Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Australia's crackpots...

Sou | 6:50 PM Go to the first of 11 comments. Add a comment

Update - a comment from one of Australia's more cracked crackpots (see below)

Anthony Watts posts an email from Murry Salby in which Salby alleges he's got the sack from Macquarie University.  I wonder if that's true.  If it is it's probably just as well.  Would you want him teaching your child?

Anthony writes:
Between John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, plus Mike Marriot and his idiotic ideas, I’m beginning to think Australia is ground zero for AGW crackpottery.
Australia does have more than its share of crackpots, like Salby (who was an import from somewhere or other, with Macquarie Uni slipping badly), but Anthony is citing people who are much respected in the climate arena.

As an example I looked up Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg's publications and top of the list was a paper published in Nature in 2002 which is listed in Google Scholar as being cited 3,850 times.  If that's what constitutes "crackpottery" then crackpottery is something every scientist would aspire to.  (Salby's most cited work got 455 cites, which is not at all shabby but an order of magnitude less.)

John Cook won a coveted award, a Eureka Prize from the Australian Museum for his creation, SkepticalScience.com. Plus, of course, his presidential tweet that sent Anthony Watts into such a frenzy of denial.  Stephan Lewandowsky is recognised for his work in cognitive science, including on science rejection.

As for Mike Marriot, Anthony doesn't like anyone who Watches the Deniers and takes exception to WTD urging him to present the NSIDC charts in the manner of NSIDC.  Anthony is happy to display the charts of the NSIDC despite him thinking they have "idiotic ideas", like showing +/- two standard deviations from the 1981-2000 mean.  (Knowing the grasp Anthony has of charts and numbers, he probably thinks a standard deviation is a human perversion.)

Back to Murry Salby.  In an email, in between rambling down side streets, he describes what he thinks happened in regard to what he says is his 'termination of appointment'.  Professor Salby is still listed on the Macquarie University website so I don't know what the real story is.  After this episode if he has been given the boot then I doubt he'll get offered his job back.

Salby had some strange bits and pieces in his email, like resources he reckoned he was supposed to get while at Macquarie:
Included was technical support to convert several hundred thousand lines of computer code, comprising numerical models and analyses (the tools of my research), to enable those computer programs to operate in Australia.
We drive on a different side of the road to people in Colorado, but I wasn't aware that our computers had some unique language that was different to computers in the USA.  I guess he was saying that he had a contract to employ a couple of techies to rewrite his program.  Can anyone shed some light on what he could be talking about?

And Salby writes:
To promote the Climate Commission’s newest report is the latest sobering claim: “one in two chance that by 2100 there’ll be no human beings left on this planet”
That quote is not from anyone from the Climate Commission.  It is from Admiral Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Australian Defense Force.  When Will Steffen was launching a new report from the Climate Commission on ABC television he was accompanied by Admiral Barrie.  The presenter asked Admiral Barrie if climate change "was something that's been of concern to you for some time, Chris Barrie?", and he replied in part with a reference to a doomsayer book he'd read:
Years ago I read a book called "Our Final Hour" written by Lord Martin Rees the Astronomer Royal and the Former President of the Royal Society in London, and Martin lays out the climate change consequences and some other behaviours that are not so good and predicts that there is a one in two chance that by 2100 there will be no human beings left on this planet.

Maybe Salby had unrealistic expectations of his Macquarie appointment.  Or maybe he's just gone off the rails for good.  Or maybe he didn't keep his end of the bargain. Nick Stokes asks:
July 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm  Murry Salby was apparently professor for five years. Does anyone know of any scientific papers that he wrote (published or not) in that time?
REPLY: Nick, sometimes I think your head is up your arse. This is one of those times. How could he publish in that sort of environment? – Anthony
This is a list of publications since 2008 (from Google Scholar), when Salby says he was first appointed at Macquarie.  Two papers in external journals and his book. That's it.  In five years!  (The list includes four papers in which he's listed as a co-author and published in 2008 but submitted before he arrived at Macquarie University.)

Thomas says:
July 9, 2013 at 12:11 am  Nick, Anthony and temp, did any of you bother to actually check if Salby has published any articles? As a matter of fact he did publish some papers on the ozone layer such as “Rebound of Antarctic ozone”, GRL, Volume 38, Issue 9, 16 May 2011 “Changes of the Antarctic ozone hole: Controlling mechanisms, seasonal predictability, and evolution”, JGR Volume 117, Issue D10, 27 May 2012.
REPLY: According to his summary at McQuarrie, his last publication was 2008.  http://envsci.mq.edu.au/staff/ms/pubs.html
That’s what I was basing it on. – Anthony
Anthony spells Macquarie University wrongly.  At least he got Murry Salby's name right this time around, unlike previously.  And besides Anthony, there are a few of the more pompous gits out in force, like Kevin Begaud, who says (I can hear the plum in his mouth):
July 9, 2013 at 12:16 am  This outrage is being taken up at the highest political level here in Australia. An influential section of the media has also been informed. It is a blight on the proud history of Australian scientific integrity and, if all the facts are as stated, cannot be allowed to stand.

While the distinctly unholy Janice Moore says: "I’ll be praying for you, Dr. Salby. Already started."

Update - one of the biggest crackpots of them all

I see that one of the biggest crackpots of all the Australian crackpots has made a comment on WUWT:
Malcolm Roberts says:
July 9, 2013 at 4:39 am  Anthony, your question as to whether downunder is ground zero for crackpottery understates the situation.

And then goes on to promote his crackpottery, referring to his "review of CSIRO including main report of 25 pages together with 780 pages of supporting details in 32 appendices".  Which got this response from SMH journalist, Ben Cubby, back in February:
In considering your request that I identify errors in the report you sent to me – CSIROh! Climate of Deception? Or First Step to Freedom? – I find myself confronting an unusual problem: how does one critically analyse a pile of horse shit?
Read the rest of Ben's response here, with more info on the crackpottery of Malcolm Roberts from Graham Readfearn.


  1. Salby seems to have been a good researcher once. However, his recent attempts to show that the CO2 is natural is just an exercise in curve fitting with an integral, and his presentations have been outright deceptive.

    1. They have, but I would like to think that if he has been dismissed it's for more than simply what he's been claiming about global warming. As much as I disagree with almost all the science that I've seen him present, I think academic freedom is intrinsically valuable. Having said that, it doesn't give you the right to not do your job though.

    2. Yes, I agree. A professor has the right to be wrong. And if his deceptions qualify as academic misconduct, then that should be addressed by the appropriate bodies.

    3. I don't know about Australia, but in the US it's pretty common to give a university-level professor the boot if they just aren't good enough. (The exception, of course, being if they have tenure.)

      It's how they on the one hand get quality people (boot the bad ones out before they have tenure) and then give them nearly coplete freedom (let them do whatever they want after they have tenure). That's how in the US folks like Lintzen et al survive: they already have tenure. If the deniers really want to push their psuedo-science in academia, they need to congregate in a like-minded university where the tenured folks can hire people who think they way they do. That happens a lot in the social sciences (think "Chicago School of economics") but I've yet to see that in the natural sciences.

    4. The subtlety in the US is that if you don't have tenure, you need to find funding. If you're not very good (or, I guess, if you choose to be a bit of a maverick) you will find it harder to get funding and may well lose your job. The university doesn't really have to fire you. They simply don't renew your contract when your funding runs out. In the UK (and I suspect Australia) it's a little different. If you are a senior academic, you would normally expect to have job security. There is, however, no more tenure. Normally, however, you can't simply get rid of an individual academic. You would normally need to make all at a certain level at risk of redundancy and could only do so it you were planning to reduce the number of posts (i.e., you can't simply replace people). In the UK at least, academics aren't normally fired unless they are underperforming in all (or many) parts of their job. Simply doing research that wasn't mainstream would not normally be sufficient.

  2. I can say that from the perspective of my institution Salby's research publications since 2008 would not meet the requirements for adequate output.

    His book is only a revised edition and as such would almost certainly have been excluded from claiming in Macquarie University's 2012 Higher Education Research Data Collection. That leaves two papers, which bear much similarity and probably contain much background work in common.

    I'd not be surprised to hear that Salby had a talk from his Head of Department/academic coordinator to ask why his productivity is so low. He'd almost certainly not be meeting MU's promotion requirements, and continued low output would likely invite suggestions of taking a lower pay scale or perhaps providing another institution with his research abilities.

    Bernard J.

  3. This is either a) some grand conspiracy or b) Salby and Carter are bludgers besmirching their universities' good name in order to push fringe science and conspiracies.

    In reality, all the small-government right-wingers out there should be thrilled Salby got the sack. Five years and almost nothing to show for it. What a waste of taxpayer money.

    Now, from the perspective of a non-academic like myself, it appears that Salby has been prancing around Europe presenting his non-peer reviewed research on his employer's dime. Would I be right in suggesting this is a misuse of university funding? I mean, we're not talking about a presentation at the Sydney Institute. We're talking about major expense to tout something that, despite Salby's claims in 2011, never appears to have been peer-reviewed.

    Add to this the fact Dr. Salby can't even cite the Climate Commission correctly which makes me think his version of events are self-serving and a little less than honest. If he really is the victim of an over-zealous university, why is he playing the PR card instead of dealing with this through the proper channels?

  4. There is a lot more history on Salby, including court cases.

    Nothing is Salby's fault, but rather:
    a) His ex-wife
    b) the State of Colorado for ruling in her favor
    c) CU
    d) his long-time coauthor and ASA scientist

    He sued a), b), and (twice) c).

    I've read lots of reports by NSF, ORI ,etc on grant fraud and related problems, as per http://www.nsf.gov/oig/search/

    For cases of this nature, people usually settled before going to jail, but some don't, and NSF was *peeved*.
    Salby was wise to spend most of 2007 in Oz ... and then appear at Macquarie in 2008. The NSF and (mabye the IRS, too) might have wished to have words with him.

    1. As always, good detective work there, John. I'm surprised Macquarie didn't check him more thoroughly before they gave him the job. At the time though on paper he would have looked okay.

    2. I suspect that at the time he was employed much of the court material from the USA was still confidential or unpublished or not online, and his ex-employers in the USA unable to talk about it with MU. In fact I suspect part of the reason he came to Oz is that he knew he could only get work outside of the networks he had already corrupted.

      I'm guessing now that he's going to have to return to the US. Where, I guess, the IRS, his ex-wife and the NSF will all be waiting for him...

    3. People might recall the 1991 flick, Point Break:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Break read this first

      That ends on the beach in Australia, and the relevant words by Keanu Reeves might be found at 07:20


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