A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper




The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



The worst possible thing for discovery is to throw more government money at it

The story of three kinds of curiosity — two genuine, one “induced”

Several wise men foresaw the decline of organized science. Here, a man called Gordon Tulloch was inspired by Popper to look at the social organisation of scientists to try to figure out what made it work. He noticed there were three kinds of researchers, one driven by curiosity for the truth, another on a mission to solve a problem, and a third with an “induced” curiosity created by demand from elsewhere — boss or government. He predicted that the system would fail if those who were induced outnumbered the truly curious, as the “induced” curiosity was not well connected to reality, whereas the other two types were. The primary aim of the induced researcher was not to solve a problem or uncover an answer but just to keep their jobs, and there were many ways to “keep their jobs” that did not involve actual discovery. Indeed for some jobs, thinks Jo, actual discovery could be a catastrophic event.

He foresaw a degenerative spiral which appears to have come to pass. Once induced researchers are managed by people without enough skill to read and assess [...]

Strangled science: Govt asks dumb questions and scientists lie to get grants

It’s just another way the bureaucracy is throttling science. In grant applications the government asks scientists to tell us what impact the discoveries they haven’t made yet will have on the world. The scientists dutifully make something up, knowing the whole process is unscientific, but what does it matter? A little lie here, a little lie there and pretty soon we’re rewarding corruption.

Does Government-science punish the honest? Everyone behaves as if it does:

Another professor in Australia said: “It’s really virtually impossible to write an (Australian Research Council) ARC grant now without lying.”

Times Higher Education

Academics ‘regularly lie to get research grants’

Scholars in the UK and Australia contemptuous of impact statements and often exaggerate them, study suggests

A new study anonymously interviewed 50 senior academics from two research-intensive universities – one in the UK and one in Australia – who had experience writing “pathways to impact” (PIS) statements, as they are called in the UK, and in some cases had also reviewed such statements.

It was normal to sensationalise and embellish impact claims, the study published in Studies in Higher Education found.

We reward those who exaggerate, then wonder [...]

Who says scientists don’t do it to get rich? Queensland climate expert in court over $500k in false expenses

Dr Daniel Michael Alongi, 59, is accused of taking over half a million dollars in federal funds over the last seven years. The carbon sequestration, mangrove, reef, eco-expert has admitted he made false invoices to claim federal funds (Courier Mail, paywalled). He is in court on Jan 18th. The alleged sum is the rather impressive $556,000.  His superannuation of $900k, and $80k in long service leave, has been frozen. (Nice work… )

I’m glad his financial accounts are being audited. But far more public money is potentially “hijacked” thanks to scientific accounts, let’s start auditing them too. When people claim a nation has warmed by 0.9 degrees we want the original receipts, not the ones they readjusted (and we need independent auditors and systematic methods, not “secret instructions”).

“The Science” has become “the loophole” where nearly any friend of big gov can get a hand in the treasury-bag.

There are reasons you aren’t allowed to pal review your tax return.

[Courier Mail] Alongi, who was well regarded in the science industry, allegedly pretended he was paying for “radioisotopes” imported from the US and to have samples analysed in US laboratories for his Great Barrier Reef research.

Scientist calling for RICO investigation on skeptics is now being investigated himself

Psychological projection anyone?

Remember how some climate scientists wanted to give up debating science and potentially jail skeptics instead? These were the 20 “scientists” who reasoned by looking for “tobacco tactics” in opponent’s arguments. They called for a RICO investigation — a the kind of racketeering investigation done on the mafia. I pointed out their team used more “tobacco tactics” against skeptics than anything the skeptics did, but looks like that may have been only the minor part of their projection of their own flaws.

It turns out that the scientist driving the letter, along with his wife and daughter, has made over $5m  above his university salary, and now questions are being raised in Congress about his “double dipping”. The National Science Foundation is very unhappy about scientists who blur the line between their university and their outside consulting, and earn twice for doing the same job. I hear people have been jailed for this sort of thing.

Have a look at how well the leader of the group-of-20 has been doing: meet  Jagadish Shukla, professor of climate dynamics at George Mason University, who must now be wishing he hadn’t called for an investigation.

Their letter was posted [...]

The Climate Wars are Damaging Science

Matt Ridley has produced the shortest whole, killer summary of the sordid state of climate science, science journalism, and science associations for Quadrant magazine. This is the ideal single-chapter-length-work to bring in anyone who missed the last twenty years of clima-farce, scandal, hubris and hypocrisy.

Matt is not just summing up the way his career as a science writer has transformed, but also writing the best review of the IPA book “Climate Change: The Facts” that I have yet seen. He talks about the way science writers used to ignore the papers that didn’t impress them, and leave it up to the scientists to take them apart, but now the supposedly most esteemed scientists stay silent while abject failures not only get published in the scientific world, but get absurdly lauded in the media, and tweeted by “the President”. Formerly great scientific institutions have turned themselves inside out:

“The Royal Society once used to promise “never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject”. Its very motto is “nullius in verba”: take nobody’s word for it. Now it puts out catechisms of what you must believe in. “

Matt’s career, like mine, started with faith that [...]

Science buried in bureaucracy and corruption: Office of Research Integrity director quits in disgust

Bureaucrats have not only taken over much of the science world, but even the parts of the bureaucracy designed to hunt out corruption in science are incapacitated with bureaucracy-at-its-worst too. This is second order corruption — even the checks and balances on corruption are corrupted.

As James Delingpole points out: Science is rife with corruption, incompetence, dishonesty and fabrication–and now, thanks to a frank resignation letter by the US’s top scientific misconduct official we have a better idea why.

Government science desperately needs auditing– or the free market solution, competition

One in 50 scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once. It’s not just about fraud, it’s about bias, and statistical sloppiness. Up to 30% admitted other questionable research practices. When asked about their colleagues,  14% said other scientists falsified results, and 70% used other questionable research practices (Fanelli 2009). In the modern electronic science world, not only are many results not replicated, but the raw data itself is not even available for checking most of the time. Research shows that scientists who withhold data are more likely to have published errors (see below). Half of the papers in high-end journals contained some [...]

Busted: 120 gibberish science papers withdrawn — so much for “peer review”

At least 120 computer generated nonsense papers have been reviewed and published in publications of the  Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and Springer, as well as conference proceedings. The fakes have just been discovered by a French researcher and are being withdrawn.

Cyril Labbé found a way to spot artificially-generated science papers, and published it his website and lo, the fakes turned up en masse. In the past, pretend papers have turned up in open access journals–this time the fake papers appeared in subscription based journals. But the man who caught the fakes says he cannot be sure he’s caught them all, because he couldn’t check all the papers behind paywalls.

According to Nature:

The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and [...]

Consensus Police: 101 “motivated” reasons not to be a skeptic

Skeptics are often accused of being ideologically motivated to find reasons to “deny” the threat posed by man-made Global Disruptification (or whatever it is now called). Which begs the question of what ideology motivated Jo-the-former-Green, along with all the other former believers, to convert. It certainly wasn’t the money (we know from first hand experience). Could it be that damn truth-seeking ideology?

Judith Curry points out that “motivated reasoning” also applies to believers (to which I would add, yes, double-yes, and more-so — follow that money). When grants, careers, junkets, book sales, and offers to sit on golden-commissions are on the line, it doesn’t take much motivated reasoning to find excuses to believe your work is “science” even as you ignore opportunities to follow data that doesn’t quite fit, or delay publications of inconvenient graphs, while you double check, triple check, and invite like-minded colleagues to help find reasons the graphs are not important.

Some scientists are so motivated that they call opposing scientists petty names, and toss allusions they must be “funded” by vested interests, even as they ignore the billions of vested interests funding the name-callers. Meanwhile, all the silent so-called scientists in the tea-rooms that let the [...]

Scientists behaving badly — more retractions are cheats, not mistakes

Who said scientific experts should be trusted?

Is corruption endemic? Fully 43% of retractions in the life science and medical research journals are due to fraud or suspected fraud.

Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications

Ferric C. Fang R. Grant Steen and Arturo Casadevall

PNAS  PNAS 2012 109 (42) 16751-16752; doi:10.1073/iti4212109


A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.

Plus this published correction.

RetractionWatch points out that this could be the tip of the iceberg

The question, of course, is, how common is scientific misconduct? The simple but unsatisfying answer is that we don’t know, certainly not based on this study, because it’s [...]

Whistleblower Science Fraud Site is Shut Down

I would like to see what was on the Science Fraud site. The only parts left seem eminently admirable. Apparently in just six months, the site received anonymous tips documenting suspicious results in over 300 papers. Some of those papers were subsequently retracted.

Wherever there are big dollars, big-corruption follows. Whaddayaknow? Sadly, science is just like any other human endeavor. For every site reporting science fraud that is shut down, may ten alternatives spring forth. says “We need more sites like this not less.”

Bill Frezza describes what is known about the site’s demise on Forbes.

A Barrage Of Legal Threats Shuts Down Whistleblower Site, Science Fraud

Those of us concerned about the decaying credibility of Big Science were dismayed to learn that the whistleblower site Science Fraud has been shut down due to a barrage of legal threats against its operator. With billions of dollars in federal science funding hinging on the integrity of academic researchers, and billions more in health care dollars riding on the truthfulness of pharmaceutical research claims, the industry needs more websites like this, not fewer.

Regular readers of Retraction Watch, a watchdog site run by two medical reporters, got the news along with a [...]