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‘United Nations of Science’ – nice idea that will never work


I recently came across an interesting article in NewScientist, ‘The United Nations of science: why we need it‘, written by a Lorna Casselton, foreign secretary of the Royal Society (??) and Emeritus Professor of Fungal Genetics at the University of Oxford.

In it, Prof Casselton introduces the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP):

“[The IAP is] a global coalition of national science academies from Albania to Zimbabwe. Its task this week is to agree a way forward for scientific advice to government – how the world of science, speaking as one, can reach out to policy-makers to help solve the critical global challenges we now face.”

So far so good – as a scientist by training myself I can relate to that. She continues:

“The organisation’s ambition is to become the most influential voice for the world’s scientists amid the clamour of politicians and lobby groups.

IAP is also working hard to promote better science education, support young scientists and improve science communication. This is especially important in the developing world: IAP strives to help the poorest countries build their science, technology and advisory capacities and thus champion robust, evidence-based policy-making.” (my emphasis)

 You see, here’s where it all goes wrong. Prof Casselton starts her piece with:

“As the disappointment of the Copenhagen climate summit sinks in, you could be forgiven for despairing of science ever being put at the centre of international policy-making. But scientists are not giving up the fight.”

Far from being any sort of disappointment, the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit was a great result for all those who have been following the incredible revelations from across the world that the case for anthopogenic global warming was completely overstated at best, and a complete fabrication and corruption of the scientific process at worst (have a look at the Watts Up With That blog for further details).

Quite frankly, I would have expected better from an Oxford Professor (although as a Cambridge alumnus perhaps I’m not surprised!) – I would love her in a follow-up article to explain how exactly climategate equates to ‘robust, evidence-based policy-making’.

For me, climategate shows pretty well the dangers of scientists getting involved in politics (Prof David Nutt did and look what happened to him). They should stick to doing their experiments and advancing our body of knowledge; leave the dirty business of deciding what to do with the results to the politicians!

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