Archive for the ‘academia’ Category

Intellectual and Commercial Speech: Which Is More Accurate?

October 13th, 2013 No comments

From Prof. Niall Ferguson, Krugtron the Invincible, Part III“:

On both Europe and the approach of the financial crisis, I would say that – unlike Paul Krugman – I was right more often than I was wrong. But so what? When investors and fund managers are right more often than they are wrong, they are rewarded – handsomely. When they are wrong more often than they are right, they lose money or clients, usually both. The world of public intellectuals is different. Using their academic credibility to pontificate about the future, professor-pundits can be wrong again and again without losing money or their tenured jobs. Many distinguished and lucrative careers have been based on just such a pattern of unpunished error. By the same token, the returns on being right are surprisingly low. A book sells because its prediction fits the mood of the moment. The author may get a bonus – in the form of additional sales – if he turns out to be right. But he doesn’t have to return the royalty checks if he turns out to be dead wrong.

This reminds me of Coase’s article around 1974 on the market for ideas. If a business is wrong, it loses money and customers—usually (dietary supplements are an exception). I should perhaps say, “if a business is obviously wrong.” Not so with we intellectuals.

Categories: academia, ideas Tags:

Writing and Department Names

October 5th, 2013 No comments

Journalism is being merged with Telecommunications, and they’re intending to call the new department “Media”.

Since they’re thinking of new names, it’s a good time to comment that all these names violate two basic rules of writing: 1. Shorter words are better than longer, and 2. Anglo-Saxon is better than Latin or Greek or French. “Telecommunications” is particularly bad in this respect. “Media” at least trips off the tongue, being reducible to two syllables.

So how about a “Newswriting Department” or “News” or “Writing”? It’s OK if it also includes the economics of news, the technology of news, email, etc. as subjects.

I’d also like to see English renamed Reading, and Mathematics renamed Rithmetic, but then I’m more unconventional than most professors.

(ps.– I admit that my own “Business Economics and Public Policy” department has a rotten name. Evolution has shortened it to “Bus Econ”, though.)

Categories: academia, words, writing Tags:

U. of Virginia Got Rid of Two Nobel Laureates Because They Were Conservative

September 4th, 2013 No comments

.UVA expat: How Nobel winner Coase got pushed from Charlottesville has a hugely important example of a university getting rid of professors because of their conservatism:

In 1994, Coase told this reporter how one of his UVA colleagues accidentally received a copy of a secret dossier compiled by then Dean of the Faculty Robert Harris in which Harris outlined a plan to change the economics faculty. Under then President Edgar Shannon, Harris allegedly used non-promotion and non-offer-matching to force Jefferson Center scholars to disperse. Coase left UVA for Chicago in 1964; Buchanan departed four years later.

Hoax at Oberlin: The Complicity of the Oberlin Administration and the Mainstream Media’s

August 23rd, 2013 No comments

Legal Insurrection’s “The Great Oberlin College Racism Hoax of 2013″ tells us all about how two students, one of them a leftwing activist, generated nationwide furor over racism at Oberlin. Of course, it’s amazing how every single one of these furors turns out to be by a leftwing agent provocateur. In this case, the Oberlin Administration— which, alas, means Yalie President Marvin Krislov— kept quiet about the students’ motivations, and thus were complicit in the hoax. They even called in the FBI, despite knowing who the culprits were.

When liberals claim racism is rampant in American society, I’m skeptical. There have been too many of them trying to create false evidence.

August 25: From Legal Insurrection:

“While Jack Marshall at Ethics Alarms directs this praise towards me, it applies equally to the other skeptics who smelled a rat at Oberlin (emphasis in original):

‘William Jacobson, who is a Cornell law school professor, notes in his report that he “smelled a rat” with the Oberlin story, and investigated. Why was this story only investigated by a blogging law professor? Where were the journalists? Why weren’t they—the Times, the Post, CNN, CBS, FOX, NBC—checking the facts? That it took this long for the truth to come out is an indictment of how lazy, inept and biased our journalistic establishment has become.’

`Prof. Jacobson is an Ethics Hero. This was important work, and he set out to find the truth while smug reporters slept, and gleeful pundits on the left used a false account to implicate Republicans and conservatives.’ ”

Also, it seems the Oberlin Administration has shamefully doubled down on its deception. Its web announcement says

A report issued by the Oberlin Police Department regarding racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents which occurred on the Oberlin College campus this past February and March has generated speculation on some web sites regarding the motives of the alleged perpetrators.

These actions were real. The fear and disruption they caused in our community were real. …Some commentators have suggested that the perpetrators engaged in these actions merely to provoke a reaction from our community.

As we have stated, these incidents occurred on a virtually daily basis over a period of weeks. The acts in question included racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti, flyers, and Internet postings, as well as written harassment of targeted individuals including threats of bodily harm and rape.

We take all such threats seriously and recognize that our obligation is to assure the safety of all members of our community. Many students, faculty and staff raised reasonable concerns about their security on our campus, based on these incidents and threats. Oberlin College will not tolerate an atmosphere in which people feel threatened on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, under any circumstances.”

The Administration, of course, nurtured the threatening atmosphere by its statements, actions, and silence about the liberal identity of the threateners.

Categories: academia, liberals, race Tags:

Just 1/3 of 1% of Social Psychology Scholars Are Conservatives

August 22nd, 2013 1 comment

From “Jonathan Haidt Decodes the Tribal Psychology of Politics,” January 29, 2012:

Haidt works in a field so left-wing that, when he once polled roughly 1,000 colleagues at a social-psychology conference, 80 to 90 percent classified themselves as liberal. Only three people identified as conservative.

Categories: academia, conservatives, liberals Tags:

The Typical Law Student: LSAT’s and SAT’s

August 2nd, 2013 No comments

I wrote a guest post at Taxprof recently. I wrote a long comment on the post too, which is equally worth reading.

At our law-and-econ lunch at Indiana University we talked about the Simkovic-McIntyre paper on the value of going to law school and the point that law students are a select bunch. My father, citing his experience in the Navy in 1945 and as a grand jury foreman in the 70’s, liked to say that university people don’t understand what ordinary people are like. So I looked up some facts, and here is my guess at what a typical law student is like.

He doesn’t go to Yale, or to Indiana. He goes to Albany Law School, a typical third-tier law school. Its 25th-75th LSAT scores are 149-155, a midpoint of 152.

– See more at:

Why Are the Books of the Bible Written So As To Conceal their Writers’ Identities?

July 28th, 2013 No comments

I’ve started reading Meir Sternberg’s The Poetics of Biblical Narrative after hearing about it from Professor Atwood shortly before he left for Mongolia. It’s good. In chapter 2, he shows how similarly an ancient Rabbi and a modern Bible scholar reason in trying to establish authorship. Who wrote II Samuel? Read more…

How Are Libel Laws Applied on the Web?

June 17th, 2013 No comments

Dr Cooke does not like teaching evaluation sites like Rate Your Lecturer. It’s not clear to me that these sites are a bad idea. More information about lecturer quality is good in itself; the problem is when it is misused, as student evaluations usually are by administrators in the United States, because they are too lazy to investigate actual teaching or, I fear, because the administrators really do just care about whether the students like the way a class is run. But exposing bad teaching is a good thing.

False information is clearly bad. How do the libel laws work in England? Can the victim force the website manager to divulge the names? Does the libellor have to pay your solicitor fees? If the website manager has allowed people to comment whom he cannot trace, is he himself liable? Read more…

Categories: academia, law Tags:

Teaching and Research

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Three kinds of teaching and research involve
1. Theory
2. Information

3. Practice

By Theory I mean ideas and analytic methods. By Information I mean the discovery of new facts and the dissemination of known ones. By Practice I mean application of Theory and Information to particular problems.

What universities are mostly about is Theory, in teaching and research. We also do quite a bit with Information, because sorting out what information matters involves a lot of Theory. We are not good at Practice, and should not try to do much of it, because that is what goes on in the world beyond, and we are not the best at it. We do some consulting, to be sure, and we teach our students some practical skills, but only incidentally. If you want to learn Practice or do it, you ought to be out in the action, not in the Ivory Tower.

Categories: academia Tags: , ,

Robert’s Rules at Faculty Meetings

January 6th, 2010 No comments

From Profsblawg:

On the Moneylaw blog, Tom Bell has a very interesting post reminding us to employ Robert’s Rules of Order to help keep faculty meetings from becoming ridiculous wastes of time.

Professor Bell suggests “calling the question” as a way to stop wheelspinning.

Categories: academia, agenda control Tags:

The Standard for Assistant Profs at the IU Dept. of English

January 1st, 2010 3 comments

February 1. I hear that the murder trial will be in March. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but my current plan is to delay reposting on this till Fall 2010, since emotions are likely to run high during the trial.

January 11. After thinking and talking this over, I’ve decided that I should pull the post that was here. Several commentors expressed pain and anger at what they took as an opportunistic timing of my post. Originally, I’d hoped a simple disclaimer added to the beginning of the post would soften the discussion. Now I see that wasn’t enough. I will delete the entry, and wait a couple of months before discussing the issue of whether English professors should have doctorates, by which time I hope it will not be connected with anyone’s death.

Although I understand how others could judge my post to be an opportunistic criticism of IU’s creative writing program and people of color and homosexual practice, that was not my thought or intent. Believe it or not, what I write normally has few underlying motives other than intellectual curiosity and proposals for the common good. In this case specifically, reading about Professor Belton’s death and following the links got me thinking about the nature of the faculty at Indiana Unviersity, and I went ahead and thought out loud about the matter without considering how others might be hurt by my musings. If you will be so gracious as to allow me to exchange one sin for another, my act was not heartless, but thoughtless.

And so I apologize for the timing of this post and for not responding more quickly to the pain and anger of those who knew Professor Belton. Death brings pain, and it was not my desire to add to the suffering of anyone involved in this tragedy.

I’m pulling the post out of respect for those who grieve. Thus, I’ll also be pulling quite a number of comments. I hope each commentor will understand this action. I’ve retained a download of your comments– email me if you’d like a copy of what you said.

Categories: academia Tags:

“I think of all Harvard men as sissies”

December 30th, 2009 No comments

The Yale Daily News via Pajamas Media:

The [Freshman Class Council] has decided to change the design of its shirts after the original design, which was submitted by students and voted on by the freshman class, sparked outcry from members within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. …

The original design, which won out over five other entries, displayed an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote in the front — “I think of all Harvard men as sissies” — in bold white letters. The back of the long-sleeved, navy blue T-shirt said “WE AGREE” in capital letters, with “The Game 2009” scrawled in script underneath it.

I won’t be contributing to Yale for a while, and I don’t think I’d want to send my children there. Alas!

Categories: academia, homosexuality Tags:

The Low State of English Departments

December 30th, 2009 No comments

What I find most appalling here is not that the top 20 English departments don’t have specialists in Jewish-American literature, a subject of tiny importance, but that they do have specialists in other ethnic literatures. No doubt Asian-American literature, like golf literature or science literature, is a worthy subject of study for someone or other, but to have a specialist in every department is crazy.

And of course it’s bad that he uses U.S. News & World Report as his criterion for excellence, even if he tries to backtrack with caveats.

Joshua Lambert, an assistant professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, kicked off the discussion with an analysis of the top 20 English departments (as judged by U.S. News & World Report, a source that he acknowledged was flawed, but that he used to get a group of programs at highly regarded universities). He found that at these departments, every one has at least two and typically more specialists in African-American literature. All but two have at least one scholar focused on Asian-American literature. All but five have a Latino literature expert. All but 9 have an expert in Native American literature on the faculty.Only two of the institutions have a tenure-track faculty member whose area of expertise is American Jewish literature

, he said. (The University of Michigan, where Lambert earned his doctorate, is so ahead of the pack, with seven, that someone later referred to it with admiration as a shtetl.)

Categories: academia, liberals, race Tags:

A Petition I Am Thinking of Circulating

December 12th, 2009 No 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, 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]


The ClimateGate emails, available in searchable form at, 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.


    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.”


  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 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.
    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.

Categories: academia, global warming Tags:

The Climate Research Dispute over Publishing Soon and Baliunas

December 12th, 2009 1 comment

From the very good, searchable, ClimateGate document site comes some emails I haven’t seen discussed anywhere. The bottom email is from an editor criticized for publishing Soon and Baliunas by the CRU crowd; the top email is CRU man Dr. Jones’s reaction.

Dear All,
           Keith and I have discussed the email below.  I don't want to start a discussion of
     it and I
      don't want you sending it around to anyone else, but it serves as a warning as to where
      the debate might go should the EOS piece come out.
          I think it might help Tom (W) if you are still going to write a direct response to
     CR. Some of
      de Freitas' views are interesting/novel/off the wall to say the least. I am glad that
     he doesn't
      consider himself a paleoclimatologist - the statement about the LIA having the lowest
      temperatures since the LGM. The paleo people he's talked to didn't seem to mention the
      8.2K or the 4.2/3K events - only the Holocene Optimum.  There are also some snipes at
      CRU and our funding, but we're ignoring these here. Also Mike comes in for some stick,
     so stay
      cool Mike - you're a married man now !
        So let's keep this amongst ourselves .
          I have learned one thing. This is that the reviewer who said they were too busy was
      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

     X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.1
     Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 09:29:22 +0100
     To: c.goodess@uea,phil Jones 
     From: Mike Hulme 
     Subject: Fwd: Re: Climate Research
     Clare, Phil,
     Since Clare and CRU are named in it, you may be interested in Chris de Freitas' reply to
     the publisher re. my letter to Otto Kinne.  I am not responding to this, but await a
     reply from Kinne himself.

     From: "Chris de Freitas" 
     To: Inter-Research Science Publisher 
     Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 13:45:56 +1200
     Subject: Re: Climate Research
     Priority: normal
     X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Win32 (v3.12c)
     Otto (and copied to Mike Hulme)
     I have spent a considerable amount of my time on this matter and had
     my integrity attacked in the process. I want to emphasize that the
     people leading this attack are hardly impartial observers. Mike
     himself refers to "politics" and political incitement involved. Both
     Hulme and Goodess are from the Climate Research Unit of UEA that is
     not particularly well known for impartial views on the climate change
     debate.  The CRU has a large stake in climate change research funding
     as I understand it pays the salaries of most of its staff.  I
     understand too the journalist David Appell was leaked information to
     fuel a public attack. I do not know the source
     Mike Hulme refers to the number of papers I have processed for CR
     that "have been authored by scientists who are well known for their
     opposition to the notion that humans are significantly altering
     global climate." How many can he say he has processed? I suspect the
     answer is nil. Does this mean he is biased towards scientists "who
     are well known for their support for the notion that humans are
     significantly altering global climate?
     Mike Hulme quite clearly has an axe or two to grind, and, it seems, a
     political agenda. But attacks on me of this sort challenge my
     professional integrity, not only as a CR editor, but also as an
     academic and scientist. Mike Hulme should know that I have never
     accepted any research money for climate change research, none from
     any "side" or lobby or interest group or government or industry. So I
     have no pipers to pay.
     This matter has gone too far. The critics show a lack of moral
     imagination. And the Cramer affair is dragged up over an over again.
     People quickly forget that Cramer (like Hulme and Goodess now) was
     attacking Larry Kalkstein and me for approving manuscripts, in
     Hulme's words,  "authored by scientists who are well known for their
     opposition to the notion that humans are significantly altering
     global climate."
     I would like to remind those who continually drag up the Cramer
     affair that Cramer himself was not unequivocal in his condemnation of
     Balling et al's manuscript (the one Cramer refereed and now says I
     should have not had published - and what started all this off). In
     fact, he did not even recommend that it be rejected. He stated in his
     review: "My review of the manuscript is mainly with the conclusions
     of the work. For technical assessment, I do not myself have
     sufficient experience with time series analysis of the kind presented
     by the authors." He goes on to recommend: "revise and resubmit for
     additional review". This is exactly what I did; but I did not send it
     back to him after resubmission for the very reason that he himself
     confessed to ignorance about the analytical method used.
     Am I to trundle all this out over and over again because of criticism
     from a lobbyist scientists who are, paraphrasing Hulme, "well known
     for their support for the notion that humans are significantly
     altering global climate".
     The criticisms of Soon and Baliunas (2003) CR article raised by Mike
     Hume in his 16 June 2003 email to you was not raised by the any of
     the four referees I used (but is curiously similar to points raided
     by David Appell!). Keep in mind that referees used were selected in
     consultation with a paleoclimatologist. Five referees were selected
     based on the guidance I received. All are reputable
     paleoclimatologists, respected for their expertise in reconstruction
     of past climates. None (none at all) were from what Hans and Clare
     have referred to as "the other side" or what Hulme refers to as
     people well known for their opposition to the notion that humans are
     significantly altering global climate." One of the five referees
     turned down the request to review explaining he was busy and would
     not have the time. The remaining four referees sent their detailed
     comments to me. None suggested the manuscript should be rejected. S&B
     were asked to respond to referees comments and make extensive
     alterations accordingly. This was done.
     I am no paleoclimatolgist, far from it, but have collected opinions
     from other paleoclimatologists on the S&B paper. I summarise them
     here. What I take from the S&B paper is an attempt to assess climate
     data lost from sight in the Mann proxies. For example, the raising on
     lowering of glacier equilibrium lines was the origin of the Little
     Ice Age as a concept and still seems to be a highly important proxy,
     even if a little difficult to precisely quantify.
     Using a much larger number of "proxy" indicators than Mann did, S&B
     inquired whether there was a globally detectable 50-year period of
     unusual cold in the LIA and a similarly warm era in the MWP. Further,
     they asked if these indicators, in general, would indicate that any
     similar period in the 20th century was warmer than any other era.
     S&B did not purport to do independent interpretation of climate time
     series, either through 50-year filters or otherwise. They merely
     adopt the conclusions of the cited authors and make a scorecard. It
     seems pretty evident to me that temperatures in the LIA were the
     lowest since the LGM. There are lots of peer-reviewed paleo-articles
     which assert the existence of LIA.
     Frankly, I have difficulty understanding this particular quibble.
     Some sort of averaging is necessary to establish the 'slower' trends,
     and that sort of averaging is used by every single study - they
     average to bring out the item of their interest. A million year
     average would do little to enlighten, as would detailed daily
     readings. The period must be chosen to eliminate as much of the
     'noise' as possible without degrading the longer-term signals
     As I read the S&B paper, it was a relatively arbitrary choice - and
     why shouldn't it be? It was only chosen to suppress spurious signals
     and expose the slower drift that is inherent in nature. Anyone that
     has seen curves of the last 2 million years must recognize that an
     averaging of some sort has taken place. It is not often, however,
     that the quibble is about the choice of numbers of years, or the
     exact methodology - those are chosen simply to expose 'supposedly'
     useful data which is otherwise hidden from view.
     Let me ask Mike this question. Can he give an example of any dataset
     where the S&B characterization of the source author is incorrect? (I
     am not vouching for them , merely asking.)
     S&B say that they rely on the original characterizations, not that
     they are making their own; I don't see a problem a priori on relying
     on characterizations of others or, in the present circumstances, of
     presenting a literature review. While S&B is a literature review, so
     is this section of IPCC TAR, except that the S&B review is more
     The Mann et al multi-proxy reconstruction of past temperatures has
     many problems and these have been well documented by S&B and others.
     My reading of the IPCC TAR leads me to the conclusion that Mann et al
     has been used as the basis for a number of assertions: 1. Over the
     past millennium (at least for the NH) the temperature has not varied
     significantly (except for the European/North Atlantic sector) and
     hence the climate system has little internal variability. This
     statement is supported by an analysis of model behaviour, which also
     shows little internal variability in climate models. 2. Recent global
     warming, as inferred from instrument records, is large and unusual in
     the context of the Mann et al temperature reconstruction from multi-
     proxies. 3. Because of the previous limited variability and the
     recent warming that cannot be explained by known natural forcing
     (volcanic activity and solar insolation changes) human activity is
     the likely cause of the recent global change.
     In this context, IPCC mounts a powerful case. But the case rests on
     two main foundations; the past climate has shown little variability
     and the climate models reflect the internal variability of the
     climate system. If either or both are shown to be weak or fallacious
     then the IPCC case is weakened or fails.
     S&B have examined the premise that the globally integrated
     temperature has hardly varied over the past millennium prior to the
     instrumental record. I agree it is not rocket science that they have
     performed. They have looked at the evidence provided by researchers
     to see if the trend of the temperature record of the European/North
     Atlantic sector (which is not disputed by IPCC) is reflected in
     individual records from other parts of the globe (Their three
     questions). How objective is their assessment? From a purely
     statistical viewpoint the work can be criticised. But if you took a
     purely statistical approach you probably would not have sufficient
     data to reach an unambiguous conclusion, or you could try statistical
     fiddles to combine the data and end up with erroneous results under
     the guise of statistical significance. S&B have looked at the data
     and reached the conclusion that probably the temperature record from
     other parts of the globe follows the same pattern as that of the
     European/North Atlantic sector. Of the individual proxy records that
     I have seen I would agree that this is the case. I certainly have not
     found significant regions of the NH that were cold during the
     medieval period and warm during the Little Ice Age period that are
     necessary offsets of the European/North Atlantic sector necessary to
     reach a hemispherically flat pattern as derived by Mann et al.
     S&B have put forward sufficient evidence to challenge the Mann et al
     analysis outcome and seriously weaken the IPCC assertions based on
     Mann et al. Paleo reconstruction of temperatures and the global
     pattern over the past millennium and longer remains a fertile field
     for research. It suggests that the climate system is such that a
     major temporal variation as is universally recognised for the
     European/North Atlantic region would be reflected globally and S&B
     have given support to this view.
     It is my belief that the S&B work is a sincere endeavour to find out
     whether MWP and LIA were worldwide phenomena. The historical evidence
     beyond tree ring widths is convincing in my opinion. The concept of
     "Little Ice Age" is certainly used practically by all Holocene paleo-
     climatologists, who work on oblivious to Mann's "disproof" of its
     Paleoclimatologists tell me that, for debating purposes, they are
     more inclined to draw attention to the Holocene Optimum (about 6000
     BP) as an undisputed example of climate about 1-2 deg C warmer than
     at present, and to ponder the entry and exit from the Younger Dryas
     as an example of abrupt climate change, than to get too excited about
     the Medieval Warm Period, which seems a very attenuated version.
     However, the Little Ice Age seems valid enough as a paleoclimatic
     concept. North American geologists repeatedly assert that the 19th
     century was the coldest century in North America since the LGM. To
     that extent, showing temperature increase since then is not unlike a
     mutual fund salesmen showing expected rate of return from a market
     bottom - not precisely false, but rather in the realm of sleight-of-

     Prof. Phil Jones
     Climatic Research Unit        Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
     School of Environmental Sciences    Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
     University of East Anglia
     Norwich                          Email
     NR4 7TJ
     UK ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Thomas J. Crowley
     Nicholas Professor of Earth Systems Science
     Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences
     Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
     Box 90227
     103  Old Chem Building Duke University
     Durham, NC  27708
     919-684-5833  fax

Categories: academia, global warming Tags:

Snowballs, Not Lines

December 9th, 2009 No comments

A good thought of Prof. Ribstein: (my boldface, as usual)

The best legal scholars, like the best lawyers, are those who bring a variety of tools together in responding to a legal problem. They are creative, insightful, and broad, making connections among different fields and with their other work. Their careers end up looking like snowballs rather than lines. They can use these skills to teach both lawyers and policymakers how to solve new problems.

Categories: academia, research, thinking Tags: