Bad Idea

From Virginia:

No one can accuse Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of shying from controversy. In his first four months in office, Cuccinelli  directed public universities to remove sexual orientation from their anti-discrimination policies, attacked the Environmental Protection Agency, and filed a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform. Now, it appears, he may be preparing a legal assault on an embattled proponent of global warming theory who used to teach at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann.

In papers sent to UVA April 23, Cuccinelli’s office commands the university to produce a sweeping swath of documents relating to Mann’s receipt of nearly half a million dollars in state grant-funded climate research conducted while Mann— now director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State— was at UVA between 1999 and 2005.

If Cuccinelli succeeds in finding a smoking gun like the purloined emails that led to the international scandal dubbed Climategate, Cuccinelli could seek the return of all the research money, legal fees, and trebled damages.

Yeah, I get it that this was public money, so one can claim this is an accountability exercise, but in practice this is pure intimidation and harassment of an academic whose work one disagrees with.  Errors in Mann’s work should be dealt with through criticism and replication, not through legal actions by grandstanding politicians.

I am the last one to defend the dumb ass academic projects that government money often goes towards funding, but once granted, scientists and academics need some room to pursue truth (even incorrectly) without being harassed by elected officials.  I would have no problem with the entire state grant program being evaluated for effectiveness, or some investigation into UVA’s financial or academic controls it exercises over its research.

For skeptics cheering this on, would you be OK with Eric Holder going after, say, Roy Spencer in the same way?  Do you really think that if the guys in Virginia establish the precedent, the Chicago-trained folks in the White House aren’t willing and able to go one better?

Update: This seems a more productive approach.  Why not go after the University for its data sharing practices on publicly funded studies, rather than try to go after a scientist one disagrees with on criminal charges.  If we tried every academic for not fully disclosing data potentially contradictory to their pet theory, we would empty out the universities.  We handle these issues by replication and challenge by other academics.  Therefore, the better approach is to focus on release of data required to do the replication and verification.

68 thoughts on “Bad Idea

  1. Charles Higley

    I think the point should not be missed that, although the validity of science is determined by the ability of others to test and verify, it is also illegal to defraud anybody by producing knowingly false data and results. Thus, the selection of data, a lack of impartiality, hiding of undesired data, and using spurious non-applicable programming to process data, is fraud – when this fraud involves large sums of other people’s money (tax money) it is definitely criminal fraud and should be prosecuted.

    So, when the science is shown to be fraudulent, the government should step in next, prove malfeasance, and demand it’s money back.

  2. papertiger

    “Um…yes really. Are you honestly suggesting that the thousands of pages of IPCC literature is based on…Mann? And who repudiated what? McIntyre and McKitrick have themselves been repudiated. ”

    I originally said, “And the IPCC has never repudiated or removed Mann’s graph.”

    Nothing quite as persuasive as independent confirmation from a hostile witness. Thanks Waldkitty.

    “Actually, let’s take a look at Real Climate and what they say about this very debate”

    That’s kind of like asking Nixon if he’s a crook. Sure enough Real Climate flashes us the double “V” for victory.
    In the meanwhile there is a world of evidence, historical and empiracle, that there was a MWP that was warmer then present, which make those tree ring proxies worthless, no matter how many you stack on the pile.

  3. Waldross

    ****”In the meanwhile there is a world of evidence”

    Share it. Let’s see where this evidence comes from. You cited CS upstairs and I cited Real Climate. You cited a guy who is a public park manager who writes an itinerant blog; I cited the scientists who actually work on climate science. Mr. Meyer flashed his “V” sign first; I simply posted what Mr. Meyer was responding to so we could judge it fairly.

    But this is rather well said:

    ****”Nothing quite as persuasive as independent confirmation from a hostile witness”

    You do realize that this describes you as accurately as anyone on these boards, right Kitty?

  4. Womdering Aloud

    Good post. While I would love to see Mann publicly diecreditted because of his lousy method and anti science attitude, this action is a waste of time and money and makes him a sympathetic character.

    Saddly Waldawiki is wasting our time with his wall of pure bs text. If you think the “Hockey Stick” has not been totally discredited than you need to take a stats course. Until you do you look very foolish.

  5. JP

    “This is a witch hunt of sorts, or at best political The claims of McIntyre and McKitrick, which hold that the “Hockey-Stick” shape of the MBH98 reconstruction is an artifact of the use of series with infilled data and the convention by which certain networks of proxy data were represented in a Principal Components Analysis (“PCA”), are readily seen to be false , as detailed in a response by Mann and colleagues to their rejected Nature criticism demonstrating that (1) the Mann et al (1998) reconstruction is robust with respect to the elimination of any data that were infilled in the original analysis, (2) the main features of the Mann et al (1998) reconstruction are entirely insensitive to whether or not proxy data networks are represented by PCA, (3) the putative ‘correction’ by McIntyre and McKitrick, which argues for anomalous 15th century warmth (in contradiction to all other known reconstructions), is an artifact of the censoring by the authors of key proxy data in the original Mann et al (1998) dataset, and finally, (4) Unlike the original Mann et al (1998) reconstruction, the so-called ‘correction’ by McIntyre and McKitrick fails statistical verification exercises, rendering it statistically meaningless and unworthy of discussion in the legitimate scientific literature.”

    You realy should learn statistics instead of cutting and pasting your citations from Tammino and RC. Mann’s PCAs are such old news that no one climate scientist with any standing uses them. And Dr Wegman (one of the primier statistical theorists in the world) critique was enough to sink MBH9x and subsequent work. And most of M&m’s critique of MBH9x (from a purely statistical point of view) went unanswered by Mann. The divergence problem alone sunk Mann, and his choice of proxies (notably the Foxtail Bristlecone) did the rest.

  6. JP

    Waldo,

    Here’s a homework assignment for you: Remove the Foxtail Bristlecone from Mann’s PCA as well as the Yamal series; next tell us what you come up with. And please, do not tell us that the Bristlecone proxy teleconnects to ENSO.

  7. WaldtigerBurningBright

    Ah, thank you Paper Tiger Burning Bright in the Forest of the Night!

    My favorite thing to do here is to see where the CS tribe gets its own appeals to authority from. So I began looking up the sources of your graphics. Of course, C3 is as absolutely biased as any source one would ever find, but for some reason this does not bother you, papercat, while you seem very concerned with the idea that Real Climate is playing dirty pool. Or do you believe you and the tribe here are being objective?

    I started with the first C3 graphic and worked my way down. There are a lot so it will take me a while to go through all the URLs, but what price knowledge, right? I mean, we want to make sure the people giving us information we base our decisions on are trustworthy, know what they are talking about, and telling us the unbiased truth, am I wrong? So let’s see where your information comes from, Kittycat.

    1st graphic Lavoisier Group – an Exxon Mobile funded organization
    2nd graphic global research – a very odd “non-profit” organization with a number of conservative articles
    3rd graphic John McClean – a self-styled “Computer consultant and occasional travel photographer” who also has a global warming page
    4th graphic – unclear where this comes from – URL claims to be NOAA but does not seem to connect to anything. Quite possibly this is a NOAA graphic but the context in the original report is completely lost. As usual with the deniosphere, C3 links to other deniosphere blogs or its own self to justify the use of its own graphics. Neat trick that.
    5th graphic – unclear as above.
    6th graphic – Cliff Harris and Randy Mann, neither of whom are climate scientists but have some small background as radio meteorologists.

    So funny: when CS links to sources of information – appeals to authority, in other words – it is almost always, and I mean ALWAYS, non-scientists or people with meager science backgrounds apparently trying to cash-in on the dialogue.

  8. Waldawillie

    JP: are you so sure Mann is sunk? Or did you get that from the blog deniosphere? I ask because it is not clear that you yourself understand stats well enough to judge the infamous Stick. Perhaps you do, but it is not clear in your response above. Likewise, are you sure everyone is quite so devoted to Wegman as you seem to think – or have climate scientists fired back? Are you sure there is not legitimate criticism of M&M and Wegman?

    How do you know which group of experts to believe?

  9. papertiger

    “How do you know which group of experts to believe?”

    I can’t speak for JD, but as for me checking whomever Waldork is sucking up to, then picking the opposite, is a real time saver.

  10. NEILC

    Papertiger, these figures come from some dubious sources (a lot of blogs!) and draw some strange conclusions. I have never seen many of them before, which is actually surprising (or not) since a lot of my work in this field consists of journal research. Show us some references to peer-reviewed journals so that any debate is founded on something relevant.

  11. WaldHappyGoLucky

    ****”as for me checking whomever Waldork is sucking up to, then picking the opposite, is a real time saver.”

    Intelligent,thoughtful, and non-reactionary as always, tissuetigre. How is it I so overestimate the deniosphere?

  12. C3 Editor

    Actually, all the C3 graphs are either sourced from peer-reviewed studies and/or climate agency data. We try to make sure all the charts have the source.

    Of course, there are some sources that some people will denigrate for ad-hom reasons. An example is the lame-brain smear of the Lavoisier Group regarding the Vostok ice core chart. Fine. Download the Vostok and create your own chart in Excel using the same time period – you’ll get the same damn chart as Lavoisier presents.

    The data are the data, and most empirical evidence does not support a “hockey-stick” hypothesis, nor support the claim of “unprecedented” modern warming. We present very inconvenient, sourced data at C3, and enjoy doing so with much glee. For example, here’s our latest that most alarmists will cringe over: http://www.c3headlines.com/2010/05/climate-research-from-briffa-esper-jones-moberg-mann-all-confirm-the-extreme-medieval-warming.html

    Stay tuned, more data to be charted…whoo hoo!

    C3 Editor

  13. Wally

    Yeah, I’ve never quite understood how a supposed expert and otherwise intelligent person will simply fall back to discrediting something because they’ve never seen it (gosh maybe your lit. searches aren’t completely exhaustive?) or its a “strange” conclusion (which is just a way for you to interject your completely irrational biases).

    Neil, if you’re actually an expert in this field, I don’t think you’ve been doing a very good job of proving it.

  14. Shills

    C3 Editor,

    Are you gonna publish something in peer-review soon? Pretty sure this would do more for your cause then that ugly blog you got there.

  15. Shills

    C3 Editor,

    Sorry for sayin’ ‘ugly’. But I think Meyer’s blog is done a little nicer.

  16. WaldaWooHoo

    Well C3, if we take what you’ve posted so far I’m not sure I see information “sourced from peer-reviewed studies.” Shall we look some more?

    What I have found in the deniosphere are arrogant, self-aggrandizing, largely unfounded assertions (such as Wally’s at 11:53am) and cross-postings from other un-sourced blogs (like yours). To point this out usually causes defense anger, which could be expected, but very little of any substantive commentary other than the perennial ‘you-are-a-climate-alarmist-otherwise-you’d-agree’ tripe or the ‘this-is-open-science-therefore-I-don’t-have-to-have-a-verified-source’ rational. The ironic thing is that the deniosphere is hyper-critical of source material that comes from experts in the field. Or would would you rather take the word of a travel photographer over a climate scientist? Actually, scratch that – we know the answer.

    By the way, I don’t think anyone’s cringing over anything you post unless they happen to be a style editor.

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