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« Just what is DFiD spending money on? | Main | Cheers, Gavin! - Josh 349 »
Thursday
Oct292015

Buying research

There is a rather interesting article in Times Higher Education today. It considers the question of whether academics are getting a reputation as being for sale. Actually I'm not sure why this is considered a question, as evidence that a significant proportion of academics will write a paper to show pretty much anything is hardly lacking. Who can forget the round robin from WWF to climate scientists trying to find someone to write a paper linking a heatwave in France to climate change? Or the Sarah Muckherjee's claim that most climate research was funded by big green.

The LSE's relationship with its funders has been the source of constant entertainment here at BH, with Colonel Gaddaffi and Jeremy Grantham apparently getting good value for money, so it's fun to see the article uncover that these are not the only parts of the LSE where money seems to be talking. The now notorious "charity" Kids Company seems to have been an active funder of "research" there:

In interviews, the charity’s chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh, cited a 2013 report from researchers at the London School of Economics as evidence that the organisation was well managed. However, neither she nor the report itself pointed out that the study had been funded by a £40,000 grant from Kids Company.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (30)

I'm increasingly convinced that it is far better to be honest that academics are for sale and to know who is buying them, than the present shambolic arrangement where they pretend to be impartial whilst being climate extremists.

Oct 29, 2015 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

It is sadly noted that "engineers" are omitted from the list/graphic, suggesting to me, as a practicing engineer, that we have fallen back into the oily rag catagory from which we strived for many a year to extricate ourselves! :-(

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Meanwhile any contrary research is dismissed out of hand because it must have been funded by someone with a vested interest in [insert evil practice of choice here].
Do they never understand that the more they demonise people like (for example) Willie Soon, the more people listen to what he has to say? Or that they are every bit as 'guilty' as he is?
I was taken with something I heard the other day: "It's the letter that matters; not the envelope".

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I think there's an underlying issue where nobody is admitting that peer review is not fit for the purpose it's being used for. Who has paid for research should be irrelevant so long as the results are valid. The key word being 'valid'. There is currently no system for determining if science papers are good or not. The massive numbers of journals and the limited amount of checking done, means that apart from following archaic style rules, there are almost no barriers to any old poop being published. I'm not just talking about climate science here. I've said it before, but journals are little more than trade magazines. Who would give anyone any serious regard if they said they'd been widely published in Tractors Monthly or Chip Shop News? But choose a magazine with a serious title and suddenly being published means the world. Many so called science articles are now amounting to little more than gossip. What is the consensus other than gut feeling rather than fact?

In some ways medical papers are as bad as climate science. If all the things that are supposed to kill us were added up we'd be dead before finishing the next article. By simple observation, they can't all be right. In which case, what value are any of them? Some experts are made by counting up these articles, not by any demonstrable success (Dr Lew). How many times have you watched an expert on tv waffing about their pet theory and you're shouting a few obvious questions at the screen? The first person to question science shouldn't be the public. And scientists wonder why nobody listens to them any more.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

A related dimension to this is that most funding is taxpayers' money, yet as we see in climate research funding, it determines the outcome of research from before the work is started.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Do the LSE have a standard fee scale for proving an economic case for something? Do they charge extra for blindfolding their reasearchers, so they can't see the obvious problems?

Presumably the LSE's bank accounts are positive proof that the LSE's methods of dealing with their own self-centred financial morality are very successful.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Kids Company share many of the mores of that other Kidz Corp: they seem to think that they have done no wrong because they "were audited every year by independents". - which later turned out to mean that they carried out their own self-assessments. I bet they found they were 97% compliant - while they managed to get through £120M over 13 years..

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

"Academics for sale".

Who in their right mind would ever consider buying an academic. You would be safe with malaria.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

The article is mainly about financial interests biasing research but there are other biases too. Political view point; social perception (eg 'green' being considered good); personality (eg Camila Batmanghelidjh, will have blinded researchers with her persona as much as, if not far more than any money that changed hands); urgency; and many other factors that have nothing to do with science.

I even suspect the validity of the chart on trust. People might think they trust a scientist more than a journalist but it's not as clear cut as that. Journalists can sway how people think and behave any day with the right words whereas scientists have to do something extraordinary to be even noticed. Most of the time both professions just feed what people already think. People pick and choose when they trust in science and are more likely to trust where something has no impact on their lives (eg astronomy) than where they have to make a personal decision (eg vaccination). That's why trust in science is irrelevant to climate change. The burden of proof goes way up because of the hardships responding to the science. Suddenly the PhD means very little because the science has to stand up to tougher tests of validity. It’s the same as how you’d trust a mate to pay back a fiver but you’d take longer to decide to loan £5000, if at all.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Does anyone know whether the BBC's Alan Yentob comes out of the Kids Company financial irregularities unscathed? He seems to have been very convinced there was nothing wrong, and put his credibility with BBC staff at risk, imposing his opinion above impartiality.

Giving financial fraud the "Full Yentob" seal of approval, does not inspire any confidence in the BBC. An opinion shared by those not working for the BBC.

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Kids Company. Sigh. One of my lads runs a cafe in the middle of a big city; the premises were shared with Kids Company. Batwoman would often be there. She liked to hand out wads of notes to kids. Within an hour, the kids would be back, smashed out of their tiny little heads. This happened on a daily basis.

Great use of taxpayer money.

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

The kids company self-assessments sound a lot like the Met Office self-assessments that permit them to say they are at the top of their own list of worldwide forecasters.

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"...will have blinded researchers with her persona ..."
Or her clothes!

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I certainly remember when "engaging" with those of an Alarmist viewpoint in the past that they would constantly refer to their research demigods work as being Peer Reviewed as tho' this mere fact alone made the findings unassailable - beyond question.

To question such work real did make you some sort of heretic

However - every single one of my peer group when discussing this recognised the fact that within a Mutual Admiration Society - Peer Review really does degenerate into "Pal review".

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

JamesG, yeah that too. I think that is part of her con. She dresses up in 'ethnic' clothes to shut down debate over her dodgy behaviour. It's a habit guaranteed to appeal to Guadianistas, Aunty Beebers and government ministers alike who all want to fit in with minorities and kidz. She's like a walking Tracy Emin exhibition. If you don't like her it's because you're white, middle class, middle aged and conservative. You're not a sage grown up who can see that this time the empress isn't naked, she's wearing the entire wardrobe.

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

The LSE's star turn is not a scientist, but lil' Bobby Ward who must be one of the world's foremost liars. He tweets all die and night, even during the weekend. It makes me wonder if Grantham's got him testing out the new junior doctor's contract for Jeremy Hunt.

Is this Stockholm Syndrome ? Has Bob started to believe his own lies ? We'll never know.


I suspect that's what happens to organisations like Kid's company. Their egos get bloated by their own lies

Oct 29, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Smiffy: I'd love to believe it was really Kids' Company - but I guess that neither one nor all got much of a say in it. But someone got filthy bloody rich on the back of it.

Oct 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

If Camilla Batmangimmiecash gave LSE £40, 000 for a glowing report, that was not an audit, then what else are LSE not experts on, that they will happily take money for?

Camilla obviosly found it excellent value for money, as she got loads more cash as a result.

LSE are obviously highly regarded by fraudsters and corrupt national dictators, who judge professionalism and integrity based on what money can buy.

Oct 29, 2015 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The opening line form the LSE kids company 'report ' was all you needed to know about how poor the quality of this was and who much the report writer had 'bought into ' the whole Batmanghelidjh theme , has it contained nothing but frankly embarrassing gushing prose.

Cash for ‘research’ not usual at all , it has been true for years that in designing research you needed to consider the ‘needs of the funders ‘. Although climate ‘science’ has taken it to hysterically new levels where by the quality of your research means little or nothing, which is a good thing given many of the people working in this area cannot do quality , all that matters is the ‘impact’ of the claims that can made from this research.

esmiff Bob 'fast fingers ' Ward does not and has not ever worked for the LSE , he does no research nor teaching for them , he is Grahams bitch whose merely works in a building on the LSE campus, I write this so the world’s worst PR person does not get a gram of credit he simply has no right to.

Oct 29, 2015 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

As usual, Brignell says it well:


By its very nature, the Establishment is populated by people who get their kicks out of pushing other people around. It controls funding and most of the media. It is not so omnipotent that it can proceed without evidence, so it buys the evidence it needs. It does not commission research, it commissions results. So, for example, if the existence of the Little Ice Age and the Mediaeval Warm Period are inconvenient, in true Orwellian fashion it pays someone to “prove” that they never happened, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from art, history and science.

Oct 29, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Slop

AS Schrodinger's Cat and others say there is a major difference between funding a paper, and funding a paper to produce a pre-ordained result, required by the sponsor.

Tiny CO2
I' m afraid I had to laugh when one newspaper columnist described "Batwoman" as looking like a discarded pile of Aladdin's laundry.

Oct 29, 2015 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

It amazes me that some policy needs science. We really didn't need cancer studies in order to ban smoking in pubs; the fact that the smoke annoyed non-smokers was always sufficient reason. Same thing with soot emissions annoying pedestrians. If politicians have decided to get rid of all other fugitive emissions then fair enough - lets stop spending money on useless adaptation reports, climate models, economic models, conferences, quangos and other talking shops and just give the money instead to the engineers to sort it all out. If we can't do it for a reasonable price then tough - we just have to either live with fossil fuels or send our pensioners abroad to sunnier climes.

Oct 29, 2015 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

This is only an issue because policy for possible climate effects is directly coupled to raw climate science. The IPCC doesn't help as it was created to sum science in a way that was allegedly useful for policy. This in itself circumvents common sense as you really don't want to be using raw science for anything.

If we didn't have this then literally it all would be academic.

Oct 29, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

I wish to register a complaint. I've never been offered a penny to write a fraudulent report or paper on any topic. Snot fair.

I have known of a few bent scientists - thieves of other people's ideas or data, that sort of thing. An actual thief of property too, and accounting scammers: you know the sort of thing - wife on payroll under maiden name who contributes no work at all. Given that, I still manage to be astonished at the effrontery of taking money from a "charity" to bull it up. But then I've never worked at the LSE.

Oct 29, 2015 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Powerful forces are at work in climate science. CO2 as a harmless trace gas is not one of them.

Given the extra growth of edible crops, it is surprising that vegetatians and vegans aren't fully supportive of CO2's role in enhancing food production with nature's most natural growth stimulant.

Oct 29, 2015 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Wasn't James hacker of yes minister fame taught at the LSE, much to the disgust of Humphrey?

I hope this report resurfaces in the current look at her finances, and as others have said, how many more times has a supposedly academic organisation been paid to say nice things about the climate organisation sponsoring that research.

I think it also demonstrates the gullibility of govt when they think they are supporting a popular cause.

Tonyb

Oct 29, 2015 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyb

Jeremy Poynton Oct 29, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Kids Company. Sigh. One of my lads runs a cafe in the middle of a big city; the premises were shared with Kids Company. Batwoman would often be there. She liked to hand out wads of notes to kids. Within an hour, the kids would be back, smashed out of their tiny little heads. This happened on a daily basis.

You should ask your lad to share his experiences with MSM

Daily Telegraph: dtnews@telegraph.co.uk
Sunday Telegraph: stnews@telegraph.co.uk

Daily Mail: news@mailonline.co.uk

Oct 29, 2015 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

It would be interesting to tender everyone on the Heartland masthead a four million dollar contract buyout to become Greenpeace interns , Just to see if anyone declined the offer

Oct 30, 2015 at 6:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

There is a good article in the Mail, revealing the fantasy land that this lady inhabits.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3214710/Why-does-Kids-Company-Camila-tell-tall-stories-life-troubling-investigation-reveals-colourful-acount-past-doesn-t-quite-add-up.html

I had read the "Glamour" magazine article they quote, some classic tales: http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/celebrity/celebrity-galleries/2015/05/camila-batmanghelidjh-interview-2015-kids-company-and-place-2be

"I used to work at nurseries in the holidays. I soon realised I was good with disturbed toddlers. There were children who used to bite their fingers, then draw on the wall with blood, others would cut up Persian carpets or jump through Francis Bacon paintings."

"It was while I was at university I was reunited with my dad. The police had informed me that he'd escaped across the border from Iran to Turkey. He'd skinned a sheep, used it as a coat, and swam across the sea."

Great swimming costume, especially when there is no sea between Iran and Turkey....

Oct 30, 2015 at 4:54 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

On buying science, here's the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation from 1974 detailing how to put money into education to promote ecological "transformers'': http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED107165.pdf but I guess that's good buying of science.

Oct 31, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterantman

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