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Climategate: Violating the Social Contract of Science (Updated)

The scientific method only works when fellow researchers can implicitly trust the results offered by their colleagues.

by
Charlie Martin

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November 22, 2009 - 6:06 pm
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Then there is this email from Tom Wigley to Tim Carter (email # 1051190249):

PS, Re CR [the journal Climate Research] I do not know the best way to handle the specifics of the editoring. Hans von Storch is partly to blame — he encourages the publication of crap science “in order to stimulate debate.” One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word “perceived” here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about — it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.

I think we could get a large group of highly credentialed scientists to sign such a letter — 50+ people.

Note that I am copying this view only to Mike Hulme and Phil Jones. Mike’s idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work — must get rid of von Storch too, otherwise holes will eventually fill up with people like Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Michaels, Singer, etc. I have heard that the publishers are not happy with von Storch, so the above approach might remove that hurdle too

Hans von Storch is a well-known climate scientist who has been critical of some aspects of the global warming debate. This email appears to suggest that he was seen as too favorable to other opinions; they are discussing how to “get rid of von Storch.” Remember that the reason for independence is to ensure that there’s no fear of retribution nor expectation of reward.

It’s interesting to note that Hans von Storch actually was made editor in chief of Climate Research and then resigned soon after. The reason: he wasn’t allowed by the publisher to publish an editorial critical of the very paper this email discusses.

Von Storch has responded to the email releases on his web page:

As far as I myself can judge, and according to responses by others, the files are authentic, but not complete. …. There are a number of problematic statements, which will be discussed in the media and the blogosphere. I found the style of communication revealing, speaking about other people and their ideas, joining forces to “kill” papers, exchanges of “improving” presentations without explaining.

Others have noted that the review process for climate change research seems flawed. In the Wegman report, prepared for the Committee on Energy and Commerce by a committee selected under the auspices of the National Academy of Science, a section is included on the connections among the reviewers of various papers, with the interesting observation that published papers are nearly always reviewed by the same small group of people, and almost all of these people are also co-authors on other papers.

The effect is that climate research is produced by a small “in group” who insist on a particular model, and apparently reviewed by the same group. Critics of the particular model, even if they agree in general with the notion of anthropogenic global warming, are then relegated to an “out group.”

Roger Pielke, Sr. of the University of Colorado is a notable climate scientist who has been relegated to the “out group.” Dr. Pielke was the lead author of part of the most recent IPCC report, until the section he was writing was replaced at the last minute. At the time, Dr. Pielke wrote (PDF):

The process that produced the report was highly political, with the Editor taking the lead in suppressing my perspectives, most egregiously demonstrated by the last-minute substitution of a new Chapter 6 for the one I had carefully led preparation of and on which I was close to reaching a final consensus. Anyone interested in the production of comprehensive assessments of climate science should be troubled by the process which I document below in great detail that led to the replacement of the Chapter that I was serving as Convening Lead Author.

We’re only beginning to analyze and understand the full implications of these emails and the associated data. Among other things, however, these emails suggest that a number of highly reputable climate scientists had been conniving for years to prevent other researchers from obtaining the data needed to replicate climate science results. At the same time, these scientists appear to have colluded to subvert the whole peer review process in order to prevent critical or contradictory results from being published.

This violates the whole social contract that is the basis of what we call science.

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Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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