May 8, 2015 Bjorn Lomborg’s “consensus centre” at the University of Western Australia, intended to provide academic respectability for a preconceived position held by the Australian Government, is dead. I had been involved with other members of the Royal Society of New South Wales (the oldest learned society in the Southern Hemisphere) in adding our weight to the protest, but events have overtaken us. Here, for posterity, is a copy of the letter that we had prepared, with an impressive list of signatories. If the tide had still needed turning, this might have done the trick:
We, the undersigned Fellows of the Royal Society of New South Wales, wish to express our serious concern that major funding has been made available for an Australian “consensus centre” co-directed by Danish political scientist and statistician Bjørn Lomborg, at a time when funding for serious, community-benefiting research in CSIRO and the universities has been cut so drastically.
It is claimed that the centre will be concerned with cost-benefit analysis of options for our future. This may be so, but the fact is that Dr Lomborg is primarily known for his assertion that the future effects of climate change have been exaggerated, and that little action is needed now apart from ongoing cost-benefit analysis. This largely discredited opinion is in sharp contrast with the views of most scientists, and of such respected international bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This is not to say that the challenging of accepted views should be discouraged – far from it. But the challenge should be based on honest, open, informed discussion, not the transfer of substantial government funding without review to a person whose track record for such discussion is just the opposite. Australian science, with its own proud track record, deserves better treatment.
We call upon the University of Western Australia to reject government funding for this centre as presently conceived, and to set up an independent review board to establish the academic credentials and autonomy from government influence of any similar unit that may be considered in the future. We further suggest to the Australian Government that such measures should be enshrined in law to protect the independence, standards and currently high international reputation of our academic and other research institutions such as CSIRO.
Michael Archer DistFRSN (Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, UNSW)
Peter C Doherty DistFRSN (Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne Medical School, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1996)
Len Fisher FRSN (Visiting Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK)
Donald Hector FRSN (President, the Royal Society of NSW)
Brynn Hibbert FRSN (Vice President; Emeritus Professor of AnalyticalvChemistry, UNSW)
Barry Owen Jones, AC DistFRSN (Former Australian Minister for Science)
Robert Marks FRSN (Emeritus Professor of Economics, UNSW)
Lord May of Oxford DistFRSN (Past President of the Royal Society of London; former Chief Scientific Advisor to UK Government)
Ian Wilkinson FRSN (Honorary Professor, Discipline of Marketing, University of Sydney Business School; Professor, Institute for Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark
Louise Young FRSN (Research Director, School of Business, University of Western Sydney; Visiting Professor, Institute for Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark)