A story illustrating one of the most important aspects of the climate science debate

Summary:  Information is power, and so elites of all kinds wish to control its flow.  One of the most important effects of the Internet is its power to force open to public view previously closed social processes, thereby stripping elites of their control of information — and thereby reducing their power.  As Glen Reynolds (the Instapundit) says, we have created an “Army of Davids.”  Elites cannot be expected to like it, and hence resist.  We see this today in climate science.  (This post gives a slightly expanded version of material from this article at Climate Audit)

The primary complaint of skeptics about anthropogenic global warmings concerns the limited availability of data and methods used to produce the results on which advocates urge major public policy changes.  Without this information replication is impossible for scientists or interested “outsiders”.

The response has been a grudging release of data, often partial and poorly documented.  The battle has been surprisingly difficult considering that most journals require release of this information at publication.  Even more striking, much (most?) of this research is publicly funded — and hence keeping it secret usually violates  regulations of the funding agencies.

As a response to this outcry the National Academies of Science Committee on Science, Engineering & Public Policy initiated this project:  Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a Digital Age.  A timely response on a vital topic.  Results to date?

  • Start date:  2 January 2007
  • Project duration:  12 months
  • Meetings:  16 April 2007, 17 September 2007, 10 December 2007
  • Results so far:  nothing!

They have provided updates. 

  • 29 February 2008:  “The project duration has been extended. The report is expected to be issued by July 1st, 2008”
  • 12 July 2008:  “The project duration has been further extended and the report will be issued in Fall 2008.”
  • 9 January 2009:  “The project duration has been extended. The report is expected to be issued by April 1, 2009.”
  • 10 April 2009:  “The project duration has been extended. The report is expected to be issued by June 1, 2009.”

They must not have read that the fate of the world is at stake, and time is running out!

Comments about the failure of the NAS project to produce timely results

These comments were posted to the article at Climate Audit.

From Tetris

In most sciencese (e.g. chemistry, physics, the bio sciences or nanotechnology) a paper submitted without a properly documented “methods and materials” section as a rule is rejected out of hand, because it makes it impossible for the reader to verify the conclusions and how they where derived. … As has been amply demonstrated here at CA, this basic element of the scientific method is simply absent from “climate science”.

From Clark:

Biological sciences have moved very rapidly to collate data AND experimental resources (genetic lines, DNA, etc). Indeed, if you want a grant from the NIH, you have to explicitly state how you are going to share any data and resources you gather. No sharing, no money.

Plus, many scientific organizations have put together publicly accessible databases for distributing the large datasets that are now being generated. Anyone who tried to make claims on datasets they did not release would be summarily ignored. Heck, even companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have released huge, proprietary data and resource collections.

A small slice of the literature about the need for better release of climate science information

  1. Data Archiving, Disclosure and Due Diligence”, Climate Audit
  2. Assuring the Integrity of Research Data“, Climate Audit, 23 April 2007
  3. Fortress CRU #2: Confidential Agent Ammann“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 20 June 2008.
  4. Fortress CRU“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 20 June 2008.
  5. Fortress Met Office“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 20 June 2008.
  6. Fortress Met Office continued“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 23 June 2008.
  7. E-Mail, “Personal” Records and Privacy“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 2 July 2008.
  8. Climate Audit and NOAA FOI Policy“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 3 July 2008.
  9. NOAA Response to March 2007 FOI Request“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 8 July 2008.
  10. CSIRO adopts Phil Jones’ Stonewall Tactic“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 15 July 2008.
  11. Openness & Government“, Shane Deichman, at MountainRunner, 26 July 2008
  12. Is Briffa Finally Cornered?“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 30 July 2008
  13. Emulating Mannian CPS“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 2 December 2008 – The struggle continues to get “hockey stick” Mann’s computer to code to work.  Only then can Mann’s work be replicated.  Odd that it appears in peer-reviewed journals; one wonders what “reviewed” means when the code does not run.
  14.  “Mann et al 2008 – Another Error Notice“, Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, 5 December 2008 — Another correction by Mann, who seems unable to credit his critics.


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For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Some posts on the FM site about climate science data:

  1. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  2. Peer review of scientific work – another example of a flawed basis for public policy, 22 January 2009
  3. Obama opens his Administration with a powerful act that will echo for many years, 4 February 2009
  4. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  5. An opportunity to judge for yourself the adequacy of today’s climate science, 2 March 2009

4 thoughts on “A story illustrating one of the most important aspects of the climate science debate”

  1. Also at CA, Dr. Wegman’s report to Congress on the “Hockey Stick” in light of this and related concerns over ‘Climate Science’. {Wegman is a Professor of Statistics at George Mason U and chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics}
    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed, that’s a valuable and under-publicized contribution to the debate. It, and many other such, are listed on the FM reference page Science & nature – studies & reports. It is #5 in section 3 “Climate change (general)”.

  2. “As has been amply demonstrated here at CA, this basic element of the scientific method is simply absent from “climate science”

    A point that has no doubt been made many times but worth repeating: the simple fact that this is the case is not only deplorable, but indicates clear evidence of ongoing deception further undermining any reason for taking the issue seriously.

    Exactly the same sort of thing went on with the tests on GM substances. Govt-funded results were published without data or only favorably edited data, ditto in spades with industry-sponsored studies. Clearly unfavorable ones were muzzled (to this day) although diligent researches have managed to find archived copies and so on.

    Without clear and enforced verification guidelines, no scientific studies should be allowed to buttress public policy decisions. Period.
    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s more complex than that. Most journals and government agences have guidelines for release of data. In many fields (e.g., physics, chemistry, economics) these are strictly followed. In climate science they are often ignored or loosely followed. Enforcement mechanisms are needed. For more on this see:
    * An opportunity to judge for yourself the adequacy of today’s climate science, 2 March 2009
    * The articles listed in Section 8, “About the battle for release of climate science data and methods”, on the FM reference page Science & nature – studies & reports

  3. FM note: My nominee for best of thread

    I remember a day, back in the 80’s, I was waiting in check out line at the grocery store. A tabloid headline breathlessly claimed, “Space Aliens Have Infiltrated Our Government!”.

    I turned to my wife and said, “Thank God, I was beginning to worry no one was in charge.”

    What we are now witnessing in the AGW hysteria is likely just stupidity, buffoonery, hubris, posturing, incompetence…you know, the usual list. If only there were really a secret cabal of brilliant, organized, political agenda driven mandarins acting behind the scenes. Al Gore, super genius? Nah.

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