By Paul Homewood
Latest from GWPF on the James Cook University’s attempt to gag Peter Ridd, for daring to criticise their junk science:
A revised statement of claim alleges JCU trawled through private email conversations in a bid to bolster its misconduct case against him.
JCU had found Professor Ridd guilty of “serious misconduct”, including denigrating a co-worker, denigrating the university, breaching confidentiality, publishing information outside of the university and disregarding his obligations as an employee.
Professor Ridd has asked the Federal Court to overturn the university ruling and confirm his right not to be silenced.
In the revised statement of claim, Professor Ridd has dropped an earlier claim of conflict of interest against JCU vice-chancellor Sandra Harding, but has alleged other senior staff had been biased and had not acted fairly or in good faith.
Professor Ridd’s Federal Court action is seen as a test of academic freedom and free speech, and has been supported by the Institute of Public Affairs.
Professor Ridd said he would seek public donations to continue the fight against JCU. He first took court action in November in a bid to stop a JCU disciplinary process against him for comments he made to Sky News presenter Alan Jones.
The university said by expressing concerns about the quality of some reef science, Professor Ridd had not acted in a “collegiate” manner.
Professor Ridd told Sky News: “The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.”
He said a lot of the science was not properly checked, tested or replicated and “this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more”.
A JCU spokesman said the university’s lawyers had invited Professor Ridd to discontinue his proceedings. “(He) has amended his proceedings. His decision to do so is a matter for him,” he said.
“The university intends to vigorously defend those proceedings (but) as these matters are before the courts, JCU will not comment further.”
Lawyers for JCU wrote to Professor Ridd on November 28 confirming the university had determined he had engaged in “serious misconduct” and issued him with a “final censure”.
“The disciplinary process and all information gathered and recorded in relation to the disciplinary process (including the allegations, letters, your client’s responses and the outcome of the disciplinary process) is confidential pursuant to clause 54.1.5 of the university enterprise agreement,” the JCU lawyers said.
Professor Ridd has subsequently published his concerns about the quality of reef science in a peer-reviewed journal. He said he was determined to speak freely about his treatment “even though it will go against explicit directions by JCU not to”.
“This is as much a case about free speech as it is about quality of science,” he said.
The Institute of Public Affairs have also commented on the story:
James Cook University is threatening scientific integrity by seeking to censor one of its academic staff members, Professor Peter Ridd, according to John Roskam, the Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.
“The university should not be attempting to silence the scientific debate about the impact of climate change. Professor Ridd is a world expert on the Great Barrier Reef – he has the right and responsibility to interrogate the research evidence which determines how more than a billion dollars of taxpayer’s money will be spent,” Mr Roskam said.
In August last year Professor Ridd was interviewed by Alan Jones on Sky News about his chapter in a book Climate Change: The Facts 2017 published by the Institute of Public Affairs. In his chapter, The Extraordinary Resilience of Great Barrier Reef Corals, and Problems with Policy Science, Professor Ridd wrote:
Policy science concerning the Great Barrier Reef is almost never checked. Over the next few years, Australian government will spend more than a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef; the costs to industry could far exceed this. Yet the keystone research papers have not been subject to proper scrutiny. Instead, there is a total reliance on the demonstrably inadequate peer review process.
Professor Ridd said on Sky News:
The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more…
…I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef, I just don’t think they’re very objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and you know you can’t blame them, the reef is a beautiful thing.
JCU claimed that Professor Ridd’s comments denigrated the university and the university directed him to make no future such comments.
“The actions of James Cook University (JCU) follow a now-familiar pattern of behaviour by Australia’s universities. The search for truth has been replaced by unquestioning allegiance to consensus, group-think, and orthodoxy. The treatment of Professor Ridd by JCU is no different to what the University of Western Australia did to Bjorn Lomborg in 2015,” said Mr Roskam.
IPA research has found a worsening state of free speech on Australia’s university campuses. The IPA’s Free Speech on Campus Audit 2017 found 34 of Australia’s 42 universities are hostile to free speech on campus through their actions and policies.
‘We will enter a new dark age of unreason if universities are afraid of debate,’ said Mr Roskam.
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February 1, 2018 at 12:39PM