The IOP fiasco

The “Institute of Physics” sounds jolly reassuring; but like all such things you never quite know what they are going to say. Just recently they have been saying some very silly things indeed in their contribution to the UK parliaments feeding-frenzy over the CRU emails. So the IOP apparently thinks that worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and it goes downhill from there. It reads like a gift to the septics and it could easily have been written down to the septics dictation; indeed, it very probably was.

So the most likely scenario is that a small sub-group have got together to push this junk while the rest of the IOP (nice chaps and chapesses no doubt, but a bit dopey. If you’re an IOP person and object to being called dopey, fine, I eagerly await your personal non-dopey reaction to the IOP statement) slept.

Faced with everyone sane telling them they’ve been hijacked by wackos, the IOP has rowed back a little, but not very much. They explicitly state that The Institute’s response to the Committee inquiry was approved by its Science Board, a formal committee of the Institute with delegated authority from its trustees to oversee its policy work. It reflected our belief that… In other words, yes it may be a bit mad but we stand squarely behind it and refuse to retract a single word. Naturally enough they try to have it both ways, with The Institute’s statement, which has been published both on the Institute’s website and the Committee’s, has been interpreted by some individuals to imply that… but since they are retracting nothing, that is just pap. The “clarification” can and indeed will be read by any septic worth his salt as re-affirming the original; it is trivial to quote-mine it as such: our belief that the open exchange of data, procedures and materials is fundamental to the scientific process. From the information already in the public domain it appears that these principles have been put at risk… etc etc.

However, it looks like the Grauniad may be putting the boot into the IOP: The institute statement says its submission was approved by its science board, a formal committee of experts that oversees its policy work. The Guardian has been unable to find a member of the board that supports the submission. Two of the scientists listed as members said they had declined to comment on a draft submission prepared by the institute, because they were not climate experts and had not read the UEA emails. Others would not comment or did not respond to enquiries. An institute spokesperson said the submission was “strongly supported” by three members of the board. “All members were invited to comment. Only a few did, all concerned approved [the submission] unanimously.”

So there seems to be some hope that good old fashioned journalism may triumph here, if they persist.

Update: a non-dopey IOP person pointed out that the re-affirmation statement links to Physicists’ message to world leaders in Copenhagen and that to a nice pdf. However… that link isn’t too prominent (I know its at the top, but it isn’t in the line of flow; I missed it), but more importantly this misses the point; it appears to assume that some mature, balanced judgement of the IOP’s views is going on in the septic blogsphere and the Torygraph and whatever means of communication those funny colonial types have. That won’t happen; the IOP can say 99 positive things but only the one negative thing will be reported, as indeed we’ve just discovered. The problem is asymmetry: since we all know GW is happening and our fault (even the septics know this in their hearts) all the motherhood-and-apple-pie statements just make us glaze over: yeah yeah, I know that. All the attention goes to the one bit of wacko-dom. The only solution is to retract the wacko-dom; hopefully the IOP will back down before damaging itself too badly.

UUpdate: thanks to EW, who points out this Deltoid thread which links to Sammy’s right, man is not responsible for global warming by… Terry Jackson BSc Msc MPhil (founder of the Energy Group, Institute of Physics, London) Bangor. And reading the article there, it is clear this isn’t any balanced “true-skeptic” stuff, this is out-and-out la-la-land stuff: The total emissions of CO2 from land and sea amounts to 97% while humans contribute a mere 3%. Last summer Dr Zbigniew Jaworowski etc etc.

83 thoughts on “The IOP fiasco”

  1. Amazing that as I was commenting on another post, I thought that spelling skeptic with a k is better than with a c because sceptic can also be pronounced sep tik meaning fetid and unclean. Now, on this post the word is spelled “septic” forcing the incorrect pronunciation and possibly referring to sewage systems.


  2. The terrible performance of UEA people when questioned by MPs did harm not just to climate science, but to all science.

    The Institute of Physics was quite right to insist on total openness. It is the only way to get trust.

    [Total openess sounds excellent. And your salary and home address is…? -W]


  3. Why should the IOP pull it’s punches? If you want the denialists to gain more traction I can think of no better way of boosting them.

    Are you going to criticise the Royal Statistical Society as well?

    [The RSS statement looks far more measured and sensible -W]

    If the science behind climate change is solid, then it should withstand the normal scientific process.

    [Yes. And is it, and it does -W]

    Any special pleading will damage the science. Just because the Telegraph etc will report on this in a partisan way, does not mean that the IOP or the RSS should hold back when giving evidence. Maintain the moral high ground. Leave special pleading to quacks.

    The Register is not a denialist site, but look at their reporting of the Monday sessions. Jones and Acton do not come across well.

    [You need to recalibrate your denial-o-meter. El Rego very much is a septic site; you just need to read their coverage -W]


  4. William

    I blogged about the S&TC evidence session but hadn’t really read the IoP evidence properly until reading your post, thanks.

    To me, it reads like whoever wrote the IoP evidence statement has glanced at a few of the leaked emails but not read any of the relevant papers or understood many of the underlying issues, to use a relevant quote, this has “worrying implications arise for the integrity” of the IoP.

    I’ve been a member of the IoP for over 10 years now but I’m starting to find their stance on certain issues is a bit strange. I think I’ll get in touch with them to try and find out what they’re up to and then consider cancelling my membership – farewell ‘MInstP’!

    [The more people who ask them about this, especially membes, the better -W]


  5. The IOP statement has little to do with science and to be honest looks very much like it joins the political attacks on the CRU but under the cloak of scientific respectability.

    It seriously mis-represents how science is actually done and instead promotes an idealistic view of how science should be done as current practice.

    The CRU has been under sustained political attack for many years, to call the people conducting these attacks “scientists” is generous in the extreme.

    It’s description of the contents of the leaked e-mails is also decidedly partisan, appearing to support the denialist line wholeheartedly.

    I’m a member of the IOP, and I’m seriously considering my continued membership follow this.

    [Thanks. I looked at your blog – my that snow looks nice. Sundogs: are surprsingly common even in the UK. Look out for them, you’ll see them once a few weeks or so. But the pillar is unusual.

    Antarctica is good for this stuff: here is one from Halley: lovely: -W]


  6. I didn’t like the IOP statement but in their defense I think they were just assuming a defensive position in case the inquiry turned into a witch hunt. Many public servants are trained in arse-covering from an early age and it becomes a reflex reaction. I’m sure the members of the IOP were being supportive from a safe distance.


  7. I was an IOP member when I lived in the UK and am now a member of the Aussie equivalent.

    I wrote to complain about the UK IOP statement and I hope other members/former members do likewise.


  8. Not a climate scientist, just a physicist (and a FInstP).

    The IoP comments about openness, and (in)tolerance of criticism seem fair to me. Shouting them down and trying to discredit the organisation doesn’t exactly constitute a credible defence.

    However, I do think the IoP evidence overall is unbalanced, it shows little or no understanding of the extreme pressure the climate scientists are working under. Point 5 overstates the case in a way which doesn’t seem to be justified by anything in the emails and looks to be in contradiction with its subsequent “clarification”. It is disappointing, to say the least.

    If the evidence really was drafted by the IoP energy subgroup and submitted without input from the environmental physics subgroup that strikes me as indefensible and the IoP really needs to review its processes.


  9. I don’t understand the editorial comment, added to my comment above.

    “[Total openess sounds excellent. And your salary and home address is…? -W]”

    Are you suggesting that it is impossible to make a living in science if you are open about data and analysis methods? If so, I think that you are a serious threat to the integrity of the scientic process. It is that sort of thinking that caused much of the trouble in the first place.

    [I’m pointing out that you don’t believe in “total openness”. You believe, just like everyone else, in selective openness. But *saying* total openness is a good sound bite; it is so much better than “I think the degree of openness needs to be shifted a bit” -W]


  10. Can you close the italic tag in your uuupdate quote?
    Also, I appreciate the quick getting into the bottom of things so we don’t have to read all that crud.

    [Oops, thanks 🙂 -W]


  11. Thanks for looking into this. The submission has been flying around the blogs, with all the appearances of being written up by a denier. More to come out from this, i think.


  12. OK, let’s agree we have a theory which is backed up by the balance of evidence and scientific consensus (which is my position).

    Let’s also agree it is being attacked by a bunch of cranks and vested interests, in a politically based non-scientific campaign. (also my opinion)

    Where are you going to fight your battles?

    If you are a politician, like Gore, you fight in the political arena.

    If you are a scientist, you have to stick to the science, or you are going to get toasted by the cranks. David is perfectly correct.

    The CRU/UEA debacle proves the point that a lack of scientific openness ultimately undermines your position, even if overall you are right.

    The science needs to be clean, leave the politics up the politicians.

    [This looks muddled to me. In the scientific domain, there is no problem. The science is good. And the scientists have stuck to the science (presumably you agree that not handing confidential data to bloggers counts as sticking to science). In the political / media domain, there is a problem, because they don’t understand the science or how it is done. That isn’t the scientists problem.

    I think you will find that if someone selectively leaked and selectively quoted *your* private emails; or McI’s; or the PM’s; then you / they would look rather worse than Jones does -W]


  13. Jon@10

    A lapsed MinstP myself, distance and poverty being the cause. Still, once a physicist, always a physicist (save possibly once emeritus disease kicks in)

    On the subject of point 5, it seems to indicate either deliberate deception or incompetence from my point of view. It can only be referring to the “Divergence Problem” where recent (1960s) temperature proxies diverged from the instrumental readings. The solution to the this was to just use the instrumental record after the divergence. Not only non-controversial, but simple and sensible. A cursory look at the mails and a light investigation would have revealed this.

    Point 11 gets my goat too –

    The first of the review’s terms of reference is limited to: “…manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice…” The term ‘acceptable’ is not defined and might better be replaced with ‘objective’.

    Not defined? How the hell do you define ‘objective’ in science? There are a multitude of scientific fields, with a multitude of differing practices – ‘acceptable scientific practice’ covers this reality. ‘Objective’ reads like a sly but stupid attack – much in the nature of the “They’re not using the Scientific Method!” rubbish seen in some fora.

    I was going to post more, but SmallCasserole’s email, referenced @14 is spot-on on the other points I was going to raise.

    To be honest, this submission may be either shoddy, dishonest, or both. It reflects very poorly on an institution I was proud to be a member of. Serious action is required.


  14. BTW William, David, not even the East Anglia email thieves believe in complete openness: they obfuscated the email addresses, apparently to frustrate harvesting by spambots.

    Hilarious… like bank robbers dutifully paying the parking fee on their getaway car…


  15. be careful not to mix up the energy group of the IOP, which people have linked to sceptics, but the IOP says was not involved with the submission, and the energy sub-group of the IOP science board, which was.

    if people know who is on the energy sub-group btw, i’m keen to talk to them. the IOP aint telling

    david adam
    the guardian

    [Aha! Tis the main-stream media. Hello and welcome -W]


  16. “if people know who is on the energy sub-group btw, i’m keen to talk to them. the IOP aint telling”

    So can we not use the IOP as a good example of “total openness” then?

    Further to your point, Martin, they only published a (crudely) selected set of the emails, which also shows a rather solid lack of openness.


  17. hello and thanks!

    bigcity — no use i’m afraid. they work for the IOP as staff and were involved, but are deemed off limits to journos. the IOP is hiding behind its science board on this, but couldn’t put forward anyone yesterday from the board to defend the submission and those who i managed to reach (they are listed on the IOP website) said they hadn’t seen it or didn’t want to comment, even the chair. there is no such public list of the board’s energy sub group

    in fairness, someone may have called me today on it, though i’m not in the office. no emails though


  18. David Adam,

    Peter Main, in addition to his IOP staff duties, is also on the science board, and has also been listed as a contact for other IOP initiatives. Have you contacted him directly?

    Contacting Philip Campbell (see above comment) might also be an interesting angle.

    And while we have a member of the UK MSM here, might I suggest someone should ask who whispered the questions to the BBC’s Roger Harrabin to put to Phil Jones. My guess would be the Global Warming Policy Foundation.



  19. It’s only a matter of (little) time before this explodes. Get some popcorn and beer and lean back. And fasten your mind belts 😉


  20. Whoops! One didn’t get through!

    One of the IOP’s mysterious Energy sub-group members appears to be Peter Gill. His sceptics creds include supporting Nigel Lawson’s efforts to address the IOP.

    Ms. Duggan is mentioned here:

    Go get ’em, Mr. Adam!


  21. Also, John Roberts from Sheffield (Manager of the Immobilisation Science Laboratory) was at some point on “the IOP Science Board Energy Sub-group”.

    Ms. Duggan may have been a member of the “energy group” that D. Adam mentions.

    Sorry to spam the site, but its not letting me post links.


  22. The IOP doesn’t seem to be keen on being transparent in their own procedure, in particular on the author of the memorandum and how it was reviewed internally. Quite in contradiction to their demands in the memorandum.

    But how about this: Many board members work at UK universities, right? So one could easily submit Freedom of Information requests to release all their communication they had in relation to the IOP memorandum. Then we (or the Guardian) wouldn’t have to speculate.


  23. @foi-idea:
    I’d like to strongly, strongly advise against that. Apart from the obvious harrassment, they’d probably be denied as being “not held”. They would be considered personal e-mails not related to their work at the university. Ask Andrew Montford, who tried to get some mails from Joe Smith (and fortunately was denied).

    The energy group of the IOP has had Corbyn, Lindzen, and Jaworowski over. There’s one report on a lecture by Hansen also, but that appeared to have been a lecture organised by others. Corbyn, Lindzen, and Jaworowski…


  24. Anthony @5:

    “The Register is not a denialist site, but look at their reporting of the Monday sessions. Jones and Acton do not come across well.”

    Andrew Orlowski writes the majority of The Register’s climate stories. As can readily be seen by reading them, he is a gleefully committed AGW denier. Lewis Page, OTOH, has written a couple of more reality-based pieces.


  25. Not in my name

    There are no sources provided for the conclusions in the IOP letter, which attempts to seriously discredit people on the basis of sheer speculation and then to advocate a special agenda.

    The signed up author is Peter Main, who is I think an X-ray crystallographer at York.

    Well I can speculate too. Although he might have been chosen, because it was hoped that his judgment would not be contaminated by association with a world wide network of experts, he had a problem when this issue landed on his desk; so he went into York’s rather small branch of Waterstones and looked for the climate section. The chances are that he would have discovered a big pile of books by Nigel Lawson, with smaller piles by Lomborg and Plimer. Being in a hurry his best bet would be to pick up the thinnest and do a crash course. That hypothesis which has not yet been falsified, would explain why the contents of the letter are so familiar.

    Deconvoluter (F.Inst.P)


  26. Well, gosh. What happened at the IOP since this came out in 2005?

    Click to access file_4147.pdf

    “This paper, produced on behalf of the Institute of Physics by Professor Alan J. Thorpe, explains how predictions of future climate change are made using climate models. It is hoped that the paper will increase believability in these models and be persuasive that anthropogenic activity is likely to be causing global warming. It aims to convince policy-makers, the general public and the scientific community that the threats posed by global climate change are real.
    Professor Thorpe is currently the Director of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centres for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), based at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, where he serves as a professor in Meteorology. In April 1999 he took a two year leave of absence to become Director of the Hadley Centre at the Met Office. As of April 2005, he will take a leave of absence of four years to become Chief Executive and Deputy Chair of NERC.”


  27. David Adam@21

    It’s strange that the IoP claim the Energy Sub-group is composed of staff members only.

    I did a Google search on “sub-group” “science board” and “Institute of Physics” and found only nine hits from the IoP site, amongst them three communciations from Peter Main – one on Geoengineering Climate, and two on Nuclear Power issues. All contain the following, or words to this effect:

    This response was prepared with input from the Institute’s Energy Sub-group, which includes a range of leading physicists working across the energy sector.

    I find it hard to believe that leading physicists would be direct employees of the IoP, so either they were not involved – and thus possibly unqualified staff were, or they were involved but out of their areas of expertise.

    Note there are no references to any other Sub-groups of the Science Board on the IoP site – Energy appears to be the only professional area informing the Science Board.

    Also consider that as there is an Energy Group at the IoP the members of the Energy Sub-group might reasonably be expected to be members of the Energy Group – so there’s a possibility that the denilalist bent of some in the Energy Group is reflected in the Sub-group.


  28. Peter Gill

    Member of the Coke Oven Managers Association (MCOMA)

    At least he doesn’t hide it.
    This affair may highlight how many academics, in the ‘energy’ discipline , are for whatever reason, climate change contrarians. Some of them like Donald Swift-Hook are even working in the area of renewable energy. It is much easier for people like that to get their own version of climatology published if they use the ‘energy’ journals and magazines.

    [If you work in energy and your job is burning coal you’re likely to decide that burning coal is a good idea :-). I wonder if the IOP believes their folk should be impartial? -W]


  29. I sent IoP an email and have put a copy on my blog.

    Whilst I get the point of your response to David Colquhoun, I’d’ve thought all his emails from the last 13 years would be a more relevant interpretation of “total openess” than salary and home address!


  30. Also this about Terri Jackson (who was chair of the IOP Energy Group) & notice comments from Peter Gill (who was chair of the IOP Energy Group)

    Avril Terri Jackson 18 August, 2009
    Beth Taylor (Inst of Physics) says that my article on climate change should have been peer reviewed. What nonsense! Beth Taylor knows that group newsletters in the Institute have never been subject to peer review. A school kid could understand my article. It is just another lame excuse to suppress anything critising human based antropogenic climate change. As for peers I can give her the names of thousands of physicists and climatologists who do not accept this unscientific theory. Such as the 500 who attended the World climate conference in New York in March including Nobel Prize laureates and Vaclav Klaus the EU President. Also the 70 German scientists including scientists from the IPCC itself who wrote to Chancellor Merkel last week asking for a change in direction on climate change. Climate change is due to the changing sun, it is not due to humans. Beth Taylor should remember it is the subscruiptions of Institute members that keeps her in a job and members are entitled to hear the case for natural climate change. It is shameful scientific and academic suppression and follows on the heels of the incident last year when Nigel Lawson was prevented from speaking at the Institute on his climate change book in spite of having the support of the then chair of the Energy Group Peter Gill

    Peter F Gill ….Of course as AGW became a religion some time ago logic is not a very useful tool to deal with believers. …


  31. Peter F Gill first came to my attention in an Orlowski article for The Register,, in which Orlowski states that Gill claims CO2 emissions were much higher in the recent past:

    “Peter Gill of the Energy Institute (speaking for himself, he stressed) said that the CO2 record has its own ‘Hockey Stick’ – a reference to the forgery of the earth’s temperature record by academics keen to change public policy in a specific direction. He claimed that G S Callendar, the father of global warming, only used one per cent of the data in estimating pre-industrial CO2 levels, producing a figure of 270ppm. More recently, a German called E G Beck had used more data, and came up with 335ppm for the same period.”


    “He had an interesting calculation I hadn’t heard before. The human contribution to CO2 is 26 gigatons a year. It’s peaked in the past, however. Assuming all that was anthropogenic, between 1820 and 1855 the peak was 44gt a year and between 1942 and 1953 78 gigatons a year. Where did it go, he asked? If the lifespan was anything like the “consensus” supposes, this would still be hanging around. He concluded that “the variability of emission and absorption by natural processes exceeds current anthropogenic emissions.”

    This came up in a forum I frequent, where Gill briefly joined in to say that he had been misquoted by Orlowski, although he stands by his endorsement of Beck’s measurements! The part of the thread where Gill replies is here:

    Pondering about the strange IOP submission, I had wondered if Gill might be involved, so I’ll follow this thread with interest!


  32. Is it possible that the IoP’s problem is that while a small group of crackpots submitted the statement, the process used was consistent with the IoP’s internal procedures? IOW, that the IoP has a crackpot problem and a governance problem?


  33. This is slightly reminiscent of the APS FPS silliness with Monckton in 2008.

    Funny things often happen at lower levels of organizations, and science societies.
    All it takes is a tiny fraction of people with intense beliefs,
    and most people not too involved, and they slip something through.

    The APS thing happened because the newsletter editors were looking for pro and con positions. Someone they knew (who had pretty strong con positions on climate science) gave them a list of 6 people to ask, generally physicists. They emailed them all, and only “Dr Monckton” assented, delighted I’m sure to be addressed that way. FPS neslwtter isn’t peer reviewed, so Monckton’s silly paper got published… And they then discovered what a mess they had.

    Then we had:
    APS2009 Petition to change APS statement.
    GSA has struggled to get a good revision through it’s processes.
    ACS has been presented a petition (helped by Heartland). Anywhere you can find 1% that believe almost anything .

    Fortunately top people are harder to fool and I have good reason to believe such folks may be having words with IOP….

    [Hopefully they will. It seems to have gone a bit quiet today -W]


  34. I would like to suggest that deniers who pretend to be skeptics could be called “pseudoskeptics” rather than “septics”.

    Following the rollout by Proctor of the term “agnotology” to describe the culturally-driven manufacture of ignorance (cf tobacco, ozone hole, asbestos etc) I’ve devised the term agnorati


  35. Gosh, don’t know quite why I’m bothering, but play the ball not the man. The IoP submission was the first time that an AGW-onside institution has dared to publicly, and as it happens savagely, criticise a major climate institution. Now, they might have been secretly taken over by denialists, sure, or they might have a point or two.

    Perhaps you should consider the possibility that they might have a point? they said what they said for a reason. Could be arse-covering, could be a hostile takeover by Monckton agents, or …… ?

    I hesitate to say it, but they might just have been criticising some bad science. Without in any way, as their clarification made clear, criticising the thrust of AGW science as a whole.

    Why is that an unacceptable possibility?

    [It isn’t “unacceptable”, its just wrong. If they were, as you put it, criticising some “bad science” wouldn’t they have identified some science that was bad, in that case? You’ve read what they wrote (of course you have!): which piece of science that is bad do you think they identify? As far as I can tell, *no-one* has identified any bad science as a result of any of this stuff -W]


  36. Because of the words they used, Roddy. Being physicists (nominally, anyway) the authors of the submission and the clarifications get zero credit of the sort that could fairly be extended to e.g. poets.

    BTW, the emails contain no evidence whatsoever of bad science or even unusual scientific practices. The FOI stuff could be argued to be an exception, but note that it has nothing to with science (or even scientific practice, unless you can provide us with some sort of standard protocol for responding to vexatious FOI requests).


  37. Poets? I thought they were reasonably factual, so far as they could be.

    – worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method

    – The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions

    – (Paleo) Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information. (That’s pretty brutal?)

    – The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.

    It reads to me, as a layman, as serious doubt. Now, this kind of stuff has been said often enough by people i do not trust from the denier camp. It’s just the first time I have seen it from the AGW-onside camp.

    So I’m left with a) there might be something in it, and b) the IoP has been hijacked.

    Do you see what I mean? If the IoP has been hijacked, then fine. Otherwise it means that there might actually be some bad science going on. Which, in case I am labelled a denier, does not mean AGW isn’t real. It just means something. And denial of that possibility seems in itself suspicious. Because it is possible, surely?


  38. Poets? I thought they were reasonably factual, so far as they could be.

    – worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method

    There are definitely worrying implications for the integrity of scientific researchy, but are you blaming the victim? How is a scientist supposed to respond professionally to someone who is doing his best to attack science?

    Warwick Huges being a good example.

    Why should Jones have anything to do with someone who is ignoring the most basic behaviour of scientific discourse?

    “Here are 11 examples where Jones et al systematically truncated pre-1951 data or ignored more rural data around many small town Australian stations. These graphics and text have been extracted from a 1992 vintage Word doc that somehow survived the decades and how many HDD’s.”

    This is a quite explicit claim of fraud, because he is attributing a motivation to the selection of data to create a warming trend. Do you really expect Jones to help someone to stab him in the back, and be polite and reasonable about it?


  39. I write this as a practicing ecologist (>20 years). I’m easy to find. I am not a climate scientist. Nor have I ever been a full-time employee of any government agency or university.

    My personal standard for data sharing is 1) be nice, 2) approach a fellow scientist by offering a new hypothesis or a new analytical technique, 3) offer to collaborate in analyses and publication, 4) arrange for co-authorship, and 5) try to be nice even if disagreements happen, which often occur.

    About CRU? Some of my reviewer comments sent by email would look nasty if taken out of context. For example “…this manuscript fails even the most basic tests of scholarship…my heavens he’s even managed to get the dates and numbers of sampled sites in D___’s (edited for privacy) thesis wrong. What a wanker! I would recommend you not spend further effort on this manuscript or recommend publication elsewhere. This manuscipt is, frankly, garbage”.

    Yes, that is a verbatim quote from me to a journal editor.

    Even in my tiny end of the scientific world, I can attest that I too have been exposed to personal attacks, and published media innuendos about “falsifying data” or “being paid by industry”.

    It frankly hurts, and is a distraction from doing what scientists love to do — explore questions while explicitly recognizing that there will always be degrees of uncertainty.

    By the way, judging from my records that I kept (oops) I personally sent/received over 9,400 emails between 1999 and 2009 that were directly related to my professional work. And I am but one person.

    In my humble opinion the ~1000 emails from UEA were hacked, collated, and disseminated with a specific purpose in mind. That was not in the best interest of moving science forward.

    Best wishes,


  40. snide, I was talking about what the IoP said.

    Have they been hijacked, or do they have a point, and not just their first point?

    You seem to have changed the subject?

    That Warwick Hughes posts blogs attacking Jones has little to do with the IoP and their submission?


  41. Yes, Roddy, the IoP statement does have a point and it’s that the CRU has been engaged in worrying behavior that calls their credibility into question. The fact that a scientific organization would make such a strong claim and attempt to support it with a list of vague subpoints, many of which get simple facts wrong, calls the credibility of the IoP statement into question. That it appears to have come from the Energy sub-group and have little support within the Science Board also suggests that this may not have been an impartial analysis of the situation rather than a smear campaign.

    – worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method
    The obvious “implications” here are that the scientists were engaged in malfeasance that calls the credibility of their work into question. The evidence of any malfeasance other than possibly ignoring harassing FOI requests is where exactly?

    – The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions
    Specifically what traditions are those? Where is the prima-facie evidence that they’ve been violated? FOI laws may have been violated, but those are hardly scientific tradiations.

    – (Paleo) Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information. (That’s pretty brutal?)
    And here they imply that the reasons for excluding series like the divergent tree rings isn’t A)explained in the literature B)justified to give an accurate depiction. There are also clear overtones of the old “the hockeystick is busted!” meme in the claim that reconstructions are sensitive to the statistical choices and access was denied to hide that.

    They make the explicit claim that “evidently” access to data was denied to hide the fact that datasets were excluded and the conclusions were sensitive to statistical processing. “Evidently” usually implies evidence. Where is it? Where does anyone hint that they can’t release the data for fear of being exposed? Where are the datasets that haven’t been explained in the literature and whose exclusion isn’t justified? Where are the reconstructions whose conclusions are sensitive to statistical analysis?

    – The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.
    If they’re talking about the divergent tree rings then it’s flat out dishonest to suggest that their exclusion is unjustified, nefarious, or hidden and it’s equally dishonest to suggest that their exclusion draws the reliability of multi-proxy reconstructions into question.

    If they’re talking about other proxies then I can’t for the life of me figure out what they mean as they haven’t actually provided any specific examples or evidence for their claim. Specifically which proxy reconstructions were suppressed by the IPCC and where is that discussed in the emails?

    Where’s the beef Roddy? The statement is full of vague claims but very light on evidence and specifics. Why should we interpret it as anything more than a rehash of denialist talking points in an official-looking disguise?


  42. What an example of tribalism gone wild. To the honorable defenders nothing seems more important than the personal prejudices and idiosyncrasies of the perceived attackers.


  43. So, MikeG, your conclusion is that the IoP has been hijacked, my word, and this is either wild unsubstantiated rubbish for a reason we don’t know, or may even be a smear campaign. Because their submission is vague and often wrong.

    That just seems to me unlikely – all I read about the IoP and on their website etc makes them look safely in the AGW camp. It seems weirdly random that they should have suddenly blown a fuse, or been subject to a hostile takeover of some sub-group when putting a submission to Parliament on the hottest potato in climate science.

    It doesn’t feel right as an explanation, and the clarification was in no way a retraction, it was, literally, a clarification, to prevent sceptics/deniers/media painting them as doubting AGW, which they don’t.

    So, I am still left with the decent possibility that they think they are right to have said what they said, and that they are not a trojan horse for Monckton.

    I happen to think your description above of the paras I lifted from the IoP is a bit black and white. eg it’s perfectly correct to state that paleo recons ‘may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used’ even if it sets off Wegman fire alarms to you. 🙂

    Also other respectable submissions made some similar, if less strongly worded, points; about data withholding mainly, and the inferences it gives rise to. So while the IoP viewed it as ‘evident’, the Chemists said ‘A lack of willingness to disseminate scientific information may infer that the scientific results or methods used are not robust enough to face scrutiny, even if this conjecture is not well-founded.’

    The Chemists also said ‘It may also be necessary to incorporate an independent auditing system into peer review with the ability to demand access to raw data sets to ensure best practices are being adhered to.’, which, in the context of a climategate submission, is not to be ignored.

    Unless someone can explain why the IoP would have said something so forceful, whether you think it’s with or without merit, and go out such a distance further than, say, the Chemists, I’m forced to conclude they believe what they say. They may just be idiots, of course. Or they may have a point somewhere in there.


  44. Just noticed the Guardian investigating the IoP submission. they got this:

    “The institute supplied a statement from an anonymous member of its science board, which said: “The institute should feel relaxed about the process by which it generated what is, anyway, a statement of the obvious.””

    Standing firm.


  45. IOP is not an isolated incident.

    1) My experience is that skills are normally-distributed in big organizations: the top ones are usually pretty good, but it is all too easy for there to be pockets of incompetence or even malevolence, and if procedures aren’t carefully designed, things slip through. [Silicon Valley startups sometimes achieve amazing things when they are small, as they can sometimes have *entire* teams of A and A+ players (MIPS was like that), but at some size that becomes impossible.]

    As a member of ACM, IEEE CS, AAAS, APS, and AGU, and for other reasons, I’ve had a fair amount of contact with people at various levels (including very high) in various science & engineering societies. (APS = Amerian Physical Society, i.e., physicists, of whom a few are climate scientists, but not many), AGU = American Geophysical Union (where physicists who *are* climate scientists hang out.) The European counterpart of AGU is EGU, but as far as I know, there is no British-only equivalent, probably as the community may not be big enough, despite having fine climate scientists.

    2) The people at the top are usually very good, very smart, quite often with substantial contributions to the field. For example, APS Presidents have tended to be pretty strong people.

    3) As in any big organizations, skills further down can vary. In some cases, many positions, especially unpaid ones (like running local branches or committees), are handled by people of relatively low expertise. That’s not a knock on all, or even most: there is a lot of work to be done, and many people contribute as they can. But, some people put their energy into committee work as a substitute for accomplishments in the field, and sometimes leverage that as a platform for intense views. For instance, to an experienced eye, Peter Gill’s LinkedIn activities might be “interesting.”

    4) Any science society is likely to have at least 1% who absolutely believe AGW is a hoax, and at least some try to slip that viewpoint out as endorsed by the larger group. For reasons too long to discuss here, traditional physics societies are definitely susceptible to this, and there’s a long history of a few physicists leading the charge against climate science. The definitive study is Oreskes & Conway: “Merchants of Doubt”, due out May 2010. (I’ve reviewed it).

    5) But as a good example available now see PDF @Petition to APS (American Physical Society)

    Look briefly at p.95, “Laurence Gould” for a good example.
    There have been a handful of climate anti-science guys in the New England APS (APS-NES) Gould became co-editor of the Newsletter, and started using it as a platform. He got Monckton invited to speak there, and helped Monckton+SPPI in the 2007 attack on Oreskes.

    If you know some physics, you can assess his publication record. Even without knowing physics, you can check what his students think of him. He seems to have a new career…
    You can also find examples of nuclear physicists and aerospace guys writing hilariously-bad climate anti-science books. E-G Beck was often cited, as Gill did.

    Meanwhile, the American Chemical Society is facing a similar petition campaign, backed by Heartland.

    Last Fall, the Geological Society of America faced a related effort, but in their case, they actually have a bunch of serious world-class experts in the topic, and they were hard to get around.

    6) These attracts are most effective when the society in question has relatively little or scattered expertise in climate science, which means that most members easily do not understand the context. That lets people write motherhood-sounding words like “openness” (which are generally agreed to be good), but practice mean: “Yes, we believe a Canadian mining/petroleum guy should be able to totally stop work at CRU whenever he wants”. What they don’t say is “And we’ll be happy to raise our taxes to triple CRU’s staff.” One can easily slip such things past busy reviewers or those who don’t know the turf. [That’s what happened with Monckton’s 1998 article in the APS Forum on Physics and Society, a non-peer-reviewed newsletter. (Monckton was suggested to the editors by an APS-internal anti-AGW advocate. They thought he was some physicists he didn’t know, even addressing him as Dr. Monckton, an errr that he seemed to have overlooked correcting.]

    7) Sometimes people even construct organizations of whom many members really don’t understand the agenda, which is to get certain key messages embedded in otherwise-reasonable material. I offer the following exercise:

    a) See the website of ELC, the Environmetnal Literacy Council, which seeks to produce environmental material for school textbooks and teachers.

    b) Read *carefully* Air, Climate and Weather, and follow some of the links there, like: this, or this. Or just see: Greenhouse Gases :
    “The full range of sources of greenhouses gases – both natural and anthropogenic – is not yet fully understood and continues to be the subject of both research and debate.”
    Surely, but …
    “Possible Consequences of Global Warming” includes:
    “Most scientists agree that the Earth is in fact experiencing increasing temperatures, and many believe that humans are enhancing this overall warming trend.”

    Enhancing? That sounds good. The reader might assess the wording here. I’m not sure many climate scientists think that humans are “enhancing a warming trend.”

    c) Hmm. So, what’s going on here? The various board members mostly look like earnest people, and ELC even got some government funding at one point. Those who know how to use Sourcewatch can easily find out…
    HINT: A spinoff from the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI), organized by Jeffrey Salmon (previously Dick Cheney’s senior speechwriter), and funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch brothers & friends … quite possibly might have a real agenda that some board members don’t understand. Very clever.

    7) But IOP is not ELC. It is a serious physics organization, but under attack by a tiny minority of people with intense anti-science beliefs, just like the tiny minorities in APS, ACS, GSA. I don’t think they even tried with AGU, who would laugh it off. However, physics, chemistry, statistics societies are all susceptible to this (because they are targets with credibility), if not careful.


  46. it is always interesting to read william at his best. The poor people at IOP are just a bit dopey, and are saying silly things !

    Talk about being in denial !

    [Yup, I’m also in denial about the earth is flat, in the way that you’re in denial about it being round -W]

    strangely enough, the IOP submission bears striking resemblances to the RSC and the RSS submissions, and the RCUK submission, although much more supportive, makes some fairly clear-cut points about the necessity of data-sharing. Maybe all these people are just dopey and saying silly things ?

    And unless i misheard, i do believe that I also heard an extremely eminent professor in the biosciences be rather critical of you in this very column. So the bioscientists must be dopey too

    [I missed that. Still, being dissed by the Great has to be better than being ignored. Who do you mean? -W]

    who will be dopey next ? The Information Commissioner ?


  47. No Roddy, I don’t think the IoP has been overrun by denialists or that the IoP’s position on AGW has changed in any way. What appears to have happened (based on the digging done by the UK media and members here) is that someone or a few someones within the IoP authored a statement which was published with minimal comment or review by other members and which doesn’t necessarily represent their views. Clearly many IoP members, including members of the board which supposedly authored it, do not agree with the views expressed in the statement. I see no reason to suspect the authors aren’t real members of the IoP or that the proper protocols for publishing statements were subverted in any way.

    Regardless of how the statement came to be, it’s uselessly vague and makes harmful assertions about those involved without backing those statements up with evidence. At best it’s sloppily written and doesn’t follow the “honourable scientific tradition” of being explicit in your claims and pointing to evidence to support them. The statement is represented as the informed opinion of the IoP, yet it’s not clear to me that the statements are widely supported within the IoP or even the Science Board or that the author was well-informed on the issue being discussed.


  48. The IOP has a pro AGW policy which it was supporting more strongly & publicly in the run up to Copenhagen, it also believes in the maintaining the highest possible standards in science, standards CRU appear not to have been working to. Climate Change Deniers are always quick to jump on any weakness in the science, it’s one of their primary tools, having little original science of their own.
    There are two primary options, try & save Jones et al in which case the entire pro AGW canon would probably be tainted or sacrifice them to the deniers and hope to preserve the rest of the work.
    Sometimes you have to be prepared to lose a battle in order to win the war.


  49. “Sacrificing” Jones for a bunch of hysteria, misrepresentations and lies means much more than losing a battle, it means a major attack on science has succeeded.


  50. “Sacrificing” Jones for a bunch of hysteria, misrepresentations and lies means much more than losing a battle, it means a major attack on science has succeeded.


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