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Sun, 2013-08-25 12:36John Mashey
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Defamation By Internet? Part 1 - Murry Salby's Short-Lived Blog Storm

Defamation? Murry Sa;by's Short-Lived Blog Storm

Climate anti-science adapted well to the Internet. A blog storm (in this case the “SalbyStorm”) can surge through well-linked blogs to spread misinformation or unsupported accusations.  Some blogs act as tribal echo chambers where people reinforce others' anger, in this case resembling a famed witch-burning scene, with Macquarie University as main, but not only, witch.

As in the “Climategate” blog storm, the noise was intended for the mainstream. This reached The Australian, but the main SalbyStorm lasted less than a week.

Some earlier storms generated serious harassment of targeted climate scientists. In pre-blog 1996, Frederick Seitz and Fred Singer made personal attacks on Ben Santer via the Wall Street Journal. Later, blogs were employed to continue, as by Paul Chesser in this or this(Warning: those URLs are OK, but every once in a while, WebCite gets overloaded and gives odd error message. Ignore for now and try later.)

Michael Mann has replaced Santer as favored target, but there have been many other victims, such as Katharine Hayhoe. Only a small fraction of readers need get angry enough to produce reputational damage, hate mail, death threats, a dead rat on the doorstep or floods of email.

Some “skeptical” bloggers routinely accept and repeat both silly anti-science ideas, and other unsuppported claims, as here. Apologies or corrections almost never occur and even if they do, they rarely flow through the network, leaving waves of misimpression there.  First impressions stick.

On July 9-12, Macquarie suffered this kind of attack (Wave 1).  Ex-Professor Murry Salby made serious, but unsupported and sometimes contradictory, accusations against Macquarie, by the unusual route of email to bloggers. Joanne Nova (Australia), Anthony Watts (Watts Up With That, USA), and Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill, UK) republished them.

After 4 days and 1,500+ comments at those blogs alone, SalbyStorm's Wave 1 ended quickly when Salby's checkered past was detailed at DeSmogBlog.  Discussions stopped, although with little apology or introspection about gullibility at “skeptical” blogs.  A very few people had wondered at oddities of Salby's claims, searched for his past history, and independently started finding problems within a few hours. Salby supporters did not do that, preferring to specualte and comment.

People believed the worst and repeated it, sometimes expanding defamatory accusations with little concern for evidence. A few of the phrases applied to Macquarie or mainstream climate science included criminal, dictatorial, barbaric, Orwellian, Nazi, Stasi, Deutsch Physika, Marxist, Stalinist, Lysenko, thugs, Mafia, and extended further to “goose-stepping, alarmist, fascist, progressives.”  Salby was praised as a science hero, compared to Galileo, Copernicus or Einstein,  despite the evident problems in his scientific claims.

Salby sent accusations to bloggers who republished them with little visible effort to calm the mutually-reinforcing commenter outrage.  Finally, the story got repeated by The Australian.  Experienced watchers have seen this before, but  SalbyStorm makes a compact case study to document and recall in future storms.

Sun, 2013-07-28 11:44Graham Readfearn
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Top Physicist Withdraws Support For Climate Sceptic Professor Sacked By Australian University

Dr Murry Salby

A PROMINENT and influential French physicist who had voiced support for a climate change sceptic fired from his Australian university has withdrawn a threat to report the case to a prestigious international science council.

Dr Marie-Lise Chanin had previously told The Australian newspaper that she was “scandalised” by the sacking of former Macquarie University professor Dr Murry Salby, who claimed he was fired from his job because he was a climate change sceptic.

In a page three report on July 24, The Australian newspaper reported that Dr Chanin intended to refer Dr Salby's case to a key committee at the International Council for Science (ICSU) - the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science.

But now it appears Dr Chanin had been canvassed for her support without being given the full facts. After a reading a DeSmogBlog report into a previously damning investigation into Dr Salby's conduct while at the University of Colorado, Dr Chanin has reconsidered her support.

The ICSU includes the world's leading scientific academies amongst its members, including Britain's Royal Society, the Australian Academy of Science and the US National Academy of Sciences. As the French representative on the ICSU, support from Dr Chanin would no doubt have been seen as something of a coup.

I contacted Dr Chanin to ask if she was aware of the long investigation into Dr Salby by the National Science Foundation in the United States, reported by DeSmogBlog, which resulted in the scientist being barred from having anything to do with the foundation's taxpayer-funded grants for three years.

The investigation, finished in February 2009 - a year after Dr Salby joined Macquarie, concluded that Dr Salby had “engaged in a long-running course of deceptive conduct involving both his University and NSF”.  The investigators wrote that Dr Salby's conduct “reflects a consistent willingness to violate rules and regulations, whether federal or local, for his personal benefit”. 

Dr Chanin told me, via email, that she had not been aware of the NSF case when she had communicated with The Australian newspaper and now wanted nothing more to do with the issue.

Fri, 2013-07-12 10:53Graham Readfearn
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Climate Sceptic Professor Sacked From Australian University Was Banned By National Science Foundation For "Deceptive Conduct"

A CLIMATE sceptic professor fired from his Australian university for alleged policy breaches had previously been banned for three years from accessing US taxpayer-funded science research money.

Dr Murry Salby, sacked in May by Macquarie University in Sydney, was the subject of a long investigation by the US National Science Foundation.

The investigation (pdf), which was finished in February 2009, concluded that over a period when Dr Salby was working at the University of Colorado, he had likely fabricated time sheets in relation to research paid for through NSF money.

We conclude that the Subject (Dr Salby) has engaged in a long-running course of deceptive conduct involving both his University and NSF. His conduct reflects a consistent willingness to violate rules and regulations, whether federal or local, for his personal benefit. This supports a finding that the Subject is not presently responsible, and we recommend that he be debarred for five years.

The NSF subsequently decided to only “debar” Dr Salby for three years, preventing him from accessing any NSF research grants or being involved in work related to them. The investigation was carried out by NSF’s Office of Inspector General - an arms-length organisation providing oversight to the NSF.

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