Notes on the Brune talk on Mann-Climategate in Boulder

WUWT reader W. Earl Allen attended this talk and provided notes of his observations. First the talk summary:

The seminar is a Chemical Science Division seminar entitled “Climategate, Michael Mann, and Penn State’s investigation”:

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Please note: this special seminar will precede the usual CSD seminar. There will be a 15 minute break in between the two.

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The release of emails purloined from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University inflamed the passion and politics that surround climate science. As one of the climate scientists whose emails were released, Professor Michael Mann, who I recruited to Penn State, became a focal point of this passion in the United States.

Intense pressure was put on Penn State to investigate Professor Mann, initiating a process that led to his exoneration eight months later. As Professor Mann’s department head, I was a participant in Penn State’s investigative process. At David Fahey’s request, I will tell what I can about Climategate, Michael Mann, and Penn State’s investigation.

W. Earl Allen writes of the event a few hours later:

The security gauntlet at a supposedly open scientific research center was daunting, surprising, and most unwelcome. Fortunately, I came about a half hour early so as to be there early enough to set up for recording, which turned out to be disallowed, so I was happy that I had time to run the gauntlet, which was pretty much exactly equivalent to the security imposed by the TSA. I’ve worked at federal facilities before, and this was far and away the most intrusive and unwelcome security I have ever experienced.

One possibly irrelevant note: the NOAA research center is named for former congressperson from Boulder, David Skaggs, who I ran against in 1996 as a Libertarian. On the way in, someone questioned the tastefulness of naming such a place for a still-living person. But I guess anyone who diverted so much Federal money to Boulder deserves his name on the building.

An overview: The room was packed SRO, which Brune appeared to be surprised about, since he expected a very small seminar with only a few interested scientists. Brune opened with a backgrounder about the history of Penn State and his department within Penn State. He noted that Pennsylvania was a coal-mining state. He described hiring Michael Mann 6 years ago. Brune was very annoyed to get a lot of offensive emails and phone calls about Michael Mann when Climategate revealed Mann to be one of the primary foci of the “hacked” emails.

Brune spent several minutes ruminating about the possible problems of using email for a “conversation”. I’m not sure this is just the opinion of someone brought up in the landline phone age or someone worried about revealing the internal “sausage” of science in the making. One of the questioners asked whether or not all emails between scientists should be encrypted. Brune thought that was a very good question, but didn’t necessarily agree that all emails should be encrypted.

Like all good academic bureaucrats, when faced with a messy political problem, Brune turned to “the process”, which at Penn State has a name: RA-10. He said that he decided to use that process to handle the problem. He noted that there was no *internal* request for inquiry from within Penn State itself, so they had to “construct” questions to put to Mann from inquiries from outside the University. He seemed a bit huffy that he had to deal with “outside” inquirers, as if the only “real” problems would surface from within Penn State itself, and any controversy imposed from outside was somehow just an annoyance. {/editorial on} Talk about Ivory Towers. Reminds me of the Falwlty ones. {/editorial off}

The first step was an Administrative Inquiry, led by Bill Easterling, the Dean. Brune himself, being department chair, and the guy who hired Mann, was considered only a “consultant” to this initial Administrative Inquiry. They constructed four questions for this inquiry, which they put to Mann himself. He was exonerated regarding the first three (sorry I didn’t get the details of those questions, but since Lindzen objected to Mann’s exoneration on those first three, they must be available somewhere). The only remaining question was whether Mann had somehow played fast and loose with a paper out for review in preprint, which seemed to me to be an entirely irrelevant question.

Brune emphasized that Mann was a great student of the Philosophy of Science, and that he was “very much the scientist.”

The second stage of RA-10, called an “Investigative Committee”, which included Will Castleman and token “denier”, Richard Lindzen, got to look at only the fourth question. Lindzen was nonplussed to note that the first three questions had been deemed non-questions, and was ignored subsequently. Brune made an interesting remark to a questioner about Richard Lindzen, asking the questioner, “Do you know Richard Lindzen?” The questioner said he didn’t. Brune said that “Richard Lindzen can stand for any number of people.” I took that to mean that he could stand for just about all the deniers “out there.” But I may have misunderstood Brune.

Brune emphasized that “in summary,” nothing was found against Michael Mann, and that the whole inquiry process wasted hundreds of hours of very productive academic time.

In closing his lecture, Brune noted that climate is not just an extension of the weather, and that people like Joe Bastardi, who insist on this point, have cut all ties with Penn State and excoriated Mann and Penn State for their bad behavior. Brune appeared to carry it as a badge of honor that Bastardi no longer supports Penn State. When someone asked whether donations to Penn State had dropped off because of the Mann inquiry, Brune said he wasn’t aware of any such decrease.

I enjoyed hearing Brune emphasize that scientists *should* be skeptics, and that they should never take anything on faith, since to do so would be “religion.” I wish some of his colleagues would take that admonition to heart.

Brune ruminated on the necessity for publicizing all code, noting that 10 years ago, this wouldn’t have been good practice, nor necessary. He said that it appears that the new standard in research is to reveal all your data for replication, and that code probably should also be revealed, although he waffled a bit on that one.

Brune agonized about the “politicized environment” that produced the whole controversy around Michael Mann, and then opened the floor for questions.

None of bouldersolar’s questions got asked. He appears to have gotten them from Steve McIntyre’s site, so I’ll let him post them here if he wishes. I got to ask one question: Since so much of science now relies on computer codes, isn’t the whole project of modeling a hypercomplex non-linear chaotic system in an attempt to make psychic prognostications 50 or 100 years out a bit hubristic? Brune’s answer was that I should take his course in climatology once it comes online. I said I would love to do so. There was a bit of a titter as I asked the question, but not much of a one for that answer.

I got to “dialog” with a “dynamics” modeler after the session who explained that there’s a difference between engineers like McIntyre and “scientists” doing modeling and other scientific work. Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection. I countered by asking him to state exactly what the measured human contribution to the current CO2 concentration was. He rambled on about how this can be done with isotopes. I said yes, that is one way. Tell me what the measured percentage is. He had no answer. I asked him about the 50X sink of CO2 in the oceans, and he said that had already been covered, and by implication, dismissed.

I left the room with the impression that nobody had asked the “elephant” question. Had the money that Mann brought to Penn State from Federal sources caused him to bend his research to fit the requirements of his Federal funders? To ask such a question on the grounds of a Federal research facility might have been a bit too brash.

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Bucket of whitewash…..Wall.
We’re done.

Thank you for your report. This is very nearly over. A fish twitching in the scuttles.

Disko Troop

Can I ask what brand of whitewash Mr Brune uses. It seems to cover very well. It takes three coats of the British version to cover the same area. Maybe I could get the licence to import the American version and get rich. I could brand it “American Global Whitewash”

Mike Bromley the Canucklehead

Jay, those are “scuppers”, but the fish is still twisting. The whole ugly affair is in the precipitous stages of collapse.

The Penn State ivory tower must have thick walls.

charles nelson

The question I would have to ask is; Why go to all this trouble to conduct a seminar/meeting that fails to address any new issues?
Who paid for this?

Luke Warm

Thank you, Mr Allen for covering the event. Very interesting to hear that there was what I will interpret from your remarks as a degree of awkwardness on the part of the Penn State academics in talking about the Professor Mann controversy. Not so cocky these days. “Why won’t you all just believe us,” they seem to be pleading.

H.R.

Another fine dispatch from the world-wide cadre of WUWT reporters. Thank you, W. Earl Allen.-

I wonder how many that were attending had read some of the Climategate e-mails?

kim

I’m amused by Brune’s report that Michael Mann is researching climate communications. He’s either been told he’s deficient in that regard or he’s trapped in the delusion that communicating the science is the problem. A win/win.
================

Thanks for an excellent well-written report. We rarely get to hear directly from the belly of the beast!
Brune’s overall attitude is typical of the consummate insider. He’s always lived in the fishtank, so he can’t answer questions about the stuff that fills the fishtank. To him it’s not water, it’s just Reality, thus can’t be further described. Nothing outside the tank exists.

Mr. Allen writes:

I got to “dialog” with a “dynamics” modeler after the session who explained that there’s a difference between engineers like McIntyre and “scientists” doing modeling and other scientific work. Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection.

Well, I’ll be damned if that didn’t ring a bell.
From Bert Rutan’s “An Engineer’s Critique of Global Warming ‘Science’” (version 4.3, January 2011):

The Engineer vs. the Scientist
Engineering Organization
Development of a product, usually under strict certification rules.
Responsible for the product‟s worth and safety.
Selling the product‟s adequacy to Management
Consequences if wrong (people die).
Scientific Method
Origin of new Theories (hypothesis).
Strict process (The Scientific Method) to gain (or lose) confidence in the Theory.
Not responsible for adequacy or value of product.
Frequently being wrong is not a problem.

Yep. “engineers expect perfection,” all right.
That’s because – as Mr. Rutan observed – for the engineer there are “Consequences if wrong (people die).”
Pardon the added emphasis.
When the Climategate cabal decided to enter the realm of government policy advocacy, they departed the realm of “Science” both methodologically and practically, and for all purposes entered the engineering field.
And now they’re surprised at being held to the standards of the engineering profession?

Damn. That’s Burt Rutan. Spelling check will only correct you if you’re not typo-ing a word that’s already in the dictionary.

eyesonu

W. Earl Allen writes of the event
I got to “dialog” with a “dynamics” modeler after the session who explained that there’s a difference between engineers like McIntyre and “scientists” doing modeling and other scientific work. Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection.
————————-
“Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection”. Time to replace the so-called climate scientists with engineers if we want any reasonable results to research. From an engineer’s perspective; if it don’t work, don’t try to sell it.
Thank you for the investment of your time in attending this meeting and informing us with your post.

stan

It appears that Tom Sawyer has no shortage of applicants for the position.

Merrick

From Disko Troop:
“Can I ask what brand of whitewash Mr Brune uses. It seems to cover very well. It takes three coats of the British version to cover the same area. Maybe I could get the licence to import the American version and get rich. I could brand it “American Global Whitewash” ”
Of course it’s obviously all meant in jest, but I’d say that statement is a bit brash coming from the land of Hadley Center (source of the Climategate leak, no less) and the whitewash investgations that make this presentation look like rank amateurism.

kim;)

Thank you Mr Allen.

Steve T

DocWat says:
October 6, 2011 at 2:02 am
The Penn State ivory tower must have thick walls.
##################################################
Is that really an ivory tower or is it whitewash………?

Edmond

Anthony – do you have anyone covering the Royal Society Meeting in London Oct 10 and 11 on `Warm climates of the past – a lesson for the future?`. Jim Hansen is down to speak on11 Oct. But none of the speakers have produced abstracts.

REPLY:
Bishop Hill may be going, not sure -A

oMan

Thanks, very informative. I lived in Boulder and we called it The People’s Republic. From your description, it sounds as if the place hasn’t changed. Ironic that such environments, that purport to espouse transparency and independent spirit of inquiry, end up in a sterile defensive posture, imposing codes of correctness and squelching dissent. For the good of the movement, comrades.

Beth Cooper

Don’t you just love open, no-holds-barred enquiries, the Scientific Method in action? 🙁

Sean

I liked the reference to wasting hundreds of hours of valuable academic time. To me that means these people could have better used that time writing proposals for more research grants.

“emails purloined”???
Really ???
That’s been proven??

Beth Cooper

Is’ Penn’ short for ‘Penitentiary?’

DonS

@Mike Bromley the Canucklehead
Perhaps Jay is from the fens of East Anglia where early inhabitants lived by subsistence fishing and carried their catch in wide shallow baskets called “scuttles” In any case, the thoughts of fish and “climate science” are correlative.

I would suggest that the question that didn’t get asked was: How can any person justify the utilization of an measuring device that fails to calibrate? Because that is what “Hide The Decline” is all about. Tree rings, as a measure of temperature failed to calibrate against the more accurate and precise instrument record. Thus they are not a suitable measuring device for temperture. If I were to hide something like this in a business presentation, particularly a mining presentation, I would go to jail. Can scientists be that far removed from the laboratory to have forgotten basic quality control?

He (Brune) said that it appears that the new standard in research is to reveal all your data for replication, …
Well, it’s new because no one ever thought of it before.
/sarc

Frank K.

“I got to ask one question: Since so much of science now relies on computer codes, isnt the whole project of modeling a hypercomplex non-linear chaotic system in an attempt to make psychic prognostications 50 or 100 years out a bit hubristic? Brunes answer was that I should take his course in climatology once it comes online.”
What a nothing answer – typical climate science b.s. I wonder what it is in his course content that will show us all how ill-posed non-linear partial differential equations (if he can actually define them all along with appropriate boundary conditions) that will make this all so clear…I’m not holding my breath.

Just a small aside here…….I find the phrase “…someone brought up in the landline phone age…” to be horribly depressing. I think I’ll go play games on my HP 41CV now.

John W.

“I got to “dialog” with a “dynamics” modeler after the session who explained that there’s a difference between engineers like McIntyre and “scientists” doing modeling and other scientific work. Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection. ”
No, there is not a difference. There is, however, a difference between constructing models and simulations that are tested against the real world and demonstrated to have measurable accuracy and precision in studying a system under varying conditions, and throwing together spaghetti code that boils down to “jump to the answer I want.” Been through this war already.

Dave L.

So Brune said nothing about Mann deleting e-mails? If so, the whitewash continues.

Bennett

“Jay, those are “scuppers”…”
Yes, that’s true. However, “scuttle” seems to be an appropriate word to use when discussing the CAGW affair, and plans to wreck the world’s economy through a “return to darkness” green energy movement.

Greg Holmes

I think it is a shame that science is in such a sad state. Ignoring questions is one thing refusing to answer on the grounds that the answer may incriminate is what happens in a law Court, it has no place in scientific reseach. I wonder if the “modeler” knew the defination of a trace gas. Hee.
Well done.

Jay, a fish ‘twisting in the scuttles’ – coal (carbon) scuttles. That’s a nice image, but it’s a shame to insult the fish. Mr. Allen, thanks for having the intestinal fortitude to sit through and report on this talk.

Mark T

I got to “dialog” with a “dynamics” modeler after the session who explained that there’s a difference between engineers like McIntyre and “scientists” doing modeling and other scientific work.

Steve is not an engineer, though admittedly, he may expect the work produced by scientists, including his own, to live up to reasonable standards, often noting that engineering standards are much higher and would eliminate many of the problems he has faced over the years if such standards were applied to climate science.
Mark

Mark T

Argh. Blew the blockquote… sorry. My bit starts with “Steve is not an engineer.”
Mark
REPLY: Fixed – Anthony

Mark T

Brune ruminated on the necessity for publicizing all code, noting that 10 years ago, this wouldn’t have been good practice, nor necessary. He said that it appears that the new standard in research is to reveal all your data for replication, and that code probably should also be revealed, although he waffled a bit on that one.

It’s not a new standard. It has always been the standard to reveal all of your data if you want the public (or other scientists more specifically) to take your results as serious. His (Brune’s) problem is that 10 years ago (really 20) the work people like Mann and others were producing was not directly impacting the lives of billions of people. Nobody cares when it did not directly impact their freedom and/or livelihood. Applying the standard then did not make a difference because nobody was checking. Now they (we) are checking and the likes of Brune and Mann are so far behind in what constitutes legitimate science that they are having a hard time catching up.
Mark

More Soylent Green!

If you really wanted to be difficult, you could start by asking what evidence shows the ClimateGage emails were ‘purloined.’
And by difficult, I mean ignored or asked to leave.

Crispin in Waterloo

From this distance it is astonishing that the university cares so little about its medium to long term image, funding and future. Each ‘scientist’ or ‘professional’ who evades any meaningful investigation and supports this whitewash nonsense while claiming to be ‘doing justice’ publicly places themselves on a ‘do not hire’ list.
If you can’t trust someone to properly investigate the obviously deviant among their own, how can they be trusted to advise students, mark exams, evaluate funding proposals or uphold the integrity of the university’s charter?
What mysterious hold grips the throats of those who are called to the investigators bench? Who is it that threatens to slice off their academic gonads if they do not pevert the course of academic justice? Can all American academics be bought off or just some of them?
Could the grip be something as base and common as mere money?
Readers should seriously consider that those members of the climate science community involved in alarmist projections together with their administrative protectors, prostrate before Mammon, may never willingly convene a just panel. Get over it. Look elsewhere.
Study of the Climategate papers, the claims, the cover-up and the consequences will surely be mandatory for all future first year academic ethics classes. Every possible violation of ethics is provided on a single storyline. Here we have reported another example.

Theo Goodwin

Does anyone have an idea why Brune participated in this non-event? All I can figure is that someone believes that additional coats of whitewash are inherently good.

C James

I have certainly ceased all giving I have made every year to Penn State since graduation and I made my reasons very clear to the university. Michael Mann was the main one.

Neo

Science is a lot less exact, while engineers expect perfection.
This I find especially funny. In my first week as an engineer, I was taught exactly the opposite.
“Scientists have time to make it perfect, but engineers have to find real life solutions.”

Buck Smith

what is the measured human contribution to the current CO2 concentration?
“Science is a lot less exact..” OK then do we really want to make huge sacrifices (cause that is AGW alarmists are asking for) in order to avert a projected threat that a lot of uncertainty around it.

First Three Questions:
What is your name?
What is your quest?
What is your favorite color?

Forrest M. Mims III

Some years ago I was consulting for an NSF science education program for which I had devised a new kind of sun photometer that used LEDs as spectrally selective photodiodes. While discussing a related idea by e-mail with an NSF program officer, she told me that an NSF proposal I was planning must be based on a global warming theme or it would not be given serious consideration. That’s when I first realized that global warming had been elevated from a parameter to a paradigm.

Darren Parker

If you’ve got the science on your side then you’ve got nothing to hide. And if Climatology wants to have a worldwide political influence it should be completely transparent – there should be no proprietary information – every inhabitant of the planet has the right to 100% unfettered information gained through any source of public funding and/or any charity tax empt endowments or foundations. Only self-funded businesses have a right to proprietary information through research.

Ron Cram

“None of bouldersolar’s questions got asked. He appears to have gotten them from Steve McIntyre’s site, so I’ll let him post them here if he wishes. I got to ask one question:”
I am very interested in the dynamics in the room. Can you explain how they handled the Q&A? Where questions submitted in writing first? Was a microphone passed around? Did you have to push anyone down to get to the mic? Did anyone else ask a difficult or uncomfortable question? Did anyone seem familiar with the issue of the deleted emails? It does not sound like any evidence against Michael Mann was discussed at all. Is that accurate? Why was bouldersolar’s questions ignored?

Max Hugoson

Earl: You are to be commended for your cool tackling of this project. Too bad you didn’t bring a strong flashlite to the event. It would have been interesting to see if a majority of the crowd would move as Periplaneta Americana and try to hide when you turned the light on.
In a way, however, your response from the fellow here:
“He rambled on about how this can be done with isotopes. I said yes, that is one way. Tell me what the measured percentage is. He had no answer. I asked him about the 50X sink of CO2 in the oceans, and he said that had already been covered, and by implication, dismissed.”
IS the response mentioned above! (The equivalent of scurrying for cover.)
Conclusion: The “climate scientists” are no longer objective, factual members of society. They have become “High Priests” of mumble-jumble. They resent people as us, pulling aside the curtain to reveal who really is the “Wizard”, and why he should be mocked rather than feared.

Dixon

If model code was published for scrutiny in just the same way as experimental methods are described, we’d never have got into this mess.

Austin

This is pretty sad, but pretty typical of the University.
I’ve offered the use of huge computing resources and modern database and analytics to two college professors and both turned me down. They preferred to stick with their flat files and excel programs.
A big box retailer can tell you who bought what five years ago and what the trends are over time for that person. Or zip code. Or demographic. In a population of millions of registered shoppers.
But academia cannot deal with a few thousand locations and a few million entries for them.
LOL
You think they’d want to use the latest tools.

ferdberple

John Eggert says:
October 6, 2011 at 5:08 am
If I were to hide something like this in a business presentation, particularly a mining presentation, I would go to jail. Can scientists be that far removed from the laboratory to have forgotten basic quality control?
No one “forgot”. It was done to hide the medieval warming period and little ice age. It was the scientific equivalent to the “piltdown man”, only with a lot more at stake. Like the “piltdown man”, people believed because it satisfied their preconceived ideas.

higley7

So, basically, the speaker painted everything over, dismissing all complaints as bothersome and inconsequential. The ability to simply sift the questions to ask gives fine control of the investigation’s answers. How in heck did they spend 100s of hours on this? Having circle j**ks?
Bearding the lion on its own property is fine in my book; it gives them the position of having to explain why they have what they have, which is evident by the venue.