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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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.

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

danj

Have they no shame?

Mike

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.

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

Billy Liar

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.

vboring

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.

Theo Goodwin

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.

The Royal Society of Buffoons

James Sexton

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………

D Matteson

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

J Storrs Hall

Nursius in verba.

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.

sean

I suspect the draft was IPCC reviewer comments and exchanges.

Matthew W.

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

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.

Ken

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.

Latitude

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)

DJ

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.

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.

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.

Anoneumouse

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

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.
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.

Nuke

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

jurban

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.

Theodore

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.

oMan

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.

JPeden

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.

Bob Diaz

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.

nandheeswaran jothi

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

David

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…

Taphonomic

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

jurban

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.

James Sexton

@ 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.

higley7

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.

Minuteman

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.

Steve from Rockwood

“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.

Coldfinger

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.

Steve from Rockwood

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…

3x2

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.

George Lawson

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.

Bloke down the pub

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.

Scott

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

Barry Sheridan

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.

Jimbo

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.”

LearDog

I suspect the allusion to pre-publication FOIs is in reference to IPCC reports…

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

Dave Springer

“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.

juanslayton

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