Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ClimateGate at the AAAS (San Diego) on 19 Feb 2010

On Friday, February 19, 2010: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM, in Room 6F (San Diego Convention Center), the AAAS had a session touching on topics related to ClimateGate:

Past controversies over historical climate trends and access to research data resurfaced in 2009 after the theft and disclosure of e-mail exchanges among a group of climate scientists. Some subsequent publicity questioned the legitimacy of the scientific consensus on global climate change. Questions also were raised about the conduct of these climate scientists and public expectations of scientists in all fields. This symposium, convened by the NAS and AAAS, focuses on the broad questions of transparency and integrity of climate-change research and all of science. It draws on three highly relevant National Research Council reports: On Being a Scientist, which describes the ethical foundations of scientific practices, and personal and professional issues that researchers encounter; Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age, which calls on researchers to make data, methods, and other information underlying results publicly accessible in a timely manner; and Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Past 2,000 Years, which examined the scientific evidence for paleoclimatic temperature reconstructions. The session will cover topics ranging from the peer review process and the importance of domestic and international scientific assessments to the responsibilities of individual researchers, scientific journals, professional societies, and other groups in developing and implementing rules and procedures for data access and sharing of research methods.

Four academics were on the panel:

Francisco J. Ayala, UC Irvine, The Practice and Conduct of Scientific Research
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard, Science in Society
Gerald R. North, Texas A&M, The Data Behind Climate Research
Phillip A. Sharp, MIT, Data Use and Access Across Disciplines

There currently is some discussion of Gerry North arising from a blog post by Rob Bradley bringing up an analogy based upon Bradley/North work on behalf of Enron.

Bradley apparently wrote a letter to North including the text:

I see that you are going to be part of a panel at the Friday AAAS meeting on Climategate. Some of us fear too much downplaying. You were a consultant for me at Enron for several years on climate science and watched the fall of the company with great interest. So I would like to challenge you to interpret Climategate in terms of the fall of Enron.

Here are some themes from Enron to consider applying.
1) Slippery slopes where small deviations from best practices escalated into problems that were not anticipated at the beginning of the process.
2) A lack of midcourse correction when developing problems were not properly addressed.
3) Old fashioned deceit when the core mission/vision was threatened (for Enron it was ‘to become the world’s leading company’–for Jones et al., it was there is a big warming and a climate problem developing)
4) The (despised) short sellers busted the Enron mirage. Ken Lay at the last employee meeting even likened the short sellers to ‘terrorists” (this was just a few months after 9/11). Question: does mainstream climate science regard Internet ‘peer review’ of Jones et al. like the Enron faithful regarded the short sellers who first discovered the problems of Enron?
5) Enron suffered from the “smartest guys in the room” problem. Does Climategate reveal arrogance and a lack of humility among “mainstream” climate scientists?
6) Denial: we employees were almost all in denial when the problems at Enron first surfaced. Have you and others who are close to the scientists of Climategate been slow to recognize the problem? Has Nature and Science also been slow? If so, What does this say about human nature.
7) Taking responsibility. Skilling and Lay never did and, in fact, they joined together in a legal cartel where the unstated strategy was to not blame each other for anything and sink or swim together. Has this happened, or is it still happening, with Climategate if you believe that scientific protocol and/or legal rules were violated?

In passing, North was one of two expert witnesses in the Penn State investigation of Mann.

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