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A Petition I Am Thinking of Circulating

December 12th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m not sure how to get this going, but I’d like to have lots of economists sign a petition on ClimateGate. We scholars are in danger of losing a lot of our moral capital because of our tolerance of bad behavior, and I think we’d end up with the public thinking we’re much less scholarly than we really are— at least we in economics, and, I hope, every field but climatology.

I’m not going to the American Economic Association meeting in Atlanta in January, but maybe I’ll find somebody who is who is willing to sit in a hotel lobby with a petition for people to sign. Volunteers, and comments on the draft below, are welcome, especially comments from anyone who is a strong believer in both global warming and good scholarly practices.

In the November 2009 “ClimateGate” emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia certain climatologists casually discuss suppressing other people’s research and thwarting efforts to obtain the data and computer code used in published articles. This has hurt the reputation not only of those scholars but of climatology, science, and peer-reviewed scholarship generally. Unless scholars speak out, there is a danger that the public will believe bad behavior is routine in every field of research. The danger is all the greater because even some scholars not implicated have defended the emails as routine behavior or as unimportant.

We, the undersigned Ph.D. economists, wish to inform the public that we condemn those practices. Any economist writing the ClimateGate emails that we quote below would immediately lose the respect of his colleagues, regardless of their political views. We are making no statement about climate change science or policy when we say this. Few if any of we who sign have expertise in the science of global warming. Economists do have much to say about the costs and benefits of various climate policies, and our debates can be found elsewhere. What matters here is that in economics, requests for one’s data and computer code are considered compliments to the importance of one’s work and are routinely satisfied, whether the other scholar is trying to extend the results or refute them.

Authors are expected to make replication convenient even on controversial topics. John Lott’s work on gun control and John Donohue and Steven Levitt’s on abortion provide good examples of authors providing data to people they knew were seeking to find flaws in their work. The
American Economic Review requires data to be made conveniently available unless special circumstances require confidentiality. The policy at http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data.php, says:

“All data used in analysis must be clearly and precisely documented.
All data used in analysis must be made available to any researcher for purposes of replication. See Data Availability Policy.
Any requests for an exemption from the data availability policy must be made in the cover letter when the paper is first submitted. “

We are making a statement about economics, not climatology. We do not know whether the ClimateGate practices are common in that field or not, or even whether some extenuating circumstances exist. Rather, we wish to say that we find the specific emails listed on the attached page appalling and shameful.

Signatures in alphabetical order (with affiliations for identification only)

Jane Doe (Ministry of Governmental Affairs, Wherisitstan)
John Doe (Big Research Institute)
John Smith (Random University)

[put signatures in two or three columns]

[NEWPAGE]

The ClimateGate emails, available in searchable form at http://www.climate-gate.org, include the following statements. Boldfacing is added to aid the reader in skimming them.

  1. [January 20, 2005] Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers [the editor of Geophysical Research Letters] is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU [American Geophysical Union] channels to get him ousted. Even this would be difficult.
  2. [January 21, 2005] Yeah, basically this is just a heads up to people that something might be up here. What a shame that would be. It’s one thing to lose “Climate Research”. We can’t afford to lose GRL [Geophysical Research Letters]. I think it would be useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ both Saiers [the GRL biogeosciences editor] and potentially Mackwell (I don’t know him–he would seem to be complicit w/ what is going on here).

    If there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it could be taken through the proper channels. I don’t that the entire AGU [American Geophysical Union] hierarchy has yet been compromised!

  3. [November 15, 2005] I suspect that this is the first in a line of attacks (I’m sure Tom C is next in line) that will ultimately get “published” one way or another. The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there, [Prof. Saiers was removed from handling sumbissions responding to the MM paper, and one response he’d rejected was unrejected] but these guys always have “Climate Research” and “Energy and Environment”, and will go there if necessary.

    FOOTNOTE–LINK TO ANOTHER FILE:

    Prof. Saiers says

    “This paper caused a bit of a stir and because I oversaw the peer review of this paper, I assume that Wigley inferred (incorrectly) that I was a climate-change skeptic. I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term, long after the excitement over the McIntyre and McKitrick paper had passed. My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.” His vitae says: “2004 – 2006 Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor, Geophysical Research Letters“.

    Saiers indeed remained as Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor but:

    “It was announced that the editor in chief of Geophysical Research Letters, Jay Famiglietti, had taken over the file for the McIntyre paper and its responses. This was justified he claimed, because of the high number of responses – four – that the McIntyre paper had received. That two of those responses had been rejected and were no longer in play was not mentioned. The reason for the change quickly became apparent though when, at the end of September, the rejected response from David Ritson turned out not only to have been re-submitted but had also been accepted for publication. This was another clear breach of the journal’s rules, which required that an article’s author should be able to comment on responses before they were accepted. Famiglietti however refused to make any on-the-record comments about why he behaved as he did.”

    END OF FOOTNOTE

  4. This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the
    “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal!

    So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a
    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate
    research community to no longer
    submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also
    need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently
    sit on the editorial board…

  5. I think the skeptics will use this paper to their own ends and it will set paleo back a number of years if it goes unchallenged. I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.

  6. Tim Osborn has just come across this. Best to ignore probably, so don’t let it spoil your day. I’ve not looked at it yet. It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice!

    I have learned one thing. This is that the reviewer who said they were too busy was Ray. I have been saying this to loads of papers recently (something Tom(w) can vouch for). It is clear from the differences between CR and the ERE piece that the other 4 reviewers did not say much, so a negative review was likely to be partly ignored, and the article would still have come out. I say this as this might come out if things get nasty. De Freitas will not say to Hans von Storch or to Clare Goodess who the 4 reviewers were. I believe his paleoclimatologist is likely to be Anthony Fowler, who does dendro at Auckland.

  7. Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [the RealClimate.org website] any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.
  8. Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it!
  9. I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people.
  10. I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!
  11. Options appear to be:
    1. Send them the data.

    2. Send them a subset removing station data from some of the countries who made us pay in the normals papers of Hulme et al. (1990s) and also any number that David can remember. This should also omit some other countries like (Australia, NZ, Canada, Antarctica). Also could extract some of the sources that Anders added in (31-38 source codes in J&M 2003). Also should remove many of the early stations that we coded up in the 1980s.
    3. Send them the raw data as is, by reconstructing it from GHCN. How could this be done? Replace all stations where the WMO ID agrees with what is in GHCN. This would be the raw data, but it would annoy them.

  12. The next puzzle is why Wei-Chyung didn’t make the hard copy information
    available. Either it does not exist, or he thought it was too much
    trouble to access and copy. My guess is that it does not exist
    — if it
    did then why was it not in the DOE report? In support of this, it seems
    that there are other papers from 1991 and 1997 that show that the data
    do not exist. What are these papers? Do they really show this?

    Now my views. (1) I have always thought W-C W was a rather sloppy
    scientist. I therefore would not be surprised if he screwed up here.
    But
    ITEM X is in both the W-C W and Jones et al. papers — so where does it
    come from first? Were you taking W-C W on trust?

    (2) It also seems to me that the University at Albany has screwed up. To
    accept a complaint from Keenan and not refer directly to the complaint
    and the complainant in its report really is asking for trouble.

    (3) At the very start it seems this could have been easily dispatched.
    ITEM X really should have been …

    “Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories
    and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any,
    changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”

    —–

    I realise that Keenan is just a trouble maker and out to waste time, so
    I apologize for continuing to waste your time on this, Phil.
    However, I
    *am* concerned because all this happened under my watch as Director of
    CRU and, although this is unlikely, the buck eventually should stop with me.

  13. PS to Gavin – been following (sporadically) the CA stuff about the
    GISS data and
    release of the code etc by Jim. May take some of the pressure of you
    soon, by releasing a list of the stations we use – just a list, no code
    and no data. Have agreed to under the FOIA here in the UK.

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