Fiona Fox and the Babe Magnet

Fiona Fox is the director of the Science Media Center. She is in the news for a remarkable story here. [On June 30, Bishop Hill reported her comments on the NS Affair here.]

She hosted the press conferences for Oxburgh and Muir Russell. Board members for the Science Media Center include Bob Ward, known to CA readers and Mike Granatt,
Partner, Luther Pendragon, who was actively involved at all stages of the Muir Russell report.

She is in the news because of the decision of UK tribunal awarding UKP 35,000 to a former employee of Labour MP Jimmy Devine. The story:

The Edinburgh tribunal heard Devine told a pal to phone Marion [Kinley] pretending to be a journalist investigating office expenses. Miss Kinley alerted Devine to the message, but he insisted a newspaper was set to print an article about her wages – and claim they were having an AFFAIR.

Horrified Marion told the hearing: “He told me ‘they are going to say I’m paying you that much because you and I are having an affair’. “I said to him, ‘no amount of money would entice me to have an affair with you’.”

The story goes on to say that the next day she saw a message for Devine from Fiona Fox described as follows:

There was one marked urgent from Fiona Fox, Director at the Science Media Centre in London. There was a PS saying, ‘

I phoned that poor woman in your office and left the message. Hope you’ve put her out of her misery. Remind me never to work for you’

.

In a statement reported by the Guardian, Fox implausibly said that she thought that the phone call was merely an office “prank”.

I am pleased Miss Kinley has won her case and deeply regret being unwittingly drawn into this unpleasant saga. In a very, very small way I too was duped by this man. He had assured me that this kind of prank was part and parcel of the humour in his team and that his colleagues gave as good as they got. At that time I had no reason to doubt the integrity of a Member of Parliament who I got to know because of his public support for stem cell research during the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill in 2008

The story is worth reading in full. Also covered at Lucia and BIshop Hill and the Guardian. Here is a picture of babe magnet Devine:

Fiona Fox corresponded with Oxburgh last year. On April 14, after the report of the Oxburgh “inquiry”, she wrote Oxburgh and David Hand as follows:

Subject: FW: Oxburgh/UEA coverage so far
Dear Lord Oxburgh and David,
Just a quick note to show you some of the coverage we have picked up so far this afternoon. The Telegraph headline is perverse – but I must admit all the rest of the coverage looks good to me – even the Daily Mail!!l I wanted to say what a pleasure it was to have you two in the Science Media Centre today. Your whole approach and style was brilliant and you clearly endeared the journalists to yourselves through being so open and clear and compelling and robust. We’ve run many briefings on this subject now and this was by farthe most relaxed and enjoyable.

Hope it was a positive experience for you too – I loved the fact that you managed to squeeze in quite a few messages about the way science works and an ‘idiots guide to statistics’ while you were at it!

There’s another interesting exchange in late April. On April 23, she wrote to a number of parties:

subject: Newswatch on science in BBC news

… for those of you who get up at stupid O’Clock on Saturday mornings (those with small kids perhaps or insomnia?) Newswatch this week is on science news at the Beeb. There is an angry guy attacking science at beeb, Pallab defending it and me in the middle (well that’s if they use the nice things I said as well as the ‘what could be better’ ones – and if they don’t I’ll be lodging my own complaints!!) Enjoy the sunny weekend
Fiona

On April 26, Tom Heap replied to her email as follows:

Subject: Re: Newswatch on science in BBC news
Thanks for the tip. Got trapped in US by cloud so couldn’t do lomborg and watson at RI this week. Hoping to reschedule. By the way, Mann said Hand got his criticism of the stats all wrong and would be issuing a clarification/apology. True?

Later that day (Apr 26), in an email entitled “aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”, she passed Heap’s inquiry on to David Hand (cc – Oxburgh):

Subject: aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Hi Folks – assuming (praying) this is not true? If it – or any version of it – is true – can we chat about it and how the SMC might help? If it’s rubbish someone might want to suggest to Michael Mann that he decease from suggesting it to BBC reporters.

By the way [Tom Heap] who wrote this, is my good friend (long term BBC science reporter)- he’s making a Panorama on Climate generally a very responsible reporter – so if you can give me a message to pass to him that would also be useful
Cheers guys
Fiona

See here for Heap’s interview with Mann.

On Apr 27, Hand replied to her (cc Oxburgh) as follows:

Subject: RE: aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Dear Fiona,
There has been some misrepresentation of my views, which have not changed and which are the following. Mann et al (1998) used a non-standard statistical method, but the papers and reports I have examined which explore the impact of this suggest to me that it is unlikely that the qualitative conclusion will be affected by a more appropriate analysis, though clearly the precise impact depends on which series are included and any assumptions underlying the analysis.
Hope that clarifies things.
Thanks
David

Later that day, Oxburgh sent condolences to Hand:

Subject: RE: aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
David,
I am sorry that your participation in our UEA study seems to have involved you further than we might have anticipated! If I can be of any help even remotely, please let me know.
Best,
Ron

I met her at the Guardian’s reception after their Muir Russell symposium, I tried to arrange a meeting with her during the couple of days that I was in London, but was unsuccessful. It turns out that she has a colorful personal history, including, according to Wikipedia, formerly being a “leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Party”. In 1995, under a pseudonym (Fiona Foster), she wrote a controversial article for Living Marxism entitled “Massacring the truth in Rwanda“, which is reported here and elsewhere as denying Rwandan genocide.

She and her sister Clare Fox, another activist, are profiled by The Times here, where she is reported to have cystic fibrosis, a very serious lifetime disease, the life expectancy for which is much less than Fiona’s 46 years – a point that readers should keep in mind.


78 Comments

  1. Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 7:59 PM | Permalink

    Mr. McIntyre,
    I think you have totally lost it. What on earth has this to do with Auditing, the climate, anything.

    You are obviously trying to work up to a devastating blow on the next Climate Conference. However, this is very wide of any mark,

    Disgusted of Gloucestershire

    • John M
      Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 8:12 PM | Permalink

      I guess you didn’t read the 70% of the post that followed after

      Fiona Fox corresponded with Oxburgh last year.

      • Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

        So someone who wrote an email to “Lord Oxburgh” seems to have misbehaved. And Mr Devine is unattractive. So what does this have to do with climate science? Or even scientists? If it’s ad hominem, you at least need a target.

        • John M
          Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:24 PM | Permalink

          I guess you’re right. We should be used to climate science, e-mails, and misbehaving by now.

        • Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

          Please can you show me how Fiona Fox links into climate science – thanks

          My father knows the son of the man whose wife knows the wife whose daughter once sat in the same resturante as the cleaner who knows another cleaner who used to clean the office of Jones at the UEA. He says Jones is a very nice man. So that alright then!

        • John M
          Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:52 PM | Permalink

          You mean other than as a useful tool and spin doctor?

          http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/04/blogs-and-peer-review/

        • Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Permalink

          When it’s your blog, then you get to post what you want. It’s not, so either post something constructive or just move on. Sheesh!

        • Robert in Calgary
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:29 PM | Permalink

          Oh no! We’ve upset Nick and Ford.

  2. Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    Are you mixing your fundamental forces? magnetism and gravitation?

    • timetochooseagain
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 12:21 AM | Permalink

      That could happen if you heat things up about a billion yottaKelvins.

  3. Ozark
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 9:30 PM | Permalink

    I liked the part where she wanted Mann to “decease from suggesting it to BBC reporters.

    The larger point, I think, is that it seems to indicate that those inside the inquiry at some point became aware of what the score is…

    • HaroldW
      Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:46 PM | Permalink

      That line was my favorite. Now I know that it’s just a simple mix-up of “decease” for “desist”, but if you read it as written, she’s wishing that Mann would drop dead because of his repeated suggestions that Hand had got it wrong.*

      By the way, *did* Hand ever make a statement/clarification such as Heap suggested — that he (Hand) had made a mistake about the statistics? I don’t remember seeing any.

      *Lest I be accused of evil intent, I do *not* wish Mann harm. I just thought the mistake in words led to such a huge change in the meaning, and found that amusing. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

  4. James Sexton
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Permalink

    That’s a hoot! Funny stuff. And as a bonus, an affirmed Marxist? This has made my week!

    • HR
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      I think the important word here is formerly. The group she was involved with now expresses it’s ideas through http://www.spiked-online.com. Read some of the climate related articles over there. You’ll find that they are sceptical of the IPCC process and the misanthropic and anti-progress nature of the environmental movement in general. On that basis she seems to have moved a long way from her former commrades.

  5. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1257207/Expenses-fraud-MPs-peer-insist-face-trial.html

    • Louise
      Posted Oct 20, 2010 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

      Where’s the science?

  6. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:36 PM | Permalink

    Fiona FOx blogs at BBC:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/journalism/blog/fiona-fox/

    * Climategate: too easy to blame the reporters Thursday 22 July 2010, 07
    * ‘He says/she says’ just doesn’t work for science Tuesday 29 June 2010, 09
    * The eerie electoral silence of scientific institutions Wednesday 28 April 2010, 03
    * Blogs are not real journalism Monday 12 April 2010, 10
    * Why Today is right about women presenters Wednesday 7 April 2010, 10
    * Climate science doesn’t need an easy ride Wednesday 27 January 2010, 04

  7. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

    Fiona Fox describing sister Clare Fox: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article722094.ece

    I get furious with her sometimes. I believe in an evidence-based approach to science, but Claire is more driven by her political passions. I heard her on [Radio 4’s] The Moral Maze saying the “bloody scientists” are exaggerating the risk of bird flu, and that made me very cross. I phoned her from Center Parcs, and within two minutes we’d both slammed the phone down. Then, because we don’t want to stay on bad terms, we e-mailed. I sent her the research, and she came back with her political point. She takes the same stance on climate change: she knows the evidence is there; her point is that the human race is far more resilient than people think.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    Martin Durkin of GWSwindle fame was apparently once affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, to which the Fox sisters belonged:

    I’ve never met Durkin personally (and I pray that I never do; he doesn’t sound like much fun), but apparently mindless tirades are his stock-in-trade – perhaps this explains his earlier attraction to the extremist fringe group the Revolutionary Communist Party, other of whose former members hold remarkably similar anti-environmentalist views. (For a taste of these, visit Spiked, or read innumerable articles by Claire Fox, Frank Furedi, Mick Hume or other former RCP cadres.

  9. Ed Waage
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

    The Science Media Centre appears to be the public relations arm of establishment science in the UK. The problem is that science needs to be insulated from policy to avoid corruption of the scientific method. But no one in the scientific community nor the media has even noticed the problem.

  10. Jon at WA
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Steve

    The comment about cystic fibrosis and this “Squealer” (Animal Farm) is in my opinion ironic. Research and treatment of cystic fibrosis enjoys a free and frank exchange of data across the world, those suffering have benefited from this.

    -snip

    Steve: CA readers are encouraged to support research and treatment of cystic fibrosis.

  11. Rattus Norvegicus
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

    WTF does this have to do with anything? thefordprefect is right, you’ve completely lost it.

    • nevket240
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 1:51 AM | Permalink

      Obviously, feigning disgust and ignorance is a way to try and negate a point. Point is, as I see it, is your hypocrisy. Had this article been on Exxon connections to a politician or SMcs buying fuel from a Big Oil service station you would be up in arms and spitting venom. He is just pointing out how crooked and inter-twined the whole ‘thing’ is.
      Can you see that??
      regards

  12. Annabelle
    Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 11:40 PM | Permalink

    Why is this gossip on Climate Audit?

  13. Arthur Dent
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

    I foolishly thought that this was Steve’s Blog. As such he can write about anything he likes, if you don’t want to read it you don’t have to.

    On the broader point Steve is making the point that the media influence on the climate debate is substantial and corrosive. I am aawre that the Science Media Centre began as a really good idea providing a contact point for journalists working on science stories. The SMC could then put them in touch with scientific experts to ensure that the story was factually based rather than simply hype. It seems to have lost it’s way, partly because those like Ms Fox cannot keep their politics from interfering with their objectivity.

    The rather trashy story about Devine and his secretary is indeed not relevant, but it does tend to show up the character of Ms Fox and the subsequent interaction of Ms Fox with Oxbrough is relevant, although not surprising

  14. Rattus Norvegicus
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:27 AM | Permalink

    Saying that she wrote an article in “Living Maxism” is pretty low. I bothered to read the article, and it seems that many of her points, especially those concerning the fight for land, were covered in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”. The article does not seem disreputable to me. But then I am not willing to dismiss anything which has the word “Marxism” attached to it. Your political opinions may vary.

    • Spence_UK
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 7:14 AM | Permalink

      Suggest you read this:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,181819,00.html

      Note that link is to the left-leaning UK quality newspaper the guardian, not Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. This quote from the piece about Fiona Fox’s article:

      Obscuring the truth about Bosnia was not LM’s only bid to rewrite history in favour of the murderers. It has also conducted a long campaign to deny there was a genocide in Rwanda. But while the magazine is of no great consequence, it is articulating a lie perpetuated by a host of more powerful interests, from the Catholic church to European politicians.

      Fiona Fox holds a powerful position in science and media reporting in the UK and has abused that to advocate minimising the presence of sceptics in the media. To be fair, she has achieved little traction except at the BBC, but these are subjective, judgement issues, not scientific issues. Throwing a little light on her judgement in these cases certainly tells a story.

      Incidentally, it is not just Steve McIntyre who thinks this is newsworthy: the science desk at the Guardian also thinks so (link from bishop hill’s place):

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/oct/15/science-media-centre-hoax-call

      • PhilC
        Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

        I can imagine being labelled a genocide denier for attempting to audit the information on Bosnia or Rwanda might be more upsetting than being labelled a climate change denier.

        Also from the Guardian, on the court case that bankrupted LM:

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,181813,00.html

        “Uniquely in law, the burden of proof is on the defendant, who has to prove the truth of what was written. Admirers of the law, like the late Lord Goodman, speciously say that truth is an absolute defence. But exact truth is likewise very difficult to demonstrate in court, and an attempt to do so may well be held to aggravate the libel. As a result, the mere threat of libel is too often used to silence a newspaper which understandably prefers the discretion of an apology to the valour of a defended action.”

        Interestingly, BBC Radio 4’s “Costing the Earth” had a programme this week titled “Can Lawyers Save The World”.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00v72r3

        “Sophisticated modelling could make it easier to attribute blame and a recent ruling in the European Court means that victims of environmental crime should find it a lot easier to take their cases to court.”

        Perhaps what worked on “genocide deniers” will finally work on “climate change deniers”.

        • John M
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

          Into “moral equivalence” much?

          Anyway, these twisting plots and intertwined personalities are all reminding me of what now passes for entertainment on prime time television.

          I can’t keep track of “who’s doing who”.

        • Spence_UK
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

          I’m not really sure what your point is here. My main point was Fiona Fox’s hypocrisy: that she wants to suppress minority viewpoints on climate change, while happily promoting a minority viewpoint on Rwanda. I suspect she is aware of the jarring nature of this, from the use of a pseudonym.

          I have no problem with her writing whatever she wants, or auditing whatever she wants. I believe passionately in free speech. The reason I love free speech so dearly is it exposes the hypocritical position of the likes of Fox.

          The capabilities of models are far off topic for this post.

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 5:32 PM | Permalink

          It seems to me she was saying the media habit of always having two opposing voices on any subject didn’t work in science in the way it did in adversarial politics. But also “I am absolutely not arguing that anti-GM groups or climate sceptics should not be given a voice by the media. I totally agree that many of these debates are about ethics, values and the potential applications and implications, rather than science. I would simply argue that, where views rely on, or cite, scientific evidence, they should be set in the context of the whole body of evidence that exists. And, yes, scientists do need to be careful not to stray from criticising the obsession with balance into calling for censorship of minority voices. Journalists must be open to scientific ideas that aren’t shared by the mainstream.”
          I think in her job, with the pressures I expect she had to be more partial, she could have been worse.

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

      Re: David S (Oct 16 04:29),

      The question I have is whether or not the SMC had/has any skeptic scientists on call in case a reporter wanted to get the opinion of a vetted expert on skeptic views? It wouldn’t be all that hard to figure out which skeptics have the ability to sort through the welter of anti-mainstream opinions.

  15. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:29 AM | Permalink

    Steve, This is rather hard to address because it is off your beaten path, but it brought back to mind some words translated from Bertholt Brecht about 1940 like this –

    “Out of the libraries come the killers.
    Mothers stand despondently waiting,
    Hugging their children and searching the sky,
    Looking for the latest inventions of the professors”.

    The list of contributors to the Science Media Centre seems to be relevant to me, but that is a personal opinion that might not be agreed by Rattus cousin of rattus, Ford Cosworth and the effervescent Nick. Apart from the usual list of large corporate supporters of things green, like BP, Exxon and some pharmaceuticals, there are quite a few learned associations and several charities. I would be rather doubtful if ordinary people contributing to such associations and charities know that their funds are used this way; and it they did discover this, they might not find it amusing to read Steve’s story.

    In a long career in science, I have never seen so many and so diverse a set of unseemly antics carried on behind the scenes as this bastard child called climate science produces. There should be a way to approve use of “science” in a title, similar to a Royal Charter.

    • Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:02 AM | Permalink

      How are SMC funds involved here? And climate science?

    • Arthur Dent
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:05 AM | Permalink

      The Science Media Centre, when it was first established, was seen as both desirable and a sensible response by the scientific community to the obvious problem of abysmal reporting of science issues in the MSM. As such it attracted a wide range of very respectable sponsors.

      Its objective was to improve the interface between journalists and active scientists. Journalists were complaining that they could not find scientists who were able or willing to talk. A journalist could now approach the SMC wanting to talk to a scientist and the SMC would be able to find, at short notice, a scientist who could brief the journalist. The outcome would hopefully be better for both sides, the journalist would not make elementary mistakes and the scince community would get improved media coverage. In its early years it was very impressive, I was involved on a number of occasions and the system worked well.

      I am saddened to see that the process appears to have been corrupted.

  16. Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:57 AM | Permalink

    “…someone might want to suggest to Michael Mann that he decease from suggesting it to BBC reporters…”

    Perhaps it’s because she was under pressure at the time, but I do love the malaprop of “decease” instead of “cease”. Or was it a freudian slip?

    • Rick Bradford
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:51 AM | Permalink

      Or did she mean ‘desist’ but didn’t know how to spell it?

      • timetochooseagain
        Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

        I kinda thought that it was a very bad portmanteau of cease and desist, as in the phrase, “cease and desist

  17. Barry Woods
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:04 AM | Permalink

    BBC Newswatch (23/04/2010)

    “to have a sceptic in every interview is misleading the public about ‘climate science’” – Fiona Fox

    “People like Richard Black and Roger Harrabin, fighting internally to say we DON’T have to have a sceptic every time we have a climate story.”

    Fiona Fox: Chaired a report, for Lord Drayson, the science minister, looking into the quality of science reporting

    The BBC:

    “Fight the good fight for accuracy, in fact
    On Climate change there has been a real change.. People like Richard Black and Roger Harrabin, fighting internally to say we DON’T have to have a sceptic every time we have a climate story.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/newswatch Newswatch 23/04/2010

    Richard Black and Roger Harrabin are key members of the BBC’s environment team, are they inadvertantly acting as the bbc man made ‘climate change’ newsmedia gatekeepers?

    This is the same Richard Black at the BBC, that Michael Mann’s first thought was to call, when Paul Hudson – Whatever Happened to Global Warming, story appeared on the BBC website.. (month before ‘climategate).

    Paul Hudson, received some emails, a month before ‘climategate’ (believed to be just the ones that refer to his article 6 or 7 emails)

  18. Barry Woods
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:08 AM | Permalink

    Bellieve it or not the Science and Media Centre..

    has Bob Ward on the Board (also of the Grantham Institute..

    http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/pages/about/smc_board.htm

    and in a delicious irony…

    One of the funders of the SMC are…..

    http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/pages/about/funding.htm

    EXXONMOBIL

  19. Ruth
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:51 AM | Permalink

    Fiona Fox chaired a debate in Oxford in Feb 2010 about media reporting of climate change after Climategate, reported here on Bishop Hill:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/2/27/how-to-report-climate-change-after-climategate.html

    Her first question was ‘Has the press done a disservice to the public in reporting Climategate? Has media a responsibility to make the public “think the right way”?’

    • Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

      Re: Ruth (Oct 16 03:51), This is an extremely telling, iconic remark.


      ‘Has the press done a disservice to the public in reporting Climategate? Has media a responsibility to make the public “think the right way”?’

      I now know who FF is, what her opinions are, and why she’s got into SMC.

      Bookmarked.

    • PhilC
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 6:27 AM | Permalink

      It seems to me that she was chairing the meeting, and was just introducing a provocative talking point, rather than expressing a personal opinion. Her contributions seem to have been brief:

      FF: Has the press done a disservice to the public in reporting CG? Has media a responsibility to make the public “think the right way”?
      FF: So it wasn’t the media’s fault… Was the media slow to respond to the various …gates?
      FF: John Beddington and Mike Hulme say the media has been too hard on sceptics. Has the media attitude contributed to the sceptical backlash? What should scientists do differently? I was shocked that scientists stuck to their previous stories despite the email evidence and then wouldn’t answer specific questions. And DA has said that scientists have to “go further than the science” to win people over.

      Perhaps it’s true that Americans just don’t get irony.

      • John M
        Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 7:58 AM | Permalink

        Irony? How about surrealism?

        http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7761

        (h/t Bishop Hill)

        ‘twould be interesting to see the changes in SMC’s activity (Fox’s in particular) since 2007.

        Oh wait, we already know she was the go-to gal for RealClimate and Myles Allen in 2008.

        hmmmm

        Maybe that’s irony.

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

          “Below is an edited version of a submission made by the writer and investigative journalist, Andy Rowell, to the board of the Science Media Centre (SMC) at the suggestion of one of its board members.
          The submission raises concerns about the role of the SMC’s director, Fiona Fox, in the light not just of her long-term involvement with the climate-sceptical LM group but of the SMC’s lack of proactivity in combatting climate change denial – something that stands in marked contrast with the SMC’s record on a number of other issues, such as GM crops.”

          I’m not sure what your point is.

        • John M
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:22 AM | Permalink

          The point is it was written in 2007.

          It appears that SMC has gotten much more active in climate change issues since then.

          Perhaps it’s just irony.

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

          It seems to me she is a journalist with some past sympathy for scepticism. She is not a scientist. Her job is to enable scientists to communicate better, regardless of the message. Apparently she has been put under some pressure to emphasise a particular message.
          Has she ever used the “d” word? What would her replacement be like?

        • John M
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM | Permalink

          If you’ve been following along, I’m sure you might recognize why she might not want to use the “D” word.

          But other than a GM advocate complaining that she used to spend more time dissing GM crops than reporting on climate change, what evidence do you have that she was ever “sympathetic” to climate skeptics?

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 9:49 AM | Permalink

          I have my own opinion of why she might not want to use the “D” word, which might differ from yours.

          Rowell is a GM opponent complaining about SMC advocating GM, not an opponent.

          http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2003Q1/gm.html

          “The biotech industry is relying heavily on third parties to push its message, including US and British officials, corporate front groups, a carefully selected group of farmers from developing nations, and a loose coalition that includes right-wing think tanks and even a few ex-Marxists turned libertarians. “

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

          Correction:
          Rowell is a GM opponent complaining about SMC advocating GM, not an advocate.

          http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2003Q1/gm.html

        • John M
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

          My mistake.

          It appears he even has some sensible things to say about peer review.

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2003/aug/19/highereducation.uk

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM | Permalink

          Rowell was involved in Dave Rado’s “IPCC” complaint against Channel Four re Martin Durkin. (On which there is interesting material from David Holland that I haven’t reviewed, but ought to.) Given that Durkin seems to have been a former fellow traveller with the Fox sisters at Living Marxism, it’s an odd cast of characters.

  20. Barry Woods
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

    SHe asked a question at the Guardian Climategate debate…

    She came across, to me at least, as an angry activiit….

    Ie accusing Fred Pearce and journalists, effectively of being irresponsible. (should be on the uardains audio. Fred gave a good answer)

  21. Manfred
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 4:56 AM | Permalink

    …even the Daily Mail!!…

    it is interesting to learn how these networks in the background work. I asked myself how it could be possible that the British adopt this – in my view – next German ideology, having been immune against the previous, thanks to the admirable culture of discussion instead of running one’s head against a wall.

    These networks infiltrating formerly immune institutions such as the BBC and the House of Lords is part of the answer, other contributions may come from billionaire philantropist money, corrupt MPs and others.

    However, a lot of the background work is still in the dark. And what has happened with the Daily Mail ?

  22. Shub
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM | Permalink

    I think it is wrong to assume that women are attracted only to good-looking men.

    Many babe magnets,in reality, do not ‘look good’ at all.

  23. Dun Brokin
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 5:28 AM | Permalink

    Steve,

    I know, as somebody has pointed out elsewhere, that this is your blog and you can post what you want…..but to waste our time with this stuff lowers the very high standard of this blog imho. I am a tad disappointed, I must say. I have been a reader of this blog since 2004 and this really is more 2*sd outside the norm…….

  24. Barry Woods
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

    Dun… Like it or not politics are wrapped up in science.. Hence the interest in the Director of the Science and Media Centre.

  25. kim
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 8:14 AM | Permalink

    Fiona, Franny
    William, Kim, and Michael Mann.
    Bad actors, curtains.
    ==========

  26. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    In retrospect, I should probably have connected the present story to comments by former UK Chief Scientist David King discussed at CA here.
    King opined that, in order to cure global warming, hot girls

    “who find supercar drivers “sexy”, … should divert their affections to men who live more environmentally-friendly lives.

    I illustrated the post as follows

    The right panel shows Jenni Dahlman, a former Miss Scandinavia, with Finnish race car driver, Kimi Raikonnen. This would presumably represent that the type of liaison that must be sacrificed if we are to cure global warming.

    I continued my post as follows:

    Instead of dashing young race car drivers, let’s try to get envisage a world in which the hot car babes were attracted to men who lived “more environmentally friendly lives” – a world that would look more like the one shown below:

    It appears that we can now include Jim Devine as another one of the environmentally friendly types that Sir David King had in mind for the babes.

    • curious
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

      “This would presumably represent that the type of liaison that must be sacrificed if we are to cure global warming.”

      Luckily progress is being made towards the ultimate babe magnet vehicle:

      http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/05/electric-car-makes-le-mans-racing-greener/
      :-)

    • timetochooseagain
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

      I didn’t think that being, um, “large” was an environmentally friendly life style.

      One would have thought that this was another thing King would have discouraged.

      For the record I support fast cars and fast food.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

        But do you support HEAVY fast cars like the 1896 lb green monster in the post above?

        There has to be a crossover point where the extra weight of more batteries starts on a diminishing return. Also, I’m puzzled about the mention of biofuel and diesel. They are marginally different to what we call petrol here, gas there, in terms of GHG savings.

        It’s a discovery, though, to find a heavy, fast and loose, fast food loving, womanising, practical joking, special pleading, babe magnet, legally accused Member of Parliament.

        • timetochooseagain
          Posted Oct 17, 2010 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

          In answer to your question, if something doesn’t make sense, I don’t support it. ;)

          “It’s a discovery, though, to find a heavy, fast and loose, fast food loving, womanising, practical joking, special pleading, babe magnet, legally accused Member of Parliament.”

          Hehe, now that is funny!

    • Bernie
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

      Steve:
      Nicely done.
      I always have serious concerns about those who seem to have no sense of humour – kind of little Torquemadas in training.

    • PhilC
      Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 7:24 PM | Permalink

      Has Jim Devine ever claimed to be “environmentally friendly”?

      According to the respectable website “theyworkforyou.com”
      Voting record (from PublicWhip)on key issues since 2001:

      “Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change”.

      http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/jim_devine/livingston

      Unless you can suggest how the people at “theyworkforyou.com” might have misapplied their statistics I’d say another conspiracy theory has hit the buffers.

      • John M
        Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

        Phil,

        I know you think highly of your sense of “irony”, but maybe you ought to work on your sense of “humor”.

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

          As in – Climate Sceptic MP tricks Journalist?

        • John M
          Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

          So you think he’s a climate skeptic? From your link with his voting record, it looks like his three votes “against climate change” were with the majority.

          Does that mean a majority of parliament are skeptics?

          Wow, things are looking up!

          Anyway, here’s some irony.

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1171844/Network-Rail-spends-millions-pay-staff-sex-race-abuse-cases.html

        • PhilC
          Posted Oct 19, 2010 at 2:07 AM | Permalink

          On several occasions he abstained from votes, and I’d suggest that “Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change” implies that his voting record was more sceptical than the majority of MPs, or at least MPs of the governing Labour party.
          Would you suggest that his abstention implies that he is part of the consensus?

          If Steve McIntyre is suggesting that David King would have any admiration for Jim Devine because of his record on climate or the environment, I think he’s wrong, to put it mildly. I expect David King is pleased with Devine’s replacement, who “never rebels against their party in this parliament”.

          I searched for references to the words “climate” and “environment” in your Daily Mail article, and could find none. Off topic, I think.

        • John M
          Posted Oct 19, 2010 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

          Perhaps you’re being “ironic”, but the record says he was “absent”. I took “absent” to mean, well, he wasn’t there. Even the explanatory info on the site you link says “absent” doesn’t necessarily mean “abstain”.

          And even the votes he was absent for, 3 of 5 were rejected. One of the ones he was absent for that passed was for a “third reading”, he had voted for a “second reading”.

          Big deal. I suspect in his case, “absent” meant he was doing…um…other things.

  27. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/6/30/fiona-fox-on-the-hockey-stick.html

  28. Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    John A, you wanted to be notified when comments didn’t go where expected, here you go. Look at the timestamps:

  29. Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:37 PM | Permalink

    I can see that some scientists who were being hassled by journos looking for an opinion on GM or AGW or whatever and got together and said “wouldn’t it be great to start a scientific media go-to place where they could present our views without us having to stop doing our research.”

    How foolish and lazy and short-sighted and insidious.

    The very idea of a science media centre is one of dubious value since almost by definition many of the issues which it is asked to opine on are cutting-edge and currently in very early stages of scientific understanding and to give an opinion other than “We don’t really know yet but we think ….” is to mislead the public. By its very nature there will be conflicting scientific view points (theories) and experiments will hopefully in the end resolve the matter one way or the other.

    Will they be able to ensure that multiple views are heard or will they always go for the scientists who are the most photogenic or trendy or have a nice voice or …

    To suggest that there is one go-to place for a scientific view is dangerous. Also, to attract credibility, I am sure they will be tempted to downplay the uncertainties. The fact that they have corporate funding makes their viewpoint fundamentally subjective.
    snip

    • Arthur Dent
      Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 4:37 PM | Permalink

      When the SMC began it was concerned with providing access to scientific expertise in general, it was a one stop shop only in as far as any journalist looking for a scientist would could be put in touch with appropriate people. This did not mean a single scientist but people working in the field.

      Issues were not automatically controversial and journalists are on the whole ignorant of science. So some early queries were along the lines of what is recombinant DNA technology rather than are GM crops a good thing. In many cases the journalist was not looking for a major splash, indeed those sorts of journalists weren’t interested in the SMC since real scentists might confuse them with facts. In a large number of cases the journalist wanted background material so that he didn’t make a complete pratt of him/herself in the ensuing article.

  30. physicsfinanceandflash
    Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    I was also struck by how delicately they (Fox and Oxburgh) are handling Prof. Hand. I think I read that he was not happy with the statistics and said as much in his private notes. I think the SMC and others are terrified he might go public with his reservations and are treating him extra nice. It’s a shame because someone authoritative needs to cut through the Michael Mann BS.

    • Posted Oct 16, 2010 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

      Re: physicsfinanceandflash (Oct 16 14:55),

      Prof Hand and Prof Kelly could both IMO make clear dissenting statements.

      • physicsfinanceandflash
        Posted Oct 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

        Yes. To inform my comment above, it was, as Lucy reminds me, Prof. Kelly whose personal notes seemed more candid than the actual report.

        It was the comment on “inappropriate statistical methods” in the Oxburgh report which made me think that Hand (the report’s stats guru) was unhappy with the statistics although to be frank, even this comment was caveated and qualified away.

        I get the sense that Hand was highly critical but agreed to the qualifications under pressure from Oxburgh. All speculation but that is what happens when an inquiry is so opaque and rushed.

        It is a shame that no big-hitters from the stats world want to get involved in this area. But after we have seen the trumped up charges against Wegman I can see why.

  31. Britannic no-see-um
    Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Fiona Fox has her own blog. The current post is on Climategate and the media reporting. Her view.

    http://fionafox.blogspot.com/

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Fiona Fox and the babe magnet [...]

  2. By Top Posts — WordPress.com on Oct 16, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    [...] Fiona Fox and the Babe Magnet Fiona Fox is the director of the Science Media Center. She is in the news for a remarkable story here. [On June 30, [...] [...]

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