Organizations give awards to recognize those individuals who best display the values that organization seeks to represent and uphold. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the leading scientific organization in the United States. From a vast pool of excellent scientists who engage with the public, the AAAS has decided in 2018 to give its prestigious award for Public Engagement with Science to climate scientist, Michael E. Mann.
I find this remarkable. Who is Dr. Mann?
- He Tweets all day about Donald Trump, typically calling him names and mocking him. Mann writes dozens and dozens of Tweets about Trump every day. Here is one from today.
- He has suggested, on more than one occasion, that the death penalty is appropriate for a Republican member of Congress. Here is one example:
- He has worked hard to have people he disagrees with fired from their jobs and suffer career repercussions, including by directly contacting employers and leading public campaigns. He has had some success. Here is a just a short list of individuals he has recently targeted:
- Bret Stephens
- Rebecca Mercer
- Megan McArdle
- Judith Curry
- He has sued people he disagrees with, including a journalist and a fellow academic. His lawsuits have been criticized by leading newspapers, including the Washington Post: “Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is ‘right’ … [his lawsuit will] chill the expression of opinion on a wide range of important scientific and public policy issues.”
- He routinely excoriates individuals for being members of the Republican party and has expressed a desire for Congress to consist only of Democrats. He helps to run a Political Action Committee that has targeted several Republicans in Congress.
- He routinely engages in name-calling, outright misrepresentation of others’ views and leads social media bullying against fellow academics.
That is just a short list.
Mann is fully entitled to his views and the use of whatever techniques he thinks appropriate to advance his extreme politics. He is certainly not alone in playing political hardball in 2018.
My issue here is not with Mann. It is with the decision by AAAS to single out Mann as someone who embodies our highest values of the scientific community: a role model to emulate who engages in behaviors to celebrate.
With this award, what message is AAAS sending to the scientific community and to the public?
The AAAS is telling us that engaging in hyper-partisan, gutter politics, targeted against Republicans and colleagues you disagree with, using unethical tactics, will be rewarded by leaders in the scientific community.
AAAS could work to help to defuse the pathological politicization of science. Instead, it has thrown some gasoline on the fire.
February 14, 2018 at 9:40 pm
Well said! If Dr. Mann’s science was solid, it would speak for itself. As long as he works for my beloved Penn State, I will not support the meteorology dept there in any way. Bullies dont belong in science
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February 15, 2018 at 9:25 am
I guess the AAAS should then add a ‘B’ before the ‘S*.
February 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm
MBH98 was ground breaking work tha5nhas been confirmed and extended over and over again. That’s probably why it and it’s lead author have been the subject of such intense attacks. The beating Mann has taken has been on behalf of all climate scientists, and he’s deserving of recognition.
February 19, 2018 at 3:18 pm
Claimsguy, you mean the work that his colleagues described as “crap”? And “His statistics were suspect”, and “our reaction on the errors found in Mike Mann’s work were not
February 15, 2018 at 3:07 pm
Was this award based on open search/selection criteria for candidates followed by a vote by general membership? If not, and there are no checks/balances to identify Dr. Mann’s liabilities in the selection process, then the membership needs to push for a new process.
February 16, 2018 at 12:21 pm
Mann’s suit against Mark Steyn is going on SIX YEARS! He is a demagogue, not a scientist. If you give money to Penn State you are supporting a climate bully, nothing less.
Your issue is not with Mann?!! You lay out a laundry list of inappropriate behavior but don’t blame the individual himself?!!
You present yet another example of “scientists” being nothing more than wealth transferring bureaucrats. Even when faced with very unscientific and inappropriate behavior you won’t condemn your fellow bureaucrat. Got to keep those tax dollars rolling in, right?
February 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm
From what I hear, Mr. Mann has railed against any science that disproves his theoretical conclusions and used media and political affiliations to attack his critics. Time (and climate) will test his work and any awards will be Pyrrhic victories. The damage to scientists who disagree with his methods and conclusions should be condemned, not awarded.
February 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm
It’s possible that what you have heard is wrong. My acquaintance with Mann’s work is less than expert, but I have seen that over the years he has responded to professional criticism in the very reasonable scientist-to-scientist mode we expect, and was only led to take legal action when he became the focus — victim even — of a harassment campaign by Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general in Virginia, and shortly after began to receive death threats when a journalist implied that he was comparable to a convicted serial child molester. Reasonable people can argue that a lawsuit might have been ill advised, but I find it hard to blame Mann when his frustration level was pushed to that point by constant attacks by amateurs who picked up lines from the Heartland Institute and by journalists representing industry positions. Time may test his work, but climate might not: he’s a paleoclimatologist who models ancient climate, so what happens in the future is probably not going to offer any valid test of his work about the past. And that’s one of the really fascinating issues in this: that an industry would feel so threatened by his effort to reconstruct climate change over a couple of thousand year period — in the past, for goodness sake — that it would launch such a campaign against him!
David T, MD. PhD
February 18, 2018 at 10:50 pm
David T, Your defense of Mann its morally and legally obtuse. By your reasoning any unethical conduct can be justified if it is “provoked.” Mann seems to be exceptionally sensitive to the slightest criticism of his work or his methods. Many of his attacks are completely unprovoked, for example against Judith Curry. He is just a garden variety bully with a very self-righteous view of his own virtue.
The main criticism of Mann (leaving aside one politician) is that he invented invalid statistical methods to obtain a flawed result and one that has been proven to be substantially in error over time in underestimating past warm periods.
When you are as viscously partisan and nasty as Mann, I can see no defense except nolo contendre.
February 19, 2018 at 3:00 am
The people who investigated Sandusky and gave him a pass were the people who investigated Mann and gave him a pass. The comparison questions the integrity of those doing the investigations. Pretending that he was compared to a child molester is a lie, and he and his attorneys know it.
If he was so offended, why not get to court? Professional? Tweeting all day long?
February 19, 2018 at 11:11 am
dpy6629: you need to be more specific about what “unethical conduct” you believe Michael Mann has committed — I did say that I thought his lawsuit was ill advised, but it’s not unethical, and his defense of his science may be vigorous, but whether it is unethical is something you may want to explore in more detail. As far as I am aware — and I am not a climate scientist or expert on statistical modeling — Mann’s outcomes have been largely confirmed by a variety of statistical approaches. Perhaps we each read different sources.
Marshall Gill: If you know the composition of the committee that investigated Mann at Penn State, and found that this was the same committee that investigate Sandusky, please let us know. That was not my understanding. I believe that Mann’s suit was ill advised and will probably fail — but so far the court has allowed it to proceed.
David T, MD, PhD
February 19, 2018 at 10:54 pm
So the question is committee composition? Penn State the University “investigated” Sandusky. Penn State the University “investigated” Mann and in both cases were they found innocent. This comparison says nothing about Mann being a child molester, only about someone “exonerated” by Penn State. Mann has tied up an individual for over half a decade over this and while I am certain he wouldn’t admit it, he doesn’t even think that he was being called a child molester. He is just bullying his political opponents.
This makes him a jerk. If you have any interest in a critique of his work, Mark Steyn has compiled an entire books worth of quotes, questioning his professional….. quality. http://www.steynstore.com/product133.html
The title being “A disgrace to his profession”.
February 20, 2018 at 12:42 am
Marshall: You wrote “The people who investigated Sandusky and gave him a pass were the people who investigated Mann and gave him a pass.” So yes, the composition of the committee is an issue, one you raised. As for Steyn’s book, yes, I know it, and I was amused to see that the conservative and denialist press loved it, and the climate change people critiqued it, as you might imagine. More important, reviewers who bothered to dig a bit deeper found that people were misquoted, sometimes reported later that they had changed their minds about the science, and that Steyn had sometimes misunderstood the issues. For a taste of this, see
That said, let me add quickly that my impression is also that Michael Mann….. doesn’t take criticism lying down, but overall the science seems to be on his side. I doubt that he’ll prevail in his suit against Steyn, but it does raise the question that I asked earlier: why does Steyn care that much about a narrow, technical, scientific issue like this? Why doesn’t Steyn get his knickers in a twist about failures to predict neutrino behavior or about the search for gravity waves?
Finally, if we are going to be critical of Michael Mann for responding so aggressively to his critics, I hope we can avoid the same charge about our responses to each other.
February 20, 2018 at 1:18 pm
The thing you seem to be ignoring, David, is that the science surrounding neutrino behavior or about the search for gravity waves does not require a wholesale change in lifestyles and intimate power over our lives mandated by bureaucrats. As far as I know, the guys at CERN don’t regularly tweet about “deniers”. They let their science speak for itself. Something Mann can’t do because what he produces isn’t “science”. If you can’t find evidence of his poor “science” you aren’t looking. Bristlecone pine tree rings?
Mark Steyn fought the good fight against the tyrannical and misnamed “Human Rights Commissions” in Canada. With the aid of a human bulldog named Ezra Levant, they took it to those self important bureaucrats who would deny human Liberty.
And Mann is the one who is suing. Of course, since he knows it is nothing more than harassment, he has no interest in actually proving his case, or going to court because he knows that he can not. The process is the punishment.
February 20, 2018 at 5:34 am
David Taylor, I gave an example of what I consider unethical conduct, namely, Mann’s unprovoked attack on Judith Curry. He just lied about her position on the science and no one said a word. His hockey stick work also suffers from some ethical problems, such as failing to report R statistics that would have shown low significance for his results even though he calculated those statistics. There are others, those are just 2 that come to mind in 30 seconds of thinking.
February 20, 2018 at 5:37 am
David Taylor, That you link to the hot whopper blog is an indication that you are very biased on these subjects. Hot whopper is simply a smear site that attacks in the most viscous terms people who are honest scientists, such as Judith Curry. It is just garbage and totally one sided. It supports garbage science such as papers by Lewindowski and John Cook that are smears and unworthy of scientific journals. You can do better than that.
February 20, 2018 at 11:02 am
dpy writes “You can do better than that.”
Yes, I could — I’ve seen several reviews of Steyn’s book that make these critical points — but I am a busy physician and didn’t want to spend the time hunting these down. Frankly, I don’t think it matters to either of us! I would be very surprised if there are not even more scientists who have critical things to say about Mann, but as I said, the science seems to be on his side.
And, I’m not a climate scientist, but I have seen conservatives move from denying global warming completely to acknowledging global warming but rejecting the role of human influence to acknowledging that, well, perhaps there is some human influence but rejecting “catastrophic” warming. Progress!
As for Mann and Judith Curry — apparently Mann is not allowed to give as good as he gets. His critiques of Curry are specific and detailed. Vigorous debate? Sure. But Mann gets reviled by his critics, even gets death threats, and somehow that’s OK?
February 17, 2018 at 3:52 am
But science is political when science mandates political change. Only one political party is out of step, significantly, with what science concludes about a subject on which Mr. Mann is personally an expert. You speak of “our highest values of the scientific community” but possibly those who gave the award thought truth is one of those values.