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The Guardian disappoints

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 February 2010

Over the last few weeks or so the UK Guardian (who occasionally reprint our posts) has published a 12-part series about the stolen CRU emails by Fred Pearce that are well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting. We delineate some of the errors and misrepresentations below. While this has to be seen on a backdrop of an almost complete collapse in reporting standards across the UK media on the issue of climate change, it can’t be excused on the basis that the Mail or the Times is just as bad. As a long-time Guardian reader and avid Guardian crossword puzzle solver, I’m extremely unhappy writing this post, but the pathologies of media reporting on this issue have become too big to ignore.

We highlight issues with three of the articles below, which revisit a number of zombie arguments that have been doing the rounds of the sceptic blogs for years. Two follow-up pieces will deal with two further parts of the series. Hopefully some of the more egregious factual errors can be fixed as part of a ‘group experiment‘ in improving the stories, though the larger misconceptions probably can’t be (and readers should feel free to use this information to comment on the articles directly). Why the Guardian is asking for group input after the stories were published instead of before is however a puzzle. Some of the other pieces in this series are fine, which makes the ones that get it so wrong all the more puzzling. The errors consist of mistakes in the basic science, misunderstandings of scientific practice, more out of context quotes and some specific issues that are relatively new. (In the text below, quotes from the articles are in italics).

Part 3: Hockey Sticks

Some of the more egregious confusions and errors were in the third part of the series. In this part, a number of issues that were being discussed among the paleo-community in 1999 were horribly mixed up. For instance, there was a claim that arguments on the zeroth-order draft of the 2001 IPCC report were based on Briffa’s reconstruction showed the 11th century as being almost as warm as the 20th century, while Mann’s graph found little sign of the earlier warming. But this is simply untrue since at the time Briffa’s curve only went back to 1400 AD (not the 11th Century) and the discussions had nothing to do with the medieval warm period, but rather the amount of multi-decadal variability in the three different reconstructions then available. This was corrected in the online edition, but the description of the dispute in the article is still very confused.

That discussion was conflated with a completely separate April 1999 issue based on a disagreement about a perspectives piece in Science (which appeared as Briffa and Osborn, 1999) and which was in any case amicably resolved.

That discussion is then further confused with the discussions about the framing of the SPM text which despite Pearce claiming that ‘the emails reveal how deeply controversial it was at the time, did not get discussed in the emails at all. And while the article claimed that the uncertainty was not discussed in the IPCC report, the discussion in Chapter 2 was actually quite extensive.

Part 5: Chinese weather stations

This piece concerns the response of Phil Jones at CRU to a FOI request for data that had been used in a 1990 paper on the urban heat island (UHI). This now-20 year old paper was an early attempt to try and assess the possible magnitude of the UHI impact on the global temperature records. (Note that this is not the same as thinking that UHI does not exist).

Starting from the headline “Leaked climate change emails scientist ‘hid’ data flaws” on down, the article is full of misrepresentations. To start with, the data in question (and presumably it’s flaws) were not hidden by anyone, but rather had been put on the CRU server in 2007 response to a FOI request. Hardly ‘hidden’. Exactly contrary to the truth of the matter, the article incorrectly asserted that ‘Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws’.

These data assumed a much greater importance later in 2007 when they were used for a completely unsubstantiated claim of ‘fabrication’ and ‘fraud’ against Wei-Chyung Wang (a co-author on the paper) at SUNY Albany by a certain Douglas Keenan. These charges were found by the university to be baseless in 2009 and the matter was dropped. However, the Guardian noted that a couple of the emails mentioned the issue, and that one in particular had Tom Wigley asking Phil Jones about the situation. Curiously enough, Phil Jones’ response was not part of the archive, and Wigley’s current thoughts on the subject (presumably that have been informed by Jones’ answers) were not reported.

Pearce describes this conversation saying that ‘new information brought to light today indicates at least one senior colleague had serious concerns about the affair‘. However, Tom Wigley has subsequently passed on later conversations to me showing very clearly that he did not support Keenan’s allegations of ‘fabrication’ and the implication that he does here are very misleading. Indeed, the statement that ‘Tom Wigley, harboured grave doubts about the cover-up‘ is completely false. There was no ‘cover-up’; the email was written two years after the data had been posted online.

The line in the 1990 paper that has apparently caused the furore is the following:

“The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.”

For fraud to have been proven, it would have been necessary to show that Wang – at the time of the 1990 paper – deliberately misled in the line as it was written. It would not be enough to show that the statement was mistaken because of incomplete histories available to him at that time, nor that some stations had in fact moved. The statement is a declaration of a good faith effort to pick suitable stations. Instead, you would have to demonstrate that Wang was aware of substantial and important moves that made a material difference and deliberately concealed this fact. And for this there is absolutely no evidence. Keenan’s assumption of fabrication is merely that, an assumption.

Wigley’s ‘grave doubts’ were a suggestion that the key line be rewritten as

“Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”

A change that doesn’t undermine the paper in the slightest, and would hardly be likely to set the blogosphere aflame.

Quite frankly this whole allegation is absurd – why would anyone do this? All the authors involved have written many papers on the problems in the temperature record and on Urban Heat Islands in general, and even in China. Indeed the story here is that information was provided under FOI rules, and that it was not used to constructively examine the science, but rather to provide ammunition for baseless accusations that led to pointless university inquiries into alleged misconduct. That might be a good reason for why FOI requests are now being viewed with suspicion.

Other claims that this ‘may yet result in a significant revision of a scientific paper that is still cited by the UN’s top climate science body‘ . and that ‘what data is available suggests that the findings are fundamentally flawed‘ are simply made up. The findings of the 1990 paper was that UHI was unlikely to be contaminating the global temperature records in any significant way has been upheld by any number of additional studies in the 20 years since it was published. Oceans are not warming because of UHI, spring is not coming earlier because of UHI, and indeed, glaciers are not melting because of UHI (they are of course melting, recent news reports notwithstanding). No evidence of significant UHI contamination was found by Parker (2004, 2006), the record from GISTEMP which applies a different UHI correction than HadCRUT does not differ substantially at the global or regional scale. Other studies by Peterson, Jones, and others all show similar results. Even the more recent analyses of the Chinese stations themselves and even in an environment where urbanisation is happening faster than ever, UHI effects are still small (Jones et al, 2008).

As an aside, Keenan has made a cottage industry of accusing people of fraud whenever someone writes a paper of which he disapproves. He has attempted to get the FBI to investigate Mike Mann, pursued a vendetta against a Queen’s University Belfast researcher, and has harassed a French graduate student with fraud accusations based on completely legitimate choices in data handling. More recently Keenan, who contacted Wigley after having seen the email mentioned in the Pearce story, came to realise that Wigley was not in agreement with his unjustified allegations of ‘fraud’. In response, Keenan replied (in an email dated Jan 10, 2010) that:

.. this has encouraged me to check a few of your publications: some are so incompetent that they seem to be criminally negligent.

Sincerely, Doug

This kind of knee-jerk presumption of misconduct (and criminal misconduct at that) when people disagree with you has no place in the scientific discourse, and serves only to poison scientific debate. Indeed, Jones adds in one of the emails: “I’d be far happier if they would write some papers and act in the normal way. I’d know how to respond to that”. For the Guardian to dignify this kind of behaviour – especially after the charges had been investigated and dismissed – is unconscionable and a public apology should be forthcoming to Jones, Wigley and Wang.

Part 6: Peer review

The discussion of peer review is the most replete with basic misconceptions about the scientific process. Pearce appears to conflate any rejection of a paper or even a negative review for any reason as a prima facie case of mainstream climate scientists … censoring their critics. But in none of the cases highlighted were anyone’s view ‘censored’. To have your opinion published in peer-reviewed literature is not some fundamental right – it is a privilege that depends on your ability to do the analysis and the marshal the logical arguments and data to support your point.

Pearce, surprisingly for someone who has been on a science beat for a long time, states that peer review is the supposed gold standard of scientific merit. This is not the case at all. As we’ve outlined in many articles, peer review is just a first (necessary) step towards scientific acceptance and as the number of badly flawed papers that do appear in the literature attest, it is no guarantee of merit. For it to work of course there need to be some standards that should ideally be met, and this will lead to the rejection of some submissions. Thus automatically equating rejections of bad submissions with squashing of ‘dissent’ is like assuming that anyone who gets an F on a test is being unfairly discriminated against.

Pearce also declares that the mere act of reviewing a paper that is critical of your own work is mired in ‘conflicts of interest that would not be allowed in most professions‘. This is wrong on multiple levels. First of all, peer review of the literature is hardly unique to climate science, and so his claim about improper conflicts of interest is an accusation against the whole of science, not just climatology. Secondly, he confuses the role of the reviewer with that of the editor. Editors often solicit reviews of a critical comment directly from those being criticised, since that is often the easiest way to judge whether the critique is substantive. That is not the same as giving the right of veto to the criticised authors since, of course, it’s the editor’s job to weigh the different reviews from different sources, and use their own judgment as to the merits of the critique. Not asking the original authors for comment can certainly be (and has been) problematic and unfair to them. The problems most often arise – such as in Soon and Baliunas (2003) or McIntyre and McKitrick (2003;2005) when the criticised authors are not involved at all.

In the cases mentioned in this article, there is absolutely no evidence of unfair discrimination. Indeed, in one case of a submission by Lars Kamel, the reasons for rejection are obvious and Pearce appears not to know what the criteria for acceptance even are. He states that “the finding sounded important, but his paper was rejected by Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) that year“. But papers are not accepted or rejected because a finding ‘sounds important’, but because that finding is backed up by analysis and logic while acknowledging the prior work on the topic. In this case, the author did not “however, justify that conclusion with any data or analysis“, and so a rejected manuscript would have been very likely, regardless of who the reviewers were. Similarly, the assumption that “some would have recommended publication” purely because it called into question previous work is unsupportable as a general rule. Filling the literature with papers ‘just asking questions’ that ‘sound important’ but not demonstrating any actual results is a recipe for wasting everyone’s time with poorly thought out, and even mendacious, critiques of mainstream science from HIV-denial to perpetual motion machines. Papers in the technical literature are not just opinion.

Pearce also assumes (without evidence) that Kamel was discriminated against because Jones “would certainly have been aware of Kamel’s [negative] views about mainstream climate research“. But why should this be assumed? Most scientists (luckily) go through their whole career without wasting their time investigating and cataloguing the cranks in their field. Some climate sceptics get addressed here on RC a fair bit, but it would be a big mistake to think that these people, particularly the more obscure ones, are the subject of water cooler conversations at climate research labs across the world. Indeed, I can find no reference to Kamel on RC at all and I was unaware of his peculiar views until this story emerged. Why Jones should be assumed to omniscient on this topic is unclear.

Pearce quotes McIntyre discussing “CRU’s policies of obstructing critical articles in the peer-reviewed literature” slowing the resolution of unspecified “issues”. This is simply disingenuous – what papers have been obstructed that would have resolved what issues? We are unaware of any such papers, and certainly none from McIntyre. Prior therefore to declaring that “evidence, flawed though it might be, is actively being kept out of the journals” it behoves Pearce to actually find such evidence. Otherwise, the simple non-appearance of these mythical critiques is apparently proof of the corruption of the peer review process.

As an additional example of problematic practice, Pearce highlights a June 2003 email from Keith Briffa, who as an editor ‘emailed fellow tree-ring researcher Edward Cook, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, saying: “Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”‘. However, without context this is meaningless. People often sign reviews and this could well have been a second go around on a particular paper whose first round reviews would have been seen by everyone concerned. Briffa (like many editors) can have a feeling that a paper should be rejected for multiple reasons but would like to have the reasons gone into in some detail, mostly for the benefit of the authors. This is one reason why reviewing bad papers is so much more work than good ones. Quoting this as if it absolutely demonstrated bad faith or misconduct is simply a smear.

Pearce then accuses Cook of some unjustified quid-pro-quo because he wanted to use some of Briffa’s data to assess the practical implications of a new analysis technique, that Pearce interprets as “attacking his own tree-ring work“. However, this too is a misreading. The work in question has subsequently been revised and the authors themselves have said that the current submission is improved over the initial submission. It goes along with the overall point made above, that pure criticism is not particularly useful – it is much better to demonstrate that some technical point actually matters. This is what Cook appears to be asking for help to demonstrate.

The article then moves on to the issue of the 2003 Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research. Pearce nowhere acknowledges that it is (and was) widely regarded as a complete failure of the peer review system. Six (very independent minded) editors resigned from the journal because of the publisher’s inaction on tightening up peer review standards and even the publisher himself declared that the paper’s conclusions were not supported by the data or analysis of the authors. Is this not germane?

Pearce suggests that the reaction to the demonstrably low standards at Climate Research involved “improper pressure“. This has no validity whatsoever. The suggestion was made that maybe people should not submit work to the journal or cite work that appeared there. But how can a suggestion made among colleagues and not transmitted more widely be ‘pressure’ of any sort? People have their impressions about journals determined by many factors, and if they are seen to be publishing bad papers, that will be noted. Compare the reputations of Science and E&E for instance. Which would you rather be published in if you had a good paper?

The one email that Pearce declares “means what it seems to mean” refers to the declaration (along with exclamation point) that Jones would “redefine peer-review!” rather than include two flawed papers in the AR4 report. But it should be obvious that no-one gets to redefine what ‘peer reviewed’ means, and the exclamation point underlines the fact that this was hyperbole. The two papers referred to (McKitrick and Michaels, 2004; Kalnay and Cai, 2003)) were indeed discussed in Chapter 2 of AR4 as the contributing lead author of that chapter Trenberth rightly pointed out. As an aside neither have stood the test the time.

The problem with lapses in peer review (which will inevitably occur) is that they are sometimes systematic, indicating a more institutional problem instead of simply an unfortunate combination of poor reviewers and a busy editor. This appeared to occur at Geophysical Research Letters over the period 2005-2006. There was a string of bad papers published – ones that did not properly support their conclusions and made basic errors in the science. For instance, Douglass and Knox (2005), Douglass, Patel and Knox (2005), Douglass, Pearson and Singer (2004), Douglass, Pearson, Singer, Knappenberger, and Michaels (2004), and Loáiciga (2006).

Science is indeed a ‘self-correcting’ process, but someone has to do that correcting, and scientists do get frustrated when they have to spend weeks dealing with the aftermath of bad papers in the media and putting together the comments that almost every single one of these papers generated. (For amusement and for an example of the lack of standards being talked about, look at the response of Bjornsson et al to the Douglass, Patel and Knox paper).

Are scientists supposed not to notice these patterns? Or never discuss them among colleagues? The implication that the mere discussion of the situation is somehow a corruption of the peer review process is completely unjustified. Peer review only holds the status it does because scientists are on guard against failures in the system and try to correct them when they occur.

Update: Coincidentally, David Adams on the Guardian makes many of the same points as we do.

In two follow-up pieces we will host a letter from Ben Santer on Part 7 and on the skewed reporting of the ‘Yamal‘ issue in Part 9.

362 Responses to “The Guardian disappoints”

  1. 201
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin: No, I’m trying to make you be more precise in your language. When people read that the ‘IPCC advocates policy’, they interpret this as IPCC is backing Kyoto or cap-and-trade or the CDM or similar. They do none of these things. Instead they have laid out the probable consequences of BAU and discussed options for taking us off that track. That is not the same thing at all. Do climate scientists have a preference for action over inaction? Yes. But just in the same way that we would all like the number of little old ladies being mugged to be reduced to zero. Confusing this with specific policy advocacy is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Please do your part in reducing confusion. –

    Gavin, thanks for serious and constructive response. I sympathize with the need for precise language. Also thanks for openly admitting that climate scientists are not disinterested in the policy and politics of climate change. This part regards intellectual quality and honesty.

    I interpret the larger part of your response as an political strategy with the objective to disarm sceptics. You are politically concerned that sceptics may distort and abuse what I and others say. I do not agree that we should censor ourself from a a political perspective. I am also more interested in re-framing (with the help from believers as well as sound sceptics) than to reinforce status quo and disarm sceptics.

    [Response: No you misunderstand me. I am talking about communication, not skeptics. If language you use is interpreted differently from what you meant, you are not communicating what you intended (for instance ;) ). Deliberate distortion is another thing altogether, but I am much more concerned with what the person in the street understands. They hear ‘policy’ and think ‘politician’, they hear ‘advocacy’ and they think lawyers, they hear ‘political’ and they think ‘partisan’. – gavin]

    I have problems with your assumption that we all share the same value preferences (or that we should in a self-evident way). We do not share value preferences. There are no self-evident ethical position.
    There are a number of legitimate ethical positions regarding climate change, also for the very basics (action or no action). I argue that “believers” and “sceptics” should discuss this openly (this is part of the re-frame and opening up rather than disarming and closure). Your position (that all should share your values) is a strongly normative position, even strongly political I would say. Your argument also
    reveal that you have not reflected enough on ethics. I do not blame you for that. Specialization is needed.

  2. 202
    Peter Hynes says:

    Re: Trevor #118

    I’m trying to imagine a journal where the editor does not get to look at reviewers’ comments on papers that he or she is supposed to accept or reject. I’m trying very hard — and not succeeding at all.

  3. 203
    Ron Taylor says:

    Anand says: “You guys work in the stealth mode (fronting science and hiding your politics), so I do not expect to find explicit political documents in print (as you want me to show you). However, you guys do make blunders that undermine the chosen strategy to stealth advocate policy.”

    Anand, you make the same error as so many in the denialist camp. You operate from a political world view in which every issue is framed as political and everyone is seen as directed by a political agenda. You do not even comprehend the existence of a scientific world view, in which integrity means to be guided by the results of objective research and analysis. Climate scientists prefer action because they understand better than anyone the scale of the disaster that is now starting to unfold.

    I really hope you guys live long enough to become aware of how much damage to humanity you have done.

  4. 204
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    191 Ray Ladbury,
    No, quite the opposite. I demand that scientists (and institutions, eg. IPCC) are open about their value preferences when value preferences matters (this is clearly the case with climate change).
    I simply argue for intellectual honestly and transparency.

    At a more advanced level (the demand above is simple) I argue that values do not taint science, but that value plurality are important (since values are different in nature compared to factual issues). I do not wish to abolish values from science, in fact, I think that is impossible. Values are part of science. Besides the problem with hiding value preferences when value preferences matters (intellectual dishonesty) I argue that “the culture of objectivity” is problematic (this is kind of what you describe as my position). It is “the culture of objectivity” that believe that values taint science. This is the reason why members of this community gets so upset when people like me claim that they also have values. That is an offense to them. To me, it kind of feels that their ideal researcher is a robots. I do not even think that an robot would be analyticall good at understanding the world (besides its lack of moral).

    What we need (and largely lack) due to 1) the fact that values can not be abolished from science 2) we want values to be part of science, is more elaborated ways to handle facts and values in science.

    One problem with the climate debate is that believers and sceptics both tend to think that values taint science. For me, to observe the role of values and communicate this is not an attack (but I do get attacked since others perceive this as an attack). However, sceptics are attacking in this way: You have values, you are bad. The climate scientist respond: No, I do not have any values. Don’t you dare to smear me. It is you that have values. It is kind of an emotional robot war, lol.

  5. 205
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    203 Ron Taylor,
    There is a difference between what one comprehend and what one emphasise. To emphasise some aspects of reality does not imply that others aspects of reality does not exists.

    There is over 10.000 references in the IPCC report to the physical world and less than 100 references to political analysis.

  6. 206

    Dan M (154),

    The point is that in 1980 that storage was NOT available. The data was stored on magnetic tapes and played through tape drives like the Dec TU77. It would have occupied whole warehouses.

  7. 207

    Anand: Where is the harassment here? There is only two choices here – you either believe in Barton’s right to ask for this information, or you don’t.

    BPL: Do I believe a congressman has the right to subpoena all of a scientist’s work and haul him up before an investigating committee because he doesn’t like the scientist’s conclusions? No, I don’t. You might want to Google the name “Joseph McCarthy” to see why Americans often object to such tactics.

  8. 208
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Andreas
    > The climate scientist respond: No, I do not have any values.
    > Don’t you dare to smear me. It is you that have values.
    > It is kind of an emotional robot war, lol.

    Nonsense. Where do you get these weird notions?
    I refute it thus:
    Because as we all know, the green party runs the worldpointer to Peter Watts on how science works, from Open Lab 2009, the 50 best science blogging posts of the year

  9. 209
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Useful reminders about weird effects resulting from journalistic “balance” aka “crappy reporting”, here:

  10. 210
    CM says:

    Andreas, could you name some contributors to this site who answer to your description of climate scientists as pretending to be emotional robots without values? Especially when challenged by skeptics?

    OK, while you’re thinking that one over: I agree with you in principle, of course, that science is never a value-free endeavor. I’m even in vehement agreement with your demand that scientists be open about their value preferences when value preferences matter. But where, exactly, are value preferences that matter being kept hidden in the IPCC reports? Starting with WG1?

    – And whose value preferences should they come clean about? Or do you assume that all the scientists whose work goes into the IPCC report share the same value preferences?

  11. 211
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Andreas B:”No, quite the opposite. I demand that scientists (and institutions, eg. IPCC) are open about their value preferences when value preferences matters (this is clearly the case with climate change).
    I simply argue for intellectual honestly and transparency.”

    Scientists overriding value – understanding the physical world. Everything else comes second.

    In climate science, it is now known with little uncertainty that substantial changes will occur, on the balance negative. Generally, humans decide to reduce negative consequences. However, the issue is complicated by the fact that the issue is global, so inexperts do not understand how well substantiated AGW is. What they will do is assign the wrong probabilities to the outcomes, substituting their own from their preconceived ideas, or based on propaganda from within their own self-reinforcing group. Market libertarians see global or government control of economy as unacceptable a priori. Coal industry sees this as a threat to their livelihood, a very negative consequence to themselves. Capitalists see AGW as something environmentalists use to demand costly measures (clean air and water, etc) which eat into their profits.

    The cure is education, or nature making things undeniably obvious.

  12. 212
    flxible says:

    Andreas “One problem with the climate debate is that believers and sceptics both tend to think that values taint science”
    That may be what you and the skeptics believe, but the problem is when values are applied to the interpretation and use of science. My physics scientist brother was involved in US govt atomic physics research, not for the “value” of making bombs or providing nuclear energy technology, but for the “value” of investigating and understanding the phenomena, what the govt intended and what they did with the results is a seperate question, like it is with respect to what NASA does with the climate science they do, useful to the space program, agriculture, military planners and congressional policy makers, but that is the “value added” to the raw product.

  13. 213
    SecularAnimist says:

    DanM wrote: “But, if you look at the cost of storing power for when the wind isn’t blowing (that’s why Texas stopped building wind farms when natural gas prices lowered), or looked at the high and relatively flat costs of solar power over the past 20 years, one sees that neither is close to being a cheap reliable source of energy.”

    If one looks at the facts, one finds that your comment is fiction.

    Texas has never “stopped building wind farms”.

    The costs of solar power (both PV and CSP) have significantly declined over the past 20 years; they are nowhere near “flat”.

    Nor is storage prohibitively costly, particularly thermal storage of energy from CSP power plants — but neither is it essential to large-scale deployment of wind and solar, given that multiple studies have found that a diversified, regional portfolio of renewable energy sources, managed through a smart grid, can provide 24×7 power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear power, even without storage.

    In my experience, the statements that deniers make about the state of renewable energy technologies are just about as ill-informed as their assertions about climate science.

    I wonder who might have an interest in misleading people about both the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels and about the availability of alternatives?

  14. 214
    John Peter says:

    Tim Jones (176)

    You said:

    ” On the other hand, the climate auditors have no apparent political agenda, are doing this work for free, and have been playing a watchdog role, which has engendered the trust of a large segment of the population.

    The last sentence is patently ridiculous. I’m not sure why she’s currying favor with these blogs… so they’ll lay off?
    Whatever the case she’s lost my trust.

    I don’t think so. There are a lot of angry blogger. They are fed up with bureaucracy and climate science. They’re not supportive of Judith, but they prer her to you. As long as you stay here talking to yourselves you’ll miss out on this feature of our world. Judith talks to them which is why I think you should listen to her. You see Judith as a proxy for McIntyre, not as a Climate Scientist. Pity.

  15. 215
    Ron Taylor says:

    Andreas, I agree with you that values are important. But I think you are setting up a false dichotomy of denialist political values versus the scientist’s objective evidence. To attack evidence on political grounds is to reject science itself. Evidence can only be verified by scientific process, not poitical analysis.

  16. 216
    SecularAnimist says:

    A comment for “The Media”, from a presentation by William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara at a panel discussion on “Understanding Climate-Change Skepticism: Its Sources and Strategies” at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the AAAS:

    Reporters need to learn that, if they wish to discuss “both sides” of the climate issue, the scientifically legitimate “other side” is that, if anything, global climate disruption is likely to be significantly worse than has been suggested in scientific consensus estimates to date.

    But reporting on that “side” of the “debate” is outside the “Overton window”, isn’t it?

  17. 217
    colin Aldridge says:

    Good to see that skeptics and the concensus agree on at least one thing.. viz recent Guardian reporting has been of very poor quality

  18. 218
    Anand says:

    Ron Taylor
    Hey, when did I say the ‘stealth mode’ thing you are talking about? :-). I am fervently hoping nonetheless to live long enough too! Touch wood, man!

    Regarding your IPCC making no policy advocacy thing.

    If an IPCC official, acting in his/her capacity as a part of the IPCC, has made public statement/s, which is recorded by neutral media, in which there is distinct, explicit mention of specific, policy-based actions to be taken due to climate change, and if you are made aware of this, what would you do?

    Perhaps you would you then get off your ‘IPCC-does-no-advocacy’ high horse? Or will we all be in for more creative obfuscation? :)

    [Response: This is a confusion of yours. Everyone associated with the IPCC is also a private citizen and can say whatever they want. The IPCC reports hold the status they do as the voice of the IPCC because of the multiple levels of review and both the scientific and governmental level. No statement or interview by Thomas Stocker, Susan Solomon or Pachauri has anything like that level of review and cannot be assumed to be representative of the IPCC. What ‘IPCC says’ is what is in the reports. Nothing else. For instance, Pachauri has advocated that everyone become vegetarian. That’s an opinion he is entitled to hold, but there is no call for such a policy in the IPCC reports. Equating his individual opinions to the IPCC is simply wrong. Might it be clearer if he refrained from giving his personal opinions? Sure, but he has as much right as anyone to voice his personal opinion – and I doubt you would have it any other way. – gavin]

    Mr SecularAnimist:
    Your claims about ‘renewable’ energy with its high-flown terms like ‘regional portfolios’, are unsubstantiated and wrong.

    Mr Levenson
    The winds of politics blow every which direction. Fiver years ago, climate scientists were struggling under the cruel yoke apparently. Today they have a sympathetic government whose President speaks in favor of ‘climate change’. If Barton was a McCarthy, then scientists should stop asking for federal climate money as a mark of protest. Integrity is after all, more important than scientific discovery. I don’t see that happening.


  19. 219
    Ron Taylor says:

    John Peter, I think Tim Jones actually nailed it where Judith Curry is concerned. So you think granting credibility to utter nonsense is progress?

    I am saddened about this, since I once admired Judith.

  20. 220
    Dan M. says:

    Barton and I had the exchange:

    Dan M: But, if you look at the cost of storing power for when the wind isn’t blowing (that’s why Texas stopped building wind farms when natural gas prices lowered), or looked at the high and relatively flat costs of solar power over the past 20 years, one sees that neither is close to being a cheap reliable source of energy.

    BPL: And yet 42% of all the new electrical generating capacity put in across the US last year was wind. 35% the year before.

    Un-huh. I know. Look, I was happy that wind power was working it Texas. It proved that, up to 5% generating capacity, a 3 cent/kWh subsidy was all it took for wind/natural gas plants to work together. Here’s how it works: natural gas was far more expensive than coal (about $10/thousand cubic feet for a while there). But, natural gas plants were half as expensive as coal plants. So, wind worked when teamed with natural gas capacity that only used the expensive fuel when the wind wasn’t blowing and demand was high.

    Then, the drop in natural gas prices came in early ’09. Projects that were already contracted were not stopped, but new projects weren’t put on line. You can see it easily in the following trend:

    2005 702
    2006 744
    2007 1617
    2008 2760
    2009 2290
    2010 302

    sourced at:

    I realize, BTW, that the 302 number is an under construction number, but I was very interested in Texas wind power ever since I started seeing wind turbine blades in the opposite lanes of the freeway on a regular basis.

    Nationwide, there are state subsidies and mandates….that’s why I used Texas as an example of wind power being ecconomically viable with only a 3 cent/kWh 2 years ago. Texas gave no subsidies, so if it works in Texas, it works with only that one subsidy. But, the counterexample I was given was that, once wind reaches about 15% of grid input, it can only be counted on for about 10% of nameplate capacity. This was from an long report by the German electrical utility which had the greatest fraction of its energy coming from wind power of any utility I know of…and it was around 15%. Unfortunately, I saved my posts, but not the post of the person arguing against wind power, so I don’t have the website for the report or even know if it is still up. But, a similar analysis is given at:

    I really liked the German source, and I understand if folks are skeptical that it even existed. But, ones belief or lack thereof will not change the validity of the analysis….just as whether my views that that original data could and would have been saved will not change whether the earth will warm.

    But, having said that, I realized that with high priced natural gas, and cheap natural gas plants, a modest drop in wind prices might make this tandum a possibility. But, with natural gas prices falling through the floor, there was no need for the wind…and I stopped seeing turbine blades.

  21. 221
    Ed says:

    For people who are wondering about the UEA and CRU position on the allegations against them, you could take a look at the latest document released, which is their submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry.

  22. 222
    Andreas Bjurström says:


    210 CM,
    I would say that the IPCC in its entirety pretend to be free of values. The frequent claims to policy neutrality, disinterestedness, objectivity, etc. invoke that. The opposite would be The Union of Concerned Scientists. They clearly invoke the importance of science AND specific types of values. Noone thinks that they are disintereted etc. Realclimate invoke the same as the IPCC. To only deal with science, disinterested in values and politics, etc.

    I do not assume that all the scientists in the IPCC share the same value preferences. I am reading Schneider (science as a contact sport) right now, it shows explicitly that this is not the case.

    211 t_p_hamilton,
    Also for you, values comes first. As a physical scientist you give priority to physics :-)

    215 Ron Taylor,
    I am not sure what you are trying to say and why you think we disagree. I did not say that one should attack evidence on political grounds. That would be a case of not having an elaborated way of handling facts and values. To be able to separate the usually intertwined facts and values and to examine the facts as well as discuss the values would be the opposite. It is a shame that sceptics don´t do this and that they choose to attack facts rather than discuss values …

  23. 223
    Yoyoman says:

    “While this has to be seen on a backdrop of an almost complete collapse in reporting standards across the UK media on the issue of climate change, it can’t be excused on the basis that the Mail or the Times is just as bad”

    Humour. There´s been no backdrop or collapse in reporting. Do you really think that you can change medias way of working? You think way to much of yourselfs. Media has been the same all the way, the change has been in the direction. The facts, the errors, exaggerations has been with us all along, but in the favour of your opinion. Any politician can tell you how fast it can change.

  24. 224
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Andreas Bjurström
    25 February 2010 at 1:33 PM

    However, sceptics are attacking in this way: You have values, you are bad. The climate scientist respond: No, I do not have any values. Don’t you dare to smear me. It is you that have values.

    That is not an accurate depiction of reality. This is more like it:

    However, sceptics are attacking in this way: You have allowed your work to be tainted by your values, you are bad. The climate scientist respond: No, I have followed strict methods to prevent that from happening. Don’t you dare to smear me. It is you that refuses to accept my results because of your values.

    The fact that people have values is the raison d’être of science. Could you wish for more recognition for the fact that values can compromise objectivity?

    Objectivity is both a duty and a right for a scientist. The scientist has a duty to objectively interpret the evidence and accurately and completely report it. But he has also the right that his work is evaluated with objectivity, that people will not let their opinion about the values of the scientist taint their objectivity regarding the work of that scientist. I am of the opinion that the latter part will become severely compromised as soon as you start formalising the ‘openness about values’ that you propose.

    Your idea sounds very reasonable in theory. But I have concerns about the practical side. I have a few questions for you about this.

    1. How do you see the practical implementation? Would every scientist have to maintain a publicly available “political and social CV” in which he says what party he votes for and what religion he practices and other things of interest?

    2. Who is going to decide on what is relevant for the scientist to report in his “political and social CV”?

    3. Will the “political and social CV’s” be audited for completeness and accuracy and, if so, by whom?

    4. If it is discovered that a scientist has been, let’s say, inaccurate in reporting his values, what would happen to his work? Would it have to be retracted?

    5. Since you can not extract the ‘average values’ from the different people working for and organisation, its values are a rational decision made in a board room and then written out by the PR department. Most institutions have such an ‘about us’ link on their website. This is the IPCC about us. What more would you like to see on that page?

  25. 225

    I saw some of this online, and some in the Guardian Weekly (international summary of usually the best, this time the worst, of the week). In my response on my blog (also where I announced my petition to support scientists), I asked if The Guardian had been bought by Rupert Murdoch. They didn’t publish my letter containing this wording. Much more of this (rubbish reporting, not failing to publish my letter) and I will cancel my subscription.

    A key thing Pearce gets wrong (aside from being very confused about how science works in general) is supporting the denialist view that science is a matter of opinion. What a shame. I thought the UK had at least one good newspaper.

  26. 226

    Andreas Bjurström #204:

    I demand that scientists (and institutions, eg. IPCC) are open about their value preferences when value preferences matters (this is clearly the case with climate change).

    And what difference do you think this will make? Some climate scientists may have changed their politics in response to a particular side of politics taking an anti-science stance. What will happen if they all turn out to be libertarian Republicans? Will that turn the tide of denialism?

    The important thing to understand is that unlike politics or poetry or religion, science is not a matter of opinion. If the contrarian camp have evidence that overturns the theory, it will do so no matter what their point of view. If they have a theory that explains the evidence better than the mainstream, likewise.

    Science is not value free in the sense that you choose what to work on. However, anyone can apply the scientific method to overturn theories with no scientific basis (unless they live in a police state, or the opposition uses tricks like announcing new details too fast to counter). Tell us exactly how the contrarians do not have the opportunity to overturn the mainstream.

    Trying to turn everything into a matter of opinion is a strategy adopted by those with no scientific argument. Like the tobacco industry.

  27. 227
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, OK, now wait a minute. Who ever said that scientists do not have values. That’s absurd. There is a distinction, though, between the values of any particular scientist and the values of science. Indeed, one’s success as a scientist depends on how well one can put aside one’s personal agenda and advance understanding of the subject matter.

    There is a very big difference between saying that the values of individual scientists do not taint the science and saying science (or a scientist) has no values. That is the thing I think you are missing.

    As to the values of science itself, I think the biggest one is that there is an objective truth/reality and that it is important to have as good an understanding of that reality as is possible. That one can never reach perfect understanding of it is immaterial.

    The thing that you need to understand is that there are reasons why science is the way it is. The elements work together to produce in an economical fashion the most reliable knowledge human beings can possess about the physical world. When somebody like McIntyre or Michael Behe or Paul Feyerabend comes along and wants to change the way science is done, they are going to face hostility. Science ain’t broken. Those who want to change it are suspect.

  28. 228
    Completely Fed Up says:

    flxible says:
    25 February 2010 at 3:39 PM

    That may be what you and the skeptics”

    How about we change that to “you and the contrarians”.

    Andreas wants to ignore the science and deny the evidence by being contrary and repeatedly stating that psychology and political issues are the hidden elephant and we MUST ONLY look at them.

    It’s a sophist stance of denialism which AT BEST is contrary which gets an argument nowhere (cf Monty Python’s 10-minute argument sketch).

    But in no shape or form can it be skepticism.

  29. 229
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    228 CFU,
    Why these lies and distortion all the time? Is it doing the movement any good? I have NEVER ignored or denied “the evidence”. You and everyone else here know that, so why do you lie and say this? I have NEVER stated that ALL research should be focused on social science. I do not say that because I do not have such an opinion. I do NOT even want most research to be invested in the social sciences. BUT if we want to SOLVE the climate problem, all these billions spent on advanced climate models are not doing us much good. We DO need understanding of behaviour and politics etc if we want to find feasible ways forward. I guess you do not care about that. You only care about the physical science for its own sake, is that right?

    READ my posts here (do NOT intentionall disort everything I say)or my forthcoming article in the journal Climatic Change if you are interested in what I actually claim, there I have very extensive quantitative data on the issue of disciplinary bias and more elaborated discussion in the concequences of the lack of interdisciplinarity in climate research.

  30. 230
    Anne van der Bom says:

    25 February 2010 at 7:00 PM

    Mr SecularAnimist:
    Your claims about ‘renewable’ energy with its high-flown terms like ‘regional portfolios’, are unsubstantiated and wrong.

    Lets see what SecularAnimist said:

    Texas has never “stopped building wind farms”.


    The costs of solar power (both PV and CSP) have significantly declined over the past 20 years; they are nowhere near “flat”.


    Nor is storage prohibitively costly, particularly thermal storage of energy from CSP power plants — but neither is it essential to large-scale deployment of wind and solar, given that multiple studies have found that a diversified, regional portfolio of renewable energy sources, managed through a smart grid, can provide 24×7 power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear power, even without storage.

    Plausible. Fraunhofer recently released a study indicating that Germany can close 50% of its baseload capacity as a result of increasing wind and solar power (its in german, sorry):

    Not all renewable energy sources are variable. Hydro, geothermal, csp and bioenergy provide on-demand power. That is what SecularAnimist means by “portfolio”.

  31. 231
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andreas, again, because you don’t give any sign of having read this the first time: you have a good idea. It’s an idea much promoted here for a long time, and one that has been an important idea since at least the late 1960s, because I recall it as part of the first Earth Day programs. It’s good to see it has propagated so far and been so widespread people think it’s their own as you do.

    Now try _doing_ something about it instead of acting like nobody’s ever heard of the idea, please. You could be useful to the world by working on this.

    Telling people they’re wrong is exactly the opposite of accomplishing this kind of cooperation across disciplines. Look for something you share with the people, find a point of agreement, and work from there.

    If you have a better idea of how to accomplish more interdisciplinary work, please do share it.

  32. 232
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Anand says “If Barton was a McCarthy, then scientists should stop asking for federal climate money as a mark of protest. Integrity is after all, more important than scientific discovery. I don’t see that happening.”

    Could you try to get serious here? Good lord. You have a threat that could wind up pushing civilization over the edge, and you think climate scientists should cave in the face of a pair of fascists from a state where a University President actually went before legislators to ask for money because he “wanted a University the football team could be proud of”!

  33. 233
    CM says:

    Andreas #222, I’m confused by your description of RC, because to me most of the people posting here come across as pretty passionate about their values and make no bones about having them. Which is why they bother to do this blog, I guess.

    Back to my second question, could you give an example or two from WG1 to illustrate how scientists’ value preferences matter to the science, and how coming clean about these values would improve matters?

  34. 234
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andreas, remember–some people here are actual climate scientists — they sign their work and most of their names are in the Contributors column in the right sidebar. Those are the people to pay attention to about your upcoming paper.

    There are also people with pseudonyms who say outrageous things; moderation is pretty light here, and a lot of dumb stuff gets said, because that’s the reality of public conversations.

    Remember, please, don’t take the worst behaved commenters, the ones exaggerating and pontificating, as the ones to respond to. That just encourages them (and they will say no it’s me or you who are doing that, sigh)

  35. 235
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Andreas: “READ my posts here”


    Hank Roberts says:
    26 February 2010 at 10:17 AM

    Andreas, again, because you don’t give any sign of having read this the first time”

    Andy, try to make some sort of sense and I’ll try to make sense of it.

    You started with “The IPCC makes the impression that peer review is infallible”, I say “no it doesn’t”, you jump to “you obviously don’t understand science/political interface” and when asked how that happens, just start slagging me off and then “I’m not going to bother with you”.

    You haven’t yet made one solid sensible argument.

    Try that and I’ll start reading. But I’m not wasting the only life I have trying to figure your drive, out.

  36. 236
    Anand says:

    “This is a confusion of yours. Everyone associated with the IPCC is also a private citizen and can say whatever they want…”

    I was already clear about this. No confusion here. :) Of course we are OK with individuals connected to the IPCC to make personal statements in their capacity as citizens of the world. It is the statements they make in their capacity as IPCC officials that concern us, don’t they?

    For example Pachauri has, as you pointed our, wriggled out his vegetarianism spiel using the ‘private citizen’ argument. Although his anti-meat Powerpoint presentations were detailed and included IPCC report-derived data and he is identified to the audience as being Chair of the IPCC. A private citizen who is the Chair of the IPCC – that makes the cut for his ethics, and we will take his word and allow that.

    The real question is, as before: What is to be done (by you) when such is not the case?

    [Response: But I reject the idea that Pachauri in whatever capacity can ‘speak for what the IPCC’ has concluded on matters of science or policy other than in straight forward summarising. He may be Chair of the IPCC which gives him a managerial role, but his personal opinions are not the reports. The reports are ‘what the IPCC says’, Pachauri’s statements are not. The IPCC reports are open to anyone to use in a presentation, and you can be correctly described as holding a particular job without implying that your organisation approves of your message. For instance, I am perfectly at liberty to describe myself as working for NASA in the blurb in my book, but not to imply that NASA has endorsed the publication or that it is an official communication of any sort. – gavin]

    Ms van der Bom I agree that there is literature that supports your plausibilites, like you say yourself. But it is a pipedream to conclude that these sources of energy will hold up any grid, without the ‘smartness’ put into it. All the ‘smart grid’ ideas that I’ve seen are nothing but consumption caps, which defeats the original argument then and there. I won’t argue this anymore as I feel it may be off-topic.


  37. 237
    Dan M. says:

    Let me try one last time to explain why it was possible to compile meaningful raw data sets, back in the ’80s, that would have straightforwardly fit on storage media available at the time. I am very familiar with the problem, having to work with large data set back in 77-82 time frame. I pointed out that, one could, even if one generously gave half the space to comments, store reasonably precise hourly data for 1kbyte per station per day.

    Nowadays, storage of a day’s reading from all the stations in the world is large. IIRC, I was told that the tarballs are now about 280 Mbytes/day. That’s not surprising, we’ve got space to burn now, and the fact that each file has a 512 byte header record “” is no big deal today.

    But, back then, we worried a lot about size. We spent days on compression techniques. And, I thought that my suggestion for storing hourly raw data from a station was a reasonable one. Indeed, hourly data shouldn’t be needed to determine climate questions. If the CDC were to say that they compressed hourly data to averages over 4 hours, and had only 1 line (80 bytes of commments), then the requirement would be dropped to 200 bytes/day.

    But, let’s go with 1000. That means, when there were 3000 stations, we’d have 3 Mbytes/day. With tapes from the ’80s holding 100 Mbytes, that’s slightly more than 1 tape per year.

    But, going back in time, there certainly weren’t 3000 sets of hourly data from the 1800s. So, the entire set of raw data could be kept, with half the space alloted to comments on 100 tapes. I’ve walked in rooms where our group had that many tapes stored. If the data were considered important, grad students, not movers, would be responsible for the data. Indeed, I remember transmitting the last bit of my thesis data as boxes of cards because I didn’t want any unlikely problems reading Fermilab nominal tape formats to add a week to my work. I drove home from doing the scanning and measuring myself with the punch cards in boxes besides me. Granted, this is an exreme case, tapes were used extensively in the High Energy Physics community, but it gives an example of the care we were trained to take.

    So, what am I accusing the of? Sloppyness. Their craftsmanship was not up to the standards I was told was expected of experiemental scientists. I falsely assumed, when I took their data, that they had done all this routine stuff. It was just part of the normal craftsmanship expected of good experimental scientists.

    The problem with merging corrected data sets, with additional corrections into other corrected data sets, and then continuing the process is that one offers the opportunity for error to creep into the data with no chance, save going back and starting all over. And, since we are talking about 30 years of work, that’s not a trivial feat…especially since negociations were needed to even get some of the data.

    The question was raised “why don’t you do it?” The answer should be obvious, I don’t have the personal resources or connections to do it. I had, falsely, thought the CRU practiced first rate technique in the handing of data.

    Now, to be clear, I am accusing the CRU of nothing but poor craftmanship. I really don’t expect the errors that crept into the massaged data set to be based on any political agenda. I just expect that, with that amount of data, errors will creep in when judgements are made concerning the merging of data, the rejection of data, the correction of data. I’ve never ever seen vast amounts of data processed without some sort of error being made that could later be corrrected if the origional raw data were still available. Scientists are not perfect, that’s why safeguards against errors being undetectable and ucorrectable are so important to us.

    Let me close with a story. Back when I started, our group showed the production of charmed quarks in high energy neutrino interactions at twice the rate predicted by the electroweak theory. Another group, running a very similar experiment, found the rate predicted. There was clear conflict between the two groups. My major professor asked the lead physicist of the other group over to look at the bubble chamber photographs, which were the raw data. They went over every event that we labled as containing the production of a charmed quark. The other physicist looked at the data, looked at our processing, and agreed that every event we called a charmed quark event, he would also call a charmed quark event.

    The result was that both groups scheduled experiments with a higher intenstiy, higher energy neutrino beam, which resulted in many more events. It turned out that the Standard Model was right. Our group’s results were a spurious statistical fluctuation. But, IIIRC, at 2 sigma, it not to be ignored.

    Because we had the raw data, we could resolve the conflict as scientists. Without it, no-one would have known if the events were real. That is why the raw data is so important. And, I think I have shown the raw climate data could have been kept with the hardware that was available, in the same manner my group kept raw data in HEP. (If there is a dispute of this, I’d very much apppreciate being shown why my example of a raw data set would not have been sufficient, or why tapes could not hold that amount of data by, say, 1983-1984. If that can be shown, I’ll have learned something, and will be happy to admit that there were factors that I didn’t see.

  38. 238
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Ed #221,

    there’s now also the correspondence of EAU with ICO, confirming what I suspected all the time: there was no “finding” by ICO of an FoI breach. Another piece of Leakegate.

  39. 239
    jim woolridge says:

    I found David Wilson’s comments on fred Pearce puzzling, particularly David’s interpretation of the youtube clip. Pearce has been writing on global warming since at least the early ’90s and is regarded in the UK as a leading journalist in the field. He would therefore be in a good position to do a 24 hour blitz for WWF–what’s the problem here? Idiot’s guides to GW are needed to inform the general public(of course ‘idiot’ here is used non-pejoratively.)

  40. 240
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Dan M. says: 26 February 2010 at 1:40 PM
    > Let me try one last time to explain why it was possible
    > to compile meaningful raw data sets ….

    Put a cost estimate on that, as it would have cost at the time with the available knowledge, compare that to the budget that did not include any such work, and ask yourself why anyone at the time would have imagined the need to keep such _copies_ given that the data providers would provide _updated_ files to the next person requesting such.

    You know ‘Rule One of Database Management’? One record; many pointers.

    Pick any other area of science — tobacco, asbestos, evolution, lead, hormone mimics — and you won’t find the kind of ‘skepticism’ you see about climate, nor the sort of effort to paint the researchers as evil.

    Look at the research about ‘skepticism’ in other areas — see anything comparable?

    Yes it could have been done.
    No, it wasn’t imaginable that anyone could need or justify spending on it.

    If you want access to the relevant data, you request it from the source.
    Not from anyone who has an old snapshot taken sometime in the past.

  41. 241
    Dan M. says:

    Hank Roberts wrote:

    “Put a cost estimate on that”

    Well, let’s see. They had to have the raw data in digital form, right? Otherwise, they would have had to look at several sheets of paper and average them in their heads, and then write a number on their computer. That is so bad, the resultant data would have been worthless. I’m sure someone has worked that way, but let’s give the CRU a bit of credit. I’m accusing them of being sloppy, but not stupid sloppy beyond belief.

    So, they have the data, they just need to deal with the fact that they had different time frames for input, different types of data, etc., and needed to compress the data If it were my project, I’d reserve one number for NULL to handle the holes in the data.

    So, the problem would be writing the compression program in FORTRAN. Guess what? I’ve done something similar in the early 80s, writing a bit to bit translation FORTRAN program in a week. If I were in charge, I’d make it a grad student project to put together the data base. Pay a couple of grad students to write the program and put together the raw data. Grad students are always grunt labor in US universities, I made $550/month working 70 hour weeks back in ’81. Are you arguing that grad students were paid 2000 pounds/month back then in England, and only worked 40 hour weeks? My British colleagues never told me they had it that easy. :-)

    Two grad students, half a year should do it, I’d think.

    Remember, I’ve done very similar things myself, writing data bases in FORTRAN in the late ’70s, and processed megabytes of data from 40k+ frames of bubble chamber film. Once the data base is set up, and the data transferred to it via the software, it is merely a matter of turning the crank to compress the data. The time comsuming part of the work was analyzing the data and making judgements, not turning the crank to get the data in the data base.

    So, yea, I have an idea.

    “Pick any other area of science”

    I just did: physics. That’s the point. I was doing similar work _at the same time_ in physics, and I shudder to think how the lead post doc would have chewed me out if he ever heard that I was _planning_ on doing something like that. If I did it, it probably would have meant I would not have my Phd. I would have been sent off packing with no sympathy from my colleauges.

  42. 242
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Nice 20:20 hindsight on data preservation going on here.

    Dan, right now, go restore your data from the 80s. Don’t say another word, just go retrieve the data.

    Can you do that?

  43. 243
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Dan, I forgot to specify: Restore -all- the data and for that matter anything else that touched that data you gathered in the 1980s. If any is missing, by your own standard that won’t do, it’s not acceptable. So you need to get it all, raw detector data, processed data, code used to process it, the whole enchilada.

  44. 244
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yep, that’s a fair challenge. Got your PhD data handy now?
    Can you get it?
    Is it worth it?

  45. 245
    dhogaza says:

    Remember, I’ve done very similar things myself, writing data bases in FORTRAN in the late ’70s, and processed megabytes of data from 40k+ frames of bubble chamber film. Once the data base is set up, and the data transferred to it via the software, it is merely a matter of turning the crank to compress the data. The time comsuming part of the work was analyzing the data and making judgements, not turning the crank to get the data in the data base.

    Then they’d ask for copies of the 40K+ frames of bubble chamber film.

    So the non-proprietary data’s available, in a database, at GHCN, and the UK FOI act allows rejection a FOI request if 1) the data is freely available from another source or 2) there are legal constraints making it impossible to fulfill the request, i.e. non-disclosure agreements in this case.

    This appears to cover the available raw data.

    Before McIntyre began getting his followers to flood UEA with FOI requests (about 40 over one weekend, for instance), he got a rejection of his appeal, and in that rejection he was told that it was because some of the data was proprietary and not owned by UEA CRU, AND THAT THE UNIVERSITY WAS WORKING TO GET THE OWNERS TO AGREE TO THE RELEASE OF THE DATA, and that he just had to be patient, in essence.

    This appears to be a very reasonable basis for rejection, and a reasonable response.

    Note that UEA CRU was under no obligation to try to get the owners of the data to release it. They – the compliance people, mind you – could’ve simply rejected it and said “sorry”.

    Care to guess what McIntyre’s response was?

    And note that CRU says that owners of about 80% of the proprietary data have agreed to release it.

    Nice 20:20 hindsight on data preservation going on here.

    Dan, right now, go restore your data from the 80s. Don’t say another word, just go retrieve the data.

    Can you do that?

    Along with any e-mails or other correspondence related to collection and processing of that data.

  46. 246
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Hank Roberts says: 26 February 2010 at 9:31 PM

    Yep, that’s a fair challenge. Got your PhD data handy now?

    Said PhD without a doubt obtained with the assistance of copious baskets of government money. Particle accelerator==taxpayer dollars. I hope he can do the restoration; if there were any significant results even more money will have been spent further down the road and if Dan can’t restore his data that means everything’s in doubt now.

    Biting my nails.

  47. 247
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dan, I was at Fermilab in the ’80s. They did have a tape vault for storing data from all experiments. However the tape vault and computer center had a staff of about a dozen, and if you wanted data, they had to go and physically retrieve the data by hand, mount the tape and then you could access the data.

    I know that by the end of my thesis work some of those tapes I was using were getting pretty ratty. I very much doubt you could lay your hands on the data I used 20 years ago. And particle physics was pioneering in its emphasis on storing and archiving data. I also remember how revolutionary it was when first NASA and then the Fermilab Collider Detector Facility decided that they would share data with the public–after two years.

    The entire CRU now has a staff of 13, and it was smaller in the past. The FOI requests foisted on them for data that were already available on the web would have cost them a man-year of work. And this from a man who has published precisely one peer-reviewed paper, and that of mediocre quality. Why not let the scientists do science.

  48. 248
    Dan M. says:

    OK, the multiple comments on my research raise a fair question. When can you throw out the origional data? A reasonable criteria is when the results of the work are no longer interesting. A good rule of thumb is 10 years after the project is done, superceded by other work, etc. In other words, when it’s long past the time that the results of the research are if interest to people.

    I have destroyed my copy of origional data sets, but only to comply with a contract that said that I must do that after the completion of my contract, after handing a copy to the client. In fact, I broke the letter of the law on the contract (with their verbal OK) by keeping my copy until they verified that they had checked the data I sent to them and could read it all. I have kept origional data sets for another company about 10 years now, and am very thankful that I did, because I was able to go back to them to double check my work. It turned out they also kept copies, but I felt good that I didn’t make them dig them up.

    So, going back to my thesis, the school took and owned the origional data. When they thought my thesis topic was no longer important to HEP, I guess they got rid of it. It sits on my bookshelf, but its now all backwater stuff.

    But, I’d argue that the temperature records before 2000 are still of value. Does anyone argue that the compiled data set of the CRU is worthless?

    So, if the CRU’s temperature history becomes irrelvant, I would have no problem with them waiting a few years to be sure, and then disposing of it. But, they got rid of it while using information they derived from it on a regular basis.

    Finally, I’ll give you this. If a graduate student working at the CDC compiled raw data, and left the raw data with them when he got a job elsewhere after doing his dissertation, I hold him totally faultless for the loss of the data when someone else threw it out. Is that fair enough?

  49. 249
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Dan M. says: 26 February 2010 at 10:50 PM

    A myriad of excuses, but long story short: “I talk but I don’t walk.”

  50. 250
    flxible says:

    DanM@241 re 242,243,244 – note that Doug and Hank just wish to audit your work, on the chance that your PhD contains some miscalculations or statistical “tricks” – they don’t care if the conclusions you reached were valid :)