Permission to Speak, Sir?! Top NZ climate scientist is fired, for not asking!

April 27, 2009 at 3:46 am | Posted in Climate communication, Climate science | 9 Comments
Tags: , , ,

No joke! Certainly not a re-run of Dad’s Army.

This is serious. In New Zealand last Friday, Dr Jim Salinger was fired for speaking to the media without asking permission first. Read about it in the media (ha!) here:

Face of NIWA Dr. Jim Salinger sacked for talking to media

One of New Zealand’s top climate scientists has just been fired from his job at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric research (NIWA).

Dr Jim Salinger has been the public face of the organisation for three decades, but says it was his unauthorised talking to the media that’s got him sacked.

Salinger, whose work as a science communicator has earned him accolades and even contributed to a Nobel Peace Prize, says he is now planning to sue his former employer for unjustified dismissal because according to him, he cannot understand why he was sacked.

“It’s not as though I’m doing bad science, it’s not as though I’m not performing and so I’m really astounded”.

What got Salinger fired is something that in the past brought him high praise – talking to the media.

Salinger says he always believed that his media work actually brought NIWA into repute.

And indeed, NIWA is not claiming any concern about what their principal scientist actually said to the media. It’s that he defied new policy – speaking publicly without gaining prior approval.

One instance of what NIWA calls “serious misconduct” was when he participated in a ONE News story about the shrinking of New Zealand’s glaciers.

Another case where he was quoted was described as insubordination.

But Salinger says the reasons given for his dismissal are not strong enough to get him fired.

“As scientists we’re all a bit eccentric and we all might slightly break protocol, but it’s not going to destroy NIWA”.

And Dr John Lancashire from the NZ Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science agrees with Salinger’s views.

“I’m not aware of any other country sacking a Nobel award winner or for that matter a companion of the Royal Society of NZ, so that’s a bit strange I’d have to say”.

NIWA says it will not talk about an employment issue publicly, but says it had given him warnings before his dismissal.

Late Thursday, Dr Salinger arrived home from NIWA for the last time. He may head the World Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, but now has no job to go to in his own country.

His work now is to make room for over 30 years of scientific papers – the quality of which is not in question.



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  1. How many sceptic academics have been sacked for talking to the media?

    Zero I think.

  2. Hello Paul,
    Thanks for the tip off.
    Presumably sceptics who consider themselves authorities on the subject of climate change are merely discredited in the eyes of scientists. A problem arises when the media provide them with a platform for their opinions because they are, dare I say, entertaining (e.g. Monckton), and many members of the public don’t seem to know enough to be able to judge who the authentic and trustworthy authorities on a subject really are.

  3. Salinger was well past his use-by date. The world is cooling but he hasn’t noticed

  4. I find it interesting that in New Zealand, Salinger is sacked, but in Australia Ian Plimer (a mining geologist) is going on the rampage across the Australian media promoting a sceptic book, but there are no threats to sack him from his state funded job.

  5. Maybe that’s because Plimer is a real scientist and not an alarmist Al Gore groupie

  6. The underlying issue of my comment isn’t even about climate science Tommy, but it doesn’t surprise me that you missed the primary point i made.

    In New Zealand a man was fired for talking to the media about the subject he has been researching for over 30 years.

    In Australia Ian Plimer is getting more exposure on a subject he has hardly touched and the ‘left wing’ government is allowing him to do so.

    Anyone with an ounce of intelligence could see that the point i made was that the left wing government was offering more liberal and free terms to its scientists, despite the fact that it has accepted AGW is correct. This is in contrast to a conservative (free enterprise, free speech) administration in NZ which is dictating the media contact terms.

  7. Yes, I got your point but it was less than relevant. But Australia can afford to be more liberal. Over there the skeptics do get air time, whatever the government. Salinger was not sacked for talking about his subject, but for insubordination. Anyway, when he talks about weather it isn’t even his subject. He pretended to be Metservice at times, hence the recent acrimony that lead the late Augie Auer to ball Salinger out publicly and for NIWA to be disbanded

  8. Wikipedia: “Insubordination is the act of a subordinate deliberately disobeying a lawful order from someone in charge of them.”

    A lawful order is dependent on a rule/law being set, so that it can be broken.

    You are skirting around the point i made and in fact you confirm that the point i made is correct.

    Plimer is not being insubordinate because the laws/rules he is working within are more liberal. Where as Salinger is faced with greater restrictions.

    Also the fact is, climate change isn’t the subject that Plimer is employed for!
    So if Plimer faced the same dictorial rules that Salinger is now, Plimer would have been sacked a long time ago.


    ‘an “extreme embarrassment” for New Zealand, The Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science says’

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