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Peter Ridd: Scientific Misconduct At James Cook University Confirms My Worst Fears

January 10, 2020
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood


 New evidence of more incompetence – or worse- at James Cook University, brought by Peter Ridd:



The paper by Timothy Clark, Graham Raby, Dominique Roche, Sandra Binning, Ben Speers-Roesch, Frederik Jutfelt and Josefin Sundin (Clark et al., 2020) is a magnificent example of a comprehensive and very brave scientific replication study. The 7 scientists repeated experiments documented in eight previous studies on the effect of climate change on coral reef fish to see if they were correct.

Clark et al. (2020) found 100% replication failure. None of the findings of the original eight studies were found to be correct.

All the erroneous studies were done by scientists from James Cook Universities highly prestigious Coral Reef Centre. They were published in high profile journals, and attracted considerable media attention.

The major findings of the original studies that were found to be wrong were that high CO2 concentrations cause small reef fish to

* lose their ability to smell predators, and can even become attracted towards the scent of predators,

* become hyper-active,

* loose their tendency to automatically swim either left or right, and,

* have impaired vision.

This is the second time these 7 authors have got together to reveal a major scientific scandal. They were the whistle blowers of the infamous Lonnstedt scientific fraud in 2018. Lonnstedt, originally a PhD student at JCU, is also one of the scientists involved with these latest erroneous studies. She was found guilty of fabricating data in Sweden.

JCU has failed to properly investigate possible scientific fraud by Lonnstedt. Government funding agencies should insist that the highest responsible officer at JCU be sacked to send a message that institutions must take fraud seriously and not try to cover it up.

I was fired from JCU in 2018 after stating that work from JCU’s coral reef centre was not trustworthy. The latest work by Clark et al. (2020) is more evidence that those comments had considerable substance.

I was awarded $1.2M for wrongful dismissal by the Federal Circuit Court in 2019. JCU has appealed the decision which will be heard in May.

Replication and Science Quality Assurance

Clark et al. (2020) is exactly the type of replication study that I have been requesting for other scientific evidence regarding the Great Barrier Reef.

Such replication studies have been opposed by all the major GBR science institutions.

Clark et al. (2020) shows a 100% failure rate of the replication tests, which is higher than the science standard of about 50% failure rate for most peer reviewed literature.

Clark et al. (2020) demonstrates, yet again, the inadequacy of peer review as a quality assurance check for scientific evidence that may be used to develop important public policy decision.

I have been proposing an “Office of Science Quality Assurance” that would be in charge of replication and audit studies to test scientific evidence to be used for government policy decisions.

James Cook University (JCU) Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoE)

The replication tests were performed on work mostly authored by scientists from JCU’s ARCCoE.

The 100% failure rate of these tests indicate that there is a serious quality assurance (QA) problem within that organisation.

I have been saying since 2015, in both public statements and the scientific literature, that the ARC COE has a QA problem. The head of the ARC COE made complaints to the Vice Chancellor of JCU about these public comments.

Those complaints led to my dismissal from JCU in 2018 after an almost unbroken 40 year association with the university.

Clark et al. (2020) demonstrates beyond doubt that my statements on Quality Assurance had considerable substance.

Scientific Fraud

No direct evidence of fraud was presented in Clark et al. (2020)

There is, however, considerable evidence of very lax scientific standards such as the lack of videoing of the behavioural experiments. This is a remarkable omission considering that videoing experiments is very easy. Combined with a 100% replication failure rate, it is clear that there was not an institutional culture of high scientific standards and integrity at the JCU ARCCoE.

Oona Lonnstedt, a PhD student at JCU, was trained within this lax institutional culture. She is an author of one of the studies tested in Clark et al. (2020).

She was later proven to be fraudulent by the very same authors of Clark et al. (2020) for work she did in Sweden.

There is compelling evidence that other work she did at JCU on Lionfish may be fraudulent.

The response of JCU to Lonnstedt’s fraud

JCU has failed to properly investigate Lonnstedt’s PhD and Post-Doc work at JCU since she was found guilty of fraud in Sweden. JCU has repeatedly said it would investigate with an external review but it appears that the committee to do this has not been appointed almost 2 years after she was found guilty of fraud in Sweden.

Scientific fraud is a serious issue. The integrity of science is at stake.

Failure to investigate fraud when there is a strong prime facie case that it has occurred is a far greater crime than fraud itself. It is a failure at the highest levels of an institution.

It demonstrates that fraud will be tolerated at James Cook University.

Suggested response by funding agencies

JCU receives large sums of tax payer funds and there is an expectation by science funding organisations that fraud would be properly investigated.

Science funding bodies, such as the Australian Research Council, should insist that a high penalty be paid by the highest officers of the University who were ultimately responsible for the failure to investigate possible fraud. 

If this does not occur, funding bodies should withdraw all support for JCU.

A message must be sent to other science organisations and universities that there is an expectation that fraud will be investigated properly.


The results of Clark et al. (2020), as the authors mention, do not mean that ocean acidification is not a serious environmental threat. They reveal that the effect of high CO2 levels on reef fish behaviour is not a concern. As an aside, in my opinion ocean pH changes are a credible, though not proven, threat to the GBR. This is in contrast to other well publicised threats, such as from agriculture or modest temperature increases, which I do not believe are a significant threat.

Dr Peter Ridd —

  1. January 10, 2020 6:35 pm

    Society (and the taxpayer) is being grievously let down by fake science and fake ‘scientists’. Somebody or something has got to starting sorting out this lot.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 10, 2020 7:28 pm

      Let’s see: It would take someone of the status of, say, PM; who was not being swayed by a Green supporter partner, the IPCC, of XR; was not a member of the Bilderberg group; and was not afraid of vested interests or Al Gore. Hmmmm… can’t think of anyone off-hand.

      • Wendy Leonard permalink
        January 11, 2020 6:57 pm

        Craig Kelly Minister

      • A C Osborn permalink
        January 11, 2020 9:35 pm

        His name is President Trump.

    • January 11, 2020 9:08 am

      Whoever is funding this garbage needs to look at themselves.

  2. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 10, 2020 6:40 pm

    I think JCU would be wise to drop their appeal as they may face questions that they cannot (or will not) answer.

  3. Peter Barrett permalink
    January 10, 2020 6:44 pm

    There is massive resistance to publication of work which does not fit the current agenda. There is also a disinterest in publishing replication studies. It will be interesting to see where and whether this very welcome paper receives its deserved publicity other than on sites such as this.

  4. January 10, 2020 7:18 pm

    I would say it is far worse than misconduct. There is so much money involved that many of these low grade academics are quite prepared to commit fraud.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 10, 2020 7:45 pm

      When I was a kid we were told that the South-Sea Bubble was the biggest scam in history. I feel that it will soon be eclipsed – but probably not in my lifetime (‘though I do hope it2 happens within my long-suffering wife’s – so that she can hear a voice from the grave saying, I told you so!”)

    • January 10, 2020 9:24 pm

      I think it’s more a matter of “low grade” people getting into fields of research where they really have no place – and can’t be trusted to do research according to proper standards. It’s a selection factor – I can think of 2 possible reasons: the general “culture of narcissism” that has engulfed Western societies (so it’s more important to accumulate results that support one’s a priori attitudes and beliefs than to establish what the facts are) and the demand for quotas and the like which results in a lowering of standards.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        January 11, 2020 8:42 pm

        Richard Lindzen made the point that if the science is settled why would aspiring scientists want to enter that field. So if the brightest go into other fields that just leaves the grant troughers.

  5. Robert Jones permalink
    January 10, 2020 8:07 pm

    I don’t know how the academic institutions police themselves but James Cook University’s apparent lack of verification of that research which bears its name and has a significant international implication is obviously troubling. How many of JCU’s other reports (whatever the topic) are scientifically flimsy? On the face of it the current ARCCoE’s work also needs to be retrospectively quality-assured before it leads to any further reinforcement of what is now beginning to be the catastrophic undermining of the whole ‘Climate Change’ invention.

  6. January 10, 2020 8:24 pm

    Bjorn Lomborg is also talking about this
    … And remember GreenDreamCult did all they could to prevent Lomborg from working in Australia
    Successfully preveting him from taking up a post he was being offered by the Australian Government

  7. WILLIAM ABBOTT permalink
    January 10, 2020 8:35 pm

    Lonnstedt has been caught red-handed. She is a fraud. How can JCU not investigate her research?

  8. Bloke down the pub permalink
    January 10, 2020 8:42 pm

    More kudos ought to be given to scientists who perform replication studies. Science doesn’t work properly without them.

  9. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 10, 2020 9:18 pm

    This case has been discussed widely before in the skeptic community, the fact that they had failed to act against her at all (now excessively belatedly), whilst pursuing the ‘innocent’ Ridd with undue haste. By continuing against Ridd, they have essentially forced their own hand. It’s all a game.

    It’s like the just published press release about the replacement of the ‘glaciers gone by 2020’ signs at Glacier National park, making it sound like they were just doing it – they tried to do it under the radar, but they were caught out by the chap that had documented how they changed the exhibits and signs meticulously over several years – having realised that their fake alarmism would bite them.

    An attempt at limiting self-inflicted damage in both cases.

  10. January 10, 2020 10:02 pm

    Anyone know what articles they tried to replicate? I don’t have access credentials for Nature, alas.

  11. January 10, 2020 11:38 pm

    BTW Peter Ridd just had an editorial about another crooked management at an Australian University
    ” @MurdochUni suing academic Gerd Schroder-Turk for damages after he exposed how the uni threw away basic English-language entry standards to hit financial targets”

    There’s a paywall

  12. January 10, 2020 11:55 pm

    Scientific corruption is endemic at JC University.

  13. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 11, 2020 9:17 am

    The basic fact is that fraud and error mean that at least 50% of all scientific papers across the board are not valid. But the Ckimate Science community simply refuses to accept that. Every paper is right, every claim valid, every researcher totally honest and brilliant.

    If Climate Science was honest, it would be sceptical, because the basic fact that science is subject to fraud and error makes scepticism a vital part of science. But it is not honest , and that comes from the top, people like Mann and Hansen who have politicised it and corrupted it.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      January 11, 2020 9:52 am

      Climate ‘science’ output is putrid with advocacy, politics, confirmation bias, ‘models’, non-reproducibility, rent-seeking, skeptic point/theory/personal attacks………..

      That’s why it’s not science, but a hijack of the science franchise for a facade of credibility.

  14. Stonyground permalink
    January 11, 2020 1:39 pm

    Last night a mug shot of Al Gore was part of a question on TV quiz show House Of Games. Non of the contestants knew who he was.

  15. Broadlands permalink
    January 11, 2020 2:44 pm

    For those who are seriously interested in ocean “acidification” there is an old but very good paper to read and evaluate…


    Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 68, No.2, 1919.

  16. Broadlands permalink
    January 11, 2020 4:10 pm

    With respect to my last post… here is direct access to the paper by Mayor:

    Click to access 984531.pdf

  17. Will Strut permalink
    January 11, 2020 4:52 pm

    Peter Ridd is but one of the latest casualties to be punished
    by academic institutions for challenging the climate party line and,
    as this article makes abundantly clear, for challenging academic fraud.
    It’s not just JCU, although Australian universities do seem to be the worst.

    The corruption flourishes because institutions are paid to support it.
    It will end only when that support has been removed.
    Expecting the required change to come from funding institutions like the
    Australian Research Council would be naïve – they are part of the problem.

  18. dennisambler permalink
    January 11, 2020 5:14 pm

    It’s a pity the word acidification is used, as the oceans are not acid, nor can they become so, because of the massive buffering capacity of the oceans.

    Click to access acid_seas.pdf

    • Alan Davidson permalink
      January 12, 2020 3:21 pm

      It’s not a pity, it’s deliberate deception. Oceans are alkaine with a typical pH 8.1-8.2. If anything is changing, it’s that oceans may become slighly less alkaline, but will always be alkaline with pH>7. There’s no ocean acidification.

      • dave permalink
        January 13, 2020 7:38 am

        “…a typical pH 8.1-8.2.”

        It differs from Ocean to Ocean and from depth to depth. It is the surface waters that are this alkaline.

        Parts of the Atlantic Ocean at depth are only 7.2. Whatever…life adjusts with ease. 7.2 is the level at which our own blood is maintained.

        NOAA says it is very difficult to measure changes in sea water’s pH – precisely because the changes are so small!

    • dennisambler permalink
      January 13, 2020 1:15 pm

      Strange things can be found when wandering around NOAA:

      “In order to measure changes that are due to ocean acidification we need to monitor very small pH changes in the global oceans. For example, anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) has caused a pH decrease of approximately 0.1, which is about a 26% increase in the hydrogen ion concentration over the past 100 years.”

      The data collected prior to 1989 are typically not well documented and their metadata is incomplete; therefore, such data are of unknown and probably variable quality.

      The uncertainty of these older pH measurements is rarely likely to be less than 0.03 in pH, and could easily be as large as 0.2 in pH. [and yet they are stating that oceanic pH has decreased by 0.1, a factual claim, repeated constantly around the world]

      This data set is thus not at all well-suited to showing a change of 0.1 in pH over the last 100 years — the amount of pH change that would be expected to occur over the 100 years since the first seawater pH measurements, as a result of the documented increase in atmospheric CO2 levels and assuming that the surface ocean composition remains in approximate equilibrium with respect to the atmosphere.”

      Yet the claim is still made.

      • Peter Barrett permalink
        January 13, 2020 3:34 pm

        The whole problem is encapsulated in that small phrase beloved of all organisations from NOAA to the IPCC -“measure change”. The general public is constantly informed about “measuring change” and how difficult that is. Scientists rarely measure change, they usually calculate it and therein lies the difficulty. The layman’s perception is of someone in a white coat watching a dial and noting a change.

        The change is the difference between observed measurements at different times and/or places, possibly made by different people using different instruments calibrated in different ways, maybe many decades and thousands of miles apart. Unfortunately current investigative science journalism will do nothing to inform Joe Public about the different nuances involved in the interpretation of the observations, leaving aside malevolent manipulation.

        To expect a layman (as I count myself, despite a science education and background) to even begin to comprehend the effect of, for example, UHI on global temperature measurement is several steps too far. Yet the media narrative sets these changes out as definitive and measured when they are anything but.

        Depressingly, I do not have a conclusion to write here.

  19. January 12, 2020 9:57 am

    The BBC do there own Fake News fact checking

    It is heavily aimed at school kids.
    I wonder if they ever spot the BBC own dodgy facts

    Then there is fullfact a supposedly independent fact checking site
    But they support the belief in climate change
    They use the argument that to small a time range is used also stating
    This data in isolation isn’t anywhere near sufficient evidence to prove that global warming stopped 15 years ago. In other words, you can’t look through a window and expect to see the whole landscape.
    But Climate Change advocates are happy to use a smaller time range when it suites them or only use a part of the picture.
    Might be better if it questioned if there had been global warming before the 15 years.
    How would you measure the global temperature anyway?

    • dennisambler permalink
      January 12, 2020 10:11 am

      You can’t. This whole temperature thing is a minefield. There really is no meaningful absolute surface air temperature and when they claim “xx hottest in last yy years” they are quoting anomalies from their own data sets.

      GISS explanation on absolute is here, written originally by James Hansen and now under Gavin’s name:

      “What do I do if I need absolute SATs, not anomalies?
      A. In 99.9% of the cases you’ll find that anomalies are exactly what you need, not absolute temperatures. In the remaining cases, you have to pick one of the available climatologies and add the anomalies (with respect to the proper base period) to it. For the global mean, the most trusted models produce a value of roughly 14°C, i.e. 57.2°F, but it may easily be anywhere between 56 and 58°F (13.3 -14.4C) and regionally, let alone locally, the situation is even worse.”

      • Broadlands permalink
        January 12, 2020 1:18 pm

        If a 1996 article in the New York Times is believable, the global mean temperature has dropped since 1995….

      • dave permalink
        January 13, 2020 7:43 am

        “…1996 article…”


        “…bolstering scientists’ sense…”

        Got to love the precision!

  20. dibs73 permalink
    April 3, 2020 6:17 pm

    Tee hee. This one made me laugh! And they are the guys that sacked Paul Homewood for saying that info for this University is suspect!!

    Love you xxx

    Sent from my iPhone


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