Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Dear Dr. Gundersen;
I see that due to the highly theatrical auto-defenestration of your predecessor, Dr. Peter Gleick, you are now the Chair of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Task Force on Scientific Integrity. I’m not sure whether to offer my congratulations or my condolences. Let me offer you both, as you have both huge opportunity and huge danger in front of you, and the reputation of your Task Force has already suffered serious damage.
Next, let me put it to you straight. As Dr. Gleick’s demise for wire fraud is just the latest demonstration, far too many climate scientists have all the scientific integrity of a desperate grifter whose con is going badly wrong. Consider for example the response from Dr. Gleick’s supporters to his actions, who in many cases have lauded him as a “whistleblower”, and some of whom stop just short of proposing him for climate sainthood.
So my question for you is this: what are you planning to do about this abysmal state of affairs?
Make no mistake. If Peter Gleick walks away from this debacle free of expulsion, sanction, or censure from the AGU, without suffering any further penalties, your reputation and the reputation of the AGU will forever join his on the cutting room floor. People are already laughing at the spectacle of the chair of a task force on scientific integrity getting caught with his entire arm in the cookie jar. You have one, and only one, chance to stop the laughter.
Because if your Task Force doesn’t have the
bal … the scientific integrity to take up the case of its late and unlamented commander as its very first order of business, my Spidey-sense says that it will be forever known as the “AGU Task Farce on Scientific Integrity”. You have a clear integrity case staring you in the face. If you only respond to Dr. Gleick’s reprehensible actions with vague platitudes about “the importance of …”, if the Task Force’s only contribution is mealy-mouthed mumblings about how “we deplore …” and “we are disappointed …”, I assure you that people will continue to point and laugh at that kind of spineless pretense of scientific integrity.
Folks are fed up with climate scientists who lie, cheat, and steal to attack their scientific opponents, and who then walk away without the slightest action being taken by other scientists. As long as there are no repercussions from the scientific community for the kind of things Dr. Gleick has done, mainstream climate scientists will continue to do them. Indeed, Dr. Gleick’s own actions were no doubt greatly encouraged by the fact that you noble scientists were so full of
bul … of scientific integrity that you all let the Climategate un-indicted co-conspirators walk away scot-free, without even asking them the important questions, much less getting answers to those major issues.
You have the opportunity to actually take a principled stand here, Dr. Gundersen, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of you doing so. Dr. Gleick’s kind of unethical skullduggery in the name of science has ruined the reputation of the entire field of climate science. The rot of “noble cause corruption” is well advanced in the field, and it will not stop until people just like you quit looking the other way and pretending it doesn’t exist. I had hoped that some kind of repercussions for scientific malfeasance would be one of the outcomes of Climategate, but people just ignored that part. This one you can’t ignore.
Well, I suppose you can ignore it, humans are amazing, anyone can ignore even an elephant in the room … but if you do ignore it, in the future please don’t ever expect your opinions on scientific integrity to be given even the slightest weight. The world is already watching your actions, not your words, and you can be assured that those actions will be carefully examined. If you let this chance for meaningful action slip away, no one out here in the real world will ever again believe a word you say on the subject of integrity.
I cannot urge you in strong enough terms. Do not miss the boat on this one. The credibility of your panel is already irrevocably damaged by the witless choice of your first chair. The move is yours to make or not, the opportunity is there to take the scientific high ground. You will be judged on whether you and the Task Force have the scientific integrity to take action regarding Dr. Gleick, or whether you just take the UN route and issue a string of “strongly worded resolutions” bemoaning the general situation.
Let me close with a quote from Megan McCardle at The Atlantic:
When skeptics complain that global warming activists are apparently willing to go to any lengths–including lying–to advance their worldview, I’d say one of the movement’s top priorities should be not proving them right. And if one rogue member of the community does something crazy that provides such proof, I’d say it is crucial that the other members of the community say “Oh, how horrible, this is so far beyond the pale that I cannot imagine how this ever could have happened!” and not, “Well, he’s apologized and I really think it’s pretty crude and opportunistic to make a fuss about something that’s so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.”
After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.
I am hoping for action on this, but sadly, I have been in this game long enough to not expect scientific integrity, even from scientists who sit on scientific integrity task forces … and I would be delighted to be proven wrong.
In any case, my warmest and best wishes to you, Dr. Gundersen. I do not envy you, as you have a very difficult task ahead. I wish you every success in your work.
From the AGU website, I find the following, and I encourage people to note the names of the participants in this scientific experiment. If they actually step up to the plate, if the Task Force and the AGU do take action regarding Dr. Gleick’s misdeeds, if they don’t just blow smoke and mouth smooth-sounding words, then these are the people to congratulate.
And vice versa.
AGU Task Force on Scientific Ethics
Linda Gundersen, USGS, Reston, Virginia.
David J. Chesney, Michigan Tech University, Houghton, Michigan
Floyd DesChamps, Alliance to Save Energy, Washington, DC
Karen Fischer, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Tim Grove, MIT Earth Atmosphere & Planetary Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Linda Gundersen, USGS, Reston, Virginia
Noel Gurwick, UCSUSA, Washington, DC
Dennis Moore, NOAA/PMEL, Seattle, Washington
Arthur Nowell, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Len Pietrafesa, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina
Jeff Plescia, Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, Maryland
Peter Schuck, NASA/GSFC CODE 674, Greenbelt, Maryland
Jagadish Shukla, Geo Mason-Center Ocean/Land Atmosphere, Calverton, Maryland
Vivian Weil, Center for Ethics, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois
The Scientific Ethics Task Force is responsible for reviewing and guiding the Union’s standards, principles, and code of conduct on ethics and integrity in scientific activities.
Review the current state of AGU’s scientific ethical standards in the geophysical sciences and those of other related professional/scholarly societies;
Based on this knowledge, update AGU’s protocols and procedures for addressing violations of its ethical principles;
As appropriate, revise and augment AGU’s current ethical principles and code of conduct for AGU meetings, publications and for interactions between scientists with their professional colleagues and the public;
Propose sanctions for those who violate AGU’s ethical principles, and
Consider whether AGU should adopt a statement of ethical principles as a condition of membership or for participation in certain activities of the Union. If so, develop a recommendation on how the principles would be applied to AGU members and or participants in AGU activities.