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Friday, December 2, 2011

ClimateGate 2 Emails: The Real Smoking Gun (DOE Should Answer Before Congress)

The universal  rule of ethical conduct in scientific research is the requirement to share data. Other scientists must be given the opportunity to replicate results and to conduct sensitivity analysis to determine whether alternate data handling and transformations yield different results. Unless this basic ethical requirement is observed, we can have no confidence in scientific results and the scientific method cannot work. (I have discussed climate research and the scientific method in an earlier post).

Consider the National Science Foundation’s requirements on “dissemination and sharing of research results." I quote them in full:

 Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing. Privileged or confidential information should be released only in a form that protects the privacy of individuals and subjects involved.   

Now consider the e mail that  Phil Jones of  East Anglia University wrote to colleagues:

I've been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.  Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.  I've discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.

I suggest that Congress call in the Department of Energy administrators responsible for funding Jones’ IPCC work to determine whether they are indeed “happy about not releasing the original station data.” If Jones’ assertion is true, I suggest that they be relieved of their positions.

It is my understanding that the raw station data provide the core long-term temperature readings on which much of the IPCC research findings are based.

P. S.  In support of my comments above, I  wish to direct readers to the complaints of biomedical researchers about the frequency with which they cannot reproduce results published in academic peer reviewed journals, which they attribute to the pressure of getting positive results in order to publish and get more funding.

The WSJ article Scientists’ Elusive Goal: Reproducing Study Results reports: “Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can't be reproduced. ‘It's a very serious and disturbing issue because it obviously misleads people" who ‘implicitly trust findings published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, says Bruce Alberts, editor of Science. On Friday, the U.S. journal is devoting a large chunk of its Dec. 2 issue to the problem of scientific replication. Reproducibility is the foundation of all modern research, the standard by which scientific claims are evaluated.”


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