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Politics Science

Scientists Step Down After CRU Hack Fallout 874

Posted by timothy
from the pure-indignation dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In the wake of the recent release of thousands of private files and emails after a server of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia was hacked, Prof. Phil Jones is stepping down as head of the CRU. Prof. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, is also under inquiry by Penn State University."
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Scientists Step Down After CRU Hack Fallout

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  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:18PM (#30300698)

    The fact that this story is posted under Politics says a lot about what's wrong with the global warming 'debate' IMO.

    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mveloso (325617) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:37PM (#30300942)

      The above comment shows a complete lack of understanding of how "Science" fits into reality.

      Science: eating fatty food is bad for you
      Public: f*ck off

      Science: oh, some fatty foods are good
      Public: f*ck off

      Science: oh, some fatty foods are bad, some are good, depending on you
      Public: f*ck off

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)

        You forgot government intervention :

        Science: eating fatty food is bad for you
        Government: we outlaw them all

        Science: oh, some fatty foods are good
        Government: we outlaw all other food !

        Science: oh, some fatty foods are bad, some are good, depending on you
        Government: okay, seriously ... everybody alive is breaking the law. How could this possibly happen ? People simply have no respect for the laws anymore.

        Science: ...
        Government: obviously the solution is more laws !

    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:20PM (#30301612) Journal

      It is politics, though. People are interpreting emails in their preferred context. The most publicized emails are devoid of scientific content. The actors in those emails aren't discussing the latest paper in Nature, or research methodology. They're discussing the rhetorical merits of a graph, or whether responding to a flawed study in some third rate journal gives credence to that study. The emails might be of interest to a historian of science, but it's not as if the archive is a graduate seminar in dendrochronology.

      Two caveats: I have not trawled the archive, and the leaked .zip is a bit small for ten years worth of stored email.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:23PM (#30300754)

    Your cause may be correct, but your methods damage all of science as well as your cause.

    True science should not hide data or pick data to support predefined conclusions. And dissenting papers with proper methodologies should never be suppressed. This is the only way to do science right.

    • by Wildclaw (15718) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:05PM (#30301350)

      A big problem is that most people have grave misconceptions about what science is. Even those who think they understand it, often fail to remember the truth behind the scientific method. Science is not the search for truth. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. Science is the search for what isn't true.

      The truth is invisible, so we do the next best thing. We look at everything else, and notice what isn't there as possibly being the truth. Einstein's real feat of progress wasn't that he came up with the theory of relativity. What really advanced science was that he pinpointed a weakness in the previously accepted theory of gravity.

      The problem is that most people don't like to find out that what they know is wrong. And that is a prerequisite to conducting science. Which is why it is so difficult to conduct. You have to suppress your natural instincts of control and try to let your instincts of curiosity guide you instead.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:37PM (#30301908)

        In a commencement speech at Caltech he said:

        It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now
        and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity,
        a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of
        utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if
        you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you
        think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about
        it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and
        things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other
        experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can
        tell they have been eliminated.

        Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
        given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know
        anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you
        make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then
        you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well
        as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.
        When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate
        theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that
        those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea
        for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else
        come out right, in addition.

        In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to
        help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the
        information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or
        another.

        Unfortunately, many scientists in many disciplines do not follow this. They seek to prove their theories right, and ignore that which might cast doubt on it.

  • Hockey guy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:23PM (#30300758) Homepage Journal

    Prof. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist is also under inquiry by Penn State University

    Mann? Is he the same guy who said global temperature will go up exponentially like a hockey stick unless we cap and trade right now?

    • Re:Hockey guy? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:45PM (#30301040) Homepage Journal

      Right. Same guy. Random number input into his program produced a hockey stick. I downloaded the 61MB zip file and have read most of the emails. Those are damaging in terms of exposing several issues:

      1. They manipulated the peer-review process and controlled it to the point of changing what peer-review meant, freezing out contrary authors, reviewing each others' work, getting editors fired, etc. There's a lot of that kind of manipulation revealed.

      2. They colluded to avoid the FOIA and deleted emails and threatened to delete data before they would release it under FOIA. This is illegal.

      3. They admitted to manipulating data to 'hide the decline' or 'get rid of the Medieval Warming Period.' I don't have a problem with 'trick' being used. No big deal, but 'hide the decline'? Not good.

      4. They would manipulate the data by simply not adding it, closing a run on an increase, when the subsequent data showed a decline. They seem dismayed that the last ten years shows an overall redction in temperature, at one point calling it a travesty and suggesting the data must be wrong.

      5. Because there were no thermometers 2000 years ago, they use 'proxies' such as tree rings, ice core samples, etc. However, tree ring growth can be caused by wetness and other issues, not just temperature. In ine case they 'proved; warming based on 12 trees in Siberia. When hey went back and measured many more trees, the increase disappeared.

      But the more damning evidence is in the programs themselves, including REM statements where 'hide the decline' is found numerous times, data is manually manipulated, and the programs would throw an error and keep on running.

      The code, written primarily in FORTAN and IDL, is a mess--not professional. The datasets are often missing or in poor shape. There's one 'Harry Read me' text file where poor Harry is trying to make sense of the code, over several years, and points out many of the flaws.

      So what we've got here is email and program code evidence of manipulation, very poor data, and very poor programming.

      The thing is, there are only 4 datasets in the world, two terrestrial and two satellite. There are serious problms with both terrestrial data sets. NOAA's, for example, has manually 'adjusted' data over the years as much as 500%! In other words, the observed degree difference was .1 degree C and the 'adjustment' was +.5 degrees C. You'd think the satellite data asets would be more accurate, however, they were 'calibrated' on the 'adjusted' terrestrial data sets.

      Remember Gore's CO2 graph? Probably a 95% correlation between CO2 and temperature, which he presented as proof that CO2 CAUSES global warming. Except that the CO2 increased 800 years AFTER the warming trend. In other words, warming CAUSED CO2 increases, the opposite of what he implied.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Snocone (158524)

        3. They admitted to manipulating data to 'hide the decline' or 'get rid of the Medieval Warming Period.' I don't have a problem with 'trick' being used. No big deal, but 'hide the decline'? Not good.

        Look closer. They actually *replaced* the inconveniently truthful proxy data with instrument measurements to get the fitting they wanted. That's not a 'trick'. That's plain fraud.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by w0mprat (1317953)
        Caution: Science being done badly. Whats new? Science is meant to be pristine and perfect? If climate scientists have to cook the books to get politicians to do something then it says two things. Our understanding of climate is inadequate for the questions we need to answer. That we have major major problems at a politicial level, perhaps even to the demise of civilisation.

        We've dumped a metric assload of carbon into the atmosphere and we can measure it (we have actually boosted greenhouse gases about 40
      • Re:Hockey guy? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by makomk (752139) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @04:28PM (#30302898) Journal

        1. They manipulated the peer-review process and controlled it to the point of changing what peer-review meant, freezing out contrary authors, reviewing each others' work, getting editors fired, etc. There's a lot of that kind of manipulation revealed.

        The "changing what peer review meant" was a joke - as demonstrated by the fact they did reference the two papers in the IGCC report that they were talking about what "changing what peer review meant" in order to exclude.

        2. They colluded to avoid the FOIA and deleted emails and threatened to delete data before they would release it under FOIA. This is illegal.

        As far as I can tell, they weren't serious about that, though most of the scientists do seem to be seriously fed up with dubious FOIA requests for data they can't release by people who'll just end up misinterpreting it anyway...

        3. They admitted to manipulating data to 'hide the decline' or 'get rid of the Medieval Warming Period.' I don't have a problem with 'trick' being used. No big deal, but 'hide the decline'? Not good.

        Firstly, not one e-mail talked about getting rid of the Medieval Warm Period. There were e-mails talking about a bogus statement attributed to one scientist in which he said that, but that's it. (Oh, and e-mails about containing the Medieval Warm Period - as in, obtaining temperature data far back enough to cover it in its entirety...)

        Secondly, they did a really good job of "hiding the decline". Publishing about it in the very high-profile journal Nature a decade ago proved a very effective way of keeping it secret. Not. (The "decline" in question is a decline in indirect temperature measurements obtained from the density of tree cores in the high-latitude Northern hemisphere. It's a headache for reasearchers because they know based on other measurements that temperatures haven't actually declined - real cooling would be a different matter entirely...)

        4. They would manipulate the data by simply not adding it, closing a run on an increase, when the subsequent data showed a decline.

        Nope. The issue is not that the subsequent data shows a decline, but that it doesn't match up with other measurements.

        They seem dismayed that the last ten years shows an overall redction in temperature, at one point calling it a travesty and suggesting the data must be wrong.

        Hmmmm? The only thing I've seen called a travesty was the current scientific level of understanding of certain large-scale weather systems. One of the scientists was complaining that it was the coldest year on record where he was and they didn't know why.

        5. Because there were no thermometers 2000 years ago, they use 'proxies' such as tree rings, ice core samples, etc. However, tree ring growth can be caused by wetness and other issues, not just temperature. In ine case they 'proved; warming based on 12 trees in Siberia. When hey went back and measured many more trees, the increase disappeared.

        Yeah, that's a pain for researchers

        But the more damning evidence is in the programs themselves, including REM statements where 'hide the decline' is found numerous times

        All related to Briffa's work on the problem with certain tree rings as temperature measurements since 1960, from what I can tell. Yes, all of them, really. Take a look at the file names.

        data is manually manipulated, and the programs would throw an error and keep on running.

        Sounds about right for scientific code.

        There's one 'Harry Read me' text file where poor Harry is trying to make sense of the code, over several years, and points out many of the flaws.

        Yep. Some ancient legacy code base for an generating an obscure and equally legacy temperature dataset, apparently. (One that's underfunded, I suspect - it's not

  • Science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b1t r0t (216468) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:27PM (#30300818)
    Science is not done by consensus. Science is done by showing your work so that others can see it and confirm that your data and methods make sense... sort of like the Open Source process. Only instead of a few million Windows computers getting botted, our very economy is at stake from the "warmers" and their political machinations.
    • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:44PM (#30301028) Journal

      You act as if the deniers have nothing to gain from ignoring the science. No matter what the science says, everyone that has a stake in industries that produce large amounts of CO2 will tend to fight tooth and nail against anyone claiming that CO2 does any harm. Simple selfish interest.

      • Re:Science (Score:4, Interesting)

        by megamerican (1073936) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:08PM (#30301414)

        You act as if the deniers have nothing to gain from ignoring the science. No matter what the science says, everyone that has a stake in industries that produce large amounts of CO2 will tend to fight tooth and nail against anyone claiming that CO2 does any harm. Simple selfish interest.

        It's the energy companies fighting for cap and trade. Demand goes up while they aren't allowed to supply more, which makes prices rise without them having to add any more supply.

        Jones, who is stepping down had received over $22.6 million in grants since 1990.

        Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is the top shareholder of Dutch Shell Oil (how much so is a state secret) and is also the founder of the WWF. She is also an honorary member of the Club of Rome, which has pushed global warming as a way to scare people into world governance, funded by carbon taxes (see: First global revolution).

        All of the top beaurocrats pushing global warming (al gore, maurice strong, etc...) are heavily invested in carbon trading exchanges.

        I have yet to see the "deniers" be as heavily involved in money making schemes as the "alarmists."

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:31PM (#30300858)

    I prefer the term Warmaquiddick.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:33PM (#30300894)
    Impropriety.
  • Great, just great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:40PM (#30300978) Homepage
    So now we have hard working scientists who have their lives disrupted over this idiocy. This whole matter has been completely overblown. So people ranted and sent intemperate emails on a private mailing list? Wow. Newsflash: Scientists are not vulcans. The only thing that's even more shocking is the email where using a standard statistical technique is referred to as a "trick." If this is the grand conspiracy, it has to be the most pathetic grand conspiracy I've ever seen. A private mailing list of a few scientists that was mostly used productively and with an occasional whiny email or rant simply isn't that big a deal. People backbiting and such is really common. Welcome to academia.
    • by luzr (896024) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:19PM (#30301584)
      Deleting 30 years of inconvinient data and replacing it with something else is now considered the "standard statistical technique"?

      See, nobody disputes that instrumental records for past 30 years are more accurate than data obtained by proxy. Anyway, if there is such a divergence of proxy data and instrumental record (proxy data pointing downwards), it casts serious doubts about validity of proxy data of the past.

      Also, it means that to show the hockey stick, you in fact do not need care about proxy data too much. Instrumental record will make the right shape even if you feed anything before with noise.

      I guess that the most important issue in Mann's and Briffa reconstruction is that MWP was downplayed and current warming thus became "unprecedented". Which is exactly what you get if you choose noisy unreliable proxy data, and 'stick' real temperature records where it fits...

      If you see any flaws in this analysis of "trick to hide the decline", I would be glad to hear your objections.

  • Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:41PM (#30300982)

    Glad to see the cat finally coming out of the bag.
    The reason this is under "Politics" is because, like it or not, this has become a political debate.
    The science was thrown out long ago, as the emails prove.

    The Earth undergoes cycles of climate change. We(humans) have a minimal affect on it.
    We were not around for any of the previous hot or cold times, and they will continue to happen long after we're gone. To deny this is to deny historical fact.

    The debate is indeed over. The proof is written in the stone, or the ice, as it were. ;-)

    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ejtttje (673126) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:10PM (#30301440) Homepage
      Just because climate changes occurred before humanity existed doesn't mean we can't cause changes as well, or that we shouldn't be concerned and mitigate future changes regardless of whether we are the original trigger.

      Our industrial processes are massive. Pretending that this has no effect on the environment or that we shouldn't care about the environment is willfully short sighted.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cdrguru (88047)

        Call me when you can either (a) prevent or (b) cause an iceberg melting.

        The energies involved are trivial compared to the energies stored in the oceans that affect the climate. It is possible, but not proven, that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is increasing the energy stored in the ocean system.

        What is certain is that slowing the rate of addition of CO2 will do nothing. Except cause a major shift in political and economic power. You want real change? How about doing something real that would actually red

  • TEMPORARILY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:42PM (#30301006) Homepage Journal

    Even the WSJ article they linked to included the key word "temporarily". They relegated it to the subtitle, but it was there. (The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch, also owner of Fox News, can be assumed to to take the climate-denialist position on everything.)

    Temporarily stepping down is very different from an admission of guilt. It can be a way of allowing work to go on while investigations are under way, when a controversial figure attracts so much attention as to detract from the real work.

    Maybe there are some real failures here, for which the guy does deserve to be removed from his job, but so much of what I've read about the hacked emails is hyped and deliberately misinterpreted that I'm unimpressed by this incident.

    • (The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch, also owner of Fox News, can be assumed to to take the climate-denialist position on everything.)

      I guess you never watch the Simpsons, Family Guy or any of the other shows on Murdoch's other "channel" (also called Fox) which routinely make fun of everything right of center, including Fox News.

      Yeah, what I thought. Rupert Murdoch is evil, because of Fox News, but Rupert Murdoch is cool because of Fox.

      Let me know when your head starts to explode.

    • Re:TEMPORARILY (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:13PM (#30301494) Journal

      The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch, also owner of Fox News, can be assumed to to take the climate-denialist position on everything.

      See, this is the attitude I can't stand. Why do you feel the need to divide everything into believers and denialists? It isn't 'us' against 'them.' That's not scientific in any way.

      What I've seen from the Wall Street Journal seems to be more of a skeptical viewpoint.....they want to see the evidence before they choose one side or the other. As a financial periodical, the WSJ lives and dies by the quality of the information it provides, information that is often immediately testable (if I read that there is an oil embargo in some country, and based on that information invest in oil, only to find out later the information was wrong, I'm not going to be very happy). Is it really unreasonable to demand from scientists that their results also be testable and verifiable? That is how science should be done.

  • by whatthef*ck (215929) * on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:05PM (#30301368) Homepage

    Remember Ike's warning about the Military-Industrial Complex? In that same speech, he also said:

    the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    (http://www.h-net.org/~hst306/documents/indust.html)

    Think about that the next time someone tries to discredit research because it was funded by an oil company.

    Ike's warning has been borne out. Public policy has become the captive of a scientific-technological elite, who, unsurprisingly, are a bunch of dishonest frauds.

  • by jayme0227 (1558821) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @03:36PM (#30301898) Journal

    Obviously there is plenty of monetary motivation to deny AGW, but what is the motivation to fabricate it? I just don't see it. At best you could say that these scientists were duped into believing that AGW was real and, now that they know the "truth," are trying to hide that they were wrong, but this is far from compelling considering the sheer number of scientists involved all trying to dupe each other.

    What am I missing?

    • by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @06:07PM (#30304736) Journal

      You're missing the simple human motivation of power.

      Why did Rachel Carson blame DDT when ALL the subsequent testing showed that it wasn't DDT that caused eggshell thinning, etc.?

      Why have enviromental alarmists previously cried that we're all going to die from:
      - too much cold
      - too much heat
      - running out of food
      - running out of oil
      - running out of clean water
      - all the wild animals going extinct
      - running out of landfill space
      - PCBs
      - mercury
      - lead
      - acid rain
      - nuclear power
      - coal power
      - overpopulation
      ?
      CONTROL.

      Of course, Gore himself WAS likely just in it for the money, he's well on the way to being the world's top magnate with his fingers in every carbon-trading scheme.

  • by Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @04:11PM (#30302622)

    AGW isn't science, but neither is the competing movement of skeptics. This is all just politics, and the whole thing is awful, and everyone parading around with glee over this controversy is just as guilty of politicizing matters as the people they're lambasting. It's impossible to do proper science when both sides of the argument have become moralistic crusades, and the tainting influence of politics has basically made the entire subject a mish-mash of lies and nonsense on both sides of the equation.

    Neither pride nor gloating have any place in science. Global warming needs to be evaluated solely on the evidence. Skepticism should be applauded wherever it's found, but the entire global warming debate has devolved into nothing but gross factionalism.

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