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ClimateGate scientists upset at "freedom of information" laws ...

In science everything should be open and subject to skepticism, scrutiny, verification and re-verification. Except when you get to the so-called “science of global warming,” where it has been revealed that individual scientists did everything in their power to manipulate the peer-review publishing process and de-rail freedom of information requests which would have mandated the production of their computer programs and datasets so that other researchers could verify and extend their work.

Confirming the earlier scandal about cherry-picked data, the [ClimateGate] e-mails show CRU [Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia] scientists conspiring to evade legal requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, for their underlying data. It's a basic rule of science that you don't just get to report your results and ask other people to take you on faith. You also have to report your data and your specific method of analysis, so that others can check it and, yes, even criticize it. Yet that is precisely what the CRU scientists have refused. <Source>

So why are we not surprised that the progressives at the U.K. Guardian are reporting …

Freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists, says Nobel laureate -- Sir Paul Nurse says climate scientists are being targeted by campaigns of requests designed to slow down their research”

“Sir Paul Nurse, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001, says information laws are being abused to intimidate scientists.”

“Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society.”

Excuse me!

The work of the climate scientists is mostly funded by governments seeking to implement public policies that would benefit themselves and their special interest supporters and you want them to curtail the flow of information. Information which, in the recent past, has proved that the scientific process was subverted, finding manipulated, data destroyed and the results rendered questionable?

“Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.”

One, the research was paid for by the taxpayers of their respective countries and should be freely published in peer-reviewed journals. The underlying data, collected at great public expense and difficulty, should also be made publicly available on a website – much in the same manner found in other scientific disciplines. 

Two, as for honoring freedom of information requests, one would assume that legitimate requests from scientists, researchers and the media would be honored and that frivolous time-consuming and costly inquiries would be vetted – possibly with the requester paying for the compilation of the requested data if it was not readily available in an electronic form.

“Nurse's comments follow the launch of a major Royal Society study into how scientists' work can be made more open and better used to inform policy in society. The review – expected to be published next year – will examine ways of improving access to scientific data and research papers and how ‘digital media offer a powerful means for the public to interrogate, question and re-analyze scientific priorities, evidence and conclusions.”

There we have it … “inform policy in society!” The purpose of science is to discover elemental and secondary truths about our environment and the objects within it. It is not to drive a particular public or political policy.

Going off the rails into the nether regions of public policy …

“Nurse said that, in principle, scientific information should be made available as widely as possible as a matter of course, a practice common in biological research where gene sequences are routinely published in public databases. But he said freedom of information had 'opened a Pandora's box. It's released something that we hadn't imagined ... there have been cases of it being misused in the climate change debate to intimidate scientists.’”

Facts as well as hypotheses should always be open to questions. You can’t really misuse scientific information –- you can manipulate it to support a viewpoint – but that manipulation should be subject to scrutiny, verification and debate. It is known that some original climate research datasets have been destroyed, others contain unspecified manipulations to replace missing data, out-of-range data or to make the data more amenable to computer simulations. Each of the derivative datasets should have been separately labeled and the manipulations (and reasons for the manipulations) clearly identified. As the ClimateGate e-mails revealed, data handling was sloppy, documentation sparse and scientists refused to release the data underlying their published works.

Now we are getting closer to the truth about why scientists are becoming intimidated …

“I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it's intimidating."

Yes it is both true and warranted. It appears that the ClimateGate e-mails indicated a pervasive pattern of attempting to subvert the peer-review publishing process. By intimidating reviewers, editors and publishers … and by influencing the content of the articles that were being published. Many of these requests are coming from non-scientists who are seeking information on the extent to which the so-called climate science community, especially the biggest names, attempted to subvert the process. Wrongdoers are always intimidated by requests for information which will reveal their complicity in suspect activities.

It was possible some requests were designed simply to stop scientists working rather than as a legitimate attempt to get research data, said Nurse. ‘It is essential that scientists are as open and transparent as possible and, where they are not, they should be held to account. But at times this appears to be being used as a tool to stop scientists doing their work. That's going to turn us into glue. We are just not going to be able to operate efficiently.’"

Producing success drafts of articles for comparison is not time-consuming if the researcher uses a methodical archiving system … which many do not. I agree that the efforts of responding, in detail, to multiple parties is time-consuming and, in some cases, cannot be morally, scientifically or legally justified.

But Nurse is overlooking the fact that it should be the scientific academies and the members themselves conducting an unbiased investigation. And if these so-called scientific “authorities” are biased or unable to conduct such a review, perhaps it is time for an unbiased duly-constituted commission to step in. With scientists – not lawyers – managing the process.

The government has given rise to the problem with the  biased influence in the funding process and cannot be trusted to be a fair and impartial arbiter of scientific issues …

“Nurse said the government should examine the issue, and think about tweaking freedom of information legislation to recognise potential misuse. Otherwise, he predicted, FoI [Freedom of Information] aggression could be in future used by campaigners to cripple scientific research in many other controversial areas of science, such as genetically modified crops. "I don't actually know the answer but I think we have a problem here. We need better guidelines about when the use of freedom of information is useful."

What are they hiding?

“Evidence of the aggression first began to emerge when personal emails and documents were stolen from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) servers in November 2009 and leaked on to the internet. Climate sceptics seized on the contents as evidence that apparently showed scientists were colluding to keep errors in their research hidden and prevent rivals' research from being published at all.”

Taken at face value, the e-mails did present a compelling picture of scientific misconduct including, but not limited to, evidence of highly manipulated datasets, missing data, subverting the peer-review process and other scientific misdeeds including requests to destroy e-mails and to limit freedom of information requests.

The white-wash that was necessary to preserve funding and stem lawsuits …

“In an independent inquiry a year later, the scientists at the UEA's climatic research unit (CRU) were cleared of any misconduct, but Muir Russell, the former civil servant who led the investigation, found a ‘consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness,’ although he stressed he had no reason to doubt the CRU team's honesty or integrity.”

Of course not … the inquiry conveniently steered clear of those things which it believed were beyond the “statute of limitations” for prosecution – so didn’t exist at all.

Hiding behind the law …

"’The current fog of ambiguity concerning, for example, drafts of research papers produced in other countries is deeply damaging to our scientific standing,’ said Tom Ward, pro vice-chancellor at UEA. ‘Part of the discussion should be informed by what we can learn from Scottish and US law, which explicitly recognise the need to extend some protection to research in progress.’"

These are scientists who should be keeping meticulous records and accounting for the funds that are being spent. Science is a law unto itself – guided by the truth and  nothing but the truth. Introducing laws to protect research which will always be classified as a “work in progress” to prevent scrutiny is very attractive for those seeking to subvert the scientific process. Why, may I ask, are we having all of these problems in climate research and not in other disciplines? Could it simply be that this is a high-stakes game where political power and continued funding, not science, is driving the inquiry?

But there appears to be a “win” for science on the horizon …

It appears that even some governmental  authorities were thwarted in their attempt to ascertain the truth about climate research.

As reported by the Washington Times …

“Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II says a judge's order compelling the University of Virginia to turn over thousands of pages of climate-change research will likely alter his own battle for the long-sought documents.”

“The Republican attorney general and state Delegate Robert G. Marshall have battled the university for more than a year over the release of documents related to the work of former professor Michael Mann. Mr. Mann had been involved in a leaked email exchange with colleagues that climate-change skeptics claimed showed scientific misconduct.”

Perhaps there is a technological solution to the problem …

I propose a publicly-funded, publicly accessible archiving system in which all public research data is stored. Access to the system would be strictly controlled and monitored. The raw data produced at public expense would be made available to all. Data generated by public/private contracts would be secured; to be released at publication or at a time deemed appropriate by statutory authority.

Each successive manipulation of the base data set would be accompanied by a new dataset and a description of the purpose and details regarding the manipulation. The new dataset along with explanatory materials will be archived under the raw dataset’s identification. Where two or more datasets are merged or manipulated, a cross-reference to those datasets would also be archived. All of the data in the archived may be labeled: public-open access; private-work-in-progress; and the release levels set by the governing committee. When a paper is published, the cross-references to the data used could be included in the paper which would satisfy the scientific community, the publishers and the public. In the case of proprietary manipulations, the data would remain confidential until published or marked for discard. For data not contained in the database, but referenced in a scientific journal, the data would be uploaded to the site.

Bottom line …

I have read the e-mails in question and they raise serious and troubling issues. Even though Al Gore and others claim that there is a scientific consensus on the subject of global warming, this is far from the truth.

Time for science to clean house and restore integrity to the scientific process … especially when the purpose of certain research projects is to drive public policy discussions which are of significant political importance as they affect all taxpayers and citizens.

-- steve 

Reference Links …

Freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists, says Nobel laureate | Politics | The Guardian

Ruling alters climate-papers fight - Washington Times

Climategate: Mann Ordered Wahl To Delete Emails

Excerpt: Climategate: Mann Ordered Wahl To Delete Emails

At the same time in 2008, across the ocean, David Holland had been reading McIntyre’s work and he had issued an FOIA request to the Climatic Research Unit–CRU. That FOIA request covered all correspondence coming in and out of CRU relative to chapter 6 of AR4. The hunt for the source that was feeding Briffa was on, with Holland leading the charge. At CRU, FOIA officer Palmer instructs the team that they must do everything “by the book” because Holland will most certainly appeal a rejection letter.

In that context, Jones writes the famous email to Mann. Jones requests that Mann delete his emails and he requests that Mann contact Wahl and have Wahl delete his emails. Is Jones covering his bases in case of an appeal? Is he covering his bases against an FOIA request that might be served on Mann and Wahl in the US? In any case, he appears to be conspiring with others to deny Holland his FOIA rights.

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper

[Reading this work will also illustrate how the inquiry was handled and why it cannot be trusted – steve]

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