Greg Laden has a good post about Judith Curry’s recent post in which she implies that the Hockey Stick might be fraudulent. I recommend reading Greg’s post, but essentially he points out that it’s perfectly normal to take a large number of different datasets and combine them to try and illustrate something relatively simple. In the case of the Hockey Stick graph, it’s to try and present our global (or Northern Hemisphere in some cases) temperature history over the last millennium.
If you want to know more about the Hockey Stick controversy, you can read Greg’s post. I thought I might just make a broader point. Maybe I’m just odd (yes, yes, okay, I am), but as far as I’m concerned, the important question – when it comes to something like the Hockey Stick – is whether or not what it presents is a reasonable representation of our millenial temperature history. All these claims of fraud, misconduct, etc. just seem to be attempts to undermine a result without actually showing that what it presents is wrong. In fact, I would argue that if a scientific result is based on fraud/misconduct, it should be trivial to show that it’s wrong (i.e., redo the work in a non-fraudulent way and present the correct result, or show that you can’t reproduce the result). It’s certainly my opinion that all these accusations of fraud/misconduct are really just because the Hockey Stick graph presents a result that some find inconvenient.
I mentioned in an earlier comment that I was engaged in a scientific debate with another group who, in my view, are presenting their work in a way that somewhat overplays the significance of what they’re doing. However, what they’ve actually shown is interesting and quite important, but not really for the reasons that they suggest. I do find it quite annoying that they’ve written some papers presenting their results in a way that sounds much more interesting than – in my view – it warrants (their papers are getting more citations than mine 🙂 ). On the other hand, I’ve managed to write a couple of papers in response and can show that what they’re suggesting is wrong without needing to make any suggestions of scientific misconduct. At the end of the day, we gain understanding even if there are some blips along the way.
It would be much better, in my view, if people were willing to be more careful about what they present and not overplay the significance of their results, but scientific debates are perfectly normal and can, typically, take place without throwing around accusations of fraud and misconduct. There are certainly occasions when it is valid to make an accusation of fraud or misconduct, but this would normally be when someone cannot replicate a result and it becomes clear that the original researchers were fundamentally dishonest in some way. A mistake does not constitute fraud, nor does doing something in a way that others might disagree with.
That’s really all I was going to say. I just still find myself being amazed by what some people seem willing to say. I know that by now I should no longer be amazed by what anyone says, but I still am. I don’t really see how throwing around accusations of fraud and misconduct helps us to gain scientific understanding but, my guess, is that that isn’t the goal of those who do so.