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Second CRU inquiry reports

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 April 2010

The Oxburgh report on the science done at the CRU has now been published and….. as in the first inquiry, they find no scientific misconduct, no impropriety and no tailoring of the results to a preconceived agenda, though they do suggest more statisticians should have been involved. They have also some choice words to describe the critics.

Carry on…

1,421 Responses to “Second CRU inquiry reports”

  1. 251
    Ruth says:

    Re: Hank Roberts
    16 April 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Thank you for posting a link to the page concerning CRU data availability http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/availability/. The pdf “Data agreements” dates from just after the large number of FOI requests in 2009 (as shown in your previous post), which were almost all requests for confidentiality agreements and not for actual data. The UEA posted this document (which contains copies of all the confidentiality agreements existing at that time) in response, which allowed them (quite legitimately) to refuse each request with an almost identical email containing a link to that page. So each request took little time to respond to, once the pdf had been prepared, and I understand they were responded to by the Information Officer from the University.

    I’m not supporting this FOI campaign, but the idea that it led to a large amount of wasted time for the CRU scientists does not seem to be supported by the evidence.

  2. 252
    Hank Roberts says:

    > zeroworker
    > CFU

    Look, guys, instead of just shouting at one another about whose is bigger, how about looking something up and citing your sources? There’s a way: Google.

    Found this in 30 seconds:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5569901

    —-excerpt—-
    Rep. INSLEE: Now, I guess the question to you is do you have any reason to believe all of those academies should change their conclusion because of your criticism of one report?

    Professor EDWARD J. WEGMAN (Professor Information Technology and Applied Statistics, George Mason University): Of course not.

    HARRIS: And the limits of Wegman’s expertise became painfully clear when he tried to answer a question from Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky about the well known mechanism by which carbon dioxide traps infrared radiation – heat – in our atmosphere.

    Prof. WEGMAN: Carbon dioxide is heavier than air. Where it sits in the atmospheric profile, I don’t know. I’m not an atmospheric scientist to know that. But presumably, if the atmospheric – if the carbon dioxide is close to the surface of the earth, it’s not reflecting a lot of infrared back.

    —- end excerpt —-

    Science: citation, not pontification.
    Try some today. It’ll do you good.

  3. 253
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I’m not supporting this FOI campaign, but the idea that it led to a large amount of wasted time for the CRU scientists does not seem to be supported by the evidence.”

    So 10 weeks of 100% of the entire department is not a lot of waste of their time???

    Now, even if it was 1 week for all 50 for one person to complete, given that NOT ONE USE of that data has happened, the effort, even if it was only ONE HOUR has, by definition BEEN WASTED.

    Unless you’ve read evidence that shows that anything constructive has been done with the information released.

    Feel free to post it.

  4. 254
    Dave G says:

    Rod B says:
    16 April 2010 at 1:12 PM

    “Dave G (215), surely you jest…”

    Yes, but there is a point (about the varying degrees of certitude needed to take measures which financially affect many people) in there somewhere!

  5. 255
    John Mashey says:

    re: #205, #240

    Re: Wegman
    Read the first page of “Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony” at DeSMogBlog. The current version is V1.0, but V2.0 will appear fairly soon, as there is even more. If the first page is interesting, read Appendix A.10 on the seeming plagiarism and grey literature in the Wegman Report.

    Then, Deep Climate found seeming plagiarism, not just of Bradley’s text, but of pages of social networking material from two well-known textbooks and Wikipedia. See this, which points at 2 side-by-side comparison files. The 10-pager shows the antecedents of the Wegman Report, the 5-pager shows the antecedents of a paper in 2007 by Said, Wegman, Rigsby, and Sharabati, essentially trying to claim that the “mentor” style (Wegman) of network is less likely to cause peer review problems than the “entrepreneurial” style (Mann, paleo in general).

    But don’t take this on faith, go read the details.

  6. 256
    ROI says:

    Re: Hank Roberts’: “If someone makes false charges against you, do you merely rebut the charges without asking who lied, and wondering about their motives and future plans?”

    No, *I* wouldn’t merely rebut charges against me; *I* might also attack my opponents’ character and motives, if I believed them to be motivated by malice. Similarly, Gavin, the RC community of posters, and CRU are free to do so as well. No one expects them to be impartial about accusations against themselves.

    However, the question wasn’t whether *I* (or CRU, as it were) should do these things; the question is whether it is wise or seemly for a putatively neutral investigating body to do so. My contentions are: that it is not wise; that it presents an optic that suggests that the neutral investigative body is not impartial.

    The ambit of the investigative body was determining whether the various accusations were true, not whether those who uttered the accusations were malicious. (Indeed, one can be malicious and yet also make a true accusation; also, the very existence of the investigative body suggests that some critical mass of people deemed at least some of the charges to be credible.)

  7. 257
    Completely Fed Up says:

    [edit]

    As to the actual post part of your post, this quote

    “Prof. WEGMAN: Carbon dioxide is heavier than air. Where it sits in the atmospheric profile, I don’t know. I’m not an atmospheric scientist to know that.”

    (which, by the way is a non sequitor wrt your opening money shot)

    Should have been answered with:

    “So how do you know that CO2 being heavier than air has any meaning in this discussion?”

    But to go on to say “if the carbon dioxide is close to the surface of the earth, it’s not reflecting a lot of infrared back. ”

    Is intended to give the idea that the gasses are fractionalised.

    Which again puts CO2 around where our heads are.

    This doesn’t even need you to be an atmospheric scientist.

    If you “know” enough to know CO2 is denser, then all you need is how much CO2 there is.

    400 parts per million.

    This is not an unknown figure.

    School yard maths gives you the answer.

    No need to be an atmosphericist.

  8. 258
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Look, guys, instead of just shouting at one another about whose is bigger, how about looking something up and citing your sources? There’s a way: Google.”

    Uh, don’t come in with your parental “I think you’ll find mine’s even bigger, though” and then try and segue into “use google” to turn up something that isn’t even answering what our conversation that you’re waving your opinion over was about.

  9. 259
    John Peter says:

    Deech56 @196
    My205 response to your 131 comment crossed in the mail, so to speak. I hope you will agree that the problem of statistical consulting is mostly political.
    The climate scientists get picked on more than most other scientists. Their conclusions, like those of the medical developers, extend way beyond any particular paper in question. Global climate work is believed to be very important to the rest of the world. Our lives and more may depend on the work described in one of the climate science papers.
    It shouldn’t be necessary to explain to climate scientists that their work, if not based on statistical analysis of climate data, is very closely related to such analysis. More importantly from a PR (political) point of view, when a climate scientist tries to defend warmer global temperatures to a “person in the street” feeling a colder regional weather, the scientist reverts to a statistical logic to explain. Outsiders are, and will continue to be, surprised that the climate scientist would not seek the advice of the very best statistical special-ists.
    This political blemish will come out in the open at any review by non-climate scientists of climate science work. As I mentioned in my 205 post, this in a political problem, not a technical problem. The climate scientists (and the statistical analysts also –if the work is so important, why aren’t they seeing that it gets done) should do a cost/benefit analysis and see if it makes sense to continue on what appears to be a go-it-alone approach.
    I would disagree that climatologists would be less productive planning with and working with statisticians. As audits have demonstrated, climate scientists are pretty good untrained statisticians and political problems should disappear at best and, at worst, be replaced with technical problems that we probably would want to resolve. In any case, a cost/benefit review could decide in any specific case and at least reduce the presentation problems since, presumably, both scientific groups would agree on such an analysis.
    Philip Machanick @209
    As I mention above:
    1- Climate Science work is highly correlated with, if not dependent on statistics.

    2- Any problem with BAU is political. If climate scientists want to “solve” such a political problem and don’t want more statisticians , PR people or lobbyists might be a good, but more expensive, next choice. Computer Scientists can always be added to a project. Whether or not they add enough value depends on the project.

    (BTW, Cold Fusion still plunges ahead.

    …” On 22–25 March 2009, the American Chemical Society held a four-day symposium on “New Energy Technology”, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the announcement of cold fusion. At the conference, researchers with the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) reported detection of energetic neutrons in a standard cold fusion cell design[65] using CR-39,[11] a result previously published in Die Naturwissenschaften.[66] The authors claim that these neutrons are indicative of nuclear reactions,[67] although skeptics indicated that a quantitative analysis would be necessary before the results are accepted by the scientific community, and that the neutrons could be caused by another nuclear mechanism than fusion.”

    ROI@222 Agree, with my above caveats.

    Geoff Wexler@240
    Hank Roberts@252

    You both are “preaching to the choir”. I’ve already said I believe the climate scientist’s work was pretty much ok technically. FWIW, neither I, nor Wegman know anything about climate science and we both admit it. Not using recognized statistical techniques is likedriving on the wrong side of the road. If you’re a good enough driver, you can do it. But why waste your energy.

    My over elaborate point is that the statistics “problem” is political.

  10. 260
    zeroworker says:

    Fed up…

    So how is saying “I’d rather delete my stuff than give it to that arsehole” (not a direct quote) breaking the spirit of the FOI?

    The spirit of the FoI statute is to allow citizens to acquire information from various institutions, and that those institutions must have a valid reason for declining the request.

    Information that can be legally obtained via FoI requests is not supposed to be deleted, regardless of whether or not the requester is an arsehole. Being and arsehole is not a valid reason to be denied information, or a valid reason for data to be deleted. This really is a very simple point.

    Unless the spirit of the FOI is to never to be annoyed by an arrogant time wasting idiot.

    Whether or not it annoys the person who has to obtain and release it is immaterial. Again, this seems pretty simple.

    Myself I thought it was so that the people could see the government (as in Parliament and Councils) doing its job.

    Well, FoI is more broad than that. I think there are some interesting questions raised when FoI applies to academic research. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but I did not see anything (and I have read most of it) in the statute which exempts climate researchers or academics.

    “Yesterday when I first posted I was agnostic on the question”

    Didn’t seem like it
    “However, I believe Monbiot has some valid criticism of Jones and the university”
    “he should have simply complied with the FoI request up front”
    “Until I see some more evidence to the contrary, I’m with Monbiot on this one.”
    “Additionally, the vexatious FoI requests you mention occurred after a number of earlier, and definitely non-vexatious, requests were turned down.”
    “It is _NOT_ acceptable to deny such a request just because it’s a pain in the a**”

    Didn’t to anyone else.

    Then everyone else jumped to conclusions, just like you did. None of the quotes you’ve produced demonstrate that I said I thought the university did something illegal. I did indeed leave open the possibility that the university acted legally, although, as I have admitted, I did question whether or not it did.

    To my knowledge, Monbiot has not made this accusation either.

    Except that “1) above” was false.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

    So how am I supposed to avoid that? Kill you before you get a chance?

    Tempting…

    I hope I never run into you in a dark alley.

    If “they” are the emails, then why should private emails promote public awareness? They’re not public.

    In a perfect world, the emails would not have been made public. Clearly the hack was an illegal breach. I hope the perpetrators are found and punished.

    But the breach did happen, the emails are public, and they have been damaging.

  11. 261
    chris says:

    re #244 zeroworker

    The PR problem is a contrived one and that’s the real problem. What’s lacking is some informed and honest depiction in the media of the reality of the situation. If that were to be provided then everyone else might move from your “agnostic” position to your informed one, with respect to UEA’s actions, and it wouldn’t be a “PR problem” at all. It’s a pathetic disgrace that science commentators in the media aren’t able (or willing) to give an informed and truthful account of these events.

    The notion that scientists have got to be (or pretend to be) paragons of virtue is totally unhelpful and simply feeds the contrived and po-faced that has become the prevailing media narrative. As a scientist I make damned sure that everything I publish is correct as far as I’m able, and if I have an undergraduate lecture at 9:00 in the morning I don’t drink the night before, read through my lecture and get in an hour early to be properly prepared. But I might well have too much to drink on a Friday night and may well be found bellowing crudely at the referee at a rugby match at the weekend. There are some scientists whose work I don’t think much of (they may not like me, and good for them), and I’d be quite likely to omit citing their work in a paper; when we get a critical review of a manuscript we’re more than likely to curse and disparage the editor and reviewers (by email quite likely), but once we’ve got it out of our systems we’ll knuckle down and prepare a revision or do the extra experiments requested. Scientists are real human people just like everyone else.

    George Monbiot, in particular, has puffed himself with self-righteous indignation over the fact that scientists don’t conform to some fanciful ideal of his imagination. In my opinion he and much of the rest (but not all) of “science commentators” ave been the bigger problem; they have the opportunity to truly inform their readers of the nature of science in general, and the issues surrounding this particular storm in a tea cup, in particular….they’ve blown it. Prof Oxburgh has done a good job, though…

  12. 262
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    On the FOI emails….

    First, I read the emails — all of the damn things — and here is what I come away with on the FOI issue.

    1) There are two classes of requests to which Jones and others objected to.

    The first were those for the raw station data used in CRUTEMv[2,3]. For reasons which should be clear, not all of this data could be released, and what could be released is more easily available from GHCN. Whatever was said in the emails regarding these requests (“hide behind IPR…”, etc.) doesn’t matter. UEA was correct in denying these requests since it had no right to release the data not in GHCN.

    The second class consisted solely of requests from David Holland for the internal IPCC communications between the authors of AR4 Ch. 6. It was these requests which seem to have been referred to in the press statement made by Graham Smith of the ICO. At some point, the Information Officer at UEA determined that these were not subject to FOI, and this is reflected in the emails.

    2) As can be seen here, not all requests have been refused. A brief check revealed that about 15 requests received by CRU were granted. If you discount the 60 or so requests received as a result of the McIntyre campaign the split is about 50/50, with the bulk of the other refused requests being for internal communications of all kinds between members of the CRU.

    The refusal of these leads me to believe that the rejection of Holland’s request (there is only on in the list at whatdotheyknow.com) was probably within the law. The EIR specifically exempts internal communications, I do not know if FOI does.

    3) Steve’s acolytes were clearly responsible for the vast majority of the requests, both for the confidentiality agreements and for at least 3 other campaigns of much smaller import.

    4) There is at least on really stupid person out there who made an FOI for the leaked emails.

    I used to have some questions about how severe the FOI aspect of this kerfuffle was. After reviewing the document referenced above I am convinced that these charges are as baseless as the others.

  13. 263
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I hope I never run into you in a dark alley.”

    I thought you said earlier:

    “>>Apparently, you think merely saying
    >>“i’m gonna kill you” is the same as
    >>actually killing someone.

    Not at all.”

    You want to slow down and listen first? To yourself?

    “In a perfect world, the emails would not have been made public”

    OK, so why should “3)” be saying that they should make the public better informed and that their inability to do so is CRU’s fault? Or that they should do something other than be who they are in private?

  14. 264
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The spirit of the FoI statute is to allow citizens to acquire information from various institutions,”

    No it isn’t, it’s to allow the governed to know how they are being governed.

    Maybe where YOU live, it’s “acquire information from various institutions” but if you tried that here or in the US you’ll get arrested for corporate espionage among sundry other laws.

  15. 265
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “261
    chris says:
    16 April 2010 at 2:16 PM

    The PR problem is a contrived one and that’s the real problem”

    It’s also one that isn’t of CRU’s making, nor one they could have prevented by any reasonable actions.

    When someone claims something slanderous about you, it’s not YOUR fault they have damaged your reputation.

    Unless you want zero work done.

  16. 266
    John Mashey says:

    re: #259 John Peter
    How much personal exposure do you have to good climate scientists, statisticians?

    “It shouldn’t be necessary to explain to climate scientists that their work, if not based on statistical analysis of climate data, is very closely related to such analysis. More importantly from a PR (political) point of view, when a climate scientist tries to defend warmer global temperatures to a “person in the street” feeling a colder regional weather, the scientist reverts to a statistical logic to explain. Outsiders are, and will continue to be, surprised that the climate scientist would not seek the advice of the very best statistical special-ists.”

    This may be a shock, but many climate scientists are quite adequately-skilled in statistics, and often do talk to statisticians. They even do conferences together, like the International Meeting on Statistical Climatology, #11 in July, to pick an example offhand.

    Finally, unlike, for example, proofs in geometry, which are either right or wrong, statistics is often a bit fuzzier.
    You might try reading the essay on p.172 of the report I mentioned in #255 from which I repeat for the Nth time a John Tukey quote:

    “―Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong
    question, which can always be made precise.”

    In the real world, “good-enough” answers, soon-enough, at reasonable cost, are worth a lot, especially when the statistics is more of the exploratory data analysis sort than the confirmatory.

  17. 267
    John Peter says:

    John Mashey @205

    Are you claiming the Wegman report was not political?

    Thanks for the entertaining references. We should get Colbert or Ledderman to pick up on the comedy.

    Seriously, You know what plagiarism is well enough not to try to hide behind “seeming” plagiarism. And I refuse to take sides against anything entrepreneurial, least of all for some sort of ‘social network’ concept.

    That said, as someone with your experience knows only too well, it’s better to have them on the inside peeing out, than on the outside peeing in.

    If it were up to me (which it isn’t), I’d find a way to get a professional statistician to incantate over my work, dress up my vocabulary, let his or her name appear with the dozen or so other authors on a paper and never have to deal again with the problem of no professional statistician involved in the work or with the ensuing side effects.

  18. 268
    PeteM says:

    I’m a ‘lay person’ in this area but I understand the
    science in this area and recognise the failure of the media to see beyond the sceptics’ scams.

    I haven’t read the Economist articles but a year ago I read abook called ‘Fixing Climate’ which proposed the idea of a device to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (in an economical way )

    Was this mentioned in the Economist article ? Any comments about this ?

  19. 269
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PeterM, unfortunately, this is rather like the idea of a device that will retrieve us THOUSANDS of times the amount of Gold we currently know about by retrieving it from the sea.

    Or an actual real device that has existed for near 100 years that can turn lead into gold.

    The problem is the proviso: in an economical way.

    But such things are easier if energy expended doing so did not cause more CO2 to be produced and we were putting out less anyway.

    They are also a lot easier.

    Lets do the easy stuff we know first.

  20. 270
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “None of the quotes you’ve produced demonstrate that I said I thought the university did something illegal.”

    And that quote fest came after a quote of YOU saying you were agnostic on the idea.

    They were “I believe… wrong things were done”.

    Agnosticism.

    Belief.

    No connection.

    You BELIEVED there was a problem.

    This is not an agnostic position.

    The agnostic position would be NOT TO HAVE AN OPINION.

  21. 271
    John Peter says:

    John Mashey@266

    I don’t know whether or not professional statisticians confer on a paper to paper basis. Everyone else is getting bored with my posting here that I believe climate scientists do good statistical work, you are the one who qualifies the requirement as “good enough”.

    Anyone qualified can join the ASA for $150/yr. I did and I’m sure half the climate scientists I know of could if they wished. So what’s your problem with professional statisticians? Do you have a problem with Information Technology folk who label themselves computer scientists?

    All of your examples have nothing to do with the problem as I see it. It’s political. Yes, you can drive on the wrong side of the road, because you know it’s safe in a particular instance. However, if a cop stops you there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get a ticket, and a Judge/Jury may even convict you – even though you can prove there was no risc. That’s the real world for the non-elite, live with it.

    IPCC and a lot of climate scientists push scientific consensus on an unsuspecting public. It gives that public a feeling of comfort and helps to make the denier’s job more difficult. I suspect a lot of that same public would sleep easier if they knew “professionals” had checked the statistics – and would be alarmed to be told that they hadn’t. In such an environment, I would get some ASA types to sign on.

    John, I’m trying to be as practical (and pragmatic) as I can be. What more do you want?

  22. 272

    Funny, I was just this morning looking up the status of the Lackner carbon-fixing “trees.”

    http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2654

    GRT, the corporate entity, is teaming up with Columbia U. (Probably not coincidentally, Wally Broecker of “Fixing Climate” is ultimately employed by Columbia.) They hope to be selling CO2 commercially in two years, at costs less than $100/ton, hopefully declining to $50 eventually, and with minimal energy inputs in operation.

    BTW, you can read my “enhanced” summary/review of “Fixing Climate” here:

    http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2654

    (Or via profile page.)

    http://hubpages.com/profile/Doc+Snow

  23. 273
    Hank Roberts says:

    > John Peter
    > … I would get some ASA types to sign on….
    > I’m trying to be as practical (and pragmatic) as I can be.
    > What more do you want?

    References are always nice. They’re even more useful _before_ posting.

    http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/03/climatemar10/
    American Statistical Association
    Statisticians Comment on Status of Climate Change Science
    1 March 2010

    “In November 2009, ASA Past-President Sally Morton joined with the leaders of 17 other science organizations to sign a letter (pdf) to all U.S. senators summarizing the consensus of climate change science….

    As members of the ASA’s Climate Change Policy Advisory Committee …. We prefer to think of the views of skeptics as part of the scientific spectrum, but nevertheless believe they are a minority who do not represent the mainstream scientific viewpoint.

    Some organizations that feature these views in sophisticated advertising campaigns have manipulated the evidence to create the impression that the consensus among climate scientists is quite different from what it is. Here, we comment on some of the most common arguments that climate change is not happening or that humans are not responsible….”

    —-end excerpt—-

    Look it up for yourself.

  24. 274
    Andrew says:

    @Eli Rabbett: “The Committee members READ THE PAPERS PUBLISHED BY THE CRU.”

    READ the actual scientific literature? What do you think you’re doing? SCIENCE?

    You’re supposed to grab anything readily to hand which has the texture of fact and artfully frame the issue to entrap journalists in the desired thinking box.

    After all, there is no way to “win” an argument with journalists who believe there always has to be the other side of the story and that it’s not their job to evaluate evidence and figure out right from wrong. You are supposed to set up the maze so that the journalists find the two sides of the story you want them to find…

  25. 275
    John Mashey says:

    re: #271 John Peter

    I have no problem with professional statisticians. Why would I?

    I’ve been exposed to some of the very best ones, worked with others, and have a close in-law who is a good one, and I campaigned for years to get more statistics into computer architecture and performance analysis.

    As for “good enough”, if you’re an ASA member, I assume you understand normality tests. Is there a “best” normality test? Are some “less-good” but “good enough”? I do not believe there is always a binary dichotomy between “good” and “bad”. It’s like simulations that provide varying levels of approximations. Some are “not good enough”, and if you use the results, things fail. Others are “good enough”, but not perfect.

    I think the Wegman Report was political.. but you are the one who brought it up as a credible reference. You quoted a report by {Wegman, his colleague Scott, his recent PhD Said, with help from two more his students), accepting that apparently as truth. Do you talk to enough climate scientists and statisticians who work with them to assess the Wegman claim objectively?

    Note: I say seeming plagiarism because it’s not up to me to declare it… but the side-by-side comparisons are clear. What is *unclear* is who did it and who knew about it.

    “IPCC and a lot of climate scientists push scientific consensus on an unsuspecting public.”

    I hope that is just a poor choice of words…

  26. 276
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #271

    There is a public relations war between science and its enemies. The result appears to be that the climatologists are perceived as driving on the wrong side of the road, statistically speaking, whereas their opponents have no such problem. This has happened in spite of the latter’s abysmal history of statistical blunders.

    I am not sure that your proposed remedy would make much difference. As far as I can see a powerful propaganda machine can make people perceive almost anything about any topic. If it is not statistics, it will be the choice of statistician, if not that there will be something else.

    Incidentally is there agreement about the correct side of the road? You write as if there is a statistical bible somewhere which is understood mainly by members of the ASA and which avoids all controversy.

  27. 277
    Hank Roberts says:

    > climatologists are perceived as driving on the wrong side of the road,
    > statistically speaking, whereas their opponents have no such problem.

    The discussion thread is going to get interesting, since VS showed up there:
    http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/03/climatemar10/
    American Statistical Association

  28. 278
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Peter and John Mashey,
    I’m not a statistician, but I do sometines play one at conferences. I work in a very applied field in which statistical analysis is usually pretty rudimentary. I’ve developed a reputation in that field as a bit of a nag when it comes to trying to push things toward a more rigorous statistical basis. I suspect my experience is like that of most scientists, including climate scientists. I don’t have statisticians readily available. I have a couple of shelves of books I keep as references. I have a couple of names in a rolodex. And when it comes to statistics, I’m pretty much an autodidact, so I have lots of oceans of weakness around a few islands of strength. Generally, you pick up those strengths when you have a problem that requires them for a solution.

    Statistics is not like other branches of mathematics in that the basis is still not on an entirely satisfactory footing, and there is a lot of disagreement even among statisticians as to appropriate methodology. My rolodex has both Bayesian representatives and strict Frequentists. Ultimately, you have to understand that the role of statistics in science is supporting. You use the statistics to elucidate the trends so that you can understand the mechanisms. In other words, I agree with John Mashey: the statistics has to be good enough.

    John Peter, I have a bone to pick with your statement: “IPCC and a lot of climate scientists push scientific consensus on an unsuspecting public.”

    Scientific consensus is not some ad hoc idea, but is central to the scientific method. It is crucial for defining the direction of research and future development in the field as well as for policy, education and even epistemology. To view it as a substitute for evidence is just flat wrong, precisely because it is evidence based. It is really one of the most subtle aspects of the scientific method, but really, until you understand the nature of scientific consensus, you don’t understand science.

  29. 279
    John Peter says:

    John Mashey@275

    I thought you might have a problem with professional statisticians because you do not seem to distinguish between someone earning a living for doing statistical work and someone else who happens to be “good” at it. I see now you are a long time champion for statistical excellence. Thanks for straightening me out.

    OK, I was using good to apply to an individual, say your close-in-law. OTOH, “good enough” is a results oriented judgment call that may or may not result from some statistical test(s). I think we are in agreement here.

    I had no intent to refer to the Wegman report as a credible technical reference; from the beginning four years ago I saw it as political. I did find some of its references useful (I always try to uses original source). The only Wegman claim that I took seriously was the lack of statistical co-authors on any of the Mann papers. That seemed pretty prima facie to me. However lacking such credit, I have no way of verifying that Mike conferred with “professional” statistician(s)- my private belief is that he did, that’s how Yale trained us.

    WRT your note “plagiarism” or even “seeming plagiarism” are poor terms if you mean misrepresentation. Plagiarism has to do with copying without permission and that doesn’t seem to be what you’re complaining about. Anyway the reference I saw to your work dropped the “seeming” and is “all over the web”.

    I agree, “unsuspecting” was a very poor choice of words on my part. I apologize to any and all I may have offended and will try to do better in the future.

  30. 280
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts@273

    Huh???

    Read it again. Your excerpt seems to support my position, it’s all political.

    Don’t you agree?

  31. 281
    John Peter says:

    Geoff@276

    Thanks for taking the trouble to try understand what I am posting.

    You said:“There is a public relations war between science and its enemies.”

    Seems to me it’s not much of a war, in any case the enemies appear to be losing.

    You said:“The result appears to be that the climatologists are perceived as driving on the wrong side of the road, statistically speaking, whereas their opponents have no such problem. This has happened in spite of the latter’s abysmal history of statistical blunders.”

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean. The climatologists are accused of not employing professional statisticians – people who try to make a living using their statistical skills. I do not know if this accusation is true because the climatologists have never said whether or not they do. Whose numbers are right and whose are wrong is not the issue as far as I can tell and over the six years of the “hockey stick” debate as I recall it everyone changed their numbers several times, as any scientist should expect in an exploratory scientific investigation.

    The only problem I see is no professional statisticians as co-authors of the climatologists’ papers. To me that’s a political problem pure and simple. FWIW my personal belief is that it would be easier to solve that problem than war (your word, not mine) about it.

    You said: “I am not sure that your proposed remedy would make much difference. As far as I can see a powerful propaganda machine can make people perceive almost anything about any topic. If it is not statistics, it will be the choice of statistician, if not that there will be something else.”

    Possibly true, but I believe a lot of the world gives more credence to the statisticians than to your other enemies (again, your word, not mine)

    You said:“Incidentally is there agreement about the correct side of the road? You write as if there is a statistical bible somewhere which is understood mainly by members of the ASA and which avoids all controversy.”

    Not quite, the climate scientists’ statistical work is more or less correct even when it’s unconventional. I see it more as a question of language and communication, not religion. When in Britain you drive on the left, in the US on the right. Only convention, not science or religion.

    OK?

  32. 282
    dhogaza says:

    The discussion thread is going to get interesting, since VS showed up there

    One poster over there already schooled him on one test he applied. Doesn’t stop VS from claiming that Tamino isn’t a statistician, though.

  33. 283
    Hank Roberts says:

    Click the link, John.
    Don’t rely on excerpts posted on some blog by some guy as facts. It was a pointer.

    You suggested that climatology needed attention from the American Statistical Association.

    You could look it up.

  34. 284
    John Peter says:

    Ray Landbury@277

    Thank for chiming in. As far as I am concerned you do very good work and you’ve always done very good work. That is not only my impression but, as far as I can tell, also the impression of other RC posters.

    If you reread my #277, I think we three, John and You and I are in agreement about “close-enough”. At the risk of disturbing that calm, I mean close enough for judgmental action. (Please don’t make waves unless you feel have to.)

    As I mentioned in response to John “unsuspecting” was very poor word choice on my part.

    FWIW, using “consensus science” instead of “accepted science” is even worse. To me accepted science means accepted by practitioners, even skeptics. Consensus means anyone can vote and that’s not very scientific. I’ll agree with your last paragraph if you replace Consensus” with “accepted”. Is that asking such a much?

  35. 285
    Frank Giger says:

    Auditing of science does have its place.

    If someone had done some auditing of space program work we wouldn’t have lost a Mars probe due to bad (or the lack of) conversion from Imperial to Metric measurements in the calculations.

    I’m really disturbed by the whole “enemies of science” line. It implies that anyone that is questioning of a study or findings is an enemy.

    That, friends, is how inflexible dogma is formed.

  36. 286
    J.D. Gibbard says:

    Off topic but I’m wondering what connection the current Icelandic volcano eruption has to do with global warming. A couple thoughts have crossed my mind:
    1. Does mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet have any geologic effect as far away as Iceland? I’ve read that there are earthquakes in Greenland triggered by mass loss. Might that have released pressure leading to an earlier eruption rather than later?

    2. After the warmest March on the instrument record is the ash cloud sufficient to have a significant cooling effect on the global climate which may lead skeptics to the erroneous conclusion that warming has stopped or reversed? (Not that they need actual data to jump to the wrong conclusion.)

    Cheers
    J.D.

  37. 287
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    Dhogaza, I just posted on that thread telling VS to search Google Scholar for +grant +foster. His top cited paper on a new statistical method (the CLEANEST method) got 118 cites. I’d say that makes him a statistician.

  38. 288
    Chris S. says:

    I think Dave G’s comment at #215 deserves some applause. A nice illustration of the absurdity of the whole shenanigans.

    @zeroworker. I think you’ll find your blood pressure will be eased if you just ignore CFU’s posts altogether. You know the cliche about heat & light I’m sure.

    With regard to the possible underuse of statisticians by the CRU (& possibly others). Whilst it’s probably true that more professional statistical input is desirable there seems to be a problem with finding professional statisticians who also understand the physics of the subject. Wegman’s comments to the congressional hearing is one example, and there’s plenty more out there in the blogosphere.

  39. 289
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts@283

    My question was – is the WR politics or technology?

    FWIW you can pretend you know what I’m doing, but you don’t. I did follow your ref – I always do – because they’re the best, almost always useful and informative.

    You misrepresent what I believe which is very bottoms up. Professional statisticians showing up as coauthors on climate science papers will stop the WR kind of junk. I may be wrong but that’s what I believe.

    A professional in a field is someone who earns money doing work in that field. This is true for any field including statistics.

    ASA is basically a political organization of people interested in statistics. Anyone can join for $150/yr. They’ll get lots of desperate email pleas for candidate names for biological statistician jobs. They won’t be asked to do anything technical.

    If a climate scientist wants to do their own climate science, join ASA, learn the trade (terminology and latest hot technical methods) and don’t try to bust the union. Then decide whether you want to contract the climate statistics work out or do it yourself. You’re now a professional statistician (as well as a climate scientist).

    Your ASA policy crap is too top down to be really effective. and it’s political as all heck.

    My question, which you have not yet answered:

    Is the WR politics or technology?

  40. 290

    zeroworker (245): Let’s see if your apparently puny brain can understand this (I doubt it):

    …But certainly no thanks to YOU, who had nothing to offer but insults and snide remarks.

  41. 291
    Dappled Water says:

    #227 – “According to some recurrent denying posters here, you can’t say that because the data is nearly nonexistent.” – CFU

    Read the link, it’s peer reviewed, you may learn a thing or two. You’re wrong, deal with it and save your energy for the deniers/skeptics.

  42. 292
    dhogaza says:

    Auditing of science does have its place.

    If someone had done some auditing of space program work we wouldn’t have lost a Mars probe due to bad (or the lack of) conversion from Imperial to Metric measurements in the calculations.

    That’s engineering, not science. Orbital mechanics, for instance, wasn’t affected. The scientific *instrument* was lost due to sloppy engineering, science itself was unaffected (other than the fact that those waiting for data had to do something else with their lives for a bit).

    Traditional auditing of that mars probe would not have helped anyway. Auditing would just verify that the right number of the wrong components had been purchased, delivered, and paid for. Engineering has its own checks and balances that are designed to try to prevent errors of this sort rather than simply account for them, as auditing would do. Fell short in your example, but the failure of a system doesn’t prove that no such system exists, as you seem to believe.

  43. 293
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Auditing of science does have its place.”

    And as you point out, it IS being done.

    But you want to put it in a place that IS NOT ITS PLACE.

  44. 294
    bratisla says:

    @286 J.D.Gibbard (April 16th, 11:37PM)

    As for your first interrogation, the phenomenon you describe is called isostatic adjustment : as the brittle part of the lithosphere loose weight, it is pushed upwards by the ductile part of the lithosphere which was under pressure (a little bit like a ship gets higher as he looses weight), and adjacent land masses are going downward to keep the global mass. It’s happening in Canada, in Scandinavia, in the french Alps (a bit more complicated, but it clearly happens), and it does not surprise me that it happens in Greenland if the ice sheet is diminishing (I didn’t hear about that, but it is mainly because I’m not in this particular field anymore – and I suspect measurements are quite scarce on Greenland).
    However, this is a regional phenomenon, and Scandinavia shows that it’s likely Iceland is not “feeling” that.

    Iceland volcanoes are hotspot/rift induced, and do not quite require any relief of the pressure to erupt ;) The last eruption is not quite as big as the Laki XVIIIth century one, or even the one occuring in the seventies … Nothing out of the ordinary, except the safety principle widely applied for the aircrafts.

    If you wish more doc on the isostatic adjustment, wikipedia is a good start, you can also look at the works of Luce Fleitout (geology laboratory, ENS Paris) or Jerry Mitrovica (Toronto) which spent lots of time on that.

    For once I was useful here \o/

  45. 295
    John E. Pearson says:

    Frank Giger says: “I’m really disturbed by the whole “enemies of science” line. It implies that anyone that is questioning of a study or findings is an enemy.”

    WHat would you call someone who claims that greenhouse warming violates the 2nd law? I usually call them “denialists” and that sends Walter Manny (among others) into a tizzy. If the so-called “debate” were rational we wouldn’t hear phrases like “denialists” AND “enemies of science”. If all they did was argue over whether the climate sensitivity was 3K or 2K or 1K it would be different.
    But the “debate” is nowhere near rational. The denialists who propagate such pure and utter bullshit are, in fact, “enemies of science.”

  46. 296
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Peter, You know what? I’ve been a working physicist for about 3 decades now, and nobody has ever given me a ballot for the scientific consensus election! Luis Alvarez one time said, “There is no democracy in physics. We can’t say that some second-rate guy has as much right to opinion as Fermi.” While this position might be anti-democratic, it is not counter to scientific consensus. In scientific consensus, one votes by publishing. That is, those theories, methods, ideas and techniques that are indispensible to making enough progress to publish are part of a tacit consensus. Those that reject this consensus body of knowledge abstain from voting not by being silent, but rather by not publishing. They fail to publish because their rejection of the consensus proves a serious impediment to understanding.

    Probably the most famous example of a consensus marching forward over the objections of a great mind is found in quantum mechanics, which succeeded despite Einstein’s opposition. It is not even that people did not listen to Einstein–they just had to embrace quantum mechanics if they wanted to understand the microworld.

    The signature of a powerful, long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas is wherever you look in the paleoclimate and the current climate. It simply is not possible to understand Earth’s climate unless CO2 sensitivity is around 3 degrees per doubling. Accept that, and much becomes clear. Reject it, and you won’t have much to say about climate. And that is one reason why even those few smart–shall we call them rejectionists(?)–don’t publish.

  47. 297
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Frank Giger@285,
    You are mixing up science and engineering. I know of few space projects that have enough systems engineers–and the loss of the Mars probe is directly attributable to budget cuts midproject. The normal review process would have caught the error in units had it been followed. An outside auditor would not have caught it because it was buried where they never would have found it.

    Like it or not, Frank, science works. Until you understand why it works, I’d just as soon not have you mucking about with how it gets done, ‘kay?

  48. 298
    Frank Giger says:

    John, what would you call those on the other side of the fence that exaggerate AGW studies and make flat out lies about the dangers?

    Environmentalist and other groups have been less than sqeaky clean when it comes to getting the facts straight. Are they “enemies of science” as well?

    [Response: People who abuse science and get things wrong deliberately to make political points – whatever they are – are behaving unethically. But on this issue there is no ‘balance’ in the abuses – the nonsense coming out of the contrarians (straightforward lies from Monckton, disinformation from McClean and Carter, libel from many others) is on a completely different scale than the occasional (and quickly corrected) over-statement from some NGO. Each deserves to be corrected and criticised but, really, these things are not equally bad. – gavin]

    @ dhogaza (291), who writes that engineering isn’t science: Hahahahaha! Somebody tell the guys at NASA that they’re working a Liberal Arts project. Tell Ray Ladbury that physics isn’t science – I think he’ll be quite suprised.

    Auditing in the form of fact checking from raw numbers to output is statistical as well as checking materiel against invoice. We can freely debate whether the CRU FOI’s were put forth by someone that was qualified to perform a formulaic and mechanical check of the math, but to say that it should never be done is ludicrous.

  49. 299
    mike roddy says:

    Bob, #82, you’re right- history will judge the McIntyres and Wattses as the absurd charlatans that they have always been.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have time. Early Senate opponents of the Vietnam War (Church, Fulbright, Morse) were defeated in their reelection attempts. Their opponents went on to make more history, usually in a damaging manner.

    Climate change denialism will become completely discredited in about 10-15 years, but this additional window of burning coal and destroying forests would be lethal.

    We’ve been screwing around with these guys- and their friends in the media and the Senate- for too long. Time to bust them once and for all- form a united front, spend some money, and insist that the public wise up.

  50. 300
    Steve in Dublin says:

    John Peter @ 284

    FWIW, using “consensus science” instead of “accepted science” is even worse. To me accepted science means accepted by practitioners, even skeptics. Consensus means anyone can vote and that’s not very scientific. I’ll agree with your last paragraph if you replace Consensus” with “accepted”. Is that asking such a much?

    Definitely asking too much. The skeptics, almost to a one, do NOT accept the science (at least not in public). You’ve been around here long enough that you must realise that. The science behind climate change is generally better accepted by people that don’t have an ideology or political agenda that won’t allow them to see that the science is pretty much settled on this issue.