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« David Mackay at Oxford | Main | Interacademy Council hearings »
Saturday
May152010

Everybody does it

RP Jnr links to a review of the Climategate story by Der Speigel and has a fascinating discussion with his readers in the comments thread below.

The point at issue is Mike's Nature Trick and the question of whether it amounts to scientific fraud. Der Spiegel describe the trick as follows:

But what appeared at first glance to be fraud ["hide the decline"] was actually merely a face-saving fudge: Tree-ring data indicates no global warming since the mid-20th century, and therefore contradicts the temperature measurements. The clearly erroneous tree data was thus corrected by the so-called "trick" with the temperature graphs.

Many of Roger's readers take issue with the description of the divergent data as "erroneous" and I tend to agree with them here. The data has been processed in the same way in the twentieth century as in earlier periods, so it is not erroneous, but anomalous. The reason for the divergence is unknown and the divergence therefore needs to be disclosed and discussed since it potentially undermines all tree-ring based temperature reconstructions.

Roger argues that the Nature trick amounts to a fudge but not fraud. I'm struggling with this slightly. My dictionary defines a fudge as "a patch, trick, cheat" and fraud as "deceit, trick" so I'm not entirely convinced that there is any difference between "fudge" and "fraud" in terms of academic conduct (I'm ignoring the criminal meaning of of fraud here).

Everyone seems to agree that what was done was to hide uncertainty from the reader, but when a reader tells him that hiding uncertainty is fraud, Roger disagrees

I hear what you are saying, however, in the world of academia, this is just not the case. If it were, most work across most field would be guilty of such charges ;-)

I'm not sure about the smiley here. But when you have such enormous policy questions to answer, I remain entirely unconvinced that an argument of "all academics are dishonest" is going to carry the day.

"Everybody does it" is not grounds for exonerating scientists who hide unfortunate facts from policymakers and the public any more than it was grounds for exonerating the MPs who were caught abusing their expenses claims.

And one other thing. Remember the Parliamentary hearings about Climategate? The select committee criticised Jones et al for withholding data and generally flouting the Freedom of Information laws, but exonerated Jones on the grounds that everybody else in the field behaved in the same way. So this kind of argument seems worrying prevalent in the climate debate.

If Roger is right and all scientists engage in this kind of deception and if it is also true that it is accepted that policymakers accept that "everybody does it" is a valid excuse, what does that tell us about the integrity of the policies that are being thrust upon us?

 

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Reader Comments (101)

The question to ask is something like this: how would you feel if it happened in medicine or finance?

Lets say its a stock prospectus. Maybe you are forecasting falling product costs, or market demand? You have an indicator for the past and then some real but uncertain market or cost data for the last few years. You plot the indicator up to a few years ago only, though you have data for it up to the present, and you add to that the measured data. You ask people to invest on the basis of an unprecedented rise in demand, which you will be meeting, and this is the basis for your revenue forecast. In fact, however, your indicator diverges from reported data in recent years, and this means that the level of demand, or costs, or production in the past is uncertain, and hence that things may not be changing much if at all in recent years.

I don't think you'd get away with it. People would find out, and say that you have misrepresented the uncertainty about demand taking off. Its not taking off at all, they would say, its fairly static, and your revenue forecast is just hope. Or your cost reduction forecast. Could be, for instance, proxies for natural resource production with real stats of tonnage spliced on. Or maybe farm productivity numbers, which might show that it had not risen at all, unless the past indicator was valid.

In medicine doing this stuff might land you in jail if you did it on drug safety studies while trying to get approval. Imagine, you project back using some indicator what mortality rates have been from a certain illness. Then you show that with your drug, they fall dramatically. You suppress the fact that recently your indicator diverges from measured mortality rates. You argue that the measurements spliced to the indicator rates shows that there is a critical rise in mortality from this illness, and that your drug should be given a fast track pass in order to combat this dire situation?

You'd be accused of lying about the likelihood of the rise. Maybe there are reporting changes rather than changes in the underlying incidence? The uncertainty about the historical rates of mortality would have been concealed, and this would affect the regulators' view of the urgency.

It will not fly. Its very hard to see why, in Climate decisions where trillions are being requested for investment, the standards of proof and accuracy should be any sloppier than we'd ask for in other investment areas.

May 15, 2010 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

This is becoming unbelievable.

Well, it's all on its last legs; in a very short time, the whole thing will be proved to be rubbish, by that great leveller, real life.

I've been watching some old testament movies (Solomon and Sheba ...), Amazing how you you could replace superstitious Yahweh imprecations with superstitious AGW ones. "Verily Jehovah has destroyed the Temple" "No sire it was Mann made GW"

But King Vidor had better costumes (and Yul Brynner :) )

May 15, 2010 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterShona

Yes, clearly erroneous. Land and ocean measurements, balloon measurements, satellite measurements, and indirect indicators (e.g. early spring thaws, later fall frosts) all indicate that the earth has warmed since the middle of the 20th century.

This is what someone says in defense of the suppression of the late proxy data on Pielke's blog. Of course, this is completely misleading. The question is not whether it warmed. We know it did.

The question is, do we have a reliable indicator of past temps in the pre-measurement period? What was presented in the papers was a whole series of temps going back 1500 years, the proxy part having been calibrated against measured temps. What was suppressed is the fact that after you've done this, in the recent past, your proxies do not calibrate any more. Which then casts doubt on their validity in the non-measurement period.

So what has been concealed is that the proxy temps as shown are not as reliable as the papers assert them to be. This evidence was available to the authors at the time, and deliberately not shown or discussed, and the process of not showing it or discussing it is referred to in their correspondence as 'hiding the decline'.

We are a the level here where it may not be legally speaking fraud, but who cares? What is shows is that an analysis known not to be credible was presented as if it were so, with the evidence against it, though available, suppressed.

There is no better way to destroy the credibility of Climate Science than to make these kinds of defenses of the indefensible.

May 15, 2010 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

Dr Pielke:
You are using an American idiom, not even an English one, as if it were defined in global law.

May 15, 2010 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

This special pleading for Academia and science is becoming tedious. They are not deserving of special treatment or dispensations because of their exalted status. Public money has been used in container loads to fund all of this, and we have nothing usable to show for it.
Except apologists telling us that the proxy data does not match the real data, but it is just a 'divergence', and hiding it is a 'fudge'. No. If the proxy data does not match the real data, it is not a proxy. Claiming otherwise, or replacing the proxy data with real data is not a fudge, it is fraud.

There is absolutely no reason to grant any special treatment or dispensations to these deluded academics. It is time they rejoined the real world and the human race. Anyone would think they were politicians.

'Pardon him Theodotus, he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of the universe'
G.B. Shaw

May 15, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

There are many kinds and degrees of hiding uncertainty, and many different contexts for it; I think that makes it hard to make a clear-cut judgment. Sometimes it's deliberate, sometimes it's just a natural result of over-confidence. The reason "hide the decline" is particularly malignant has a lot to do with context: the central importance and real-world consequences of this particular issue.

May 15, 2010 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterDagfinn

There was absolutely no open and honest reason to truncate the data. Then to paste on a different temperature series is outrageous. If there was INTENT to produce data that was missleading, tricking and deceitful then that is fraud.

May 15, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

Maybe there are libel laws to consider for Dr. P, who knows? It is said that Mann has denied using temperatures instead of proxies, now if he has used temperatures instead of proxies the statement that he hasn't definitely turns their use into a fraud.

Or is lying not malfeasance in climate science? I wonder, if that's true then a lot of otherwise inexplicable actions by the climate science community come into focus.

May 15, 2010 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

In a non-academic interpretation, Hide the Decline was hiding that trees are poor thermometers; hence, hiding that the hockey stick is worthless.

So "fudge" means deception and dishonesty in academic circles?

I have had a high opinion of Pielke, Jr., so am willing to forgive this interpretive glitch of his.

May 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

"Any deception I practised was never intended to deceive..."

(corrupt policeman Truscott in Loot, Joe Orton, 1965)

May 15, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDR

Careful, Geronimo. You're actually on dodgy libel grounds there.

Mann has denied that anyone in Climate Science has spliced proxy and thermometer data, it's true.

However, the splicing here is being done by Phil Jones. The fig-leaf that is being used is that the splice isn't used in a peer-reviewed paper, but only is an executive summary/cover of a report.

May 15, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterslowjoe

The comments on Rogers linked post provide a useful summary of the situation and positions.

I strongly recommend reading them - e.g. What is the difference between Fraud and Fudge? Answer - You can eat Fudge.

May 15, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

My first thought was that other fields (that matter) do not fudge data, but of course they do. The difference is that there are powerful departments set up to police those fields. There are often penalties documented in law for breaches of practice. Also, there are usually whistleblowers and competitors who keep a watchful eye open. Climate science isn’t even brought to book when they’re caught red handed and instead of condemning bad practice the guardians close ranks and defend the indefensible.

Eg I worked for a company that had a significant water cooling plant. It was kept clean by a sophisticated and well maintained chemical purification system to prevent legionella, etc. The site was almost closed down by the HSE, not for failing to treat the water properly but because the paper work wasn’t entirely up to date. They weren’t given a year to get their records in order, they got a fortnight and achieved perfection in under a week.

If global warming is so important, why aren’t there standards protected by law for the quality of work that scientists produce?

May 15, 2010 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

A reasonable article apart from one important point. As a professional scientist who has worked in many different disciplines of science, the so called trick is clearly a deception. This is NOT common practice amongst scientists and would normally be referred to as fraudulent. I would be sacked for doing this and rightly so. Bear in mind the vast number of scientists with and without PhD's do not work in Academia!

May 15, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrJohn

Maybe they should call in the "climate fraud investigators" from CRU? ... Actually, it looks like they already have:


Quote:

"The Dendroclimatic Divergence Phenomenon: reassessment of causes and implications for climate reconstruction.

Palaeoclimate reconstructions extend our knowledge of how climate varied in times before expansive networks of measuring instruments became available. These reconstructions are founded on an understanding of theoretical and statistically-derived associations acquired by comparing the parallel behaviour of palaeoclimate proxies and measurements of varying climate. Inferences about variations in past climate, based on this understanding, necessarily assume that the associations we observe now hold true throughout the period for which reconstructions are made. This is the essence of the uniformitarian principle. In some northern areas of the world, recent observations of tree growth and measured temperature trends appear to have diverged in recent decades, the so called "divergence" phenomenon. There has been much speculation, and numerous theories proposed, to explain why the previous temperature sensitivity of tree growth in these areas is apparently breaking down. The existence of divergence casts doubt on the uniformitarian assumption that underpins a number of important tree-ring based (dendroclimatic) reconstructions. It suggests that the degree of warmth in certain periods in the past, particularly in medieval times, may be underestimated or at least subject to greater uncertainty than is currently accepted. The lack of a clear overview of this phenomenon and the lack of a generally accepted cause had led some to challenge the current scientific consensus, represented in the 2007 report of the IPCC on the likely unprecedented nature of late 20th century average hemispheric warmth when viewed in the context of proxy evidence (mostly from trees) for the last 1300 years. This project will seek to systematically reassess and quantify the evidence for divergence in many tree-ring data sets around the Northern Hemisphere. It will establish a much clearer understanding of the nature of the divergence phenomenon, characterising the spatial patterns and temporal evolution. Based on recent published and unpublished work by the proposers, it has become apparent that foremost amongst the possible explanations is the need to account for systematic bias potentially inherent in the methods used to build many tree-ring chronologies including many that are believed to exhibit this phenomenon."

http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/
http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/research/

And who is Principal Investigator? Yes, you guessed it, Briffa. The project start and end dates are 12/09 – 05/12. Great timing!

May 15, 2010 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

No, Roger, not everyone does it. And nature punishes those who do. I'm surprised you haven't learned that yet.
======================

May 15, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"Tree-ring data indicates no global warming since the mid-20th century, and therefore contradicts the temperature measurements."

So, the tree-ring data wasn't right for the last half of the 20th century, but we should accept that it was correct and reflective of temperature measurements prior to the mid-20th century?

May 15, 2010 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnWho

Tiny

I agree, and I can say my experience is similar.

I do, however, think that one of Roger's responses, here, provides a neat summary of the issue, one that might be worthy of discussion in its own right.

May 15, 2010 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBanjoman0

A 'fudge' is a fraud which cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations.

May 15, 2010 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Academic scientists are well aware of the difference between fudge and fraud, and are generally pretty careful to stay on the right side of the dividing line. Those who don't can find their careers terminated swiftly and painfully (except, it seems, in climate science).

The range of fudging considered acceptable in academia might surprise some outsiders (see the famous list in A glossary for research reports) but even by our lax standards "hide the decline" is well beyond the pale, whatever Roger says.

May 15, 2010 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Wonder how Roger would feel if his bank "fudged' his mortgage so he paid more, how he would feel if his employer "fudged" his paycheck so he received less or how he would feel if someone "fudged" his credit rating because, you know, it happens all the time.

Not quite so charitable I would think.

May 15, 2010 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

I hope Dr P apologies for his recent criticism of the IPCC for misrepresenting his work, after all it was probable just the 'fudge' factor at work.

May 15, 2010 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllen McMahon

My regard for Dr P as a Scientist has just dropped by half, he openly admits that you can't necessarily trust his "output" as he may have fudged it.
Obviously "environmental studies" use the same professional standards as Climate Scientists in general.

May 15, 2010 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Roger says: " Exercises such as 'hiding the decline' are a common practice amoung scientists working in academica so it does not rise to the level of academic misconduct. However, such pratices are generally considered to be gross malpractice by scientists and engineers working in any industry where public safety and/or legal liability is a concern."

He then says: "The fact that climate scientists see no need to live up to the scientific/ethical standards of scientists/engineers working in industry is something must be considered before introducing radical policy changes based on the work of these scientists."

Two things: First, it is incredible that "gross malpractice" in non-academia is not even considered "academic misconduct" in academia. Who in the hell gave them a pass?

Secondly, these guys are not just sitting around discussing this stuff over a few beers; they have been "hired" and paid loads of money by governments here and abroad to make what are in all respects industrial/engineering judgements about "what is happening and what to do
about it."

I believe Dr. Pielke has got the cart before the horse. How can we make ANY policy changes, much less radical ones, if those we have hired have what are, basically, no ethical standards?

Fix the codes of conduct for academia and enforce them. Then talk about what is happening and what to do about it.

But, truly, I'm not holding my breath for those guys to straighten up.

May 15, 2010 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterphilH

So have I understood this correctly? - The question of whether the planet is warming and whether we should investment billions in combating this is an academic one?!!

May 15, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Wright

Perhaps we are being a little harsh on Dr. Pielke. We shouldn't construe his failure to condemn the "trick" as outright misconduct to his support of using such a trick. I confess I was taken aback by his offhand support for "fudge" vs. "fraud," and his casual demand for a case for "fraud." But "fraud" is most definitely a politically charged term, one that also carries precise legal and criminal meetings, and in the politically charged atmosphere of academia he is simply and fairly representing the academic viewpoint; politics, I believe, is part of his field of study.

May 15, 2010 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBanjoman0

What does it tell you about RP Jnr?
Try telling that to a professor if you do it on an examination he gives. You get an F!
RP is dminishing.

May 15, 2010 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterP Gosselin

PhilH
I believe his cart is losing its wheels.

May 15, 2010 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterP Gosselin

This person is employed at a University to teach scientific ethics?

May 15, 2010 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Davis

Note to Dr.(and I use the term loosely) P.

Fudge is very messy and sticky. Play with it and it tends to get all over you and make you look silly and stupid.

Look at yourself in a mirror to see what I mean.


Mike Davis

Excellent question. My question is if true, why is he there?

May 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

It's fairly easy to see how Mann's 'trick' could be considered to be fraud. First off, a good discussion of the legal definition of fraud can be found here: http://definitions.uslegal.com/f/fraud/

Now, when Mann found the divergence problem, he had two options: change the data to fit the theory, or change the theory to fit the data. He chose the former. He made temperature data appear to be part of the tree ring data, which it was not, and used that to falsely claim that tree ring data showed recent warming.

It is obvious from the context that Mann clearly intended that others rely on his conclusions. Everyone who relied on his conclusions in the course of their own research now find their own research is questionable.

So you have (1) intentional mis-statement of fact, (2), intent that others rely on the mis-statement, (3) actual reliance by others on that mis-statement, (4) reliance with proves detrimental.

That, my friends, is fraud.

May 15, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Baumholder

philH,

Those are not Roger's words. They are mine in response to Roger's claim that 'everybody does it'

May 15, 2010 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaven

Puts a different spin on the line:

"Even educated fleas do it..."

May 15, 2010 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

On re-reading the various comments above, there is one point that does stick out, even though Bangoman0 did allude to it. And that is:

Why is "fudging" accepted in Academia?

That is scary.

Banjoman0 did suggest that we base a topic on one of "Dr." P's more interesting statements in his blog (use Banjoman0's link)

Exercises such as 'hiding the decline' are a common practice amoung scientists working in academica so it does not rise to the level of academic misconduct. However, such pratices are generally considered to be gross malpractice by scientists and engineers working in any industry where public safety and/or legal liability is a concern.

Naturally, "Dr" P fails to point out that this fudging is the driving force for taxation of us all, and treats it like some pedagogical debate over the use of "which" verses "that", which would have no impact on us in the real world.

What really galls me is his "friendly" warning that follow the above quotation:

The fact that climate scientists see no need to live up to the scientific/ethical standards of scientists/engineers working in industry is something must be considered before introducing radical policy changes based on the work of these scientists.

Apparently, he has failed to warn Al Gore et al.

May 15, 2010 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Doesn't "divergence" and "anomalous" presuppose something? I can't believe that tree ring science is perfect enough to give scientists such solid expectations about tree rings. Let's not forget that this was a divergence from expectations of particular scientists. Perhaps those expectations were just not those of the ablest practitioners of the art.
What I see of this group is scientists with judgment impaired by defensiveness and enthusiasm.

May 15, 2010 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHankHenry

Explanations to the public on this climate "science", will often be accompanied, hand in hand, with some moral imperative that *cough*, could be seen by some sceptics as "religious".

Mike Hulme and Pielke are smart enough to think like the most sceptic of sceptics and realise that explanations couched in these terms will eventually fail.

Whether Climate Science could ever exist as a machine to be prodded and interpreted and justified to control the extremes we are seeing in the real world policy sphere at the moment in the future, will continue to be a real question.

I think it may be one day, when we have more certainty.

But not in the ways that sceptics or believers see right now.

May 15, 2010 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

Dom Pablo, the quotations you refer to are by Raven in the comments, not by Dr. P. That is, of course not to detract from the accuracy and focus of Ravens comments.:)

The question by John - ''Why is fudging accepted in Academia?" is very relevant. Academia would have us believe that peer review, publishing papers, interesting moral equivalence etc is 'science'. It is not, it is pure venal academia at its worst. Climate science needs to be removed from the toxic embrace of academia if it is to have any trace of credibility in the future.

May 15, 2010 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Thanks for the reference. Professor Pielke is stating and defending the accepted standards within the scientific community. These standards came into existence when academic researchers were poorly paid university employees who solicited research funds from private givers. It was only a few decades ago that these practices were pretty much universal among academic researchers. Things have changed. Today, huge amounts of research money come from the federal government, meaning taxpayers. Taxpayers are not private givers who relinquish all control over their gifts. In the near future, the federal government will attach strings to its gifts and those strings will include a new understanding of the differences between fudge and fraud. As Climategate shows, researchers cannot be trusted to define that difference. To the general public, "hiding the decline," as described by Professor Pielke, is hiding information that is critical not only to funding decisions but to policy decisions and, for that reason, must be treated as fraud. In the near future, a nuanced version of that understanding will be written into federal law. The scientific community is the great loser in Climategate.

May 15, 2010 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Chuckles

I fear the error in attribution is mine, and I apologize. It was indeed Raven's comment. That will teach me to blog from bed in the morning.

May 15, 2010 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBanjoman0

Fudge or fraud? Why not just call it wrong?

Wikipedia has a good description of fudge factors and be sure to catch James Lovelock’s comment at the end. "Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science. I'm not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly. It's the one thing you do not ever do. You've got to have standards."

LOL.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fudge_factor

Or a dictionary version of fudging - ‘to cheat or welsh’, ‘To fake or falsify’

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fudging

Fudging can be acceptable in certain circumstances, but for it to be correct you have to be sure that the relationships are maintained at different values. Fudging involves predictable adjustments not substitution or omission of inconvenient data. Trees are clearly not predictable instruments or mathematical equations and the divergence problem proves that. By removing the deviation from expected results the scientists mislead others on the reliability of those proxies. The Mann fudge isn’t a fudge it’s just wrong.

May 15, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinCO2

Der Speigel:

"But what appeared at first glance to be fraud was actually merely a face-saving fudge: Tree-ring data indicates no global warming since the mid-20th century, and therefore contradicts the temperature measurements. The clearly erroneous tree data was thus corrected by the so-called "trick" with the temperature graphs."

RP: "Face-saving fudge, not fraud. Fair and accurate."


RP's rather dogmatic insistence upon his conclusion bothers me greatly. Obviously:

1] Even granting the dubious excuse that "everyone does" this sort of thing within Academia, the use of Mann's "trick" can in fact be both "face-saving" and "fraud", insofar as the "trick" also involves and affects the real world of policies, actions, and consequences.

Yet it doesn't seem to me that RP acknowledges this otherwise obvious problem with Mann's "trick" - which instead seems to me to constitute even a prima facie case of real fraud perpetrated upon real people outside of Academia - who have never shown any sign of justifying such "tricks" as only just more business as usual when they start having the adverse effects upon their lives which these "tricks" can produce..

2] Internally/methodologically consistent data is identically "valid" data. Therefore, it cannot be selectively "corrected", something which RP should also know.

Therefore, what is bothering me is whether RP is saying he uses this kind of "trick", too, or whether he would at least give a pass to allegedly scientific work wherever such a "trick" is used.

May 15, 2010 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ.Peden

Theo

I made a similar point on RP's blog, but it is waiting to get through the censors. Basically, the Climategate emails indicate the authors knew that the tree ring temperature decline would be a subject of debate, and the "hid-the-decline" trick was specifically used to prevent that debate. It does feel a little strange to call that simple "fudging." "Fraud," perhaps, is a word that should be used much more carefully.

May 15, 2010 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBanjoman0

Banjoman0, RP can take a while to approve posts, but I have never known him to censor criticism. I think he's traveling at the moment (he was in Oxford on Friday) so his approval times might be a bit erratic.

May 15, 2010 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Don't forget that Phil Jones said that the practice of not sharing data was commonplace in his profession, and that no peer reviewer had ever asked to take a look at his data and workings. So it's a pretty cosy club: you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Now we hear that what would be regarded as gross malpractice for scientists and engineers in industry is commonplace and perfectly acceptable in the academic world. Well, scientists in industry and engineers are working in an applied field, making materials, products, structures etc that affect the public. In fields such as astronomy (in my opinion, the most corrupt science), it doesn't matter to any degree whatsoever whether, for example, quasars are near or far objects: there is no effect on this earth.

The problem is that policymakers now in the field of energy planning are relying on papers that in an applied field would be regarded as scientific misconduct. But energy - whether we build nuclear, wind, renewable etc - is an APPLIED field. How can we have the IPCC citing the works of Jones, Briffa, Mann etc to be used by policymakers that can have such devastating consequences to life on earth?

If the Joneses and Manns of this world want to be ivory tower scientists whose work is never used for anything of any earthly use, then my beef would be whether we should be spending so much money funding them. But I really take exception to papers that use 'tricks', statistical, graphical or otherwise, to hide the real state of affairs being used as the basis for public policy.

I think RP Jnr's statement is quite illuminating. There are many scientists and engineers (such as myself, who have spent years working on safety-critical systems) who are scandalized by what we see as gross malpractice in climatology - and we are right to see it. Those working in applied fields don't have the luxury of being able to use Post-Normal Science: we have to do the hard stuff, mindful of public safety lest we make a mistake. We are being labelled 'deniers' because we want to uphold probity and proper scientific process - do science properly and responsibly.

This is an important point: the papers cited in the IPCC process embody fudges and deceits that would be classed as gross professional misconduct in many other fields of science.

May 15, 2010 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Dr. P's comments are interesting to me because over the last few months I've been wondering why CAGW has so many scientists seemingly genuinely tied into it. Clearly they aren't all charlatans, so what could make them so enamoured of a hypothesis that has no observational confirmation. So far I've come up with two possible explanations:

1. The trust each other. There is a great deal of mutual respect between scientists of different disciplines based, rightly, on the belief that no scientist would ever make the evidence fit the hypothesis. They accept that there could be "bad apples" in the scientific community but they are few and far between, so they assume what they're being told is true;

2. The second one I've been gnawing on is the standards they apply to probabilities. I have yet to meet a trained engineer who believes in the CAGW theory and couldn't figure why, until I read that most of the about the probability of CO2 being a major cause of global warming, or the likely outcomes of such warming were around 90%. As an engineer myself is has begun to dawn on me that probabilities of 90% are not probabilities at all to an engineer. 90% is a guess, in seems to me that in most engineering disciplines the starting point for reality is around 99% and the goal is 99.999% for some and much greater for those building rockets and aeroplanes. Engineers are taught to be cautious with probabilities because they build systems that have much higher specifications than scientists need for hypotheses. I noticed this when I had a blood pressure test and the doctor announced that I had highish blood pressure, my first instinct would have been to check that again, but the doc seemed satisfied with one reading.

Anyway some of my suspicions have now been confirmed by Dr. P's seeming acceptance of scientists fudging their work to get the desired result. I do hope nobody at Boeing is taking his advice. I bet he does too.

May 15, 2010 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I wanted to note also that the Der Speigel article had no mention whatsoever of the Scientific Method, except indirectly in reporting the Parliamentary Committee's finding of inadequate data and method release/access. Imo, this fact is significant, and Journalists should be directed to the Scientific Method's requirements as showing the most critical failure of Climate Science qua real science. I haven't been able to get any CAGW proponent in blog comment debates to even write "Scientifc Method", e.g., in response to something like, "Do you support the use of the requirements of the Scientific Method in the practice of Climate Science." They simply don't respond. The word "Scientific Method" seems to have been taboo'd.

May 15, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ.Peden

""everybody does it" is a valid excuse, what does that tell us...?"

That everyone is five years old?

May 15, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterD. King

Thinking some more about it, I think there is a fundemental paradox when communicating uncertainty in that two core values of communication--clarity and honesty--are in conflict. Hiding uncertainty makes the gist of the message clearer. So the effort to be clear may make you dishonest. And making the uncertainty clear doesn't necessarity help, since that may hide uncertainty about uncertainty.

May 15, 2010 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDagfinn

I agree with many above in discussing the apparent standards deemed acceptable in academia and those used in industry. As a worker in the nuclear industry, everything was open to everybody to examine, and everybody was able to challenge anything. The dishonesty and fraudulent behaviour of these climate scientists is abhorrent to me. They should be drummed out of science. They have no place in science and they definitely should not be involved in teaching the next generation of students. They are totally untrustworthy. They bring shame on the name of science.

May 15, 2010 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It's false to think that fudging only occurs in academia and never in industry. See Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" for the institutionalised fudging performed by drug companies. And isn't Boiron (homeopathy) also industry?

The real point is that, given the stakes, everything that goes on at HadCrut and Giss should be in the open and under the scrutiny of all. They should not be allowed to act like a commercial industrial company.

May 15, 2010 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterO'Geary

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