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A mistaken message from IoP?

Filed under: — rasmus @ 6 March 2010

The Institute of Physics (IoP) recently made a splash in the media through a statement about the implications of the e-mails stolen in the CRU hack. A couple of articles in the Guardian report how this statement was submitted to an inquiry into the CRU hack and provide some background.

The statement calls for increased transparency, and expresses concerns about the public confidence in science if the transparency is absent. The IoP statement, however, fails to note that the issue of transparency is far more general applicable than just to mainstream climate science. It should also involve the critics of climate change, as noted by New Scientist.

The statement also fails to clarify what level of transparency they expect the climate scientists to reach. Which scientific discipline should we use as a role model? I know of none that is more transparent than climate science, and in large part that s due to the IPCC. Ironically, without this transparency, the climate-change deniers would not get as much ammunition. For instance, note how the attacks on the NASA GISTEMP product have become more vehement in recent months even though the code base and data have been available for years and clearly demonstrate that the criticisms are bogus.

Another question arises is whether the IoP follows its own recommendations in its own publications?

The statement of the IoP was made on the behalf of its 36000 members, but as a member of IoP myself, this came as a surprise. According to the Guardian, there was only a small group of people behind this, and other IoP members was obviously not very impressed. The IoP did, however, make a second statement after their initial one was misrepresented by the climate-change deniers (there is some confusion about versions).

The irony of this affair is that the IoP will not disclose who were responsible for the original statement, thus not living up to the standards they set for others.

Furthermore, it’s a paradox that the IoP based the statement on stolen private e-mail exchanges, while putting disclaimers about confidentiality, especially as it asks people to delete any e-mail before they go astray:

This email (and attachments) are confidential and intended for the addressee(s) only. If you are not the intended recipient please notify the sender, delete any copies and do not take action in reliance on it

Transparency is essential for trust and confidence in science – as in all matters – but claims about lack of transparency are easy to make. It’s another question whether the alleged lack of transparency in climate science has had any impact on anyone’s ability to verify the science.

Update
Concerns raised over Institute of Physics climate submission‘ in Physics World

March, 19: Further Comment on DeepClimate.org


345 Responses to “A mistaken message from IoP?”

  1. 1

    It’s really sad that climate scientists are perfectly and rightly willing to hold themselves to such a high standard that deniers are so keen on abusing. Sad too is that political leanings, not the ability to discern science from PR, determines people’s take on the issue.

    Nibbling at the edges of a issue whose core has been decided is good enough for those whose economic theories offer no solution to the Tragedy of the Commons.

  2. 2
    Ben Lawson says:

    This is beginning to look like the E&E “hijack”…

  3. 3

    Insitute of Physics criticism of CRU climate research based on interview with fossil fuels consultant: http://bit.ly/OilmoneyIOP

  4. 4
    Tim Jones says:

    How far our conservative friends go with the denial of reality can be found here.
    http://www.conservativeblogwatch.com/tag/gavin-schmidt/

    Some may find this material to be rather confusing, even, oh horrors, quite mistaken!

    But Real Climate IS recommended reading:
    “*****Update: Readers are STRONGLY encouraged to watch the scrambling going on at RealClimate.”
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/#comments

    One thing is for sure. This site is being watched like a hawk.

    If you read carefully with both eyes and an open mind perhaps you can tease out the truth of it.

  5. 5
    pete best says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/05/climate-emails-institute-of-physics-submission

    If this is indeed correct than it stands to reason that many scientists outside of climate science seem to have an issue (or agenda) with the religious fervour of AGW that some media outlets, bodies, professions seem to be pedaling. I would summise that this has now become a absurd politicial hot potato with the left and right going at it hammer and tongs.

    The IOP are in serious error and should have balleted all members before releasing such a statement which now in itself is being used in politics.

  6. 6
    berkeley_statistician says:

    I think that statistics, geophysics, and computational biology are currently considerably more reproducible than climate science.

    Please google papers on “reproducible research” by Claerbout, Donoho, and Gentleman.

    What climate science needs to strive for is the equivalent of http://ftp.ncbi.nih.gov, where all kinds of different raw datasets are publicly available.

    Right now we have an inverted pyramid structure in which trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit. We need open data sets and immediate release of all raw data like in genomics.

  7. 7
    Yvan Dutil says:

    Ibuki should help a lor to resolve the issue of methane. Check the lash CH4 map.

    http://www.gosat.nies.go.jp/eng/gallery/FTS_L2_SWIR_CH4_gallery.htm

  8. 8
    Tom Fuller says:

    Given the charged nature of the debate, this might be an opportunity to create a model that can serve other disciplines as well. The key ‘new’ instrument is the internet, and incorporating the changes it brings will be just as useful to astrophysics and dendrochronology.

    If you were to design data collection, archiving and dissemination procedures for all of science today, I presume they would be different than procedures that have served the community for the past few centuries. With the attention given climate change now, perhaps a design (the construction of which included some of your critics) that addressed issues of longevity, transparency, quality control checks and availability might be compelling enough to get funding. If done well, it would certainly get at least one category of critics off your back–and who knows? It might help science as well.

    If you are able to ignore the messenger and concentrate on the message, you can see that the concerns raised by IOP do not come out of the blue and could serve as a starting point. You may, of course, adopt the method used by some skeptics and focus on the details surrounding their message and its dissemination and succeed in keeping the issue confused for some period of time. In my opinion, the worst thing you could do is to maintain that current procedures and adequate to the task on hand, that those proposing changes are enemies of science and that there is nothing material to discuss.

    Three options for one decision is not at all bad–you have actual choices available, they are not overwhelming in terms of numbers or scope, and there are sources of counsel and support available.

    You could look at this as good news.

  9. 9
    Doug Bostrom says:

    berkeley_statistician says: 6 March 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Right now we have an inverted pyramid structure in which trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit.

    You didn’t know it until right now, but you desperately need to read this

    The Discovery of Global Warming

    before you cement and waste the reputation of your pseudonymous personality as that of fool.

  10. 10
    JiminMpls says:

    #4 from the second article on gavin….Snow also omitted the left-wing affiliation of RealClimate.org, a website she mentioned during her report.

    Thanks, Tim. I got my laugh the day. I really don’t understand the “left-wing affiliation” quip, though. Did I miss some nasty rumor?

  11. 11
    Toby says:

    berkeley_statistician said

    “Right now we have an inverted pyramid structure in which trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit. We need open data sets and immediate release of all raw data like in genomics.”

    I just don’t see that … what are you talking about? There are thousands of climate scientists at work all over the world, the numbers of papers published annually also runs into thousands. The IPCC report is a sober rendering of the contents of those papers over a number of years. The vast majority accept AGW…. are you saying they are all written by three people?

  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    > If you are able to ignore the messenger
    But you want to consider whether the messenger is spinning PR
    > the concerns raised by IOP do not come out of the blue
    True, they’re talking points from the industry members
    > and could serve as a starting point
    You consider the industry talking points a reliable place to begin.
    Hmmmmmmmm.

    As Kees van der Leun said earlier here, just above:

    Insitute of Physics criticism of CRU climate research based on interview with fossil fuels consultant: http://bit.ly/OilmoneyIOP

  13. 13
    Jerry Steffens says:

    #6

    “I think that statistics, geophysics, and computational biology are currently considerably more reproducible than climate science.”

    Reproducible? Are we to go back in time and reset the atmosphere and oceans to their previous states and re-run the “experiment” to see if the same thing happens, a la “Groundhog Day”?

    “Right now we have an inverted pyramid structure in which trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit.”

    Right, there are only three people currently engaged in climate-change research. Three evil puppet-masters controlling everything!

  14. 14

    I think the problem at the IoP is that they haven’t got their policy submissions system sorted out, making it painfully easy for a rather small group (possibly even one person) to subvert the process. There’s a consultation in this months Physics World mail-out for an improved process.

    I wrote an irate letter: http://bit.ly/bOSDxl

  15. 15

    I’m a bit disappointed in this post.  When I wrote last week in the Guardian a plea for the movement towards openness in science should be embraced more eagerly by climate scientists. I thought, naively, that this would not be very controversial. The number of comments on that post is now over 220 and still rising, though most of the comments generate more heat than light.
    In the longer version of that article, on my blog, I recommended Andy Russell’s site and this one as sources of reliable information about climate change. I was therefore astonished to see that Russells’s site, and to a lesser extent this one, attacking the Institute of Physics for advocating openness about data and analysis code. It s particularly odd to see an attack on the IoP here, given that quite recently you were grumbling that a competitor would not hand over his code.
    In other areas, some journals are now insisting as a condition of  publication tha all raw data be made available on request, and a minor industry is growing up to develop standards that will allow people to read more easily other people’s data from the web.  By appearing to resist this admirable trend, climate scientists seem to be shooting themselves in the foot.  You are just giving the deniers another cudgel to beat you with.
    It seems that climate scientists have developed (perhaps not surprisingly) a siege mentality.  There s a tendency to conceal things not only from the enemy but also from your friends.  The matter of climate change is too important for that sort of behaviour. Please grow up.

    [Response: Please don't put words in our mouths. No one is arguing against transparency, and no one is complaining about the IoP being for transparency. What is being pointed out here is the hypocrisy of the IoP in this instance. And the larger point that the claim that climate science has not been transparent in the first place is extremely misleading. In your article you write, " There is a growing trend for researchers in a variety of fields to place all original data and analysis methods openly on the web. That trend does not yet seem to have reached all of climate science yet, but it is the only way forward." Where on earth do you get the idea that this trend is reaching climate science more slowly than other fields? You are merely speculating, based on quotes from one person, Phil Jones -- someone that cannot possibly be blamed for feeling just a bit "under siege" at the moment -- and assume that this somehow applies to the entire field. Yes, of course, scientists must be ruthlessly honest and open about data, but the suggestion that this is not standard practice is just wrong. There are reams and reams of raw data out there, and always have been, for anyone that wants to look at it.--eric]

  16. 16
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Berkley Statistician says, “Right now we have an inverted pyramid structure in which trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit.”

    You know, it this statement weren’t pure propaganda, I might be concerned about how wrong it is.

    I mean there isn’t a single critical aspect of climate science that is predicated on only three groups of studies, let alone 3 individuals. The temperature trends are reflected in 4 independent temperature products…plus all the phenological and ice-melt data that provide quantitative support to them. There are literally dozens of studies of CO2 sensitivity by multiple groups looking at a dozen independent lines of evidence. And all of this evidence has been vetted by indeptndent committees at the National Academies and in professional academies of scientists (including the American Statistical Association). And on and on. One might wonder where our “berkeley statistician” could have gotten such woefully incorrect information.

    However, the way you know that his whole missive is propaganda is by the meme suggesting that “trillions of dollars” of expenditure are contingent on a flimsy basis. The vast majority of the expenditure needed to mitagate climate change would be necessary in any case to build a new energy infrastructure–and that is not optional. So given all this, I wouldn’t pay any more attention to berkeley statistician than I would to Tom Fuller.

  17. 17
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Tom Fuller says: The key ‘new’ instrument is the internet…

    Scientists sharing data on the internet? Novel!

    If you were to design data collection, archiving and dissemination procedures for all of science today, I presume they would be different than procedures that have served the community for the past few centuries…

    There is no evidence that current procedures for data collection, archiving, and dissemination are inadequate. Online data are voluminous and adequate for anybody to reproduce the main results of climate science, e.g., Tamino’s latest effort. Only intellectual laziness prevents critics from doing the work to convince themselves this is so; inevitably, these critics displace onto scientists their own moral failing.

  18. 18
    David B. Benson says:

    I do hope that many IoP members will write irate letters.

  19. 19
    robert davies says:

    Berkeley… What. In the world. Are you talking about? Three person research unit? Get it together, my friend.

  20. 20
    Jim Galasyn says:

    From Pete’s link:

    Evidence from a respected scientific body to a parliamentary inquiry examining the behaviour of climate-change scientists, was drawn from an energy industry consultant who argues that global warming is a religion, the Guardian can reveal.

    The submission, from the Institute of Physics (IOP), suggested that scientists at the University of East Anglia had cherry-picked data to support conclusions and that key reconstructions of past temperature could not be relied upon. …

    The Guardian has established that the institute prepared its evidence, which was highly critical of the CRU scientists, after inviting views from Peter Gill, an IOP official who is head of a company in Surrey called Crestport Services.

    According to Gill, Crestport offers “consultancy and management support services … particularly within the energy and energy intensive industries worldwide”, and says that it has worked with “oil and gas production companies including Shell, British Gas, and Petroleum Development Oman”.

  21. 21
    dhogaza says:

    Tom Fuller says: The key ‘new’ instrument is the internet…

    Scientists sharing data on the internet? Novel!

    Maybe we can get someone at, oh, let’s think for a moment … yeah! CERN! … to invent a new internet protocol to make it easier for scientists to share data! We could call that new protocol … Hyper-Text Transport Protocol! HTTP in acronym form!

  22. 22
    dhogaza says:

    David Colquhoun:

    I’m a bit disappointed in this post. When I wrote last week in the Guardian a plea for the movement towards openness in science should be embraced more eagerly by climate scientists. I thought, naively, that this would not be very controversial.

    That’s not controversial. What gets people annoyed at you are what you actually wrote in the column, things like:

    By going to ground, and by denying Freedom of Information Act requests, the university gave the impression of guilt, quite regardless of whether there is really anything to hide

    The FOIA requests were properly rejected because, as has been endlessly pointed out, CRU does not have the right to distribute the bits of the requested data that aren’t already freely available from the GHCN site.

    As long as you keep getting your facts wrong, you’re going to get people upset with you.

    Or this …

    I have never come across anything in my own field that would qualify as fraud, or even dishonesty (well just once it was close), and I have never been asked by an editor to come to a particular decision when reviewing a paper. Our analysis programs are free, on the web.

    Which is a total misrepresentation of what was going on, which was a reviewer had already told the editor that they’d recommend rejection, and that the editor was merely reminding the reviewer that a *detailed* rejection was required (and apparently was late). It wasn’t a case of the editor asking a reviewer to reject a paper, it was of an editor asking a reviewer for details as a follow-up to the rejection *already made* by the reviewer.

    Do you understand the difference?

    Do you understand why the climate science community is justly tired of these misrepresentations by you and others in the press?

    Do you understand that this isn’t about “openness in the climate science community”, but about lies about how open the climate science community is in comparison with the rest of science?

    [Response: Thank you. That's exactly the point. (Though actually I would make the point a bit differently. Saying "we are more open than other sciences" is a bit silly. It may be true, but it wouldn't be good enough if other sciences were not open at all, would it? But the point is that everyone seems to just swallow the lie that "climate science isn't open" when this isn't true now, and has never been true.)--eric]

  23. 23
    Ike Solem says:

    The Guardian’s distortions are looking ever more bizarre – here’s one from Feb 15 2010, a strange headline indeed:

    “Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels.”

    Wow! Sea levels are no longer rising? Well – actually – no. This is about the withdrawal of a paper in Nature Geosciences that predicted a sea level rise of “7cm and 82cm by the end of the century.”

    Lower, in the fine print, we find:

    Martin Vermeer of the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany published a study in December that projected a rise of 0.75m to 1.9m by 2100.

    Okay, let’s try a new headline for our editor, who is either a recent transfer from the Britney Spears circuit, or is a shameless spin artist:

    “Climate scientists withdraw estimate of lower sea level rise.”

    Regardless, the reporter on the story also included this, unchallenged and hanging:

    “Siddall said that he did not know whether the retracted paper’s estimate of sea level rise was an overestimate or an underestimate.”

    Huh? Right – so he’s saying that there’s a good chance that the non-retracted 0.75m – 1.9m estimate is completely wrong?

    Notice also that the last IPCC report – that Sidall ‘confirmed’ – didn’t take into account the more recent acceleration in Greenland – and there’s plenty of supporting work there:

    Straneo et al. “Rapid circulation of warm subtropical waters in a major glacial fjord in East Greenland” Nature Geoscience 3, 182 – 186 (2010)

    That has some impact on the issue of seabed methane emissions, too. Not only the headline, but the body of the story appears contrived to confuse, not enlighten, the reader.

    Even more astonishing was this Guardian piece targeting the “lack of transparency” of climate scientists:

    “Climate scientists must be ruthlessly honest about data” – astonishing indeed. Double standards, maybe? Just a little?

  24. 24

    @dhogaza

    I’m not sure who is doing the misrepresentation here. The second quotation said that UAE appeared to go to ground and it did. Jones vansished for weeks and the vice-chancellor seemed to stall and said little.

    Having myself have every FoI request I ever sent to a university (nothing to do with climate) rejected on flimsy grounds, I’m a it sensitive about excuses for not complying. The fact that some bits of the data may have been ‘owned’ by someone else merely sets back the problem one step. Why weren’t the ‘owners’ of the data willing to have it released by UEA? give? Were they asked? And if they refused, what excuse did they?

    From the point of view of someone looking at the row from outside it gives the appearance of being secretive and whether or not that perception is right, it has a disastrous effect on the reputation of the good guys.

    In your second quotation from me, I was merely stating my own experience, which is that such misbehaviour is rare in my own field (stochastic properties of single ion channel molecules). I was trying to defend the idea that dishonesty is rare. You seem to have interpreted that as an attack on UEA. It clearly wasn’t.

    It seems from the outside that the Bush era of corruption of science, and the appalling political attacks on climate science, have left the subject in such a paranoid state that they attack even what are intended to be helpful remarks from their friends.

  25. 25
    Jerry Steffens says:

    #15 David Colquhoun said

    “Please grow up.”

    Presumably this statement is part of your campaign to generate light, rather than heat.

  26. 26

    Some more interesting views on climate change from mr Peter Gill, the IoP’s Source, and (according to LinkedIn) Member of the Energy Sub Group of the IoP’s Science Policy Board : http://bit.ly/Gillview

    Some highlights:
    - pre-industrial CO2 was 335, not 270 ppm (the famous EG Beck!)
    - for most of earth’s history, CO2 was higher than it is now
    - human CO2 emissions were much larger in the past than they are now!
    etc. etc.

    Mr Peter Gill is Chair of the London & Home Counties Branch at Energy Institute, which is a merger of the Institute of Petroleum (where mr Gill’s Crestport regularly takes part in management teams) and the Institute of Energy.

    Well, well, IoP certainly knows where to find their experts!

  27. 27

    @dhogaza

    I’m not sure who is doing the misrepresentation here. The second quotation said that UEA appeared to go to ground and it did. Jones vansished for weeks and the vice-chancellor seemed to stall and said little.

    Having myself have every FoI request I ever sent to a university (nothing to do with climate) rejected on flimsy grounds, I’m a bit sensitive about excuses for not complying. The fact that some bits of the data may have been ‘owned’ by someone else merely sets back the problem one step. Why weren’t the ‘owners’ of the data willing to have it released by UEA? give? Were they asked? And if they refused, what excuse did they?

    From the point of view of someone looking at the row from outside it gives the appearance of being secretive and whether or not that perception is right, it has a disastrous effect on the reputation of the good guys.

    In your second quotation from me, I was merely stating my own experience, which is that such misbehaviour is rare in my own field (stochastic properties of single ion channel molecules). I was trying to defend the idea that dishonesty is rare. You seem to have interpreted that as an attack on UEA. It clearly wasn’t.

    It seems from the outside that the Bush era of corruption of science, and the appalling political attacks on climate science, have left the subject in such a paranoid state that they attack even what are intended to be helpful remarks from their friends.

  28. 28

    Tom Fuller,

    I look forward to you argueing strongly for more funding for the kind of QA/QC issues you mention.

    You write: “If done well, it would certainly get at least one category of critics off your back” That I think is not necessarily true. If it were, why are people getting all worked up about hidden data that aren’t hidden, and the attackseem to be getting only stronger the mode data/code is made available? Many (though perhaps not all) of the criticism about transparency issues are not driven by a desire to improve the science, but rather by a desire to stop it in its track and lower its credibility by any means necessary. The behaviour of said ‘critics’ gives a clue for that.

  29. 29
    David Horton says:

    #6 “trillion dollar decisions are being based on a three person research unit” – the frightening thing about this comment is that I am quite sure that the commenter actually believes this. Has drawn from the MSM, and denier web sites, and radio shock jocks, the idea that climate change research was somehow all based at CRU and that since they have been “caught out cooking the books”, discovered as a result of a lone whistle blower spilling the beans, er, emails, climate change is revealed to be the big scam that Mr Berkeley always knew, in his heart of hearts, it was. The even more frightening thing is that I am quite sure that Mr Berkeley is just the tip of the iceberg.

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    > David Colquhoun

    You know, the answers to the misleading questions you ask can be found easily.
    E.g., contracts limited redistribution of some data sets; requests were made to providers and are ongoing. But is it possible you didn’t know that already?

    Your website claims you have expertise in misleading science.

    I guess so.

  31. 31
    Donald says:

    “I was therefore astonished to see that Russells’s site, and to a lesser extent this one, attacking the Institute of Physics for advocating openness about data and analysis code.”

    I don’t think anybody is attacking the IoP for calling for more openness.

    The IoP is being attacked for pre-judging the results of the enquiry into the hacked emails and playing into the hands of global warming deniers. The Daily Mail ran a story claiming that the IoP had said that CRU “manipulated” data. This is not a word used in the IoP statement, which talked about “doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented”, but this accusation has not been examined by the enquiry. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    It is also being attacked for calling for complete openness and yet not being open about who wrote their statement.

    The Guardian’s global warming coverage sadly disappoints, with notable exception.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/05/climate-emails-institute-of-physics-submission

  32. 32
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    They won’t say who’s behind the call for transparency.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  33. 33
    dhogaza says:

    The fact that some bits of the data may have been ‘owned’ by someone else merely sets back the problem one step. Why weren’t the ‘owners’ of the data willing to have it released by UEA? give? Were they asked? And if they refused, what excuse did they?

    But you didn’t report that, did you? You didn’t report that McIntyre was *told* he’d have to go back to the original sources, and that he didn’t do so, did you?

    Even here, you’re ignoring that from the point of view of FOI requests, it doesn’t *matter* why the owners aren’t willing to have it released by UEA. It’s their data, not UEA’s. They can hold it proprietary for whatever reason they want. You could’ve written that while reporting on this, but you didn’t, did you?

    As it turns out, they hold it because it’s commercially valuable and they SELL IT to people making commercial use of it. You’re a reporter, you should be able to find that out on your own. You should be able to discover that YOUR OWN COUNTRY’S UK Met Service *requires* those who receive UK Met data for research purposes to DESTROY THEIR COPIES when they’re done working with it, unless they get prior written permission to keep the copy around.

    You’re a reporter. You could call up the UK Met Office and find out why they take this view, rather than continue to smear UEA CRU and Professor Jones. Uncovering the logic (make money, I’m sure) behind the UK Met Office’s rules regarding reception of data might help you understand why other countries like Sweden do the same.

    Let me flesh out that quote a bit more:

    By going to ground, and by denying Freedom of Information Act requests, the university gave the impression of guilt, quite regardless of whether there is really anything to hide. That brings the university into disrepute: it is a matter for resignations.

    Why should the proper rejection of a FOI request lead to resignations?

    And, if in some bizarro-world it should, who should resign? The compliance officer? The officer who handled the appeal and upheld the rejection? These are the decision makers, not the scientists at CRU.

    In your second quotation from me, I was merely stating my own experience, which is that such misbehaviour is rare in my own field (stochastic properties of single ion channel molecules). I was trying to defend the idea that dishonesty is rare. You seem to have interpreted that as an attack on UEA.

    One of the denialist attacks based on the stolen e-mails has been based on a claim that a journal editor requested that a reviewer return a rejection, i.e. that the editor a priori decided to reject it rather than wait for the review process.

    When you wrote:

    I have never been asked by an editor to come to a particular decision when reviewing a paper.

    It was clearly in the context of that claim. Perhaps you didn’t intend it to be read as I read it:

    [unlike in climate science], I have never been asked by an editor to come to a particular decision when reviewing a paper.

    But it sure sounds like it. You say nothing there to discredit the claim that such an event took place, that is certain.

  34. 34
    Leighton says:

    The last bit in this article (“it’s a paradox that the IoP based the statement on stolen private e-mail exchanges, while putting disclaimers about confidentiality”) is pretty lame. One might almost see it as implying consciousness of the weakness of the remainder of the argument. “Unintended-recipient” boilerplate is very widely tacked on at the bottom of email correspondence, apparently in the belief (probably mistaken) that the notice places an obligation on an unintended recipient that would not exist if the notice weren’t present. But it is not as though the Institute of Physics were speaking out in favor of hacking into private email files. Instead, the statement concerned the matters revealed by the revelation, despite the dubious its source. (Imagine making the argument that no one could properly comment on The Pentagon Papers published in the New York Times during the Viet Nam era, on the grounds that the papers were disclosed contrary to official-secret laws.) Surely you understand this.

    Perhaps the Institute’s statement may validly be criticized for omitting to clarify the standard of transparency that is being recommended for scientific endeavor. But even without offering a codification of those standards, it is germane to observe that Prof. Jones’ admittedly “awful” emails fell below any reasonable standard. And now, of course, there is the issue of whether he has been misrepresenting the supposed confidentiality of Swedish climate data.

    I would suggest that you just acknowledge freely that the CRU failed miserably in its disclosure obligations and avoid further defensiveness.

  35. 35
    dhogaza says:

    OK, I need to apologize for one misunderstanding:

    Prof David Colquhoun is a professor at University College London. He also writes DC’s Improbable Science blog where there is a longer version of this blog.

    I had understood that David Colquhoun was a science reporter with a previous background in science who writes for the Guardian, not a professor who writes about science for the Guardian as a sideline.

    So perhaps my expectation that he do the kind of fact-digging we once expected of journalists is unrealistic.

  36. 36

    To be more precise on mr Gill’s petroleum links: in December 2003 he said the following about his company Crestport (http://bit.ly/Crestport): In recent years CPSL has worked especially with oil and gas production companies including Shell, British Gas and Petroleum Development Oman. [...] CPSL works in a variety of ways to best meet our clients needs. Increasingly CPSL`s consultants become interim members of the client`s management team.

  37. 37
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Colquhoun,
    Maybe I should explain a little bit about how scientists view data. I work in a field where data are scarce–we never have enough. So over the years, I have developed a network of contacts at government labs, universities and in private industry. They share their data with me and I share my statisitical analyses of it with them. What I cannot do is pass the data on to anyone else who wants it. My contacts want to know what is being done with their data. They want to know that it’s not being used irresponsibly or incompetently, because when something blows up (literally in my case), people are going to want to know the basis of the decision and the data on which it was based.

    If I passed data on indiscriminately, I would soon have no contacts and no arrangements. In science, it is customary when you want data to go to the custodian of the data and do something radical like ask nicely. You’d be amazed how often that works. However, the custodian of the data usually likes to know who has copies–’cause if something goes wrong based on the data (e.g. if it is used inappropriately without errors taken into consideration, etc.) they’ll be the ones to answer for it. Does that make sense?

  38. 38

    “”"”One thing is for sure. This site is being watched like a hawk.”"”
    _________________________________________________________________________
    Yes, so too is Gavin. “Nice” little ad hominem attacks on Gavin personally and also RealClimate.org at Fox (“fair and balanced”) instead of concentrating on the science…

    Those who destroy a nation’s science, will destroy the nation’s ability to compete.

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/03/05/myron-ebell-climate-change-new-york-times-hansen/

  39. 39
    Slioch says:

    “the IoP will not disclose who were responsible for the original statement”

    There are unconfirmed suggestions by IZEN on March 04, 2010 at 08:47pm here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/7332803/A-perfect-storm-is-brewing-for-the-IPCC.html

    that “this was a statement composed by a very small number of people on the energy sub-committee which was apparently ignored by the main board members.
    I strongly suspect that the founder and head of the IoP energy sub-committee had a hand in this.”

    This refers to Terri Jackson, who makes the most extraordinarily ill-informed and misleading statements in the following letter and interview:

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2786

    http://climaterealists.com/attachments/database/Vested%20interests%20scary%20as%20any%20climate%20change%20scare.pdf

  40. 40
  41. 41
    M Paul Lloyd says:

    Why are you concerned as to what the Guardian has to say? If your facts are right and backed up with decent science then you should be able to present them to anyone surely?

  42. 42
    sod says:

    ah, Tom Fuller again.

    If you were to design data collection, archiving and dissemination procedures for all of science today, I presume they would be different than procedures that have served the community for the past few centuries.

    cheap data storage, “open source” approaches and the internet are already changing things and have changed things in the past. the 2sceptics2 have missed the most of this. and now try to give self-full filling advice for the future. nice.

    If you are able to ignore the messenger and concentrate on the message, you can see that the concerns raised by IOP do not come out of the blue and could serve as a starting point.

    yes, let us ignore that theletter was written by a “energy industry consultant who argues that global warming is a religion”.
    funny, that Tom Fuller just a few days ago posted a message, that denies the influence of “big oil” on the subject. (in an answer to the new Oreskes video)

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/naomi_oreskes_on_merchants_of.php#comment-2326286

    You could look at this as good news.

    a completely false and misleading and intransparent press release from an organisation? good news?

    ahm, no?!?

  43. 43
    Steve Fish says:

    RE– Comment by David Colquhoun — 6 March 2010 @ 3:56 PM:

    I am having a little problem with your claim of being a scientist. I expect a little more research, or just asking a few questions before making bold statements that disparage scientists in another discipline.

    The UK Freedom of Information Act specifically states that the act doesn’t apply if information requested is proprietary and also if it is already available in the public domain. The requesters could have obtained the tiny bit of data they wanted from the meteorological offices who owned it. If you think the various country met offices should not hold proprietary data you could, for example, contact the Russian government and ask them to support their data collection activities rather than making their met office sell it to support themselves.

    You are acting like you are either a part of, or a dupe of the denial industries’ disinformation campaign.

    Steve

  44. 44
    John Mason says:

    David Colquhoun,

    You must have seen my post in response to your article re – McIntyre’s template and the fact that one of his troopers didn’t actually add the countries?

    I asked you to what extent you understood that the climate science community was under attack. I checked in last night but saw no sign of a reply.

    Do yourself a favour, mate, and go on Amazon & get a copy of Climate Cover-up, and have a couple of days off to read the bloody thing. Lend it to Fred Pearce afterwards. Monbiot already has a copy, me likewise though I like to have it handy. Then you will start to figure the magnitude of this manufactured debate that has materialised. The real question is – why are you not apoplectic about that, given what’s occurring right now?

    Yours annoyedly (!!) – but interested to read your response nevertheless – John

  45. 45
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Its a good thing that this topic has now got a thread to itself. If you wish to catch up , there is Rasmus’s link to “irony of this affair” ,where Stoat has devoted three threads to it already (don’t miss the other two or the comments on them). I shall use some of them in what follows:

    Re: The Annex to the original submission submitted by Peter Main.

    To justify this Annex as a plea for openness in science is highly inaccurate.

    The title which contains “integrity of scientific research” already indicates that what follows is trying to be momentous, much more ambitious than a plea for openness. It should be compared and contrasted with possible statements which might be made by other professional UK organisations such as the General Medical Council. The difference is that they have strict ethical rules for the way they behave if they wish to suggest misconduct.

    The central conclusion of the annex is contained in item 4 ,i.e.

    “there is need for a wider inquiry”

    The authors appear to be concerned to undermine the status of the four such inquiries (two in the US ,one at the UEA one by the Royal Society) before they are complete, and to promote a case within the fifth inquiry (in Parliament) for a sixth inquiry somewhere else. Even if the four inquiries find no evidence of misconduct, this submission will remain in the House of Commons so that it can used as argument to suggest the opposite.

    The demand for yet another inquiry would have to be backed up by quite strong suspicions and this annex appears to consist of an attempt to promote such suspicions. But asking for an inquiry can also be used as a method of spreading distrust without having to provide any evidence. There are no references or sources. The fact that it stops just short of making direct accusations makes it easier for the authors to disclaim responsibility after the harm has been done. They could claim that they were just leaving the details to the inquiry.

    Its arguments are full of innuendo such as “reveal doubts” ,”worrying implications for the integrity of scientific research” (second time round but still unsubstantiated),”may represent only a part of the raw data” , “…statistical processes may lead to different conclusions, (rehash of disproved mathematical section of Wegman report),”This possibility was evidently the reason..” ), potential …… manipulation.” , “pre-formed conclusions” , ”

    Is the IOP going into social science? How did this sentence get in?

    “networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers”

    Answer: plagiarised by Wegmann in his report (see Deepclimate’s blog)

    This Annex is not about openness but another illustration of “doubt is our product ” .

    The net effect is that we have a small sub-group of non experts who are exploiting their position within the IOP to create doubt about the integrity of others who may even be in the same IOP.

    Much of this has an uncanny similarity to the demands made by Nigel Lawson on BBC2 Newsnight just before the submission appeared.

  46. 46
    Dave G says:

    Slioch says: 6 March 2010 at 5:11 PM said:

    !I strongly suspect that the founder and head of the IoP energy sub-committee had a hand in this.”

    This refers to Terri Jackson, who makes the most extraordinarily ill-informed and misleading statements in the following letter and interview:

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2786

    Thanks for the link.

    Ye Gods, how can anyone within the hierarchy of the institute of Physics hold such views? A cold winter in Canada refutes AGW?

    Your link got me searching. Doing a site search of the IoP (site:iop.org Terry Jackson IOP global warming) leads to some interesting pdfs, one of which includes “A personal view from Peter Gill” (http://www.iop.org/activity/groups/subject/Energy/Newsletter/file_6839.pdf) which is a response to an IoP sponsored paper (in the form of a booklet) called ‘Climate Change Prediction, A challenging scientific problem’ which was written by ex Hadley Centre Director, Professor Alan J Thorpe.

    Gill’s responses include:

    “So if one is explaining the rise or fall in global mean temperatures by rises and falls in carbon dioxide and methane levels one has to consider both the production and absorption of these gases by natural processes. One would also have to debunk the alternative explanation that the
    rises in levels of these gases are a consequence rather than a cause of global warming as a result of some other mechanism.”

    and…

    “By the way we are now a little overdue for another drop into a major ice age with or without the intervention of mankind!”

    and…

    “The other stated aim is that it is anthropogenic activity that is likely to be causing global warming. Whether you are convinced on this score depends on your confidence on the present climatic models.”

    and finally…

    “If mankind’s activities are indeed the reason for the recent increase in average global temperatures then the main factor is the size of our population.”

    Is Gill volunteering to be culled?

    I’m wading through the other search results to see if there’s anything else there that’s interesting.

  47. 47
    John E. Pearson says:

    Steve Fish says:
    6 March 2010 at 5:55 PM
    RE– Comment by David Colquhoun — 6 March 2010 @ 3:56 PM:

    “I am having a little problem with your claim of being a scientist. … You are acting like you are either a part of, or a dupe of the denial industries’ disinformation campaign.”

    You guys really need to chill with the insults. David is a good guy, a good scientist, and certainly nobody’s dupe.

  48. 48
    Dave G says:

    Piers Corbyn keeps cropping up in the Energy Management Group of the IoP’s newsletters (he’s in three of the 5 I’ve looked at so far). Peter Gill saw a presentation by Corbyn and enthused about it and got Corny to give a presentation to the EMG. Perhaps Corbyn has convinced Gill that it’s all the Sun’s fault.

  49. 49
    Dave G says:

    The Iop’s Energy Management Group looks to be packed with deniers. Here’s something written by Richard Bloodworth, who, for this issue (http://www.iop.org/activity/groups/subject/Energy/Newsletter/file_26538.doc) at least, is the editor of the EMG newsletter:

    “We are all familiar with the idea that the climate is changing because of human activities. The IOP has had several recent events on this ,one on the “debate” and this is the idea I want to discuss. The word “debate” is usually used when issues are complex with no right or wrong answer such as Parliamentary debates but I feel it is inappropriate for this issue. As scientists, we should decide such issues by the quality of the evidence supporting the theory rather than entering into a media circus with 2 sides, for & against. We have all seen statements such as “ the majority of the world’s scientists support the global warming theory” -but a theory does not rest on a majority vote but on the strength and quality of the evidence for it. In particular, a theory should make a prediction which can be tested by experiment or, in this case, by observations. Those predicting anthropogenic climate change should be prepared to make specific predictions which can be tested by observations. If they cannot do this, then the theory is not scientific and should not be used by politicians to increase fuel taxes on energy we all need in our daily lives.

    As far as I know, no-one has made such a prediction, for example global average temperatures or rainfall .We all know the climate varied on all possible timescales thousands of years in the past when there were no fuel consumers around-so any prediction has to subtract these natural climate drivers (e.g. Milankovitch) from their prediction. This is a complex process heavily dependent on computer models which can give widely varying outputs according to the initial assumptions fed in. Recently I attended a talk by Henrik Svensmark on the idea that cosmic rays influence climate (see review of his book below). I found the talk interesting but what struck me was the reaction of some of the audience during questions after the talk. There was some really hostile reaction which surprised me but shows how entrenched peoples’ views on this subject have become. Those predicting the end of the world as we know it should be prepared to make definite predictions which can be tested. Scientific topics should not be decided by media or political pressure.”

    Richard Bloodworth EMG Committee

  50. 50
    Doug S says:

    I’m very skeptical about the entire AGW issue and the way it has been “sold” to the public. I believe it has been over hyped purposely by both well meaning scientists and crooked money men looking to capitalize on the vast amount of taxpayer money that is at stake. The question I have for all of the well meaning people here on this thread is this:

    How can the taxpayer discriminate between honest alarmism by truly concerned climate scientists and outright propaganda by profiteers?

    I think we can correctly assume that profiteers and crooks will be in the mix of the political discourse and Internet threads working to ensure their own profits. How do we spot the rotten apples in the barrel?


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