Nursing their wounds with salt

Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS (born 25 January 19...

Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS (born 25 January 1949) is a British biochemist. Image via Wikipedia

Royal Society Bemoans Freedom of Scientific Information

This is a collection of articles related to the In an interview with the Guardian by Sir Paul Nurse of the Royal Society that in connection with FOI:

I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it’s intimidating

For the record, I personally have never submitted an FOI request to any UK organization. The Bishop Hill article linked below shows the depth of known claims.

Here’s the reactions:

Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society. Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists. -– Alok Jha, The Guardian, 25 May 2011

It’s rather as if the science has taken a leave of absence from the Royal Society and only the scientists remain. -–Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill, 26 May 2011

The solution to Sir Paul’s problem is simple: If academics do not like the scrutiny that comes with being paid by the taxpayers, they should stop accepting public money. –Richard Tol, 26 May 2011

Bob Ward says that the intention is to trawl through scientists work and find errors. He obviously doesn’t like the idea. There is a name for the process of looking for errors in someone else’s work. It’s called science, —WardRe, 26 May 2011

Dear Climatologists: It is very simple. My taxes have been used to pay you to collect data on my behalf. If you do not feel able to allow me access to that data, I feel no need to continue paying you. What you do on your own time is yours. But what you do on my dime is mine. Simple. —Joe Sixpack, 26 May 2011

The problem with the tactic of denying information and protesting is that no-one believes it any more. So it makes the communication and sales problem worse and worse. The general public concludes that there must be something wrong or they would release it all. What this is doing, its producing ever more skepticism about AGW and climate science. You cannot get there from here. The only solution is to publish the lot, immediately. It then might be that all kinds of holes will emerge. But trying to keep it all secret is not going to work either. You cannot avoid the conclusion that climate science is really in crisis. It is destroying itself as a credible discipline by the public conduct of its most aggressive advocates. —Michel, 26 May 2011

Barack Obama has snubbed Britain’s most eminent scientists by refusing to attend a Royal Society banquet in his honour at which he was to be awarded with a prestigious medal. The US President rejected the invitation from the world-leading group of scientists and instead chose to visit a south London state school. Sources close to the state visit said members of the Royal Society were “deeply offended” by the snub and had accused Mr Obama of being obsessed with his “street cred”. –Heidi Blake, The Daily Telegraph, 26 May 2011

I want to look at what they’ve given us and examine what they’ve withheld and see why it’s been withheld. The more they stonewall, the more they’re making Richard Nixon look like a choirboy. — Robert G. Marshall, The Washington Times, 25 May 2011

I haven’t heard of any incidents in which anyone requested “drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive version”, let alone “lots of requests” of this nature to multiple scientists.

Are any readers aware of any such requests? Or is this more fantasizing by climate scientists? Like the time reversal mechanism assumed by Nature when they blamed data obstruction by climate scientists back in 2005 on FOI requests in summer 2009. –Is this a Nursery Story? Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit

Is this a Nursery Story?

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95 thoughts on “Nursing their wounds with salt

  1. I would say it would be hard to ask for information on something you do not know exists. But I guess there may be some Svengalis out there. I would like to hear about them as well since I really want to know who is going to win the World Series this year.

  2. My university was asked to provide written justification for every choice of required textbooks. Departments chairs from every department had to compile lists explaining each textbook choice. It took weeks. It was insane.

  3. Send him a foi requesting all the investigatory work he did and all the evidence he has used to produce this statement and I bet that just like 75% of climate science, it was made up on the spot as he just needed some way to excuse the lack of evidence to back up the results

  4. Bravo Richard Tol; bravo President Obama (in the order they appear above)!

    The Royal Society (and many others of similar ilk) deserve all the opprobrium they can get.

  5. Sounds like somebody needs to issue a FOIA request for details on what is actually being requested in FOIA requests.

    Or just replace the broken FOIA system with a transparency system for publicly funded research. It really is as simple as that – put everything that public servants do into public view and there will be no need to ever deal with another pesky information request again.

  6. Go Ahead, take away our FOIA rights. Make my day. An act of such flagrant dishonesty, even in England, will play on American TV for the indefinite future. It is just what we need to end the funding of all climate science and put people like Hansen on the street where they belong. Go ahead, do it.

  7. steven mosher says:
    May 26, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Well,

    follow steve mcIntyre’s lead and write to the royal society asking Nurse for details.
    ================================================

    It will be interesting to see if Steve Mac gets a response. Personally, I think it is simply another hand-waving contrivance, created to smear skeptics. Though, disproving it would be impossible. Maybe Steve’s right and they got back in their time machine and went forward a few years and had such a request………

  8. Could it be that they are trying to hide how little they accomplish with the public money.

  9. Awww! Now you’ve done it, Mosh! New rumour: “WUWT commentators encourage each other to harass president of RS with requests for data”

    You just know that’s going to be the next back-room story mill. They don’t care if it’s true or not, only if the sh*t will stick for a day or 2.

  10. Irony.
    How many FOIs will be submitted to find out how many FOIs were requested???

  11. A Nursery Story

    Once upon a time a man named ‘Nurse’
    Got lots of money from the public purse.

    His friends at the UEA
    Were also in the public’s pay.

    They studied snow and heat and rain
    And found themselves on the gravy train.

    They made lots of dosh by misinforming
    People about global warming.

    And became upset by Freedom of Information
    Especially the subsequent vilification.

    Not just in England but worldwide
    And all because of carbon dioxide.

  12. In the USA, government agency responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are limited to final documents. Raw data & finished works are subject to disclosure. Drafts, working papers, etc. are exempt. For decades (at least the last three & counting to my experience & involvement) nobody complained about that, if ever.

    The idea that drafts and other working papers should be subject to such requests is ridiculous. Stupid really.

    Working papers & drafts normally contain topical placeholders (incompletely described topics to be filled in later), poorly worded presentations (to get the thoughts down for later editorial polishing), etc. Such content is often misleading and/or erroneous/factually wrong — and recognized as such by the author(s) who do not mean what a literal interpretation would convey, or which they later discover after closer review of third-party references they didn’t initially review that closely. Anybody that’s written a thesis or even term paper, where sections are routinely re-written multiple times, should recognize this.

  13. What happened to science and scientists that used to be proud of their work…
    …and published all the details

    If you stand by your work, you want to show it all.

    This is science, not a patent for something that stands to make money.
    (that was a joke)

  14. When I was in school, all my professors required me to show my work, and I was paying them. I’m still paying them.

    I think it’s only fair that they show their work.

  15. For supposedly clever people, they don’t seem to be capable of much reasoning.
    If you’re a famous actor but don’t like photographers bothering you when you dine at fashionable restaurants, avoid fashionable restaurants, and if photographers are always trying to take a snap of you semi-naked because such photographs bring high prices, undercut the market by releasing many candid snaps on your own website.
    Similarly, if people bother you with requests for your data and previous drafts of papers, put such information on your own website (with confidential data suitably redacted, of course), and respond to those annoying inquirers with a standard e-mail directing them to the site.
    If you’re a scientist opposing the releasing of data, or an actor opposed to the trappings of modern fame, consider another line of business. If you don’t like the fumes, stay out of the laboratory.

  16. Ken says:

    “The idea that drafts and other working papers should be subject to such requests is ridiculous. Stupid really.”

    Not really. If a taxpaying citizen had been aware of the Climategate emails before they were leaked, are you saying they should be exempt from review by the public that paid for them? That would be tantamount to condoning wrongdoing.

    If someone is being paid by the public, then their work product is the property of the public. All of it. If they don’t like it they can get a job in the private sector.

  17. As nurses in the UK’s national health service (NHS) fail in their duty of care to it’s patients. Nurse fails in his duty of care in preventing climate science killing the credibility of the Royal society

  18. I’m a published astronomer. All the raw data used in my published papers is stored, as is the reduced data. Any request from a colleague would probably be granted; if every amateur astronomer wanted a copy of something, it could probably be put on line but I don’t have the time to deal with every nut that sees little green men in my data. Besides, for the two instruments I have used over the years, it took years to develop data reduction code. I’m not going to show everybody how to use it.

    On the other hand climate science has been taken out of the hands of climate scientists so that it is very hard for the usually processes that manage to get at the truth to do so. I think people should do what I do: Try not to put too much CO2 into the atmosphere: whether or not it has been affecting global climate, it can and it will; and two watch the numbers. The truth will out. Climate scientists, on the other hand, whether by their own fault or not, have gotten themselves in this unenviable position, and it behooves them to get themselves out by being very transparent; being clear about what models can actually predict; and speaking out loudly when ridiculous claims are made by others from their own benefit.

  19. Simple solution – just post the information on the internet. No FOI would be needed if the data were available.

  20. Mike says:
    May 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    My university was asked to provide written justification for every choice of required textbooks. Departments chairs from every department had to compile lists explaining each textbook choice. It took weeks. It was insane.
    ===========================================================
    Non sequitur aside, it is telling that it took this “insane” period of time to justify their textbooks selection. Given that it’s each professor’s job to teach their students the core concepts of interest and how to critically think, you’d think they’d have no problems justifying the few texts they select. After all, they are providing a service for which the students/parents are paying dearly.

  21. If climatologists want to be even considered to be scientists they really have two choices:

    1. Let people see their work and point out the flaws in it.

    2. Or let everyone assume the flaws are even worse than we imagine them to be.

  22. So Sir Nurse’s complaint is: “I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it’s intimidating.” Let’s parse this.
    (1) “I have been told…” Hearsay. Give us names. Have the researchers come forward with a list of the requests each has received. Presumably the requester, invoking FOI, will not object to being named and his/her request being shared with us all.
    (2) “Lots of requests…” Meaningless. If Sir Nurse were told to believe a scientific paper which cited “lots of observations” but didn’t supply the supporting data, would he accept it? Could he even understand it?
    (3) “All drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals…” For clarity, I assume this means a FOI request arriving AFTER publication, citing the paper and asking for the entire family tree of edits/versions. And, with “annotations,” asking also for email trails from commenters/reviewers? The whole file?
    (a) OK, so what’s the problem? Apart from the potential embarrassment of showing rough drafts and casual style (and the burden of redacting any extraneous matter), should not this file exist and be accessible to anybody, worthless busybodies though they be, who wants to follow the development of the authoritative statement? Is there something missing or corrupt in there? Inquiring minds want to know.
    (b) As noted above, Golden Rule applies. If a researcher wants privacy or trade secret/other ownership rights in work product, he or she has to pay for it. By not using the public’s money. What is done on our time and our dime, is ours. Sorry if it forces you to be tidy and forthcoming.
    (4) “With annotations, explaining why changes were made between versions.” I tend to agree that a FOI response should be what is in the record, i.e. the versions themselves, not a post hoc apologia for why the changes arose. On this point alone I would have some sympathy for the huddled masses implied by Sir Nurse’s assertion.
    (5) “If it’s true, it will consume a huge amount of time.” IF it’s true? But Sir Nurse, your assertion invites us to assume that it is true! Why else would you bother to make it? You mean to say that you haven’t checked the veracity of the claim? See (1) above. This little slider of a qualifier renders the whole argument not only moot, but tendentious. It’s as if he said “I have received a lot of reports that the Moon is made of green cheese. If true, it would destroy the global cheese industry. Wait…why are you listening to me?”
    (6) “And it’s intimidating.” Only for those who have something to hide. Or who are so insecure in their craft –the quality of their thinking, the diligence of their basic housekeeping– as to be intimidated by such demands. Part of being a professional is dealing with jerks who ask tedious questions. Get over it; or get out.

  23. I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for….

    Don’t forget also having “been told of some researchers who are getting lots of” death threats, Paul. Always best to pass on hearsay, eh, Paul = Propaganda = Post Normal Science = Loser Talk.

  24. RE: Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists…

    I was under the impression that true science needs to be open to a full inspection for others, both friend and foe. That way, others can either verify or show errors. To me this looks like someone wanting to push fake science and NOT get caught.

    It would be an interesting test to take some non-climate related research and see how hard it is to get at the source data and notes. Is it all research is closed or just the research that’s trying to hide something, like the decline. In an ideal scientific world, there should never be a need for any FOI Requests, because all science is open for inspection.

  25. Steve McIntyre,
    My reading of the guardian quote gave me a different impression

    He said “I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. ”

    I believed he said the queries were made AFTER the publication about revisions that happened prior to publication

  26. You don’t think for a minute that ‘scientists’ only have themselves to blame..?
    Since ‘Climategate’, the public are rightly suspicious as to whether these guys are trying to – say – hide another decline…

  27. Ken says:

    “The idea that drafts and other working papers should be subject to such requests is ridiculous. Stupid really.”

    Smokey says:
    “Not really. If a taxpaying citizen had been aware of the Climategate emails before they were leaked, are you saying they should be exempt from review by the public that paid for them? That would be tantamount to condoning wrongdoing.”

    Ken does not mention e-mails. E-mails on just about anything can be subject to FOIA. Standing rule about e-mails is: “Never put anything in an e-mail that you would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times”

    Draft documents and other working papers are not necessarily subject to FOIA. As Ken noted draft documents can be subject to verification and revision, may contain factual errors, and may not accurately represent findings of the final document. Such documents are usually considered “pre-decisional” and are not subject to FOIA.

    See FOIA exemptions, particulary #5:
    http://www.foiadvocates.com/exemptions.html

  28. For those advocating it, the notion that draft manuscripts and subsequent revisions based on peer-reviewer comments should be “FOI-able” is absurd; this is the stuff that trail lawyers dream of. If the study was publically-funded (as most are), making the data available (post publication) should suffice. In fact many scientific journals now encourage publishing supplementary data. If the results of an influential study can’t be duplicated per the methods published, write the editor or others in the field. But allowing the public to scrutinize over every little reviewer comment and subsequent author revision in every publically-funded study that is published (applying to all fields of science, so literally thousands of papers annually) is ludicrous.

  29. @ douglas brenner says:
    May 26, 2011 at 10:07 am
    ====================================

    Nice post,…… except “Try not to put too much CO2 into the atmosphere: whether or not it has been affecting global climate, it can and it will;..”

    Being a person that believes that a warmer climate would be more beneficial to mankind, on the off chance the posits about CO2 are correct, and it will indeed warm the earth, I advocate putting as much as possible into the atmosphere. But that’s coming from some one that endured some rather harsh winters back in the 60s and 70s and have no desire to go through them again.

  30. Harrassment by FOIA requests has not applicable when the pattern is that the results the climate scientists publish do not match with the real world. It is logical to then want to see the data and what was done to it by the authors. If this leads to realistic criticism of the published work and the veracity and legality of the grant work, so be it.

    I think the whining about FOIA is mainly from those who know that their work cannot stand up to scritiny.

  31. To Douglas Brenner above: I am an astronomer as well and I am in full agreement that when I have data indicating something I must keep it out of the hands of others who would want to disprove it. In fact, just like the irrefutable proof that CO2 creates Global Warming and worldwide we all need to readjust our lives around this fact to the point of having governments eveywhere tell us what we can do, eat, go, wear, etc., I have found that an asteroid is going to collide with earth sometime in 2017 unless eveyone on the planet prepares for it by sending me $170 (which can be collected by their respective governments and forwarded to my bank account’s Asteroid Avoidance Program). I know this is true because of the data reduction code that have spent years developing (and yes, I too don’t want anybody to steal the work of so many years).

    By the way, the science is settled, and no one can disprove it because no one else has the data reduction code. Anyone who doesn’t believe the results of this science is a denier, And everyone should do what I do: send $170 tto the Asteroid Avoidance Program: whether or not it can prevent a collision with that asteroid, it can and it will; and two watch the numbers. The truth will out. Keep up the good work Brother Astronomer.

  32. “Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research.”

    Then stop attending useless conferences and making idiotic videos about climate scientists. That should free up some time.

  33. Whatever he may have been at one time, Nurse is a bureaucrat who’s support of the Warmista’s is well known. To further the cause he poses as an independent scientist with no axe to grind, while in fact his whole approach to the subject is political and anti-scientific.

  34. Bob Diaz says:
    May 26, 2011 at 10:26 am
    RE: Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists…

    “It would be an interesting test to take some non-climate related research and see how hard it is to get at the source data and notes. In an ideal scientific world, there should never be a need for any FOI Requests, because all science is open for inspection.”

    Great point Bob. I used to work with members of the Geological Survey of Canada. When publishing their work they would also publish the data as an Open File Report. For a nominal fee you could order the data (originally by mail, eventually direct via the Internet). These people would routinely send industry people like me their data (for free) in an attempt to establish bench marks for the development of new instrumentation. They established calibration facilities, public testing facilities, all with the goal of educating the public. I always felt this was a wise investment of taxpayers money. And there was this great pizza place near 601 Booth St…

  35. Richard Tol The solution to Sir Paul’s problem is simple: If academics do not like the scrutiny that comes with being paid by the taxpayers, they should stop accepting public money.

    Although there are fair points made elsewhere, ultimately this is the crux. If you want taxpayer funding then you had better forget “the way we always do it” and get used to the new paradigm.

  36. Isn’t it interesting that Sir Paul Nurse refers, throughout his interview, only to climate scientists. No reference whatsoever to any other branch of science. He is quite prepared to see every branch of science freed from the need to answer detailed questions that the FOI Act provides, simply to avoid his and his fellow climate scientists having their work revued by other, equally qualified scientists, who do not accept the AGW theory. It is quite clear that Sir Paul is fully committed to the AGW cult, and finds it important to protect his fellow travellers, regardless of the many falsifications, misrepresentations and sheer lies that have been uncovered as a direct result of the Act, and which will continue to be uncovered, (unless Sir Paul has his way) until it is proved once and for all that AGW is a figment of the imagination of a few self- promoting fanatical scientists. Sir Paul should remember that as President of The Royal Society he represents every member of that society, not just the advocates of AGW. There are many very qualified scientists in the Royal Society who do not accept the theory of AGW and would disagree completely with his suggestions that the opportunity to question the science should be curtailed.

  37. Anyone who watched the ‘Horizon’ program on the BBC presented by Paul Nurse will have no doubt that he is only interested in protecting scientists, and not in protecting science.

  38. Somehow I doubt that they’ve been swamped with requests for annotated changes of manuscript drafts. Even if they have, with modern technology it’s a piece of cake to respond…I have all the versions of my manuscripts with comments/changes from co-authors that basically does all the necessary annotating. It’s common practice to change the name of the file as it gets changed and different people look at it, and often times the comments are left in until the final version so all authors can see them. I don’t know if others save the various versions, but I sure do…it’s only a few MB of disk space here and there.

    I can understand the difficulty in getting the material available for people from old stuff when “track changes” wasn’t used though.

    -Scott

  39. It is difficult to believe that this claim is a genuine reflection of the real situation. Yes, as understanding of FOI law has spread, more people may have been tempted to ask questions, especially when public funding is involved. But you need high levels of knowledge and understanding to frame the right questions and make sense of any detailed technical or scientific research (there are not so many Steve McIntyre’s). While a few might be tempted to do so frivously, I find it hard to believe it happens all that often.

    Recent years have seen more and more scientists employing their stature and research for ends they believe in. That’s all well and good, except that what they increasingly desire has the potential to severely reduce the lives millions and millions of us. How can they be surprised if there are those amongst this mass who want the underlying facts of their claims verified first.

  40. I was mislead. I thought that the scientific process involved revealing, among other things, the data so others can try to replicate it. /end sarc.

    After Climategate further stonewalling just makes the lot of them look more manipulative. As my old gramma used to say: “There’s no smoke without fire.”

  41. The trouble is that the British climate fraternity are not very transparent and obtaining information from them is very difficult.

    I made a perfectly polite request to the Met Office to see the studies that support their position that the climate was very stable and had minimal fluctuation in temperature until Co2 started climbing as I wish to write a serious paper on the period covered by CET and need to see the study-I suspect it is the Hockey stick. Can anyone suggest what I do in this situation? I am very reluctant to ask under a FOIA request but the other options seem limited.

    I am now on to my third request but still no answer other than my requirements will be passed on. Yeah, to the garbage can no doubt.

    Tonyb

  42. “He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists”

    It’s a shame they need to be intimidated into doing the right thing but ya gotta do what ya gotta do to make them toe the line when they are feeding at the public trough.

  43. If harassment is an issue, one could argue that privacy laws are being used to harass citizen-scientists. Like Anthony, I have never used FOI procedures in the UK, but I had to file a complaint to get the location of the weather station in Red Lodge, Montana, after the Billings office refused to divulge it. The system seems to have worked; the location was eventually posted, but too late. See picture at:
    http://gallery.surfacestations.org/main.php?g2_itemId=81544

  44. One reason why climate science should be very open with their data is because:

    a) Climategate emails showed some very unscientific behaviour.
    b) Governments intend to use climate science / IPCC to impose large taxes of co2.

    Anything short of a good deal of openeness will be met with suspicion and distrust, whether rightly or wrongly.

  45. We tend to think that throughout history scientists openly shared their data with others because they were ideal scientists focused solely on the scientific method. I bet that’s baloney. I bet scientists, being humans, have always hidden data from critics as best they could in order to boost their own prestige and obtain more funding. In the age of the internet and outrageously politicized government funding, it’s just harder for them to get away with it. I think the difference is a matter of degree. The more government flows into science, the more it corrupts scientists.

  46. oMan says:
    May 26, 2011 at 10:21 am

    “So Sir Nurse’s complaint is: “I have been told…”

    Thanks for taking time to parse that out.

    1) Exaggeration
    2) Groundless assertion

    The dual bane of the climate debate.

  47. The thing that has always amazed me is, that if AGW is the most important thing ever , and there is no time waste on this and its has evidenced which is absolute in proof of the idea , as is claimed . That climate scientists are not kicking peoples doors down to thrust ever piece of evidenced in their face, but rather they playing smoke and mirror games to keep the majority of the stuff off the record.
    Anyone thing that in some way the evidenced is not as absolute has claimed?

    For the record , Phil Jones played to avoid FOI request BEFORE he even got any , how hassle from FOI requests could lead to this is a very good question.

  48. James Sexton says:
    May 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Beyond that, CO2 is plant food. I like fat and happy plants. More CO2 is better, not worse.

  49. There exist versioning programs that automatically record every revision made to a document. It is possible to recover any individual version, request a display of changes between any two selected versions, etc.

    This stuff is SOP in the software industry and has been for decades.

  50. Ken says:
    “The idea that drafts and other working papers should be subject to such requests is ridiculous. Stupid really.”

    “Hide the decline” was not in a final report, was it now? Not subject to FOIA.
    And yet it may be the most important phrase in the whole controversy.

    Anyway, the RS seems to have become a bunch of sycophantic toadies, bent on defending their turf in the status quo.

  51. Interesting to note that the one place where you couldn’t comment on the article was…The Guardian!

  52. “Beyond that, CO2 is plant food. I like fat and happy plants. More CO2 is better, not worse.”

    Oh dear, MarkW, you have done it now. Don’t you realise there is a war on obesity? Another excuse for them to reduce CO2.

  53. The frantic actions and words of the AGW community since Climategate make complete sense, but only if viewed as an ongoing effort to stay out of jail. “Stonewall, obfuscate, tap dance, but do not let the truth be known, for that will kill us.”

  54. “douglas brenner says:
    May 26, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I’m a published astronomer. All the raw data used in my published papers is stored, as is the reduced data. Any request from a colleague would probably be granted; if every amateur astronomer wanted a copy of something, it could probably be put on line but I don’t have the time to deal with every nut that sees little green men in my data. Besides, for the two instruments I have used over the years, it took years to develop data reduction code. I’m not going to show everybody how to use it.”

    It should be noted that when you work for a company that pays your way, any derivitive products and methods that you come up with belong to the company.

    The same should apply to Government funding of science. Since the taxpayer pays for the salary, the taxpayer in trust of the Government should own the methods you use. This is one of the principles of the FOIA. You see, if you are paid by the taxpayer you should not be able to keep derivitive works, it belongs to the Government and you should be required to publish as much as the people want. If we pay your salary, you should publish to my content. There is no such thing in this regard to “too many FOIA requests.”

    If you don’t like taxpayers being your boss, you are perfectly free to find a job in either another field or with a company that does not have such requirements.

    That is the rub of deciding to work for the tax-payer…you are subjected to our will and perhaps to our whim when we decide to cut funding to purchase other things.

    Now to analyze your statement for a scientific point of view, if your method has merit, then being open will advance the world scientifically. By closing it off, you do nothing but make us question whether your method is any good or not. Maybe its terrible and by using this method you are throwing away more good data then bad…but if you are the only person to look at the data selection and the only one to data mine said data, who is to say your method is any good at all? This is why replication is so important in science because it allows other people with different backgrounds to find holes in your thinking and even if they just find issues with your methods, you can go back and fix those issues. This is how science SHOULD work, but because people close themselves off such as yourself, we have issues in science where no one knows how to replicate anything anymore.

    “I think people should do what I do: Try not to put too much CO2 into the atmosphere: whether or not it has been affecting global climate, it can and it will; and two watch the numbers. The truth will out. Climate scientists, on the other hand, whether by their own fault or not, have gotten themselves in this unenviable position, and it behooves them to get themselves out by being very transparent; being clear about what models can actually predict; and speaking out loudly when ridiculous claims are made by others from their own benefit.”

    How much less CO2 should we emit? I by no means have an issue with that statement, but here you speak out about a topic where you do not even try to quantify the statement. What is the actual cost of CO2 that we should apply to people? That is the issue….no one in this debate actually thinks emitting more CO2 is a good thing, but most sceptics such as myself see CO2 as plant food and if you are going to tax it, you better have damn good data to support such an idea.

    This is the problem…Governments are forced to quantify the cost of CO2 and the science can not do this for a number of reasons including the fact that most of the data is hidden, out of reach and otherwise impossible to obtain, so that the only people who CAN get the data are people who are invested in taxing the heck out of CO2. This leads to a conflict of interest…which you state is one of the issues with climate science (I can not say I disagree with this…)

    But the main issue still stands…they got themselves into this mess….they refuse to fix the mess, and want to carry on like its business as usual.

    Its not up to them anymore to get themselves out of this mess…its everyone else’s jobs now because they couldn’t be honest for just one second. Now they will have to be thrown out and rather harshly.

    I know for one I tend to be rather outspoken about this. This is because I gave up long ago about being polite and otherwise nice. Now I fight at their level regardless of how low they go. I will fight just as dirty, but I will win. The sceptic movement will also likewise win not because of me maybe, but because the truth always comes out eventually, the only question is when.

    I do my best to make sure that when is sooner rather then later.

    Let me tell you something else, as a fellow scientist, it really depresses me to see any scientist wanting to surpress any kind of data. I don’t care how much time it takes scientists to devulge their information, data and methods. It needs to all be out there. We the people are paying for this, right?

  55. Maybe they could use one of these new fancy computer thingies to just post their research publicly on that new fangled “internet” that Al Gore invented…and be done with it???

  56. I would like to see these scientists work in a company with ISO 9000 certification. Oh the whining that would ensue…

  57. From Jimbo on May 26, 2011 at 11:46 am:

    After Climategate further stonewalling just makes the lot of them look more manipulative. As my old gramma used to say: “There’s no smoke without fire.”

    Yet as is increasingly seen in movies and even commercials, computer models can generate very realistic-looking smoke. It sure looks real, can easily be believed to be real, yet has no existence in actual reality.
    ;-)

  58. At the risk of sounding trite, I’m reminded of one of the insightful passages from Eisenhower’s Farewell Address as U.S. President (1961):

    “Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite”.

  59. In October 2010, it was reported that The Royal Society revised their “Guide to the Science of Climate Change”… …in response to pressure from 43 fellows who argued the society had gone too far. (in various forms of exaggeration, like understating uncertainties etc)
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/top-science-body-cools-on-global-warming/story-e6frg6nf-1225933012675

    A revolt by 43 fellows eh; not many I suppose, but I imagine there could be a whole bunch that would like to see Nurse fall off his perch.

  60. Irony abounds and the endarkened bronze age threatens to return. Obviously Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS, has forgotten the motto of the Royal Society: “Nullis in verba. Take no one’s word for it.” As such Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS, needs to take remedial courses in the philosophy of science and in particular in the scientific method. The whole point of the Royal Society is to ASK for the evidence since no one can be trusted!!!

    “Nullius in verba (Latin for “Take nobody’s word for it”) is the motto of the Royal Society, that signifies the founders’ determination to establish facts via experiments and profess objective science ignoring the influence of politics or religion.

    It comes from Horace’s Epistles, where he compares himself to a gladiator who, having retired, is free from any master’s control.

    These words in the original context: “Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.” (“I am not bound over to swear allegiance to any master; where the storm drives me I turn in for shelter.”)”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullius_in_verba

  61. ““Nullius in verba”, which is the Latin motto of the Royal Society of London, the UK’s national academy of science, means literally :”On the words of no one” , as NULLIUS(genitive case) corresponds to ‘of no one’ and IN VERBA to ‘on the words’.
    In fact the motto of the Royal society points out that we must believe in the words of nobody, but we have to use science to establish “the truth of scientific matters through experiment rather than through citation of authority”.

    So Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS, certainly needs to sign up for remedial courses in the philosophy of science and in particular the scientific method, not to mention he needs to abide by the Motto of the Royal Society, or presumably be ejected from it.

  62. My response to all (climate) scientists complaining about being asked to “show and justify your work”: If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen, and if you can’t stand skepticism about your methodology, assumptions, and analyses get out of science — go into religion.

  63. Latitude says:
    May 26, 2011 at 9:57 am …

    This is science, not a patent for something that stands to make money.
    (that was a joke)

    _______________________________________________________

    Funny you should bring up patents considering a patent application discloses the thing being patented.

    Carry on.

  64. Some time in the 1960’s the Royal Society changed its focus. The old rule was pretty good:

    It is likewise necessary on this occasion to remark, that it is an established rule of the Society, to which they will always adhere, never to give their opinion, as a Body, upon any subject, either of Nature or Art, that comes before them. And therefore the thanks, which are frequently proposed from the Chair, to be given to the authors of such papers as are read at their accustomed meetings, or to the persons through whose hands they received them, are to be considered in no other light than as a matter of civility, in return for the respect shown to the Society by those communications. The like also is to be said with regard to the several projects, inventions, and curiosities of various kinds, which are often exhibited to the Society; the authors whereof, or those who exhibit them, frequently take the liberty to report and even to certify in the public newspapers, that they have met with the highest applause and approbation. And therefore it is hoped that no regard will hereafter be paid to such reports and public notices; which in some instances have been too lightly credited, to the dishonour of the Society. [Motto: Nullius in Verba – On the word of no one.]

    By giving opinions as a body they have forfeited science and have become a political organ; a QUANGO.

  65. Mike says:
    May 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    My university was asked to provide written justification for every choice of required textbooks. Departments chairs from every department had to compile lists explaining each textbook choice. It took weeks. It was insane.
    ===========================================================

    In New Zealand at least, the person making the request would have to pay for the time taken, at full rates. Freedom of Information does not imply free information.

    If the person wanted the textbooks rationalised that badly they would pay many thousands of dollars, then the information was worth getting. With no way to verify your story, I suspect the information was actually requested by someone who did not have to pay – another government organisation perhaps. I know that in my own life getting such information that the equivalents were when a Member of Parliament requested the information: sometimes one has to pay the price for being a democracy and allowing the actual rulers to see the decisions made.

    Moreover, at least in New Zealand, the information in documents or electronically stored had to be provided. It did not have to be explained. You could request drafts that were circulated to others (but not personal drafts, as they clearly were not a finished document). However, other than giving a date or chronology no further explanation was required.

    I strongly doubt that anyone in Britain would be required to provide the documents “with annotations, explaining why changes were made”. That is not providing information, it is creating it. It might be requested, but it would not need to be supplied.

  66. I don’t think it’s so simple.

    You pay a mechanic to fix your car, but you don’t automatically have the right thereby to stand over him, question his every move and make him put down in writing why he made judgements about, changing brake pads. If you did this it would make the service take 3 times as long and cost 3 times as much. You might not get a better service ( thinks….those pads could do with changing cos I know you’re going on a track day soon soon and they probably won’t last, but I can’t be bothered to write all that down and it’s easier to justify not changing them by ticking the > X mm thick box on the standard service form…….)

    I agree that the lack of trust has led to more scrutiny, but this is probably more to do with the fact that the peer review process has come into disrepute and perhaps FoI requests should focus on this, rather than making life unreasonably hard for researchers.

  67. Douglas Brenner:
    “I’m a published astronomer. All the raw data used in my published papers is stored, as is the reduced data. Any request from a colleague would probably be granted; if every amateur astronomer wanted a copy of something, it could probably be put on line but I don’t have the time to deal with every nut that sees little green men in my data. Besides, for the two instruments I have used over the years, it took years to develop data reduction code. I’m not going to show everybody how to use it.”

    Sorry hit the wrong button. I can understand Mr. Brenner’s reluctance to publish his reduced data. He has spent considerable effort on reducing the raw data into a form that can be of use to himself and others and therefore has a proprietary interest in that reduced data. What I cannot understand is why he feels that the raw data should not be made available to others who would wish to use it and who, presumably could collect it for themselves.

    Whilst I realise that there can be a race to publication surely true scientists wish to advance science and this can only be done if (after publication) the raw data is made available to others who may assist in that progress, either by substantiating the conclusions of the original paper or by attempting to refute it.

    This is where Sir Paul Nurse seems to have placed politics ahead of science. Under him and some of his recent predecessors the Royal Society seems to have become a lobby group for AGW/Climate Change rather than an open forum where unfashionable scientific theories can be advanced.

  68. Some people seem to think Nurse is a climate science. He’s actually a bioligist and, judging from his execrable BBC Horizon program ‘Science Under Attack’, he knows very little of climate science. He also seems to know little of the scientifc method – or, at least, what used to be the scientific method.

    Because Nurse is ignorant of climate science, the NASA climate scientist was able to run rings around him. When he showed Nurse a computer simulation and the actual data, Nurse was impressed by how close the two were. But this was several days of weather, and had nothing to do with climate (if you look carefully, the video on the big screens was actually looped, though the program makers tried to hide that).
    The climate scientist also told an enormous and demonstrable lie: that mankind emits seven times more than nature. If Nurse knew the first thing about climate science he would have known that the truth was the exact opposite: that nature emits roughly thirty times more than mankind.
    Obviously impressed by this lie, he than asks why people would deny it. Well, here’s a shot in the dark: maybe people deny it because it’s a lie.
    The sad, sad thing is that most people who watched the program probably assumed the NASA climate scientist was telling the truth.

    The program certainly demonstrates how science is under attack – but not in the way he thought. He appears to have got completely the wrong end of the stick. Climate scientists are only being ‘harassed’ by FOI requests because they refuse to meet the basic requirements of publicly funded science – indeed, many of them still fight tooth and nail to keep their data secret. If they don’t have anything to hide, their behaviour certainly doesn’t give that impression.
    Chris

  69. To be frank it looks like Nurse doe not agree with the RS moto of ‘take nobodies’ word for it ‘, perhaps has RS president he can ask for it be changed to one he likes better such as ‘trust me I am scientists’

  70. No problem. Just publish all the raw data and calculations along with the paper (including demonstration of statistical significance), and do your referencing properly. Journal editors can help by refusing to publish contributors who withhold their data or calculations. Once upon a time, that was standard scientific operating procedure. Of course, not all research gets published — think research with national security implications, or for patent development. You can’t claim the prestige of science, though, or the public funding, AND claim private ownership of your data/procedures/results. It’s a pity the Royal Society, some universities, and the IPCC have elected to jettison our wonderfully productive tradition of PUBLIC science in favour of a system more familiar to theosophy.

  71. Repost from Tips & Notes on 20 May:

    Has anyone flagged up that the Royal Society (of London) has launched a study to look at how open science is?

    The press release mentions benefits and risks of sharing data, the responsibilities of scientists, their institutions and funders for open data, standards, openness v. IPR, etc.

    The chair is geoscientist Professor Geoffrey Boulton FRS, who was a member of the Muir Russell review around “the UEA email leaks” (as the press release describes them), but the three other members seem to have more of a pharmaceuticals background. There’s mention of an article co-authored by the team in the May 14 edition of the medical journal The Lancet.

    Submissions invited from Friday 13th May at http://royalsociety.org/policy/sape

  72. You would think that they would have logged all these ‘vexatious’ requests, just to prove the point. Why doesn’t Nurse just read them out?

  73. “… it took years to develop data reduction code. I’m not going to show everybody how to use it.”

    Guys, he’s not saying that he won’t release his data reduction code or method, he says he won’t waste time showing other people how to use it.

    On the other hand, if I had developed a special technique for manipulating data in my job, and I took that attitude, my boss would show me to the door.
    Part of your job is first making sure the interface to your code is easy to use, the second is to document it so that anyone can use it. As my boss always says, we have to code as if we are going to get hit by a bus tomorrow.
    If your code is not written so that someone else can step in tomorrow and take over, you have failed as a developer.

  74. I wonder if Mr.Nurse is on to something.

    Is it possible that he, or scientists he has spoken to, have researched the FOIAs and discovered that to comply indeed would legally subject “…all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions” to scrutiny? If that is so, perhaps it is time to make such requests!

    Clearly this is feared, and the reason for that fear ought to be understood. Is it merely scientific inaccuracy or are there other more nefarious considerations?

  75. Isn’t it bizarre that people working w/public money forget that the public is their employer? What happens when an employee of any other “business” refuses to do what the the employer asks him/her? They would be correctly fired & replaced.

    There is a frightening cultural & ethical gulf between regular workers/owners & taxpayer-funded “employees”. It’s like a different planet…

  76. Well I’m with Nurse on this one. It is not unusual for manuscripts to go through dozens of iterations. It really would be onerous to explicitly justify each and every single change made in the process.

    I also don’t see the point of such requests. The final, published version of a paper is what the authors agreed on and what they decided to present and defend in public. FOI requests regarding data or methodological details missing from the published version make sense. Requests for draft versions do not, except may be as part of an investigation of fraud.

  77. Mark Luedtke says:
    May 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    We tend to think that throughout history scientists openly shared their data with others because they were ideal scientists focused solely on the scientific method. I bet that’s baloney.

    Baloney indeed, but you miss the point. We are not “throughout history” here. We are discussing the work product of people currently employed by the state (taxpayers). This is not something covered by “national security”, the only reason it has become a problem is that too many ‘scientists’ forgot long ago exactly who pays for their world.

    I’m sorry if you find the idea that your “work product” belongs to whoever funded it a bit strange – but that is the way it has always been. Time for the “public sector” to catch up. If you want exclusive rights then I suggest that, like Newton et al, you fund your own R&D.

  78. pwl says:
    May 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    “So Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, FRS, certainly needs to sign up for remedial courses in the philosophy of science and in particular the scientific method, not to mention he needs to abide by the Motto of the Royal Society, or presumably be ejected from it.”

    This must be extremely embarrassing for him.

  79. No “bravos” are warranted for Obama. He evidently has some inside dope on what is coming down with respect to the RS’ “cred”, and didn’t want to be associated with yet another PR fiasco. He’s stepped in it more than his share of times already.

  80. Mike says:

    May 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Well I’m with Nurse on this one.

    Requests for draft versions do not, except may be as part of an investigation of fraud.

    Then you’re sharing a large plot* of acreage in FantasyLand. No requests for draft versions ever occurred!

    *Tornado warnings are up for your locale, btw.

  81. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t understand how science works. They see these preliminary drafts, etc. as providing evidence of malfeasance by scientists. They’re wrong. As a rule, science proceeds exactly in this way, and the act of writing a paper is very often more like a debate than a science experiment, as the authors struggle to find both the best interpretation of the data AND the best way to phrase that interpretation in natural language.

    Anyone who doesn’t get this is unqualified to have an opinion about it. This includes the Machiavellian Anthony Watts.

  82. Fil Salustri,

    Read A.W. Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion. It’s available on the right sidebar. You will see a very well documented account of the scientific misconduct and outright fraud committed by Michael Mann’s clique of scientific charlatans.

    After reading it, you will then be qualified to have an informed opinion about how publicly funded science works. Right now you don’t. And calling a straight shooter like Anthony Watts ‘Machiavellian’ makes you sound like a lunatic.

  83. AGW Moriarty said on May 26, 2011 at 9:52 am
    “A Nursery Story”

    Thanks for some well written words.

    And thanks “GregO” for
    “1) Exaggeration
    2) Groundless assertion
    The dual bane of the climate debate.”

  84. Headley: Objection!

    You are free to choose the mechanic, I think you’d avoid one you have reason not to trust, or even one who would not tell you things, or ran on his whim.

    For example, I once had a shop tell me they should put platinum spark plugs in my vehicle instead of what I asked for (which worked well – just getting old, and were the factory fit). I explained to them that fine-wire platinum electrodes would erode quickly in a dual-polarity ignition system (the design that shares coils between cylinders). They grumbled that they’d check with the vehicle dealer – guess what the dealer told them to use?

    Guess how motivated I was to use that shop again?

    The problem with climate science is that you do not have a choice of shop (researcher/organization), you are forced to pay for specific ones through taxation.

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