Could this study on honesty and government service explain the EPA climateer fraud and 'Climategate' ?

A new paper published the National Bureau of Economic Research has given an insight that may explain some of the personal decisions that led to the recent EPA corruption fiasco Massive fraud at the EPA from agency’s top paid climate official (where a top climate specialist defrauded the taxpayers out of millions of dollars and made wild claims about being on CIA missions) and to Climategate, since I see some significant parallels between the two and this study.  Links to a story about the paper and the paper itself follow.

As readers know, in a nutshell, Climategate was about the stonewalling of FOIA requests so that independent researchers (such as McIntyre) could not replicate the scientific work. That access for data to allow scientific replication was unreasonably blocked, and someone who was in a position to see what was going on behind the scenes decided that they would do something about it. Virtually every person involved in Climategate emails had some connection to government, either being directly employed by a government agency, or a government funded university.

On 17 November 2009 a large number of emails, together with other documents and pieces of code, from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were posted on a Russian web server, and announced anonymously at the Air Vent blog, Climate Audit, Real Climate, The Blackboard, and WUWT with the comment:

We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.

Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

Of note, was the immediate deletion of the comment at Real Climate, and then a campaign by Dr. Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS to convince Lucia at the Blackboard that the release wasn’t to be trusted.

In that release from the “FOIA” leaker, we saw revelations like “Mike’s Nature Trick“. Here is a list of some of the emails and their content.From this Google document page:


Massaging the presentation of data:

  •  942777075.txt  the infamous “trick” to “hide the decline” in tree-ring data
  •  939154709.txt  “They go from 1402 to 1995, although we usually stop the series in 1960” (also referring to tree-ring data)
  • 1225026120.txt  “I’ll maybe cut the last few points off the filtered curve before I give the talk again as that’s trending down” (referring to recent temperature data).
  • 1254108338.txt “So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC,  then this would be significant for the global mean” … “It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip”. This relates to the rapid warming before 1940 followed by cooling after 1940, which the ‘scientists’ would like to remove because it does not fit with their theory.

Attempting to get papers with a sceptical view on global warming rejected from journals, and not referred to in the IPCC reports:

  • 1089318616.txt “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !”
  • 1054756929.txt  Ed Cook discusses with Keith Briffa how to get a paper rejected even though the mathematics is correct
  • 1054748574.txt where Briffa says “I am really sorry but I have to nag about that review – Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting”
  • 1080742144.txt where Jones “went to town” rejecting two papers that had criticised his work.

Refusing to provide data and supporting information when requested, and deleting emails (all quotes from Phil Jones):

  • 1107454306.txt “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone”.
  • 1109021312.txt “I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !”
  • 1182255717.txt “Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.”
  • 1211924186.txt Tim Osborn informs Caspar Amman that an FOI request has been received from David Holland about papers included in the IPCC report (May 27 2008) ….
  • 1212009215.txt Jones suggests what “Keith could say” and “Keith should say” (May 28 2008) …
  • 1212073451.txt “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.  Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? … We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.” (May 29 2008). [Under paragraph 77 of the FOI Act it is an offence to delete information subject to an FOI request].
  • 1228330629.txt “When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise” … “About 2 months ago I deleted loads of  emails, so have very little – if anything at all.”


This LA Times story from November 2013 suggests that there may be a connection between dishonesty and government employment.

Cheating students more likely to want government jobs, study finds

November 18, 2013|By Emily Alpert Reyes

College students who cheated on a simple task were more likely to want government jobs, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania found in a study of hundreds of students in Bangalore, India.

Their results, recently released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggest that one of the contributing forces behind government corruption could be who gets into government work in the first place.

Researchers ran a series of experiments with more than 600 students finishing up college in India. In one task, students had to privately roll a die and report what number they got. The higher the number, the more they would get paid. Each student rolled the die 42 times.

Although researchers do not know for sure if any one student lied, they could tell whether the numbers each person reported were wildly different than what would turn up randomly — in other words, whether there were a suspiciously high number of 5s and 6s in their results.

Cheating seemed to be rampant: More than a third of students had scores that fell in the top 1% of the predicted distribution, researchers found. Students who apparently cheated were 6.3% more likely to say they wanted to work in government, the researchers found.

“Overall, we find that dishonest individuals — as measured by the dice task — prefer to enter government service,” wrote Hanna and coauthor Shing-yi Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Full story here:

And here is the paper abstract:

Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service

Rema Hanna, Shing-Yi Wang

NBER Working Paper No. 19649

Issued in November 2013

NBER Program(s): DEV

In this paper, we demonstrate that university students who cheat on a simple task in a laboratory setting are more likely to state a preference for entering public service. Importantly, we also show that cheating on this task is predictive of corrupt behavior by real government workers, implying that this measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption. Students who demonstrate lower levels of prosocial preferences in the laboratory games are also more likely to prefer to enter the government, while outcomes on explicit, two-player games to measure cheating and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. We find that a screening process that chooses the highest ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption among the applicant pool. Our findings imply that differential selection into government may contribute, in part, to corruption. They also emphasize that screening characteristics other than ability may be useful in reducing corruption, but caution that more explicit measures may offer little predictive power.




In this paper, we offer evidence that the college students who cheat on a simple task are more likely to prefer to enter government service after graduation. This relationship does not appear to vary by ability, suggesting that screening on ability does not change the level of honesty of those chosen for government service among the pool of applicants.

Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials, which implies that the measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption. Given that the existing methods of measuring corruption only apply for those who are already entrenched in the bureaucracy, our validation of a measure of cheating against real-world corruption outcomes offers an important tool for future research on selection and corruption.

These findings are important because they demonstrate that the variation in the levels of observed corruption may, in part, be driven by who selects into government service. In addition, they offer two key policy insights. First, the recruitment and screening process for bureaucrats may be improved by increasing the emphasis on characteristics other than ability. It is important to note that individuals may not want to reveal their characteristics, especially their propensity for dishonesty, so the method of measurement matters. The simple, experimental measure we employed predicted the corrupt behaviors of the government employees, but the game in which corruption was explicitly framed and the fairly standard attitudinal questions had little predictive value. Second, while recent empirical papers have shown that reducing the returns to corrupt behavior decreases the probability that bureaucrats engage in corruption, our work suggests that these interventions may have had even broader effects by changing the composition of who might apply.

The full paper:


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I do not think/believe that there is any doubt that corruption and fraud have been the mainstay of “climate science” for the last ten or twenty odd years. There is ample evidence for this even prior to climategate but amply confirmed by the e/mail releases.


Quite appropriate that the dice test involves inflating the actual numbers (for personal gain too)! Very apt for the climate data keepers??

Given the competitive nature of the government recruitment system and the reliance on documentation and oral interviews, if there are two equal candidates, the cheater will naturally have the advantage. As such, this may be a second selection step further assuring a propensity to cheat in government employees. I have been a federal government employee, so don’t know what this says about me!

John W. Garrett

Thanks. It’s good to have links to the original Climategate emails handy.

Philip T. Downman

Could this study on honesty and government service explain the EPA climateer fraud and ‘Climategate’ ?
It could, but as the conclusion seems to have a political implication it makes one a bit suspicious, doesn’t it

Why would the conclusion be political? Does one group within our society favor government employees? I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!

William Sears

I think that 6.3% is way too small a number to read anything into this. Even more so given the indirect method of determination.

Rob aka Flatlander

Wikipedia used to be a self correcting (maintained accuracy) until the Climate Warmest Gang hijacked the “climategate” section. At the least if wiki had ANY credibility they would at least post the above climate gate snippets to the NOT SO STUPID public could form their own opinion on whether or not their actions were fraudulent, misleading, biased, scientific, above board etc.
Great post, great paper.


I have no problem with the hypothesis that government work may be more attractive to dishonest people (at the least, I would modify the old observation to say that corruptible people seek power more so than power itself is corrupting), but this experiment seems pretty weak. I just glanced through it, so maybe I missed it, but was there any analysis done on the sensitivity of choosing a particular threshold for cheating? A 6.5% difference in preference seems small; if the 98th or 97th percentile was used rather than the 99th, do the results change?

Good to see Climategate kept on the front burner. The protestations of the enablers who excuse the blatant examples of corruption are a classic example of the “Black is White” mentality.
Jones, Briffa and the rest are thoroughly dishonest, and no whitewashing by equally dishonest committees can change that fact.
Even worse, the present system results in crooked government employees who have no problem falsely asserting that a tiny trace gas is a “pollutant”. They lie through their teeth. And don’t forget: the chief administrator of the US is a government employee.


William Sears
6.3% is too small but yet a .25C change in temperature compared against an anomaly calculated from a “normal” period of 1979 forward can be directly attributable to a causation from CO2? Its hardly detectable from noise and certainly not outside any error bar (since they dont even show error ranges in climate studies generally).
I agree with you. We should we not read anything into all the statements of impending doom due to climate change based on such small, error prone models which by the way have not shown any temperature increase in 17 years thus invalidating them as models with any predictive value for the earth we actually live on.

William Sears says:
“I think that 6.3% is way too small a number…”
Me, too.

I wonder if there is a ‘lazy’ axis as well? Why go to all the trouble of rolling the die and adding up the numbers. Just roll it a few times and put down some number you like… Would also explain some things I’ve seen in “Goverment Work”…
FWIW, I’ve never lusted after a Government Job. I did once spend a couple of years working for the State Government, but that was because they bought the hospital where I was working and it took me a while to escape…
Maybe that urge to escape says something about compulsively honest folks not fitting in with Govt. and politicians…

Government has more rules, but repercussions on cheating. The old adage about killing some one in order to get fired is true. So the dishonest would tend to gravitate to where they were given “more chances” after being found out for cheating. Besides, the profit motive being non-existent, the cost to the organization for shoddy work is smaller so they get away with more.
How many companies would remain in business after spending $600 million on a web site that did not work?

Scott Scarborough

Yes. 6.3% is too small. And 0.75 Deg per century is too small. No concern in either case.

Gail Combs

The study needs a lot more follow-up.
What is interesting is the rampant cheating in universities to start with. This is the real problem, although I am not surprised the cheaters then head into government where the demand is for arse-kissing and not producing original work. The cheaters have already proved they can’t do original work. If they do go into industry, they are the ones who swipe your work and end up in management because they are good at politics.
The Shadow Scholar

…. In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.
I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting….
You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work…. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.
I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I’ve worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments….
my company’s staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.
You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students’ writing….


Dishonesty and politics are indeed prevalent in government. It was not evident to me in my younger years of service, but the fog lifted. However, I have made the choice to remain and fight from the inside.

stewart pid

How dare you skeptics question the “CIA missions” …. they were all peer reviewed at the highest level!!


Those with a Marxist world view desire power which motivates them to seek possitions in government. Those with a Marxist world view beleve “the ends justify the means” and in relative truth which prevents them from seeing anything wrong with their lying (or even to recognoze that they are lying).


E.M.Smith says:
January 8, 2014 at 10:15 am

I wonder if there is a ‘lazy’ axis as well?

Lazy can be good.

Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them. The dumb and lazy ones I give mundane duties. The smart ambitious ones I put on my staff. The smart and lazy ones I make my commanders.

lurker, passing through laughing

There is a proverb to the effect that best trick of the devil is to convince people he is not there.
It seems to me that the AGW community’s trick of convincing major media to effectively ignore climategate and to accept the obvious whitewashes was a very good trick indeed.
The low level of interest expressed by major media over the confessed fraud of the EPA’s top climate bureaucrat is of a similar vein.
No matter how many signs point to fraud and deceit, our media and governments for the most part work hard to ignore the consistent pattern the AGW community produces.
I think Bernie Madoff would have liked to be able to use this same trick a few years ago.

Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
Key quote: “‘Overall, we find that dishonest individuals — as measured by the dice task — prefer to enter government service,’ wrote Hanna and coauthor Shing-yi Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.” Dan Mitchell at International Liberty is probably claiming vindication even now.

I suspect the Hanna-Wang study is competently done. However, the data are for Bangalore. Attitudes to what we call cheating and corruption are different there, both in general and in government. We cannot extrapolate these results to the UK or the USA.

The research of Rema Hanna and Shing-Yi Wang reminds me of thoughts from the classical Austrian School of Economics.
I paraphrase a quote from Ludwig von Mises,

My paraphrase of Ludwig von Mises => “If one rejects private individual activity on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.”

Here is Ludwig von Mises’ original quote:

“If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.”
From Ludwig Von Mises in ‘Planning for Freedom’ p. 44


Peter Champness

What has happened to the climategate part 2 emails?


The key thing is the incentives, as usual.
In industry, the incentives are mainly to get it right. Get the results and the customer service right, or they will start picking someone else.
In government, not so much. There, the obvious incentives are to build a big organization underneath you. Of course, some people have more internal drivers.
Whatever gets rewarded gets fed and repeated. It’s mighty hard to change the behavior without changing the game first.


Just another observation of the corollary to Lord Acton’s admonition that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, which is “power tends to attract the corruptible”.

One need only look at the work of Harry Anslinger to see how corrupt the foundations of government are. It got so bad Harry had to tell one of his underlings to tone it down. On the basis of Harry’s initial work millions have been jailed and medical research has been set back decades.

Thanks Anthony. Very good article.
The paper “Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service” by Rema Hanna, Shing-Yi Wang is very interesting, but I’m not sure the conclusions are universal. They sure look like they apply to all the countries I have worked in, all of them “democratic”, all corrupt to some extent.


Richard Tol (@RichardTol) says:
January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am
I suspect the Hanna-Wang study is competently done. However, the data are for Bangalore. Attitudes to what we call cheating and corruption are different there, both in general and in government. We cannot extrapolate these results to the UK or the USA.
Spoken like a true Marxist.

Thanks John Whitman for reminding of von Mises and the Classical Liberals of old.
An Introduction to the Major Writings of Ludwig von Mises is at

Questing Vole

Richard Tol @ 11.05 am
Agree. Can’t extrapolate Bangalore results to UK or USA.
They may mainly reflect the local students’ expectations of opportunities for corrupt behaviour in a government post rather than actual levels they might encounter if they got one. I doubt that they would be matched if the survey were run on students here.
And I’m sorry, Anthony, but I can’t see any valid read-across between the Bangalore study and the behaviour exposed in Climategate. The EPA fraud case may be a closer match.

It’s amazing that most warmist still won’t admit to the bad science behind the hockey stick. RealClimate still won’t admit that short centering is wrong in its Dummies Guide to the Hocky Stick:

4) What do different conventions for PC analysis represent?
Some different conventions exist regarding how the original data should be normalized. For instance, the data can be normalized to have an average of zero over the whole record, or over a selected sub-interval. The variance of the data is associated with departures from the whatever mean was selected. So the pattern of data that shows the biggest departure from the mean will dominate the calculated PCs. If there is an a priori reason to be interested in departures from a particular mean, then this is a way to make sure that those patterns move up in the PC ordering. Changing conventions means that the explained variance of each PC can be different, the ordering can be different, and the number of significant PCs can be different.


42 Die rolls ?
I heard Al Gore got 41 sixes and two sevens

Andres Valencia on January 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm said,
Thanks John Whitman for reminding of von Mises and the Classical Liberals of old.
An Introduction to the Major Writings of Ludwig von Mises is at:

– – – – – – – –
Andres Valencia,
¡Por nada! {you’re welcome} : )

Peter Champness says:
“What has happened to the climategate part 2 emails?”
They were posted. Did you mean CIII?
Roberto: the missing ingredient in government is competition. Competition makes the Universe work, whether you’re talking about the valence of atoms, or business. But you can’t go to another government and get a better deal. There is only competition between governments, never within a government for the benefit of its citizens.
So we end up asking the government to cut taxes — when it is the government itself that pockets the taxes.
The government is the enemy of its citizens. The Founding Fathers understood that all government is evil. Some government is a necessary evil. But they are never our friend. They represent their own interest, which is diametrically opposed to the citizens’ interest. Sometimes the interests are in alignment, like in wartime. But never for very long.
Since the end of WWII, the gov’t and the Left have conspired to rob the citizens. They have both learned to game the system, and for now it works for them [witness the gov’t climate grant recipients profiting from the Chicken Little “carbon” scare]. But it will not always work.
At some point the left will find out that they are no longer necessary to the government. Then they will be liquidated like everyone else who objects or protests. But for now, it is an unholy alliance of two evils working in collusion to fleece and dominate the citizenry.
Anyone who reads a lot of history sees where it’s going. And where it will end up.
Government never gets smaller. Taxes never go down. Citizens never remain free for long.

Tom J

Richard Tol (@RichardTol)
January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am
‘…However, the data are for Bangalore. Attitudes to what we call cheating and corruption are different there, both in general and in government. We cannot extrapolate these results to the UK or the USA.’
In regards to the second sentence in the above quote may I ask how you know that? In regards to the final sentence may I ask, “why?”
In closing, may I say that, “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan. If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Period.”


To see corruption ‘at home’, it sometimes helps to read foreign newspapers. One example is the US and my state government’s war on tobacco, from which much money was made by govt. ‘Second Hand Smoke’ became the reason for city-wide bans, and no mention was ever made in the US newspapers of the truth about the study done on such. The following explains

To be honest you have to make a consented effort to stop calling it ” Carbon Footprint” and start calling it “Carbon Dioxide Footprint”. Along the current un-scientific terminology way of thinking, “Diamond Footprint” makes as much sense as “Carbon Footprint”. Diamonds are made of 100% carbon. The use of metaphors in the climate debate is only meant to confuse and brainwash the general public into believing Climate Change is their fault, when natural climate change has been happening for over a billion years. If you mean “Man-Made Global Warming” or “Man-Made Climate Change” in the discussion, then say the whole phrase and stop being lazy or deceitful.
I understand billions of dollars have been invested in brainwashing the general public into believing the greatest conspiracy theory of all time, CAGW, but get over it. The general public has shown they aren’t that stupid and ain’t buying it.

M Seward

You know it makes sense.

Perhaps, as the ultimate public service is to work as a law maker, then, if the results of this study remain valid, law makers AKA politicians are the most corrupt!


This is a long running and well known issue for anyone seeking a job recently(say last 10 years) in HR. HR reps only care about the proper buzzwords being spoken and certain displays. They claim it to hire the best people and that “studies” back them. The problem is that its easy to identify the buzzwords and such they look for and many many books are written about it. Cheaters simply read the book and say the most buzzwords during the interview and thus get the job. Honesty is about the lowest thing on the HR list of things they look for. Anyone who has been is the job market will tell you that responding honestly or in your own words to HR questions will lose you the job every time.

““Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10
Also, “Character is destiny.” -Heraclitus

Stephen Richards

As readers know, in a nutshell, Climategate was about the stonewalling of FOIA requests so that independent researchers (such as McIntyre) could not replicate the scientific work.
So that SteveMc could not attempt to replicate the work 🙂


The Democrat presidential nominee in 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, said about the ethical standards of the Reagan Administration, “There’s an old Greek saying … the fish rots from the head first. It starts at the top.” Dukakis went on to say that scandal and misconduct had become “almost an epidemic. It’s the guy at the top who has to be held accountable.”

“there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” -Mark Twain

Gary Pearse

I guess it was too politically correct to say why. A talented cheater may well appear to have ability. Certainly, a cheater who never got caught is logically going to have the trappings of ability, certainly over what he would have had, had he not cheated. This would explain the no apparent bias between talented and ordinary. Also, a corrupted PhD in something knows that his skills are not going to be under the microscope like they would be in a production environment. “Hey Fred, how come non of your designs work? You have a higher engineering degree.” In government, Fred can study the problem and recommend that a consulting firm be engaged for this important project.
I’ve known a lot of talented, hard working government employees – geologists, metallurgists, mining engineers and other technically oriented people – whose very professions are not sought out much because of the demanding and productive nature of the work and the fact that your stuff is out there in full view. I’m sure the majority of government workers are honest, many honest but without much motivation. Look for it mainly in the group who spend all their time hanging on to the ladder.

Brian H

The corruptible and ambitious gravitate to government posts with influence over internal standards and enforcement, where they substitute an emphasis on protection of “accused” for protection of the public. When it is necessary to focus on the latter, as in “whistleblower” cases, they use internal networks to deflect and nullify the threat to security and power.
Occasionally, a sacrificial offering is made of some egregiously corrupt individual like Beale whose cover slips. Even then, it is minimized and distorted to keep attention away from the systemic rot.

Aki Basho

Whatever happened to the climategate 3.0 release? wuwt and all the other blogs received the password to the final tranche of emails in March but have been conspicuously silent since then.

Brian H

The case of Wagner also comes to mind. He had to choose between his publishers, protecting their right to maintain some level of editorial standards, and the power-broker Trenberth. We all know the choice he made. It may have been rational, given the state of the field.

Henry Clark

The test method is innovative though still just scratching a surface.
For reasons which would be lengthy to get into and delve enough into ideological-political alignments to be a relatively unsuitable topic for WUWT posting, I have a suspicion the difference might be more than 6.3% if conducted in the U.S. and, more importantly, if not talking about all government jobs in general but rather:
(1) those inclined to work for the EPA
(2) still more so, those inclined to work in climatology where it basically requires working for the CAGW movement
(3) very most all, the subset of #2 who are relatively well on their way and experienced, e.g. the equivalent of having seen while still wanting others to believe claims about CAGW & about manmade CO2 as the pretend prime climate driver
The core of the CAGW movement is like a religion but not one for which honesty was ever a cardinal commandment nor seen in its saints.
Separate from (or in addition to) a desire for money, there are some who have particular desire to bring down others of ideologically disliked groups (and/or general anti-human bias), even aside from whether any gain to themselves, or to exercise power without good purpose for it — and some way to measure variation in willingness to cheat for the latter goals, not just variation in willingness to cheat for money, would probably be still more illuminating.