Dear Institute of Physics… (Part II)

Following my statement in March this year that I would leave the IoP if they didn’t withdraw their evidence statement from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigation into the CRU, here’s the result…

Dear Institute of Physics

Thank you for my recent reminder to renew my membership.  Unfortunately I no longer wish to be associated with the IoP.

My concern goes back to March this year when I contacted the Institute regarding their evidence submission to a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigation into the work of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The IoP evidence submission was particularly one sided in its analysis and engaged in wild speculation.  It appeared to have an agenda to undermine the work of the CRU without supplying any evidence to substantiate its claims.  This is clearly irresponsible and inappropriate behaviour from a professional society.  [My quick analysis of it is here.]

The response from the IoP to my concern about this evidence submission was also well below what I expected.  The only specific response [which I can't find on the IoP website now but is reproduced at the bottom of my letter from March 2010 here] was an anonymous note from a member of the board that issued the submission saying that we should be “relaxed” about the process by which the statement was written (despite the fact that “working scientists just don’t have time to [produce the first draft of the statement]”.  If any other responses were issued I suspect I missed them as I had no further communication from the Institute.

The anonymous statement, and refusal to disclose who had actually written the submission, was particularly ironic as the evidence statement was calling for greater openness from the scientists it was criticising!  Furthermore, IoP journals do not even require the level of data “openness” that the submission criticised CRU for not following.

In the end, the HoC S&TC report was very supportive of the CRU so at least your evidence submission had no impact in that respect.  However, the IoP still set a precedent that it is willing to openly criticise the work of scientists without providing any evidence to warrant such an attack.

I am sad to leave the IoP as I have been inspired by some of your work and recognise what you do to promote physics.  However, following this episode, I can no longer support the Institute.

Your faithfully,

Andrew Russell

[In the IoP's defence, I did have some private conversations with a few people from the Institute and they were aware that there was a problem here to be dealt with.  I have no idea if anything was done as they were obviously keen to deal with it in private.  However, I still feel that the IoP should have more open about their efforts to get things in order and that a mistake had been made.]

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2 Responses to “Dear Institute of Physics… (Part II)”

  1. John Mashey Says:

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2010/07/iop-sees-errors-of-its-ways.html

    As a UK academic friend predicted…

  2. John Mashey Says:

    As a postscript, see:

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/03/18/iop-energy-group-founder-featured-speaker-at-upcoming-heartland-conference/#comment-4466

    Terri Jackson is now billing herself:
    64. Terri Jackson, MSc (plasma physics), MPhil (energy economics), Director, Independent Climate Research Group, Northern Ireland and London (Founder of the energy/climate group at the Institute of Physics, London), United Kingdom.

    Note: energy/CLIMATE group….

    Perhaps IOP can help redeem their name by stomping on this officially.

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