Climategate and scientific methodology


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  • Climategate and scientific methodology

    1. 1. ClimateGate and scientific methodology. Phil 160 November 22, 2011
    2. 2. Climate Research Unit at UEA
    3. 3. 2009: CRU emails stolen by hackers <ul><li>More than 1000 messages from the CRU email servers. </li></ul><ul><li>Widely distributed. </li></ul><ul><li>Senders and recipients include prominent climate scientists from many U.S. institutions. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Questions in wake of email release: <ul><li>Is climate science reliable? Are climate scientists honest? </li></ul><ul><li>How strong is scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming? </li></ul><ul><li>Are the scientists who wrote these emails behaving responsibly toward fellow-scientists and the public? </li></ul>
    5. 5. Public controversy: <ul><li>Email messages include candid language about other scientists (including scientists whose work is favored by climate skeptics), some of it not very nice. </li></ul><ul><li>Also include negative opinions about particular journals, journal editors the scientists thought were publishing low-quality papers. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Public controversy: <ul><li>Expressed reluctance to share data when requested to do so. </li></ul><ul><li>Expressed reluctance to share code when requested to do so. </li></ul><ul><li>Described “trick” to “hide the decline”. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Knowledge building & norms of the tribe of science? <ul><li>Conclusions should be driven by empirical evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>All scientists should be open-minded enough to give fair consideration to critiques, new data – even if they come from other scientists they don’t like. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Knowledge building & norms of the tribe of science? <ul><li>Universalism: listening to all the scientists in the tribe, not just ones you like, agree with. </li></ul><ul><li>Communism: including sharing of data, methodology, computer code. </li></ul><ul><li>Disinterestedness: looking for truth, not trying to win points for your “side” </li></ul><ul><li>Organized skepticism: of all sides, and sharing critiques publicly. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Language in private email messages. <ul><li>From RealClimate: </li></ul><ul><li>Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly). </li></ul>
    10. 10. But, smack-talk is not the same as a conspiracy to spread lies. <ul><li>From RealClimate: </li></ul><ul><li>More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to 'get rid of the MWP', no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no 'marching orders' from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though . . </li></ul>
    11. 11. But, smack-talk is not the same as a conspiracy to spread lies. <ul><li>From RealClimate: </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in 'robust' discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Options when editors seem to be interfering with peer-review? <ul><li>From my blog: </li></ul><ul><li>Surely just as there are faulty spectrometers, there may also be unfairly biased editors, and they may skew what journals publish. Do you have to submit to them anyway? Can you mount arguments (publicly? privately?) that make the case that a particular editor is biased or isn't playing fair in the exercise of her editorial duties? Can you elect to submit your work instead to journals whose editorial processes seem more fair (or at least more transparent)? Is there something not-quite-ethical about avoiding particular problematic journals either as venues to submit your own work or as sources of work in your field that ought to be taken seriously? </li></ul>
    13. 13. Data sharing is the ideal, but: <ul><li>Data management takes resources (and accidents happen) </li></ul><ul><li>Some data are proprietary (because paid for by private funding sources) </li></ul><ul><li>Data sharing also takes up time, resources </li></ul>
    14. 14. Sharing methodology, code <ul><li>Helps other scientists determine whether your results are reproducible </li></ul><ul><li>But, quirks of different computer systems made “replications” with older programs tricky. </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation of code </li></ul><ul><li>Code as proprietary (connected to priority) </li></ul>
    15. 15. “Hide the decline” <ul><li>From Thoughts From Kansas: </li></ul><ul><li>Part of the fuss arises from a single line in one email which refers to using a &quot;trick&quot; to &quot;hide the decline.&quot; Deniers try to claim that the &quot;decline&quot; in question is a decline in global average temperature since 1998, despite the fact that statisticians can find no such decline. </li></ul>
    16. 17. “Hide the decline” <ul><li>From Thoughts From Kansas: </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, the &quot;decline&quot; discussed in the email is an artifact of certain temperature proxies, which have shown a decline in their estimate of regional temperature compared to instrumental measurements (which is to say, thermometers). Since those data are known to be erroneous, the scientists have determined standard ways to represent the real data and to set aside the bogus data. This is what the scientist is referring to as his &quot;trick”. </li></ul>
    17. 18. Broader worries: scientists and publics <ul><li>Climate science is policy-relevant. </li></ul><ul><li>Is it solid enough (and is there enough scientific consensus) that we’re ready to let it guide policy decisions? </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency of science to the public: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can we check it (data, code)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can we understand it? </li></ul></ul>
    18. 19. The campaign against Michael Mann <ul><li>Beginning around Nov. 22, 2009, Penn State began receiving phone calls, emails, letters accusing Mann of manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse. </li></ul><ul><li>From whom? State and federal politicians, alumni, members of public. </li></ul>
    19. 20. Complaints spurred Penn State inquiry. <ul><li>Questions posed by inquiry panel: </li></ul><ul><li>Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data? </li></ul><ul><li>Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones? </li></ul>
    20. 21. Complaints spurred Penn State inquiry. <ul><li>Questions posed by inquiry panel: </li></ul><ul><li>Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar? </li></ul><ul><li>Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities? </li></ul>
    21. 22. Inquiry found no merit to three of the allegations against Mann. <ul><li>But, decided to mount an Investigation to look at the fourth question, about deviations from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities. </li></ul><ul><li>Framed as an issue of public trust. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognizing that what counts as “accepted practices” may depend on the scientific field! </li></ul>
    22. 23. Investigation found in Mann’s favor.
    23. 24. Science and public trust. <ul><li>Public funds scientific research. </li></ul><ul><li>Public would like to be able to rely on knowledge generated by science to guide policy decisions. </li></ul><ul><li>How can the public tell good science from bad science? </li></ul>
    24. 25. Science and public trust. <ul><li>“Trust me, I’m a scientist.” </li></ul><ul><li>But some people with scientific training, credentials claim there is no anthropogenic global warming. </li></ul><ul><li>Which scientists to trust? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look at which position more scientists hold? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Look at funding sources? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Look at willingness to answer objections, revise position? </li></ul></ul>
    25. 26. Challenge for the public: <ul><li>Most of us don’t have the expertise to evaluate the science ourselves! </li></ul><ul><li>Doesn’t stop people from trying (often doing a poor job of it) </li></ul><ul><li>Do scientists have an obligation to provide data, code to any member of the public who asks? </li></ul><ul><li>To make their research understandable to everyone? </li></ul>
    26. 27. If we can’t judge the science, we judge the scientists. <ul><li>Expect science to build objective, unbiased knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence that individual scientists have biases, are mean to each other, etc., undermines our confidence about the knowledge they build </li></ul>
    27. 28. What’s the public’s responsibility here? <ul><li>If we fund the science, should we let the scientists actually do the science? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there some scientific conclusions we’re bound to reject because of our own issues? </li></ul>