Institute of Physics S&TC evidence submission – what’s actually wrong with it?

There’s clearly some interest in the IoP evidence submission and my original letter to the IoP didn’t really go into my objections in great detail. I thought I should go through the evidence submission in one place instead of explaining my views in response to blog comments.

Overall, I’m not objecting to the statement because I disagree with it (although I do). I object to it because, for an evidence submission, it contains no evidence and it is judgemental. The IoP should be embarrassed to have its name associated with it and, in my opinion, should retract this evidence statement. Here are my thoughts on why the first 8 points from the submission are inadequate:

“1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.”

This point contradicts the IoP’s assertion in their recent press releases that they accept the current understanding of climate science as presented by the IPCC. More worryingly, despite the fact that CRU’s research findings have not been undermined by the email leak, this point implies that the integrity and credibility of the whole of climate science is now in doubt. There is no justification for this extrapolation even if CRU’s research were compromised.

“2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. 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.”

This is a rather one sided analysis of the unique issues relating to the data that CRU use – there is what I consider to be a more balanced and better informed overview here.

Further, UEA present a different interpretation of the Freedom of Information issues informed by their correspondence with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“3. It is important to recognise that there are two completely different categories of data set that are involved in the CRU e-mail exchanges:

• those compiled from direct instrumental measurements of land and ocean surface temperatures such as the CRU, GISS and NOAA data sets; and

• historic temperature reconstructions from measurements of ‘proxies’, for example, tree-rings.”

There’s not much to take issue with here other than the very final part – “for example, tree rings” – which doesn’t really give an indication of the full range of proxy measures that have been used in the reconstructions.

“4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.”

“This possibility was evidently the reason…” I read this as wild speculation. Is there any evidence to back this theory up? If not, it has no place in an evidence submission. More generally, though, why have the studies that have investigated the details of the proxy compilation in the IPCC report (The “Wegman” report, 2006 and The National Research Council Report, 2006) not been mentioned and critiqued?

“5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.”

For me, this is the low point of the evidence submission. Surely the reason for asking organisations like the IoP to provide evidence is that they have the knowledge to provide context to the issues at hand. This point has not done that – it is merely an ill informed judgement on a quote from an old email (the “…hide the decline…” one).

If this point were to be taken seriously, they would need to have referred to the figures in specific papers or documents where they believe that the proxy records were suppressed.

I suspect that they have not done this because there is no evidence to back up this point. For example, Briffa et al. 1999 (“Reduced sensitivity of recent tree-growth to temperature at high northern latitudes” in Nature) specifically discusses the issues of dendroclimatology divergence. Chapter 6.6 of the IPCC AR4 WG1 report also looks at the details of the proxy reconstructions of the climate of the last 2000 years, including divergence. There are other examples. I cannot see how the IoP can interpret this as suppression.

”6. There is also reason for concern at the intolerance to challenge displayed in the e-mails. This impedes the process of scientific ‘self correction’, which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process as a whole, and not just to the research itself. In that context, those CRU e-mails relating to the peer-review process suggest a need for a review of its adequacy and objectivity as practised in this field and its potential vulnerability to bias or manipulation.”

This point again seems one sided and 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.

In relation to the second issue in this point, peer review, the IoP should surely have looked beyond an account of what people were saying in an incomplete archive of private emails. If we look at what actually happened in the public arena then, as an example, certain papers that were discussed in those emails were not excuded from the IPCC report as was suggested.

“7. Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers. Requiring data to be electronically accessible to all, at the time of publication, would remove this possibility.”

Again, there are particular issues relating to a small percentage of the data used by the CRU. Newcomers to the field were not excluded from contributing (if anything, the work of CRU in collecting all this data and producing usable girded products promotes the inclusion of newcomers) but the issues relating to the data mean that, at presnt, to replicate the work they would have to request the data from third parties themselves.

This point again seems rather one sided. For example, was the aim of the FoI requests really to replicate the CRU temperature product? This blog post and some of the comments indicate that it probably wasn’t. But I agree that making the data available is still important as a matter of principle.

“8. As a step towards restoring confidence in the scientific process and to provide greater transparency in future, the editorial boards of scientific journals should work towards setting down requirements for open electronic data archiving by authors, to coincide with publication. Expert input (from journal boards) would be needed to determine the category of data that would be archived. Much ‘raw’ data requires calibration and processing through interpretive codes at various levels.”

Similar to the final sentence of point 7, this is a nice recommendation but it does not really address the issues at hand. Incidentally, this proposed “standard” is not even employed by the IoP’s own journals – for example, ERL allows data to be uploaded with papers but it is not required. To imply that CRU have acted badly by not complying with this non-existent standard makes no sense.


Anonymous members of the Institute of Physics Science Board (2010). The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Memorandum



21 Responses to “Institute of Physics S&TC evidence submission – what’s actually wrong with it?”

  1. per Says:

    [As some of my responses got lost in the thread of my last post I thought I’d put my responses straight into the comments this time. – Andy]


    “Incidentally, this proposed “standard” is not even employed by the IoP’s own journals – for example, ERL allows data to be uploaded with papers but it is not required. To imply that CRU have acted badly by not complying with this non-existent standard makes no sense.”
    this isn’t about a “standard” that is written down by journals…

    [It might not be an issue for you but this is exactly what my post is about. I am criticising the IoP evidence submission and this is a key part of why it is bad. – Andy]

    …This is about scientists behaving with integrity and honesty- and releasing their data/ methods when asked. The IOP- and the RSC, the RSS and RCUK- believe that this is imperative. So don’t complain about just the IOP.

    [I’m a member of the IoP. I’m not a member of those other organisations. My focus on the IoP is perfectly reasonable as their evidence was submitted in my name and I think that they should withdraw their support for the submission because it is of a very poor standard. – Andy]

    I am really bemused about your argument. Phil Jones has published papers that got him a chair, prestige, and vast amounts of public money for his research. Now somebody is asking if they can check his working, and he just says- oops, i can’t show you my working, because of confidentiality agreements. He could have sorted out his agreements before now, or he could have not published, but you cannot publish, influence public policy, and then tell people that they cannot see your workings. Just like you cannot publish on chemical “X”, or with a secret method- it is not science.

    [You know why the data hasn’t been released. – Andy]

    “they would need to have referred to the figures in specific papers or documents where they believe that the proxy records were suppressed.”
    I guess you are looking for the front cover of this:

    [Good work – your comment is already better than the IoP’s evidence submission! – Andy]

    If you can show me where this reconstruction was used in the literature before this, or where it says in the legend that the instrumental was spliced on in 1960, i will be surprised.

    [You know I can’t do that. I agree that using this plot was a bit sloppy, I assume it was because the Briffa et al. 1999 Nature paper hadn’t been published at this point and that the WMO report wasn’t a peer reviewed document. But even this does not justify the IoP’s accusation of suppression. – Andy]


  2. per Says:

    I really don’t get your point about “non-existent standards” for data release. The RSC, the RSS, the IoP and Research Councils UK all take exactly the same line, that it is imperative that scientists share data, unless there are well-characterised exceptions. They are taking the view that this is an inalienable duty of being a scientist.

    [I’ve said this quite a few times now but I’ll say it again: the IoP propose a standard for data sharing and then criticise CRU for not adhering to that standard in the past. I’m not saying that CRU acted perfectly. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aim for openness in the future. I’m saying that the IoP evidence submission is just silly. – Andy]

    Are you arguing that because this isn’t written down, it isn’t a duty, and there is no obligation ? Would you consequently argue that if there is no explicit written prohibition against being dishonest, it is okay for a scientist to be dishonest ?

    [No, I’m not saying any of that. – Andy]

    Is there a difficulty if your argument is correct ? If scientists can with-hold data, how could you ever check (and hence trust) what a scientist publishes ? You are effectively arguing that scientific research should be immune from scrutiny, and that seems to me to raise problems.

    [I said no such thing nor would I. – Andy]
    [… that the WMO report wasn’t a peer reviewed document. But even this does not justify the IoP’s accusation of suppression…]

    It seems to me that when you are acting on behalf of the public (for the WMO), there is an even greater duty of scientific integrity…

    [I don’t know why they did that. Maybe it was an effort to be “right enough” for a report for non-specialists i.e. if you believe that the divergence problem means that the instrumental record is better in the most recent 50 years or so then maybe you can justify replacing that bit. Its not perfect and I’m sure a reviewer would never let it through (this report probably wasn’t reviewed). But looked at in the context of all the peer-reviewed research that CRU were doing, it doesn’t seem that important. – Andy]

    …That document shows unambiguously that they did not document clearly what they did, and that the post-1960 tree data has been omitted. The emails linked to on this page (, coupled with Phil’s contemporaneous record that he used the trick to “hide the decline”, demonstrate clearly that the omission was a deliberate choice, and seem to me to substantiate the IoP’s charge of “apparent suppression” completely.

    [But this splicing only applies to the WMO figure, right? This obviously isn’t ideal and it is not something I would do. However, the figure in the IPCC AR4 WG1 shows all the data in full and is in a much, much more significant document. Again, in this post, I am most interested in the IoP’s evidence submission and if they though that the WMO document was the key report from this group of scientists (which I doubt they, or anyone else, do) then they should have pointed to it, described the problems and said why the impact of this figure was more important than the IPCC report and the Nature paper. – Andy]

    For my part, i am fascinated. The issue of whether tree data can show temperature back for a millenium is going to influenced by whether they can show temperature now. “Hiding the decline” in your prime graphic, whilst discussing divergence in the text, is not full transparency; it is the behaviour you expect from PR spokesmen and politicians. And you appear to be all in favour of such selective practices.

    [You’re mixing up plots here to suit your position. The “…hide the decline…” email referred to “…Mike’s Nature trick…”, not “the WMO report trick”. I’m sure that you also know that by “…hide the decline…” Jones is talking about “adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years” and not splicing them together as they did in the WMO report. For example, in the case of the figure in the IPCC AR4 WG1 all the data is plotted. – Andy]

  3. Jack Hughes Says:

    Hi Andy,

    Why not do a post about your own research?

    * What you have found so far
    * What you are looking at right now
    * What you hope to find

    Maybe with some detail of what day-to-day life is like. Do you work in a lab with instruments – or work at a desk doing calculations ? Or what ? Big team ? Small team ? Alone much of the time ?

    This would be more interesting than the yes-it-is / no-it-isn’t style of debating.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Hi Jack

      I have kind of been pulled down this IoP route against my will! I agree that a lot of the confrontation doesn’t achieve anything.

      I did a post on Antarctic climate a week or two ago. That stuff really interests me. Once I’ve got this silly IoP thing sorted I’ll explore that a bit more.

      Thanks for the reality check!


  4. Timo van Druten Says:


    “I’m a member of the IoP. I’m not a member of those other organisations. My focus on the IoP is perfectly reasonable as their evidence was submitted in my name and I think ……”

    I am of the opinion that they did not submit the memorandum in your name! They did submit it in name of the name of all the members of the Institute. This raises the question how many members are opposing the memorandum. If a majority (or a qualified majority) of the members do not agree with the evidence submission, you might have a point.

    If we follow your line of thinking, any dissenting voice within e.g. the IPCC should result in retracting a lot of statements in WGI, WGII or WGIII which are currently being challenged. The same is true for reports, statements, etc. issued by governments with which you or me don’t agree with.

    • andyrussell Says:

      Ok, fair point. But you know what I mean. I don’t want to organise a petition but if it was shown to me that a majority of the IoP’s 36000 members supported this statement then I would quietly leave the organisation. At the moment it seems that half the people supposedly involved in writing the submission won’t openly support it.

      I’m not sure the IPCC analogy works as that document is written by a known list of authors and independently reviewed.

    • Scott A. Mandia Says:

      If we follow your line of thinking, any dissenting voice within e.g. the IPCC should result in retracting a lot of statements in WGI, WGII or WGIII which are currently being challenged.

      A lot? There are very few statements in the IPCC reports, especially WGI, that are being challenged by reputable scientists. These reports are volumous and the “mistakes” are very few.

      Let us keep proper perspective.

      P.S. Great post, Andy!

  5. per Says:

    there is a kind of weird thing, where my comment is marked as in moderation, but you have commented on it.

    [Apologies, I’m pretty busy at the moment but still wanted to fully respond to your comments before approving them. – Andy]

    I think i am failing to understand your argument on the IOP’s data sharing standard. We agree on the general duties for data sharing, allegedly, and I don’t see what additional standard is being raised by the IoP. My apologies, but i am obviously misunderstanding that which you are communicating.

    [Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough that I was criticising the IoP’s evidence statement, not necessarily defending CRU. – Andy]

    Perhaps if I can make one other comment. I think the IoP has a difficult balance here; it has to deal with general principles, but it cannot be drawn into commenting in too much detail on specifics. If it does, it would be pre-judging the enquiry, and a bad thing. So this is one reason why the IoP submission does not give specifics of where people have committed a (putative) error. The downside of this approach, as you point out, is that the submission is vague. I can understand that you don’t like the submission anyway.

    [The IoP submission was by far the least professional one that I read. If you look to the evidence submissions from the Royal Society of Chemistry or the Royal Statistical Society then they do a good job of giving background context to the committee without making opinionated judgements. Professor Hans von Storch and Dr. Myles R. Allen provided a detailed joint submission that gives much unbiased context and analysis. I’m that sure this submission would have been really useful to the S&TC as they criticise and support CRU where the evidence they provide warrants it – by comparison, I felt that this really showed up the poor quality of the IoP’s evidence, especially as the IoP has members in its ranks with similar levels of expertise. – Andy]

  6. Tom Brown Says:

    Relative to the IoP’s point #1 it is seems that the point is being missed. The IoP is expressing a concern for the “integrity of scientific research in this field (climate research) and for the credibility of the scientific method” which they imply is being undermined by the emails. They are making no claim or statement relative to whether or not they “accept the current understanding of climate science as presented by the IPCC.” There is no apparent contradiction. In the press conference reference provided in the original post the IoP clearly states their position:
    “the basic science is well established and there is no doubt that climate change is happening and that we should be taking action to address it now”
    Regarding the IoP’s concern on the integrity of the research, during the UK Parliamentary hearings the Right Honorable Mr. Stringer asked Dr. Jones why he has refused to provide raw data requested under the Freedom of Information’s act he states that:

    Jones: “It’s not standard practice to do that” (provide raw data)


    RH Stringer: “If it’s not standard practice then how’s the science to progress?
    Jones: ““Maybe it should be standard practice but it’s not, it’s not standard practice across the subject”

    Mr. Jones is implying that the scientific method doesn’t apply for climate research.

    A few moments later:

    RH Stringer: “Can you explain your email to (Warwick) Hughes on the 21st of January, 2005 when you said you aren’t going to make the data available to him because all he wants’ to do is find something wrong with it. That’s the nature of scientific pursuit isn’t it?” … “He wanted the data but you refused to give it to him, why?
    Jones: “Because we had a lot of work, resources invested in it. That was way before the FOI request was started”
    RH Stringer presses:
    RH Stringer: “Science shouldn’t have to rely on individuals making FOI requests… why have you refused to give them the data?”
    Jones: “We have given them the gridded product so that we have the, not the raw station data but the product in grid boxes.
    RH Stringer: ”But they can’t go back to the basics as any scientists would want to and say “Is this right” You’ve denied them the right to check it.”
    Jones: “We have made the gridded product available from the very beginning but not the raw station data and most scientists don’t want to deal with the raw station data they would rather deal with a derived product”

    Therefore, it’s difficult to align with your contention that the CRU’s research hasn’t been undermined by recent events. The press coverage (right or wrong) notwithstanding, the deposition made by Mr. Jones to representatives of the UK government in public sessions call into serious question the premise that the CRU is adhering to basic concepts regarding the scientific method. Perhaps this is why the IoP is concerned about integrity of the research.

    For reference comments from the hearings are approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes into the proceedings (

  7. JMurphy Says:

    The interesting question, though, and one that I haven’t seen answered in the affirmative yet, is : Has anyone actually found a member of the IoP (let alone a board member) who actually supports that submission ?

  8. Slowjoe Says:

    I was one of the people who asked you about specific objections.

    I thought you were a reasonable man, and could hardly quibble with paragraph one, and that you would have limited objections to some of the other points. Paragraph one states that allegations of misconduction (unless effectively dismissed) can cause damage to credibility. Arguing with this would be petty legalism (in the manner of the worst lawyer caricatures.)

    [My objection is that it is not for the IoP to prejudge the enquiry into this matter, which is exactly what they have done. They also claim that the emails cast doubt over the integrity of “scientific research in this field”. Not just the CRU, not just CRU and their collaborators but all of climate science! Where is the IoP’s evidence for this claim? I’m not trying to defend CRU, I’m pointing out that the IoP’s evidence submission is very poor. – Andy]

    Yet argue you do. With every paragraph. Frankly, I’m amazed.

  9. Slowjoe Says:

    After the Enron affair, all accountants suffered. The US passed a law requiring CEOs to sign their financial statements for example. This was due to the doubts of the integrity of the financial statements and accountants. Yes very few (probably none) other companies would depend on financial statements from Enron.

    After the MPs expenses affair, a reasonable man would consider that it created doubts about the integrity of a random MP. Yet no expense claim from one MP should affect another MP directly.

    Unlike the two examples above, scientific results frequently depend on other scientific results. So, the leaked/stolen emails do damage the credibility of climate science in the round. In analogy to gaming, it may be that the belief in climate science integrity has gone from 100% healthy to 95% healthy, or it may be more serious.

    To argue that it’s wrong to admit that “damage has been done” until the Muir Russell inquiry is complete is wrong-headed. You do yourself a disservice to adopt this stance. Unfortunately, the fact that Boulton in the inquiry team tried to cover up his time at UEA means that the Russell inquiry will only be accepted by skeptics if it hangs Jones out to dry.

    [My point is that it is not for the IoP to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry in an HoC S&TC evidence submission. If the IoP think that this incident has damaged all of climate science then they should have presented the evidence to back that viewpoint up. – Andy]

  10. Ros Says:

    Kinda following on from Timo I suggest that to resign because you don’t like the submission is a bad move. I am not a scientist, but I have sufficient understanding of the rules of associations and meetings to decide that you are both confused and wrong in your consideration of how the Institute should have operated Andy. Maybe check the rules and procedures and time poor though you would certainly be, a visit to Robert’s Rules Of Orders might reassure you. Then if you find they have not abided by the rules you could either use the procedures to argue for the submission’s withdrawal, or join in the Institutes examination of your procedures.

    [Hi Ros. The IoP have issued a statement clarifying how the submission was written and, while it is clearly open to abuse if the Science Board lack understanding on a particular issue or the time to give it due consideration, that is not the main concern I have. In the end they produced a bad evidence statement and I am trying to find the HoC S&TC evidence submission guidelines to see how their submission compares with that. My threat to resign, though, was only partly to do with them tightening up their procedures and withdrawing this poor evidence statement, but also because (as a climate scientist) I feel that, given the opinionated judgements that appear in the evidence submission, I would be better off to disassociate myself from the IoP. – Andy]

    It seems that you want all submissions from the Institute to be put to and approved by a majority of members? responders? quorum, particular groups? And you want the right, as an ordinary member, to put amendments, which would themselves have to go through that same process. It would be worthwhile considering the impact on the Institute’s ability to respond to such as the Parliamentary Committee if you insist on a reform of that nature. They don’t appear to have acted improperly, and their rules and procedures appear pretty typical. I cannot see that you have provided evidence that they did in fact not abide by their own rules and procedures

    And you are comparing apples with oranges in your insistence that the Institute, an entity, should develop and deliver a submission in the same way that scientific research is done, by scientist/s

    Think of it this way, a committee drafts a paper, as per your Institute’s rules, a motion which is then put at a virtual meeting, first of the sub-committe and then a virtual meeting of the Science Board. They voted for the draft in which case it becomes both the submission and is the product of that meeting and owned by the Board, or probably IOP. Who proposed (or who wrote the draft) and the discussion that followed would not be minuted, the submission is a passed motion of the meeting, period. I am sure that you understand that as product of an association it cannot be rescinded on the demand of a member just because he has a prominent public voice. But what you are asking them to do is trash the rules and procedures, while complaining that they are not abiding by the rules and procedures, even though you seem to have no knowledge of your Institute’s rules and procedures.

    I have read yours and others snippets about the ex-Chair of the Energy subcommittee Peter Gill’s and his position on climate change, and horror horror, while he was Chair Prof Lindzen was invited to speak to the group. I read all of newsletter 23 and I include from that newsletter the following book review by the current chair of the Energy Group, Simon Roberts. May I respectfully suggest that some of you have been quite unfair to your colleagues in the Institute? And if the complainers out there want to run the show, get involved, there is nothing more galling when giving precious time and effort to associations such as this, to have the inactive attacking one’s efforts from a place of ignorance.

    “Heat”, George Monbiot. Where Al Gore’s film leaves off with “low energy light bulbs” nestled in the rolling credits, George Monbiot’s book “Heat: how to stop the planet burning” takes over (published September 2006).

    Monbiot takes a frighteningly logical journey, based on well-researched data (40 pages of references), on what we need to do. His “we” is very pointed: “the professional classes” (us), best able to understand but with the most to lose. “Our response will be to demand the government acts, while hoping that it doesn’t.”

    After a romp through the now-familiar consequences of climate change, by page 16 he has set a target of 90% reduction in emissions and goes on to address how on earth this can be achieved. His coverage is extensive: rebound effect (energy efficiency leads to greater consumption!), homes, power stations, carbon sequestration, renewables, land transport, air travel, retail and industry.

    He is humorous: “I have learnt from bitter experience that it is not easy to interest people in cement.” He punctures bubbles, such as the over enthusiasm for small urban wind turbines and claims by environmentalist worthies. But he is despondent: “If this book has not encouraged you to want to do something, then I urge you to return it to the shop and demand your money back, for it has proved to be useless.”

    One could easily quibble technical details, but as an all-round systemic analysis, it’s the best I’ve seen. Despite the UK context, it is also well worth reading in other countries (though publication in the USA is delayed to July this year).

    Just another thought, those of you demanding to know who wrote a group document. I note that there is a female Phd student on the committee. I have been on this earth for a while, so there are blokes, there are important blokes, and there are academic blokes, and well, getting the young woman to do the grunt stuff does come fairly easily to the range of blokes I nominate. So just maybe the female Phd student was tasked to write it within given guidelines and points to cover. Then in accordance with the perfectly proper rules and procedures of the Institute the paper is the responsibility of the Science Board at the very least, not the author who did the draft. Anyone can look to see who the committee and board members are if they believe in group punishment. Vote them out next AGM, don’t publicly ridicule them.

    And given the nastiness of the scientific community (and its acolytes), maybe the IOP doesn’t think it would be nice to hang her, or any other member out to dry. Just contemplate the ad hominem attacks on what seem to me to be eminently respectable and intelligent men within the Institute, the Board and the Committee. Has been a shock to me, all this brawling, makes the netball and tennis clubs look like temples to civility,

  11. IOP Blog on IOP Submission to Parliament « Greenmarauder's Blog Says:

    […] in the article is “Andy Russell”, but the article fails to mention or link to  Dr. Andrew Russell’s own blog post detailing his criticisms in […]

  12. John Mashey Says:

    1) Science societies can make statements about science in various different ways.

    a) They do *not* generally vote, because science generally is no settled by voting.

    b) They may well have an internal committee that generates such things. For the American Physical Society, that’s POPA.

    c) Such a committee may well put together a task force to draft a statement, and it may well ask for comments(which POPA has done), but it is not by voting, but rather because they can put together a task force that has relevant expertise. For example, regarding climate, the physicist who heads POPA (Socolow) is quite knowledgeable, whereas a random nuclear physicist likely would not be.

    For climate science, a society like the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has no problem assembling a highly-competent panel. Likewise, when the Geological Society of America was draftiing a new statement, they assembled a panel by Bill Ruddiman (a highly-respected paleoclimate scientist)+ 9 others, such that the 10 of them together easily had 1000+ peer-reviewed papers in serious journals, many quite relevant. Such opinions are worth considering.

    d) If a society cannot assemble a group like that, of high calibre, and with relevant expertise, then its opinions carry no more weight than random people on the street. In such cases, it is best to either to say nothing, or to follow the lead of somebody who knows what they are doing. For instance, in this case, the RCS’s submission seemed fairly rational and thoughtful.

    2) Given the volunteer nature of many societies activities, it is quite common for some committee, or some regional group to get “hijacked” by people with very strong views, who may well seek to leverage the society’s credibility for their own viewpoint. Societies usually have mechanisms to prevent this, but sometimes errors happen, and sometimes thing slip through, not by malice, but because one finds a naive editor or one who does not understand the *context*.

    3) So, let’s try some examples, some of which are documented here, as part of the analysis of last year’s APS petition. But first, you need to know that APS does not really have a lot of working climate scientists as members. Most of thsoe, even the physicists, tend to hang out in AGU. [I’m a member of AAAS, APS, and AGU].

    a) A few years ago, Larry Gould (p.95-96) became Co-Editor of the newsletter for the APS New England Section. He seems to be a theoretical physicist who caught a climate anti-science bug. He filled the newsletter with “interesting material”, became a big promoted of Monckton, and now gets to speak at Hheartland conferences. He has zero peer-reviewed publications in climate (well, he doesn’t have a strong pubs record, it appears).

    b) In 2008, The APS’ Forum on Physics and Society (a non-peer-reviewed newsletter used normally for essays) published a “physics” piece by Monckton. It was awful, recognized as a bad mistake. The APS hierarchy recognized the problem, changed some procedures … and then editors. As a high-ranking person told me “They will make mistakes, but they will not make that one that way again.”

    How did all that happen?
    The two editors, neither of whom had the slightest climate expertise, wanted a Pro- and con-” article pair on AGW, but had trouble finding physicists to write “con-“.
    They asked around among physicists they knew and someone (not Gould), gave them a handful of people to ask, including Monckton. None of the others were interested, but “Dr Monckton” as they addressed him (not knowing!) was eager and strangely failed to correct their misimpression.

    One of the editors gave it a cursory editorial review …and they published it. This was not malice on the part of the editors, at least one of whom was utterly horrified when he realized what had happened. They’d relied on someone they (thought) they knew for advice, and just assumed Monckton was a physicist. As it happens, had they rummaged in their advisor’s website, they might have caught a hint or two, and that person is a speaker in the forthcoming Heartland conference. Oh…

    c) Last year, as detailed in the last URL, a tiny (but very intense) fraction of the APS membership generated a petition to throw out the APS’ (vanilla) statement on climate change. By November, they’d gotten <0.5% of the members (~200 people of 47,000), including a whole lot of nuclear physicists who were absolutely certain that climate scientists were clueless about climate. This is odd, because usually physicists understand things like absorption/emission spectra of greenhouse gases, and Conservation of Energy, and stuff like that. In fact, most physicists *easily* know better.

    d) Some people tried with the GSA, did not get very far.

    e) Backed by Heartland, a small fraction of the American Chemical Society (ACS) is trying, but ACS is pretty savvy.

    4) One can pretty well guarantee that 1% of any society will have strong negative views on climate science and scientists. All it takes is for a group of a few of these to get together and promote that view in some volunteer subcommittee, and then forcefully promote it, and if it happens to get reviewed by people who aren't particularly knowledgeable, this is what happens, especially if procedures are sloppy.

    5) Now, the British science establishment is one of the best in the world, and senior people are very good. But in any large organization, it is impossible to have "A" people everywhere, and things happen. [In small organizations, it *is* possible to have "A" people in every job, which is how Silicon Valley startups sometimes do amazing things. i just isn't possible in big organizations.]

    So, I suspect things *will* happen, especially given the way the UK science establishment works (tight geography & social networks).

  13. MapleLeaf Says:

    John M,

    CMOS recently had a mole who was leaking confidential emails and information to ‘Friends’ of science. The model has since moved on thank goodness. But are there others?

  14. Mark Shapiro Says:

    per requested, in comment #1 above:

    “If you can show me where this reconstruction was used in the literature before this, or where it says in the legend that the instrumental was spliced on in 1960, i will be surprised.”

    The legend that per requests, though a little opaque, follows right after the graph in the WMO document that he cites. Note that it includes “instrumental records”. In full it says:

    “Front cover:
    Northern Hemisphere temperatures were reconstructed for the past 1000 years (up to 1999) using palaeoclimatic records (tree rings, corals, ice cores, lake sediments, etc.), along with historical and long instrumental records. The data are shown as 50-year smoothed differences from the 1961–1990 normal. Uncertainties are greater in the early part of the millennium (see page 4 for further information). For more details, readers are referred to the PAGES newsletter (Vol. 7, No. 1: March 1999, also available at and the National Geophysical Data Center ( (Sources of data: P.D. Jones, K.R. Briffa and T.J. Osborn, University of East Anglia, UK; M.E. Mann, University of Virginia, USA; R.S. Bradley, University of Massachusetts, USA; M.K. Hughes, University of Arizona, USA; and the Hadley Centre, The Met. Office).


  15. Storms and climate change « Andy Russell's Blog Says:

    […] and climate change By andyrussell I’ve been pretty distracted recently with the Institute of Physics issue. I’ll hopefully draw that chapter to a close in the next couple of weeks (it looks like the […]

  16. The beginning of the end of climategate? « Andy Russell's Blog Says:

    […] example, there was the flawed IoP evidence submission and there were a high number of submissions from prominent “skeptics” (e.g. McKitrick, […]

  17. Jackson Says:

    Very good post. Can’t wait to read a lot more about this topic.

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

    […] The IoP evidence submission was particularly one sided in its analysis and engaged in wild speculation.  It appeared to have an agenda to undermine the work of the CRU without supplying any evidence to substantiate its claims.  This is clearly irresponsible and inappropriate behaviour from a professional society.  [My quick analysis of it is here.] […]

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