AGU President’s message
We must remain committed to scientific integrity
27 February 2012
During the third week of February our global community of Earth and space scientists witnessed the shocking fall from grace of an accomplished AGU member who betrayed the principles of scientific integrity. In doing so he compromised AGU’s credibility as a scientific society, weakened the public’s trust in scientists, and produced fresh fuel for the unproductive and seemingly endless ideological firestorm surrounding the reality of the Earth’s changing climate.
Peter Gleick resigned as chair of AGU’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics on 16 February, prior to admitting in a blog post that he obtained documents from the Heartland Institute under false pretenses. His transgression cannot be condoned, regardless of his motives. It is a tragedy that requires us to stop and reflect on what we value as scientists and how we want to be perceived by the public. Here are a few things that come immediately to mind:
- The success of the scientific enterprise depends on intellectual rigor, truthfulness, and integrity on the part of everyone involved. The vast majority of scientists uphold these values every day in their work. That’s why opinion polls show that public trust in scientists is among the highest of all professions. Public trust is essential because it provides the foundation for society’s willingness to invest in scientific exploration and discovery. It is the responsibility of every scientist to safeguard that trust.
- As a community of scientists, we must hold each other to the highest ethical standards. This is why AGU established its Task Force on Scientific Ethics, in 2011, to review and update existing policies and procedures for dealing with scientific misconduct. Long before the Heartland incident, we recognized the need to have clear and broad principles and procedures that expressed the value of scientific integrity and ethics embodied in our new strategic plan. More than ever, AGU needs a clear set of guidelines that encompasses the full range of scientific activities our members engage in. The task force, now under the leadership of Linda Gundersen, director of the Office of Science Quality and Integrity at the U.S. Geological Survey, will complete its work with a renewed sense of urgency in view of recent events. Union leadership will ensure that these standards of ethical conduct are widely communicated to the membership and that they become an integral part of AGU’s culture.
- All of this must be done with an eye to the future and to nurturing the next generation of Earth and space scientists. Today’s students must learn, especially through the example of senior scientists, that adherence to high standards of scientific integrity applies in all that we do: from research practices, to peer-reviewed publications, to interactions with colleagues, and to engaging with the public and policy makers. The lofty goal we set for ourselves of providing benefit to society through our research can be achieved only if we pursue our mission with the utmost honesty, transparency, and rigor.
This has been one of the most trying times for me as president of AGU, as it has been for many AGU volunteer leaders, members, and staff. How different it is than celebrating the news of a new discovery or a unique scholarly achievement. These rare and sad occasions remind us that our actions reverberate through a global scientific community and that we must remain committed as individuals and as a society to the highest standards of scientific integrity in the pursuit of our goals.
from a tip received via email h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard
UPDATE: 4:10PM 2/27 In related news, the author of The Ethics of Climate Change, James Garvey has written a defense article on Peter Gleick at the Guardian. saying:
Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland’s money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing.
Bishop Hill points out the Met Office Scientist that tell Garvey and the Guardian to basically go stuff it:
This comment from the Guardian thread:
I am a climate scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre and also a lead author with the IPCC (NB. the opinions I express here are my own though – I am just telling you that for context).
I would ask you to refrain from bringing my profession into disrepute by advocating that we act unethically. We already have enough people accusing us, completely incorrectly, of being frauds, green / left-wing activists or government puppets. A rabble-rousing journalist such as yourself telling us that we should “fight dirty” does not help our reputation at all. “Fighting dirty” will never be justified no matter what tactics have been used to discredit us in the past.
Inflammatory remarks such as yours will only serve to further aggravate the so-called “climate wars”. People’s reputations are already being damaged, and we know that some climate scientists get highly distasteful and upsetting mail through no fault of their own. If people like you continue to stir things up further, it is only a matter of time before somebody actually gets hurt, or worse.
Please keep your advice to yourself, we can do without it thank you very much.
Richard Betts (Prof)
Indeed. Mr. Garvey, with AGU’s president saying “His transgression cannot be condoned, regardless of his motives.” please do shut up. – Anthony Watts