US Corporate Influence in the UK?

The Chicago based “ultra-conservative” think-tank, The Heartland Institute, known for associations with tobacco giant Philip Morris in questioning the damage of second hand smoke and for their hardline skepticism about climate change, have called for the barring of water expert Dr Peter Gleick from speaking at a lecture series in Oxford.

Gleick was in part responsible for an expose on The Heartland Institute published on the DeSmogBlog, highlighting their stance on global warming and their attempts to influence the school curriculum in the USA with regard to climate change.  Gleik’s role in obtaining documents from the think-tank is regarded as highly questionable by some, and he is currently the subject of a board investigation at the Pacific Institute: Gleik is the president and founder of the Pacific Institute and is currently on leave as president pending the result of the inquiry.

The language used by Joseph Bast – the president of The Heartland Institute – in calling for Gleick’s suspension from the lecture series is strong to say the least:

“The actions Gleick has admitted to having taken – lying repeatedly and committing fraud, and then denying responsibility and refusing to take corrective action – all make him unqualified to speak to students or as a scientist.”

“The members of the scientific community who invite him to speak are sullying their own reputations. How can you respect a scientist who committed fraud and theft? How can the public trust the veracity of Gleick’s science after his confessed deceptions? The answer to both questions is: you can’t.”

I am not condoning Gleik’s (still undetermined) role in the expose on The Heartland Institute but I think these comments are a little over the top and somewhat hypocritical.

For an organisation like The Heartland Institute who were strongly associated with the campaign to question the science of second hand smoke with tobacco giant Phillip Morris; whom are known for attacking the science behind global warming and trying to influence the teaching of climate science in schools; and whose lobbying of the US government is reported as being legally questionable; I feel they are in no position to question the integrity of Gleik.

Gleik’s method of obtaining documents from The Heartland Institute may have been morally questionable, but his reasons and his cause are not –  human impact on global warming is scientifically beyond doubt. More importantly, his scientific integrity is discreet from his actions in this instance and remains completely intact. I would be honoured to hear him speak, and would have no doubts about the veracity of his science. I hope Oxford University hold their position and do not bow down to what appears to be corporate pressure by proxy.

Check Wikipedia references and the links below for sources all all statements made here within.

Peter Gleick – Wikipedia

The Heartland Institue – Wikipedia

The Heartland Institue – Own website

General Motors Reposts EDF, Revokes The Heartland Institute – Environmental Defense Fund

The Pacific Institute – Own website

Leak Offers Glimpse of Campaign Against Climate Science – New York Times


Rest of the World 7 – 1 England

A verbal survey of final year PhD students in synthetic organic chemistry at  the University of Manchester.

[Definition: Post doc – the position between a PhD student and a lecturer on the academic career pathway.]


What will you do next?


3 people – Post doc. Location: Germany

1 person – Post doc. Location: Canada


3 people- Post doc. Location: Outside the UK

1 person – Teaching. Location: UK

1 person – Science writing Location: UK

This is obviously a tiny survey population and no conclusions can be drawn, but I wonder if it is indicative of the future of synthetic organic chemistry (or even science) in the UK?

Of those intending to remain in research, is it surprising that nobody intends to look for, or has a job in the chemical industry? And does the general lack of intention to continue careers in UK based academic institution reflect the lack of opportunities?

I would like to know what the reality of where and what people do on completion of  their PhD, and if trends are changing in the current economic meltdown/slash and hope approach to science funding in the UK.

It would be interesting to know if the data on where people go and what they do after a PhD is available for public consumption, please get in touch if you know where I can access this.

I might even make a graph!