Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Professor Dawkins Was Not Available For Comment

Uber geek Paul Nurse has decided that the real problem with British science is that the public won't just shut up and take it all on faith.

Curiously enough, FoI requests and all, they still manage to bang in plenty of requests for taxpayers' money and press releases announcing that school vouchers cause cancer.

On the plus side, at least his complaints about 'FoI Aggression' have neatly laid to rest the myth that scientists are a bunch of whiny wimps. Maybe we need some research into why people don't trust geeks? After all, what could possibly be wrong with this:
Nurse said that scientists were not blameless. At the University of East Anglia, they were too defensive in their responses to freedom of information requests over climate change, but their experience was one among many that highlighted a need for better training for scientists in the most appropriate way to respond to information requests.
Curiously though, it takes a commenter called randstead to point out the problem with that little theory:
One small but not important point , Phil Jones planned to avoid FOI requests , BEFORE he got a single one...

Now lets talk numbers UEA received just six FOI requests between January 2005 when the act was introduced, and January 2009, while in 2009 it received 97 FOI requests 59 from people asking or information on contracts between the UEA and the foreign met offices they said were preventing publication of the data, remember CRU's claims on this front mostly fall apart once investigated.
These number are tiny in real terms , while its only from FOI requests that we learned that the research papers reviewed in the investigation of CRU where not selected by the RS as claimed but by UEA , that the head of the one review never actual did any interviews , that for one review there is no accurate record of what question where asked nor what the answers are...

Another commenter, conflation, includes the full text of one e-mail:
Phil Jones wrote: Mike, I presume congratulations are in order - so congrats etc ! 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 !
In other words, geek face card Paul Nurse writes an article calling for people to take scientist's public pronouncements on faith, while utterly misrepresenting his opponents in the self-same article.

That's Clue Number Two right there. For all the talk of diversity, there's apparently no one around to tell Nurse that his point is absurd. Scientists are disinterested seekers after truth, but it just so happens that their personnel rosters are exactly the same as you get if they were enforcing an ideological blacklist.

All of which is the real message of Climategate. What's wrong with British science isn't just that there's a lot of corruption, it's that corruption has become the new normal, with supposed thought leaders like Nurse on hand to denounce anyone who doesn't accept senior scientists threatening to delete inconvenient data as a perfectly normal practice.

1 comment:

Rob said...

The uber-annoying thing is that increasingly scientists are relying on two basic logical fallacies, the sort of stuff children used to be taught against:

1) correlation does not imply causation.

2) argument from authority. I'm a scientist so you must be wrong. The ironies of this one are that if you are on the 'right' side then you are an expert in every scientific discipline imaginable, and also that those who use the fallacy the most, environmental correspondents in the statist media, are all arts graduates and barely understand how electricity works.