10 March 2010

How not to do Science

I don't like to wade into climate change too often because besides the computer modeling, which I do have experience with, that just isn't my bag. But as a scientist, any sort of scientist, this kind of thing really angers me:
Climate Sceptic | We Are Open and Honest With Everyone Who Agrees With Us

Phil Jones is now on the record saying that he doesn’t consider it normal scientific practice to share data and results with other scientists who wish to replicate his findings. [...]

Warwick Hughes makes a pretty good case that in fact Jones was quite open with his data and working papers, as long as he thought the requestor was on his side. Once he found out certain people were working to replicated and find errors in his work, those people were locked out. [...]

Stephen Mosher writes:
When it comes to deciding whether to share data or not, standards have nothing to do with the decisions Jones made and he knows that. He knows he shared confidential data with Rutherford while he denied it to McIntyre and Hughes. He knows he regarded the confidentiality of those agreements quixotically. Violating them or hiding behind them on a whim. This was scientific malpractice. Lying about that now is beyond excuse.
This is not how Science is done.  You do NOT hide your data and methods.  Period.

My very first job in Science was as a technician for Notre Dame's Computer Vision Research Lab, collecting, collating and annotating one of the largest biometrics databases of it's kind in the world.  The express purpose of doing this was so that biometrics researchers everywhere could test their theories and systems against each other on a level playing field.  That's how it's done.

There is a very real risk of climate change* that is well worth studying. These kinds of dishonest shenanigans by the most visible climate change researchers give the entire discipline a black eye.** Worse yet they besmirch the very endeavor of scientific inquiry, and make us all look like petty, politicized hacks.

(* Though it has almost nothing to do with the warming or "extreme weather" reported in the media. I am more concerned about shifting ocean currents and regional cooling.

** Reminds me of the Dan Dennett quote that Jeffrey Ellis recently reminded me of: "There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear.” Climate research isn't something I hold particularly dear, but Science as a whole is. I don't appreciate a handful of very visible practitioners besmirching the whole thing with their subjectivity and politics. Unfortunately, as Ellis pointed out yesterday in a separate post, it looks like many climate researchers are responding to this criticism by doubling down on their political posturing.)

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