For a spin doctor, Andrew Gilruth has led the GWCT into a terrible place.
This is an organisation that claims it is great at science – it used to be, but its best days are long gone. But if you are going to trade on your past scientific reputation then you have to play by the rules of science and the GWCT is not.
On Wednesday the GWCT posted a blog on their website which apparently quoted a paper which is not yet published: the paper was released in error for just a short while and then taken off line. But in that time the GWCT and YFTB (from whom I wouldn’t expect any better – but I would expect better from GWCT (at least I would have in the olden days)) decided to cause trouble with it. GWCT have known, for well over 24 hours, quite possibly for more than 48 hours, that the paper is embargoed, was published in error, and that therefore scientific proprieties and best practice mean that it should not be quoted. And yet they refuse to take down their blog quoting the paper.
GWCT are also now not publishing comments on that blog – I know this because I sent them a comment early this morning and I see on Twitter that I am not the only one. So, they are now gagging any criticism from appearing on their website.
Also, in what looks like an attempt to disguise this behaviour the GWCT has posted another blog with links to online comments on the subject – they are promoting comment that should not have been made because the paper is still embargoed. This isn’t a mistake – GWCT are doing this deliberately and knowingly. By the way, GWCT seem to have neglected to include in their list of online references the two blogs I have written on this subject (here and here) perhaps because they spell out the other side of the story and include a long quote given to me by the senior author of the embargoed paper, Prof Matt Davies which I will repeat here in full:
‘The paper was accidentally made publicly available for a short time, this has been corrected. In that time a number of organisations picked it up. We do not endorse any of the current media coverage of our work, associated press releases or blog posts. We are disappointed that a paper that calls for a better understanding and representation of fire in scientific debates, and in the media, has been picked up in such a politicized way. Ironically, this is doing exactly what we are arguing against. We recognise the fire is an emotive topic in the U.K., much more so than in other countries. We only want fire to be understood as an ecosystem processes and for managed fire to be discussed based on a thorough understanding of the balance between its various benefits and disbenefits. We look forward to discussing and debating the scientific arguments made in our paper once it is officially published in May.’
Prof Davies has also tweeted GWCT today to say to GWCT ‘Blog not helping’ which is a clear rebuke to GWCT.
It’s time that Teresa Dent instructed Andrew Gilruth to play fair and to play by the rules, and to take down the two blogs on the embargoed paper – not to do so would suggest that she doesn’t value the code of conduct to which she has signed up for her role on Natural England board when she is running her own organisation. Can you imagine a public body which valued its scientific integrity continuing to promote comment on a scientific paper that it knows to be embargoed? GWCT is a charity.