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What is the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund?

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Doug Bostrom

'Would gravity be overturned if we could see Sir Isaac Newton’s personal letters?' -- Scott Mandia

The Cavalry Arrives

A year ago Professors Scott Mandia and John Abraham witnessed with growing dismay burgeoning legal attacks on scientists performing climate related research. Mandia and Abraham had discussed for some time how they might help defray legal costs incidental to inconvenient research results being borne by scientists; the pair were catalyzed into action upon learning that Dr. Michael Mann was dipping into personal funds to defend himself against a litigious fishing expedition by the extremist anti-regulatory American Tradition Institute. Mandia and Abraham crystallized their thinking into concrete form and action with the inception of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF).

Launching the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund required a conjunction of several key parts: the idea of formally organizing a combat fund, initiative to put thoughts into action, and most importantly the right people to start the process. John Abraham is the celebrated veteran of a prolonged verbal skirmish with the eccentric yet CSDF Logocuriously influential Christopher Monckton. Scott Mandia shares with Abraham the distinction of being threatened with a lawsuit by Monckton, a campaign ribbon in the weird world war of climate reality versus climate fantasy.

Within 24 hours of Climate Science Legal Defense Fund's announcement over $10,000 dollars were raised for the cause of allowing Michael Mann to proceed with his research with less distraction and worry. This wouldn't have been possible without the bona fides brought to the project by John Abraham and Scott Mandia.

It wasn't long before a third participant applied elbow grease to CSLDF. Joshua Wolfe is a professional photographer, coauthor with NASA-GISS scientist Gavin Schmidt of a pictorial illustration of climate change. Wolfe has proven instrumental in driving CSLDF forward. Managing a prolonged fundraising effort with proper accounting, a 501(c)3 imprimatur for tax deductible donations and all the trimmings of a not-for-profit is a lot of work. Mandia and Abraham began their fund as a simple PayPal account but the response to their request for help was overwhelming; with day jobs as professors the two needed a way to scale the fund. Joshua Wolfe forged a partnership between The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER. Joining with PEER taps into a productive, efficient and nonduplicative structure, eliminating a lot of costly overhead. 

Joshua Wolfe also instantiated a highly successful fundraising module for CSLDF at the crowdfunding site RocketHub. The Climate Science Legal Defense fund RocketHub fundraising tool has found a warm reception, raising over $11,000 for the fund's work.

With over $50,000 raised in the year of its existence the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has swiftly become an important bulwark protecting guileless scientists inadvertently colliding with powerful ideological and commercial interests.

Hitting the ground running, CSLDF helped defray Dr. Michael Mann's expenses incurred when ATI jumped Mann as part of a seemingly endless process of retailiation for Mann's elucidation of the famous climate "hockey stick."While Mann is still dealing with lingering costs from ATI's mugging, CSLDF was instrumental in defending him against ATI's pointless prying, transforming a lopsided fight into something a bit more fair.

More importantly for the long run, Mann's defense served as a test case for the utility of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, lighting the way ahead for improvements.

At the most recent AGU Fall conference the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund presented a session detailing lessons learned and suggestions for better equipping scientists and institutions with the tools necessary to counter increasingly frequent brushes with litigation mills disguised as "thinktanks." CSLDF is building a core of institutionalized knowledge about FOIA requests and other legal arcana for ready access by individuals and institutions and is developing a core group of legal talent familiar with the particular needs of CSLDF. 

Looking forward, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund sees the need for more human resources devoted purely to protecting scientists from gratuitious lawsuits, institutional support via grants and-- not to put too fine a point on it-- simply more money to counter a fad for SLAPP-style offensive maneuvers showing no sign of diminishment. The organization wants to hire a suitable FTE to take the reins from the group of part-timers now juggling their time between professional and personal lives and CSLDF.

It's safe to say that for people who care about the integrity of climate science, money contributed to CSLDF is an excellent investment, a fine way to transform frustration into positive energy.

Warning: Science-free Zone

With all this time, effort and money being spent on defending scientists from extra-curricular actors the question naturally arises, 'what's it all about?' What's the connection between trawling for scientists' correspondence and financial records with science and healthy skepticism pertaining to scientific research findings?

Taking the American Tradition Institute as an example of organizations rooting around in stale email and dusty accounting records, we find no connection with science at all. Let's allow ATI to speak for themselves:

American Tradition Institute v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (records of Dr. James Hansen, Freedom of Information Act Petition filed June 21, 2011)

On June 21, 2011 American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal district court in the District of Columbia to force NASA to release ethics records for Dr. Hansen. The action followed NASA’s denial of ATI’s federal Freedom of Information Act request (PDF) with NASA, seeking records detailing whether and how ‘global warming’ activist Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has complied with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations, and NASA Rules of Behavior.

American Tradition Institute v. University of Virginia (records of Dr. Michael Mann, Freedom of Information Act Petition filed May 16, 2011)

American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center and Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall asked a Prince William County judge, under the Commonwealth’s Freedom of Information Act, to expedite the release of documents withheld by the University of Virginia that pertain to the work of its former environmental sciences assistant professor Dr. Michael Mann.

These cases are notably devoid of any connection with scientific research; ATI does not engage the published works of Hansen or Mann on a scientific level, ATI makes no attempt either to refute Hansen and Mann's scientific output or to extend or improve the published work of Hansen or Mann. So, no science and no scientific skepticism are visible; ATI is concerned strictly with matters of character.

These two cases stand as textbook illustrations of 'ad hominem' attacks on scientists; the target of ATI's thought and argument is not the scientific work of Hansen and Mann but rather their personalities.

Let's remember what Scott Mandia asked: 'Would gravity be overturned if we could see Sir Isaac Newton’s personal letters?' No, of course not; refuting Isaac Newton's observations and predictions would require an attack on his published findings, not on what chit-chat he wrote to whom on what date. In fact, even if Sir Isaac had not been Warden of the Royal Mint of England and instead had been a small time grifter during off-hours between bouts of inspiration such a fallibility would have left his science intact, open to legitimate attack only via scientific methods.

ATI has not found anything particularly intriguing in their fishing expeditions; we'd surely know by now if Hansen or Mann exhibited any juicy, gossipy character flaws to trumpet. No, ATI's trophy wall includes various breathlessly hyped tidbits about speaking fees, imaginative reinventions of climate scientists by ATI's senior litigator and much else. But no science-- ATI has no argument against the findings of any of the scientists in whose dumpsters it frolics.

Climate science is the foundation of ATI's entire legal fiasco. ATI offers no factual argument against climate science.

Global Cooling of Speech

Barren of useful results with Hansen and Mann, ATI now entirely abandons any pretense of interest in the practice of science. As covered in the press ATI has announced a new campaign of litigious aggression to be inflicted on scientists who dare communicate their anxiety about the increasingly urgent problem of climate change. These efforts on ATI's part are plainly naked of any connection with research. ATI openly acknowledes what many of us suspected all along: this persistent litigation campaign is about ideology, politics and-- ultimately-- preserving status quo in the energy sector.

Cues to acceptable freedom of speech vary widely. In Canada scientists bringing uncomfortable facts to the public square have been muzzled by the Harper government in a way that is quite transparent; Canada's government has made it policy that scientists must communicate with the public via 'public relations specialists' or minders, their expert words filtered by persons reporting to political appointees. In the US despite past half-hearted attempts no such policy has been made practicable. However there are alternatives for imposing silence on concerned citizens; one such means is to create instructively punitive examples of what happens when scientists convey the 'wrong' information containing uncomfortable facts to journalists.

We see from the absence of science in its legal agenda that ATI either doesn't understand or does not care about the scientific topics with which it's interfering. Knowing so, when ATI seeks to invade communications between scientists and journalists we must dismiss any notion that ATI is attempting to improve the state of science and instead consider other motivations. As described in the Guardian two scientists are presently being harassed by ATI thanks to their temerity in communicating with journalists. In the absence of other reasons we have to consider that ATI is using professors Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Dessler as teaching tools for the rest of the scientific community. While Prof. Dessler himself speculates that ATI is mainly intent on seeking damaging information, any scientist watching this process will naturally wonder if keeping clam against journalist contacts would be the wiser course. 

ATI's wasteful invasion of Hayhoe and Dessler's work is exactly the style of extra-curricular, unscientific and ad hominem attack on scientists that the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is intended to ameliorate.

It's easy to lose perspective on just how bizarre a pass we find ourselves with regard to climate research. Let's view this situation from a slightly different angle.

We've established that unchecked climate change due to reckless fossil fuel combustion is a threat to public health. Forgetting geophysics and climate for a moment and thinking of this instead as a public health problem, imagine that a virologist had an important finding affecting public hygiene and communicated that to journalists. We'd consider it folly to have that researcher then tied up with unproductive friction having nothing to do with virology, inflicted by some oddly pro-epidemic faction of society. We'd be happy if there were an organization dedicated to protecting virologists from enthusiasts of unchecked plague. That's where we find ourselves today; scientists communicating their concern about a ballooning public health threat are encumbered by people with reckless disregard for the hazards they're promoting, but happily there's an organization in place to deal with the problem.

With each of our days measuring 24 hours in length and time being money, FOIA safaris such as ATI's impose a real cost on the productivity and efficiency of scientists and research instituions. Dr. Dessler estimates that some 20 hours of his time was pointlessly dissipated dealing with ATI while his institution (Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University) was forced to devote many more hours playing ATI's gotcha game. This is time and money that could be expended on productive work.

Fruitless waste of time is a factor for researchers to consider when wondering if they should engage the public square with their expertise. Their hesitancy becomes our loss; we support research with the expectation that findings important to the public good will be made known to us. To the extent ATI silences that process waste is compounded.

As with the imaginary public spirited virologist, with Hayhoe and Dessler vs. ATI we have a case of scientists attempting to communicate findings of vital import to journalists only to have their email exploited for op-ed fodder and their personas rebranded as suspect 'activists' by silver-tongued lawyers. For conveying facts, the persons and characters of these scientists are being smeared not on the merits of their communication but for daring to communicate. This is an entirely new low in ad hominem attacks and one that needs to be vigorously rebuffed. The Climate Science Defense Fund was created to fill exactly this need. 

Everybody Has A Hand On the Dial

In the torrid atmosphere of the climate blogosphere we read and write endless passionate words about commitment to science and the importance of science. Most of us play peripheral bit parts in the central climate science drama; we're not researchers, we're not hired guns with law degrees and we're not titans of industry. Pipsqueaks we may be but if we remember one key fact our roles easily upstage those of the leading members of the cast.

The weightiest part open to most of us witnessing this novel struggle to acknowledge facts-- the universal script for significantly affecting our future climate-- is that of readily opening or closing our wallets at appropriate moments. ATI's preoccupation with protecting outmoded industries shows us how the bones of our fortune will be cast; the ebb and flow of money will set the temperature of the world going forward.

Long ago I worked in public radio here in the US. One of my preoccupations with this work was fundraising; workers must be paid and transmitters fed with electrons and most of the money for doing those things came from listeners. Obtaining money from listeners is not easy; the fate of workers in the US public radio industry is to enjoy enthusiastic feedback from listeners for about 340 days of the year, only to have most listeners fall silent when it came time to pay for their pleasurable listening. Talk is cheap, as the saying goes.  

In the US public radio arena we considered ourselves to be doing well if 15% of our listeners contributed to the station of their choice. We can't expect better in this online world but we're left to ponder that if a small fraction of people who are angered by ATI were to contribute to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund a powerful message would be sent to ATI and its ilk.

If each time ATI launched a character assassination attempt on another scientist they found they were once again filling the coffers of a fund dedicated to defending the very scientist in their crosshairs, what would happen? I suggest that that not many people would need to participate with CSLDF before ATI became tired of kicking the ball into their own net.

Who are the people who can change ATI's expectations? Here's a hint: don't look for them to your left or right; paradoxically, for the system to work you must assume you're the only person participating. Why not pay the Climate Science Defense Fund a visit today and make a contribution?

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Comments 101 to 150 out of 200:

  1. As for the "it wasn't a threat, yes it was" argument: - I used to work for a fellow that lost his temper one day and said that if I was going to "be that way" then perhaps we should "end our working relationship". He later denied threatening to fire me. Perhaps that wasn't what he meant, but I'm damn sure he wasn't planning on quitting. Even if he just meant he'd have me transferred somewhere else, it was clearly intended as a threat. Knowing him (and his previous problems with subordinates), I suspect that he actually had used the words "I'll fire you" once before and got in trouble for it - and had learned how to make sure he had "plausible deniability". Perhaps he even got legal advice on how far he could go without getting into trouble (but given that he tended to do these things in a rage, I doubt he could think that quickly). I've also known people that were owed money that just sent polite letters to former employees asking for it - on their lawyer's letterhead... No threat to sue, but but it sure stakes out ground.
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  2. I doubt that I've ever seen such overblown self importance. Comparing climate data or data in general to Department of Defence and Treasury? Seriuosly? Do you get a little light for your car and "Access" passes? "I'm from the Department of Climate and it's vital to the Nations security that you let me pass"? Seriously?We aren't talking security restricted stuff here so why in the name of sanity it is being compared to that I do not understand. @#96 Tom. (Wasn't that a TV show back in the 70s? :)) I don't think your argument quite works. In the first part you are agreeing with me that the artifacts/data does not belong to the researcher, which was my position. I agree with your second part and lump that type of thing in with "Publication rights". To be very clear here. I expect any researcher to have first publication rights from any data etc he collects. I also expect that govs should pick up the badly dropped ball and provide data storage facilities. Years ago this would have been expensive but not now. The data that a paper is based on must be collated somewhere, otherwise you don't have it in one place to work with. To my mind a system where the paper is written and submitted, then the data is zipped and sent to central archives is the way to go. I notice that every responder so far has failed to answer the simple question I posed. When does Joe Public get to see the data that he paid for? At the whim of the researcher? After he dies? When? Note that what I'm talking about is not what is, it's how I think it should be. There is a difference. The present system is a mess and FOIs are flying, so rather than bitch and moan, how about improving the system? @ Doug. I'm assuming that you're in the US. I see the problem you face and I do "get it". If we do nothing then the problem will only get worse. I'm sure that there are Oz researchers in exactly the same boat. I think that it is required that Democratic govs provide the people and facilities to empty those garages. I would certainly back any effort on the part of the Oz gov to set up something like that. So from a given date all new data is in central archiving and anything before that date is "in process" of being added. Which allows you to handball any enquiry for data etc to central archives. Once data is collected and the paper published it's become old (so to speak) and should be the purview of the librarian. I'd like to see a system that empties your garage and puts all the information to easy availability. If Joe public wants to see it then fine, just ask the online librarian and download it. Let's take the burden away from those whose time is better spent than hunting around old records. I think that this is the sort of system we should be aiming for but a prerequisite is to know who actually owns the data to be stored. @97 Bob. I don't know where you are but with a population of 35 million it isn't Oz. Australia is a Democracy and we have a Parliament that sets the rules. After the next election, how about we change the rules so that anybody who won't go the "Archive your data" road gets no further funding? Since Parliament represents ALL of the people, that saves trying to divide the work into tiny packets.
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  3. When does Joe Public get to see the data that he paid for?
    Interesting question. A more interesting question is this: What would Joe Public do with such raw data? Joe Public gets to see the results, as published in the scientific journals. Depending on access, they can get articles for free, bought from publisher, or for a small fee through their local library. These articles will digest the data, methods used, and results into a format accessible to many. If Joe Public does not understand the journal articles, then Joe is not going to be in a position to perform their own analysis on the data. They will not realise or understand the elementary methods, and elementary errors to avoid, in analysing such data. If there are errors in the paper, Joe Public is not going to know what they are, or whether they are important. Joe has a lot of learning to do! This sort of process is painfully evident with many of the self-styled 'auditors' of climate data who, being charitable, make dreaful errors in reanalysing the copious quantities of raw data they have ample access to. But alternatively, if Joe Public really thinks he can understand the science and the methodology, why does Joe Public not do something much more powerful? In science, replication is a hundred times better than repetition. Joe can see if he gets the same result, using a different dataset, different methods, or both. Of course the key results in climate science have been replicated many times over, including those favourites of the skeptics, the Hockey Stick and the surface temperature record, so this is actually a rather fruitless exercise. But maybe you can find an oil company with massive daily profits who would fund such a venture? After all, it's in their interests! Of course Richard Muller already did that with BEST, and replicated the existing results on the surface temperature dataset! Key datasets are already freely available online. Where are the skeptics' own dendrochronology datasets, or surface temperature analyses, that are both robust and in conflict with the accepted science? Has Steve McIntyre gone to the remote forests of the world and done the hard work collecting, analysing, interpreting and publishing his own dendrochronology record? He hasn't. Why not? Is he afraid of replicating the currently-accepted science?
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  4. JohnB: I doubt that I've ever seen such overblown self importance. Not even here? That link isn't randomly chosen. We've established that storage of data isn't free and isn't being accounted for and we have not even touched the matter of paying for retrieval. Surely the fecund imagination behind the writing at that post can picture the problem? Sure, data should be available but there needs to be a means to pay for that. When does Joe Public get to see the data that he paid for? At the whim of the researcher? After he dies? When? When the bill for storage is paid? My family shares a rented storage unit; when the credit card it's charged to expired we discovered that the lock on the unit was changed. We got access to our stuff when the payment data was renewed. Seriously, thanks for the acknowledgement of the problem, John. Obviously there are better ways to archive data. Thinking of McIntyre's beefing about Lonnie and Ellen Thompson immediately leads my mind back to the pile of hard disks and dormant or dead computers here at my home. There's data frozen in the garage museum that cost many thousands of dollars to obtain but the operating systems and software providing the support framework for that data have long since shuffled their mortal coils. Naked disk drives need host hardware, then they need an OS capable of mounting the partitions on the drives, then they need software able to read the data storage formats. Quick: the person with a 1986 version of SPSS, raise your hand! Is it reasonable to expect that somebody should have continuously maintained the native host environment for 25 year old data? No, obviously not; simple hardware mortality and lack of replacement availability makes that an unreasonable demand, let alone the issues with maintaining software with terminated time-based licensing schemes, etc. How about a rotating program of migration? Should Lonnie and Ellen Thompson have maintained a data management plan that was able to navigate serial obsolescence of multiple iterations of hardware platforms, operating systems and application software? Is that reasonable? Maybe, with a commitment from funding agencies to maintain support continuity on long-dead grants. Is it the fault of Lonnie and Ellen Thompson that they could not build such a perfect world around themselves? Paradoxically the best course available short of a overarching system akin to what John describes would have been paper copies of the data. But guess what? Rummage through McIntyre's site and you'll actually find him fussing about the trouble of transferring numbers from a PDF to his spreadsheet. In fact, he implies that he was supplied with PDF data specifically to thwart him. A PDF printed and scanned is the same as any other piece of paper printed and scanned. So paper's not good enough. There's no pleasing some people. Faced with the Thompson situation, McIntyre's confronted with choices. Instead of following a counterproductive rising trajectory of insult and fulminations McIntyre could sweetly inquire of the Thompsons as to the status of their data, whether the problem is that their material is in a fossilized electronic state, or if it's in paper form and in need of sorting or some other manual labor input. McIntyre could offer to help. I wonder why that never occurs to him? I'm thinking about what I'd need to do to get one of the drives in the garage research data boneyard here going. Most of them are SCSI; I'd need a machine with the correct SCSI interface. Assuming I found the drive still operable, I'd then need to identify the partition scheme and filesystem on the drive. With the right version of Linux I could probably mount almost any partition and filesystem. Then I'd need to deal with data formats. I'd most likely not be able to deal with the data in native fashion with the software that processed and wrote that data; it's not impossible that I'd need to actually do some reverse engineering to get anything useful at all off the drive. Somehow all of this does not sound like something somebody's going to be able to do in their spare time; if professional services are needed the job would require serious amounts of cash to complete. Maybe McIntyre could exert himself to imagine these challenges, instead of simply bitching about not being helped to avoid doing the hard work of basic research himself.
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  5. First time I have heard of the CSDL. If I may I am going to ask a couple of questions here since this seems a good place to ask them, but if they cannot be answered here, or have been answered elsewhere (please tell me where) then my apologies. Firstly, I wonder if anyone could point me to a more detailed charter of what this organisation will do and who would qualify for its support? I have been through the rather sparse CSDL site and don’t see anything that would qualify for that. For example one thing I am curious about is will the “Defense” part of the name mean it will limit the organisation so there will be no supporting litigating against other parties? Secondly I went through all the press links via the CSDL and I think the CDSL need to explain the versatility of the benefactors so this doesn’t just seem a one man organisation. As far as I can see only Michael Mann seems to be benefiting from the CSDL. Whilst I understand there has to be a first case to launch the organisation – the following statement is made
    Currently several climate scientists have litigation in the courts.
    Are these litigants being supported by CDSL? If so why can't they be named? Thanks
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    Moderator Response: Regarding selection of cases, Joshua Wolfe of CSLDF tells us "...we deal with things of a case by case basis. Some people just need referal to a pro-bono lawyer or a quick conversation, others need litigation support. Our goal is to keep people out of a courtroom if at all possible."

    Further to choosing whom to assist, Joshua says CSLDF is keen to avoid joining in unnecessary scraps; indications that an applicant for help might be spoiling for a fight would be a negative for deciding to lend support. Of this, Joshua says "Our goal is to keep scientists out of the crosshairs, not pick fights for the sake of picking fights. All this litigation around scientists is a distraction from important issues…we want to end the distraction not perpetuate it."

    CSLDF does not have any plans for proactive litigation but does not rule it out if the benefits of so doing appear to be worthwhile.

    --Doug Bostrom
  6. Good questions, tlitb1, and (presuming one of the principles does not reply here first) I'll endeavor to obtain an answer about CSLDF's process of deciding who needs help. I'll hazard a guess that CSLDF won't be in the business of "offense" or countersuits but that's worth asking about as well. Regarding people directly benefiting from CSLDF assistance, so far the roster includes Mann, Hayhoe, Dessler.
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  7. Further to tlitb1's questions, I should add that I think my writeup of CSLDF didn't sufficiently emphasize the larger role CSLDF intends to play in terms of helping scientists and institute staff quickly get up to speed on efficiently dealing with FOI/FOIA requests, being a clearinghouse for pertinent information and resources. This will benefit everybody, including those who choose to launch inquiries. To the extent the wheel does not need to be reinvented with each new request, that's good. Again, it's easy to lose sight of how strange and unfamiliar it is for the research community to be confronted with "out of band" activities that ignore tried-and-true means of conducting science. For researchers it's a new form of communication, arguably inefficient, distracting, not very useful in terms of growing our sphere of understanding but nonetheless something that cannot be ignored.
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  8. For some perspective on archiving costs: A History of Storage Cost (1980-2012). For instance, cost per GB (2012 adjusted price in brackets)... 1980: $193,000 ($538,280) 1985: $71,000 ($151,644) 1990: $9,000 ($15,825) 1995: $1,260 ($1,900) How many researcher salaries could be covered in 1985 or 1990 by the cost of a GB of storage? How many field trips, even? And then you'd have to do what dbostrom did, which still doesn't mean "plug'n'play". For example, requesting 1990 data in 2007, seventeen years after publication, isn't being very realistic, IMHO.
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  9. Is there a clear line between what CSLDF and PEER will be handling? For instance, I recall that PEER has been dealing with the witch hunt and smear campaign against Charles Monnett and Jeff Gleason. That travesty has been conducted entirely in the workplace and the press because the chief inquisitor's repeated requests for prosecution have all been turned down by the DoJ... presumably for being insane. If it DID become a legal matter would the CSLDF become involved at that point or would PEER continue handling it? Given that Monnett and Gleason are biologists being persecuted for a paper on polar bears, would it be considered not 'climate science'?
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  10. "Given that Monnett and Gleason are biologists being persecuted for a paper on polar bears, would it be considered not 'climate science'?" PEER were already helping Monnett before becoming involved with CSLDF, IIRC. But Monnett's 2006 article discussed polar bear population within context of sea ice loss, and biological sciences can be part of the climate sciences. "Biological Sciences: Ecology, Synthetic biology, Biochemistry, Global change biology, Biogeography, Ecophysiology, Ecological genetics"
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  11. JohnB: You've got some interesting questions there. I don't think the issues are quite as simple however. These comments are from my own field, which is not climate.
    1. For much of my career, we couldn't store the raw data long term, only the results. The raw data were to big. This changed in the late 90's, but is now changing back due to the introduction of new high speed detectors. There have been a few cases of wrong results which might have been fixable with the raw data, but in the vast majority of cases the raw data is never needed again. So there is a cost-balance argument to make - is it more cost effective to store the raw data, or to redo the experiment in the rare cases where it is needed?
    2. We now often deposit data and/or methods with papers. I've been trying to do that with my posts here (or at least have enough ready to pull it together in an hour or two). But it is time consuming. Software even more so - I've been developing scientific software for 20 years, and to produce releasable code rather than something you run once (even with careful testing) to get a specific result usually increases the amount of work several times. So again there is a trade off.
    3. We lost a lot of our data from the 80's in the switch from reel-to-reel tapes to cassettes, and we did a lot better than many labs, because we were big enough to have a full time system manager. Data management was hugely manpower intensive. To some extent it still is - if we didn't have someone who could manage network appliances for us, then buying in storage either commercially or from the university would significantly inflate the cost of our grants.
    Given the importance of the issues, I also think it is important to make data and methods available for major results. But for the minor results which make up the bulk of the scientific effort, I think that asking for this level of data retention is probably not cost effective - it would waste the taxpayer's money, make science more expensive and slow down development. Where you draw the line is a difficult question. You could certainly argue that it should be drawn lower for climate science.
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  12. BBC News, May 2010 - Climate sceptics rally to expose 'myth'
    Professor Roy Spencer, for instance, is a climate sceptic scientist from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. But when I asked him about the future of Professor Phil Jones, the man of the heart of the UEA e-mail affair, he said he had some sympathy. "He says he's not very organised. I'm not very organised myself," said Professor Spencer. "If you asked me to find original data from 20 years ago I'd have great difficulty too. "We just didn't realise in those days how important and controversial this would all become - now it would just all be stored on computer. Phil Jones has been looking at climate records for a very long time. Frankly our data set agrees with his, so unless we are all making the same mistake we're not likely to find out anything new from the data anyway."
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  13. One other comment which might be relevant: I have so far requested data from 3 climate scientists (all high profile figures). In each case I had what I wanted within 24 hours. (A polite note saying what you are trying to do is probably much quicker and more effective than a FOI request - it certainly wastes less taxpayers money. Maybe this is where McIntyre is going wrong?)
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  14. FWIW I sent Prof. Murry Salby an email on 08 June 2012 asking for details of how a slide in his talk was generated so I could try and replicate it for an article I was writing for SkS. I haven't recieved a reply from him to that email, or indeed any other email I have sent (other than the standard "I'm swamped and can't respond to all the emails" reply I recieved from Jemme Wu in response to my first email).
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  15. Do Australian scientists feel there is a need for something like the CSLDF in Australia? If so, is there a suitable vehicle already?
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  16. Kevin C: "A polite note saying what you are trying to do is probably much quicker and more effective than a FOI request - it certainly wastes less taxpayers money. Maybe this is where McIntyre is going wrong?" Phil Jones's 2005 email (not to McIntyre) is notorious on this topic: "I should warn you that some data we have we are not supposed to pass on to others. We can pass on the gridded data – which we do. Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it. There is IPR to consider." Alternatively, google McIntyre Crowley and take the first result. You'll see McIntyre spending about a year and a half of his time trying to get data, starting with very polite emails which were generally ignored and maintaining a much greater level of civility throughout - and persistence - than many people would have managed. Crowley then (2005) wrote an article making a number of allegations about McIntyre, which McIntyre said were untrue. In 2011, Crowley wrote to McIntyre, saying that he had found original correspondence and realised that what he had said about McIntyre had been untrue: "I was shocked when the mails did not reveal what I had totally come to believe Steve had written... "...Whatever, for the record I now apologize to Stephen for that matter and request him to post it on his climateaudit site. I know some people will not believe my (proposed) explanation, but that’s life – I for one know I did not lie (intentionally tell a falsehood) because I try quite hard to say what I think is the truth, by all means to not lie, and teach my children likewise."
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  17. The best data storage story that Eli knows actually involves one of the climate denialists, Dennis Wingo, going well beyond the call of duty and rescuing key data from the pre-Apollo missions to the moon. This shows that data sometimes can rise from the data morgues, but also the expense, time and money that has to be spent to rescue the dead. Frankly, most of the stuff is not worth it, but now and then. . .
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  18. dubious: Interesting. It seems Phil Jones was already suspicious of the motives of the requester in that correspondence. I wonder why?
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  19. Hi all I am new to the debate surrounding global warming and have found this site very interesting and the discussion informative. One point surrounding the word 'denier' that is used frequently in the debate above (and in other places on this site). This is a hugely insulting term, with conotations of holocaust denial. Essentially what its use suggest is that I am 100% right, this is self evident and any individual in disagreement is as ignorant as a holocaust denier. John, you do a great job editing comments, could I ask that you try to limit the use of this word in others posts.Debate is good, lets try to encourage it and assume the best intentions of those we disagree with. It acually scares me to see terms like this used more and more frequently in society as it shuts down debate. We demean any cause through the use of this language. regards Alex
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    Moderator Response: [d_b] Rather than explode an interesting discussion of climate scientists in collision with the legal world and related matters of data preservation, etc., would folks interested in the subject of descriptive terminology for actors in the matters of climate science and climate policy please express their thoughts here? Thank you!
  20. Doug, Eli has the solution, let us send Steve McIntyre all the disks, tapes, piles of paper and more that we have. We can rent a couple of eighteen wheelers and dump the stuff on his lawn, with a note that we hear you wanted some data. . .
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  21. Gingellanotor @119, you are incorrect. The term "denier" no more has the connotation of "holocaust denier" than the term "rubber" has the connotation "rubber duck". "Denier" is an adjective naturally formed in the English language from the term "deny", and has existed in that language since at least 1642 (the date is is first recorded in the Shorter Oxford English dictionary). Through out most of that history, if it has any particular connotation it was that of "Peter the denier", referring to the Apostle Peter, but it has been used to refer to people who deny something through out. At no stage in history has "Holocaust Denier" constituted even 10% of uses of the term. The suggestion that we should not use a perfectly good, and accurate English word because some people take fake umbrage due to an association they insist upon, but which is not justified by linguistic usage is absurd.
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  22. Ging, as Eli has said climate science denial is an ACCURATE description, as is vaccine denial, AIDS denial, tobacco causes cancer denial and many more. The fake fee fees of those who engage in same for fun (and in a few cases profit) is not the Rabett's concern. If you want to read about a Holocaust survivor's opinion on this issue take a look at Micha Tomkiewicz's blog.
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  23. This is a hugely insulting term,...
    Only if it is inaccurate...or if one takes offence by asserting connotations not asserted by the user. Speaking of which:
    ...with conotations of holocaust denial.
    Well, no. Firstly, the use of an adjectiveless noun generally does not connote a specific adjective out of the pantheon of possible adjectives. Secondly, if you suspect an adjective is intended to be connoted and are looking for the most appropriate connotation, "denier" in this context clearly means climate science denier. Similarly in a forum discussing Creationist attacks on evolutionary science, the most likely connotation of "denier" (by far) would be "evolution denier". In a forum discussing anti-vaccinationism, the most likely connotation of "denier" (by far) would be "medical science denier". And in a forum discussing fake moon landing conspiracy theories, the most likely connotation of "denier" (by far) would be "moon landing denier". See the pattern yet? There are very few forums discussing any form of denialism - perhaps even none - except those discussing Holocaust Denialism where the most likely connotation is "Holocaust denier"!
    Essentially what its use suggest is that I am 100% right, this is self evident and any individual in disagreement is as ignorant as a holocaust denier.
    When I use it (typically at other forums) its use denotes that I am claiming the individual in question advocates claims that cannot be substantiated as (one of) the most likely inference(s) from the weight of all the scientific evidence, and always after suitable evidence has been brought to their attention and they have been given plenty of time to substantiate their position. You'll note that ignorance - or the lack of it - has no part in that definition, as denialism (in any evidence-based domain) can clearly be (and often is) engaged in by informed individuals.
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  24. EliRabett @120, and excellent suggestion. May I suggest instead, however, that any climate scientist with any data should offer to sell the data to McIntyre at a reasonable cost; with the condition that the researcher may continue to use the data for research only, and pass it on to any person wanting to use it for research only. Should McIntyre choose to purchase the data, he would then be free to make it publicly available to anyone he desires. Further, any self appointed auditors can simply be referred to McIntyre, whose data it is and who has the responsibility for passing the data on, if he chooses. Should McIntyre accept the offer, he will finally have managed to actually contribute towards scientific research. If he declines the offer, any future requests for data by him can have a simple response: You know the price. Why should McIntyre have free what has cost others much labour to obtain?
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  25. John B, you are perhaps aware that the navies, armies and air forces collect and analyze serious amounts of climate data? and that much of it is classified at least in the US? that sea surface temperature records are basically from the navies of the world, who have been collecting it for a couple of hundred years? that what we know of ice thickness in the Arctic before recently comes from submarine cruise? So yes, climate data and data from military records are often the same. Getting access to these records has been pretty hard. Perhaps you and Steve should send them some FOI requests?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Having worked with much of that data in the past, I can share with you that some of it is classified simply because of its existence (in a nutshell).
  26. Gingellenator - I would have to agree with Tom Curtis above. If, when faced with the data, the physics, the last several hundred years of data (climate change having been predicted from the physics in fairly close detail in the late 19th century), folks insist that it's all wrong, that whackadoodle cycle, cosmic ray, or unsupported feedbacks override the physics we do observe, or (in many instances) claim conspiracy of all of these scientists over decades for nefarious purposes, they are then in denial. That is the correct term for the behavior. The association with Holocaust denial (note the additional adjective) has to my understanding has primarily been drawn by those who are indeed in denial of the science, not the people using the term "denialists", and in that regard (in my opinion): "Methinks thou dost protest too much" This is in fact those in denial playing the victim card. I remain unimpressed.
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  27. The comments policy notes that: No ad hominem attacks. Personally attacking other users gets us no closer to understanding the science. For example, comments containing the words 'religion' and 'conspiracy' tend to get moderated. Comments using labels like 'alarmist' and 'denier' as derogatory terms are usually skating on thin ice." emphasis mine so while denier has nothing to do with holocaust denial, and is a valid term to describe certain behaviours, it is a term that should perhaps be avoided in a scientific discussion, unless it is a discussion of the science of denial. The comments policy also includes: "No accusations of deception. Any accusations of deception, fraud, dishonesty or corruption will be deleted. This applies to both sides. You may critique a person's methods but not their motives."
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  28. Tom, Lotharsson, KR. Intersting. Perhap cultural meaning is different in other countries, here (in the UK) I would say that the link is quite clear. Separate question - is this a useful term? Given that (rightly or wrongly) it generates controversy. If it is going to be used, I would suggest robust definition is necissary so that the terms Sceptic and Denier are not conflated. For my information, how exactly would you generally differentiate a Sceptic and a Denier? Does the former, accept that: (1)Man has increased Co2 concentration. (2)Co2 causes warming. but questions the level of warming and its impact. Whilst a denier, rejects either or, or both (1) and (2)?? Or is this too simplistic? Lastly, could the term be applied to climate extemists who have been shown to misrepresent the risk and impact of climate change?
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  29. Gingellenator I live in the U.K. and as far as I am concerned "denier" is not very strongly connected to holocaust denial. It is just one of the ways that the term gets used. The most normal sense of the word that applies is "someone in a state of denial", i.e. someone who is unable to accept an unpleasant truth for one reason or another. It doesn't relate to any particular piece of climate science, it is to do with the inability to accept what the science actually says. As for extremists, the term is usually "alarmist", and as I have already pointed out is dealt with in the comments policy, which anyone new to SkS should read before their next post.
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  30. Fair enoughs, perhaps its just me - thanks for your input.
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  31. Gingellenator @128, further discussion of this issue is unquestionably off topic on this thread. May I suggest you go to this thread, read the linked Drum article and then, if you have any questions, ask them there.
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  32. All, While I understand the impulse to address the strawman argument made by Gingellator@119, can we please try and stay on topic. Specifically, the post @119 is off topic, the term "denier" was not used once in the main post, and what is more this "argument" has been addressed many times before. To me @119 has the appearance of concern trolling.
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  33. Sorry - thanks for the link - wrong page to post. Not trolling!
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    Moderator Response: [d_b] And we'll draw a line under the skid right here.
  34. Eli & John, there are even crazier reasons I've seen for sequestering data: The fear that NGOs who live to harass legitimate military-based research will use the fact that the data are being collected to prevent the research from going forward. (See Devine Strake, which by the way, there would have been no mushroom cloud, that was a misreporting by the press.) Also, British research it seems is going open source. Hopefully they give them the extra money needed for this.
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  35. Further comments about the usage of terms such as denier should be placed on the thread delineated by Tom above. As such, they are off-topic here. Please return the discussion to the OP of this thread, What is the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund?
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  36. Carrick, "open source" (by which I think you mean open access) is another matter altogether, and refers to research outcomes in the form of scientific papers. In fact a fair amount of UK and US medical research is already open access; i.e. that funded by the NIH in the US and by some research charities (especially the Wellcome Trust) in the UK. And you'll notice that everything that NASA Giss publish is immediately deposited on their website (i.e. completely open access already). This diverts a significant amount of money (around £1500 per published paper), from research funds. However this doesn't refer to the primary data which is the subject of the harrassment FOI requests discussed on this thread, although as already discussed, this is increasingly being deposited for wider access anyway as computer storage capacity evolves. In addition most published papers are now accompanied by sometimes voluminous electronic "Supplementary Information" files which are already in many cases freely downloadable. Scientific publishing is in a state of flux as the traditional paper-based practices evolve towards various electronic models. The open access model favoured by the current UK government isn't completely satisfactory since it will divert a large chunk of unreplaced funds from research to publishing costs without reducing the costs of scientific journal subscriptions (since direct UK-funded open access papers constitute a small proportion of the total scientific output, and so everyone will still have to pay journal subscription costs to access the vast majority of scientific papers). It's only when a critical mass of countries adopt the UK approach (of funding open access models) that there will be something approaching a cost-neutral switch from scientific dissemination funded by journal subscription to that funded by the author and their sponser. It does mean that those who do research on a shoestring with little or no funding are going to find it hard to publish..
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  37. There is something interesting going on here. SkS posts on science do not generate this sort of discussion. However the conduct of scientists generates a prolific and heated discussion, with many contributors who would not normally post here. Why?
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  38. Kevin C... That's a really great observation and cuts straight to the heart of much of the debate in my opinion. For myself, I really don't worry too much about the conduct of individual scientists. Ultimately that doesn't matter. If some scientist mucks up his work and it gets through sloppy peer review, so what? What matters is the consistent message that is coming out of the overall research, not the precision of any given paper. That's where the overall picture of any field of science is judged. And what if all the scientists were mucking up their work and all the peer review were sloppy? Then the results would be all over the board and no one would be able to make heads or tails on anything. This is my big problem with Steve McIntyre. If he really wanted to contribute to the understanding of climate change, and he felt like there were researchers out there getting it wrong, the correct way to go about it is to produce research. If that research shows that previous conclusions were wrong then we have to figure out why and who is correct. As it is all McIntyre is doing is turning up what he considers to be niggling points that ultimately make no difference in the overall research. BUT what he knows his work does do is, it creates doubts in the minds of a segment of the public perception. And I think that is what his ultimate goal is. It's not to improve the understanding of climate change, it's to influence public perceptions of climate change.
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  39. Kevin C: "...the conduct of scientists generates a prolific and heated discussion, with many contributors who would not normally post here. Why?" I'd like to suggest a few possibilities - as someone who hasn't posted here before. 1) If you don't trust a scientist, it doesn't matter what he says the science is, because you don't know if what he says is reliable. Therefore conduct is the top issue. It is absolutely the #1 issue for me. 2) Conduct is something people deal have been dealing with every day since childhood. People know what office politics is. People are generally quite well equipped to judge for themselves whether an excuse is plausible or not, or whether behaviour is acceptable. 3) In my specific case, I was interested (my comment @11) in seeing whether Dr Karoly could support his comment that "I have just received a threat of legal action from Steve McIntyre". As I mentioned in my comment (@48), I'm trying to gauge Dr Karoly from his behaviour.
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  40. Kevin C at #138. Yes, it is indeed a peculiar phenomenon. I suspect that this tendency to often focus on the people rather than on the facts has its roots in several separate psychological ætiologies. With a hat-tip to the subject of this thread, doing so distracts scientists from their serious work, which is desirable for anyone opposed to hearing what the results are of such work, or who might want to avoid the permeation through to public policy of the consequences of such results. There is also the propaganda value of an ad hominem approach - a tried and true strategy for stirring the lizard brains of the scientific laity in our societies. Another visceral appeal is that which engages the common propensity of many for giving credence to conspiracy, that bastard child of gossip. And I suspect that for many people predisposed to deny the validity of the consensus science, actually constructing a defensible, scientific counter-argument is simply too difficult (heck, even maverick scientists have failed to date), so they go for something that they are capable of doing. I'd be intersted to see more additions to this list.
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  41. dubious - "If you don't trust a scientist, it doesn't matter what he says the science is, because you don't know if what he says is reliable. Therefore conduct is the top issue. It is absolutely the #1 issue for me." That is absolutely not the case for me, and I would venture to say for most people in the sciences. Science is the top issue, the #1 issue for me. That means results supported by the data, replicable by others using other data and other methods, results that advance our knowledge. While I may have expectations of various scientists (Church, for example, consistently produces interesting results regarding sea levels), "trust" is not what supports science. Strong, replicable results are. That doesn't mean (for me) pushing everyone to put out all of their raw data - that's the equivalent of asking every scientist to also post the contents of their lab notebooks with every paper. It means evaluating the results of their work, and whether it holds up under examination. The current kerfluffle over raw data is, in my opinion, simply the results of folks who (like ATI) produce little or no primary science, but who take it upon themselves to criticize the works of others, resorting to what are essentially ad hominem attacks and lawsuits rather than producing any results - politics and policy, not science. We've managed (oddly enough) to accomplish a great deal without poking through scientists sock drawers in the past - doing so now is simply not part of the scientific process. Judge the results. Not the scientists. The conclusions in light of other data, not the raw data. Reanalysis of raw data and "audits" are usually the work of the lazy.
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  42. What is revealing is that the language of McIntyre's letter was obviously interpretable as a threat and that McIntyre should have taken responsibility for that. Mr. McIntyre incessently holds others to a very strict standard of being guilty even when shown to be innocent, and never accepts that others have been shown to be innocent. OTOH, what we see is careful parsing from the usual characters. The same thing that we saw with the infinitely fine parsing about whether climate scientists had received threatening Emails. The normal human response to such is to simply walk away from the nonsense being uttered about how, if in a particular light, using this dictionary, and some interpretation etc. What it really does is establish who is playing with 53 cards. This whole thing is much more revealing about McIntyre than Karoly. From Karoly's POV the logical thought is who need the agro from this clown.
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  43. If you don't trust a scientist, it doesn't matter what he says the science is, because you don't know if what he says is reliable... People are generally quite well equipped [really?!] to judge for themselves whether an excuse is plausible or not, or whether behaviour is acceptable... I'm trying to gauge Dr Karoly from his behaviour.
    It's interesting that even before I finished typing, an example of several of my points was provided. I find it extraordinary that in none of these points provided by 'dubious' was there any mention of testing the veracity of the work itself. It's this irrational and essentially ad hominem knee-jerking to the implications of human-caused global warming that underpins the necessity for a Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. I'm surprised that 'dubious' so easily admitted to his motivations, especially after it's already been explained to him that Karoly's comment about legal sabre-rattling is validly-based. Frankly, I would have thought that anyone who genuinely wanted to understand the veracity of the science would first investigate whether the science was reliable, by testing it rather than the people who conduct it.
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  44. Heh, it seems that KR and Professor Rabbet think similarly...
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  45. dubious... You're completely missing the point of what the scientific process is about. The whole point of the process is to not trust any scientist. The scientific process is there because we are all humans and ultimately our human perceptions and biases are fallible. You don't have to trust any scientist. It would be completely extraordinary if all the scientists were corrupt in exactly the same way. So extraordinary as to be functionally impossible. I always use Mike Mann's work as example. Say that everything McIntyre says of Mann's work is correct. Say Mike has completely mucked up his research. Say his statistics are crap, his proxies flipped, say he's using individual trees rather than wide samplings. Say he's gone out of his way to deliberately select proxies that show the conclusions he wants to find. Just imagine the worst of everything McIntyre says and more. Mann's results are what they are. But then, how does the scientific process work? Automatically the system is skeptical. Other scientists attempt to do similar work and see if they get similar results. If several researchers get completely different results then we know that Mann really did do an awful job like McIntyre said. Do you throw him in jail? No, scientists are allowed to be wrong because that is part of the process. Mann's reputation as a scientist would probably be irreparably harmed and he'd be unlikely to receive much more in the way of grants. He'd be marginalized as a researcher. But the exact opposite has happened. There have been nearly a dozen more multiproxy reconstructions done, all of them supporting Mann's original conclusions. My contention is that McIntyre knows all this. He knows that he can't do a reconstruction that shows anything substantively different than Mann's work and thus only spends his time attempting to undermine people's perceptions of the research. McIntyre has found that he has a very effective weapon in the creation of doubt. His work has had zero impact on the actual body of scientific research. But his work has had a great deal of impact on the broad public perception of the scientific research on global warming.
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  46. "1) If you don't trust a scientist, it doesn't matter what he says the science is, because you don't know if what he says is reliable." You do know if you can replicate their results. They may well put Attila the Hun or Bernie Madoff to shame, but that has nothing to do with the veracity of their science. Briefly on the use of "denial": Least-Cost Climatic Stabilisation. Lovins & Lovins (1990)
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  47. dubious: 1) If you don't trust a scientist, it doesn't matter what he says the science is, because you don't know if what he says is reliable. Therefore conduct is the top issue. It is absolutely the #1 issue for me. Not to trivialize, but if a bank robber tells you that Big G is 9.81 m/s2 could you test that number? What does trust have to do with your intellect? Skepticism doesn't hinge on the assumption that one is being told a lie. Doubts over a person's character and doubting the truth of something that person says are not inextricably entangled; an axiom and the person reciting it are separable. In my specific case, I was interested (my comment @11) in seeing whether Dr Karoly could support his comment that "I have just received a threat of legal action from Steve McIntyre". As I mentioned in my comment (@48), I'm trying to gauge Dr Karoly from his behaviour. You've seen it demonstrated several times in this thread how Karoly's and McIntyre's and a lawyer's (Chris McGrath, upthread) interpretation of the letter sent Karoly may all be simultaneously valid even though their conclusions are different. As you say, conduct is an important issue. Your conduct is to stubbornly imply that Karoly may have deceived himself and is in any case deceiving us, ignoring parsimony.
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  48. dubious, your approach to science is an extremely bad one, as you are abandoning a system that has shown good ability in deretmining the truth (science) for one that hasn't (rhetoric). It is a bit like saying that you will vote for a politician depending on how much you trust them, rather than on their policies, just think of where you would end up if everybody voted that way! Sorry, bad example... ;o)
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] A note to all parties: This recent turn of the discussion has at least one foot over the line of acceptability, and is teetering into the brink of mandatory moderation. No further pushing of the envelope will be permitted.

    Please compose all subsequent followup comments to very closely comply with this site's Comments Policy to ensure those comments survive any future moderation efforts.

    [DM] just to clarify, I didn't mean that dubious was engaging in rhetoric, just that ones view of the character of someone we don't personally know is very susceptible to rhetoric, and hence isn't a good basis for judgement.

  49. Without question, undeniably, replication is the essence of science. But replication is also the process of falsification - trying to prove something wrong, not trying to prove it right. (-Snip-) (-Snip-) KR: "Reanalysis of raw data and "audits" are usually the work of the lazy." The reviewers of the Gergis article (-Snip-) The first notice time anybody suggested publicly that the article did not do what it said (which was before the article was withdrawn) came from people reanalysing what raw data had been made available. People here might not consider that role to be important, but I'm happy that there are people who are willing to actually go to those efforts.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Please see the moderation reply to the comment immediately prior to this one.

    Multiple comments policy violations snipped.

  50. 134 Carrick "Also, British research it seems is going open source. Hopefully they give them the extra money needed for this." They're not. It's to come out of existing budgets. * Why the UK Should Not Heed the Finch Report
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