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On Nature's data policy

Eli Rabett has challenged my post about Phil Jones claim that publication of his data was prevented by confidentiality agreements. I said that Nature requires authors to make their data available on request.

Eli's says that Nature only instituted this policy in 1997, and that previously the policy was only that:

Nature requests authors to deposit sequence and x-ray crystallography data in the databases that exist for this purpose.

If so then I stand corrected. I'm not sure that it changes anything very much though, because, as we know, CRU have been unable to produce any agreements that would prevent publication, we know that release would have been required under both FOI and EIR, and we know that they distributed data quite happily to scientists who they saw as onside.


Disgruntled science bureaucrats

The science establishment in the UK is somewhat disgruntled by the announcement that one of their senior people inside the civil service is to be replaced by a mandarin rather than another scientist. The kerfuffle is centred on the person of Professor Adrian Smith, a statistician who is responsible for advising the government on where to spend research funds. Smith's role is to be merged with another, and the man to fill the new position is expected to be a civil servant.

John Beddington, the government’s Chief Scientist, told a House of Lords committee hearing that the abolition of the position of Director General of Science and Research (DGSR) at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) “was not discussed with me” and that this was “deeply regrettable”.

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Nature editorial on Climategate

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

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

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


House hearing reports

I didn't get a chance to watch Curry et al. at the House of Representatives yesterday, although I made a start with Lindzen.

Meanwhile, there is a report at Nature's Great Beyond blog.


Raising the temperature

Science writer Francis Sedgemore has entered the climate fray, with a posting that seems calculated to raise the temperature of an overheated debate still further.

Jones may have committed a few minor transgressions, born largely of frustration with political obstructionists and time wasters, but this respected scientist did not deserve being hounded to the edge of his grave. The climate denialists responsible for Jones’ near demise are scum, and for them the writing is on the wall. But it will be scientific evidence that does for them, not threatened knocks at the door in the middle of the night.

Of course, the alleged transgressions were not minor. In particular there were allegations of fraud (not investigated), fabrication (no defence offered) and breaches of freedom of information legislation (not investigated). And of course the allegations of fraud and fabrication had nothing to do with anyone taking up any of Jones' time either.

It's a pity that David Adam's Nature article missed so many of the pertinent questions. It seems now to be misleading people like Sedgemore who are not close enough to the story to make a meaningful contribution. In these circumstances, Sedgemore's aggressive language seems rather foolish.

Note however that there is nothing to be gained by responding in kind.


Another anniversary piece

Marc Sheppard looks back at the last twelve months too. Your humble host is mentioned briefly.

All three examinations took place within the country of physical jurisdiction, Great Britain, and none disappointed those of us anticipating whitewash. Simply stated, all parties were cleared of all wrongdoing other than perhaps sloppy journaling and sophomoric note-passing and all suspensions were lifted.  As Andrew Montford summarized in his report, The Climategate Inquiries:

[T] here can be little doubt that none of [the inquiries] have performed their work in a way that is likely to restore confidence in the work of CRU. None has managed to be objective and comprehensive. None has shown a serious concern for the truth. The best of them – the House of Commons inquiry – was cursory and appeared to exonerate the scientists with little evidence to justify such a conclusion. The Oxburgh and Russell inquiries were worse.



BBC staff overpaid?

This made me laugh. From the BBC CoJo blog:

The estate agents Strutt and Parker have taken a quarter-page ad in the BBC's in-house paper Ariel under the heading: "Relocating to Manchester?"

It offers a single property - "an historic Georgian Manor House with stunning views and far reaching gardens and grounds." About 4.4 acres.  

Beneath the picture of the elegant house, with its long terrace and ha-ha leading down to a beautifully manicured lawn, is the price: "Offers in Excess £1,350,000."

Word has clearly leaked out about how everyone at the BBC is a millionaire.


House hearings today

The US House of Representatives' hearing on climate change is today. The hearings - entitled "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response" - should be fascinating stuff. To add spice to the day's events, those naughty people on Capitol Hill have scheduled Ben Santer and Pat Michaels to appear on the same panel of witnesses. Who can forget Santer's most famous contribution to the CRU emails?

Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I'll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.

Just as well this isn't a scientific meeting.

The hearings start at 10:30am EST, which is 3:30pm in the UK. I haven't located the link for the webcast, but it may well be here.


BBC reaction to Climategate

I hadn't seen this before (H/T to a commenter on the earlier thread) - this is the BBC's Newswatch programme looking at criticisms of Climategate and climate coverage in general, a couple of weeks after the emails appeared in November 2009.

A couple of points to look out for. Firstly there is the BBC manager saying

I can categorically assure you there has not been any such decision [to downplay sceptic views] and any such decision would be entirely at odds with the culture of the organisation. Our job is to pick our way through what is a highly complex scientific discussion and also to do so with a sense of proportion - making sure the full range of voices in these areas are represented.

Just moments later, Richard Black directly contradicts this position by speaking about the decision taken at the seminar to do just that - to downplay sceptic views. Interesting to see reporters on the ground having such a different view of the effect of the seminar to their managers.

The second point that amused me was Richard Black saying that he didn't think the BBC had underplayed Climategate in quantitative terms. I thought this was a surprising thing to say, given that AFAIK Black's first article on Climategate appeared in July, after the publication of the results of the Russell "inquiry".


BBC shy about science review story

Mischievous reader Barry Woods has posted a couple of links to the BBC science review story on Richard Black's BBC blog. Unfortunately the moderators have deemed this kind of thing unacceptable and have removed the links.

It's a pity that one of the BBC's environmental reporters doesn't want to engage with the people who pay his salary on the subject of the BBC's coverage of green issues. It makes him look somewhat aloof, shall we say.


WSJTV on the AGU balance

The American Geophysical Union is putting together a bank of scientists to advise journalists on global warming. Anne Jolis of the Wall Street Journal wonders why it doesn't appear to include any sceptics.


...and now the Guardian

Alok Jha, the Guardian's science podcaster, gets to cover the Climategate anniversary. Jha makes the same mistake as everyone else, asking Jones about the deletion of an email that he didn't receive in the first place.

Also very funny to see the link directly under the title and standfirst:"Attacks on climate science echo tobacco industry tactics".  Alok Jha is not what you might call a rabid warmist, so I think I detect the hand of someone on the editorial side here - perhaps dear old James Randerson, who does like to jazz these things up.


Hulme on Climategate anniversary

Mike Hulme is in the Guardian today, looking at the impact of Climategate, one year on. I'm not sure why everyone is doing their anniversary pieces today - isn't the anniversary tomorrow (or even Thursday)?

Hulme's piece is very thoughtful. I liked this bit particularly:

The simple linear frame of "here's the consensus science, now let's make climate policy" has lost out to the more ambiguous frame: "What combination of contested political values, diverse human ideals and emergent scientific evidence can drive climate policy?" The events of the past year have finally buried the notion that scientific predictions about future climate change can be certain or precise enough to force global policy-making.

I'm not sure that most people on the activist wing of the climate science community are in agreement with the last bit, but if true it's certainly welcome. Also worth saying that it's not obvious to me that the climate is something we really need a policy on at all.


It's Google's fault

Phil Jones also appears in the Telegraph today, where he seems to blame Google for the lack of progress in persuading people of imminent catastrophe:

Prof Jones, 58, blamed the way that research papers are posted on Google for providing people with easy access to long lists of dismissive blog postings by sceptics, while making it difficult to source original research papers that support climate change.

He said: "It’s way down there because of the way Google works. People will potentially get the misinformation first."


Submission to the BBC science review

This posting deals with a project that I have been working on with Tony Newbery of the Harmless Sky blog. Long-term readers will be aware of the story already, but it's all explained if you have only been coming here in the last twelve months. The posting here is a joint one, and has been crossposted at Tony's blog.

Over the last several years, Tony N (Harmless Sky) and I have taken a great deal of interest in the BBC’s coverage of the climate debate, and this has involved a good deal of behind-the-scenes research. So we were obviously interested when the BBC Trust announced in early January this year that they were to conduct a review of the impartiality of their science coverage.

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