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Busted: Reef fish aren’t bothered by “acidification” and James Cook Uni isn’t bothered by potential fraud.

“Clark et al. (2020) found 100% replication failure. None of the findings of the original eight studies were found to be correct.”

Scientists tried to repeat eight experiments that showed “acidification” would make reef fish get hyper, act like their predators smell nice, and generally swim in the wrong circles, behave weirdly and need therapy sessions. Turns out the fish will be OK, but James Cook Uni’s reputation may never recover. The original junk experiments and press releases came out of the coral reef centre at JCU.

This is the “replication crisis” Peter Ridd warned us about. He was fired from  JCU in 2018 after stating that work from JCU’s coral reef centre (ARCCoE)  was not trustworthy. He also helped expose manipulated photos of reef fish. Obviously this latest reef research shows he  was right to be concerned about quality assurance at JCU. One JCU researcher, Oona Lönnstedt, had already been caught fabricating data in Sweden, and yet JCU “investigated” and sacked Ridd faster than it investigated her suspicious lionfish shots. Indeed, two years on, JCU has not even officially appointed the committee to investigate her potentially fraudulent work. It seems JCU would rather employ untrustworthy scientists than honest ones.

Ridd won on every count in court against JCU last year, but they still want to waste millions in the high court defending their right to exile and punish a whistleblower for being non-collegial and writing a slightly satirical subject line: “for your amusement”.  This unpermitted behaviour is seemingly so much more important to JCU managers than employing people who do honest, useful scientific work. And who cares about the stupid fish and the fate of the dumb reef anyhow? They are just a fund-raising tool for a grants machine.   I guess JCU can’t maintain the abject fear among their staff, and get obedience to their own agenda if the dang staff say what they really think.

Think about how pointless the JCU appeal is — even if they were to win, they lose — they prove that they are not the kind of institute taxpayers should be funding.

JCU management have learnt nothing. Since losing the case JCU has changed its employment contracts, not to give their academics the unequivocal right to speak freely, but to make sure they can’t. Enough is enough — all universities need to guarantee free speech in employment contracts or no more government funds.

Every JCU employee’s work is tainted by this. Even the honest ones. We will never know what any JCU researchers really believe, or which results were filed in the bin, no matter what they say, because we know employees of JCU have to hide unfashionable opinions. Their quality assurance is terminally flawed. This makes the entire institution useless as a research body, and with standards so low, also useless for teaching. The government could fix this entire embarrassing debacle in five minutes. They just need to withhold JCU funding til the uni gets new management, investigates potential fraud, stops wasting funds in legal battles, and demonstrate that they support free speech — rehire Ridd, sack the VC Sandra Harding AO who earnt $975,000 in 2018, and enshrine free speech in employment contracts. It could all be fixed in time before the academic year starts.

Environmentalists should be defending Ridd. Junk science hurts the reef. The nation could waste money giving the fish counseling instead of solving actual issues that may threaten the reef.

And the problem is bigger than just JCU. As Ridd points out “Such replication studies have been opposed by all the major GBR (Great Barrier Reef) science institutions.” None of these institutions want the science checked.

It’s also proof that sacred “peer review” is as meaningless as a pal review by two anonymous people obviously would be.

JCU is the text-book example of what happens when government funding strangles science. The people in charge of JCU’s “science” department — deciding what “the consensus will be” are the administrators, not the academics.

This is not a one off. JCU has a pattern of evicting, blackbanning, and ousting people who disagree with the bureaucrats pet fashions (vale, Bob Carter!). In this culture, more funding means more strangling. So just stop.



Peter Ridd: Scientific Misconduct At James Cook University Confirms My Worst Fears

Global Warming Policy Foundation

Seven scientists expose massive scientific incompetence –  or worse – at James Cook University

All the erroneous studies were done by scientists from James Cook Universities highly prestigious Coral Reef Centre. They were published in high profile journals, and attracted considerable media attention.

The major findings of the original studies that were found to be wrong were that high CO2 concentrations cause small reef fish to

  • lose their ability to smell predators, and can even become attracted towards the scent of predators,
  • become hyper-active,
  • loose their tendency to automatically swim either left or right, and,
  • have impaired vision.

This is the second time these 7 authors have got together to reveal a major scientific scandal. They were the whistle blowers of the infamous Lonnstedt scientific fraud in 2018. Lonnstedt, originally a PhD student at JCU, is also one of the scientists involved with these latest erroneous studies. She was found guilty of fabricating data in Sweden.

JCU has failed to properly investigate possible scientific fraud by Lonnstedt. Government funding agencies should insist that the highest responsible officer at JCU be sacked to send a message that institutions must take fraud seriously and not try to cover it up.

Failure to investigate fraud when there is a strong prime facie case that it has occurred is a far greater crime than fraud itself. It is a failure at the highest levels of an institution.

It demonstrates that fraud will be tolerated at James Cook University.  – Peter Ridd

Peter Ridd’s full comments on the Clark et al paper.

The Peter Ridd story:

For people interested in Ocean Acidification see this section 5.5 from page 522 of the comprehensive Climate Change Reconsidered Report by Heartland.


Clark, T.D., Raby, G.D., Roche, D.G. et al. Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes. Nature (2020) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1903-y

h/t Willie Soon, Peter Ridd, George.

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