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Paul and the pug dog

Under Paul Nurse's stewardship, the Royal Society has taken some, ahem, interesting decisions. Its latest though is quite extraordinary. The society has hilariously decided to award the lucrative Wolfson Research Merit award to Stephan Lewandowsky! Jo Nova has the story.

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?

It's hard to imagine anything funnier. If Manchester United signed up a three-legged pug dog to play centre forward you wouldn't laugh any less.

First Erlich, now Lewandowsky. What next? Homeopaths? A fellowship for Kim Jong Il? A cabbage patch doll?

I wonder what the fellows make of it?


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Reader Comments (64)

From the Royal Society website:-

'This scheme is for outstanding scientists who would benefit from a five year salary enhancement to help recruit them to or retain them in the UK. The scheme provides universities with additional support to enable them to recruit or retain respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential to the UK. It provides a salary enhancement which is paid by the university in addition to the basic salary. The scheme covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine. The scheme is jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society.

The focus of the award is a salary enhancement, usually in the range of £10,000 to £30,000 per annum. Applications are initially reviewed by members of the Wolfson Research Merit Awards Panel with the most appropriate scientific expertise. The applications are reviewed by two independent referees suggested by the panel members. The selection panel then meets to consider each nomination taking into account the nominated and independent references. Finally, the recommendations are sent to the Wolfson Foundation for approval, after which the applicants are notified of the result.'

Life and physical sciences, including engineering - does he even qualify for consideration?

Something is very rotten in the state of the Royal Society. What are they smoking?

Apr 28, 2013 at 9:17 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

The day that, self parody became an essential ART and science died of embarrassment at the RS .


Apr 28, 2013 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Removes all doubt, doesn't it?

Apr 28, 2013 at 9:31 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Next will be Borat.
And then that korean guy from Gangnam Style.

Apr 28, 2013 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

+1 Pharos - drug test the lot of 'em.

One thing that I noticed was that :

The applicant must:

* hold a permanent post at a university in the UK or have received a firm offer to take effect from the start of the award.

*have their basic salary wholly funded by the university.

Does this mean that the clown is swapping hemispheres? - has somebody hacked the RS? - or - can they just make up the rules as the game progresses? - I suppose that Sir Paul might have been impressed with the man - who I assume he met on his recent visit downunder - I haven't looked at who the "prize committee" are - that's got to be a telling list of people not fit to run a welk stall.

Anyway you look at it - the RS slides down... and down...

Apr 28, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Registered Commentertomo

A great day for Australia. They are so lucky to be seeing the back of him.

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

This should be investigated by Newsnight. All they have to do to get started is type "Lewandowsky junk" into google and go from there.

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

April 1st?

The Royal Society supported phlogiston, militated against accurate chronometers to determine longitude, thought that eugenics was a science, and felt that heavy than air flying machines were a physical impossibility. Perhaps they just wanted to add Lewandowskiism to their list of 'achievements'?

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Mmmm ye’know I dunno about worrying about awards and value systems like this. I have just finished the rather excellent Antifragile by Nassim Taleb and a lot of what he says about peoples reliance on overt award systems today strikes me as truthful.

I.e. that they are an affectation that can only be useful as prompting us to make the observation of an increased likelihood of the lack of worth of something.

I mean here is a good excerpt:

Marketing is bad manners—and I rely on my naturalistic and ecological instincts. Say you run into a person during a boat cruise.
What would you do if he started boasting of his accomplishments, telling you how great, rich, tall, impressive, skilled, famous, muscular, well educated, efficient, and good in bed he is, plus other attributes? You would certainly run away (or put him in contact with another talkative bore to get rid of both of them). It is clearly much better if others (preferably someone other than his mother) are the ones saying good things about him, and it would be nice if he acted with some personal humility.

Actually this is not at all farfetched.

As I was writing this book, I overheard on a British Air flight a gentleman explain to the flight attendant less than two seconds into the conversation (meant to be about whether he liked cream and sugar in his coffee) that he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine “and Physiology” in addition to being the president of a famous monarchal academy. The flight attendant did not know what the Nobel was, but was polite, so he kept repeating “the Nobel Prize” hoping that she would wake up from her ignorance. I turned around and
recognized him, and the character suddenly deflated. As the saying goes, it is hardest to be a great man to one’s chambermaid. And marketing beyond conveying information is insecurity.

We accept that people who boast are boastful and turn people off.

How about companies? Why aren't we turned off by companies that advertise how great they are? We have three layers of violations:
First layer, the mild violation: companies are shamelessly selfpromotional, like the man on the British Air flight, and it only harms them.
Second layer, the more serious violation: companies trying to represent themselves in the most favorable light possible, hiding the defects of their products—still harmless, as we tend to expect it and rely on the opinion of users.

Third layer, the even more serious violation: companies trying to misrepresent the product they sell by playing with our cognitive biases, our unconscious associations, and that’s sneaky. The latter is done by, say, showing a poetic picture of a sunset with a cowboy smoking and forcing an association between great romantic moments and some given product that, logically, has no possible connection to it. You seek a romantic moment and what you get is cancer.

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:17 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

ZT - is the difference that Lewandowsky is demonstrably rubbish in the here and now in which they are honouring him?

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Brilliant TLITB

boasting "...that he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine “and Physiology” in addition to being the president of a famous monarchal academy." Sir Paul Nurse!

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Registered CommenterQ

RS almost had to sell its own building because of poor finical management, well it looks like it want to make its scientific standards down the same path .

[You are confusing the RS with the Royal Institution]

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

not banned yet - in fact they don't even need to type the word junk. Just google Stephan Lewandowsky and the WUWT Lewandowsky category comes up second on the list, followed not far below by Jo Nova's.

In fact it seems from the Bristol website that Lew got his RS award for work "which addresses how people navigate the blizzard of information with which we are faced on a daily basis, not all of which is accurate or truthful." In a way, that's rather appropriate.

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

".. If Manchester United signed up a three-legged pug dog to play centre forward .."
How very apt! At first I thought you meant Robert Lewandowski who scored 4 goals for Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid on Thursday night. On second thoughts, Robert's probably more deserving of the award.

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterVftS

Here's the thing - there really is no space where-in to claim that Lewandowsky could be doing some weird quantum thing that is beyond the ken of the little man.

Lewandowsky is clearly doing politically motivated pseudo-science that is easy to see.

So now it really is not hard to see that the RS is willingly associating itself with that.


Unlike like a lot here I am not a big fan of universities or societies and such like so this kind of self-immolation can’t be done quick enough for my liking

Burn it down ;)

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:00 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

From Pharos description in the first comment it is hard to see what the Royal Society have to do with the award. It appears to be under Wolfson's control?

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Bloody whingeing dons.

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

I suspect that they have seen the writing on the wall, and are getting all their chums into cosy sinecures so that they can overwinter until the next scam comes online...

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Paul - the irony of it is painful. IMO this should be a resignation issue for any member of the RS who actually values science.

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Rob - scheme notes in the right side bar here:

My reading is that Wolfson have final approval over candidates presented by the RS run process. Info on funding suggests it is half from Wolson and half from RS and/or BIS.

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I think Royal Society failures generally represent the triumphs of stupidity and stubbornness of their day - (not the science of the day) - much like Lewandowsky.

And what of Bristol University's role, the organization that handed Julia Slingo a PhD in exchange for some 'climotology reviewed (tm)' papers? Has the West of England been taken over by the a clown troupe or is this a scheme designed to account for the rhyming slang?

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

First I checked my diary. No April 1st has been and gone.
Then I asked my wife if had she noticed any signs of madness in me. No more than usual:-)

Then it clicked.

The Central Committee (Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик) of the Royal Society has taken a collective leave of its senses.

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

First reported at
Apr 27, 2013 at 4:27 PM | geoffchambers
Does His Grace read His Grace’s blog?
(Jo does hat tip me)
and see

[Sorry Geoff, missed that tip. I don't have time to read all comments, although I try to read unthreaded in case there is something important there.]

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:25 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Rob Burton

From Pharos description in the first comment it is hard to see what the Royal Society have to do with the award. It appears to be under Wolfson's control?

See this?->

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has announced the appointment of 27 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders.

See how the horse shit – sorry Royalshit society associated themselves with that?

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:28 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I think the reason for all this is in the other end of the push pull equation. What package did "they" have to put together to get Lew to leave Oz and the embarrassment he had caused his former employer? It would look too much like a victory for us to fire him or force him to resign. Have him move to the other side of the world for a chance of a lifetime and a prestigious prize on the other hand...

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterduncan

Wolfson Research Merit award

Merit: (clearly formerly) The quality of being particularly good or worthy, esp. so as to deserve praise or reward.

So how many other perfectly serviceable English words/phrases actually need to be redefined? They've comprehensively rogered 'peer review' - what the heck did 'merit' do to deserve this fate?

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:33 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Oh, come on, is there nothing our much-vaunted Border Agency gan do to prevent the entry of career fraudsters?

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:35 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Beyond parody. Delingpole should have a field day.

Apr 28, 2013 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Lewandowsky's U West Australia student, Simon Farrell, has been at Bristol since 2003. He brought Lew over for a look around in 2005"

"Benjamin Meaker Fellowship (University of Bristol) to support the visit of Prof Stephan
Lewandowsky in November 2005 (£700)."

Apr 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

The reality is that the attack dogs are out in Australia's UWA. It's presumably because Lewandowsky has been so damaging that they decided to get rid of him. Bristol has an old research student of his so it was an obvious place to retire out of harm's way.

The other side of this is the Marxism in Academia in the UK has led to the rejection of scholarship in favour of propaganda.

Apr 29, 2013 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecm

Bish: I think you have left things a bit late for Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong-Un, perhaps. Although I would be wary about trusting anyone named after the United Nations.

Apr 29, 2013 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

GC, if Lewandowsky can win a 'merit' award, Kim Jong Il is an absolute shoo-in for a 'services to eternal life' award.

Apr 29, 2013 at 12:31 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Lewandowsky has moved to be near the Severn Bore.

His next paper, written with the help of John Cook, will debunk the claims of the sceptics who say that sea-level rise is only 1.5mm per year by presenting evidence that it is now rising at the rate of 15 metres per day.

Obviously, it will be "unprecendented" - not the sea-level rise bit but the "presenting evidence" bit!

Apr 29, 2013 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

One word,

Apr 29, 2013 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Mike

Will they be endorsing Phrenology next?

Apr 29, 2013 at 1:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

I thought that a loose translation of the RS motto is 'Don't believe a word that anyone says
Surely that makes Lew a prime candidate for his award.
I don't believe a word he says.

Apr 29, 2013 at 1:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Apr 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Paul Matthews

In fact it seems from the Bristol website that Lew got his RS award for work "which addresses how people navigate the blizzard of information with which we are faced on a daily basis, not all of which is accurate or truthful." In a way, that's rather appropriate.

True, but this would mean that they've granted him this prestigious award for investigations pursuant to his own work, would it not?! A conflict of interest if ever there was one, methinks!

Who knows, perhaps even as we type Ludicrous Lew is dutifully gathering hay "data" for his next conspiracy ideation opus;-)

As for the RS' continued involvement in "redefining" academic standards, there is little that I can say that hasn't been said by others. IOW, in the immortal words of that paragon of scientific virtue, Kevin Trenberth, "It's a travesty".

Apr 29, 2013 at 1:53 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

He, he...... we're sending you Professor Flannery next. Although he might come of his own free will. There may be a swag of "climatologists" scratching for something to do after the September election.

Apr 29, 2013 at 3:27 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Speaking as an Aussie, this is great news... two birds with one stone.

Not only has Lew moved on, but the uber-smug "Shaping Tomorrow's World" blog has seen no action since the Recursive Stupidity nonsense, and probably, you'd think, won't again. Most excellent news all round.

Now, if only we could deal with Cook...

Apr 29, 2013 at 4:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermct

Here's yet another Aussie delighted at the news of the UK's good fortune. As GrantB says, come September you can expect a whole raft of wannabe emigrés to come knocking on your doors. Hasten the day.

Apr 29, 2013 at 5:11 AM | Registered CommenterMique

What's all this about

"<I> an imaginary group of humans called “Climate deniers”. Neither he, nor anyone else has ever met one " ?

Jo Nova should attend more Heartland conferences or buy a mirror.

Apr 29, 2013 at 6:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

If you can't comprehend what a monumentally stupid and meaningless term "climate denier" is, then sadly, there is little hope for you. The term is a "robust" proxy for the intellectual level of those who use it.

Apr 29, 2013 at 6:36 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Russell mate, I've never met anyone who denies we have a climate -- have you?
The English language is pretty straight on what both those words mean. English-denial, anyone?

Apr 29, 2013 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo Nova

I suspect some form of the old boy network has helped Lewandowsky get this grant.

Apr 29, 2013 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrygve Eklund

Stop press...

The Royal Society has decided to take this sort of Pop-Science further.

Their Journal has appointed a new Editor to reflect how Nurse wants the RS to be perceived and promote science, especially with regards the Global Warming issue. He wants more headline grabbing front pages to show that Global Warming is real...

Latest front page of the Royal Society Journal

Apr 29, 2013 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Ps. Sorry my previous post only works as humour to British readers and is homage to the Sunday Sport

Apr 29, 2013 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

it seems to me the 'fellows' have no spines.

This is after all said and done, being done in their names.

They should be ashamed to lie down and take it like this.

Apr 29, 2013 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Curious, I wonder if this was always on the cards for services rendered as the wheels seem to have been in motion before his most recent publications. On a tangent it reminded of the curious story of Orange County lifeguards and their salaries:

According to a city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation; one lifeguard collected $98,160.65. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation respectively. Even excluding benefits like health care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for “Sun Protection.” Many work four days a week, 10 hours a day.

I wondered what you had to have done to be given a position like that? Obviously climate scientists aren’t (in general) Hoff / Pamela Anderson types that can be given cushy beach jobs after they have done their duty in the way (extreme speculation) some special forces operatives might. Although anything is possible and maybe when Michael Mann is put out to pasture he will be given a similar role at Newport Beach – lifeguard in charge of monitoring sea level rise. I imagine a ruler wouldn’t be precise enough to measure the rise and he’d stick a tree core in the water and see which ring it came upto.

Apr 29, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

Birds of a feather......

Apr 29, 2013 at 9:04 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Beautiful. Tom Wolfe:

"While Malcolm Muggeridge was the editor of Punch, it was announced that Khrushchev and Bulganin were coming to England. Muggeridge hit upon the idea of a mock itinerary, a lineup of the most ludicrous places the two paunchy pear-shaped little Soviet leaders could possibly be paraded through during the solemn process of a state visit. Shortly before press time, half the feature had to be scrapped. It coincided exactly with the official itinerary, just released, prompting Muggeridge to observe: We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to be funny. There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known."

Apr 29, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Lane

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