Dear Institute of Physics…

After publishing my post on the CRU and S&TC yesterday, I looked into the IoP’s evidence submission in a bit more detail and was quite surprised. Here is an open letter to the IoP about that evidence:

Dear Institute of Physics

As a member of the IoP I am very concerned about the recent memorandum submitted by the IoP to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

In my view, it is unfair to criticise the CRU on the basis that they did not comply with data sharing standards that, at present, don’t exist. There is clearly a need for rules regarding openness in relation to data and methods but it is foolish to retrospectively admonish people for not following them! Do the journals currently published by the IoP employ the data policies suggested in your statement?

There also seems to be some misunderstanding in the statement of the particular issues relating to the data that the CRU use in their research and how some of the issues discussed in the private and incomplete email records were resolved in the peer reviewed literature and other open arenas. In particular, point 5 of your evidence is incorrect and irresponsible given that it casts unwarranted doubt over the findings of the IPCC.

Furthermore, your statement gives no recognition to the efforts of the scientists in question to engage with their critics before they were subjected to unfounded attacks on their work and integrity and orchestrated FoI request campaigns.

Finally, I am confused as to why the Energy group was tasked with preparing the statement and not the Environmental Physics group, who would have been more aware of the particular issues in this case.

I realise that a small clarification has been issued but if the IoP continues to stand by this statement then I will have no other option but to reconsider my membership of your organisation.

Yours faithfully,

Andy Russell MInstP

Some similar posts:

Stoat: The IoP fiasco
Some beans: A letter to the Institute of Physics

CORRECTION: The statement was written by the “Energy Sub-group of the IoP’s Science Board” not the “IoP’s Energy Group” as I previously thought. Either way, the IoP has still not been open about who wrote the statement.

UPDATE 5/3/2010: In response to my letter I was sent an email from the IoP standing by the submission and an anonymous statement from a member of the Science Board about the process of writing the evidence submission. Here is that statement:

“The IOP contribution has been widely understood and welcomed – not universally, apparently, but then there is a debate going on. Scientists are sometimes criticised for not engaging, and I hope we can look forward to hearing from professional bodies representing other branches of science.

“The Institute should feel equally relaxed about the process by which it generated what is, anyway, a statement of the obvious. The standard process for policy submissions by IOP – it makes dozens per year – was followed. Typically a call for evidence is spotted or received by IOP HQ. Usually the timescale is tight. A first draft is put together at Portland Place – working scientists just don’t have time to do this. The draft is then emailed round to all members of IOP advisory bodies that might want to contribute, which is where working scientists come in. Science Board is one of several such bodies. When we do respond – my personal strike rate is definitely under 50 per cent – we copy round our responses, so other committee members get multiple opportunities to comment if they wish to. During this phase people can and do say “Sorry, I disagree”. Remember that there is a tight deadline, and by the time it is reached, everyone who seriously wants to comment will have done so. Collective responsibility then kicks in, which is why I am not revealing my identity.”

UPDATE 6/3/2010: apparently not realising that it kind of proves my point about the sort of behaviour Phil Jones has had to deal with for years, I got an email today in response to my perfectly reasonable assessment of the IoP’s evidence submission:

For a physicist you are a bit of a cretin.

However your views on the release of scientific data for verification are positively neolithic.

What kind of blind, bigoted AGW Alarmist tosser are you?

Pull your head out of your arse and smell the coffee!

Have a nice day!

Tags: , , ,

64 Responses to “Dear Institute of Physics…”

  1. Eamon Says:

    There only seems to be an Energy Sub-group associated with the Science Board – no other Sub-groups are identified in any IoP literature I can find. Energy seems to be the go-to everyman (or should that be Jack-of-all-trades?) for information.

    • andyrussell Says:

      There’s something not quite right about all this – I couldn’t find much mention of a Science Board at all. Sounds like you’ve been on Stoat’s blog too and probably already seen this but David Adams from the Grauniad has been trying to uncover who actually wrote the statement and has been unable to find out. If the IoP is going to take money of us then it needs to be accountable to its members for things it says in public.

  2. David Colquhoun Says:

    Well, having just recommended your blog as a source of good advice on climate, I have to disagree totolly on this one. It’s true that the standards don’t exist for raw data, either in this field or in my own. But people are working on that and it is a clear aim for the future in many fields

    I don’t blame CRU for not having the data already there. But I do balme them fro rejecting FoIs and for giving the impression, almost certainly a wrong impression, that they were hiding something. All that has done (and your letter, above, will do) is to stoke suspicions that you are trying to hide something. I don’t beleive you are, but I’m not one of the people you have to convince.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Well, disagreement isn’t such a bad thing – it’s certainly making me go over my arguments! But I will, or course, now try and convince you that I’m right!

      I agree that it can sound a bit nitpicky (“ah, but the data didn’t belong to CRU, it’s not their fault!”) but that is the way things are. I also agree that their action on the FoI requests was not perfect but the orchestrated campaign against them could probably be described as vindictive as the relatively small proportion of data that CRU could not distribute was available from its original source (subject to signing usage agreements). It’s not a black and white case.

      Maybe I’m a bit too close to this one and my judgement is not so good. Indeed, I admit that I would hate any outcome from this whole episode where Phil Jones takes a big hit – he’s a nice guy, he’s done some great work. I’d have no problem with data and code sharing standards being implemented but to criticise people for not making data, which they did not own, public doesn’t seem right to me.

      Either way, the IoP evidence goes beyond the remit of the evidence session, is judgmental and, in places, just incorrect.

  3. Dan H Says:

    Thanks Andy, would you mind if we used this as a template for letters of complaints?

  4. David Colquhoun Says:

    I don’t think that I need to be persuaded that you are right about climate. I just need to be persuaded that you are right to give the appearance of defending something other than total openness. That walks straight into the hands of the people you do need to persuade about climate.

  5. SmallCasserole Says:

    David Colquhoun I have greatly enjoyed your use of FOI in unearthing the lecture notes for university homoeopathy and related courses, and it pains me to find myself disagreeing with you on at least the presentational aspects of this problem.

    With hindsight we can see that the CRU would have fewer problems than they have now if they had handled the FOI requests correctly. I broadly like the idea that on publication the data and analysis programs used to generate results in a paper should be publicly available without request*. But that wasn’t the situation when this work was done, and it is not the situation now so criticising CRU and Phil Jones for not abiding by this regime is deeply unjust. That is the core of my complaint: CRU and Phil Jones are being crucified for acting in a way that I think most scientists would find entirely understandable, and in a way that most would have acted.

    I understand you’re arguing that if the CRU were simply to behave absolutely impeccably with respect to openness then all these problems would go away and people would be persuaded of the correctness of their climate science. I simply don’t agree with this, the argument over climate science isn’t a scientific one, it’s a political one. Some people take the appearance of making scientific arguments when really they’re not.

    I think Creationism/Intelligent Design is a good but depressing example of what we’re likely to see happening with relation to global warming. No serious scientist who knows the area believes in Creationism/Intelligent Design, no one has ever argued that some key data is hidden, or that methods are not accessible but despite that roughly 40% of people in the US do not believe in evolution (for what are basically religious reasons).

    I believe we will find ourselves in the same position on climate change, some substantial chunk of the population will not accept climate change science because they have been convinced that it is incompatible with their political views, and no science in the world will convince them otherwise.

    *But this isn’t self evident always a good thing, scientists have to make a lively too and giving away all your IP, in full almost as soon as you generate it would be suicide for commercial research organisation.

  6. Climate emails inquiry: Energy consultant linked to physics body’s submission Says:

    [...] In an open letter to the institute, Andy Russell, an IOP member who works on climate at the University of Manchester, says: “If the IOP continues to stand by this statement then I will have no other option but to reconsider my membership.” He says the allegation of data suppression is “incorrect and irresponsible”. [...]

  7. Mac Says:

    Quote Andy Russell, 27/11/2009, ” as an atmospheric scientist myself, I feel that there is damaging material in these emails. In particular, the emails regarding FOI and the peer review process sound very bad. Don’t get me wrong, I have studied at the Climatic Research Unit and I have massive respect for their work and nearly all of the bad stuff can be explained away (i.e. there are IP issues regarding the data that is subject to the FOI and the journal at the centre of the peer review argument deserved the criticism it got in these emails). But the way these subjects were discussed in these private messages is probably going to have an effect on the wider perception of climate scientists. “

    • andyrussell Says:

      How exciting – a quote from me! This was a comment I made on Guardian comment thread soon after the CRU emails were leaked. I assume its been put here as it appears to contradict the views I’ve expressed in my letter to the IoP.

      I suppose that at face value it does. But this is the problem I was trying to highlight and that the IoP has overlooked in its evidence. At face value and without context, the emails suggest that:

      * CRU were withholding data
      * CRU were avoiding FoI requests
      * CRU scientists were colluding with colleagues to keep papers that they disagreed with out of the peer-reviewed literature

      What the IoP should have done, given that they understand the scientific process, is looked a little deeper and found that:

      * CRU were not releasing a small proportion of data because they had signed agreements with the data owners stating that they wouldn’t release it
      * The FoI requests were, in many cases, unreasonable
      * Poor science and/or opinion pieces have no place in the scientific literature

      I still stand by my point that these leaked emails are damaging, they clearly have been, but the point the HoC S&TC evidence session was to determine if there was any substance to the claims that have damaged CRU’s reputation. The IoP have ignored this and made a judgement (which they were not asked to do) on the basis of the emails alone.

  8. Bishop Hill Says:

    Interestingly, I had similar problems trying to discover who wrote the Royal Society’s position paper on climate change.

  9. Climategate inquiry submission row | We-found-it Says:

    [...] In an unstoppered honor to the institute, Andy Russell, an IOP member who entireness on status at the University of Manchester, says: “If the IOP continues to defence by this grounds then I module hit no another choice but to reconsider my membership.” He says the allegement of accumulation quelling is “incorrect and irresponsible”. [...]

  10. Institute of Physics in hot seat « Open Parachute Says:

    [...] several IOP members have written open letters of protest. Andy Russell (see Dear Institute of Physics…) detailed his objections to the submission and finished with: Finally, I am confused as to why the [...]

  11. IOP Backlash « The Policy Lass Says:

    [...] unrest among members of the IOP begins: Dear Institute of Physics As a member of the IoP I am very concerned about the recent memorandum [...]

  12. Ron Cram Says:

    Andy Russell writes:
    “In my view, it is unfair to criticise the CRU on the basis that they did not comply with data sharing standards that, at present, don’t exist.”

    This is simply untrue. The journals have standards. Nature has a policy on data archiving and sharing. So does Science and all of the major journals. CRU got a special dispensation from the journals so the editors would not enforce the policies. When one of the journal editors (I believe from Royal Society publishing) decided to enforce their policy, the CRU perps cried foul and some climate researchers vowed never to submit a paper to them again.

    I am amazed at how ignorant Andy Russell is of the facts. He could have learned about journal policies by reading Wikipedia.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_data_archiving
    And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_sharing

    Phil Jones refused to provide data to skeptics that it did provide to Peter Webster of Georgia Tech Univ. If it was okay to provide to Webster, then it has to be provided to everyone. Jones did not do that and has admitted publicly he should have provided the data to skeptics. I do not see what you hope to gain by trying to change the historical record.

    If Jones had provide the data, there would have been no need FOI requests. The vast majority of the FOIs had to do with determining which countries had actually required confidentiality so they could be petitioned to remove the requirement for the good of science. Jones even refused those reasonable requests saying he had lost some of the agreements. Not good.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Ron

      Thanks for the comments and the links. I’m not saying that there aren’t journal specific data policies, my point was that the IoP statement proposes a new data policy standard, Point 8, and criticises CRU for not following it! This is silly.

      The other point highlighted by the links you provided is that there was a conspicuous lack of “evidence” in the IoP statement. If there is evidence to back up the opinions in the statement, then why have they not discussed it?

      • Ron Cram Says:

        Andy, you misunderstand. The IOP is criticizing the CRU for not following the journal policies. If you had followed the debate, you would know McIntyre had contacted the journals to ask them to enforce their own policies and they refused. The CRU folks had somehow persuaded the editors they deserved some kind of special dispensation that put them above the standards of science. It just isn’t true.

        Point 8 is a poorly worded attempt to raise the level of archiving to a uniform level. Most journals already require archiving of data, but some are not as specific about the requirements as others. The IOP is not holding the CRU to a standard that did not exist.

        Sufficient evidence exists to support all of the statements made in the IOP submission. If there is specific statement you would like to see evidence for, let me know.

      • andyrussell Says:

        [This one's also gone in the wrong place! Should be in response to Per furthe up the page. - Andy]

        Where is this evidence in the IoP submission then?

    • J Bowers Says:

      Re: Ron Cram.
      “Phil Jones refused to provide data to skeptics that it did provide to Peter Webster of Georgia Tech Univ. If it was okay to provide to Webster, then it has to be provided to everyone. Jones did not do that and has admitted publicly he should have provided the data to skeptics. I do not see what you hope to gain by trying to change the historical record.

      If Jones had provide the data, there would have been no need FOI requests. The vast majority of the FOIs had to do with determining which countries had actually required confidentiality so they could be petitioned to remove the requirement for the good of science. Jones even refused those reasonable requests saying he had lost some of the agreements. Not good.”
      ______________________________________________________

      Ron, Webster was working on a publication with Jones. He therefore had legitimate access to the data.

      http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/08/mcintyre_versus_jones_climate_1.html

      ” But Webster points out that he was allowed access because of the nature of his request, which was very specific and will result in a joint publication with Phil Jones. “Reasonable requests should be fulfilled because making data available advances science”, says Webster, “but it has to be an authentic request because otherwise you’d be swamped”.

      Once the data become publicly available, Jones wants McIntyre to produce a global temperature record. “Science advances that way. He might then realize how robust the global temperature record is”, says Jones. Asked if he would take on the challenge, McIntyre said that it’s not a priority for him, but added “if someone wanted to hire me, I’d do it”.”

  13. Ron Cram Says:

    You might want to read the comments of a professional computer programmer regarding the CRU code.

    See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/04/crutem3-code-did-not-adhere-to-standards-one-might-find-in-professional-software-engineering/#more-16953

    • andyrussell Says:

      I’ve not looked at this post but a previous analysis of UEA code that I’ve commented on on WUWT was way off target. Climate scientists aren’t professional software engineers, though, so is it a fair criticism that they don’t adhere to professional software engineering standards? I think the problem here is that the people at the coal face of these projects are employed on fixed term research contracts (usually 2-3 years) or are studying for a PhD (3 years from a standing start) with usually only the brains behind the work being a permanent member of staff. So to keep continuity of standards in the progamming is not easy. Contrary to what I’ve read on some blogs, climate research is not awash with money and people come and go because of that.

      • Jeff York Says:

        It’s indeed obvious that “Climate scientists aren’t professional software engineers”… But, bearing in mind the tremendous weight that their prognostications carry in respect of public policy and potential massive public and industrial expenditure, do you not think that it might be a good idea to get some professionals to write the systems?

      • andyrussell Says:

        [This should be in response to Jeff further up the stream but it's gone out of order for some reason...]

        This would be a brilliant solution but I expect funding would be an issue. Not sure now is best time to suggest we plough more money into climate research to pay for these software engineers…

    • Stephen Blenkinsop Says:

      Jeff

      This sounds a good idea, to employ professional software engineers but then they don’t have any knowledge of atmospheric science and I don’t think you could have someone coding this up with no knowledge of the science. Besides there isn’t that much money in grants to employ someone who is an expert in climate and an expert in computer programming. I’m not sure what software engineers earn relative to a PDRA?

  14. Bishop Hill Says:

    I still don’t understand how, if there were agreements in place preventing disclosure of this data, Jones was able to send it to, among others, Peter Webster of Georgia Tech. And if he could do this, why couldn’t he also send it to Ross McKitrick?

  15. Lord Stansted Says:

    Speaking as a UK physicist (Ph.D. and the odd PRL) I wouldn’t join the IoP even if they gave Tesco points with each subscription. They are a total bunch of pouncing wallies. Visit http://lordstansted.blogspot.com/2009/07/something-odd-going-on-in-institute-of.html for an illustration of their standards.

  16. Mac Says:

    Quote, Andy Russell, “The FoI requests were, in many cases, unreasonable. ”

    Quotes, oral evidence, HoC S&TC:

    “Q70 Ian Stewart: That leads me to my next question. It is quite clear from the email exchanges that these scientists were exasperated. Their argument was that they just wanted to get on with their job, and one of the plaintiffs says that he did not want to deal with the hassle, he just wanted to do his job. Do you have any sympathy with the exasperations of scientists at CRU?

    Mr Thomas: I think one can understand what I might call the human dimension of this, and sympathy is not the right word in this context, but I can understand perhaps why people sometimes felt exasperated. We came across public authorities in Whitehall, local authorities up and down the country with this sense of exasperation and being on the receiving end of large numbers of quite difficult cases. There is doubt about that; I can see that. At the same time, the legislation is there – there is the right to know – and in many cases the simplest approach, particularly where requests tend to generate either a defensive attitude or place a great burden on the public authority, is proactive disclosure in the first place. I often use what I call the Crown Jewels approach. Public authorities ought to decide what really has to be kept away from the public. If it is particularly sensitive or there is a good reason for withholding it, fair enough, but where there is no good reason for withholding information, then why not proactively disclose it and avoid the hassle of large numbers of requests? “

  17. zutman Says:

    “There is clearly a need for rules regarding openness in relation to data and methods but it is foolish to retrospectively admonish people for not following them!”

    Hmm. This seems to be like a politician’s defense: “everything that happened happened before or after my time in office”. Is it so difficult to take responsability nowadays, without hiding behind (the absence of) rules?

    Bad behaviour is not the same as bad science, but bad behaviour is sometimes necessary to hide bad science. The position of the IOP is entirely reasonable: it has been clear since centuries what constitutes as good or bad science. Please do not redefine science as something we have to believe in.

  18. Grant Allen Says:

    As a member of the IoP, I have too complained to the Institute regarding their extremely poor investigation and wild extrapolation of the facts. My complaint to the IoP was as follows:

    Dear Institute,

    I refer to a public memo prepared by the Institute of Physics for the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee, accessible through the link below:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm

    I am shocked and appalled to read the conclusions of this report. As an early career climate research scientist and long-time member of the Institute, I am shocked that the Institute could cast such aspersions over the integrity of the scientific field within which I study and I question the Institute’s decision to delegate their investigation of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) scientific practice to the IoP Energy Sub-group, when this would clearly be better informed under the auspices of the Environment Sub-group.

    Regardless of whether or not specific members of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at UEA may have been involved in professional scientific misconduct (which I do not have an opinion on), the Institute has little evidence that this extends beyond the CRU and certainly no evidence that such conspiracy pervades the entire community as suggested in points 1 and 2 of your memo. I refer specifically to the following statements in your memo:

    “…worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field…”
    “This extends well beyond the CRU itself – most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change.”

    I would like to make an official Freedom of Information request that the colluding researchers referred to in this statement are disclosed and that the basis for the Institute’s statements is made clear in more detail. I am also making an official complain to the IoP about its conduct in this matter – please regard this e-mail as such.

    In my opinion, the author’s of this memo have overstepped the context within which they were asked to investigate. Furthermore they have thrown doubt over an entire discipline, globally, based only on their cursory investigation of a single research group.

    In this report, the Institute has undermined and misrepresented the scientific stance of the majority of IoP members who are actually specialists in the field of climate science. I would like a response under Freedom of Information law from the Institute on the following points while I consider my continued membership of the Institute:

    1/ Who wrote this report?
    2/ Why was the Energy Sub-group asked to report when the Environment sub-group would have been better informed?
    3/ Where is the evidence base for the key points of this investigation?
    4/ How far did this investigation extend – were the people spurned by the report given a chance to defend themselves?
    5/ Does the institute continue to stand by these conclusions in full?

    There seems to be an open season on climate science in the public arena at present. While healthy and just scientific criticism of the conclusions of scientific research is necessary and useful, such unfounded and broadsided public attacks on the integrity of our science and even our scientific method are not constructive – especially by an organisation which is “…devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics”.

    Shocked and dismayed. I await your response.

    Regards,

    Grant

    • Nullius in Verba Says:

      No need for a FOI request. Just ask any sceptic.

      Here’s an example:
      “It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically”.

      (This was in the context of peer-reviewing a paper that criticised their methods. Google will find the full context for you.)

      It’s a simple question; why would anyone want to dismiss a paper out of hand when it appeared to be correct?

      It suggests that criticisms of orthodoxy are seen as bad, and have higher hurdles to surmount to get published, and that results are judged not by their methods but by their conclusions. If this is what it appears to be, wouldn’t “worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field”? Even if it isn’t, (and I’m not saying I know, either way,) it’s something that needs to be taken seriously and investigated.

      Don’t prejudge the issue. Widespread scientific failures can and have occurred in the past. (Consider Eddington’s dismissal of Chandraskhar’s black hole calculations.) Don’t start by assuming that there’s a reasonable explanation for everything. Consider the possibility that there might not be. If you do, your conclusions in support of the science will be stronger.

  19. James Allan Says:

    In my opinion, the issue here (which I think your letter conveys) isn’t whether there should be more openness, it’s whether the CRU and the wider field were deserving of the snide (and in places demonstrably false) accusations that were contained within the IOP dossier.

    Given that the outcome of all of these government enquiries and such will not rule that climate change is just one big hoax (because it isn’t), it’s almost certain that the government will bring in some new rules regarding openness in an attempt to been seen to throw a bone to the ‘sceptics’ in the run-up to the election. My worry is that in typical government knee-jerk legislation style, whatever they bring in will be badly thought through and end up hurting the science instead of helping it somehow. The learned societies can fulfil a valuable role in avoiding this by contributing properly considered and measured opinions on the matter, ensuring that the issues faced by their members are properly represented in the decision making process. In my opinion, this downright belligerent effort from the IOP is practically the opposite and I can understand why many of its members would feel aggrieved by it.

  20. Marion Delgado Says:

    The IOP’s position boils down to this:

    If someone hacked into the IOP’s files and put their entire correspondence up on the web, including some cherrypicked sentences that implied Peter Gill was pledging the IOP’s services to BP, then the proper response would be for the scientific community to condemn the IOP for not being a more open society.

    However, since that’s not happened to them, to say they should follow the open standards they allegedly advocate is absurd. They require their private and informal atmosphere to discuss issues. Which, admittedly, CRU is not to be allowed, but that’s hardly IOP’s fault!

    I guess that’s market-based ethics. Hey, we didn’t drug and rape that girl, all we did was have a go at her after someone else already had!

  21. JMurphy Says:

    Bishop Hill wrote :

    “I still don’t understand how, if there were agreements in place preventing disclosure of this data, Jones was able to send it to, among others, Peter Webster of Georgia Tech. And if he could do this, why couldn’t he also send it to Ross McKitrick?”

    1But Webster points out that he was allowed access because of the nature of his request, which was very specific and will result in a joint publication with Phil Jones. “Reasonable requests should be fulfilled because making data available advances science”, says Webster, “but it has to be an authentic request because otherwise you’d be swamped”.’

    In addition :

    ‘Once the data become publicly available, Jones wants McIntyre to produce a global temperature record. “Science advances that way. He might then realize how robust the global temperature record is”, says Jones. Asked if he would take on the challenge, McIntyre said that it’s not a priority for him, but added “if someone wanted to hire me, I’d do it”.’

    http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/08/mcintyre_versus_jones_climate_1.html

    • Nullius in Verba Says:

      If McIntyre’s argument was that it is impossible to do so to the accuracy demanded from the data available, because the proxies are affected by too many other unknown factors, and the collection sites too sparse, then does failure to generate a better global reconstruction prove that the current crop are any good? If the fortune teller’s reading of tea leaves is challenged, must the challenger produce a better tea leaf reading to advance the art? Or does science also advance by the process of falsification, and the removal of errors from the body of knowledge, too?

  22. JMurphy Says:

    I have sent the following email to this address : physics@iop.org

    “Having just read the latest GUARDIAN article about your submission to the Select Committee on Science and Technology (“Climate emails inquiry: Energy consultant linked to physics body’s submission”), I would like to ask you how you can state, as quoted in that article : “we believe the case for openness remains just as strong”; while also maintaining that ‘the IOP would not reveal names’ and releasing ‘a statement from an anonymous member’ ?
    Either you agree with openness applied to all or you don’t. Do you believe that openness only applies to certain people and organisations ?

    To show your openness and transparency, please reveal the members of the Energy sub-committee of the Science board who drew up your submission to the above-mentioned Committee, as well as the members of the Science board who approved it and the ‘anonymous member’ who supplied the recent statement referred to in the GUARDIAN article mentioned.
    What have you got to hide ?

    Please be as open as you expect others to be.”

    Hopefully lots more people will do something similar.

    • Nullius in Verba Says:

      Openness and transparency are only required about evidence you wish to rely upon in making your argument. If the IOP committee members wished to rely upon their personal reputations, or funding streams, to support the validity of their argument, then not publishing them would be a problem. But since that would be a case of a genetic fallacy (the argument’s validity being determined by its source, rather than its content) I would hope the IOP would know that to be an anti-scientific mode of argument and not use it. It’s a distraction. And the person asking was presumably looking in order to gather material for the usual ad hominem ‘big oil conspiracy’ theory arguments.

      The climate data only needs to be made accessible if you wish to rely on it, and the correctness of the calculations that generated it.

  23. David Colquhoun Says:

    @SmallCasserole

    You are right to think that my experience with failed FoIs for realy junk science courses (homeopathy etc) has coloured my view of universities that fail to comply with FoI.

    For a university to be censured by the Information Commisioner for disobeying the law, as UEA was, is disgraceful.

    I’m not under the illusion that the Plain-esque lynch mob will vanish if data are all revealed, but it would give them one less stick to beat you with. It seems like a good idea anyway, in all fields.

    The condemnation of IoP here plays straight in to the hands of the lynch mob. That is why I think it is tragically wrong-headed.

    Where I part company from you is in your footnote

    ” . . . scientists have to make a lively too and giving away all your IP, in full almost as soon as you generate it would be suicide for commercial research organisation”

    The whole point of university science is that it is (or should be) for the common good. It should be free of commercial influences. The bribery of clinicians by Pharmaceutical companies has done a great deal of damage to science.

    I have refused to patent anything, because I don’t believe that it’s possible to do good science if you have a financial interest in the outcome. Of course we are under great pressure from VCs and research councils to patent things. That is why I believe that they have made a major contribution to corrupting science, and why I think the VC of UEA should resign.

  24. SmallCasserole Says:

    @David_Colquhoun

    I think we’re back to presentation here. My view is that the IOP could have made a quite reasonable point regarding FoI in a much better way without the additional stuff they added into their submission. I think your demands for the resignation of the VC of UEA are in a similar vein, whilst the core point that universities and researchers should abide by FoI is a good one, the interpretation people put on those words is quite different to the one you intended. When people take your words and interpret them in a way that differs from your intention that’s your problem, not theirs.

    My reference to intellectual property was slightly tongue in cheek, I believe universities, as well as training students, should do research that a commercial company would not undertake. For my work releasing raw data and programs would not have presented a particular problem other than I might have to support my own slightly idiosyncratic software. However I did work with people in computer simulation where I think there would have been a bigger issue, and the data I used was all collected with my own fair hand. As you point out though, universities are increasingly being encouraged to provide best-value for UK Plc and in some cases this does mean patenting, and potentially attaching a financial value to data.

  25. Slowjoe Says:

    Andy, I’m disappointed with your response to this issue. It seems to me that you are opposing the statement on solely partisan political grounds, and thereby damaging your own reputation.

    I think the response to both pre-FOI and post-FOI data requests (refusal, conspiracy to delete, failure to comply with journal policies) at CRU is indefensible and foolish. Logically, once the FOI act was passed, the refusal of early requests simply guaranteed further requests. These would either be duplicates, or refinements based on earlier refused requests.

    Dare I ask which of the 13 paragraphs from the IOP statement you would agree with, and which you take issue with?

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Slowjoe

      I’m drafting a full analysis of my issues with all the points in the IoP evidence submission – I think all of the first nine, except #3, fall short of what I would expect from a professional body such as the IoP. My main concern, after having been through it in more detail, is that there is very little “evidence” in the submission. To me it reads as a quite one sided judgement of the issues that have come up from the leaked emails.

      As for the particular issue of FoI, I think both sides of the argument have questions to answer but I am naturally more aware of the case from the “climate science establishment” side of the argument. It will be interesting to see the results of this enquiry.

  26. PhilH Says:

    “The attempts to discredit the science and reputations of the scientists involved with the Hockey Stick graph has continued right up until the UEA email theft in 2009. However, the science has stood up to all the questions asked of it.”

    I noticed this apparent quote from you on Bishp Hill’s blog. If this is, in fact, a quote from you, you should be aware that it is categorically untrue.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Phil

      Glad you’re a fan of my comments!

      I kind of stand by that one – the science behind the hockey stick and palaeoclimatology is totally sound. I’ll admit that the statistics used to interpret some of the data has been legitimately questioned to varying degrees but fundamentally, its good.

      • per Says:

        you might want to look at the US NRC review and Wegman reviews of the Hockey Stick. Gerry North, chair of the NRC review, agreed that the two panels drew essentially the same conclusions on the validity of hockey sticks. The NRC abstract points out that it is not possible to quantify the uncertainty in temperature reconstructions from before the time of thermometers.

        I wonder what sort of fundamentalism it takes to transform those conclusions into good science ?

        [Where is this evidence in the IoP submission then? - Andy]

      • PhilH Says:

        No, it’s untrue. Bristlecone pines–crucial to the stick– used in each of the hockey stick graphs are not valid proxies, as both the Wegner and NAS studies have pointed out. You need to put aside your biases and read the vast amount of material available at climateaudit (where the legitimate questions have been raised and answered, years ago). Throw that crutch aside; it’s your poorest argument.

        [I’m not an expert on dendrochronology but a quick search found this paper:

        Salzer et al. (2009) “Recent unprecedented tree-ring growth in bristlecone pine at the highest elevations and possible causes” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 106, 20348-20353.

        This extract from the abstract seems to imply that the bristlecone pine record is sound:

        “Both an independent proxy record of temperature and high-elevation meteorological temperature data are positively and significantly correlated with upper-treeline ring width both before and during the high-growth interval.” - Andy]

      • andyrussell Says:

        [...and this one should be in response to PhilH.]

        I’m not an expert on dendrochronology but a quick search found this paper:

        Salzer et al. (2009) “Recent unprecedented tree-ring growth in bristlecone pine at the highest elevations and possible causes” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 106, 20348-20353.

        This extract from the abstract seems to imply that the bristlecone pine record is sound:

        “Both an independent proxy record of temperature and high-elevation meteorological temperature data are positively and significantly correlated with upper-treeline ring width both before and during the high-growth interval.”

    • Steven Sullivan Says:

      ‘per’ is giving a denialist spin on what the 2006 NAS report actually says. Here is the pertinent section of its abstract:

      “This report concludes that large-scale surface temperature reconstructions are important tools in our understanding of global climate change that allows us to say, with a high level of confidence, that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600, although available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. Very little confidence can be assigned to statements concerning the hemispheric mean or global mean surface temperature prior to about A.D. 900, primarily because of the scarcity of precisely dated proxy evidence.”

      http://dels.nas.edu/basc/reportDetail.php?link_id=347

      and then there’s this news article in Nature reporting on the NAS findings:

      “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph”

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7097/full/4411032a.html

      • Steven Sullivan Says:

        And as for Gerry North, here';s what he said about the Wegman Report, and about the Mann graph:

        “I was also somewhat taken aback by the tone of the Wegman Report, which seems overly accusatory towards Dr. Mann and his colleagues, rather than being a neutral, impartial assessment of the techniques used in his research. In my opinion, while the techniques used in the original Mann et al papers may have been slightly flawed, the work was the first of its kind and deserves considerable credit for moving the field of paleoclimate research forward. It is also important to note that the main conclusions of the Mann et al studies have been supported by subsequent research.”

      • per Says:

        per gave a pretty good account; this is a direct quote from the summary:
        “Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600. Presently available proxy evidence indicates that
        temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties
        associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.”
        you’ll be telling me the NRC are denialists next :-)

  27. Tony Says:

    “In my view, it is unfair to criticise the CRU on the basis that they did not comply with data sharing standards that, at present, don’t exist.

    Don’t exist? Of course they do! It is called the Scientific Method. I suggest you go and read Francis Bacon (the actual inventor of the method) and also Feynmann on scientific integrity.

    You will then see that science is about fundamentals, about quality, about exhibiting the utmost fidelity.

    I’ll tell you where I am coming from. In this State, about 50% of my personal energies and life-chances that are devoted to earning money, are being excised by the government to support outfits like the CRU, and by extension you personally as a state-funded climate scientist.

    Now, my income is directly related to my output being able to reach the standard of merchantable quality for my market. And, it follows that your income is also related to my maintaining that standard of quality, and quantity of output.

    But, it seems from the CRU output that the quality has been less that it could have been, in other words the Science itself was done with less than the ultimate fidelity. And, your complaint indicates that you have a relativistic view of scientific truth, utmost fidelity, quality, and other fundamentals of our collective life.

    If this is really so, then there may be two issues for you to resolve;

    If Climate Science requires externally expressed and administered standards of fidelity and quality to govern the behaviour of the practitioners, then by definition they are involved in a third-rate activity… a game that require external supervison. Therefore, is this ‘game playing’ a proper full-time occupation for a grown adult?

    And then one has to ask about the product of this Climate Science endeavour. Is it worth anything? Does it produce what the founder of science says is:

    “.. the true and lawful goal of the sciences is none other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers”

    My own view is that whilst Climate Science certainly endows individual practitioners with relativistic powers over other humans, such as fear, guilt, moral blackmail etc. it does not seem to be producing new powers for humanity as a whole, does it?

    So, it would appear right now to be a zero-sum game with ‘players’, supported by the public purse, and yet vaguely contemptuous of the public. Climate Science as a kind of enlightened social welfare for the vaguely unemployable offspring of the middling classes?

    And, when the paying public want at least a bit of entertainment-value, such as the high theatre of a Commons Committee hearing (have you read the transcripts yet?), you come out with a bit of moral relativism in an attempt to excuse what amounts to third-rate ‘gaming’ behaviour.

    So my advice would be; stop digging, and go and do some proper science. But if you cannot find the dedication to act in ‘uberrima fides’, go and learn to earn money. Who knows, you may be capable of generating a surplus of weath sufficient to sustain those who need public support, such as those trying to do Good Science.

    Now that really would be the ‘ecologically sustainable’ thing to do, wouldn’t it? A question of quality, really.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Tony

      Thanks for the comment.

      By “standards that don’t exist” I mean the ones that the IoP make up in their evidence submission and then criticise the CRU for not following.

      My overall criticism of the IoP evidence submission, though, is that there’s very little evidence in it. It’s not what I’d expect from a respectable organisation like the IoP.

  28. per Says:

    “In my view, it is unfair to criticise the CRU on the basis that they did not comply with data sharing standards that, at present, don’t exist.”
    this is pretty astonishing. Apart from the standards set out as compulsory by the UK Research Councils, and the journals that CRU published in, it is an incredible attitude from a scientist. Are you seriously suggesting it is scientific behaviour to with-hold methods and results, unless there are serious and credible reasons ?

    These are people who are funded by the public purse. They are accountable both to their employers, and to the public purse that funds them. The idea that scientists can simply refuse any responsibility in these circumstances reeks of arrogance and disdain for the people who fund the research. Keep on asking for the big stick of law to compel your obedience, and you might well not like the end-result.

  29. Open Source Science « Life and Physics Says:

    [...] Some people whose views I respect disagree more strongly with the IoP evidence than I do. See here and here for [...]

  30. A mistaken message from IoP? « Global Warming Blog Says:

    [...] as a surprise. According to the Guardian, there was only a small group of people behind this, and other IoP members was obviously not very impressed. The IoP did, however, make a second statement after their initial [...]

  31. andyrussell Says:

    [These are a couple of comments left by Kees van der Leun in my previous post. They're probably more relevant here. - Andy]

    Some more interesting views on climate change from mr Peter Gill, the IoP’s Source, and (according to LinkedIn) Member of the Energy Sub Group of the IoP’s Science Policy Board : http://bit.ly/Gillview

    Some highlights:
    – pre-industrial CO2 was 335, not 270 ppm (the famous EG Beck!)
    – for most of earth’s history, CO2 was higher than it is now
    – human CO2 emissions were much larger in the past than they are now!
    etc. etc.

    Mr Peter Gill is Chair of the London & Home Counties Branch at Energy Institute, which is a merger of the Institute of Petroleum (where mr Gill’s Crestport regularly takes part in management teams) and the Institute of Energy.

    Well, well, IoP certainly knows where to find their experts!

    [...and... - Andy]

    To be more precise on mr Gill’s petroleum links: in December 2003 he said the following about his company Crestport (http://bit.ly/Crestport): In recent years CPSL has worked especially with oil and gas production companies including Shell, British Gas and Petroleum Development Oman. [...] CPSL works in a variety of ways to best meet our clients needs. Increasingly CPSL`s consultants become interim members of the client`s management team.

  32. Marion Delgado Says:

    The Wegman “review” was itself a scandal of enormous proportions.

    The irony that one of the denialists – per – presents that secretive and deceptive review in an attempt to critique climate scientists for a lack of openness should be a crowning irony, but such things have become the norm.

  33. per Says:

    So you are a scientist, Andy. You know that there is a general problem with trees, that their growth does not follow temperature since 1960. This paper does not make a case that the species of tree follows temperature, only that the species at three specified sites shows a correlation with temperature. Do you think that proves that temperature is the controlling factor here ?

    I will give you a clue- the authors themselves say “… suggest an important role for temperature in controlling bristlecone pine ring widths…”. Suggest isn’t the strongest level of proof in the world, is it ?

    It is also interesting that one of the authors here had a PhD student who had rather disparate results (see http://climateaudit.org/2009/11/17/salzer-et-al-2009-a-first-look/) at one of the same sites. How is it that you go in once to the same area and don’t get a significant result, and you go in again, find a “significant” result, and that is the only one which is published ? There are some interesting questions arising here, and it is sad to hear from Professor jones that transparency in data and working is not an expected standard in climate science.

    per

  34. J Bowers Says:

    Andy, you may want to read this:

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/03/10/mcclimategate-continues-yet-another-false-accusation-from-mcintyre-and-mckitrick/

    And Tim Osborn’s own submission to the Committee:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3202.htm

  35. Dear Institute of Physics… (Part II) « Our Clouded Hills Says:

    [...] concern goes back to March this year when I contacted the Institute regarding their evidence submission to a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee [...]

  36. My blogging review of 2010 « Our Clouded Hills Says:

    [...] Dear Institute of Physics… March 2010 62 comments 2 [...]

  37. Climate: science, politics and honesty Says:

    [...] so far, 230 comments. The discussion of it has spread to the two blogs that I recommended, Andy Russell’s blog and RealClimate.org, though it has been diverted onto the side-issue of the letter from the [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 264 other followers

%d bloggers like this: