A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Monday, March 07, 2005

On prizing my role as an independent academic.....

The following story in yesterday's The Observer highlights one of the prime reasons why I value so highly my complete independence as a free academic: '"Denial lobby" turns up the heat' (The Observer, March 6). Just examine for a moment this passage taken from the piece:
"Connections have already been established between some British sceptical organisations and their US cousins. The UK-based Scientific Alliance, which organised the meeting of sceptics in London last month, recently published a joint report with America's George C Marshall Institute, a think-tank which has received donations from Exxon."

You will notice that this employs the standard activist (and journalistic) conceit of trying to besmirch one group of people by asserting a long-distance association with another (more hated) organisation: thus, the very thoughtful UK-based Scientific Alliance is linked by just one report to America's George C. Marshall Institute, and then, by a wonderful sleight of hand, to, of course, who else, but Exxon.

I should thus be most grateful if readers would note that I am no longer a member of any organisation, from Greenpeace to Exxon (and not even of the Scientific Alliance), precisely so that I can maintain an absolute independence of opinion and a necessary freedom from all such attenuated journalistic slights. Thus, if you ever see, or hear, of attempts to link me with any group whatsoever, I should be most grateful if you would try to correct the error for me. Thank you so much.

Moreover, I have written for The Guardian, for The Times and for The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, I will write for any reasonable outlet, so long as it permits me to express my own views without editorial distortion. Only last year, however, I had to withdraw a piece from a magazine because the editor wished to alter the meaning of what I wanted to say.

If, therefore, my comments have any value at all, it is because I receive no payments or support from any vested interests. I very much hope that folk will remember this when I am in discussion on the radio or on television with a representative of a Green pressure group or with someone from industry, both of whom have vested interests. In such situations, I am, for good or ill, the only independent person under interview, and I can assure you that, right or wrong, I make up my own mind on all the evidence available. And, if that happens to make me a 'global warming' sceptic, so be it. But, at least, I trust people will do me the honour of accepting that I have arrived at my position through my own, honest endeavours.

Philip, all too well aware that the politics of science has become a very dirty game. But remember, truth is what matters, however much we only perceive it through a glass darkly. And what we do not know is so often the greater truth. Off to London to broadcast - independently.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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