Like many, I have been astonished by the breaches of good scientific practice uncovered by the Climategate emails. But to my mind, the end goal here is not to punish those involved but to
- Enforce good data and code archiving practices. Our goal should be that no FOIA is necessary to get the information needed to replicate a published study
- Create an openness to scrutiny and replication which human nature resists, but generally exists in most non-climate sciences.
I worry that over the last few months, with the Virginia FOIA inquiry and the recent investigations of Michael Mann, skeptic’s focus has shifted to trying to take out their frustration with and disdain for Michael Mann in the form of getting him rung up on charges. I fear the urge to mount Mann’s head in their trophy case is distracting folks from what the real goals here should be.
I know those in academia like to pretend they are not, but professors at state schools or who are doing research with government money are just as much government employees as anyone in the DMV or post office. And as such, their attempts to evade scrutiny or hide information irritate the hell out of me. But I would happily give the whole Jones/Mann/Briffa et all Climategate gang a blanket pardon in exchange for some better ground rules in climate science going forward.
Skeptics are rightly frustrated with the politicization of science and the awful personal attacks skeptics get when alarmists try to avoid debate on the science. But the correct response here is to take the high ground, NOT to up the stakes in the politicization game by bringing academics we think to be incorrect up on charges. I am warning all of you, this is a bad, bad precedent.
Postscript: I now your response already — there are good and valid legal reasons for charging Mann, here are the statutes he broke, etc. I don’t disagree. But here is my point — the precedent we set here will not be remembered as an academic brought down for malfeasance. It will be remembered as an academic brought down by folks who disagreed with his scientific findings. You may think that unfair, but that is the way the media works. The media is not on the skeptic side, and even if it were neutral, it is always biased to the more sensational story line.