This follows on from the previous post – where it was shown that the Met Office seasonal forecast that isn’t a forecast, really is a forecast.
Readers will be familiar with the Met Office’s explanation for supposedly not issuing public seasonal forecasts. Whenever the Met Office are asked why they do not provide a public seasonal forecast (in name, anyway) their response is typically that:
“We withdrew from making public our forecasts for the season because the public said they didn’t want them.”
Somehow that did not seem to ring quite right. It seemed appropriate to find out more about how the Met Office arrived at this conclusion, so Autonomous Mind submitted a Freedom of Information request (using an alias as shown on the attached FOI response) asking:
- When the consultation exercise was conducted – or as appropriate – How many communications were received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts
- The questions that were asked of the public during the consultation
- The total number of responses from the public collected during the consultation
- The number of responses FOR withdrawing the seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them
- The name(s) of the Met Office executive(s) who made the decision to withdraw seasonal forecasts following the consultation exercise
- The minutes of the meeting at which the decision was taken (dealt with in the previous post)
Not all of the information has been supplied in the way requested. However the information that has been released is quite revealing and exposes shenanigans behind the scenes that are worthy of public note. What is clear is that the Met Office’s claim that the public did not want seasonal forecasts relied almost exclusively upon:
- unsolicited comments made online rather than responses to pointed questions dealing with the point in a relevant manner
- customer comment – which cannot in any way be considered to be public feedback; and
- trend research into public trust in the Met Office, which has no place being included in assessing whether seasonal forecasts are wanted by the public.
It is important to note the Met Office was unable able to furnish me with details of the number of communications received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts. For all we know, no one has written to the Met Office asking the department to cease the issue of seasonal forecasts to the public.
So what is the Met Office’s solid basis for the decision to give the impression that the public does not want seasonal forecasts?
That’s all. The Met Office conducted two focus group exercises in February 2009 consisting of eight persons each, male and female, between the ages 25-60. These were apparently in free form discussion format. But it does not seem this exercise was taken seriously. The Met Office was unable able to furnish me with the number of response FOR withdrawing seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them as the information was not gathered during the focus groups.
This means the Met Office has made a decision yet possesses no quantatative or qualitative information on which to assess how that decision was determined. Ludicrously in the response the Met Office describe these two discussions involving a total of just 16 people as a:
representative sample, [that] reflect the feelings of this segment of the population
If, as a corporate communications professional, I was tasked by a client to conduct a roundtable exercise to glean information from the public that would be used as the basis for a Board level decision about the way the organisation conducts an activity, and I submitted what the Met Office cites as evidence of public sentiment to be used as the basis for a decision, I would expect to be summarily fired.
But then, it looks almost certain this whole thing has been contrived. The Met Office Board was not at any time acting in response to public sentiment, it was purusing its own agenda in reputation management. It wanted something to cite as justification for supposedly scrapping public seasonal forecasts and this ‘go-through-the-motions’ exercise provided it. When John Hirst presented his proposal to the Met Office Board there was no mention at all of this being done at the behest of the public, or any evidence in support of it, as we can see from the Minutes below:
The long and short of all this – both this post and the previous one – is that the Met Office seems to have manufactured questionable cover for its decision to supposedly withdraw public seasonal forecasts that does not stand up to scrutiny. The seasonal forecasts remain, they have simply been renamed and relocated as per Hirst’s initiative. And, if and when a seasonal forecast turns out to be inaccurate the Met Office has constructed this narrative to provide itself with deniability before and after the event, as we saw this winter.
This is a farcical and unacceptable state of affairs which badly fails the taxpaying public. Process at the Met Office lack integrity and its lack of honesty has already been exposed in previous posts. Root and branch reform of the Met Office executive is required now as the public can have no confidence in the ethical management of the department.