James Cook University (JCU) has sacked Peter Ridd, who until then held a chair in geology at JCU. He remains a highly valued AEF Director and Scientific Adviser.
Peter is determined to fight his termination in court—along with the ‘final censure’ that JCU imposed on him last year—notwithstanding its vastly greater resources.
As Peter’s additional legal costs will further outstrip his personal capacity to fund them, he is again appealing for financial assistance from the public.
Last Friday Peter re-opened the GoFundMe campaign he set up to help with his original legal challenge against last year’s ‘final censure’. His revised funding target is $260,000 and, at the time of writing, he had already raised $200,000.
Given the importance of the issues raised by Peter’s sacking, I would like to invite you to contribute to Peter’s GoFundMe campaign. Either way, could I ask you to share his campaign with your family and friends—its website page has social media links.
Peter has set up a separate website with all the documentation on the case to allow people to make up their own mind on the issues. The link to that site is here.
Dr. Ridd’s crime was to break a gag order that JCU had imposed on him. The University had instructed him not to speak to anyone—including his wife!—about the disciplinary action it was taking against him, including last year’s ‘final censure’.
JCU also found that Dr. Ridd broke its order not to “directly or indirectly trivialise, satirise or parody the university” after he sent an email to a former student headlined “for your amusement”. [It would seem that Sandra Harding, the JCU Vice Chancellor, does not understand trivia, satire, or parody, let alone irony.]
The Vice-Chancellor added that Dr. Ridd had “engaged in a pattern of conduct that misrepresents the nature and conduct of the disciplinary process through publications online and in the media”.
“You have repeatedly and knowingly breached your obligations to maintain the confidentiality of disciplinary processes,” Professor Harding wrote in a letter to Dr. Ridd. “You have repeatedly and wilfully denigrated the university and your colleagues, and in doing so damaged the reputation of the university.”
The disciplinary action taken by JCU was in response to Dr. Ridd’s criticisms of the quality of the research into the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
By doing so, the University ignored the fact that scientific criticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process. This is why such criticism in academia is meant to be protected by academic freedom. Scientific knowledge only reliably advances through vigorous criticism and debate.
Moreover, Dr. Ridd’s specific criticisms of GBR research were completely in line with the growing recognition world-wide that many, if not most, research results in science—including reef science—are an unreliable basis for either private or public decision-making until the results have been widely replicated. This was most recently confirmed by the US National Academy of Scholars.
JCU is effectively seeking to shut down both criticism and debate in science. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that JCU’s motives are quite venal—a desperate attempt to protect the vast ‘rivers of research gold’ that flow from the taxpayer to it, its researchers and their friends.
The universities keep trying to lobby me to oppose the government’s funding freeze. Can’t quite bring myself to take them seriously when they do this. https://t.co/Vq5iIUO44u
— David Leyonhjelm (@DavidLeyonhjelm) May 20, 2018