University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Scientists angered by Vice-Dean climate e-mail

Vice-Dean Katherine Richardson accused of abusing power and confusing job titles to brand a climate university

A request by Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science Katherine Richardson to remove a 10-year old item from teaching material has scientists at the Niels Bohr Institute in an uproar. This is according to the Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten.

The teaching material, which could be used to shed doubt on whether or not CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect, contains mistakes. But scientists point out that mistakes are quite normal in 10-year old information, and that research is in a state of constant development.

In an e-mail from 17 September, Katherine Richardson wrote of the old material:

War of words

»If the material contains mistakes, this is a problem for the profile (brand, if you will) that the Faculty of Science wants to maintain. The information released on the net HAS to be scientifically correct – regardless of which climate interpretation it supports. If this is not the case, I expect the material to be removed as soon as possible.«

Four days later, lecturer at the Niels Bohr Institute, Peter Ditlevsen who authored the teaching material, forwarded the e-mail from Richardson to nearly a hundred colleagues, filling in the subject line with »Abuse of power and limitations on the freedom of research, method and speech«. He has since received support from his colleagues.

He goes on to accuse Katherine Richardson of confusing her role as Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Science and her position as Chairman for the Climate Commission.

Political correctness

»Are we supposed to just stand back, when KR (Katherine Richardson) can’t even work out which role she’s playing, a climate spokesperson or a vice dean?« Peter Ditlevsen writes.

»From my point of view, the university is infested with political correctness. This is an awful trend at the university, if a professional management has to ensure that things look picture perfect, as a result of some idea of branding – in this case that the university is a ‘climate university’,« writes Peter Ditlevsen.

»If we are to be a climate university by closing our windows and switching of our lights, that’s all good, but if our research has to lead to specific opinions, then we have a problem,« he concludes.