Oh, those poor dears …

Science News reports on a problem. Climate science: Credibility at risk, scientists say . “events have marred the reputations of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and perhaps science generally.”

The “Climate-gate emails” and concerns over Himalayan glacial-melt data in a 2007 IPCC report together served as “sort of a wake-up call,” McCarthy said. But a wake-up call that he and others initially all but ignored.

Why ignored? In part it may be that they don’t understand what it is that is actually causing a problem. The ‘community’ only saw some “bumbling behavior by well meaning, if overworked, scientists.” The brouhaha was blamed on people who were not grounded in science, especially climate science. The problem is seen as a PR problem. That perception in the climate research community may be changing but that change is taking its time and it will take its toll.

Procedures exist to minimize the likelihood that weak or unvetted data are used or that their strength is exaggerated. External reviewers are supposed to pore over the details and point to questionable statements or data. And in the case of the Himalayan glacier-melt statements, McCarthy said that the reviewers did highlight apparent problems. These challenges were simply ignored.

Not only was there the attempt to ignore problems, there were also behaviors closer to the problem.

Sharp argued that “openness, transparency and collective scrutiny of data are the best ways to ensure that errors or fraud are discovered and corrected.” … Without openness in the collection and handling of data, Sharp said, people will have no way of ensuring the accuracy or validity of data. But access requires more than just handing over collections of numbers, computer files or photos. Sharp said it may also require providing “metadata” – ancillary information, such as precise descriptions of the equipment used to collect data, the computer programs used to process information, or the filters used to enhance or extract information.

That, in turn, gets its rationalizations.

Indeed, Cicerone charged, some climate scientists “are now receiving requests that are bordering on harassment.” They’re being asked, he said, for all of the data that went into a publication, sometimes in addition to all data analyses, all equations used in interpretations, detailed descriptions of all statistical techniques, all computer programs used – even access to any physical samples. These are fishing expeditions. And the demands they make, he said, often “are simply not feasible or are too costly.”

Oh, the poor dears! They are being asked to come clean with what the basic values of science says should be on the surface. This is much like a science student being asked to turn in his lab notebook and expecting credibility with a ‘my dog ate it’ excuse. What does the teacher do when the student starts making accusations of “harassment” because the teacher expects the student to meet basic requirements? These guys are professors. They should be setting the example of the right way to do it, not the way students use to avoid responsibility for their actions.

So. What now? Well, let’s do another “climate-integrity summit where the research community rolls out an action plan.” Note the irony. The focus isn’t on transparency, fixing problems with data, resolving questions, and other standard science stuff, it is on creating a panel to study the PR problem. The time that such diversions could calm the public may have changed. It may just be that a tide is turning and the expectation for proper science is becoming impatient.

Overworked? For those billions in government grant money? Harassed? just because they are asked to show their work? — oh those poor dears, they suffer so much …

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