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« Acton's eleven | Main | Thought for the day »

Another university in deep water

Doug Keenan has won his long battle to force Queen's University Belfast to release their tree ring data to him. Another long story of university academics blocking legitimate requests and flouting the law, apparently with impunity.

Full story here.


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Reader Comments (30)

Well. it is inexplicable, isn't it, under the assumption that the data is really there and in as good shape as Mr Keenan seems to think it is generally believed to be?

When you have excluded the impossible, what remains is, however improbable, the truth.

Apr 15, 2010 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered Commentermichel

The law is the law. It needs firm application to Climate Scientists essentially because there is ample evidence that a lot of them are cheating scoundrels or incompetent chumps, and, especially, because data have been lying around unscrutinised for ages. More generally, though, I wonder how wise it is to have introduced an incentive structure whereby a research group could devote lots of effort, and someone else's money, to assembling data and then another research group (say) has the right to immediate access to those data. It sounds like a recipe for trouble.

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Theatre of the absurd! Apparently we're all waiting for Godot...

Mr. Keenan you have the patience of Job. Let's hope something comes of all your work.

Bishop this goes beyond Climategate and AGW; it makes one question the very foundations of science today. The average taxpayer if awoken might just pressure the politicos to turn off the tap.

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E

Congratulations Doug. The email trail from Riemer may be very interesting as well.

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

He'll get the data. He won't know what to do with it. He'll bloviate on the net. Nothing will change.

[BH adds: Doug seems to have quite a good list of peer reviewed publications. Why should he not know what to do with it?]

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterbigcitylib


So what? The university had no business refusing the request. This is not about whether releasing the data finds anything useful.

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim


Must agree with Tim. Please stay on topic!

Apr 16, 2010 at 1:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E

Tims BSing. Keenan's trying to prove a woldwide commie conspiracy among climate scientists. You know it and I do. None of you gives a fart about FOI laws, and if they ever applied to you, you would try to dodge them. After the Oxburgh report, don't even try to dignify your cause. Save that crap fro Delingpole.

Apr 16, 2010 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterbigcitylib

I'm surprised anyone would defend stonewalling by a public institution. But as a frequent visitor to RealClimate, I'm not surprised at the low level of invective that accompanied his defense.

Apr 16, 2010 at 1:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

The point that BigCityLib fails to get is that any published paper is put out there for people to question. The data HAS to be available, otherwise we have to take any assertation on faith. If they hide the data that the assertation is based upon, then we can rightly question the validity. The real problem is that in this day and age, the data is recorded electronically. I did a MSc(Hons) in 1994 and my entire thesis was on disc then. Those scientists have to have the records of an investigation in one place - as they would have to publish or record it. WHY do they stonewall ?. Common sense suggests why.

Apr 16, 2010 at 2:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterKimW

BCL always fails to get the point. It's his life mission. Always clueless, a real piece of work. He would fit in nicely with Mann and co.

Apr 16, 2010 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert in Calgary


Motivations are irrelevant. Data should be public if the data is being used to set public policy.

Apr 16, 2010 at 3:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim


Also it should have been necessary to resort to an FOI. The fact that it was is evidence of a general lack of professional ethics within the university.

Apr 16, 2010 at 3:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim

The FOI officials must be taken to task. Look at the Swedish example. A simple threat to escalate a request gets action and results. Meanwhile, in the UK, the FOI officials and the climate scientists shamelessly appear to be in bed together.

Apr 16, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E

BCL:" Keenan's trying to prove a woldwide commie conspiracy among climate scientists. You know it and I do."

Well I didn't until you just informed me. Are you able to suggest how the acquisition of this tree-ring data will contribute to his "worldwide commie conspiracy" theory?

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I am really glad to see this posted. And I much agree with His Eminence and most commenters that the biggest issue here is that scientists appear to be flouting the law with impunity.

About motivations, the last section of my web page describes what I suspect is happening. Briefly, I suspect that the main tree-ring researcher, Mike Baillie, has come to view data as his own personal property, and he does not want to share with others. Perhaps too Baillie is worried that someone might find something wrong with his work (as Phil Jones was when Warwick Hughes asked for data). The university administration is just standing by its professors.

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

If the people at Queen's had possessed any imagination they would have offered Keenan some sort of position in the department, e.g. as a visiting professor or at least an honary fellow, to help them analyse the data. If they had done that it could have helped to infuse new life into the department, attract other researchers too, boost Queen's reputation, and contributed to knowledge of past climates.

How petty of them to reject that chance.

Apr 16, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy in the South West

Well done Douglas.

BigCityLib. Douglas is a mathematician. Perhaps you are not. Perhaps you can't or don't want to understand how hard science and mathematics work and progress. Neither have anything to do with communism or conspiracy, everything to do with hard work and rigour. To suggest the former is a feeble attempt to divert from the real issues.

Apr 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Very interesting. I love these persistent 'nut-cases' like Doug and Steve McI and chiefio and Pilger and lefty investigative journos who plug away like maniacs and slowly make the world a better place by being a terrible nuisance.

And have all of you noted Monbiot's aggressive and stalwart defence of ANY FoI /EIR request made, regardless of the maker's politics or intent or AGW position. He's done it particularly well on Realclimate, effectively saying 'suck it up, sorry folks, the existence of FoI is such a public good that you must live with it, and deciding which requests are 'good' and which 'vexatious' would put us back to square one, where the ruling classes, in any sector of life, make all the decisions in private. Very sound on this subject. Gold star.

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Doug Keenan...I love your work! Keep it up.

Apr 16, 2010 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Bish, Bit prature? Wait until the data is in Dougs grubby denialist paws....."QUB has until 26 April 2010 to appeal the ICO decision."

Maybe there will be an unfortunate accident....err the dog ate the computer...

Apr 16, 2010 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

premature I think I ment :-)

Apr 16, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

'premature I think I ment :-)'

Oh, good, I thought I was 'confused' for a moment there.

Apr 16, 2010 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

How many man hours has QUB spent thinking up excuses? Yet despite all that effort, they can't even manage a consistent story. For example, they initially say it'll take an absurd amount of time to copy data from 150 floppy disks. When that's rumbled, they say the data is being used in current research. Er, how likely is it that if anyone were using the data, it would still only exist on floppy disk? It's all rather pathetic, really.

Slightly tongue in cheek: is it possible to FOI the ICO to get the documentary evidence behind the case officer's decision that she was satisfied with QUB's explanations? It's difficult to see how any rational person could be.

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

DaveS, regarding the case officer's decision that she was satisfied with QUB's explanations, I talked with her by telephone and believe that she really was convinced by QUB. The problem, as far as I could tell, was that she held professors in very high regard: she had trouble believing the professors would be so dishonest.

I think that this is a general problem: many people have trouble accepting how dishonest some scientists can be. (I do not blame people for that, because it took a long time, and a large amount of evidence, for me to accept it.)

Apr 18, 2010 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Is there any proof that this documentation really (still) exists? What is the evidence for its existence?

Has anyone who would know what to look for, to verify its authenticity and existence, (outside the circle of people denying access to it) verified that it exists?

Apr 19, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

This story is getting some attention in the mainstream media.



Nature Climate Feedback

I have also been contacted by journalists from other media outlets.

Apr 20, 2010 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

If anyone would know about how to bloviate it would be our resident BigCityGlibber. Such an urbane chap of predetermined opinions and worshiper of green gurus and modern liberal gods.

I'm thinking the data will be provided to people who understand mathematics and statistical analysis so the results can be properly assessed.

Then let the fur fly.

Apr 20, 2010 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlfredo Nattaguchi

It will be most interesting to see when Douglas Keenan finally receives any data.
And how much data he receives.
And what shape it arrives in.

Apr 20, 2010 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony Hansen

Great post, I really like your writing style you seem like a very thoughtful person,
MBA Dissertation

Nov 29, 2010 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMBA Dissertation

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