Freedom of Information Update

FOI update

Lewandowsky – Universtiy of Western Australia

Graham Readfearn complains at DeSmogBlog that climate bloggers including myself are:

“using FOI to rifle through scientists’ daily emails.

[FOI] is a law which appears to have been hijacked by climate science sceptics and free market think tanks as a means to rifle through their inboxes in search of anything which, when taken out of context, might be used to make them look bad.”

This has resulted in a release this week of more than 300 pages of correspondence, although the applicant, “Australian Climate Madness” blogger Simon Turnill, has yet to publish the files. Lewandowsky said:

“There will have been easily more than 100 person hours of publicly-funded time spent dealing with this request, which cost the applicant only $30 to submit – although I understand there was an charge of $400. Putting in FOI requests seems to be common practice now. There is no question in my mind that the intent is to intimidate and slow down research. These kinds of requests discourage scientists from doing their work.”

Yes, it cost me over $400, and like anyone else I am fully entitled to apply for documents under the Freedom of Information Act without having to give any justification, because I was curious to see how such a piece of research was ever agreed to by University of WA’s ethics department.

And no, the intention was never to “intimidate and slow down research”, it is to subject academics who vilify sceptics to proper scrutiny. I have only ever submitted FOI requests when a highly questionable claim is made in the mainstream media, as was the case here, namely that sceptics believed the moon landings were faked. In total, I have submitted just four FOI requests in two and a half years on just two news stories – hardly what can be regarded as vexatious.

Lewandowsky obviously forgets that our taxes (including mine) pay his salary. When he uses his publicly funded position to launch highly politicised attacks on those he disagrees with, thinly disguised as academic research, then there are likely to be people who find that offensive.

As to why the documents have not been published, it is because there are a number of key emails between Professor Lewandowsky and a significant third party which have been withheld because of the third party’s objection. I am awaiting the release of those documents in due course, following which I will be commenting further on them.

As an aside, I must mention that the FOI department at the University of Western Australia has been exemplary in its handling of this matter.

Death threats – Melbourne University

Readfearn correctly states that I recently received emails under an FOI from Melbourne University. Once again, the “non-death threats” story made the mainstream media throughout the world. It is entirely proper for such claims to be backed up by documentary evidence. Emails received from the ANU showed that whilst there was abuse, there were no death threats. In other words, the FOI was justified in providing a proper background to the story which the mainstream media failed to provide.

As with the UWA, I must give Melbourne University credit for the professional manner in which the request was dealt with. Both it and the University of Western Australia are in stark contrast to the handling of the FOI request by ANU, which was initially refused, forcing me to appeal to the Information Commissioner.

I am still working on these, but guess what? The worst I can find is: “Die you lying bastard”. Unpleasant and distressing? Certainly. A death threat? Certainly not.

More importantly, however, one of the scientists involved, a prominent name in climate circles, even admits that the timing of the death threats story was a “media beat up”, and that there was no evidence of a “conspiracy” by sceptics to intimidate climate scientists.

What do you make of that, Graham?


  1. Scrutiny, checks and balances, double checks, reviews, investigation, debate, audit = HIGH QUALITY SCIENCE.

  2. A MOST interesting article for those who feel the climate alarmists need to be exposed.

  3. So basically your FOI requests have revealed information that was relevant and previously unknown to the wider public.
    It was, however, inconvenient for Redfearn and that is the real problem.

  4. Looks like the alarmists are whinging to me.

  5. Justthinkin says:

    “These kinds of requests discourage scientists from doing their work.”

    Bwahahahahahha. Is Lewndosky certifiable? If you where “doing” your job properly in the first place,Sir,these FOI’s should be absolutely no problem.Methinks him and the rest of his religion of cAGW protest too much.

  6. Having read many of Stephen Lewandowsky’s articles, he never once acknowledges that skeptics have anything useful to say. Similarly, the paper “NASA faked the moon landing — Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax:An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” never once acknowledges that there might be an issue. Further, in the ensuing exchange with Steve McIntyre (and others), Lewandowsky never came close to admitting that his statistical analysis might be in any way incomplete, or flawed.
    He has received $1.7m of taxpayer funding on schemes to demonize anyone who criticizes his dogmatic beliefs. The effect will be to neuter any scrutiny of a group of highly dogmatic people. Please keep up the good work.

  7. Blair Giles via Facebook says:

    Thanks for the update, Simon. Always makes me smile when these people get so pissed off at being held accountable.

  8. Great Work Simon!

  9. Drapetomania says:

    Great work Simon..
    Desmog blog??Are they still around..I forgot that PR/Spin site which is a greenwash front group with paid posters was still around..
    I love the spin these guys place on any form of unpaid work of citizens like yourself do by spending your own money and checking where our money is going.
    I love the way Lewandowsky even spins the charges..$30..then he mentions the $400..and whats this bit mean “intimidate and slow down research”..when is Lewandowsky starting to do research.??

  10. Give the guy a break, he’s in a profession with about a 30% “cure” rate. While this rate is far and away better than his climate science modelers can attain, it must hurt not to be a “real” scientist.
    This feeling of “being a dumb ass” is probably manifesting itself by his lashing out at anyone or thing he feels is threatening his private gravy train.
    Perhaps he should talk to a good psychologist about these misguided beliefs…

  11. Oops, my bad….I thought Lewandowsky was the one whining….sigh

    [He’s whining too… Ed]

  12. Streetcred says:

    How good would it be if those two dumb-asses from FM-2Day pranked [snip] – great idea, but just over the line!

  13. Bryan Harris says:

    Accountability and any freedom to the truth will be the first things to go when the UN achieves its objectives – Who the hell are we, common garden humanoids, that we should be able to subject the political elite to investigation and scrutiny.
    It’s not just that these people want to suppress the truth, with all the ramifications that holds, but they twist their lies with elements of truth, to confuse and bring everything into chaos – Anybody that does this, in a sane world, would need escorting at all times – Here they have great power and use it against any decent approach to life or in anyone intent on finding out what is true.

  14. Great job Simon – thanks for your efforts in bringing their shameful work to some scrutiny.

  15. When anger becomes a “legitimate” substitute for scientific argument there is a problem.

  16. I agree about the whole accountability thing. Keep applying the pressure. You’re doing a great job!

  17. Owen Morgan says:

    “The Liberal War on Transparency”, by Christopher Horner, is well worth a read. Horner’s essential point is that the left, emphatically including the global warming priesthood, thought of Freedom of Information legislation as a weapon in its own armoury. When anyone on the political right submits a FoI request, on the other hand, that is treated as an affront. Horner shows, largely (but by no means exclusively) from his own experience, how US bureaucracy is systematically biased against FoI requests emanating from what Obama would call “the enemy”. Requests that might be turned round in a day for leftists are delayed, stonewalled, or simply ignored, if they are submitted by people deemed to be of the demonised right.

    In Britain, we have something similar. We have a nominally right-of-centre government (not that you’d notice), but the bureaucracy is stiff, anyway, with the useless appointees from the labour government’s disastrous time in office. It was labour that introduced FoI and labour that immediately started to try to subvert it. Whitehall continues to mull over ways to stifle FoI. I think the favourite idea is to charge extortionate fees for replying to FoI requests, a tactic Horner reports as widespread in the American context, too.

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