More Responses to the CRU E-mail Leaks

Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, responds to the leak of e-mails and other documents from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit with a statement (posted on Dot Earth).  He writes in part:

The unfortunate incident that has taken place through illegal hacking of the private communications of individual scientists only highlights the importance of I.P.C.C. procedures and practices and the thoroughness by which the Panel carries out its assessment. This thoroughness and the duration of the process followed in every assessment ensure the elimination of any possibility of omissions or distortions, intentional or accidental.

The statement does not really address the contents of the revealed documents nor adequately respond to the resulting charges.  Like those  from the CRU, this response will do little if anything to quiet the controversy.  Megan McArdle is similarly underwhelmed by Pachauri’s defense in an interview.

Meanwhile, Dr. Judith Curry has an open letter to climate researchers which, like her prior posting, is far more responsive and productive.  She writes in part:

If climate science is to uphold core research values and be credible to public, we need to respond to any critique of data or methodology that emerges from analysis by other scientists. Ignoring skeptics coming from outside the field is inappropriate; Einstein did not start his research career at Princeton, but rather at a post office. I’m not implying that climate researchers need to keep defending against the same arguments over and over again. Scientists claim that they would never get any research done if they had to continuously respond to skeptics. The counter to that argument is to make all of your data, metadata, and code openly available. Doing this will minimize the time spent responding to skeptics; try it! If anyone identifies an actual error in your data or methodology, acknowledge it and fix the problem. Doing this would keep molehills from growing into mountains that involve congressional hearings, lawyers, etc.

MIT’s Michael Schrage has more thoughts on the corrosive effect of secrecy on science.

The malice, mischief and Machiavellian manoeuvrings revealed in the illegally hacked megabytes of emails from the University of East Anglia’s prestigious Climate Research Unit, for example, offers a useful paradigm of contemporary scientific conflict. Science may be objective; scientists emphatically are not. This episode illustrates what too many universities, professional societies, and research funders have irresponsibly allowed their scientists to become. Shame on them all.

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