Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Academics who have purposely hidden data have committed scientific fraud"

The Washington Times presents an account describing a theft of email from a university (U East Anglia), which email suggested problematic behavior by a variety of professors at East Anglia and elsewhere:

It was announced Thursday [19 Nov 09] afternoon that computer hackers had obtained 160 megabytes of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England. Those e-mails involved communication among many scientific researchers and policy advocates with similar ideological positions all across the world. Those purported authorities were brazenly discussing the destruction and hiding of data that did not support global-warming claims.

Of specifics:

Among his e-mails, Mr. Jones talked to Mr. Mann about the "trick of adding in the real temps to each series ... to hide the decline [in temperature]."

Mr. Mann admitted that he was party to this conversation and lamely explained to the New York Times that "scientists often used the word 'trick' to refer to a good way to solve a problem 'and not something secret.' "

Another professor at the Climate Research Unit, Tim Osborn, discussed in e-mails how truncating a data series can hide a cooling trend that otherwise would be seen in the results. Mr. Mann sent Mr. Osborn an e-mail saying that the results he was sending shouldn't be shown to others because the data support critics of global warming.

The Times story concludes:

We don't condone e-mail theft by hackers, though these e-mails were covered by Britain's Freedom of Information Act and should have been released. The content of these e-mails raises extremely serious questions that could end the academic careers of many prominent professors. Academics who have purposely hidden data, destroyed information and doctored their results have committed scientific fraud. We can only hope respected academic institutions such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Arizona and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst conduct proper investigative inquiries.

Within a New York Times story are comments by Judith Curry, a researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology:

"In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and 'tribalism' in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process."

Elsewhere in the Times story:

Much more important are the e-mails showing attempts to intimidate the editors of journals and the refereed scientific literature."

Messages Pat Michaels [of Cato] objects to include a March 19, 2009, e-mail from CRU Director Phil Jones in which he complains to another scientist about the new editor of Weather, a journal published by the Royal Meteorological Society. "If I don't get him to back down, I won't be sending any more papers to any RMS journals and I'll be resigning from the RMS," Jones writes, in an apparent protest to a change in the journal's guidelines for authors.

JAMES TARANTO of online.wsj, also gets into the peer review issues:

one of the most damning findings in the archives concerns the corruption of the peer-review process.

In one email, under the subject line "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL," Phil Jones of East Anglia writes to Mann: "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow--even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

In another, Mann--discussing a journal that has published a paper by skeptical scientists, puts forward a plan for such a redefinition:

This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the "peer-reviewed literature". Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board...

The scare quotes around "peer-reviewed literature" are Mann's. And it hardly needs to be said that peer review is a sham if papers that present alternative hypotheses are not even allowed into the process.

Of the "freedom of information" business, George Monbiot writes:

When it comes to his handling of Freedom of Information requests, Professor Jones might struggle even to use a technical defence. If you take the wording literally, in one case he appears to be suggesting that emails subject to a request be deleted, which means that he seems to be advocating potentially criminal activity. Even if no other message had been hacked, this would be sufficient to ensure his resignation as head of the unit.

I feel desperately sorry for him: he must be walking through hell. But there is no helping it; he has to go, and the longer he leaves it, the worse it will get. He has a few days left in which to make an honourable exit. Otherwise, like the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, he will linger on until his remaining credibility vanishes, inflicting continuing damage to climate science.

Monbiot on "experts": Hoggan and Littlemore have shown how fossil fuel industries have employed "experts" to lie, cheat and manipulate on their behalf.


In a different wsj.online post,

The response to this among the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science we've got. The proof for this is circular. It's the best, we're told, because it's the most-published and most-cited—in that same peer-reviewed literature.

That text should sound eerily familiar to those in the "patent grant rate debate." That's how Lemley referred to Quillen/Webster (over Clarke) until he did a 180 flip in "Rubber Stamp."

Also in wsj:

Even so, by rigging the rules, they've made it impossible to know how good it really is. And then, one is left to wonder why they felt the need to rig the game in the first place, if their science is as robust as they claim. If there's an innocent explanation for that, we'd love to hear it.

***In the Australian

Peer reviewing is often conducted through a mates' club, and all too often the matter of who gets published and who gets rejected is determined by who you know and where you stand in a particular academic debate.


The politicisation of peer review in the climate-change debate raises issues that concern all scientists. We must depoliticise the peer review system and encourage scientists to think of themselves as disinterested researchers. That does not mean scientists can't have opinions or must not participate in political campaigns. It means that they do not confuse science with ideology. That way, they would not have to worry every time they send an email.


In an editorial, Matthew Schofield of the Kansas City Star writes:

The UEA response, in it's entirely:

"The publication of a selection of the emails and data stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has led to some questioning of the climate science research published by CRU and others. There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation. CRU’s peer-reviewed publications are consistent with, and have contributed to, the overwhelming scientific consensus that the climate is being strongly influenced by human activity. The interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land, and ice mean that the strongly-increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do not produce a uniform year-on-year increase in global temperature. On time-scales of 5-10 years, however, there is a broad scientific consensus that the Earth will continue to warm, with attendant changes in the climate, for the foreseeable future. It is important, for all countries, that this warming is slowed down, through substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Respected international research groups, using other data sets, have come to the same conclusion. (...)"
[by Phil Jones]

IPBiz notes first that it is sad that Matthew Schofield, an editorial columnist for the Star, doesn't know the difference between
--its-- and ==it's==. Second, Schofield's comment --The emails are part of the normal scientific discussion. -- overlooks the part within the emails about subverting FOIA requests. Are strategies to avoid the law "part of the normal scientific discussion"? Schofield, unlike writers for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, ignores the issues raised as to peer review.

See also





**Remember Jan-Hendrik Schon:

Zudem fliegen immer wieder wissenschaftliche Betrügereien mit erfundenen Daten auf, Erfolgsmeldungen wie vom Baron Münchhausen. Deswegen will die Uni Konstanz aktuell dem Physiker Jan Hendrik Schön seinen Doktortitel von 1997 entziehen. Das ist neu und anders als etwa noch vor zehn Jahren. Damals, im bis dahin größten Forschungsskandal mit erfundenen Daten, verloren hauptverantwortliche Ärzte der Ulmer Uniklinik zwar ihre Stellen, aber nicht die Professoren- und Doktortitel.

***One commenter at discovermagazine (Ridahoan ) wrote the following:

We may never know how much of the scandal stemmed from an ideological crusade, and how much was simply ambition to rise in academia. Unfortunately, the current system of reward for scientists, in which their rank is largely determined by a quick perusal of the length and source of a publication list by funding bureaucrats rather than a penetrating analysis of their work by true peers, fosters such shoddy work.

link to the emails


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