Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thoughts on the hacked climate change e-mail

One of the problems is that science has become politicized. Industries hire hacks (including scientists) to attack any science that does not meet their needs. Think of the Chamber of Commerce's recent call for economists to write a paper that will attack health care.

Under constant attack, scientists may feel the need to "play defense." Just like a football team that keeps its practices secret to prevent opponents from learning their plans, scientists may well become insular.

In this way, industry destroys good science, which should depend on sharing of information.


gordon said...

Information-sharing among scientists is impeded by more than political pressures. Recently we have seen the Manchester Manifesto published in the UK by scientists disturbed by the impact of intellectual property laws.

This manifesto was the subject of a recent Guardian article. An extract: " is estimated that some 20% of individual human genes have been patented already or have been filed for patenting. As a result, research on certain genes is largely restricted to the companies that hold the patents, and tests involving them are marketed at prohibitive prices. We believe that this poses a very real danger to the development of science for the public good.


"The Manchester Manifesto, produced by an interdisciplinary and international group of experts and published today, explores these problems and points the way to future solutions that will more effectively protect science, innovation and the public good. It calls on all interested parties to find better ways of delivering the fruits of science where they are most needed".

The Guardian article is here:

The Manchester Manifesto is here (Note: .pdf)

gordon said...

As far as the Climate Research Unit hacked emails are concerned, I tend to see the problem as more relevant to modelling than to climate science.

Climate modelling isn't the whole of climate science. Logically, a flawed model doesn't offer credible support to the global warming theory, but finding the flaws in the model doesn't invalidate the theory either. It may damage the credibility of the modellers, but that's not the same thing.

Economists also use models, and I suspect that they have the same problems. But when an economic model is shown to be flawed, does that cause economists to question their fundamental concepts?

As well as the political pressures brought to bear, this episode should lead us to look more closely at the use of models and be more careful about what they can and can't do.

Barkley Rosser said...

One can debate the models pretty extensively, but the people who actually say there is no global warming are seriously reality challenged, as the shrinking Arctic ice cap rather dramatically makes clear.

Anonymous said...

I think the most serious charges are:

1) Conspiracy to avoid FOI disclosure. If any investigation shows anything real to those charges, I say Phil Jones needs to rot in jail, just as I would say any gov't flack that avoids FOI disclosure should.

2) Conspiracy to game peer review. I haven't read anything explaining their actions to game anonymous peer review as anything other than corruption.

Phil Jones, et. al., are big boys. They have big budgets. They have big lawyers. They have formalized procedures. If their emails are unprofessional, I think that's disgusting enough and shouldn't be defended as boys will be boys. That's bullshit when it comes from the top. If he tried to hide data from FOI disclosure, he is a rotten gov't thug that deserves time in jail. That's the taxpayers data, not his. And that's flauting a legal process.

I'd like to read more about what actually happened and how all scientists work that way that just read another boys will be boys apologia.

Anonymous said...

I would find more credible statements by other scientists, named, stating that they think FOI disclosure is bogus and not worth their time and counterproductive. And similar statements from named scientists describing how they use the peer review process to their advantage, and how they boycott journals, and tip one another off to who and how their articles will be reviewed.

Instead we get a gazillion people in the blogosphere who literally have no idea what happened giving us these boys will be boys apologias.

So let's hear it? Faced with an FOI request, would you do what you can to avoide presenting the data?

Barkley Rosser said...

Is this one or two "Anonymouses"? I would say the FOI matter is potentially serious, but do not know what the bottom line on it is.

The matter of gaming peer review and playing games with journals goes on all the time in pretty much all disciplines, even if it is not supposed to according to the Rules of Hoyle. At least in the harder sciences I am optimistic that facts will out, which does not necessarily happen in economics, so the gaming goes on and on.