Green sceptic retains his job

January 17, 2003

Bjørn Lomborg, director of Denmark's Institute for Environmental Assessment, will keep his job despite breaching the "clear norms" of scientific practice in his controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World .

Professor Lomborg initially said that criticisms from the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (UVVU) might cost him his job.

The UVVU ruled that publication of the book by Cambridge University Press was "in clear breach of the norms for good scientific practice".

But government officials said his job was not in jeopardy. Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said before this week's meeting of the institute board that his tenure was not a matter for discussion. The institute board conceded that the ruling had created credibility problems. Ole Kristiansen, its chair, said an urgent independent assessment of the eight reports it had issued in its first six months was needed to correct any errors or admissions. Three referees - at least one from abroad - will assess future reports.

The UVVU received several complaints of dishonesty arising from the methods and sources used in the book, which was published in 2001. The committees, divisions of the Danish Research Agency, are made up of scientists and headed by a high court judge.

The UVVU reviewed material sent to it, including a discussion of the book in the journal Scientific American , before classifying the publication as "scientific dishonesty" for displaying "systematic one-sidedness".

But the UVVU added that this was not done wilfully or through negligence and a formal finding of dishonesty was not made.

Professor Lomborg was initially surprised at the "uncomfortable" finding. He said: "After reading the whole statement, it is inexplicable as it does not comment on the criticisms raised by the complainants." The statement was undocumented and one-sided, he said.

Academics criticised the ruling. Claus Hagen Jensen, professor of administrative law at Aalborg University, said: "No grounds were givenI there must, in principle, always be grounds in a decision in public administration."

Ruling details: www.forsk.dk/uvvu/nyt/udtaldebat/bl_decision.htm

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