I call Tim Clark and Fredrik Jutfelt and their team the Magnificent 7 because they just want truth in science despite risking their entire careers being whistleblowers. They have, yet again, exposed very worrying evidence of possible fraud at the heart of the JCU’s Coral Reef Centre in a new report published in the prestigious SCIENCE magazine. The lack of a proper investigation and signs of a cover up are further evidence of serious quality assurance problems in our environmental science institutions. But this is just the latest in a line of potential, and actual, cases of fraud. It started in 2017 when the Magnificent 7 exposed Oona Lonnstedt for having fabricated data when she joined Uppsala University shortly after leaving JCU. Then, a large number of fish behaviour experiments including some by Lonnstedt’s supervisors was checked by the Magnificent 7 and ALL of the work was found to be 100% wrong. How can that happen? Much of this questionable work is doom-science about the effect of climate change and agriculture on the reef. Apparently, fish act very strangely in high CO2 environments or on “degraded reefs”. For example, their sense of smell supposedly gets distorted and they end up being eaten by predators. Clark’s work showed this was not the case. The latest allegations concern senior scientists associated with the JCU coral reef centre, and it is not just the Magnificent 7 making the allegations – it is backed up many other scientists around the world.
From this report, it seems that the universities (not just JCU) don’t want to investigate this properly, and neither do the funding bodies, or the science journals. They would rather cover up problems than investigate. One of the Magnificent 7’s critics, Prof Portner, co-chair of an IPCC working group , said “If such a controversy gets outside of the community, it’s harmful because the whole community loses credibility.” I find this statement much more worrying than some possible fraud about fish. Truth is apparently secondary to the reputation of the “community.”I was fired after saying that work from the JCU Coral Reef Centre could not be trusted due to systemic lack of quality assurance. I was not referring to possible fraud, but the system of peer review which has a roughly 50% failure rate. Roughly half of published science has flaws. These latest examples are just spectacular examples of problems with quality assurance.There is more than enough evidence that the Australian Research Council, that funds the Coral Reef Centre, should investigate. According to this article, the ARC seems to have done nothing, certainly nothing publicly.It is time that the science organisations stop pretending there are no quality problems. This denial of the quality assurance problems is far worse than any possible fraud that may have been committed by individual scientists.The major institutions are deceiving the public about the reliability of the work they are producing. We are supposed to trust them but how can we?We need an Office of Science Review to check important science results that are used for public policy.