Grant troughers?

I wandered over to Paul Homewood’s site, and discovered his most recent post was about Royal Society Fellowship. He remarks that:

It won’t come as any surprise to learn that there are many other climate scientists at the trough.

and then lists those climate scientists who hold Royal Society Fellowships and how much their Fellowship is worth. I left a comment that (when I last looked) hadn’t yet appeared. I don’t really care, but I do find describing these people as being at the trough rather insulting. On the off chance that Paul Homewood is simply ignorant, rather than nasty and intolerant, I’ll explain something.

The most common Royal Society Fellowship is the University Research Fellowship (URF). It’s aimed at researchers who don’t yet have permanent jobs and is extremely competitive; I think the success rate is around 5%. The Fellowship typically starts off with a 5-year term, renewable to 8, and sometimes 10. The money covers everything; the researcher’s salary, pension and national insurance contributions, travel and computing costs, and university administration costs.

Mosts of the researchers will be Grade 8 or Grade 9, which means their salaries will be somewhere in the range of £40k, not a bad salary, but remember these are thought to be some of the strongest young researchers in the country. If Paul Homewood thinks this is them at the trough, pigging out on public money, he’s got a strange idea of what being at the trough means.

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37 Responses to Grant troughers?

  1. Okay, I realise that I should probably just ignore posts like those written by Paul Homewood, but sometimes it does seem worth pointing these things out.

  2. I always thought he was an accountant, but I don’t why I had that impression.

  3. Magma says:

    I should probably just ignore posts like those written by Paul Homewood

    I found it interesting that his post subsequent to the Royal Society Fellowships one was a negative view of the problems faced by a Canadian carbon capture and storage plant, one of the very few of its size currently operating in the world.

    Since claimed technological ‘fixes’ such as CCS are one of the ways pseudoskeptics say we will fix any problems arising from increased atmospheric CO2 (assuming there are any…), it seemed odd to read this. But then I looked more carefully, to find that CO2 is not a “real” pollutant, plus quasi-defamatory comments on Peter Gleick, some gloating over the Independent ceasing its print edition…

    He’s just another lowlife denier, and not worth the bother of attention or a response.

  4. Magma,
    I do find it odd that some will gleefully report any issue with anything that might reduce our emissions. You’d think that even a climate science denier would rather we didn’t pump lots of CO2 into the atmosphere if we could avoid doing so.

  5. MartinM says:

    Yeah, not so much, it turns out.

  6. Tom Curtis says:

    It is interesting perusing the facts of Homewood’s expose. He has revealed that:

    1) Only 14 active Royal Society grants have gone to climate scientists, although he does not mention that is only 14 out of 926 research fellowships.
    2) Only 62.3% of the money for the research fellowships comes from the government.

    3) He does not mention, although the information is on the table he presents, that the mean research fellowship is for a total grant of 55,354 Pounds per annum, however the median and modal research fellowship is for only 10,000 pounds per annum. That means the climate scientists are typically, distorting their findings (according to Homewood) for a financial reward just slightly greater than the Old Age Pension.

    How cheap must accountants be willing to sell their soul for if that is what he thinks is all it takes.

  7. Tom,
    To be fair, I can’t imagine he’s been paid much (if anything) to spread the mis-information he’s spreading. Maybe £10000 per year sounds a lot to him 🙂

  8. Phil says:

    Definition of an Accountant – Someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  9. MartinM says:

    He does not mention, although the information is on the table he presents, that the mean research fellowship is for a total grant of 55,354 Pounds per annum, however the median and modal research fellowship is for only 10,000 pounds per annum. That means the climate scientists are typically, distorting their findings (according to Homewood) for a financial reward just slightly greater than the Old Age Pension.

    And at the upper end, the three big grants which shift the mean up are all Royal Society Research Professorships, which provide a maximum of £82,000 to cover the recipient’s salary. That’s a little more than the average professor’s salary in the UK, but not by much. The rest of the money goes into a start-up grant, research costs, and other costs incurred by the host University. So these scientists are selling out for…basically the same amount they’d be making if they hadn’t bothered. Makes perfect sense, right?

  10. So these scientists are selling out for…basically the same amount they’d be making if they hadn’t bothered. Makes perfect sense, right?

    They do – typically – get to reduce their teaching and admin, and do more research. It’s almost as if they value some things more than they value money?

  11. John Mashey says:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/03/09/congratulations-to-wuwt-contributor-paul-homewood-for-getting-press-in-east-anglia

    In the Salby affair, at WUWT:
    “{Paul Homewood} says:
    July 10, 2013 at 10:45 am
    Eli Rabbit
    Let the dust settle
    That’s just what Macquarie would be hoping for”

  12. Kestrel27 says:

    I suggested a while ago that I would like to see you comment on some of Paul Homewood’s historical posts on weather. Having seen his reply to your comment on this topic I can understand why you don’t normally consider it worthwhile engaging with him.

  13. Kestrel,
    I can’t tell whether you think that’s my fault or his. I don’t have a great deal of time for people who think that scientists who are funded are grant troughers and who seem to think it worth discussing the corruption of climate science by government funding. Just makes them seem a little cluesless (and that’s being polite).

  14. I should probably acknowledge that Paul Homewood finally did post my comment, but hasn’t posted my response to his response. This could be because I didn’t satisfy some conditions, one of which appeared to be how much I earned (although, it wasn’t entirely clear what the conditions were). It could, however, be because I asked if he was a conspiracy theorist.

  15. Kestrel27 says:

    I had hoped that the way I put my comment made it apparent that I thought the fault was his.

  16. halmorris says:

    I propose they all send feelers out to various think tanks with hints that they’d be willing to sell their souls, and see what kind of offers come back, and report the results.

    40,000 pounds, not to mention the “modal” 10,000 pounds would, I expect be exceeded (perhaps greatly) by Judith Curry’s speaking fees to various esteemed institutes like AEI, Cato, etc.

    Some would say so what as it’s private money and so isn’t the “trough” of taxpayers’ money, however since all this noise abets lobbying that helps produce billions of dollars in subsidies, etc., it would take a very naive view of political economy to identify these Royal Society fellows, and not the think-tank-ocracy as the major threat to our pocketbooks, not to say general quality of life.

  17. toby52 says:

    An economist did say (can’t remember his name, but it related to this topic): “Doing science would not even make the list of the top one-thousand easy ways to make money”>

  18. “…but hasn’t posted my response to his response.”

    The chutzpah of Homewood is breathtaking. He lets you post a short comment, aTTP, puts you down in his reply, then blocks your response. His laughable description of this website as “…a silly little …blog” is a hundred times more applicable to his own effort.

    It all adds up to a great big chip on his shoulder, I’d say.

  19. Phil says:

    Kestrel27 –
    ATTP has already debunked some of Homewoods allegations on the temperature record. See here: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/puerto-casado/ for example. If you follow the link to Bookers opinion piece in the Telegraph, you will see that Booker sources his (mis)information from Homewood

  20. halmorris,
    I don’t know how much money is associated with those events. On the other hand, Terence Mills did get paid £3000 for writing a report for the GWPF.

    Toby,
    Maybe exaggerating slightly, but not by much 🙂

    john,
    Nothing surprises me these days. Apparently, though, I’m the one who is censorious.

    Phil,
    That’s about the only time I’ve mentioned Homewood before.

  21. Bwana_mrefu says:

    I know I shouldn’t be bothered , but as an ex-URF, I find his silly ill-informed piece deeply offensive. The early support the RS gave me allowed me to have a career in scientific research.

    At the trough? This guy just doesn’t understand how research science works at all. Although I had a PhD and had worked with a Nobel Prize winner, my wage was equivalent to a newly appointed lecturer. If I worked in industry I could have probably added £5 – 10k to my pay. The real value of the URF was the associated (and fairly modest) research consumable costs that meant I could actually do some independent research myself.

  22. Bwana,
    I never managed to get a URF (I think I only applied once, though 🙂 ), but I agree with your comment completely. The current career structure in academia is one in which people spend 8-10 years studying, 3 or more in postdoctoral positions, and then – if they’re lucky – get some kind of Fellowship that then leads to some kind of permanent job. It can be very interesting and the pay isn’t bad, but it can also be quite stressful and you could almost certainly be better off financially if you chose a different career path. Referring to it as “grant troughing” and allowing your commenters to call those who get fellowships “con artists” is at best silly, and at worst offensive. Being ignorant (as Homewood almost certainly is) is not really a great excuse.

  23. smamarver says:

    On the other hand, there are scientists who don’t offer a clear definition of the climate, as shown here – http://www.whatisclimate.com/, and scientists who analyse different climatic events and try to raise awareness on different important issues, like this one – http://www.seaclimate.com/_ToC/_ToC.html…..

  24. Bwana_mrefu says:

    Just noticed your comment on this guy’s site and his reply. So he supplies no information on who he is, where his expertise lies, and whether he receives any funds for his webpage, but vituperously demands that you supply all the above? The irony.

  25. halmorris says:

    ATTP: Referring to it as “grant troughing” and allowing your commenters to call those who get fellowships “con artists” is at best silly, and at worst offensive. Being ignorant (as Homewood almost certainly is) is not really a great excuse.

    There’s a real atmosphere of merry one-up-man-ship (“here’s an even better ‘zinger’) in this weird subculture of people getting their rocks off by insulting better people. I’ll warrant many millions have gone into rewarding those who do the best job of cultivating this atmosphere with their blogs, etc.

  26. Bwana,
    I suspect he is one who feels that because research is typically funded via public money and that he is a taxpayer that he gets to define how those who do research should behave.

    hal,
    I’d genuinely be surprised if there is that much money in being a “skeptical blogger”. I guess they make some money from tip jars and from the adverts on their sites, but I doubt they get a lot from think tanks. I think Anthony Watts was once paid some money by the Heartland Institute for a project. Andrew Montford appears to be the secretary for the GWPF (based on an email I was sent when I asked about their surface temperature project), but I don’t know if he is paid. My guess is many do this simply because they happen to believe what they’re promoting.

  27. The money of Big Carbon mostly goes to politicians and the media.

  28. halmorris says:

    I admire your faith in humanity. From reading the right wing blogs, etc., it is obvious they have much reflexive distrust, maybe in part because they know how low they are willing to stoop.

    Re: “My guess is many do this simply because they happen to believe what they’re promoting.”

    Many, yes, many feel they are on a kind of sacred mission, based on having marinated themselves in totalitarian dystopian fantasies, and they believe in the “slippery slope to totalitarianism” that starts with liberals or phony liberals (like Ayn Rand’s loathsome characters) with their tax-siphoning bureaucracies.

    Right-wing media in the U.S. reflexively labels anything that costs money a “power grab”, etc., etc., and many people are genuinely frightened by this.

    But in addition, the top .0001% has so much money, that they spread it around with no receipts needed and no tell-tale tit-for-tat. It used to be rich influencers felt the need of assurance of getting something for their money, but no more. Recommended reading: Dark Money by Jane Meyer. Many similar books have been written but this one is the best and most up to date IMO.

  29. halmorris says:

    Victor Venema: “The money of Big Carbon mostly goes to politicians and the media.”

    Actually, a lot of it goes to anybody who looks like a promising potential future ally; e.g to thousands of conservative college students who get paid to go to “activist boot camps” and “think tank” internships, not to mention millions for endowed chairs (esp. economics) at universities. Many people whose views are in some grey area (think Templeton foundation), or some useful counterpoint to standard liberal positions (think the smarter more interesting people at the Mercatus Center) are paid lavishly just to cultivate some good will and legitimacy.

    If you read “so-and-so, George Mason University Professor says”, think this guy is paid an additional salary by the Mercatus Center which mostly comes from the Kochs.

    I’ll reiterate: Recommended reading: Dark Money by Jane Meyer. Many similar books have been written but this one is the best and most up to date IMO.

  30. izen says:

    I think there are two aspects to Homewood’s use of ‘grant troughers’ to disparage those who sup from the public teat, or are financed from anything other than industry sources.

    First is the Neo-Con economic objection to any and all public expenditure by government. The mantra is that the government is best which governs least. Many Rothbardians will grudgingly accept that national security and therefore an army/navy/airforce is a proper duty of government, but are unwilling to grant it much else. ALL taxation is seen as theft, and even the provision of a legal framework to protect property rights and contract law is sometimes seen as government over-reach.
    From that perspective any work done on the public purse is, irrespective of any claimed benefit, enabling or legitimising an immoral act of theft by the government from its people.

    The fact there is no historical or current viable example of this ‘small government’ model, but multiple examples of the success of government investment in science has no effect on this dogma.

    The second meaning intended by labeling science research grant troughing is it is part of a narrative that then asserts that the requirement to obtain grants and income from public funds will inevitably result in the supine acceptance by the scientists who will support and purvey the group-think consensus. Describing scientists as being at the trough then justifies the further assumption that they are willingly engaged in falsifying the temperature record and any other research findings.

    This assumption that scientists will shape their science to the desires of those who provide the money makes the reverse accusation legitimate. That scientists funded by the dark money are also capable of amending THEIR scientific ‘findings’ to suit their masters.

    In fact as the recent revelations about exxon show, when industry has paid scientists to study the subject, they appear to have had sufficient integrity to report the same findings of AGW as were coming from mainstream climate science. They did not bend to the preferences of their funding source.

    Perhaps scientists are less malleable and supine than Homewood gives them credit for. Or he is judging them according to his own experience.

  31. John Mashey says:

    1) There are a handful of pro’s (besides lobbyists) who make a living from climate denial, and I rather doubt that most bloggers make much if anything, except whatever they get from publishing books.

    2) GMU is a strange place.
    a) Most of the school seems to have normal academics.
    Some are very good, such as Ed Maibach, who does climate surveys, and I see him sometimes at AGU meetings. I know other good folks there (as does ATTP).

    b) A few parts of GMU might as well be Koch subsidiaries (or tobacco contractors like Robert Tollison was), but be careful not to tar everybody with the same brush.

    For some detail, see See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others pp.54-67, but if nothing else, look at the chart on p.58.

  32. kap55 says:

    Haven’t you heard? All climate scientists are in it for the money, with the exception of the few that are working for places like the Heartland Institute. In fact, every day I see those fat-cat climatologists on the slopes at Gstaad, or lounging on the beach at St. Tropez. I just wish more of them were women. Because we need more women in the sciences.

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    one wonders what they think the trough is for, if not for feeding the research “livestock” (which won’t be productive if not adequately feed)?

    Disclosure: I once had a Royal Society equipment grant and a few travel grants (some of which ware used for climate related research), when I was a newly weaned researcher and was a big help in getting me ready to join the herd. ;o)

  34. John Mashey says:

    ATTP: you have a “Blogs I follow” list …
    but you really should have a “blogs I’ve looked at, but don’t think are worth following, because X” list. Really, some of these things are not worth a blog post.

  35. John,
    Indeed, and Homewood’s is definitely one of them. It’s all a learning experience 🙂

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