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Academic lobbying

I noticed this recent article about how UK university researchers may have their ability to influence government policy disrupted by some new legislation, and are currently trying to negotiate an exemption:


Bob Ward is raising concerns over the issue, which strongly implies, if we didn't already suspect it, that researchers connected with climate and energy may be doing quite a bit of lobbying using taxpayers' money. Ward has correctly identified that the main target of the legislation is to stop UK charities and NGOs from using government grants to lobby for changes to government policy. The think tank IEA produced a report on this questionable practice in 2012:


Right-leaning bloggers have been going on about the issue of charities and NGOs indulging in government funded lobbying for many years. I think the issue was first flagged up by Richard North of the EU Referendum blog. However I don't remember these bloggers noticing that academics were doing it as well - they may have assumed that universities are a bit closer to the real world than charities and NGOs, and would have a separate charge number for lobbying.

Policy advice from academics using taxpayers' money might be just about acceptable if academics did have a range of political views that were consistent with those of the general public. But as I pointed out in the "Green academia" thread in 2015, the voting intention by university staff for the 2015 UK General Election was Labour 46%, Green 22%, Conservatives 11%, Lib Dems 9%, SNP 6%, UKIP 0.4%, and the UK general public voted in the election as follows: Labour 30.4%, Green 3.8%, Conservatives 36.8%, Lib Dems 7.9%, SNP 4.7%, UKIP 12.6%. So right-leaning views are substantially under-represented by university researchers and Green viewpoints almost absurdly over-represented.

Re: Academic lobbying

There is a further issue here with the NGOs like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth using government grant money to lobby to keep us in the EU. I suspect that any such lobbying ought to be outside their remit since the grants are supposedly for environmental issues. Given the nature of our Government with Cameron claiming to be the Greenest ever, it seems that in or out of the EU is technically no different from an environmental aspect.
But we have seen how selective the censure is with Mark Carney of the Bank of England allowed to step outside his supposed neutrality to warn of the dangers of leaving the EU, the reason the BoE has sole control over interest rates rather than allow politicians to manipulate them for political ends, and John Longworth, Director General of the British Business Council made to resign for stepping outside his neutral position to warn of the dangers of staying in the EU.
SO I don't expect that the academics, the BBC nor Mark Carney will suffer any adverse reaction as a result of their behaviour nor the NGOs.

Re: Academic lobbying

The issue you're talking about there is this one I think:


Eurosceptics have claimed that environmental charities are using public funds to lobby to stay in the EU, and the Charities Commission are issuing guidance on political neutrality. I think the Greenie argument is that whilst British politicians seem to be at least as keen on 'tackling climate change' as the EU, they have much less enthusiasm than other EU countries in adopting over-the-top measures on air quality, water quality and banning of pesticides, and so continued EU membership is needed to impose these over-the-top regulations.

But this idea that an organisation should not spend government grants on lobbying seems to me to presume that the organisation has a system where its managers or employees fill in 'time sheets' and arrange that particular activities are booked to 'charge numbers'. I can imagine Charities and NGOs not bothering with the idea of charge numbers or even bothering to count the number of hours that they work on an activity, and they would probably just claim that the lobbying activity is being paid for from various other income sources. I would imagine however that universities are a lot more familiar with the idea of charge numbers and keeping track of the number of hours spent doing something, because they would have to produce a 'deliverable', something like a report or paper, in response to some grant money that they've been given.

I noticed this article written by Ben Goldacre, an academic and former Guardian columnist, on the subject of lobbying by academics the other day:


In the article Goldacre gives an insight into how much lobbying he is doing, and advocates that other academics should do more. But I get the impression that he doesn't understand that this new legislation is probably not intended to stop him lobbying, all he has to do is get another charge number for the activity. If Oxford University like the idea of their academics lobbying, they should pay for it. Goldacre could even 'crowdfund' his lobbying activity if he wants.

Re: Academic lobbying

One of the things I need to learn how to bill for is shower time. Sitting in the shower is a place I find answers.

But when it comes to billable hours, that doesn't quite work does it. It does. You can write it down. How do you write down the real time it took?

The timesheet is its own little conundrum. You can use it to maximize your expenses. You can use it to maximize your capital investment. You can use it to maximize productivity. The ugly part is that productivity is in some cases the billable hours. The more billable hours you have the more productive you are.

One Gentleman I studied (who is now in jail for fraud), suggested that the ideal method for making money in a cab was not to stretch out the ride, but to maximize the meter drops. The more meter drops you got the more money you made. Trying to get extra money on mileage was a bad play. Trying to get extra rides by hustling was a much better play. Sometimes the rides aren't there though.

Re: Academic lobbying

Earmarking money has always been a little bit of a mystery to me. We say "This money must be used to improve the grounds". The money might actually get tagged as "This money must be used to purchase foliage". Of course that begs the question of where does the money come from to plant the foliage.

There sort of has to be a little wiggle room on such tags. Any wiggle room though and it is just a matter of properly allocating your time and wording your descriptions. Getting caught violating the tag requires someone to be watching and tallying. Where is the money coming from to watch and tally? How many watch and talliers can we afford?

We scream about this but the whole process of getting grants is rife with it.

There are people working full time to get grants for scientific efforts. Where did the money come from to pay for them to work on getting the grant.... Another grant! There may be a convoluted path in the accounting department to make it look like it wasn't. But from the side I was looking, it was pretty **** clear. A bunch of the grant money was there to work on getting the next grant.

How do you truly untangle the skein? If you work too slow, you do not get the grant. There are timelines.

Re: Academic lobbying

I do not know how I swore here...

I apologize for failing to recognizing the word....

I suspect I used a d word related to failing to live up to godly values...

Re: Academic lobbying

I was wondering whether the swearing filter (or profanity filter) would still be operating after JEB deactivated the spam filter which had been causing JMW months of difficulties in posting. It appears that it is still operating. It's got a very low threshold, asterisking out words like dàmn and héll.

While I'm here, I might as well check whether the swearing filter still throws out the word gobbledêgook, that is gobble****ok (without the special characters to get it through the filter). I noted a few years ago that it asterisked out the racial slur term dëgo that it is present within that word.

Re: Academic lobbying

I thought I'd check up on what has happened regarding the issue of UK university researchers potentially being banned from using taxpayers' money to lobby the government. If this legislation was being applied to academics, it should have started from May 2016. But if it was being applied, I'm pretty sure I would have noticed the left-liberal media continuing to make a fuss over the issue, and Bob ward would also have been making a lot of noise. That suggests to me that the issue might have been resolved in a manner that is favourable to the academics.

A quick bit of Googling confirms my suspicion. This article from the Independent in April 2016 called "Government forced to back down on plan to gag academics and scientists" gives the details:


Bob Ward does seem to be strangely effective at what he does. He tends to be treated as a bit of a joke by AGW sceptics, who see him as a loudmouth who makes nit-picking comments. Josh, the cartoonist featured on the Bishop Hill and WUWT blogs, draws him as a green coloured alien, presumably because of his bald, somewhat conically-shaped head. But it looks like his campaign to stop the anti-lobbying legislation applying to academics has been largely successful. Ward also played in a key role in Channel 4 appearing to have been frightened off in commissioning further anti-Green and climate change-related documentaries by Martin Durkin.