Human Exceptionalism

Climategate: The Hacked Agree to Release All Data

So now the University of East Anglia, either the victim, perpetrator–or both–of Climategate, has done a “U-turn” and agreed to release raw data that it has heretofore fought assiduously to keep secret. From the story:

Leading British scientists at the University of East Anglia, who were accused of manipulating climate change data – dubbed Climategate – have agreed to publish their figures in full. The U-turn by the university follows a week of controversy after the emergence of hundreds of leaked emails, “stolen” by hackers and published online, triggered claims that the academics had massaged statistics. In a statement welcomed by climate change sceptics, the university said it would make all the data accessible as soon as possible, once its Climatic Research Unit (CRU) had negotiated its release from a range of non-publication agreements.

But they didn’t do the right thing easily:

David Holland, who describes himself as a David taking on the Goliath that is the prevailing scientific consensus, is seeking prosecutions against some of Britain’s most eminent academics for allegedly holding back information in breach of disclosure laws. Mr Holland, of Northampton, complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last week after the leaked emails included several Freedom of Information requests he had submitted to the CRU, and scientists’ private responses to them.

Within hours, a senior complaints officer in the ICO wrote back by email: “I have started to examine the issues that you have raised in your letter and I am currently liaising with colleagues in our Enforcement and Data Protection teams as to what steps to take next.” The official also promised to investigate other universities linked to the CRU, which is one of the world’s leading authorities on temperature levels and has helped to prove that man-made global warming not only exists but will have catastrophic consequences if not tackled urgently. Mr Holland is convinced the threat has been greatly exaggerated.

What is needed is the equivalent of a special prosecutor with subpoena privileges.

But it shouldn’t have come to this.  And that is part of what is so awful about this story: On a matter as important as global warming–which could lead to the enactment of policies that deconstruct our economies–the raw data should have been open and available for analysis all along. Trust was key.  Instead, we we seem to have been fed raw ideology masking as science, and hence, decisions were made to try and keep it all a deep, dark secret. This, in turn, led to profound distrust, and eventually, the hacking and publishing–wrongdoing that may have exposed science fraud on a massive scale. It’s the worst scandal since Hwang Woo-suk faked human cloning.

We have to stop this dance. Otherwise, we will have no trust in each other–and no way forward to make reasonable and rational public policy decisions.

Update: A reader sent a Sunday Times link of a story reporting that much of the data agreed to be “released” has already been destroyed From the story:

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years. The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data was supposedly tossed in the late 1980s. But since when do scientists throw away data?  I think this is a scandal that threatens to undermine the people’s trust in science itself.

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