Professor Peter Ridd, a noted coral reef expert, is suing an Australian university for violating his academic freedom by censuring him for being critical of research hyping the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef.
James Cook University, where Ridd works, issued a “final censure” against the geophysicist for not acting in a “collegial” manner during an August interview with Sky News over the quality of science on the Great Barrier Reef.
This isn’t the first time James Cook University has censured Ridd for being critical of scientists hyping the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef. But this time, Ridd is fighting back. (RELATED: University Censures Science Prof For Fact-Checking Global Warming Claim)
Ridd has filed suit against his employer, arguing they are violating his academic freedom. Ridd said the censure “is unacceptable” and “flies in the face of my instinct for truth and honesty, and my academic freedom,” according to a GoFundMe.com page to raise money for his legal fight.
The whole controversy started in 2016 when a strong El Nino warming event pushed up ocean temperatures surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, causing a massive bleaching event that consumed much of its northern reaches.
Scientists studying the reef came out with studies warning the bleaching had affected 93 percent of the reef, and follow-up studies claimed 67 percent of northern shallow reefs had died. The news coverage only heightened the alarm, pointing the finger at man-made global warming.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies put out some of the more alarming studies on the reef that got the most media coverage. ARC reef expert Terry Hughes was quoted in many papers warning about the impacts of global warming.
“Climate change is not a future threat,” Hughes told The New York Times last year. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.”
Ridd criticized the quality of ARC’s research in an interview with Sky News in August 2017. Ridd was invited to come on air to discuss a chapter he wrote for the book “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” which was published by the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank.
“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” Ridd told Sky News.
“I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef,” Ridd said. “I just don’t think they’re very objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and you know you can’t blame them, the reef is a beautiful thing.”
James Cook University said Ridd’s comments denigrated the university’s reputation, despite no individual researchers being mentioned nor the fact that Ridd worked for the school.
“At no point in my Sky News interview did I name the university where I work or any of my colleagues. Nor did I make any statements which I believe to be untrue,” Ridd wrote on his fundraising page.
Ridd said his comments in the interview were based on peer-reviewed research he published and are shared by other experts in the field.
“My point was about academic integrity and scientific research, which I am entitled to make under the intellectual freedom provisions of my employment agreement,” Ridd said.
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