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« Disgruntled science bureaucrats | Main | House hearing reports »

Nature editorial on Climategate

Nature has an editorial on the Climategate anniversary to add to its recent profile of Phil Jones.

For critics of CRU and their, sometimes legitimate, complaints about data access to be taken seriously, they must be more specific about who should be more open with what, and address their concerns at the correct target. It remains the case that many of the data used by CRU scientists are covered by agreements that prevent their wider distribution. This is not ideal, but it is hardly the fault of the CRU researchers — even if they did seem reluctant to share.

This is an extraordinary thing to say. Jones et al 1990 was published in Nature. Nature requires authors to make data available on request. How can they argue that it was restricted by confidentiality agreements?

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Reader Comments (39)

"Calls for full release of computer code written by climate researchers seem driven more by the fact that it is not routinely made available rather than because it is particularly useful"

I've made a comment about this on the Nature site, but I, at least, have been asking because I believe open code will improve the code, reduce errors and make the science better, not because "it is not routinely made available".

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Graham-Cumming

Let me guess.. Phil's lying again.

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterjoe p

Today’s installment of the Cancun Week special is now available at

It’s an assessment of the political approach by China to Cancun .


Nov 18, 2010 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

As the AGW movement continues to fall to pieces, Nature's involvement as co-conspirators with the Hockey Team will not be forgotten.

That, even at this stage, they still try to defend the Hockey Team, and their antics, just confirms that as AGW fails, so will Nature.

They will blame Big Oil of course

Nov 18, 2010 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Nature's editorial says:

'Calls for full release of computer code written by climate researchers seem driven more by the fact that it is not routinely made available rather than because it is particularly useful'

I think that they have missed the point.

UK Company Law requires that all companies should publish annual audited accounts at Companies House. The purpose is twofold. The first is so that anyone may read them in detail if they so choose - and for whatever reason they, not the company nor the Companies House curators, may choose.

The second is to keep people honest. One of the very first questions that anybody doing company research will ask is 'have they filed the latest set of accounts'. A failure to do so is a big red flag and alerts the investigator to the possibility of something untoward occurring. Filing accounts is not of itself a sufficient condition to guarantee probity of the companies dealings, but failure to do so is always suspicious.

The same with climate research. In a world where public confidence in the science and the scientists has been badly damaged, a failure to willingly and proudly provide full disclosure of one's work is a great big warning signal to us all that there may be something wrong with it,

Full disclosure is no longer an optional and unpleasant chore for scientists is an absolute requirement for the work to be taken seriously. I

It also improves the quality by putting the question 'how will I convince even the most hostile and detailed critic that I am right' front and centre, rather than relying on a pass from friendly peer reviewers. Harder work probably, but better science overall.

Nov 18, 2010 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Hey, let's be reasonable here. Just because we insist that the billions of people forfeit their freedom, expend trillions in costs and substantially diminish their chances for a better life doesn't mean that we should have to let anyone check our work. Allowing people to check our work would be vexing. Besides, think of the embarassment if people found mistakes! Talk about uncomfortable.

Nov 18, 2010 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Hey, let's be reasonable here. Just because we insist that the billions of people forfeit their freedom, expend trillions in costs and substantially diminish their chances for a better life doesn't mean that we should have to let anyone check our work. Allowing people to check our work would be vexing. Besides, think of the embarassment if people found mistakes! Talk about uncomfortable.

Nov 18, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

‘they must be more specific about who should be more open with what’

The requests were fairly clear , it was CRU approach which was unclear , as data was lost and then not lost , was available and the not available , covered by confidential agreements and then not covered by confidential agreements

'covered by agreements that prevent their wider distribution'

in some cases dead wrong the issue was that those that original supplied the data did not want CRU adjustments of their data being issued in the originators name , and who can blame them

'even if they did seem reluctant to share.'

Not true they were happy to share with the friends , its only others that found it difficult to get information.

Nature as brought its own scientific standing down through its own action in its extreme support of AGW and the ‘team’

Nov 18, 2010 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

KnR +1, where is the Chinese station data, the only person who says they saw it is missing and the 1990 paper sits there being quoted on numerous paper as gospel when its based on thin air.

Nov 18, 2010 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

It remains the case that many of the data used by CRU scientists are covered by agreements that prevent their wider distribution.

I believe the CRU where only able to produce 4 "agreements" in response to the FOI requests for agreements covering 288 countries.

I guess that 1.4% (4 out of 288) qualifies as "many of the data".

Nov 18, 2010 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

CRU distributed data quite happily to their pals.

Nov 18, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

More specific? I submitted 80 pages of evidence to the Muir Russell team, explaining, among other things, what had been requested of Jones and the CRU. For example, the Keenan and Eschenbach requests were not for data, they were for lists of the GHCN stations Jones used in CRUTEM, something he had long promised to reveal but kept refusing to do. Even now their supposed station list contains a disclaimer that this may not be the right list. There was no ambiguity in these requests. Nor was there any ambiguity in the request for Jones to share the same data he sent to Peter Webster at Georgia Tech in 2009.

During the time Jones was writing emails about hiding data and destroying it rather than release it, he only had received (by my count) 4 or 5 requests over a 5 year period. I spelled the requests out in my Muir Russell submission and they did not challenge this listing. None of the inquiries accepted the UEA claim that they couldn't respond to requests because they were deluged with so many of them. That is pure whitewash offered to confuse the gullible and uninformed. The group of requests in summer 2009 was for the confidentiality agreements CRU occasionally claimed prevented their release of data (though they also claimed they did not need to release the data because it was already public).

The inquiries received lots of specific information. They they largely ignored it, and accepted CRU defences without challenge, is not the fault of those of us who submitted it.

There is some value to challenging these growing attempts to re-write history. The Deutsche Bank team of Columbia University experts had to acknowledge that Jones' graph was, in fact, misleading, once they were confronted not only with the facts, but also the Muir Russell findings on the matter.

Nov 18, 2010 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss McKitrick

CRU distributed data quite happily to their pals.

On condition they did not release it either !!!

Nov 18, 2010 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

Nature makes a lot of money out of 'science'. Eventually the activism will come to the attention of the owners - and there will be a correction.

Nov 18, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

From the recent Jones in Nature thread, one could see that David Adam didn't quite ask the right questions e.g. ('Did you delete?' rather than 'Did you incite to delete?' ), but there was also an encouraging indication that David Adam would be willing to ask Jones additional questions. Is that thread going to lead anywhere? The outcome of these journalistic inquiries, and indeed whether David Adam moves this forward at all, will be very interesting.

Nov 18, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Policy-influencing climate research based on 'confidential' data. "Trust us, we're scientists!"


Nov 18, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBS Footprint

It's Nature just tricking itself.

Nov 18, 2010 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Nature believes and propogates the canard that the FOI requests were for the purpose of harassment. It now seeks to support its comfortings by framing the requests as not being "specific".

Nov 18, 2010 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Here in Ontario, Canada, our Ministry of the Environment used to get 5,500 FOI requests per year, for 250,000 pages of documentation (most involving water and soil testing concerning property sales: i.e., as a seller you had to ensure the property wasn't poisoned).

Yes, they had a system and method to deal with it (as they had a legal requirement to respond in 30 days), but that's the point, isn't it?

If there is a legal requirement to respond, and a legal requirement in HOW you respond, and a legal requirement to sanction those who don't respond..wouldn't you want to ensure your employees were cognizant of the law, and PROTECT THEM?

Of course, if you just ignore the law, you can certainly shorten the process.

Never mind, nothing to see here...

Nov 18, 2010 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Anon

Why don't contrarian scientists boycott Nature and Science? I know that these two are considered the most prestigious journals, but is there any reason why it should remain so in the future now that they have embraced CAGW activism over scientific scepticism?

Nov 18, 2010 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

BTW, by suggesting a boycott of Nature, I don't mean boycott of subscription. But is there a compelling reason why papers should continue to be submitted for publication or for scientists to act as peer-reviewers for the journal? And how come members of other scientific disciplines remain aloof to Nature's acceptance of shoddy practices?

Nov 18, 2010 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I am not a scientist who publishes papers , but in today's world of changing communication methods --ie. the internet and all the various applications using it, is the notion of "prestigious journal' still as important? I realise it is essentially like a brand and there is a history of "improving your CV" if you get published in certain journals but with modern search engines does it really matter where the paper is published ---it's access to interested parties is just as open. If the Team had not "rubbished" the peer review process one could argue that publicising who reviewed the paper was more important.

Nov 18, 2010 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

What's all that grit in my eyes?

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterIanB

What's all that grit in my eyes?

PNS Post Normal Science

Nov 19, 2010 at 6:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

Well, you already know the answer, because Eli posted a comment and you deleted it (, but at least part of the answer is:

Nature's policy on materials and methods only was established in January 1997: "As a condition of publication authors are required to make materials and methods used freely available to academic researchers for their own use." Before that, the only condition was that "Nature requests authors to deposit sequence and x-ray crystallography data in the databases that exist for this purpose."

Nov 19, 2010 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam M. Connolley

I've deleted nothing. The point is an important one though, so I'll do a header post on it.

Nov 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Philip Campbell, Nature, "The scientists have not hidden the data. If you look at the emails there is one or two bits of language that are jargon used between professionals that suggest something to outsiders that is wrong, In fact the only problem there has been has been some problem with the official restrictions on their ability to disseminate their data. Otherwise they have behaved as researchers should."

Phil Jones, "Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone."

Nature and William M(uddled) Connolley are just tricking themselves again.

Nov 19, 2010 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Is the Stoat at a loose end..?

Nov 19, 2010 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Mac - I'm wondering what you think I'm muddled about. Are you in any doubt that the policy under which Jones '90 was submitted under is as described? Do you think Jones should have been expected to read years into the future?

Though I have to admit I'm no student of disclosure policies; I'm relying on If you think Eli's timeline is wrong, do say *where* it is wrong.

Nov 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam M. Connolley

The Hadley Centre has taken over the CRU station list and is pursuing WMOs for agreements to release data. Check their site for a list of the few stations that have as yet given agreement or partial agreement.

If CRU were given the data under a "gentleman's agreement" not to release the data then there would be no paperwork. To break the agreement would mean no more data.

Most of the data, the code from CTU/Giss etc is online? How many auditors have audited it. How many have found problems? Why is there no exposee on the mis-handling of data? Perhaps there is no data fudging?

Nov 19, 2010 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterthefordprefect

William M. Connolley Jones can provide no evidance that ther 1990 information from China existed , apart form own claim , while there is evidance that station moves had happend and that there was a lack of data on these moves. Therefore its Jones who is required to support his own claims .
Your no longer Wiki King , get use to views you don't like beign seen in the public space.

Nov 19, 2010 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

No one reads the stoat and bugs bunny's blogs any more so they have to venture out into the big bad world these days.

Nov 19, 2010 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Jimmy, I for one would welcome WMC and Eli here. This isn't Real Climate. Dissenting views are to be welcomed. We might even (as here) learn something.

Eli has made a helpful correction, and it's just a shame that his comment got knobbled.

Nov 19, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

I don't understand why, but the comment I made (which was basically identical to the comment I made at the start of this thread) has not appeared in the comments on the Nature article.


Nov 19, 2010 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Graham-Cumming


I left a comment at Nature too, which hasn't appeared.

Nov 19, 2010 at 5:08 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Dead Dog Bounce.

I'm OK with that. It's just that Bugs gives me the creeps talking in the third person all the time.

Nov 19, 2010 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Will you be pressing Norfolk Constabulary for a statement about their investigation into the leaked emails? A year seems a long time to take to investigate this "crime".

Nov 20, 2010 at 2:59 AM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes


I contacted them a week ago. They say there will be an announcment to coincide with the anniversary. No sign of it yet.

Nov 20, 2010 at 7:43 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I resubmitted my comment and it has now appeared.

Nov 24, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Graham-Cumming

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