JCU Trying to Gag Debate over GBR Science


Prof. Peter Ridd—a marine scientist whose research focusses on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and an AEF Director—is literally fighting for his professional life trying to improve the quality of GBR research, to which the Australian taxpayer contributes over $100 million per year. 

For some time Prof. Ridd has been publicly and repeatedly critical of the quality of much of this research and has championed practical ways to improve it.  In mid-2016 James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville—his employer—conducted a formal investigation, found him guilty of 'not acting in a collegial manner'—even though he did not name those whose work he had criticised—and gave him a formal censure for 'academic misconduct'.

Prof. Ridd was cautioned he would be sacked if he did not desist.  He is not prepared to do so, however, because he knows just how critical vigorous debate is to rigorous science. 

In an interview with Alan Jones on Sky News on 1 August 2017, he warned, "We can no longer trust the scientific organisations, like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC [Australian Research Council] Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies."

"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 that we can any more."

In the wake of this interview, JCU launched a second investigation for academic misconduct, found Prof. Ridd guilty once more, and issued him with a 'final censure'.   

None of Prof. Ridd's criticisms are in the least surprising to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the replication crisis convulsing science around the world. That crisis has been  precipitated by the routine failure of scientists to replicate results that have been published in peer-reviewd journals. It has been extensively reported by leading media outlets, acknowledged by editors of leading scientific journals—including Nature and The Lancet—and confirmed by a survey of over 1,500 scientists in all the major disciplines.            

JCU could have acted like a real university and facilitated a debate on the issues raised by Prof. Ridd. Instead JCU is trying to gag him. It has instructed him to remain silent, not only about his scientific criticisms, but also about the JCU disciplinary processes, how they have been conducted, and the official censures that JCU has issued to him.

Prof. Ridd has launched a legal action against JCU in the Federal Court to protect his ability to speak out about these issues. As he will need something like $120,000 to fund the case, he has launched an appeal for donations at GoFundMe [has an embedded hyperlink to the appeal].  Any surplus will be donated to the AEF Bob Carter Memorial Fund.

We invite AEF supporters—and everyone who values rigorous science, academic freedom and freedom of speech—to contribute. 

For more background on the case, Prof. Ridd has created a dedicated website [has an embedded hyperlink to https://platogbr.wordpress.com/serious-misconduct/].