News & Views item - February 2010



Clive Spash Interviewed by ABC's Mark Colvin. (February 25, 2010)

On December 3, 2009 the AAP reported that Dr Clive Spash had resigned from CSIRO. He called for a Senate inquiry following the attempts by CSIRO administration to suppress publication of his paper which is critical of cap and trade schemes such as being advocated by the Australian government. In his paper Dr Spash advocates a direct tax on carbon.


The Minister responsible for CSIRO, Senator Kim Carr, had avoided public comment until fronting Senate Estimates on February 11 when he referred the Senate committee to an external review which he said labelled the paper "weak polemical journalism".

He then added: "As a former school teacher I really wondered whether or not this was the sort of thing we were employing people to write on behalf of the CSIRO," and opined: "The quality was just not there."


Following his resignation from CSIRO Clive Spash was invited by Norway's Universitetet for miljų- og biovitenskap, UMB (the Norwegian University of Life Sciences) to a professorship in the Department of International Environment and Development Studies.


A 7.5 minute interview with Professor Spash by the ABC's Mark Colvin is available online as well as a full transcript. Click here for the MP3 file.


Below is the excerpt regarding Senator Carr's comment's to Senate Estimates:



MARK COLVIN: Clive Spash told me today he was angry at the way the Science Minister Kim Carr had quoted selectively to a Senate committee from what he says was a confidential peer review report.


CLIVE SPASH: Senator Carr read out statements from a confidential peer review report, a peer review report which is anonymous and meant to be double blind review, it's not meant to be released. This report must have been passed on to him by senior CSIRO management.
It also means that Senator Carr, who's made public policy statements that he supports scientific peer review, by criticising my paper for low quality after it has been through peer review, is now apparently violating the peer review process.

MARK COLVIN: So how did that come about do you think?

CLIVE SPASH: I'm not sure. Presumably the CSIRO management have passed on a confidential report to the Senator, who has then read bits of it out in front of the Estimates Committee.

MARK COLVIN: Do you dispute the report altogether?

CLIVE SPASH: No I think that the report is valid. It was a report on a very early draft of my paper and it's the whole point of peer review process. Comments are meant to be taken on board by authors so they can improve the paper, which is what I did.

MARK COLVIN: So you changed it after these comments?

CLIVE SPASH: Yes I did, yes, that's the point of the peer review process.

MARK COLVIN: And Senator Carr's comments don't reflect the changes?

CLIVE SPASH: Senator Carr implied that this was comment on the final draft of the paper; ignored the fact that I had answered all the referee's comments. Without answering the referee's comments and writing to the editor the paper wouldn't have been accepted.

MARK COLVIN: Did you think that there was any restriction on you doing scientific reporting when you were an employee of the CSIRO?

CLIVE SPASH: I should make clear from the start that I'm an economist and there seems to be some confusion about the terms of the scientist versus social scientist. My area of work and the area of work I was employed to engage in is public policy on environmental issues.
So if I was employed by the CSIRO to do that job, I have no problem with publishing the type of work I was doing.




MARK COLVIN: On Professor Spash's claims about the treatment of his paper, the office of the Science Minister Kim Carr said tonight: "Clive Spash may have made some revisions but the revisions did not address all the concerns of the reviewer and still failed to meet the standards of quality required of a CSIRO paper".