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Royal Society calls Lewandowsky “outstanding”, gives him money, loses more scientific credibility

Posted By Joanne Nova On April 28, 2013 @ 2:19 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

Over Easter, psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky moved from Perth to Bristol  (lucky UK). He’s the psychologist who is expert in an imaginary group of humans called “Climate deniers”. Neither he, nor anyone else has ever met one but he discovered their imaginary motivations by surveying the confused groups who hate them. As you would, right?

None of the so-called researchers can explain what scientific observations a climate denier, denies. It’s an abuse of English, profoundly unscientific, but has some success in shutting down public debate, if that’s what you want.

Can humans change the weather and stop the storms? If you know we can, Lewandowsky calls that “science”. If you wonder “how much”, you are a denier.

The Royal Society, possibly reaching a tipping point in its rush to abject scientific decay, has immediately awarded him the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. It’s effectively a top-up on his salary for the next five years, just in case the UK might lose him. While Australia is grateful, scientists everywhere, cry. Hat tip to Geoff Chambers

[The Royal Society]

Value and tenure

The scheme provides up to 5 years’ funding after which the award holder continues with the permanent post at the host university.

The focus of the award is a salary enhancement, usually in the range of £10,000 to £30,000 per annum.

The Royal Society now “owns” Stephan Lewandowsky’s achievements, for they have decided he is talent from overseas “of outstanding achievement and potential.” We presume they have the internet, and bothered to google the obvious? Apparently, either The Royal Society has not much idea of what they now need to defend, or they have changed their definition of “outstanding achievement”.

I should think that now was an excellent time for concerned fellows to write to The Royal Society and politely ask what that definition is.

What does it take to be “outstanding”?

Does an outstanding Royal Society Scientist base their work around namecalling? Hello “deniers”. Do they hail the chosen ones — annointed climate science experts (aka the Gods of Science) and declare authority to be more important than observations? (How many fallacies-per-page does it take to qualify for RS recognition these days?)

Is it “outstanding” to call thousands of scientists “stupid” or to falsely pretend thousands of people could have seen your survey on a site that never hosted it?

Call me a cynic: Is “outstanding” success now assessed in a pragmatic spirit — say managing the unthinkable — like achieving journal publications and media headlines with only ten results from an online internet survey? It might not be outstanding maths, but it is outstanding PR-for-a-cause, especially given the data doesn’t remotely support the title of the paper or the headline.

Perhaps his real “achievement” is to get ethical approval for work done by researchers who hold their subjects in contempt and don’t bother trying to hide that? That would breach normal National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ethical standards. It would mean psychology could be used against personal enemies, and taxpayer funded grants be used against taxpayers. None of which is what “outstanding” science should be, or used to be.

The Royal Society was established near the start of the Enlightenment, to promote empirical science over political authority. It’s motto: Nullius in verba, Latin for “Take nobody’s word for it”. Now it aids and abets in the old Soviet tactic of medicalization of dissent, to silence and discredit those who promote opinions or facts that the political establishment finds inconvenient. The Lewandowsky connection risks damning the Royal Society forever as just another corrupt political authority, and profoundly anti-science.

Contact the Royal Society here.


PS: Geoff Chambers also found this excellent discussion of “Noisy” polls.

But sometimes it’s not some abstruse subtle bias. Sometimes it’s not a good-natured joke. Sometimes people might just be actively working to corrupt your data.

The paper’s thesis was that climate change skeptics are motivated by conspiracy ideation…

Unfortunately, it’s…possible Stephan Lewandowsky wasn’t the best person to investigate this? Aside from being a professor of cognitive science, he also runs Shaping Tomorrow’s World, a group that promotes “re-examining some of the assumptions we make about our technological, social and economic systems” and which seems to be largely about promoting global warming activism. While I think it’s admirable that he is involved in that, it raises conflict of interest questions. And the way his paper is written – starting with the over-the-top title – doesn’t do him any favors.

(if the conflict of interest angle doesn’t make immediate and obvious sense to you, imagine how sketchy it would be if a professional global warming denier was involved in researching the motivations of global warming supporters)

…This then devolved into literally the worst flame war I have ever seen on the Internet…


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