I have had it. Farewell.” With these words Henk Tennekes concludes his final letter to the Executive Board of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He wrote his letter of resignation on January 23. A unique occurrence in the history of the Academy, which obtains its membership by co-optation. Normally, a member of the Academy loses his membership only when he dies. Tennekes is still alive.
For many years, Tennekes was director of research at KNMI. He also was a professor at the Pennsylvania State University and at the Free University in Amsterdam. In 1982 he became a member of the Academy. And now he steps out. “There is light out there” is the closing sentence of the essay “Hermetic Jargon” that he now gives a broader distribution.
Why quit? Is he mad about the global warming hype? Tennekes has often spoken up against alarmist language concerning the greenhouse effect and against the hubris of climatologists who pretend to know precisely what will happen to the climate in the future.
No, Tennekes uses the ultimate tool he has to object to the conflicts of interest within the Academy. It is supposed to be the highest independent scientific advisory body in the country, but at the same time it runs a number of research institutes, and has to lobby for their budgets. “That conflict of interest is breaking the wings of its advisory function,” he says. The Strategic Agenda of the Academy, currently being finalized, offers no hope for improvement.
Is that all? The essay “Hermetic Jargon” gives yet another impression. In it, he protests the inaccessibility of modern science, with its habit to restrict quality control (peer review) to the inner circles of each discipline. And he is annoyed by the dominant position of physics in the world of science. He wants to promote more dialogue between disciplines, but he discovered that the walls between them cannot be broken down. Stepping out is the final choice.
In response to our request Robbert Dijkgraaf, the current President of the Academy, states that the Academy regrets the departure, but respects it.