Prof Jones’ BBC science review continues to crumble

Readers may remember the recent furore caused by the findings of an ‘independent review’ of the impartiality and accuracy of BBC science coverage commissioned for the BBC Trust.  The story was covered on this blog as we pointed out the evident flaws with the reviewer and the review itself.

The review was conducted by a regular BBC guest and broadcaster – more BBC impartiality for you – the ‘genetics professor’ Prof Steve Jones.  The BBC choose to describe Jones by his discipline, yet choose to play down that his genetics specialism is the snail. Perhaps it doesn’t sound as grand when put that way, so best to leave it out – easy for the masters of omission at the Beeb.

While Jones may be feted by some in the media for his ‘exceptional writing skills’ it seems there are some major flaws in his use of evidence and citation, which should be a matter of concern for a scientist.  Perhaps Jones should have had peer-review process…  As Harmless Sky brings to public attention, the BBC Trust has been forced to publish a ‘Clarification’ in which it has had to amend a passage in the review.  As always it seems ‘correction’ is the hardest word at the BBC and admission of error must be avoided at any costs.  The BBC Trust expains the problem:

On 8 August 2011 the Trust published an updated version of Professor Steve Jones’ independent review of the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s science coverage due to an ambiguity in the section on climate change. This reference was in the section on pages 71-72, immediately before Professor Jones discussed statements about climate change contained in two BBC programmes.

The Trust and Professor Jones now recognise that the passage as originally published could be interpreted as attributing statements made in those two programmes to Lord Lawson or to Lord Monckton.  Neither programme specifically featured Lord Lawson or Lord Monckton and it was not Professor Jones’ intention to suggest that this was the case. Professor Jones has apologised for the lack of clarity in this section of his assessment, which has now been amended.

Typical weasel words constructed by the PR department.  Suggesting the passage ‘could be interpreted as attributing statements’ and that there was merely a lack of clarity is absolute nonsense.  The passage clearly attributed statements, exactly as intended.

It was not a clarification required from Jones, it was a correction, and that is what has been made. Harmless Sky carries the ‘before’ and ‘after’ passages for ease of comparison which show up the intentionally misleading statement by the BBC for what it is.  As Tony, the author of Harmless Sky goes on to point out:

One can well understand why Lords Lawson and Monckton would have been a bit miffed. I sincerely hope that someone at the BBC Trust had the grace to blush and apologise, but the ‘clarification’ they’ve provided sounds rather graceless and grudging. Perhaps its a bit difficult to face up to the fact that you’ve published a review of accuracy costing £140,000 which is not only inaccurate but probably libellous too.

The estimable Bishop Hill, who has given this story the CO2 oxygen of publicity, adds an important note about the Professor Jones’ evident relativism which demonstrates the lack of rigour applied in what amounts to a BBC hatchet job of its critics on the subject of climate change/global warming:

But even if we accept that the rise is all caused by man, it is instructive to observe the outrage with which Prof Jones greets a true (but incomplete) statement from Johnny Ball and then note his silence on say the Horizon programme in which incorrect statements were made about the relative contributions of mankind and volcanos to the atmosphere.

It is instructive indeed.  The message from Professor Steve Jones is clear, you don’t have to be right as long as you’re part of the majority, the consensus if you will.  You can get a pass for just about anything as long as you say what those holding the purse strings, and the keys to the broadcasting studio, want to hear.

At least one good thing has come from this farcical story – Jones has managed to torpedo his own credibility with independent thinkers, and people who examine evidence rather than accept lofty claims at face value.  Long may that continue until facts replace increasingly flawed hypotheses.

7 Responses to “Prof Jones’ BBC science review continues to crumble”


  1. 1 ReefKnot 22/08/2011 at 1:59 pm

    Note the unseemly haste with which the BBC published the Jones report into Climate Change and compare it with the unseemly delay in publishing the Balen report into allegations of bias concerning the BBC’s reporting of the Israel/Middle East situation . The reason being that the Jones report supported the BBC view and the Balen report doesn’t ( presumably – they still haven’t published it ).

  2. 2 James Morrison 22/08/2011 at 2:37 pm

    @ReefKnot No need to say “presumably” old chap, the Balen report absolutely and catagorically proves – beyond all doubt – that the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is wholly biased…

    I can make that statement safely in the knowledge that, for them to disprove it, they’d have to show me the report.

  3. 3 James Corbett 22/08/2011 at 4:41 pm

    I still find it unbelievable that the BBC could openly publish a review which clearly proposes scientific censorship. It is certainly a difficult area; and one could not really propose equal time for, say, the flat earth society. But climate change in particular has such a large and growing anti-warming movement that it deserves at least a significant level of unbiased reporting. After all who says the BBC is the arbiter of what is right and wrong ? Purists of both left and right are often wrong and the only real arbiter is the parliament of public opinion. Thus, almost everyone believes the World to be round and to go round the Sun so it’s fair enough to major on that and relegate flat earthism to the funny pages. But a very significant number of people are unconvinced by global warming or the propaganda which passes for comment on the BBC and elsewhere. That is the place for proper informed debate not censorship. BBC heal thyself.

  4. 4 mfosdb 22/08/2011 at 5:08 pm

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a research field with a catchy title and a ton of government cash is moribund, if not already dead.”

    Prof Steve Jones

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/steve-jones/3342102/View-from-the-lab-the-hard-cell.html

  5. 5 Messenger 22/08/2011 at 5:18 pm

    @Reef Knot
    I wouldn’t call the BBC hasty- it took them 15 months to publish that science bias report by Jones, which I understand involved people (students?) from Imperial studying only four weeks broadcasting output. Not sure what they did for the rest of the time.

  6. 6 Brian Hall 23/08/2011 at 3:38 am

    “Be careful what you ask for.” When one of the Warmistas is given a clear responsibility and then a showcase, the inevitable result is that the product instantly is revealed as biased junk.

  7. 7 ffredd 23/08/2011 at 9:45 am

    Steve Jones was President of the Galton Institute from 2001-2007. The Galton Institute was formerly called the Eugenics Society but I guess they changed their name after the Nazis became unpopular


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