A new paper by Garud et al (Social Studies of Science, forthcoming) reviews Climategate and analyses some of the sociology involved. The authors conclude that while climatologists - or at least the Hockey Team - were seeking to protect the space in which they operated, their actions actually led to the destabilisation of that space.
In the case of climate science, as concerns multiplied, the approach taken was one of exclusion, which in hindsight appears to be puzzling given that the post-Climategate investigations failed to find evidence of ‘scientific misconduct’ or fraud. In other words, despite having nothing to hide, those involved employed numerous exclusionary tactics, which later misfired.
Ultimately, our analysis suggests that the exclusionary tactics taken to stabilize the climate
science precipitated the Climategate incident that threatened to destabilize the very foundations of climate science by exposing the exclusionary processes through which the infrastructure had emerged. Related to these observations, it is well known that science can become politicized and contentious (e.g., Callon 1986; Gauchat 2012; Sarewitz 2004), which was and continues to be the case with climate science (Grundmann and Stehr 2010; Nerlich 2010; Wynne 2010).
For those of us who have followed Climategate closely, it's hard not to be amused at the authors' comments about the "investigations" and their headscratching over why the exclusionary tactics began. I'm sure that readers here can help them out. Once that "mystery" is resolved the paper actually makes a great deal of sense, and indeed the rest of the analysis seems good to me. For example, this:
From such a perspective, the ongoing process of questioning and probing that we witnessed with so much vigor in the case of Climategate is the very epitome of “science in action” (Latour, 1987). Those who question the conclusions of science (and thereby open up taken-for-granted and black-boxed conclusions) are not releasing unknown evils. Rather, it is only through such critiques that we can find hope, in the form of new possibilities and reconfigurations (Garud and Ahlstrom 1997; Latour 1999). It is at moments such as these, when the results of the scientific enterprise are called into question, that the scientific process is at its best, telling us not what should be done, but opening up new possibilities about what could be done (Singleton 1996).