Seen elsewhere
Twitter
Support

 

Buy

Click images for more details

Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« McKitrick's new paper | Main | Another nail in the CCS coffin »
Thursday
Jun212012

Boulton says free the data

The Geoffrey Boulton's Royal Society report on Science as an Open Enterprise is published today. The headline findings are, unsurprisingly, that science should be more open with its data:

  • Scientists need to be more open among themselves and with the public and media
  • Greater recognition needs to be given to the value of data gathering, analysis and communication
  • Common standards for sharing information are required to make it widely usable
  • Publishing data in a reusable form to support findings must be mandatory
  • More experts in managing and supporting the use of digital data are required
  • New software tools need to be developed to analyse the growing amount of data being gathered.

This all sounds well and good, but of course the devil is in the detail. I wondered about this next bit for example, part of the section on computer simulations:

In principle, simulations whose conclusions have major implications for society should be assessable by citizens. However, simulations such as those that evaluate the operation of cities as a basis for planning or that simulate the operation of climate and environmental systems and forecast their futures, are often highly complex, and only truly assessable by experts. Nonetheless, it is important that the operation and output of simulations where major public interest is at stake should be set out in ways that expose problematic issues and identify levels of uncertainty both in their forecasts and in their implications for policy. Efforts of bodies such as the Climate Code Foundation in improving the transparency and public communication of the software used in climate science are important in this regard.

The words "in principle" seem important. Boulton is suggesting that where a computer model is big and complex enough, the public are just going to have to accept the scientists' word that they are right. Since government-funded academics are always going to have access to more computing power than Joe Public, it will therefore always be impossible to show that published results of such simulations are actually produced by the code.

One can reasonably wonder whether public policy should be informed by any research for which the data and code are not freely available, but it seems to me that it might be possible to sidestep the issue: the public could demand, as an minimum, that such simulations demonstrate predictive power - forecasting, not hindcasting - before they are adopted as tools of public policy. The alternative is to make scientists legally liable for their professional advice, in the same way as engineers or other professionals are.

Unfortunately, Boulton's report does not consider issues such as these, but in any case, there is no reason that the computer code underlying large computer simulations should not be made available, and Boulton's bleating about complexity seems like a smokescreen to me - complexity is usually not a problem for crowdsourcing efforts.

Boulton also raises the spectre of intellectual property rights. This is, frankly, an insulting argument. If global warming is the existential threat that Boulton and others involved in the climate field have said it is, they should have no objections to waiving any expectations of IPR. To suggest otherwise seems extremely revealing to me. As someone said the other day, on the day when alarmist climatologists start to look as if they are taking global warming seriously then maybe the rest of us will.

Digging further, you find that the report recommends placing data in online repositories "where data justify it". Reasonable people would be justified in being worried. However, there is also this recommendation:

As a condition of publication, scientific journals should enforce a requirement that the data on which the argument of the article depends should be accessible, assessable, usable and traceable through information in the article. This should be in line with the practical limits for that field of research. The article should indicate when and under what conditions the data will be available for others to access.

This sounds much more solid, but again I have my doubts. In the wake of Climategate, I contacted the Committee on Publication Ethics, an umbrella body for scientific journals, suggesting that they try to formulate a policy on data availability (as well as one on inappropriate approaches to journal editors) for their members. However, two and a half years later, and despite several reminders, they have yet to get round to considering the issue. I will not therefore hold my breath waiting for journals to deal with the data availability issue.

The report also mentions Climategate at one point, in terms that are largely unobjectionable:

The potential loss of trust in the scientific enterprise through failure to recognise the legitimate public interest in scientific information was painfully exemplified in the furore surrounding the improper release of emails from the University of East Anglia. These emails suggested systematic attempts to prevent access to data about one of the great global issues of the day - climate change. The researchers had failed to respond to repeated requests for sight of the data underpinning their publications, so that those seeking data had no recourse other than to use the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to request that the data be released.

The report seems to contain many pious words, but raises as many questions as it answers. I have little sense that it will bring about any great change.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (46)

"Improper release of emails" and "those seeking data had no recourse other than to use the Freedom of Information Act" are both far more honest statements than I would have expected.

Must remember to keep for cut&pasting in response to vexatious FOI arguments. Nice to see a backtrack from 'hacking' as well.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

"New software tools need to be developed to analyse the growing amount of data being gathered."

Managers with poor understanding of the things they are responsible for often believe that "new software tools" will solve their problems when their problems are really due to poor training and supervision of staff and ill-defined and chaotic business processes. Technical solutions to non-technical problems don't work.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) are probably the ones most relevant for policy. I have always been willing to make my IAM (PAGE) available to others who want to make runs using their own assumptions. I believe Bill Nordhaus and Richard Tol have gone one step further and posted their models on the net, although you would have to ask them to be sure.

@cwhope

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hope

Eric Raymond, open source software advocate, more or less formulated the way that this research - which is more or less funded by taxpayers - should be open sourced - i.e. the tools and data (which again we paid for) should be made freely available.

He did this 3 years go. - http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1436

Seems a long time for the scientists to catch up.

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

The researchers had failed to respond to repeated requests for sight of the data underpinning their publications, so that those seeking data had no recourse other than to use the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to request that the data be released.

That's a more accurate description of events than provided by Nature or the Muir Russell report.

Jun 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

Footnote mention of Climate Audit on page 40.

At the other extreme, there is a small, but increasingly numerous body of engaged “citizen scientists” that wish to dig deeply into the scientific data relating to a particular issue. They are developing an increasingly powerful “digital voice,” though many lack formal training in their area of interest... Some ask tough and illuminating questions, exposing important errors and elisions.102 - 102 McIntyre S (2012). Climate Audit. Available at: www.climateaudit.org/

They mention BOINC, Galaxy Zoo and fold.it "above the fold" in the running text.

"Citizen scientist" is not a term that I particularly like or find appropriate. And as to formal training, the main Climate Audit commenters have formal training in statistics, while the authors of the papers being criticized often appear either not to have had such formal training or at least not in the depth of the CA commenters. -

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

To follow on from Steve McIntyre's post above, I would add that there are a lot of "citizen programmers", and I am sure that some of them would be very interested in examining the program code of things like climate models.

From what I have read so far, I suspect that there are many interested citizens who have a great deal more experience and knowledge of the problems of large and complex software systems than climate scientists. Validation and verification of computer models is a key area and I consider that an important piece of auditing work could be done on this, if the relevant code were freely available.

Jun 21, 2012 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Edwards

Getting the Royal Society to move -- even this much -- is about as difficult as extracting teeth since they have in the past been very far away from any degree of even handedness. The "citizen scientist" label is a bit cheap since I suspect that dozens and dozens of the frequenters of the Bishop-Hill or Climate audit forums have Ph.D.s or masters degrees in engineering or science or mathematics or all three.

Jun 21, 2012 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTed Swart

@ "more or less" funded by taxpayers (?? !) Please elaborate.

Jun 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

I suspect that dozens and dozens of the frequenters of the Bishop-Hill or Climate audit forums have Ph.D.s or masters degrees in engineering or science or mathematics or all three.
But the point is, Ted, they don't work for the guvmint or a university (not a lot different these days) so they're not "one of us" or "part of the team" and they "don't know the rules".
If you're not part of the Ivory Tower élite then you are beyond the pale.
I'm afraid to say that attitude exists well beyonds the bounds of climate science!

I think the term "citizen scientists" is an attempt by Boulton (quite possibly against his natural instincts!) to acknowledge the potential contribution made by just those "dozens and dozens" you refer to, many of whom have a good enough grounding in a branch of the sciences to at least know when something smells wrong and bring their concerns to the attention of others of the same mind.
I suppose it must be extremely galling for any expert suddenly to discover that his speciality is not so special after all but I'm afraid that the internet means he is just going to have to learn to live with it.

Jun 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

This comment has been consigned to moderator hell at Climate Audit. I have no idea why.

"It would appear that this particular institution is slowing waking up to the Army of Davids. http://www.amazon.com/An-Army-Davids-Technology-Government/dp/1595550542

They still haven’t figured out that the Davids, as a crowd, total far more training, experience, and intelligence than the few Goliaths they try to prop up in front of the curtain to impress us.

Not sure the Royal Society actually gets it, but at least we know they are rubbing the bruises and starting to figure out who’s responsible for them.

Jun 21, 2012 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

I've only skim-read it so far, but am very pleasantly surprised. It seems to support full open data access and indeed funding to expedite it. It appears to condemn the stiff-arming culture by certain academics.

Coming from this Society,chaired by this person, acknowledgement of Steve's work in particular and citizen sciece in general is hugely significant. I don't regard 'Citizen Scientist' as derogatory - much of science historically sprang from such people- but just as shorthand for those outside the community of publically funded academics (despite the rather pretentious, condescending and largely false 'though many lack formal training in their area of interest').

Jun 21, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Citizen Kulaks.
==========

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Ted, half way down the amazing Reader Background thread at Jeff Id's blog I have a comment saying there are over 30 science PhDs there; now there are over 40. Not to mention those who 'only' have a BSc or MSc.
Mike J, a few of the BH/CA crowd with PhDs do work at universities!

Stan, comments with links often get lost at CA.

The Report is long - too long - and I haven't read it all, but the main recommendations look good. The admission in such an official document that CA is "exposing important errors" is a significant step.

Jun 21, 2012 at 10:36 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It was evident from contributions other than Boulton's at the inaugural consultative meeting for this at the Southbank Centre on 8th June last year that it was going to be impossible to hold the line on the climate front. (Thanks Josh for encouraging me to go to that one when it had seemed pointless!) Stephen Emmott of Microsoft Research was particularly forthright about the climate case from the platform and Doug Keenan was devastating from the floor. And we shouldn't forget Fred Pearce's excellent contribution in November, courtesy of Index of Censorship, Secrecy in science – an argument for open access, leading up to IoC's Data debate, at which David Colquhoun and George Monbiot were again trenchant in the right direction.

It's been evident the intellectual tide has been turning, thanks Steve's citizen experts. But the Bish is right that the openness of GCMs is the crucial step - one that Emmott of Microsoft had been determinedly banging his head against. I have proposed that it ain't openness unless not only the code and starting data is open but that published results (such as in an IPCC report) can be replicated on a machine that is affordable. Affordable remains to be defined but this seems to me the critical step, akin to successfully running the full test suite of a large open source project in other fields before you start to tinker yourself.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

we now have an answer to the "old white men" obsession by Corner and others.

in order to speak up against climate change madness you're greatly helped if you're :

(a) old enough to have been through a few unwarranted scares already, and to have a thick skin able to withstand the abuse thrown your way by fundamentalists

(b) white enough to have been sent to science and technical schools up to the late 70s, when unfortunately horrible prejudices of all sort kept non-whites away from universities

(c) man enough to take the abuse as a mark of pride, especially because men don't get the same kind of abuse an outspoken woman gets; and to have been sent to science and technical schools etc etc (repeat above argument replacing "non-whites" with "women")

this also explains why among my real-world acquaintances, a self-selected group of 200-300 because as an IT consultant in the City you only get to work with a restricted section of society, mostly men with university degrees, the number of rabid warmists is TWO.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Paul Matthews
I was, I confess, being a bit "generic" in my comment. No offence intended to those who do valuable work educating our young men and women or push the bounds of scientific knowledge to good purpose (and to be fair that must include people like Sir Paul Nurse!).
But there is a sort of cocoon syndrome with many who cannot see beyond their own field of research and who actively resent what they consider interference in their speciality by those who are less well qualified (or even differently qualified).
In some ways I sympathise. The internet is forcing them out of that cocoon and it's hard to adapt to the need to interact beyond the small group (couple of dozen, maybe) who are working in the same field. But, to fire off another round of clichés, you can't put the genie back in the bottle and life will never be the same again!

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:02 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Another sign. Try doing the "Are you scientifically literate" quiz at the rabidly-warmist Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/1209/Are-you-scientifically-literate-Take-our-quiz/

I did 44 right out of 50 (two were silly mistakes). This doesn't mean I'm ready for Brains of Britain, rather that journalists don't expect much from their readers, and dream of a world where they both are caught in a spiral of not being scientifically literate.

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Before throwing a hissy fit at the 'citizen scientist' label, it is reasonable to take into account the report's summary comment on the subject:

'The growth of the citizen science movement could turn out to be a major shift in the social dynamics of science, in blurring the professional/amateur divide and changing the nature of the public engagement with science. Free or affordable access to scientific journals and data would provide important encouragement to the movement'

What's so bad about that?

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

There's a lot good about that, Jon - thanks to generalists (in the open knowledge sense) as Cameron Neylon, a physicist at Rutherford Lab, and the man that put me on to Cameron in 2010, Glyn Moody. Steve's dislike of the term I also completely understand. Kudos to Glyn Moody that alone among the open gurus I was trying to get together in 2010 to look at the climate situation he had the guts to actually meet with Steve. Fred Pearce's willingness to engage with Him Who Could Not Be Named has also paid major dividends. The day Boulton and Nurse meet with Steve and make sure climate walks the walk as well as talks the talk is a day we'll know there's real progress on the 'biggest crisis mankind has ever had to face' and the small matter its scientific verification.

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The problem with "citizen scientist" and the pro/amateur divide is that these concepts only exist in the constipated minds of fools without any understanding of the history of science. It sounds as clueless as some sports official admitting that he's just figured out that it is possible for someone to be an outstanding athlete even if he didn't spend his teen years at some national training program. (Yep, he just showed up and he runs real fast. No team doctors, nutritionists, coaches, trainers, psychologists, or anything! Imagine that. Other than the entire course of human history, we've never seen anything like it before.)

I don't think that a person who truly understood the nature of scientific advancement would even think in terms of a notion like "citizen scientist".

Jun 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

But Stan (and I'm C/P-ing here: but the criticism is repeated too...), they are stating without qualification that (repeating the salient bit once more):

''The growth of the citizen science movement could turn out to be a major shift in the social dynamics of science, in blurring the professional/amateur divide'.

Why so glum? Surely this is exactly what you want? Clearly there is a categorical difference between people who are professional scientists, and everyone else: like, you 'citizen soldiers' and 'professional soldiers'. Citizen soldiers are just as likely to be good at soldiering as anyone else. And equally clearly, the report indicates that the distinction between professional and non-professional scientists will blur if the non-professionals are given equal access to all the data and all the research.

You're entitled to feel unhappy as you see fit: but why not big up and acknowledge a good thing.

Jun 22, 2012 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

Jon, you've replied to stan, who makes a wider historical point that I think raises the stakes too much for our current concerns, but not to me.

Can I take it that you agree with me that Steve has every reason to dislike the term citizen scientist, given the disgraceful way he, Ross McKitrick and other expert statisticians associated with Climate Audit have been fobbed off and patronized by the climate fraternity since 2003. The world of climate science has yet to live up to this excellent paragraph in a report published just yesterday. Until it does - and Boulton has shown no sign of an appetite to ensure that it does - then I for one am keeping the champagne on ice.

Jun 22, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Of the 11 members of the working group, 5 had a medical background and therefore come from areas where commercial and confidentiality concerns are valid. That they produced a document relevant to climate change research, where these issues are not applicable, is to be welcomed. If their 10 recommendations were to be applied (one of which mentions data related to ‘negative or null’ results – Briffa please note) it would mark a big step forward.

I know that Steve McIntyre is mentioned specifically but I think in the context of this report the term ‘citizen scientist’ is more likely to refer to someone investigating the side effects of statins as someone taking on the climate establishment.

In reality there is no such thing as a ‘climate scientist’ it is too wide a topic to be encompassed by an individual. There are rather scientists in specific areas, atmospherics physics, ocean chemistry, data management, statisticians, etc, who have applied their skills to climate research. Many of the people who are questioning some aspects of claims of the climate establishment are also professional scientists who applied themselves in different but related fields. I for example am a hydrologist and have been working with climate data all my professional life and I imagine many others, who have perhaps have their own web sites or pop up frequently with technical comments on blogs, have similar profiles.

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon


I have proposed that it ain't openness unless not only the code and starting data is open but that published results (such as in an IPCC report) can be replicated on a machine that is affordable.

Given the data and access to the source code, what is it that makes it impossible to run the software on an affordable machine? The mid-range Mac I bought last week has considerably more grunt than the huge beasts I used to develop code for only 10 or 15 years ago. Moore's Law is still our friend.

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Registered Commenterthrog

"Citizen scientist" sounds like "citizen breather"

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I didn't reply because you didn't say anything that seemed to require it, not because I intended any slight.

Climatology is not all of science; the Royal Society is not coterminous with 'the climate fraternity' (which itself does not consist only of scientists, if I understand the use of this term correctly, nor yet encompasses the whole diverse category of professional scientists and historians engaged in research connected with the study of climate); and finally, most importantly, this report is not /all/ about climatology.

I understand the grievances that people have in connection with climate studies but I simply don't see what problem there is with this report, in itself. Or understand how exactly did the term 'citizen' is now pejorative? (Just imagine the furore if they had referred to non-professional scientists as 'amateurs'). Give me a better term, one that would serve just as well with reference to people with special interests in the other areas specifically identified in the report (GM crops, nanotechnology, HIV/ AIDS), and I'll be happy to adopt it myself.

What seems to me to matter here is that the Royal Society has officially and publicly stated that science benefits from the activities of non-professionals, and that their activities would be enhanced by access to data and research available freely or more readily to salaried specialists. In times in which professional gate-keeping has become the accepted norm in most fields of enquiry or expertise (often with good reason, I think we must admit: who wants a Citizen Oncologist or an Untrained but Committed Amateur Dentist?), it is frankly an extraordinary and arresting statement, and in my opinion it is a wee bit disingenuous and graceless not to admit it. The concluding statement in the passage in question supplies all the information you need to infer that 'Civilian Scientist' is not intended to be demeaning, and is meant in a way that is very far indeed from patronising.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

Jon Grove:

I didn't reply because you didn't say anything that seemed to require it, not because I intended any slight.

I didn't care about any slight, intentional or otherwise. I care because I did say something that required a response. Because climate was the elephant in the room as the Royal Society set up this working group and within the elephant-shaped room that is climate Steven McIntyre himself is the elephant. That's the say I see it. That's the way Paul Nurse saw it by the time he'd had the pleasure of interaction with Doug Keenan and myself on 8th June 2011 - and that was the way he saw it before that, I'll wager. We all know - Cameron Neylon knew when I talked to him at the end - that the climate case was the whole reason for the urgency of this report. Well, OK, 99% of the reason. And so we take our slights seriously in climate, because behind the little slights has been a ruthless political campaign to bring disaster to the poor. At least that's the way I look at it.

But today I'm working hard on a project using open source libraries on GitHub. Citizen graft. Great work, Montford and McIntyre.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

throg: ask Richard Betts or Judy Curry. The results of GCMs published by the IPCC keep the largest supercomputers on the planet busy all the time, so we are told - or something close. We need a massive change to rectify this situation. And Moore's Law helps.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I wonder if this more respectful tone is an indication that someone has finally told them to smarten up.

And they are now atoning - albeit indirectly - for their shoddy and shady involvement in Oxburgh & Muir Russell (as exposed by our host and Ross McKitrick in their respective excellent critiques). We could add to this, Andrew's more recent chronology of the descent of the RS into highly inappropriate advocacy.

Although I doubt that either Boulton or the RS would acknowledge such influences, perhaps this is a sign that the tide may be turning. Speaking of which ...

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Richard Drake

we'll know there's real progress on the 'biggest crisis mankind has ever had to face' and the small matter its scientific verification.

Richard, you may be a little behind the times. In the Rio "outcome document" climate change appears to have been down-graded. Apart from receiving only 22 mentions in this 53 page document, In paragraph 25, it almost gets buried in a bureaucratic word-salad:

We acknowledge that climate change is a cross-cutting and persistent crisis and express our concern that the scale and gravity of the negative impacts of climate change affect all countries and undermine the ability of all countries, in particular, developing countries, to achieve sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals and threaten the viability and survival of nations. Therefore we underscore that combating climate change requires urgent and ambitious action, in accordance with the principles and provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

And in Paragraph 190, it doesn't even rate being the first among equals;

We reaffirm that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and we express profound alarm that emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise globally. [...] we emphasize that adaptation to climate change represents an immediate and urgent global priority.

Notice the "paradigm" is shifting from "mitigation" (which incidentally gets only two mentions) to "adaptation" (which gets four mentions)

<shameless plug alert>

Rio – the final score: climate change 22, sustainable 400

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Off the top of my head, a few scientists who so far as I know did not even attend university:

- Oliver Heaviside (originator of operational calculus for turning differential equations into algebraic equations, expressed Maxwell's equations in today's vector form, inductive loading of transmission lines for distortionless transmission, postulated radio transmission via the ionosphere)

- William Beaumont (physiology of digestion)

- Humphry Davy (discoverer of sodium and potassium)

- Thomas Edison (inventor of incandescant lamp (r.i.p.), carbon microphone, numerous other inventions)

- The Wright brothers (aerodynamics, resulting in controlled heavier than air powered flight)

- Michael Faraday (principles of electromagnetic induction)

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I'm not unhappy (although I don't think my happiness is germane to the discussion). I'm trying to make a simple point -- the discussion of "citizen scientists" and amateurs/pros was completely unnecessary. In fact, it has nothing to do with the policy being discussed or the reasons for it.

All scientists (even pros!) should have access to everything necessary to audit or replicate work. This is good for science. Period. And all citizens should have access to science that is either: 1) funded by the public, or 2) used by govt to make policy. This is good for democracy.

There is nothing added to the argument in favor of transparency to get into designations and credentials. It's superfluous.

Note -- I can understand why professional scientists who have been part of the work at Climate Audit would bristle at the idea that they are somehow amateurs when the reality is that they are the stats pros and the so-called climate scientists are the amateurs. That certainly shows that the authors of the study are clueless about the facts.

But my point is different. And that is -- the divide is a silly separation that adds nothing to the argument. So, if it adds nothing, why would they write it? Because they have a certain mindset. And that mindset is instructive.

[btw, the amateur dentist, amateur oncologist silliness above isn't worthy of discussion. If the hockey team was subject to professional standards of occupations that treat humans, they'd have all lost their licenses due to malpractice.]

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Martin A: It's not very helpful from a historical point of view to talk about how open science was back in the day I'm afraid. Judith Curry's career would not have advanced very far in the nineteenth century. And Newton would probably not have prospered if he'd been, say, a Northumbrian miner's son, or from Wales. It's a fair bet that a disproportionate number of the Fellows of the RS are men with public school educations: but you'd need to be a bit careful about making unfair generalisations about them.

Richard: I agree with the more dignified commentators over at Climate Audit who seem to think like Ron that being called a scientist and a citizen in the same breath and being told that professional scientists should make sure you aren't denied have the tools to make a contribution is not self-evidently a demeaning. If you look at the world through stormy spectacles, it'll look grim out there. Cheer up, and see if you can't muster a bit of faith, hope, and charity.

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

Jon Grove,

Suggestion -- if you focused less on the condescension and tried to focus on the discussion, you might be able to add something meaningful. Possibly.

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

I'm not being condescending. I'm trying to say: why read this as a negative when there's no need? It seems like a really important statement to me.

I was not being silly or condescending when I spoke of amateur oncologists: you missed the larger more important point. It's a fact that professionals in all spheres now control the gates to their specialisms more completely than they ever have done before. (The Royal Society, like the British Academy, no longer awards funds to scientists who work outside the academy, I believe.) This is not always a good thing, although in some respects it's understandable. But it is representative of a general drift, which sometimes compromises intellectual progress and openness. In this wider context, the fact that the Royal Society has unambiguously stated that science should not be maintained as a strictly professional preserve is a much more radical statement than you allow. Would you expect any other professional body of similar standing to say anything of the sort? Would you have expected the RS to come out with a statement like this? Would you not have assumed that it was patrolling the old borders if it had not expressly referred to contributions made by non-professional scientists?

BTW, If I were as determined as you to find something to be cross about, I'd be be more interested in exploring what one could construe as a barely concealed association between climate skepticism and those who've voiced sceptical view on GM and HIV, while giving a pat on the head to non-scientists who let other people use their computers. That looks like /much/ more fertile ground for vexation. But I'm not that negative.

Jun 22, 2012 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

Steve McIntyre has a post up generally welcoming this Royal Society effort

http://climateaudit.org/2012/06/21/royal-society-report-on-data-sharing/

Jun 22, 2012 at 5:52 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Jon,

Your obsession with the happiness of others can probably be treated. Be sure to get a 'pro'.

As for my point that you seem incapable or unwilling to address, the failure to engage is noted. Have a nice day.

Jun 22, 2012 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Alright, own up, which one of you lot hacked the RS?

Jun 22, 2012 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I'm not being condescending.

I'm sure you meant to say

Sorry I came across as condescending - that was not my intention.

In which case, apology accepted.

Stan:

All scientists (even pros!) should have access to everything necessary to audit or replicate work. This is good for science. Period. And all citizens should have access to science that is either: 1) funded by the public, or 2) used by govt to make policy. This is good for democracy.

There is nothing added to the argument in favor of transparency to get into designations and credentials. It's superfluous.

Spot on. Well said.

Martin A:

Off the top of my head, a few scientists who so far as I know did not even attend university: ... Michael Faraday (principles of electromagnetic induction)

Skipped to my favourite example. What a guy. But Stan's right, it doesn't matter whether it is Faraday the amateur, McIntyre the auditor or Mann the janitor - or whatever he wants to think he is. Openness is for everyone, by everyone, for the good of everyone. Hey, I'm about to break into the Gettysberg address.

Hilary: I am massively out of date and out of touch. But I passed on your final Rio+20 stat to someone I'm working closely with at the end of the day in London and it led to quite a lively discussion, with someone being drawn in from across the room who has a friend at Rio. She agreed with me that it had been a complete washout. I said good, because the science is bunk, in my normal cheerful way. People seemed to shrug. They were much more interested in my screen saver of the Sarychev volcano eruption from the International Space Station on 12th June 2009. The experts disagree on the cause of the hole in the clouds that made for such a wonderful photo. It's always the clouds that we don't understand. God's clothes, as one of my favourite teachers says.

The scare stuff is over, I think, as far as democratic voters are concerned. The attempt to control the world or, failing that, to make massive, unjust profits is not over. My new friend fully agreed with that too. Keep up the good work.

Jun 22, 2012 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:36 PM Jon Grove

Martin A: It's not very helpful from a historical point of view to talk about how open science was back in the day I'm afraid. Judith Curry's career would not have advanced very far in the nineteenth century. And Newton would probably not have prospered if he'd been, say, a Northumbrian miner's son, or from Wales. It's a fair bet that a disproportionate number of the Fellows of the RS are men with public school educations: but you'd need to be a bit careful about making unfair generalisations about them.

Jon. I think I did not make my point as clearly as I should have. My point was that scientific contributions of the highest quality and significance have been made by people who did not even have the benefit of a university education.

A good education is nothing but a tremendous advantage and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

The notion that only a "trained climate scientist" can have a valid view on whether or not we are heading to climate catastrophe as a result of fossil fuel use is ludicrous in the extreme. Yet this is the view that has endlessly been put across by climate agenda pushers and defenders of "The Team" in attempting to belittle McIntyre's work. Similarly, a justification for denying him access to data by Jones and co was that he was not "an academic".

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:18 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Stan,

/Your/ point, if I have it right, was that 'the pro/amateur divide ... only exist[s] in the constipated minds of fools without any understanding of the history of science'.

/My/ contrary point is that:
A. the RS is a society of absurdly accomplished professional scientists (so I suppose — I haven't checked the entire list for 'citizens') who, I'd hazard a guess, probably know a fair old bit about the history of science, many of whom have contributed directly to the wellbeing of quite a lot of people.
B. You may not like it but the divide to which you allude is a fact. Most scientific research is published by professionals, academic or otherwise. This is no more strange or suspect than the fact that, say, law is professionalised. This tells us more about the way we organise ourselves societally than about science in particular.
C. Given the nature of professional gate-keeping generally, it seems reasonable to admit that it is remarkable that the RS has made this statement. I would have expected something more mealy mouthed. Public statements by official bodies usually make sad reading these days.

I shall take you advice about therapy under consideration. My intellectual constipation is sadly untreatable.

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Grove

@Jon Grove

The label Professional Scientist, as it might be applied to members of the RS, for instance, connotes the assumption that the person in question is sufficiently scrupulous in their practice of the scientific method and has achieved a level skill in the technical and theoretical aspects of their work that their claims can (at least initially) be held above those of the amateur.

The label Citizen Scientist, as used by Boulton, in spite of the fact that his recent report goes some way to acknowledging the truth of the matter, falls short of an honest assessment of the contribution made by SteveM and others, which that SteveM and his like are the closest thing to professional scientists in this debate whilst the RS and the discredited eco-advocacy carpetbaggers in which they have so uncritically place their *faith*, for faith is all it is, are neither professional nor scientific.

You can take Boulton's report as remarkable, if you prefer, but given his, now well known, cynical manipulation of a process that might otherwise have shed some light on these issues, his report is more likely to be yet another cynical manoeuvre on his part as he seeks to position himself closer to, what at any rate he might just to be, the middle ground, as the catastrophist narrative unravels.

Jun 23, 2012 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered Commentereric

Jon,

Others correctly deduced my point. Shame about you.

I wrote: "But my point is different. And that is -- the divide is a silly separation that adds nothing to the argument. So, if it adds nothing, why would they write it? Because they have a certain mindset. And that mindset is instructive."


I think the tip off for them was when they read "my point is". Clever of them to pick up on that. You, not so much. I hope you get that constipation taken care of.

Jun 23, 2012 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

“The alternative is to make scientists legally liable for their professional advice, in the same way as engineers or other professionals”. Unfortunately this is unlikely to provide a real answer as the lawyers will just have a field day with liability disclaimers, without which no scientist would dare to publish anything for fear of liability (particularly if there is potential liability to the state, where the numbers could be huge).

Jun 25, 2012 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterTimC


The results of GCMs published by the IPCC keep the largest supercomputers on the planet busy all the time, so we are told - or something close.

If only we had the source code, we could find out whether that's because (a) these models really do involve significantly complex computation, (b) the software is badly written and/or (c) as is often the case, given the option, people will tend to ask for the biggest, fastest number cruncher that can be squeezed out of the available budget.


We need a massive change to rectify this situation. And Moore's Law helps.

From the little I've seen, I suspect that the only change we actually need is a willingness to publish code and data. Of course, there's a simple way to disprove that particular hypothesis ... ;-)

Jun 26, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Registered Commenterthrog

This report of wise words by the head of the Bank of England somehow made me think of Boulton and his recent words:

'Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King has called for a change in the banking culture, saying that customers have received "shoddy" treatment.

He added that bank leaders had "let down" the many honest and hard working people in the financial sector.

Sir Mervyn's comments come on the day banks were found to have mis-sold financial products to small businesses. '
Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18642732

Are they both masters of detecting which way the wind blows? Are we to expect no more from them than the mere progression and protection of their careers? If they had actually had minds of their own, other than control centres for their own advancement, would they have reached their current positions? If they had and did, how different things might have been!

Jun 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>