Policing science

Eric Steig linked, yesterday, to a couple of old articles – by Steve Easterbrook – about the Climategate saga, one in Think Progress and the other a debate with George Monbiot. I agreed with much (possibly all) of what Steve Easterbrook was saying. The whole saga largely illustrates that even bright people can misunderstand how fundamental science works. To illustrate this further, Matt Ridley published – yesterday – another one of his polemics (reproduced here) in which he manages to insult most climate scientists and then whines when they criticise him on Twitter in response. I can’t face going through his article in detail, but it finishes with

In all the millions of scientific careers in Britain over the past few decades, outside medical science there has never been a case of a scientist convicted of malpractice. Not one. Maybe that is because — unlike the police, the church and politics — scientists are all pure as the driven snow. Or maybe it is because science as an institution, like so many other institutions, does not police itself properly.

which just illustrates that his understanding of how science works is woefully poor.

So, what’s the problem with policing science? Firstly, there are already rules in place. If you’re developing something for use, you have to ensure that it safe. There are rules about ethics that need to be followed, and committing scientific fraud is a serious offense. However, I don’t think that this is what people are referring to when they mention policing science. What I think they mean is that scientists should be punished if they get something wrong, use a method that turns out to be unsuitable, or make some kind of fundamental mistake; if so, this is just ridiculous.

Why? Well, there are a number of reasons. Firstly, we want scientists to take risks. We want them to tackle difficult problems and try to understand things that we don’t yet understand. We want them to use data that might not be perfect, use techniques that are not fully developed, and use models that are not validated or verified. Otherwise, they’re essentially studying things that we already understand, rather than things we don’t yet understand. Why would they possibly tackle a difficult, as yet unsolved problem, if they then ran they risk of punishment if they made a mistake or got it wrong?

There’s also another fundamental reason why this is unworkable. Who would do it? I think there are probably only a handful of people in the world who understand the techniques I use well enough to critique them in detail. I suspect this is true in many cases where people are doing fundamental research. They’re also, mainly, scientific competitors. How can people who aren’t independent, be involved in policing other scientists. You might think that you could have some group of independent people who could police scientists, but it’s not clear how this makes any sense. If they had the ability and skill to understand cutting edge scientific techniques, we’d be wasting an awful lot of money paying them not to use their skills to do research. We’d be better off simply having more scientists, than paying a different group to have all the necessary skills, but to not actually use them.

Apart from things like ethics and fraud, there’s also a really good reason why we don’t need to actually police scientists; it’s largely self-correcting. We don’t trust something simply because someone clever, who appears to be trustworthy, does something interesting. We trust it when many people in different institutions, and different countries, produce consistent results using many different methods and techniques. Scientists may make many mistakes and follow many dead ends, but ultimately it’s all part of the scientific process and demonising scientists for these errors would be extremely counterproductive. If anything, making mistakes and getting things wrong is how we learn. If we know what to do in advance, it wouldn’t really be research.

In my view, there are – however – some real issues with science today, but this relates more to the system in which science operates, than with the scientists themselves. Some of what is incentivised encourages bad behaviour and promotes hype over good science. If people wanted to improve science, they could police the system, rather than the scientists themselves. Of course, I suspect that most who criticise scientists would like to see more measures of success and ways to quantify the value of science. In my view, it’s exactly that that is causing most of the problems that we have today.

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123 Responses to Policing science

  1. jsam says:

    We could do with tossing some bankers into gaol. Instead idiots who break banks ad retain their peerages get lucrative writing jobs on stuff they know nothing about. Ridley projects.

  2. As I told him on Twitter, Ridley’s article is paranoid and rude. It’s a sign of desperation when someone can’t actually engage with the science so they just resort to claiming it’s ‘corrupt’ instead. And claiming that ‘most of the people in charge of collating temperature data are vocal in their views on climate policy, which hardly reassures the rest of us that they leave those prejudices at the laboratory door’ is just ridiculous – I bet he doesn’t even know the people who work on the datasets, let alone know whether they are ‘vocal on climate policy’ (they aren’t – they just quietly get on with their jobs without putting their heads above the parapet, with the exception of John Kennedy who’s sardonic humour on Twitter is hardly an example of being ‘vocal on climate policy’.) Viscount Ridley is as bad as Tim Ball – a comparison which seemed to upset him a bit!

  3. Richard,
    Yes, I saw your tweet which is what motivated my comment about him “whining when criticised”. His article is also wrong in a number of places, as pointed out to him by a number of people. Adding comments at the end of his blog post doesn’t suddenly justify saying things in the article that are demonstrably incorrect.

  4. Those who did not see the tweet, may think that Richard Betts just compared John Kennedy with Tim Ball, but he compared Ridley with conspiracy theorist Tim Ball.

    These are the people collating temperature data.

    Group photo at a meeting of the COST Action HOME with most of the European homogenization community present. These are those people working in ivory towers, eating caviar from silver plates, drinking 1985 Romanee-Conti Grand Cru from crystal glasses and living in mansions. Enjoying the good live on the public teat, while conspiring against humanity.

  5. Victor – good point, I wrote that badly. ATTP, perhaps you could correct the last sentence of my post to say ‘Viscount Ridley’ instead of ‘He’?

  6. I think if you substitute the word ‘bankers’ for the word ‘scientists’ in his article yesterday, I pretty much agree with what Matt Ridley says. 🙂

  7. Michael 2 says:

    I suspect the very concept of policing science is found more in places where society believes government has a duty to protect citizens and is inseparably connected from cradle-to-grave socialism:

    http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/22/14611225-scientists-found-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-failing-to-predict-italy-quake

    In order to be free to be right you also have to be free to be wrong in my opinion.

    When I lived in Iceland, no protection existed to prevent people from looking down into the borehole of the geysir called Strokkur. A few people were burned doing just that and earned their Darwin awards thereby. Who are you going to sue? Nobody then had a duty to prevent you from being an idiot.

    There’s an old saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Each citizen has a duty to be informed, involved and alert.

  8. Interesting. Judith Curry Favorited Matt Ridley’s tweet.

    Now we all know that she just uses the favorite button to bookmark tweets to be used later in her “week in review”. Because she already bookmarked the tweet by Matt Ridley, she no longer needed to bookmark the tweet by Richard Betts. I guess.

  9. Joshua says:

    => ” Or maybe it is because science as an institution, like so many other institutions, does not police itself properly.”

    One of the interesting aspects of the climate wars is when libertarian-types call for regulation and authoritarianism.

    What does Ridley propose, I wonder, to ensure that “science as an institution” (WTF does that even mean, anyway? I quoted him before using that expression. What is “science as an institution?”) “police itself?”

  10. Ridley’s hubris really makes my deeply angry. This reckless and self-declared optimist, through his cavalier behaviour at Northern Rock, cost each and every last person in the UK ~£358; which we’re still paying off today.

    Unlike his fellow directors of British banks, who at least had the decency to slope off quietly and keep their heads down, this financial incompetent was given a peerage and then allowed to try his hand at an alternative career as a self-appointed ‘expert’ in climate science, where he continues to demonstrate his unique blend of extreme neck and ignorance.

    For the moment I’ve run out of bile. But I swear, whenever he puts his despicable untruths in print again I will do my utmost to unmask his irresponsible behaviour.

  11. Tapani L. says:

    Aren’t papers being retracted all the time (see Retraction Watch for instance) for many different reasons? How is that not “policing”, whatever that should mean, when papers are pulled when actual problems are found. It seems to be pretty hard to fake it and make it stick if lots of people are going through your published research in many different ways with the intention of using the results for their own work.

    Being wrong does not a retraction make.

  12. Joshua says:

    Richard –

    ==> ” Ridley’s article is paranoid and rude. It’s a sign of desperation when someone can’t actually engage with the science so they just resort to claiming it’s ‘corrupt’ instead. .”

    There was also this quote from Ridley:

    Environmental researchers are increasingly looking for evidence that fits their ideology, rather than seeking the truth.

    Note the use of guilt by association. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ridley is right about the specific example of fitting evidence to ideology that he referenced in that article. By what rationale, as someone who has “…championed science all his career…,” does Ridley attack “environmental researchers” as a group?

    As someone who has “championed science all his career,” I would think that Ridley would have a better grasp on the basics of how to assess the representativeness of a sample.

  13. Michael 2 says:

    I should qualify my earlier remark:

    Each citizen has a duty to be informed, involved and alert.

    Obviously this is my opinion and it exists where democracy exists and is given in the context of citizen response to government and government response to citizen. Ultimate responsibility rests with citizens in any government “of the people, by the people” which of course lets most of Planet Earth off the hook.

  14. Richard says:

    ATTP – I have a bone to pick with you! Tried to write a comment and ended up with an essay! See “The Quantum of doubt, and Uncertainty of Journalism” at essaysconcerning.com (p.s. Professor Al Khalili had got me thinking anyway and you tipped me over the edge). Thanks again for a great post.

  15. Funnily enough, as recently as September this year, Viscount Ridley was quite happy to accept the temperature datasets. Now all of a sudden he decides he doesn’t believe them after all….

  16. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua wrote “libertarian-types call for regulation and authoritarianism.”

    An interesting and perceptive observation. While I consider myself libertarian, I am also authoritarian. The difference, as I see it, is that one pertains to what I do (libertarian), the other pertains to what I believe (authoritarian).

    An example from computer science: The TCP/IP protocol suite, more or less invented or at least facilitated by ARPA back in the day, emanates from an “authority”. You are perfectly free, libertarian, to write your own protocol stack and Novell and others did exactly that (the Novell stack is IPX/SPX).

    I suspect this will frequently be the case that when liberty is greatest, so is a need for an authority as otherwise absolutely nothing gets done.

    With that in mind, it becomes clear that by itself being libertarian means little. Perhaps you are a smart, educated, cooperative libertarian that chooses to conform to the TCP/IP protocol suite and by so choosing enjoy the blessings of worldwide reliable communication. Alternately, you might be narcissistic libertarian that is going to write your very own protocol and succeed only in talking to yourself and maybe a few buddies.

    Social order is great if people choose it. I believe most religions exist to create social order in a manner that people, perhaps reluctantly, choose it. Most religions, western religions anyway, have an authority that defines the protocols which create social order. Armies exist to create social order where people are NOT choosing it and in that case you have a dictator and his generals that have power, not authority.

    Social order will always exist since it is more “fit” for survival in a Darwinian sense than complete anarchy. That order can be forced or people can choose the order; but if it is chosen then an authority must exist to define the protocol.

  17. Michael 2 says:

    A small thought about libertarian and authority — out of that recognition of both liberty and authority comes my respect for the moderator and owner of this blog. It isn’t mine. ATTP is the authority here and because I acknowledge and respect authority I also accept that writing here is for me a privilege that can be revoked at any time for any reason or no reason — authority and liberty go together.

  18. Mike Pollard says:

    Interesting that Ridley’s quote states “outside medical science” because that means one can’t remind him of Andrew Wakefield and his fraudulent study. However there is absolutely no reason that medicine should be excluded when considering the policing of science. Ridley should also make himself familiar with the Office of Research Integrity which is part of the NIH. Yes, its not part of the British system but its a perfectly good example of how misconduct in science is policed.

  19. austrartsua says:

    ATTP, you complete straw man Ridley here. By “policing science” he is clearly referring to cases of scientific fraud – fabricating experimental results etc. There is not a chance he is referring to punishing scientists for honest mistakes. If you knew anything about his books – the rational optimist, for example – you would know that he is one of today’s biggest proponents of bottom-up, self-correcting solutions. This is precisely how science works – as you say, it is self-correcting.

    Please don’t straw-man so bluntly.

  20. Joshua says:

    austrartsua –

    What authority does Ridley think should determine what is fraud and/or what is an “honest mistake?” In what structural way would it be different than the existing authorities in
    “science as an institution?”

  21. austrartsua, while he is clearly referring to cases of scientific fraud that need to be policed, the examples he mentions have nothing to do with that, right? That is a completely separate and clearly marked different part of Ridley’s article, right?

    He is in no way suggesting that the WMO press release he mentions has something to do with fraud, right?

    (And the press release states that 2014 will be among the warmest years, not that 2014 will be the hottest as Ridley wrongly states. I guess an honest mistake by Ridley, not something that needs to be policed)

    Also the one non-climatic change in one station in Australia has nothing to do with fraud, it was just mentioned out of a whim. Because it is such an interesting and beautiful station. He calls it: “caught red-handed”, but is surely not in any way suggesting that that has anything to do with the fraud allegations in that clearly marked different part of the article.

    It is one non-climatic change in one of the tenth of thousands of stations around the world. Surely he is not suggesting that the Australian weather service is fraudulent to correct this non-climatic change while they “provide no evidence for this” non-climatic change.

    (Actually the Australian weather service does provide evidence, in comparison with neighboring stations there is clear statistical evidence that there was a non-climatic change at this station. Ridley may have emotional problems with such statistical methods, like many people at WUWT, but it is certainly not “no evidence”. Furthermore, the description of the location of the station in old documents does not match its current location, thus there was a relocation. I guess that was another honest mistake by Ridley, not something that needs to be policed.)

  22. Steve Bloom says:

    John, Ridley wasn’t given a peerage, he inherited it upon the death of his father. What he was given (by his fellow hereditary peers) was election to one of a small number of House of Lords seats reserved for them.

  23. JCH says:

    I think Ridley has a point. I mean seriously, how could you miss that the temperature data people in that photograph get taller as you go to the right? The groups photo looks just like one of their temperature graphs! It’s a hockey stick. This cannot be an accident. It’s in their DNA.

  24. David Blake says:

    Ridley is not a nice character. I wish he’d go away. Mostly as people assume that he’s some sort of “spokesperson for sceptics”. He’s not. He’s no more a spokesperson for sceptics and Al Gore is a spokesperson for AGW alarmists.

  25. austrarta,
    As others have already pointed out, if he was only referring to fraud, why did he choose examples that are clearly not fraud. If I’m strawmanning him, he should be clearer what he means. In fact, this seems a typical argument. Says something ridiculous and when someone points out it’s ridiculous, deny that it’s what you meant, without actually changing anything or clarifying.

  26. Mike Hansen says:

    @austrartsua
    Ridley links to Australian climate “skeptic” blogger JoNova to support his claims of temperature record malfeasance by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology but the people who have driven this in Australia are Jennifer Marohasy a former operative at the anti-climate science thinktank, the Institute of Public Affairs and Australia’s answer to David Rose, environment editor at Murdoch’s “The Australian” newspaper Graham Lloyd. Llloyd wrote 10+ articles devoted to Marohasy’s claims and far-right loons Federal MP George Christensen and Senator Cory Bernardi have been promoting the claims in the national parliament.

    Jennifer Marohasy has called for staff at the BOM to be sacked. Not based on any peer reviewed science – based on “evidence” from amateur cranks and Lloyd’s articles.
    http://jennifermarohasy.com/2014/08/whos-going-to-be-sacked-for-making-up-global-warming-at-rutherglen/

    The idea that Ridley who has toured Australia courtesy of the IPA was unaware of this context is not believable.

    His and the “skeptic” claims are of course tripe. They are even struggling to gain traction among the very climate “skeptic” Australian government because you only have to look at the satellite record to see that Australia is in fact warming. Or if you want to examine the specific claim, look at the BEST analysis of Rutherglen to see that they get a very similar result to the BOM with a different homogenisation algorithm.

    Graham Readfern has a chronology of the “skeptics” campaign here
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2014/aug/27/climate-sceptics-see-a-conspiracy-in-australias-record-breaking-heat

    Or you can read Professor Neville Nichols who did the original work on homogenisation for the BOM 25 years ago.
    https://theconversation.com/an-independent-inquiry-into-the-bureau-of-meteorology-bring-it-on-32692

  27. Richard,
    Nice post on essaysconcerning.com. Sorry to have prompted someone else into this whole blogging lark 🙂

    Tapani,
    You make a good point. Papers are retracted and people do get caught being fraudulent or plagiarising. Science is already policed in that sense. Retraction, as you say, isn’t for papers that end up being wrong.

  28. Lars Karlsson says:

    So Matt Ridley gets his “science” from JoNova. Nuff said.

  29. verytallguy says:

    austrartsua yesterday:

    environmentalists, above all else, hate people.

    austrartsua today:
    Please don’t straw-man so bluntly.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/who/#comment-39310

  30. For those who haven’t seen it, here is Paul Nurse’s letter to The Times:
    Science and proof
    Sir, It is perhaps telling that Matt Ridley (“Scientists must not put policy before proof”, Dec 8) does not hold columnists such as himself to the high standards of accuracy that he rightly believes should apply to scientists.

    Among other inaccuracies in his article was the accusation that I have called on those who disagree with me to be “crushed and buried”. What I said was that scientists have a responsibility to work with and correct those who misuse and misrepresent science to support their particular politics or ideologies. This applies equally to scientists, politicians and newspaper columnists. I added that when serial offenders continue repeatedly to misinform people about science they should be crushed and buried, meaning of course, by the weight of argument and evidence. Fortunately the cases of Galileo and Darwin, to mention two famous examples, show us that science will win out in the end.

    Matt Ridley is right that science is not perfect and that we must remain vigilant to ensure that evidence comes before opinion. But science has a powerful self-correcting mechanism, in that scientific evidence and argument are constantly reviewed, updated and challenged. That is why science is such a reliable way to generate knowledge about the natural world and brings great long-lasting benefits to us all.
    Sir Paul Nurse President, The Royal Society

  31. verytallguy says:

    Richard Betts,

    I enjoyed your essay, (ATTP, perhaps a link from your post would be useful?) and I’m pleased scientists are not standing by whilst his ilk denigrate them. Interestingly, you cite Einstein as a scientist who didn’t have to put up with personal abuse but whose opponents stuck to scientific argument.

    There may be stronger parallels between relativity denial and climate science denial than you realise. As Einstein wrote:

    “This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.”

    According to rational wiki, the German nationalist movement Deutsche Physik, infamously dismissed relativity as “Jewish physics.”

    [just in case anyone should interpret this otherwise, I am NOT comparing Matt Ridley or Melanie Phillips to the Nazis, just making an observation that the overlap of politics into science is not new, or even confined to policy relevant science]

  32. Marco says:

    VTG, different Richard.

  33. verytallguy says:

    Marco,

    Now I feel like an idiot… couldn’t we just have pretended it was the same one? Y’know, hid the decline in Richard correlation to save embarrassment?

    I also need to clarify I’m not comparing the other Richard to Hitler either. [sighs]

    Apologies all round.

  34. Rachel M says:

    Sorry VTG! Your comment was stuck in moderation because you used the word idiot. The system can’t distinguish between when someone is calling themselves an idiot or another commenter. Self-deprecation is absolutely fine 🙂

  35. Yes, sorry VTG, should have made clearer which Richard I was referring to.

    Brigitte, thanks, very interesting.

  36. guthrie says:

    ACtually, you can see clearly how Ridley is playing politics here. Let me paste in the quote from ATTP’s section:
    “In all the millions of scientific careers in Britain over the past few decades, outside medical science there has never been a case of a scientist convicted of malpractice. Not one. Maybe that is because — unlike the police, the church and politics — scientists are all pure as the driven snow. Or maybe it is because science as an institution, like so many other institutions, does not police itself properly.”

    Anyone with a functioning brain, [Mod: a bit inflammatory] will know that not being a good scientist is not against any law, criminal or civil.
    So why does he grandstand so, insinuating that there should be legal checks and balances on scientists?
    Because he’s a politician.
    The police are subject to various laws because they are in fact merely civilians with some specific powers given to them. Obviously the church members are under the law, as are politicians, see the number of them jailed after the expenses scandal. So are scientists some race apart? No, of course not, they too are under the law. Medical scientists are perhaps more at risk because there are specific laws covering malpractise, formulated over centuries after it was found that quacks and bad people were using medicine to make themselves rich at the expense of other people’s health. (Look up Burzynski for a really evil example)

    Does he think we need laws related to scientists? Since this is propaganda that he spouts, we have to ask what the desired effect is, no matter that what he writes is divorced from reality.

  37. @Steve Bloom

    Thanks for the correction about Ridley’s route to a peerage. Apologies for getting it wrong. Not that it really changes the substance of my point.

    Fred ‘the shred’ Goodwin, whose profligacy brought down RBS, was stripped of a night hood. Matt Ridley, whose recklessness brought down Northern Rock, ends up with a peerage and is given a platform to lecture climate scientists in the error of their ways. How rational is that?

  38. Ridley’s list “the police, the church and politics” isn’t equivalent to scientists. Surely it should read criminologists, theologians and political scientists because those are the academics who study those fields. I would expect there have been many convictions of scientists, for speeding if nothing else, over the last few years. Shoddy journalism aimed at getting a particular result from those who are not thinking too hard from his lordship.

  39. verytallguy says:

    JohnRussel40

    as to why Ridley is writing columns in the Times and Goodwin is in disgrace, let’s play “match the biography to the banker”

    Born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, XXXX is the son of a Scottish electrician[9] and was the first of his family to go to university,[10] attending Paisley Grammar School before studying law at Glasgow University.

    …5th Viscount YYYY… … was educated at Eton College from 1970–75 and then went on to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford… …his sister, Rose, married the British Conservative Party politician Owen Paterson

    Quotes from wiki

    Can you name those bankers in one?

  40. andrew adams says:

    ATTP, you complete straw man Ridley here. By “policing science” he is clearly referring to cases of scientific fraud – fabricating experimental results etc. There is not a chance he is referring to punishing scientists for honest mistakes. If you knew anything about his books – the rational optimist, for example – you would know that he is one of today’s biggest proponents of bottom-up, self-correcting solutions. This is precisely how science works – as you say, it is self-correcting.

    Leaving aside the point raised by others here that none of his examples actually constitute scientific fraud, what specific actions do you think “science” should be taking that it isn’t when it comes to scientists who produce fraudulent work (and I don’t dispute that it does actually happen)? Ridley seems to think there should be more criminal charges brought but I’m not sure exactly what crimninal offence would have been committed and in any case that is outside the remit of scientific institutions.

  41. JWhite says:

    JCH says:

    “I think Ridley has a point. I mean seriously, how could you miss that the temperature data people in that photograph get taller as you go to the right? The groups photo looks just like one of their temperature graphs! It’s a hockey stick. This cannot be an accident. It’s in their DNA.”

    But the guy at the far right is shorter than the guy at the far left, therefore this represents a hiatus.

  42. andrew adams says:

    To be fair, aside from his banking exploits Ridley has had a pretty sucessful career as a science writer which would normally justify him being given a platform in the media to comment on scientific issues, and however badly the Northern Rock affair reflects on him it shouldn’t necessary disqualify him from from commenting on unrelated matters. In the end the problem is that his science writing is increasingly being compromised by his political agenda and it’s that which undermines his credibility and should make editors think twice before giving him column inches.

  43. BBD says:

    Bit obvious, VTG, but #1 is Fred the Shred and #2 is Matt the… Ridley.

  44. BBD says:

    Ridley is a case study in the power of free market fundamentalism to colonise and subvert a scientifically literate world-view. In many ways, it’s a shame and certainly a waste.

  45. verytallguy says:

    Andrew,

    however badly the Northern Rock affair reflects on him it shouldn’t necessary disqualify him from from commenting on unrelated matters.

    Even in general, I’m not sure I agree. Specifically though climate science is very closely related to the Rock:

    – Ridley’s appointment to the rock was neoptistic (his father held the same position) and social network driven rather than on merit
    – Ridley led the Rock recklessley, disregarding expert advice on risk
    – Ridley’s laissez-faire free market ideology led him to behave in such a manner

    On climate change
    – Ridley’s platform comes from nepotism as a hereditary peer and social network through his conservative party (also GWPF) links rather than on merit
    – Ridley’s climate politics advocate a reckless approach, disregarding expert advice on risk
    – Ridley’s laissez-faire free market ideology lead him to behave in such a manner

  46. bratisla says:

    Matt Ridley limited his scop by saying *british* scientists, and I think he did that for a reason. On a whim, in my field these last years I have several cases of scientists “convicted” (in a large sense) :
    – Courtillot and Taponnier were fired from their editor status in EPSL after it was discovered that they favored pals (by the way, Courtillot openly stated his climatoskepticism. Just saying)
    – the former director of INGV was convicted and sentenced 5 years in jail (although some question this sentence, as some evidences tend to say he was used as scapegoat)

    [Mod: Last sentence removed]

  47. bratisla says:

    sorry, scratch that last sentence please. Matt Ridley quite irritates me on a daily basis, the snark was too strong in me … But the beforelast sentence still stands : I really don’t see what he is talking about, unless he is in a fantasy land

  48. Willard says:

    It’s not what Matt whistles that matter, bratisla, but what is being heard.

    And what is being heard is: let us contrarians return to basics while “but the pause” does not work for us.

    https://contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com/we-won/

  49. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    “However, I don’t think that this is what people are referring to when they mention policing science. What I think they mean is that scientists should be punished if they get something wrong, use a method that turns out to be unsuitable, or make some kind of fundamental mistake; if so, this is just ridiculous.”
    Wow, that is really an unfair representation. This is of course not what he means. If people so blatantly misrepresent positions of their opponent we will never get anywhere.
    His column is obviously about scientists deliberately fudging data, a problem which he feels is inadequately addressed. You may disagree with it, but don’t misrepresent it.

    And all the commenters are just happy there is another blog on which they can agree on how much they hate Matt Ridley.

  50. john,
    Yes, it’s always amazed me that Goodwin was hounded while Ridley’s role with Northern Rock is largely ignored. Also, for someone who is going on about scientific honesty, he appears to have got every single example in his current article wrong. He claims the WMO said something that they didn’t actually say, he claims the BMO provided no evidence when they did, and he misrepresents what Paul Nurse said.

  51. verytallguy says:

    VP,

    His column is obviously about scientists deliberately fudging data, a problem which he feels is inadequately addressed

    No, that’s not at all what the column is about. Matt Ridley is easily intelligent enough to understand the issues at Rutherglen, for example, and his post is a quite deliberate misrepresentation of them to gratuitously smear his target.

    His post is an excellent example of how to use propaganda to smear an opponent. It’s a disgracful abuse of a priviledged position. It’s nothing to do with hating the man, just not letting him go unchallenged. Austrarta is your go-to for hatred.

    And seeing as you’re pontificating on misrepresntation, perhaps you could actually give a clear representation of your own postion, something you failed to do yesterday. Here

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/who/#comment-39396

  52. vp,

    His column is obviously about scientists deliberately fudging data, a problem which he feels is inadequately addressed. You may disagree with it, but don’t misrepresent it.

    The examples are clearly not this, therefore either what he is suggesting is consistent with what I said, or he is redefining scientific fraud to be something that few scientists would agree is fraud. So, no, I’m not misrepresenting him. He appears to be trying to suggest that what most would regard as quite reasonable scientific practice as fraud. Not only that, none of his examples are even factually correct, as I point out above. So, if I do misrepresent him and he is really talking about fraud, rather than simple errors, it’s still a ridiculous article as nothing he uses as examples would ever be regarded as fraud by anyone with any experience of actual scientific research.

  53. Andrew Dodds says:

    guthrie –

    If Scientists actually had law making powers, then they would indeed need to be strongly regulated to make sure they didn’t misuse those powers. However, it’s quite obvious that they don’t.

    Interestingly, the only academic subject that gets a big say in public policy is economics. It would be interesting to have Economists – especially those of the neoliberal/chicago school – held to account when, after seeing their policies fail once, they continued to recommend the same policies.

  54. victorpetri says:

    @vtg
    I will have to say a,
    or b, or c,

    dependent on the careful assessment of future costs and benefits of fossil fuel use.
    But you must already have known this.
    What a very silly thing to ask of you, but so typical, people want a direct answer, no nuances. What would be your answer to this very question??

    And again, you may disagree with him on if people have deliberately fudged the data, as I said, I have no desire to argue with you guys on this. I just simply requested that you won’t misrepresent his position.

  55. BBD says:

    vp

    More of the same evasive and intellectually dishonest rhetoric you wasted an entire day with on the previous thread. It might just be that some commenters here have had enough of this.

  56. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    You really wrote a very poor blog. To have chosen to diminish Ridley’s position to someone who “(thinks that) scientists should be punished if they get something wrong, use a method that turns out to be unsuitable, or make some kind of fundamental mistake; if so, this is just ridiculous.” Which very clearly is so ridiculous indeed as it could impossibly be Ridley’s position. Even without knowing him.
    Why argue on a position on which everybody agrees?

  57. victorpetri says:

    @BBD
    What would your answer be then, on
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/who/#comment-39396 ?

    Your a said case of pure ad hominem, BBD, I am glad I have wasted so much of your time.

  58. Willard says:

    That thread is still open. Please go there, guys.

  59. andrew adams says:

    VTG,

    Sure, those parallels are certainly quite striking and it’s pretty obvious now that Ridley’s views on climate science have as much credibility as his views on how to run a bank. But whereas Ridley has no obvious qualifications to run a bank he is qualified to write about science, so one might think it at least possible that he could put his political prejudices to one side and write objectively about climate change. He does have a professional reputation to uphold after all and many people, having made a fool of themselves in a field with which they are unfamiliar, would learn their lesson and go back to doing what they do best. Sadly that turned out not to be the case, in fact he still doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson at all.

  60. vp,
    Why do you keep defending things that are clearly ridiculous? He is talking about policing scientists and yet all his examples are clearly not examples of scientific fraud. So, if I am mis-representing him it is only because his article is so ridiculous it’s quite hard to really know what he is actually suggesting.

    Which very clearly is so ridiculous indeed as it could impossibly be Ridley’s position. Even without knowing him.

    Sorry, an argument from incredulity is not going to cut it here. It is clearly ridiculous. It isn’t obviously not Ridley’s position, though. If you want to defend his position then do so without saying “he can’t possibly mean that”.

  61. anoilman says:

    Scientists are already policed, I’m not sure what the fuss is about. It boils down to the organization you work for and whether they care.

    It is important to understand that the reputation of an institution will be called into question based on the behavior of the scientists involved, and how the institution handles it. I know that one humanities scientists at my university had been tossed out for making up data. I’m familiar with this one as well;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6n_scandal

    Then there’s he Wegman Report.. Plagarism… and a lack of interest by George Mason University. Is that an institution our smartest and brightest will want to go to? I think not.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wegman_Report#Plagiarism_charges_against_Wegman

  62. Willard says:

    Someone should be aware of real frauds to which auditors are paying diligence:

    If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out.

    (Hint: It involves invocation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute and multiple threats of legal action.)

    http://www.boston.com/food-dining/restaurants/2014/12/09/harvard-business-school-professor-goes-war-over-worth-chinese-food/KfMaEhab6uUY1COCnTbrXP/story.html

    We are enquiring as we speak about the tipping involved.

  63. Joshua says:

    I am outraged, outraged I say that Chinese restaurant owners aren’t policing fraud in the Chinese restaurant business sector.

    Actually, that doesn’t really capture the extent of my outrage. I am outraged, outraged I say that restaurant owners aren’t policing fraud in their business sector.

    Actually, that doesn’t really capture the extent of my outrage. I am outraged, outraged I say that American business owners aren’t policing fraud among all American businesses.

    Actually, that doesn’t really capture the extent of my outrage. I am outraged, outraged I say that business owners around the world aren’t policing fraud among global businesses.

    Actually, that doesn’t really capture the extent of my outrage. I am outraged, outraged I say that businesses in our solar system aren’t policing fraud among solar system businesses.

    Actually, that doesn’t really capture the extent of my outrage. I am outraged, outraged I say that Milky Way Galaxy business owners aren’t policing fraud among Milky Way Galaxy business owners.

    My outrage might extend further, but I’m reluctant to generalize about businesses in other universes based on businesses in our universe.

    Gee. Establishing guilt by association, and conveniently generalizing from examples, for rhetorical purposes is fun. No wonder Matt enjoys it.

  64. toby52 says:

    Maybe that is because — unlike the police, the church and politics — scientists are all pure as the driven snow.

    Our Rational Optimist, Lord Goodvibes, did not add that very few bankers like himself for been called to account for the financial disaster they brought down on our heads through their greed and incompetence.

    If he wants to organise a lynch mob, let it look for the bankers first.

    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/05/05/no-bankers-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-this-financial-crisis/

  65. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OK, so Lord Ridley is a big smelly poo. Nyah, nyah! Big smelly poo! Message received and understood. Big smelly poo. Got it.

    In other news, this more devastatingly failed banker actually got to put his moniker on actual banknotes:

    That signature belongs to the Baron Stevenson of Blairbabes, he who destroyed the Bank of Scotland then just watched and puffed himself up as HBOS nosedived into multiple oblivions.

    These days Lord Stevenson is happiest investing in illegal fishing in West Africa, sitting on the boards of various arts boards and championing depression, which he says he has suffered from since long before he drove Scotland’s oldest bank into the ground.

    Smart move, that depression thing.

    I still reckon he should be locked up, though.

  66. OPatrick says:

    Did you mean this banknote Vinny?

  67. OPatrick says:

    Hmmm, that didn’t work – this one.

  68. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OPatrick, yes, I suppose so. But this Ridley stuff is getting old. And meanwhile people like Coddenham keep their heads down and avoid blame.

  69. Vinny,
    The problem with the “Ridley stuff is getting old” is that might be true if he had shown some remorse and had decided not to move on to helping society by critiquing a subject about which he has very little actual expertise. Given that he hasn’t, it’s hard to see why it’s getting old. Also, who’s Coddenham?

  70. jsam says:

    Self regulation has proven effective as in http://www.pcc.org.uk/about/benefits.html

    Effective for the press, of course. Ridley can publish with nothing to fear.

  71. Vinny Burgoo says:

    I should add that if Ridley was as culpable in the destruction of Northern Rock as Stevenson/Coddenham was in BOS’s, then Ridley should also be banged up.

  72. anoilman says:

    Vinny… If Matt Ridley wants to throw stones at people he has to get used to them getting thrown back. Unfortunately Matt Ridley is a total failure and I assume your hero. Get used to it I guess.

    I like this bank note…

  73. Rachel M says:

    I just had a quick look at that debate between Steve Easterbrook and George Monbiot (I just skimmed through it – short of time atm) and I think all George is really calling for is greater openness and transparency which is what the Sir Muir Russell enquiry recommended too. George Monbiot, as a journalist, would naturally want transparency and I personally think it’s a good thing too. This doesn’t mean that scientists ought to maintain this standard while others don’t have to. It should really apply to everyone.

    I agree that being a good scientist doesn’t mean you have to be virtuous and “superhuman” as Steve Easterbrook says. But what exactly does virtuous mean anyway? I don’t really like the word virtuous as it’s sometimes associated with sex and sex isn’t an ethical issue. I’d prefer to say scientists should adhere to a code of ethics. But so should journalists and misrepresenting what someone says and failing to correct mistakes is not meeting their code of ethics in my view.

    I’d really like to see ethics incorporated into school curriculums. I think this is something as a society we should really strive towards – to live an ethical life. And it’s something for every member of society to strive towards, not just scientists and journalists but all of us. Climate change is an ethical issue. Our actions are harming the natural world and future generations. We can’t live an ethical life and ignore these things at the same time.

  74. Rachel,
    Yes, I don’t think all of what George Monbiot was saying was wrong or even that much was wrong, but – IIRC – he was suggesting that Phil Jones be fired and I think Steve Easterbrook’s response to that was good. There was no evidence that he actually deleted any emails; he simply suggested it, and scientists are human and so we have to be careful of expecting them to behave better than we’d expect of others. Of course, if they do something that is illegal/immoral that would get someone in any other career fired, they should be. Expecting them to have even higher standards than would be expected elsewhere, is the problem. Also, I think the emails associated with Climategate were from the late 90s and it’s not obvious to me that people were as aware of the rules then (or quite what the rules actually were at that time) as they are now. We certainly can’t judge what people did then by today’s standards.

  75. jsam says:

    You mean a devastating attack on Matt the Dissembler. 🙂

  76. Michael Lloyd says:

    In response to aTTP’s reply to Rachel, I used have the job of educating University staff in the appropriate use of email. I frequently used this quote from a former New York Attorney General:

    “Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an email.”

    Unfortunately far too many lessons were learnt the hard way (and probably still are!).

  77. vp,

    You’ve said as much before. You have then been given the reasons as to why it is presented as it is. You have not answered with reasons of your own. Given that, it’s hard to take this last response as anything but a poor attempt at trolling.

    attp,

    need better trolls.

  78. victorpetri says:

    @ML
    What’s wrong with email?

  79. Michael,
    I suspect that is true. Of course, what that really means is that if people understood this they would simply say the same things in person or on the phone, rather than via email. Sanitising emails doesn’t suddenly mean people are behaving better. On the other hand, assuming that we should develop a scientific community that doesn’t criticise others behind their backs is also absurd. As I think someone here may have pointed out, if someone writes in a paper “we’ve developed a newer technique than that used by …..” what they probably mean is “the other person’s technique was complete crap and we’re doing it properly”. It’s good that the published literature tries to avoid saying things as bluntly as people might like. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t speak bluntly when meeting colleagues.

  80. verytallguy says:

    The only surprising thing about climategate was that academics weren’t much ruder and bitchier in private emails about each other.

    A bug in a senior common room would reveal much worse.

  81. Rachel M says:

    Does George Monbiot say Phil Jones should be fired? I don’t see that bit but I’m out and about and struggling with a mobile device. If he does then I disagree with that. I also think it’s unethical to read someone else’s email without their consent.

    But I do strongly favour the free and open exchange of data and information. I’ve always been a supporter of the open source software movement and I now work for a company that shares all the code it develops with the whole world. It is our philosophy and the company lives and breathes this philosophy everyday and I love this aspect.

    I am sympathetic to the harassment scientists like Phil Jones have had to endure though and I can understand his reaction. I think the free availability of climate data is a positive thing though.

  82. Andrew Dodds says:

    Rachel –

    Problem is, as I see it, is that when data and code have been provided, the ‘skeptics’ don’t do much with it. Or the most they do is go through and try and find the odd thing to complain about, such as claiming that academic computer modelling code should be as clear and standards compliant as textbook examples.. or the claim that they should ‘hire professional software developers’. Hmmm, great, they are saying that Climate Modelers need a huge funding hike?

    Imagine if, when you open sourced your code, the reaction was not ‘Great, let’s work together to make this better now we can all see it’, but ‘Hey, your code sucks, I want you to go and rewrite it for me’, followed by uncredited commercial use of it. You may struggle to keep a positive attitude..

  83. victorpetri says:

    @olemvikØystein

    I am not sure if you are addressing me, since it is the first time I comment on Laden’s blog.

    I could imagine you confuse my critique on ATTP’s blog with that on Laden, but these are 2 separate issues.
    ATTP doesn’t give any serious critique on Ridley’s blog. He argues that science shouldn’t be policed and scientists should be allowed to make mistakes, something everybody, including Ridley, very obviously agree upon.

    Now I can dissect, Laden’s dissection of Ridley blog, which would be quite time consuming. I just wanted to say, that as such, reading the blog I personally am not very convinced about.

    Here are my arguments against:
    “Any time I hear someone identify themselves as a champion of science, I check my wallet. Self proclaiming one’s position on an imagined high ground is often the prelude to anti science yammering.”
    Unnecessary ad hominem

    “Remember, Ridley is ultimately speaking here of climate science. But over 83% of the respondents in that survey done by an institution that looks at biomedical ethics were in biomedical or health related areas. A mere 2% were in geosciences. This study has little do do with climate science research or how it is conducted.”
    Disagree, he might be ultimately speaking on climate science, although he doesn’t make the claim, but the example is useful in illustrating that bad practices can be quite common in science and thus is valuable for his argumentation.

    “Second example: last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a supposedly scientific body, issued a press release stating that this is likely to be the warmest year in a century or more, based on surface temperatures. Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree. True scientists would have said: this year is unlikely to be significantly warmer than 2010 or 2005 and left it at that.
    No one has suggested that if we have the warmest year it will be by much. The increase in global warming is steady and medium to long term. Also, it is a complicated issue, as pointed out by Ridley. I discuss this in detail here: 2014 will not be the warmest year on record, but global warming is still real.”
    Disagree. Ridley acknowledge global warming to be real, so the link is irrelevant. WMO’s statement is tedentious, it is about alarmism, and not about presenting scientific results.

    “The Royal Society report also carefully omitted what is perhaps the most telling of all statistics about extreme weather: the plummeting death toll. The global probability of being killed by a drought, flood or storm is down by 98 per cent since the 1920s and has never been lower — not because weather is less dangerous but because of improvements in transport, trade, infrastructure, aid and communication.
    Asked and answered in the same statement. First, comparing a time before radar, satellites, advanced communication technology, warning systems, and computers to predict weather with recent times is bogus. ”
    No, it is not bogus. We are wondering how we humans are changing our environments, for the worse or for the better, for example by using fossil fuels. In the past we have overwhelmingly changed our environment for the better, as is indicated by plummeting death tolls for extreme weather events. If people make alarming predictions about future death tolls due to CO2 emissions, you’d better take into account the benefits of economic growth and technological progress thanks to fossil fuels as well.

    “Ridley uses his expertise and experience from the banking industry to criticize climate science and scientist. Is this expertise and experience valuable? Andy Skuce wrote about Ridley’s involvement in the collapse of the British bank, Northern Rock in The Ridley Riddle Part Three: Like a Northern Rock, in 2011:”
    More unnecessary ad hominem. I must have been pointed to this a hundred times a triumphant anti Ridley commenters.

  84. verytallguy says:

    vp

    More unnecessary ad hominem. I must have been pointed to this a hundred times a triumphant anti Ridley commenters.

    It is not ad hominem, and it is necessary.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/policing-science/#comment-39517

    I must have pointed this out a hundred times to Ridley’s apologists.

    Ridley’s article is wrong. Flat wrong on Rutherglen, for instance. Worse, he knows it is wrong and chooses to write it anyway. That makes it dishonest and wrong.

    Nepotistic. Dishonest. Incorrect. Motivated by ideology. Discredited by his previous failing in risk management.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Indefensible.

  85. jsam says:

    “The ‘climategate’ inquiry at last vindicates Phil Jones – and so must I”
    Monbiot writes http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/jul/07/russell-inquiry-i-was-wrong

  86. Rachel,
    I think the principle of making data and codes available is very good, but I do think there are issues like those raised by Andrew Dodds that make it a non-trivial thing to do. The fundamental ideal of science is reproducibility, not auditing. So, if I publish a paper, others should be able to reproduce and test my result. This, however, doesn’t mean that I have to give them all my data and codes. It means they’re meant to go ahead and try and do it again. Where data and code availability become relevant is when there is no reasonable way in which they could reproduce the data and code. If so, I should be making it available. If not, then it’s not as necessary – although there may be cases where doing so would be decent. I will add, that I think this isn’t just because scientists shouldn’t be expected to simply hand things over, but because I think a fundamental tenet of science is reproducibility, not simply auditing/checking other people’s work. A blanket “make everything available rule” could do more harm than good.

  87. Agree with ATTP.

    Michael Lloyd says: “Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an email.”

    That is one way in which FOIA harassment is stifling scholarly communication and hindering scientific progress. Email from countries that are affected by this problem are much shorter, less information is exchanged. In Germany this is fortunately not possible, we have Freedom of Research in the constitution. Germans know how dangerous it is when research is hindered for political reasons.

  88. vp,

    Here are my arguments against:
    “Any time I hear someone identify themselves as a champion of science, I check my wallet. Self proclaiming one’s position on an imagined high ground is often the prelude to anti science yammering.”
    Unnecessary ad hominem

    Why is this an ad hominem? Laden is saying what he thinks when he sees people proclaim that they are “champions of science” or similar such things. It’s an opinion. I happen to agree. It irritates me no end to see people pontificate about how they’re just interested in scientific integrity as if that isn’t true for almost everyone else, and as if they think that they have some kind of pedestal from which they can criticise others without being criticised themselves. It’s as if by saying “I care about integrity” immediately means they’re beyond reproach. If you really cared, it would be obvious by how you behaved and through what you choose to say. It shouldn’t need to be said.

    “Second example: last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a supposedly scientific body, issued a press release stating that this is likely to be the warmest year in a century or more, based on surface temperatures. Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree. True scientists would have said: this year is unlikely to be significantly warmer than 2010 or 2005 and left it at that.
    No one has suggested that if we have the warmest year it will be by much. The increase in global warming is steady and medium to long term. Also, it is a complicated issue, as pointed out by Ridley. I discuss this in detail here: 2014 will not be the warmest year on record, but global warming is still real.”
    Disagree. Ridley acknowledge global warming to be real, so the link is irrelevant. WMO’s statement is tedentious, it is about alarmism, and not about presenting scientific results.

    Whatever your views about whether or not they should have released such a press release, what was said was consistent with the available evidence. Arguing that something that is essentially correct (given the evidence) is spin, just appears to be an attempt to delegitimise something that you don’t like but which you can’t criticise directly because nothing that is actually said is wrong.

    As far as Northern Rock is concerned, maybe that is a form of Ad hom. I notice Ridley gets praised for remaining “rational” and polite. Well, that is a good thing, but it’s rather weakened by the fact that he appears to never actually engage with his critics. Staying polite is rather pointless if you then ignore everything anyone who criticises you says. Mentioning Northern Rock is simply an illustration that he appears to have a history of not taking responsibility for his errors. You can call it an Ad Hom if you wish, but that doesn’t change that he was Chairman of the first UK bank to have a run on it’s finances in over 100 years and that he was held partially responsible for mistakes that ultimately cost the UK taxpayers 10s of billions of pounds.

  89. BBD says:

    Sou nails the rubbish about the supposed WMO alarmism at HotWhopper.

    There is nothing unusual about the timing of the WMO press release and it is factually correct.

    The spin is coming from the deniers.

  90. BBD says:

    And before we are subjected to any irritating whining, the denial here is of the fact that AGW is real and ongoing. See – hottest year in instrumental record – ‘no-no-no alarmist’ etc.

  91. Michael Lloyd says:

    @aTTP

    Beyond my capability to get people to behave better generally. Getting them to behave better on email was the object.

    @vp

    Email is a very powerful tool. Businesses and organisations use it for their purposes as a much quicker communication system that also keeps a record of business transactions, i.e as a replacement for formal paper letters and paper memos. As such, those become part of the records that will need to be kept for specified periods of time according to their purpose and afterwards, deleted.

    The difficulty comes from the informal use and informal language used, the speed with which people reply (often without engaging the brain until after hitting the ‘send’ button), and the loss of control over where an email may end up. Compounding these issues are confused perceptions of security of transmission and privacy and lack of knowledge of legal compliance.

    Hence I used the quotation to try to get the message across that if you don’t engage your brain when using email you will end up sooner or later in difficulty.

    @vv

    I am not familiar with the FOIA legal framework in Germany but in England, Wales and NI (Scotland has its own FOIA), harassment would be a reason the deny an FOIA request.

  92. andrew adams says:

    I personally think FoI laws are very important and I’m all for them being strictly enforced – if anything the law as it stands here in the UK is not strong enough in some respects. I also think that openness in science is desirable and should be practised as far as possible. What I don’t think is that the former is the appropriate mechanism for enforcing the latter. The point of FoI is to hold public institutions to account, not to peer over the shoulders of everyone working within those institutions. So although I don’t know the details of the freedom of research rules they have in Germany it sounds in principle like a good thing. It’s also worth pointing out as well that not all scientific research is carried out in public institutions, so not all research would be covered by FoI.

    So it would seem to me that science should be self-policing respect. I’ll leave it to the scientists to argue about the exact extent to which this openness should apply.

  93. Rachel M says:

    Andrew D, ATTP,

    I thought climate data was already publicly available? The temperature data, for instance, is easily accessible and this is great. I’m just agreeing with what they already do. I’d also like to see scientific papers more easily accessible and not paywalled but this has nothing to do with scientists.

    Sure, Skeptics are going to complain because that’s what they do. They’ll find something to complain about regardless of whether data is released or not.

  94. Rachel,
    Yes, I believe most of the data was available and, from I’ve seen, climate science has done a remarkable job in making data and other resources freely available. In fact, if memory serves me right, some of those who were vitriolically claiming to not be able to get certain datasets, had them all the time anyway. Does make you think that it’s more an attempt to find fault than to actually probe the dataset so as to improve our understanding. That might just be me being particularly cynical, mind you 🙂

  95. Michael,

    Beyond my capability to get people to behave better generally. Getting them to behave better on email was the object.

    Yes, I realise. I was just making the case that we can’t really expect scientists to not behave like human beings and say what they really think when they believe they’re not talking publicly. So, if emails are potentially public, they’ll simply say it elsewhere. Of course, I’d rather we were more aware of what they actually thought, than less.

  96. Rachel M says:

    Getting them to behave better on email was the object.

    I want to comment on this too. If I want to say that James Delingpole is a ***ing ***er (have you seen his latest post????) in a private email to a friend or colleague then I should be able to do so without fear that someone is going to read what was meant to be private. Of course I realise that in this era of email hacking that things we say in private don’t always remain private, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to privacy. This is different of course to the FOI and the availability of information which I think should be shared.

  97. Willard says:

    > He argues that science shouldn’t be policed […]

    A quote might be nice.

  98. jsam says:

    It’s a shame FoI laws don’t apply to the likes of the GWPF. Then we could know who funds them.

  99. Andrew Dodds says:

    jsam –

    Yes. The GWPF are blatantly involved in public policy, and as non-partisan seekers after truth* they have nothing to fear from complete transparency.

    *For some reason, after writing this I coughed so hard my skull came out. Coincidence, probably.

  100. Rachel M says:

    jsam, I agree! According to Wikipedia, some private institutions are included under FoI legislation –

    Freedom of information legislation in Estonia, France and UK covers private bodies in certain sectors.

    However it doesn’t say which sectors. It links to quite a good article which argues that since private institutions are increasingly performing a public service – thanks to privatisation – and this has an impact on human rights they should also be bound by the same FoI legislation as the public sector. So maybe this is changing.
    http://www.japss.org/upload/11._Mazhar%5B1%5D.pdf

  101. victorpetri says:

    @BBD @olemvikØystein

    I stand corrected on the WMO piece. I read the thing and it is very precise and contains not any alarmism, Ridley’s representation of it was unfair.

  102. BBD says:

    Kudos to victorpetri there.

  103. Michael Lloyd says:

    aTTP
    “I was just making the case that we can’t really expect scientists to not behave like human beings and say what they really think when they believe they’re not talking publicly”

    Agreed. It seems to a shock to some that scientists are a sub-set of the human race.

    Rachel,

    There are notable exceptions to private bodies being covered by FOIA in the UK. Water utilities, for example, are not covered.

    see
    http://www.osborneclarke.com/connected-insights/news/tribunal-rules-that-private-water-companies-are-not-subject-to-eu-freedom-of-information-rules/
    http://www.information-age.com/technology/information-management/1310273/freedom-of-information-act-to-cover-utilities—clegg

  104. andrew adams says:

    Yes, given that an increasing amount of “public” services are carried out by private organisations the FoI laws do need to be strengthened to cover these organisations – at the moment they are almost always exempt. What’s more, where services are contracted out by public bodies to the private sector the contracts themselves are normally exempt from FoI due to “commercial confidentiality”, so billions of pounds of public money are being spent with virtually no public accountability. Which is why even as someone who takes an active interest in FoI and thinks the laws should be considerably tougher than they are I can’t get too excited about whether an email sent by one scientist to another is disclosed.

  105. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    You got into it, over at Bishop Hill, about the Richard Betts/Matt Ridley fight?

    Will you never learn? 🙂

  106. Joshua says:

    BTW –

    Kudos to Richard Betts:

    My reasons for speaking out against both Ball and Ridley’s posts are entirely consistent with attending the dinner – I saw them as lowering the tone of an important conversation, making claims of ulterior motives etc, instead of discussing the really important stuff (the content of the science and the policies). We managed this at the dinner without anyone getting accused of anything underhand – if only we could find a way to extend this to the wider conversation….

    (emphasis added).

    How typical that “skeptics” are:

    (1) questioning the validity of Richard’s statement there (about why Ridley’s article deserved criticism) and,
    (2) not strongly supporting his basic thesis.

    Same as it ever was, folks.

    Richard is now doing what I, at least, was questioning why he wasn’t doing – calling out Ridley for “alarmism” and lowering the tenor of the discussion. Will it create a different dynamic, to any meaningful degree? Will same ol’ same ol’ unfold? Too early to tell, but I’ll give 1,000 to 1 odds on the latter.

    Any takers?

  107. Joshua,

    You got into it, over at Bishop Hill, about the Richard Betts/Matt Ridley fight?

    Will you never learn? 🙂

    I think we all know that the answer to that is no.

  108. Or is it yes? Anyway, you probably know what I mean.

  109. Joshua says:

    Or is it yes? 🙂

    Dang those double negatives!

    I’m curious. As someone who has been critical of, or at least not particularly supportive of Richard Betts’ attempts at dialog with “skeptics” like Ridley or Watts, I think he should be commended for his latest foray into the “skept-o-sphere,” for which he is taking quite a bit of heat. I would guess that he sees the heat for what it is – pointless, petty, and ultimately meaningless identity politics – but still, the tack he’s taking makes is clear that it isn’t just that he thinks that the best way to achieve something meaningful in the climate wars is to make nicey-nicey with “skeptics.”

    Are there any other folks here who feel similarly incline to give Richard a virtual pat on the back?

  110. Joshua,

    Are there any other folks here who feel similarly incline to give Richard a virtual pat on the back?

    Well, yes, I think Richard B. has done well and has taken a lot of heat for the stand he’s taken. I thought that this was an interesting comment that Richard made on BH

    My reasons for speaking out against both Ball and Ridley’s posts are entirely consistent with attending the dinner – I saw them as lowering the tone of an important conversation, making claims of ulterior motives etc, instead of discussing the really important stuff (the content of the science and the policies). We managed this at the dinner without anyone getting accused of anything underhand – if only we could find a way to extend this to the wider conversation….!

    I suspect that this is true and illustrates how face-to-face is completely different to engaging online. I’m sure that if the dialogue took place in a more face-to-face manner it would indeed be much better. It doesn’t though and I don’t see how one can get the online dialogue to be more like a face-to-face dialogue.

  111. Joshua says:

    Rachel – very impressive.

    Not can you come up with a gif of me accepting an award for $1,000,000?

  112. Joshua says:

    er…now, not not…

    VTG – interesting thread…thanks…

  113. Michael Hauber says:

    Convicted of malpractice? My legal understanding is relatively basic, but as far as I understand my legal terms no one has ever been convicted of malpractice. You are convicted when found guilty of a criminal offence. Malpractice is a civil offence – you get sued for malpractice. There are no ‘malpractice police’ policing the politicians or doctors or whoever trying to find instances of malpractice. Rather any private individual who has a problem – usually as a client – with the practice of a professional can sue a person if that person has been negligent in providing services, and that some type of damage can be linked to that negligence. I see no reason why scientists are immune to such actions.

    And does anyone remember the instance of Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake? http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/italian-scientists-guilty-of-manslaughter-in-2009-earthquake-1.1213559

  114. Rachel M says:

    Johsua, how about this –

  115. Joshua says:

    close enough.

  116. Michael Lloyd says:

    Latest on the Italian earthquake scientists. Six have been acquitted and the seventh person on the commission convicted. Presumably there will be further appeals. So this is not over.

    See http://gizmodo.com/manslaughter-conviction-for-italian-earthquake-scientis-1657082823

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