|THE LOMBORG STORY
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|The complaints to UVVU
In a newspaper article in January that year, I had claimed that Lomborg´s books and "kronik"s were all falsification, and that there was a need to set up a committee of neutral scientists that could evaluate whether my claims were correct. I did not then know that a permanent committee of this kind already existed. These are bodies under the Danish Ministry for Science called the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD). In this document I shall use its Danish acronym, UVVU (Udvalgene Vedrørende Videnskabelig Uredelighed).
One day before the deadline referred to above, i.e. on Feb. 20th 2002, I was contacted independently by two people who both urged me to lodge a complaint about Lomborg to UVVU. One of them was the person who was in contact with Stuart Pimm in USA, and Pimm had also been urged to lodge a complaint.
In the afternoon of the same day, I received a telephone call from a journalist at Politiken, who asked if it were true that I had lodged a complaint. I referred him to Stuart Pimm, and then realized that I would have to make the complaint now. As I already had a great deal of documentation demonstrating that Lomborg deliberately manipulated data, I was able to work through the whole night to formulate the complaint. Before noon on the next day the complaint was handed over to the secretary of UVVU, and a copy was delivered to the office that received the applications referred to above. The date of the first complaint was thus 21th Feb. 2002.
UVVU undertook to process the complaint, and the procedure was now as follows: after I had sent additional comments, the UVVU passed on a copy of my complaint to Lomborg. Lomborg wrote a rebuttal. I received a copy of this, and wrote my comments on it, after which Lomborg wrote his comments on my comments. This procedure was finished by May, and in June the UVVU held a meeting where they decided what to do with this information.
The lodging of my complaint was widely covered by printed and electronic media. Without my knowledge, this had inspired another complaint, which was submitted to UVVU by Henrik Stiesdal and his wife Mette Hertz on 7th March 2002. This complaint mainly documented that Lomborg had deliberately lied in his public correspondance on climate issues. More on the contents of this complaint can be read here.
A third complaint was lodged by Stuart Pimm and Jeff Harvey on 22nd March. This was done in close cooperation with me. Their complaint consisted mainly of the reviews of TSE published by the Union of Concerned Scientists and by Scientific American, supplemented with 6 pages of text directed at UVVU.
All these complaints were treated in the same way by UVVU, i.e. they invited Lomborg to write rebuttals, and the complainers to write their counterattacks.
A fourth complaint, dealing with issues of global warming, was submitted to UVVU on 22nd Nov. 2002 by Torben Stockfleth Jørgensen. This was so late, however, that UVVU refused to handle it.
At this point, it will hardly be a surprise that there was not the slightest move towards mutual understanding during the hearing process. As ever before, Lomborg completely refused to admit any flaws at all, and the complainers, on their side, admitted only minor misunderstandings in their letters.
The UVVU thus had the difficult task of deciding who should be believed.
UVVU consists of a chairman, who is a high court judge, and three committees, viz. one on medical sciences, one on natural sciences, and one on social sciences. Each of these has four members and four deputies. All are recognised scientists.
At its meeting in June 2002, UVVU decided that the case should be decided by all the members and deputies of all three committees, making a total of 24 scientists from very differing scientific fields, plus the chairman. First, the case was studied by a sub-committee consisting of five members, viz. three from the social sciences committee and one from each of the two other committees. This "working party" concentrated on an evaluation of the reviewing process in Scientific American. The case was then processed by all 24 members sitting together. The decision was made in December 2002, and was announced in public on 7th Jan. 2003. Lomborg was informed about the decision on 6th Jan. 2003, which happened to be his birthday.
The document detailing the conclusions of the UVVU could be said to comprise more than 600 pages. This is because they decided that all documents in the case be a part of the conclusion. In the words of UVVU, they did not want to record the extremely extensive correspondence in detail, so instead, they deemed it "fit to present not only the . . . summary but the complaints in full, complete with appendices, so that as an appendix to this ruling, incl. the discussions in Scientific American, they form part of the description of the case. The same applies to Bjørn Lomborg´s replies to the complaints. The interested public will thus be granted an opportunity to have full access to the facts of the case."
UVVU´s own text thus comprises "only" 16 pages. Much of it is a review of the debate in Scientific American. The reasoning for this is that the evaluation process had actually already been carried out there: Lomborg´s claims in his books, the review by four experts, Lomborg´s rebuttal, and a final evaluation made mainly by the editor of S.A. The Danish committee members did not feel able to add anything substantial to this evaluation. They felt convinced already from this that Lomborg had indeed used selective data and thus that his presentation did not present a true picture. Some members voiced the view that this was not enough. If UVVU provided new expert evaluations, these might potentially lead to the conclusion that Lomborg´s bias was due to deliberate manipulation. However, UVVU ended up with the easier conclusion, namely that new experts would scarcely be able to add new dimensions to the case. "A crucial role has also been played by the fact that even on the existing basis there is agreement at DCSD in adjudging the defendant´s conduct to be contrary to good scientific practice . . ".
So, on this basis, UVVU ended up by concluding that what Lomborg had written in TSE was misleading, and by describing him as "objectively dishonest", i .e dishonest when evaluated by an external standard. They also judged that he was guilty of systematic bias in his choice of data and line of argument, thereby acting at variance with what they call "good scientific practice". On the other hand, they did not feel able to prove that his bias was deliberate, and therefore do not describe him as "subjectively dishonest" (that is dishonest even relative to his own information). In their words: "In consideration of the extraordinarily wide-ranging scientific topics dealt with by the defendant without having any special scientific expertise . . DCSD has not found - or felt able to procure - sufficient grounds to deem that the defendant has misled his readers deliberately or with gross negligence".
Thus, although the ruling of UVVU was a serious blow for Lomborg, UVVU did not go as far as proving that he had deliberately misled. This was unsatisfactory, especially to Kåre Fog and Henrik Stiesdal, who had done a great deal of work to provide evidence that Lomborg himself knew that what he wrote was not true. The many items of evidence presented by these complainers were actually completely ignored by UVVU. UVVU reviewed the matters discussed in the S.A. debate but, apart from this, they did not go into detail on any specific issues. They did not in any way state whether they believed that Lomborg was right, or the complainers were right, in any of the many issues where the opinions differed completely. There was thus no description of exactly what statements in Lomborg´s book were untrue.
It is difficult to understand why UVVU refused to adjudicate on those allegations that most seriously attacked Lomborg´s honesty. One possibility is that some members felt pity for him and thought that, considering that Lomborg was not an expert in the fields that he writes about, the verdict was hard enough as it was. There is also a more sinister possibility, however. According to a source of information that I believe to be reliable, at least two members of UVVU had been exposed to severe threats, and these threats had an influence on the final decision.
Please notice that central documents in the case may be downloaded here.