Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
If someone was systematically writing to journals that had published your work, making false allegations against you, would you be concerned?
Imagine you’re a university professor and researcher. To a significant degree, your career success depends on being regularly published in scholarly journals.
Now imagine that the subject matter in which you specialize is controversial – and that your research findings sometimes challenge conventional wisdom.
How would you feel if someone deliberately targeted you – if they undertook a systematic campaign against you that involved contacting journals and alleging that your research is in error?
Would you start to worry about how this might affect your career? Would you be concerned that journal editors might reject your future papers simply because they’d rather not deal with the unpleasant person waging this campaign of harassment?
Welcome to the world of economist Richard Tol. His specialty is the economics of climate change. I haven’t had a chance to interview him about this matter yet, but a few days ago he published a blog post that begins like this:
attack dogPR person, Bob Ward, has reached a new level of trolling. He seems to have taking [sic] it on himself to write to every editor of every journal I have ever published in, complaining about imaginary errors even if I had previously explained to him that these alleged mistakes in fact reflect his misunderstanding and lack of education.
Unfortunately, academic duty implies that every accusation is followed by an audit. Sometimes an error is found, although rarely by Mr Ward. [bold added, strikeout in the original]
Economist Nicholas Stern is the chairman of the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Ward is that institute’s official spokesperson.
In many respects, Stern and Tol have competing views and represent competing analyses. Which means that an employee of Stern’s is waging an ugly and sustained campaign against one of Stern’s academic rivals.
How is this remotely acceptable?
Read Tol’s post here.
My own experience of Bob Ward is discussed here