. The same was true of a well-expressed view I disagreed with than a poorly expressed view I agreed with. The climate consensus has very poorly expressed and deeply flawed arguments, such as I found for coral reef bleaching.

            41

      • #

        Keith,
        Confirmation bias is an issue, but I do not think it is the fundamental issue at stake here. Rather it is the increasing inability to challenge the biases presented by the climate consensus. Peter Ridd is described above as “a renowned campaigner for quality assurance”. Where there is masses of data potentially available understanding sampling bias and the quality of the samples over time are key factors. In my view free speech is necessary in academia to challenge current assumptions and conjectures and thus develop better understanding.

        92

        • #
          OriginalSteve

          I think its worse than that.

          Tomorrows leaders are now pumped through a system that is totalitarian in nature. They survive by wrongly not challenging the systemic brutalisation of freedom of speech.

          Silence is rewarded by survival.

          Either way you cut it , its just not cricket.

          71

          • #
            OriginalSteve

            America was set up so people could have freedom of religion. Those who set up America fled the totalitarian regiemes in europe ruled by despots and in-bred royalty.

            I see little difference between Americas establishment and the key point of argument in this fight. On the surface it might sound odd, but its correct.

            51

        • #
          Kinky Keith

          I agree Kevin, confirmation bias is only part of the problem. Used by the lazy and also by those milking the system.

          The real issue is, as you say, that the lazy, the connected and manipulative elements of society make real science and real enquiry almost impossible.

          KK

          41

        • #

          The Royal Society ‘Nullius in Verba.’

          41

    • #

      It is important to look at the overall evidence for warming causing coral bleaching. A recent paper, from January last year is the open access

      Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8048 . (Hughes et al 2018)

      This tried to remove the observation bias of by looking at 100 locations around the world, 32 in Australasia. In the supplementary data, figure S4 is the results of testing the frequency of bleaching against global warming. For Australasia the R2 = 0.0001. For the West Atlantic (mostly the Caribbean) R2 = 0.0939, but the relationship is negative.

      In a recent post I looked at other alleged examples from around the world supposedly of warming causing bleaching. They did not stack up. One extreme example is Sekisei Lagoon Okinawa, where up to 99% of the reef has disappeared. The Japanese Ministry of the environment blamed the degradation on

      terrestrial runoffs of red clay and wastewater; coral bleaching due to high water temperatures; and outbreaks of the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci)

      The problem of demonstrating an alternative case is that the academic consensus comes up with numerous spurious examples based on hearsay, then puts the onus outsiders to demonstrate it is wrong, in an environment of prejudiced mainstream media access.

      61

      • #
        el gordo

        Kevin do you give any credence to the idea that a drop in sea level during strong El Nino causes bleaching?

        ‘Prof Ridd also says the work of a US schoolteacher, who claims a drop in sea level caused by the El Nino phenomenon might have caused bleaching, should not be discounted.’

        Townsville Bulletin

        51

        • #

          El Gordo,
          The data does support coral bleaching events in the El Nino years.
          Look at Hughes et al 2018, Supplementary materials Figure 2A. There are large increases in the cumulative number of bleaching events in the El Nino years of 1998, 2010 and 2016/7, particularly in Australasia. Note that the data is for 100 locations – Australasia 32, Indian Ocean/Middle East 24, Western Atlantic 22 & Pacific Ocean 22.
          For West Atlantic, there are also a number of bleaching events in 1995 and 2005. Coincidentally these were years of high hurricane activity. Hurricane Andrew in 1995 was the last Cat 5 to make landfall in the USA. 2005 was the worst year on record in the area. If corals could get stressed by excess heat, could they also get stressed by getting battered by mighty storm?

          Contradicting the El Nino cause is a claim of significant observed bleaching on the GBR in 2002. The Australian Institute of Marine science has a list of major Coral bleaching events.

          2001–2002
          The summer of 2001–2002 saw a mass bleaching event that was slightly more severe than the 1997–1998 event. The first signs of substantial bleaching were reported in January 2002, with the worst over by April.

          In response, GBRMPA implemented the world’s most comprehensive survey of coral bleaching in collaboration with AIMS, the Cooperative Research Centre for the Great Barrier Reef (CRC Reef) and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Aerial surveys revealed bleaching in 54 per cent of the 641 reefs observed. Nearly 41 per cent of offshore and 72 per cent of inshore reefs had moderate or high levels of bleaching.

          Again, reef recovery was generally good, with fewer than five per cent of the reefs suffering high mortality. The worst affected reefs were in the Bowen area where around 70 per cent of corals died.

          In 2002 they thought there was some bleaching, so massive resources were poured into observing the bleaching. Again, observation bias plays a role.

          61

          • #
            el gordo

            ‘If corals could get stressed by excess heat, could they also get stressed by getting battered by mighty storm?’

            There is a PhD in that.

            Thanks for all that, I’ll keep an open mind on the stress factors causing bleaching.

            20

  • #
    PeterS

    We are now seeing proof in a court of law how Universities of today are in fact against real scientific truth and instead are propagandists and charlatans, pure and simple. It would be proper for the government to suspend all funding to Universities until they can prove they can conduct real and unbiased scientific research. I won’t hold my breath.

    112

  • #
    2dogs

    Let’s put aside the academic freedom clause for a second, and just consider the code of conduct.

    Does any employer, or any employment contract, have the power to curtail an employee’s freedom of speech in any way?

    When you clock off, you clock off. One’s employer should have no power to dictate what an employee does in their own time.

    91

    • #
      Kinky Keith

      ?
      The observation seems a bit disconnected.

      31

    • #
      AndyG55

      Certainly they have no right to tell them not to discuss whatever with the wife or friends, or whoever they like, unless they have signed an “in confidence” agreement of some sort.

      That is passed being RIDICULOUS.

      60

      • #
        amortiser

        In the court yesterday, Judge Vasta was scathing in his criticism of JCI in this matter. Murdoch for JCI was emphasising that the university had laid no charges against Ridd for breach of confidentiality with his wife.

        Judge Vasta responded by saying that JCU had not even apologised to Ridd for denying him the right to discuss the fact that he had been charged with his wife for more than 3 weeks. He said this action was heavy handed, absolutely abhorrent and reprehensible.

        I was waiting for the judge to tell Murdoch what he really thought.

        20

    • #
      Kinky Keith

      When you work for someone you owe them some privacy on work matters. That’s an assumed contract.

      When your employer later endorses deliberate falsification of results and interpretation, that initial contract is broken.

      KK

      31

    • #

      A private employer does have the power to sack an employee for bad-mouthing the business. If someone in marketing, for instance, advised a potential customer that a competitor’s product was better normally that person would be sacked. This would certainly be a curtailment on freedom of speech, particularly if the claim was based in fact. But a University should not be promoting a particular ideology. Instead, at least in free countries, it should be promoting scientific understanding and challenges to the norms. If the case for climate change causing increased coral reef bleaching is fundamentally strong then academic competition from a flawed case disputing that case will lead to sharpening the case.

      41

  • #
    pat

    26 Mar: Breitbart: Wikipedia Editors Paid to Protect Political, Tech, and Media Figures
    by T.D. Adler
    (Disclosure: the author of this piece was paid in the past for edits on Wikipedia as part of several editing contests…
    T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.)

    A report in Huffington Post (LINK) recently revealed the case of Wikipedia editor Ed Sussman, who was paid by media clients such as NBC and Axios to help diminish critical material (LINK). Paid editors operating in a similar manner to Sussman have worked on behalf of CNN contributor Hilary Rosen and the CEOs of Reddit and Intel, among other clients.
    Other conduct by Sussman not covered by the Huffington Post shows him authoring fluff pieces for NBC executives and getting his proposed changes approved by another paid Wikipedia editor…

    Wikipedia’s policies do not ban paid editors from approving the proposals of other paid editors provided they are not working for the same client. In a case last year, Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, akin to a Supreme Court, sanctioned two long-time editors after one had his paid edits approved by the other despite both working for the same paid editing firm. Neither were banned for these practices, not even from further paid editing.
    Many Wikipedia editors are resistant to paid editing, but the practice is generally tolerated so long as editors disclose their affiliation and get their edits approved by other editors as Sussman and Beutler have done…READ ON
    https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/03/26/wikipedia-editors-paid-to-protect-political-tech-and-media-figures/

    20

  • #
    J.H.

    Looks like it’s going well for Dr Peter Ridd…. I was so worried that this would be a political kangaroo court where it wouldn’t matter what he said, he would be condemned. The sort of thing that happened to Andrew Bolt in 2010, where he had an ex Labor minister as his judge and an utterly hostile court.

    looks like Judge Vasta was having none of it. Wants to see JCU address Dr Ridd’s criticism’s before entertaining anything about “Codes of conduct” and told them as much.

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  • #
    Tyler Durden

    To quote The Australian’s ‘Higher Education’ section today in an article titled “James Cook University under fire for ‘silencing’ academic over reef”;

    START ARTICLE QUOTATION – “A judge has blasted James Cook University for silencing, rather than debating, one of its professors who criticised the institution’s research into the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Sacked professor Peter Ridd, who was dismissed last year after publicly criticising lack of quality assurance processes on the university’s research and for discussing confidential disciplinary proceedings against him, said he had “no choice” but to make his concerns public.

    On the second day of an unfair dismissal hearing in Brisbane yesterday, Federal Circuit Court judge Salvatore Vasta said ­Professor Ridd, who worked at JCU for 30 years, was driven to speak out about his plight out of “frustration”.

    Judge Vasta said that rather than engaging in “robust debate” following Professor Ridd’s accusations, the university and its staff tried to silence him.” – END ARTICLE QUOTATION.

    In light of the judge’s comments, perhaps JCU VC Sandra Harding should audit the ‘cognitive bias’ of JCU’s reef researchers and the millions of $$$$ they siphon annually from the Australian taxpayer. You know, the cognitive bias she references in her 2009 paper “The categorical generation of organizational inequality: A comparative test of Tilly’s durable inequality” by Tomaskovic-Devey, Donald, Avent-Holt, Dustin, Zimmer, Catherine, and Harding, Sandra.

    To quote Ms Harding’s paper – “The major social psychological theories of inequality – symbolic interactionism (Schwalbe et al., 2000), status expectations (Ridgeway, 1997), and cognitive bias (Allport, 1954, Tajfel, 1969) – all locate the mechanisms that create inequality in face-to-face interaction (see also Martin, 2003). To move beyond simply describing inequality to explaining the mechanisms that generate and allocate it, we must turn our theoretical and empirical lens to workplaces (and other organizational contexts) and the social relations within them.”

    Indeed we should Ms Harding, indeed we should.

    Ms Harding writings appear to advocate equity in the workplace and employment free from bullying and harassment, yet it is now alleged in the Australian Federal Circuit Court that the actions of Ms Harding’s JCU underlings are in direct contradiction to the spin from their leader. Shame on you JCU, shame.

    20

    • #
      amortiser

      Judge Vasta described the JCU actions as heavy handed, absolutely abhorrent and reprehensible. They are lucky he didn’t get really serious about it.

      20