The Heart of the Scandal

Free speech and transparency are meaningless unless they apply to the critics of the government as well as to its supporters.  Here is the heart of the scandal:

Wei-Chyung and Tom,

1. Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.
2. Had an email from David Jones of BMRC, Melbourne. [EMAIL NOT FOUND IN CRU EMAILS – Willis] He said they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA, as there are threads on it about Australian sites.
3. CA is in dispute with IPCC (Susan Solomon and Martin Manning) about the availability of the responses to reviewer’s at the various stages of the AR4 drafts. They are most interested here re Ch 6 on paleo.
Phil [Phil Jones, head of the University of East Anglia CRU]

Climate Audit is a site dedicated to science.  You will seldom see any political polemic there, even in the comments.  Unlike sites like RealClimate, dissenting voices are not edited out of the comments.  And it is a site that has dedicated itself (thus the title) to backchecking, verifying, and attempting to replicate various climate studies, particularly historic temperature records and paleo-climatology work.

Essentially, Phil Jones is saying that, as a government official, he is going to ignore legal information requests under FOIA from certain groups that seek to hold him accountable — information requests, I might add, that should not have even been necessary in the first place by any reasonable rules of scientific openness.

Update: You really have to read the whole long post above.  It is a story of the CRU trying to stay one step ahead of those who want to make them accountable, as most scientists are to replication efforts.   One approach they took that really requires chutzpah – in response to the constant CRU stonewalling, more and more people began pinging them with FOIA’s.  Remember, this deluge of FOIA’s was only necessary due to the CRU’s constant stonewalling.  Their next tactic – use the volume of FOIA’s as evidence that it is somehow a concerted attack and therefore can be ignored:

I’ve saved all three threads as they now stand. No time to read all the comments, but I did note in “Fortress Met Office” that someone has provided a link to a website that helps you to submit FOI requests to UK public institutions, and subsequently someone has made a further FOI request to Met Office and someone else made one to DEFRA. If it turns into an organised campaign designed more to inconvenience us than to obtain useful information, then we may be able to decline all related requests without spending ages on considering them. Worth looking out for evidence of such an organised campaign

Update #2: I am curious how many other scientific fields support this attitude towards defending and replication one’s work

Dear Tom,

One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested. But had I acceded to McIntyre’s initial request for climate model data, I’m convinced (based on the past experiences of Mike Mann, Phil, and Gavin) that I would have spent years of my scientific career dealing with demands for further explanations,
additional data, Fortran code, etc. (Phil has been complying with FOIA requests from McIntyre and his cronies for over two years). And if I ever denied a single request for further information, McIntyre would have rubbed his hands gleefully and written: “You see – he’s guilty as charged!” on his website.

You and I have spent over a decade of our scientific careers on the MSU issue, Tom. During much of that time, we’ve had to do science in “reactive mode”, responding to the latest outrageous claims and inept science by John Christy, David Douglass, or S. Fred Singer. For the remainder of my scientific career, I’d like to dictate my own research agenda. I don’t want that agenda driven by the constant need to respond to Christy, Douglass, and Singer. And I certainly don’t want to spend years of my life interacting
with the likes of Steven McIntyre.

I hope LLNL management will provide me with their full support. If they do not, I’m fully prepared to seek employment elsewhere.

With best regards,
Ben [Ben Santer]

7 thoughts on “The Heart of the Scandal”

  1. “Essentially, Phil Jones is saying that, as a government official,..”: he doesn’t appear to be a government official. He appears to be a university employee.

  2. “…they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA,…”
    What do they mean by this? There are several regular ‘big names’ at CA and I guess these are the ones they are looking out for, but do they keep a list of CA posters who use their real names? As someone who as infrequently posted at CA under my real name (since not working in the climate field) would I be picked up as someone to ignore?

  3. Working in a field that literally affects the fate of civilization on this planet these scientists feel that having an outsider check their work is too much of a burden?

  4. Disclaimer – I am not a professional scientist and I’m not working on anything that even resembles The End of the World.

    And yet if I had to turn over any of the stuff I work on for audit purposes, I could do so and be done with it. It’s organized and coherent. Any reasonable person with comparable expertise in my field could look at it and go “OK, I see what’s going on.” If I got hit by a truck tomorrow, the people dependent on me would be OK.

    So how on Earth are we supposed to trust trillions of dollars of economic activity to a bunch of people whose work is – by their own insistence – so disorganized and opaque? To people who, if CRU’s “the dog ate my data” statements are correct, can’t even replicate their own work?

    The science aside, based on the attitudes shown in these e-mails I wouldn’t trust these guys with $1,000, let alone the amounts of money they’re given to do research and the massive global implications of their findings. It’s really breathtaking how badly screwed up this situation is.

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