Closing the Climategate This week marks the first anniversary of the worldwide scandal over the release of e mails stolen from a computer server at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK.
The server was in the university Climatic Research Unit (CRU), most of the correspondents involved were climate scientists and the affair will be forever known as Climategate. The scientist at the centre of the storm, Phil Jones, the head of CRU, tells Nature on page 362 that he feels the worst is behind him. It would be naive for Jones and other scientists to assume that the fuss has passed into history. Never mind that almost all of the accusations thrown at the researchers involved have been proven baseless. Never mind that much of the media has retreated from the aggressive stance it adopted during its first, ask questions later approach to the content of the e mails. And never mind that the scientific basis for the global warming problem remains as solid as it was a year ago. Huge damage has been done to the reputation of climate science, and arguably to science as a whole. That impact deserves to be assessed and the necessary lessons need to be learned. scientists have to accept that they are in a street fight. They should expect a few low blows. the name Climategate itself. The suffix, now routinely applied to the most mundane controversies, is as trite as it is predictable. At the height of the controversy, senior figures called for journalists not to use the word, which they argued lent false seriousness to far fetched claims of research skulduggery and corruption. That reaction alone helps to explain the sluggish response of the science establishment a year ago to the allegations made against their colleagues and their profession. One lesson that must be taken from Climategate is that scientists do not get to define the terms by which others see them and their place in society. This journal has already warned that climate scientists have to accept that they are in a street fight. They should expect a few low blows. The key is to learn which punches to roll with and which to block and counter. Typical exchangesTake peer review. To many veterans of this bruising process, the talk from Jones in the e mails of going to town on negative reviews to keep papers from being published was run of the mill stuff. nothing, you should see the rudeness of some of the reviews that go around in microbiology/quantum physics/oncology, was a common reaction. To the outside world, such bravado did little to appease. Likewise, many were shocked by the foolish (if vain) e mailed boasts of Jones to keep poor papers from inclusion in a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even if it meant having to what the peer review literature is official inquiry into the e mail affair concluded that such robust exchanges were typical in science. But many non scientists were still unconvinced. They hold peer review as a revered gold standard of scientific excellence, not to be questioned or used as an opportunity to be rude about academic rivals, even in private. Why? Researchers may routinely complain about the shortcomings of peer review to other scientists, but they often unite behind it in the face of criticism from outside the scientific sphere. That a study has been through peer review is used too often as a universal defence of its quality. If more scientists were more forthcoming about the flaws in their quality control system, then commentators and the wider public may have been more willing to accept that scientists engaged in it do not always act as the public would expect. With the official inquiry clearing the CRU scientists of fudging data and of abusing the peer review process, most of the more informed criticism has now settled on the fuzzy notion of the need for greater transparency and openness. Calls for full release of computer code written by climate researchers seem driven more by the fact that it is not routinely made available rather than because it is particularly useful, but it is clear that the CRU scientists did not cooperate fully with all requests for data and other information. Duty to reportFor 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. Climate is not the only research area affected by such data restrictions a paper published earlier this year on the failure of African game parks to conserve large mammals, for example, could son pandora charm not present local data it gathered from reserve operators, who wanted it kept confidential (I. D. Craigie et al. Biol. Conserv. 143, 2221 2010 There are often good reasons for such sequestering of data, and some studies might not be done without it. But where the full information needed to reproduce a study is not publicly available, scientists have a duty to report that, and say why. Just as scientists cannot choose the name of future scandals, they cannot choose where allegations will appear. The UEA has taken some justified heavy fire for its handling of the crisis, which was crippled by the enforced absence on medical grounds of Jones, its chief defence witness. Had Jones been strong enough to face the media at the beginning, and say many of the things he says now, the crisis may have blown itself out. The UEA hierarchy misjudged the need to respond and the role that Internet blogs now play in seeding stories for the mainstream media. won worry about it until I hear it on the [BBC Radio] Today programme, one university official said when pointed to early online coverage at the time. He got his wish a few days later. By then, the Climategate was already swinging off its hinges. I think this editorial is seeing the scientific discussion of peer review through some rather tinted glasses. I know of no scientist that has declared that a paper is peer reviewed, it is therefore immune from criticism or that it has been shown to be perfect. Indeed, scientists criticise peer reviewed publications all the time occasionally those that appear in Nature! Peer review is not a standard it is merely the first stage filter of ideas and results. It is necessary, but in no way sufficient. It may well be that the public holds these ideas quite strongly perhaps some journalists do to but that is unfortunately part and parcel discount pandora beads of the overall lack of appreciation of what it is that scientists actually do. Norman Paterson said: It is typical of the anthropogenic global warming fraternity to try and deflect discussion from the issue itself and to discredit the critics by criticizing the process rather than the arguments. It would be so much more convincing if one of the senior members of CRU or IPCC or APS, were to answer some of the technical objections and alternative arguments that have been raised in the peer reviewed literature. It is unfortunate that Nature has chosen to follow the example of these institutions and label criticisms as blows If we wish to mitigate the damage done by Climategate and other scandals arising from questionable editorial and review procedures by the bodies cited above, we should welcome public debate, which will require treating honest criticism with traditional scientific transparency and politeness. " Half true at best, when evidence for man made AGW is still missing. Nature blinkered support for Jones is extraordinary, but consistent with its policy of publishing only pro AGW papers. Subversion of other scientist publications is not "run of the mill". Nor can data manipulation trick to hide the decline or inability to produce data and disclose methodology be condoned. Junk science will out in the end. Ross Barton and John Wheelahan are quite correct. The behaviour of the climategate scientists is not exchanges and it is an insult to professional scientists to try to imply that this is normal behaviour. As I wrote in my submission to the review, "No respectable scientist would ever attempt to hide anything. The correct way to present the data would have been to show the proxy data in its entirety, separately from the temperature data."I also noted that in over 20 years of refereeing papers, I have never been told by an editor that he needs a hard case for rejecting, or naming another referee. In proper science, it goes without saying that editors do not attempt to direct referee reports, and that referees are anonymous. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of climategate is not the bad behaviour of a few individuals, but the way that UEA, many in the climate science community, and formerly respected organisations such as Nature attempted to defend the indefensible. With all due respect to our colleague, Dr. Schmidt, the "Climategate" controversy has very little, if anything, to do with the standard peer review process, which was and remains robust. Rather, the appearance of dishonesty and obfuscation on the part of UEA CRU researchers and collaborators opened this pandora box. In his recent talk to an audience at pandora catalogue australia Fermilab, Dr. We scientists have bungled it, and regaining trust with those who support and fund our research will be a difficult undertaking. Evidence for man made AGW is overwhelming. Despite the desperate yearnings of deniers world wide, the carefully cherry picked CRU emails did nothing to change that fact. But only a tight circle of scientists are permitted access to this "overwhelming" evidence? The emails are the only information the public has access to, thanks to whoever the anonymous investigator or whistle blower. Show this substantiating evidence for CAGW, not some contrived graft that weaves cherry picked information to give the desired impression. The emails are evidence of how only the information supporting the established narrative was presented. A supposedly reputable peer reviewed journal reveals that its presumed standards are actually arbitrary. We have clearly entered the twilight period for print journalism where financial survival is the priority. Even Nature has decided to print what they believe will sell the most copies and retain subscribers. Just print whatever they want to read. Quality is a luxury journalism can no longer afford. Climate scientists and organizations like the IPCC cannot afford themselves anymore to dwell in their ivory towers they should realize that they now operate in a glass house, which calls for a different way of communicating. Given their huge responsibilities to society in a mediatized world, science must reinvent itself in this respect. Transparency is the key word here. It implies background data should be provided to the outside world to the extent possible. In addition, swift responses are needed to criticism ignoring or belittling it is counterproductive. Strong rebuttals are needed in case scientific facts are clearly misrepresented, or if arguments are used that are obviously false. However, there should also be a more open attitude towards controversial views including those of the sceptics Scepticism is what science thrives on, not exclusion. Yet in order for this to work we need to agree on clear rules of deliberation an extended dialogue based on arguments. Deliberation allows sceptics in and also has a disciplining effect on everyone. Instead of having street fights, a more courteous dialogue on controversies would bring more insight to all of us, by the end of the day. The inquiries were conducted by individuals and institutions with considerable financial interest in maintaining the gravy train. Forgive the hoi polloi for remaining skeptical of any information that this group issues during the foreseeable future. And editorials like Nature displayed above which claims "almost all of the accusations thrown at the researchers involved have been proven baseless" don help re establishing faith in climate researchers, Critics like McIntyre are also not convinced that the Climategate scientists have cleaned up their act. McIntryre received a reply from Lord Oxburgh in response to his request for access to committee documents used in the review. Oxburgh replied that his investigation was conducted with, "a minimum of formality" so that "I am afraid that I am not able to be very helpful as none of the documents about which you inquire exists." Not much of a confidence builder in the findings of Oxburgh Inquiry. It is disturbing to read some of the responses to this editorial, because it shows how little effort people are willing to put in to understand the overall situation, and how much they prefer to believe in conspiracies. A number of them show these biases by the terms they use warming fraternity", "wreck the economies of the world", "gravy train", etc and others do so by their overall arguments, viz: Scientists, including those who wrote the IPCC AR4, rarely advocate policy, as is so often claimed. The results of their investigations may very well directly inform policy decisions by policy makers, but this is a very different thing than advocating policy itself. Unless you were intimately involved in the relevant happenings, such claims are crocodile tears from those not even one of the supposed crocodiles. 1. The vast majority of climate studies research is government funded. Researchers talk about data, but the government and by extension the public are the actual owners of the data. That ownership should be made explicit in governmental research contracts. Scientists should be required to make all publications available freely rather than only in journals to which the public have no access is already the case for NIH funding, for example, so is clearly possible and make all data and computer code referred to in publications freely and easily available by placing it on an ftp site These requirements should be explicit and in addition to any freedom of information legislation which might apply. There is no legitimate excuse or reason for not adopting this policy: keeping data and code proprietary stifles the progress of science. The reason scientists and universities want to keep them proprietary is to secure a competitive advantage in applying for research funds, and to prevent others publishing using what they consider to be data. Neither of these is legitimate and both should be fought. To anyone who says that their data processing is too complex to explain and document: garbage. That exactly what your job is. If you can show your working, you haven done science. 2. Florida, where I worked as a scientist, has a law anyone emloyed by the State of Florida knows that any document, email, etc. that they write in the course of their business must be made available to the public on request and cannot be destroyed to prevent disclosure. I can think of no reason at all why this should not be policy for all publicly funded research bodies that wish to retain public trust. This could very rapidly be implemented at all western universities if it pandora charms online were a condition of government funding. 3. We should not be touting science as or conclusive science which is what has happened in the discussion of climate change. Were it not for the public policy implications perceived urgency of action no scientist would be saying verdict is in, the science is proven beyond doubt The history of science is also the history of hubristic over reaching pronouncements.
speaking in a time of limited understanding make categorical statements which later seem ridiculous. There is no reason at all to think that this happens less now than it did 50 or 100 or 200 years ago we do not have an absolute grasp of truth in current science; only the passage of time and further investigation will reveal that. The climate problem is too gnarly, and the science itself too young, for us to make dogmatic assertions about what will happen 100 years from now.
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