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Was Russell a public appointment?

We know that UEA have claimed that their agreement to take on the services of Sir Muir Russell was by way of a public appointment rather than a contract. We also know that Edinburgh University signed a contract with a body called the "Muir Russell Review Group". Under this contract they provided the services of Professor Peter Clarke for the duration of the review.

Putting these two facts together means that the Muir Russell Review Group (MRRG) should be a public body for the purposes of FOI legislation.

David Holland writes to say that he has sent an FOI request direct to Sir Muir Russell as head of MRRG. Should be interesting...


Another false prediction

Hot on the heels of Anthony Watts' discovery that the predictions of climate refugees have turned out to be nonsense, here's a story about a prediction made by ABC television about corals.

According to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, 10 per cent of the world's reefs were lost by 1992. 27 per cent were lost by the year 2000. And it's expected 40 per cent will be gone by 2010.

Guess what has happened to corals since...



Singh it again

The comments have been reinstated on Simon Singh's blog. Good-oh!

(H/T Matthu in unthreaded)


Desmog and facts

There's a very funny article by Emma Pullman at Desmog, looking at a GWPF article discussing the list of 900 sceptic papers that is currently doing the rounds. Ms Pullman is not impressed noting:

Sourcewatch's digging reveals [GWPF's] links to right-wing libertarian climate change deniers.

This is the organisation which includes a bunch of Labout peers on its board, right? I mean, if you look down their lists of board members Lords Barnett, Donoghue, and Baroness Nicholson are all of the left. Lawson is the only Tory on the board. I guess Ms Pullman forgot to mention left-wing climate change deniers.

Then there's this:

The GWPF's director is the Heartland Institute's Benny Peiser.

I wasn't aware that Benny worked for Heartland - I had always thought he worked for GWPF and a brief googling of the situation confirms that this is indeed the case. The source for Ms Pullman's contrary claim seems to be that Benny is on a list of global warming experts on the Heartland Institute website. His presence on the list seems to have been prompted by his appearance at the institute's 2009 conference. These details are apparently enough for Ms Pullman to describe him as the  "Heartland Institute's...". I find it simply astonishing that anyone can play so fast and loose with the facts. Do these people have no shame?

Then we come to the meat of the article. Ms Pullman has discovered that some of the people who wrote these 900 sceptical papers are, wait for it, sceptics. Ms Pullman describes this revelation as "pretty incriminating". At this point I lost the will to read on. Really - is this the best they can do?


The Royal Society and openness

Remember how we all cheered the Royal Society when Phil Trans Roy Soc B forced Keith Briffa to release the Yamal data? At last a journal with some integrity, some adherence to the principles of the scientific method, we all said.

This was why Briffa's hand was forced: a policy on openness that had no wriggle room for those who might think about cheating (my bold):

As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article.

Interestingly the Royal Society now has a new policy on openness (my bold):

To allow others to verify and build on work published in Royal Society journals; authors must make all reasonable efforts to make materials, data, statistical tools and associated protocols available to readers. Authors must disclose upon submission of the manuscript any restrictions on the availability of materials or information. We recognize that discipline-specific conventions or special circumstances may occasionally apply, and we will consider these in negotiating compliance with requests.


After publication, all reasonable requests for data and/or materials must be fulfilled. Authors may charge reasonable costs for time and materials involved in any such transfer.

[Postscript: I was able to retreive the original policy via the Wayback Machine - a wonderful tool for finding lost pages from the web. Interestingly, Royal Society Publishing now appears to have blocked robots.txt, preventing the Wayback Machine from taking snapshots in future.]



Anthony Watts has a completely brilliant post about the UN's, umm, mistaken claims about climate refugees. What a shower!



Skeptical Science on the divergence problem

Richard Muller is taking flak from both sides, which I guess was inevitable when such a prominent figure enters the climate fray accompanied by a great deal of media attention. The latest set of potshots has come from Skeptical Science, which has posted a new article this morning looking at some of the things it says Muller got wrong in his widely reported lecture on "hide the decline".

A couple of things interested me about the Skeptical Science article or, more precisely, its companion piece published at the end of last month. In this piece, I'm going to discuss the article's consideration of the divergence problem:

...the decline in tree-ring density is not a hidden phenomena - it's been openly discussed in the peer-reviewed literature since 1995 (Jacoby 1995) and was also discussed in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) and Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).


Click to read more ...


Voodoo correlations

I found this paper via David Colquohoun, who is part of the "official sceptic" world of Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre et al. Despite that, and the despite the fact that it focuses on neuroscience, it somehow seems very relevant to climate science, although I'm too tired to quite put a finger on it at the moment.

A recent set of articles in Perspectives on Psychological Science discussed inflated correlations between brain measures and behavioral criteria when measurement points (voxels) are deliberately selected to maximize criterion correlations (the target article was Vul, Harris, Winkielman, & Pashler, 2009). However, closer inspection reveals that this problem is only a special symptom of a broader methodological problem that characterizes all paradigmatic research, not just neuroscience. Researchers not only select voxels to
inflate effect size, they also select stimuli, task settings, favorable boundary conditions, dependent variables and independent variables, treatment levels, moderators, mediators, and multiple parameter settings in such a way that empirical phenomena become maximally visible and stable. In general, paradigms can be understood as conventional setups for producing idealized, inflated effects. Although the feasibility of representative designs is restricted, a viable remedy lies in a reorientation of paradigmatic research from the visibility of strong effect sizes to genuine validity and scientific scrutiny.


When is a contract not a contract?

This is a guest post by David Holland

At its simplest a contract is an agreement between two or more people that is enforceable at law. As I understand it there must be an offer, an acceptance, and what is called a “consideration”, usually money. Of course, what you do for a fee still has to be legal.

In 2010, I had requested the correspondence of Russell panel members Boulton and Clarke. Although Boulton was no longer an employee of the university he continued to use university facilities, including its email server. His correspondence should therefore have been disclosable under the Environmental Information Regulations. Clarke however, remained an employee and, as a subsequent FOI request revealed, his time was not contracted to UEA or to Russell, but to a separate legal person:

Sir Muir Russell Review Group, Box 18, 196 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 4AT

Click to read more ...


Josh 94


Shub on Singh

Shub wonders whether Simon Singh was on James Delingpole's side in his recent Press Complaints Commssion spat with UEA.

Simon Singh must be aware, by now that the ‘denier-numpty’ columnist and blogger, James Delingpole, belonging to the alternate non celebrity-infested world of climate scepticism, has been pursued vigourously by the University of East Anglia, in almost the exact same manner as Singh was by the British chiropractors. Just as Singh did with the chiropractors, Delingpole gave Professor Phil Jones of the University a few choice names — “FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method-abusing”. Delingpole cannot pronounce his hyphenated descriptors of Phil Jones or the Jones-run epicentre of climate controversy and data prison - the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the University felt in turn. They lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Comission.

The analogy is, of course, not exact - a complaint to the PCC being a different beast to a libel suit. A better comparison would of course have been the pursuit of Tim Ball by various climatologists. Dr Singh will no doubt want to contribute to Prof Ball's legal defence fund here.


Another HSI sighting

The Hockey Stick Illusion is cited in a forthcoming book chapter by Seth Roberts.

Nowadays blogs show the innovative power of free time. There are millions of bloggers; almost none make a significant amount of money. This leaves them free to say whatever they want. In Italy, the blogger Beppe Grillo has exerted substantial anti-corruption pressure on the government (Mueller, 2008). The Canadian blogger Steve McIntyre has had an enormous effect on the global debate about climate change. His requests for archived data led to Climategate. His examination of the famous hockey-stick graph led to its dismissal (Montford, 2010). He did this work during his free time.

The book is Roberts, S. (in press). How economics shaped human nature: A theory of human evolution. In S. Cai & N. Beltz (Eds.), Mind and Cognition. Beijing: Springer.


A souvenir of Chile

Watch President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic collect a souvenir of Chile

H/T Lubos


Peer-to-peer review

From the Chronicle of Higher Education via here and here.

Open peer review—which gives anyone who’s interested a chance to weigh in on scholarly content before it’s published—just got an institutional boost. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given New York University Press and MediaCommons a $50,000 grant to take a closer look at open, or peer-to-peer (P2P), review, the press announced today. MediaCommons is a digital scholarly network hosted by the NYU Libraries and affiliated with the Institute for the Future of the Book.



Muller again

Pielke Jnr has a partial transcript of Richard Muller's radio interview yesterday.

CONAN: Do you find that, though, there is a lot of ideology in this business?

Prof. MULLER: Well, I think what's happened is that many scientists have gotten so concerned about global warming, correctly concerned I mean they look at it and they draw a conclusion, and then they're worried that the public has not been concerned, and so they become advocates. And at that point, it's unfortunate, I feel that they're not trusting the public. They're not presenting the science to the public. They're presenting only that aspect to the science that will convince the public. That's not the way science works. And because they don't trust the public, in the end the public doesn't trust them. And the saddest thing from this, I think, is a loss of credibility of scientists because so many of them have become advocates.

CONAN: And that's, you would say, would be at the heart of the so-called Climategate story, where emails from some scientists seemed to be working to prevent the work of other scientists from appearing in peer-reviewed journals.

Prof. MULLER: That really shook me up when I learned about that. I think that Climategate is a very unfortunate thing that happened, that the scientists who were involved in that, from what I've read, didn't trust the public, didn't even trust the scientific public. They were not showing the discordant data. That's something that - as a scientist I was trained you always have to show the negative data, the data that disagrees with you, and then make the case that your case is stronger. And they were hiding the data, and a whole discussion of suppressing publications, I thought, was really unfortunate. It was not at a high point for science.

And I really get even more upset when some other people say, oh, science is just a human activity. This is the way it happens. You have to recognize, these are people. No, no, no, no. These are not scientific standards. You don't hide the data. You don't play with the peer review system.

It's good to see Muller banging on about "hide the decline": the scientific establishment and prominent science commentators have, for the most part, maintained a deafening silence on the subject - something that does them no credit.

If you have climbed to the very top of the scientific tree you get responsibility as well as power. That responsibility includes the duty to stand up and speak out when scientists misbehave, particularly where public policy is involved. Fence-sitting, diplomatic silences and vague allusions to "problems" are not sustainable approaches for these people to take. Eventually the truth will get out and then the public will ask "Who knew?" and "Why weren't we told?". Many reputations will then be on the line. Muller's will not be one of them.