Doug Keenan finally gets the tree data

Climate sceptic wins landmark data victory ‘for price of a stamp’

Belfast ecologist forced to hand over tree-ring data describes order from information commission as a ‘staggering injustice’

by Fred Pearce The Guardian, Tuesday 20 April 2010

The Queen's University of BelfastThe Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, must hand over 40 years’ worth of data on 7,000 years of Irish tree rings. Photograph: Ron Sachs / Rex Features/Rex Features

An arch-critic of climate scientists has won a major victory in his campaign to win access to British university data that could reveal details of Europe’s past climate.

In a landmark ruling, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has ruled that Queen’s University Belfast must hand over data obtained during 40 years of research into 7,000 years of Irish tree rings to a City banker and part-time climate analyst, Doug Keenan.

This week, the Belfast ecologist who collected most of the data, Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as “a staggering injustice … We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and – using quite a lot of expertise and judgment – we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”

Keenan revealed this week that he is launching a new assault. On Monday, he demanded the university also hand over emails that could reveal a three-year conspiracy to block his data request.

Keenan has become notorious for pursuing a series of vitriolic disputes with British academics over climate data. Two years ago, he accused Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia of “fraud” over his analysis of data from weather stations in China. Jones recently conceded he may have to revise the paper concerned.

The latest ruling comes from Graham Smith, deputy information commissioner, who in January said information requests to CRU from climate sceptics were “not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation.” In the Belfast case, as well as insisting the university hand over the data, Smith has accused the university authorities of “a number of procedural breaches.”

The case goes back to April 2007, when Keenan asked Queen’s University for all data from tree-ring studies by Baillie and others. The data covers more than 7,000 years. They contain upwards of 1m measurements from 11,000 tree samples, mostly of oak. The university turned down Keenan’s request, citing a range of exemptions allowed under both the Freedom of Information Act and the European Union’s environmental information regulations. Keenan appealed to the information commissioner.

more at the Guardian

It will be interesting to see what independent analysis shows.

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Andy

“Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright.”
No it does not. If anyone owns it the people who paid for it do and that ain’t you sonny!
Perish the thought that ‘copyright’ would stop ‘replication’.

CodeTech

Hmm – if I write a book and sell it as non-fiction, I have every right to expect copyright protection. If, however, that book is used by governments and corporations to define policy, they should have every right to access my sources and methods in order to determine their accuracy.
Or, to be even more obvious:
If I’m doing something wrong, I don’t want people to find out. It is human nature (and also quite correct) to suspect someone’s honesty if they are being evasive.
As far as I can see, the “skeptic camp” always tried to play nice and it got them (us) nowhere. It is far beyond time to take off the gloves and play hardball.
Baillee’s whining notwithstanding, this is a significant victory for everyone… most people would just have to have a lot of explaining to understand why.

Matthew Carver

“Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”
No, now for the price of years of tax-payer dollars spent on your salary and research, people feel they are entitled to be given all this data. Actually it would be better to not waste the money on the stamp and post the data on the internet.

ShrNfr

A treemendous (sic) victory for the good guys. It is in the interests of science to poke holes in any theory, be it global warming or global cooling. It demonstrates what we do not understand and leads us to advancement of our knowledge. Refusal of people to make their data public (especially when government funded) goes against this basic tenant of science.

I’d bet we find out that the “oak” tree rings turn out to be cherry instead … as in cherry picked …

Tom

Get over yourself, Baillie – we *paid* you to go trudging with chainsaws, so the copyright, such as it is, is *ours*.

Pat Moffitt

“Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright.” It would seem the researcher does have a right to his data -if – he and not the public paid for its collection, analysis etc. However even were it private research if the data is used to put modern civilization on trial- then we have a right to see the evidence.

Scott Covert

No matter what the data reveals, this is a victory for Science!
Let the chips fall where they may.
Independant skeptical analysis is required.

JohnH

He hasn’t got the data yet, the University can appeal.
I paid indirectly for this data, hope he gets hold of it, though funnily enough the scirentists say the data is only good for rainfall proxy not temp proxy. Wonder if they have passed that gem onto Mann and Biffa.

The real travesty is not that the data took so long to hand over, but that there weren’t any publicly paid researchers to do the work of analysing this data in an independent way.
Science only works when theories are not only open to scrutiny, but when there are people with the funding to scrutinise. The real crime of climate “science” is that it has been a one party state denying funding to anyone who disagreed with their bogus claptrap.

Henry chance

So what is the greatest fear? Getting caught cherry picking data?
I can’t exhale CO2 without consent of my gubment and I remember when salt was not yet contraband. Things are changing.
Have change for a paradigm???

Noha

Do these English have a different version of scientific rigor than the rest of us?

urederra

This week, the Belfast ecologist who collected most of the data, Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as “a staggering injustice … We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and – using quite a lot of expertise and judgment – we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”

Apparently, he is forgeting that the chainsaws were bought with public money.

Cold Englishman

The arrogance of these folk is astonishing, who does he think pays his salary and expenses, even the trips to Bali and Kyoto, Copenhagen – They never do Scunthorpe or Bristol do they?
Get over it Prof, with good grace, and good manners, after all, if you are right, you will be able to say “See, I told you so”, but what if it is found that you were wrong? Is that what keeps you awake at night?

Rob from BC

If he wants copyright, he can work in the private sector with private sector money. If it’s publically funded, it belongs to the public. Academia has been living in a comfortable cloistered little world for too long. Time to wake up and smell the new reality!

Steve Schaper

I’m thinking he didn’t create the trees. The ‘copyright’ on them isn’t his. Is he implying he invented the data?
As also noted, he was employed to do this. If I do technical writing for a firm, including research, the data and the final product do not belong to me, but to the firm.

You should read the venomous hatred being poured out against Keenan by most of the Guardian commenters. Very interesting that eco-fanatics pushed so hard for legislation so that THEY could get information, especially environmental information. But now they find it’s a double edged sword, because it also allows anyone who is interested to find out that the so-called science underpinning their agenda is a house of cards – so goes the law of unintended consequences: unintended from the eco-fanatic point of view, of course. It’s OK for eco-fanatics to be able to use the law to get hold of information from publicly-funded bodies to advance their agenda, but not anyone else. Peel off the green mask and you will find the face of fascism.
Baillie sounds ridiculous: if the cry baby doesn’t want his data and research to be available to the tax-paying public he should move to a private institution and try his luck there.

Peter Plail

“Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”
Professor Mike Baillie seems to have missed the point – the Information Commissioner has made it clear that Keenan is entitled to it. Feelings have nothing to do with it.

Phillip Bratby

Nobody forced Baillie et al to take taxpayers money and to trudge miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. Do these people realise how ridiculous their petty complaints must seem to outside observers?

Bill Hunter

Fundamentally at their core Freedom of Information Acts establish that stuff paid for by tax dollars is not proprietary.
The law is the law and while you might disagree with it; you are a criminal if you act in accordance with a belief that the law is wrong.

Dr T G Watkins

Persistence pays off,eventually. A small but potentially important ruling on FOI which may be cited as a precedent in future cases.
Of course the data should be in the public realm, we paid for it and Baillie’s career and probably his education. Amazing the effect of living in a socialist nanny state has on even the most intelligent of people.
Well done Doug Keegan.

Howarth

“a staggering injustice … We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and – using quite a lot of expertise and judgment – we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”
How arrogant, thats like saying I own the research data I collected for the private company I work for. Can you imagine me saying that to my boss. “Hi, I’m taking all this research that you paid me to do for the last couple of years home because I did all the work and you didn’t.” Stupid boss, how dare you think your entitled to my work. What do you think you pay me for anyway?
The person that owns the data is the person who pays for it, thats not me and thats not “Professor Mike Baillie”

Noelene

yay. A win for science.

Fred

Seems the good Professor operates under the belief that he is entitled to his entitlements, even if they are funded from the public purse, because, you know, he’s a Professor or something like that.

David, UK

@ Matthew Carver (09:23:53) :
” “Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”
No, now for the price of years of tax-payer dollars spent on your salary and research, people feel they are entitled to be given all this data. Actually it would be better to not waste the money on the stamp and post the data on the internet.”
Indeed. Not to mention the price of all the legislation that has been passed, and is intended to be passed, based largely on this data.
And not to mention the price of our basic freedoms.
The taxpayer paid for this load of old balls, and now we want our balls back.

enneagram

The Oak Tree
by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.
A mighty wind blew night and day.
It stole the Oak Tree’s leaves away.
Then snapped its boughs
and pulled its bark
until the Oak was tired and stark.
But still the Oak Tree held its ground
while other trees fell all around.
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing Oak?”
The Oak Tree said, I know that you
can break each branch of mine in two,
carry every leaf away,
shake my limbs and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
growing stronger since my birth.
You’ll never touch them, for you see
they are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn’t sure
of just how much I could endure.
But now I’ve found with thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew

http://lessonsoftheoaktree.blogspot.com/2009/02/we-are-all-children.html

kwik

Keenan can hereby be called “The Lord of the Rings”!

Is the argument that this was tax-supported research, and that Baillie therefore has no private copyright claim to it? What is the U’s policy on say university-funded engineering research that has commercial value? (As contrasted with privately funded off-duty-time research.)
How long has this data been around? In US academia, I doubt that anyone would object if a researcher withheld even govt funded data for a reasonable short period until an article based on the data could be published, so that the researcher gets first crack at a publication. (In at least one instance Steve McI has been interested in, even the NSF doesn’t seem to be concerned if research data it funds is never released…)

noaaprogrammer

Good, I hope they are suffering!

The ghost of Big Jim Cooley

Here in the UK we love people like Keenan. Keep fighting, right to the bitter end – it’s what makes us British!

kadaka

…over 40 years’ worth of data on 7,000 years of Irish tree rings…
Where did they find trees in Ireland that were 7000 years old? Did they dredge them out of bogs?

Pat Frank

Prof. Baillie has no copyright on his data. He has first use rights. That means he can keep the data under wraps until he has had the opportunity to analyze it fully, and to publish his results.
As a research scientist myself, I know that this can take some time — some projects longer than others. I’m still slowly wending toward publication of data I acquired 10 years ago, in one project, for example.
So, Prof. Baillie does have some rights. However, if he has acceded the use of his data for public policy, he has given up all right of priority.
This qualifier seems entirely invisible to climate scientists. They both actively, even aggressively, push their results into public policy decisions and then clamor to keep their data private, both at the same time. This is academic want to have my political cake and to eat my academic cake, too. Sorry guys. One or the other, but not both. They’re being either dishonest or terribly ingenuous. It’s hard to know which.

RockyRoad

Last time I looked, these were “Irish” tree rings, not “Baillie” tree rings. The operative word for determining ownership or copyright is “Irish”. “Baillie” just happens to be one of the blokes who was paid to get them. (Admittedly it’s easier being a blogger than a bogger, but nobody’s paying any of us anything.)

Jimmy Haigh

The attitude of these academics is astounding. This guy is like Jones: he’s worried that someone may find something wrong with his data.

A bit early to celebrate, since Baillie can appeal the ruling.

BJ

Since when can you copywrite a measurement? I can see him holding the copywrite on any pulication of an analysis of the measurements, but I’m a bit confused on how the measurements themselves can be copywritten.
Even an analysis of the measurements would have to be peer reviewed to be taken seriously, and isn’t the presentation of underlying data one of the requirements for a serious peer review? Would this then mean that no one in the peer review process could ask to see the data to ensure the validity of the analysis?
Oh, wait, I think I just explained the whole IPCC report issue thingy, didn’t I…

Bryan Clark

Years ago, in Canada, the broadcasting company I used to work for required digital terrain elevation data to calculate “coverage patterns” of TV/radio transmissions. This data for Canada was only available from the government, who suddenly wanted thousands of dollars for it. I maintained that Canadian taxpayers had already paid for it and that citizens shouldn’t have to pay for it twice. Naturally, we lost this argument.
It warms my heart to see the final result in the above Belfast tree ring case! There is no rest for the wicked.

Gerry

From the Guardian article:
“Baillie says his data won’t help either way in this argument. Last year he and his Belfast colleague Ana Garcia-Suarez, published a study showing that Irish oaks record summer rainfall well, but not temperature. ‘Keenan is the only person in the world claiming that our oak-ring patterns are temperature records,’ Baillie told the Guardian.”
That statement by Baillie is very weasel-worded and misleading. In the paper he coauthored with Garcia-Suarez and Butlera, it is revealed that oak was only one of four tree species studied. They found the combination of all four to be useful as “continuous yearly paleoclimatic records.”
Abstract:
Climate signal in tree-ring chronologies in a temperate climate: A multi-species approach
A.M. García-Suáreza, b, c, , , C.J. Butlera and M.G.L. Baillieb
aArmagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG, Northern Ireland, UK
bPalaeoecology Centre, Queens University, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, UK
cSchool of Geographical Sciences, Bristol University, Bristol BS8 1SS, England, UK
Received 15 March 2007; accepted 19 May 2009. Available online 28 October 2009.
Abstract
Tree-rings can provide continuous yearly paleoclimatic records for regions or periods of time with no instrumental climate data. However, different species respond to different climate parameters with, for example, some sensitive to moisture and others to temperature. Here, we describe four common species growing in Northern Ireland and their suitability for climate reconstruction.
Our results suggest that beech and ash are the most sensitive to climate, with tree-ring widths more strongly influenced by precipitation and soil moisture in early summer than by temperature or sunshine. Oak is also sensitive to summer rainfall, whereas Scots pine is sensitive to maximum temperature and the soil temperature.
We find that the moisture-related parameters, rainfall and the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), and to a lesser extent, maximum and mean temperatures, can be reconstructed. Reconstructions of climate parameters with tree-rings as proxies may be relatively stable for some seasons such as May–July. We find that combinations of species are more successful in reconstructing climate than single species.
Keywords: Dendroclimatology; Climate proxies; Oak; Ash; Beech; Scots pine

David Corcoran

If Professor Baillie wants sole ownership of tree ring data, he should stop taking government grant money. It’s that simple. Otherwise the data belongs to the people who paid for it… the public.

Bernie

If memory serves me correctly, Baillie has had this data for many, many years and has done little with it. For Doug’s summary of the story: http://www.informath.org/apprise/a3900.htm

Kent Gatewood

Where is my inhaler, Baillie didn’t use a chain saw on a tree, did he?

Zeke

An arch-critic…is launching a new assault…Demanded! Notorious! VITRIOLIC DISPUTES!
Sniff. You know what he is, is just a part-timer, who expects everything to come his way “for the price of a stamp.”
“…Must hand over data obtained during 40 years of research into 7,000 years of Irish tree rings to a City banker and part-time climate analyst, Doug Keenan.”
Perhaps the European Union’s environmental information regulations will provide some protection from part-time climate analysts who notoriously launch assaults with their stamps.

D Caldwell

A clear insight into the ivory tower mindset of those employed long term in public academia and government – all graciously funded by John & Jane Q. Taxpayer. Mostly the same in the U.S. as well.

jaypan

“Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright.”
Strongly believe that the tree itself owns all the intellectual property and copyrights. If they killed the tree to get the ring patterns, this crime should not be rewarded.

Hu McCulloch: “Is the argument that this was tax-supported research, and that Baillie therefore has no private copyright claim to it? What is the U’s policy on say university-funded engineering research that has commercial value? (As contrasted with privately funded off-duty-time research.)”
During the climategate inquiry the information commissioner expressed the view that FOI should not thwart commercial use of research but that sooner or later all research in public bodies had to be made available to the public.
But what on earth is the “commercial value” of research that is at the very least highly suspect. If Prof Baillie really had any interest in gaining credibility for this research he would have sought the strongest critics because only the best data stands the strongest criticism. The fact that he hid it from any criticism just shows how little faith he had in the data!

Telboy

The only “staggering injustice” is the fact that it took three years to prise the data from Baillie’s sweaty paws. If you’ve been paid to do the work the results are not your property, they belong to the paymaster unless there is agreement to the contrary. There doesn’t appear to be such an agreement…

Steve Oak

Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as “a staggering injustice”
Sounds like a de facto confession to obstruction of the release of the information?
i.e That obstruction would be ‘justified’ to prevent the “staggering injustice”.

AnonyMoose

For background, see last year’s posting Another UK climate data withholding scandal is emerging

latitude

Real science at work.
No matter how the university tries to spin it, it makes them look bad.
It should.
Science was supposed to be “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks”.
More and more, the very climate scientists are making “climate science” out to be witchcraft.

Jordan

For the price of a stamp…
The other morning I found my front door jammed shut. After some time, I wedged it open. Imagine my surprise when I found the postman there, having opened my mail and stuffing any valuables into his back pocket.
When I demanded to know what he was doing, he said that my complaint was a staggering injustice as he was the one who had trudged up my garden patth with a heavy bag full of mail …etc.
It’s too funny to let that one pass without due ridicule.