Update on Climate Change and Science Fraud; Peer Review Explained.

The mainstream press is losing its last shreds of credibility by maintaining a blackout on a major international fraud concerning climate change. Here is the story, from a very personal angle.

Hacked” emails demonstrate that climate change advocates have eliminated data that contradict their position. What’s more, the emails prove that they conspired actively with one another, across oceans and across continents, to hide the facts.

I wonder if anyone is going to jail? I hope someone will, a least for a while. I feel strongly about this as a scholar and as a citizen.

Last statement first. A single scientist faking results is in a position to cause billions of dollars of harm, taken from citizens, and by sabotaging economic growth, to ward off an imaginary evil. That’s much worse than anything the Mafia can do. In the meantime, young men are in jail for stealing $1,000, or on minor drug-dealing charges. Al Gore, the jet-setting half-Nobel Prize winner has made millions trafficking in imaginary carbon credits. I wonder how old Al would fare in the federal penitentiary.

As a scholar, I hate what this fraud and conspiracy does to the reputation of science. Let me explain, based on my own experience.

Science never relied on individual consciences. It’s mostly a set of community safeguards to protect against individual bias, precisely. Squarely in the middle of this set are : Double blind refereeing, “peer review,” and replicability of findings. Replicability, first. If something is real, another well trained researcher (or research team), with the same data, should be able to obtain the same results:Whether a dropped ball falls down or shoots up into the stratosphere does not depend on the inclination, or personality, or sex, of the thrower. If it fails to fall a single time, the Theory of Gravity needs major reforming. It might even be junked altogether because of that single contrary instance. Replication requires access to data (information). If the relevant data are a unique set, or expensive to gather, denial of access to data, or their destruction, guarantee that replication will not be performed. If you don’t want to be caught committing scientific fraud, suppressing such data is a must. There is no other reason really to suppress data.

Next, peer review, really reviewing/refereeing. It’s not well understood by the big media, including Rush Limbaugh. I have a long personal experience in being a reviewer for scholarly journals as well as in having my own work reviewed. First a reminder: A basic rule of science is that anything that is not published in refereed (peer-reviewed) journal barely exists or does not exist at all. Hence one’s position in the scientific community depends mostly, almost exclusively, on being published in such a journal. (If you are curious, follow the link on this blog to my vita that will tell you how well I did at this game.)

Here is how it works: I labor, sometimes for years, on a specific scientific problem in the hope of getting a 25-page article published in a journal. When he receives my submission, the journal editor sends it to three reviewers, or referees, he knows to be knowledgeable about the issues in my submission. They don’t know who I am and, in most cases, they don’t know who they are. I also don’t know who they are, which saves me from the temptation to retaliate in the future if things don’t go my way. It’s called “double-blind refereeing; should be called,”triple-blind,” in fact. Then, the editor decides what to do based on all three reviews. At the end, all are advised of the decision and all reviews are shared, still anonymously. Each reviewer is thus in a position to pass judgment on the fairness of the editor’s decision. Reviewers are not remunerated, nor are published authors. Editors may receive small advantages from their university for their service, one course off per year, for example.

It’s all a brutally competitive process: The probability of simply being accepted nears zero. Being told to “revise and resubmit” is considered a very favorable outcome. In good journals, more than 90% of submissions are rejected outright.

In a discipline I know well, the average life-time publications per scholar is under three.

The system is devised to root out both fraud and incompetence by minimizing prejudice and bias. To put it in perspective, when I was actively engaged in research, I was always aware of some tribal favoritism: Assigning a well-disposed reviewer, editors lowering the bar slightly for a friend or, more frequently, for a student; using their small margin of editorial discretion to re-consider a decision not to publish that was on the cusp to begin with. There is, however, well-known, widespread favoritism toward scholars from prestigious universities. It’s unfair to individual scholars but justified overall because, on the average, the quality of submissions from such universities is superior. Their scholars tend not to waste editors’ or reviewers’ time. Submissions from second-tier schools are often a waste of time, in my experience. This is an elite game.

In my 30-year career, I must have refereed more than a hundred papers, submitted to several journals. I only found outright fraud once. It was in a single authored-paper; fraud is harder to commit with an accomplice, obviously. What I found in abundance was lack of clarity, confusion, self-indulgence, laziness, and outright incompetence. Active conspiracies to suppress findings and to make up data are news to me.

My assessment is that the scholarly refereeing process (peer review) works well as long as it’s based on individual assessments, as described above. Once there is a conscious conspiracy, all bets are off. Anything at all could masquerade as scientific findings, at least for a while. The worst of it is that any cheating undermines confidence in the process and encourages the cynicism common among those unfamiliar with the process. It also discourages the multitudes of scholars who are completely honest: It feels bad to spend a life-time playing basketball only to discover that some players were wearing springs in their shoes all along. That’s why I surmise that the so-called “hacking” was an inside job by a proponent of climate change who became disgusted with his colleagues’ criminal actions.

The irony of this story of fraud, and also its main significance, is that it seems as of now that only ten or twelve years of measurements are involved in the data suppression Such a short counter-trend should make no difference for a model purporting to account for two hundred years or more of climate change. That is, they should make little scientific difference. The bastards were not cheating to advance a particular scientific theory but in support of a political agenda, an agenda of collectivization, to be precise. The cheats probably thought that it would look bad in Copenhagen if the great unwashed masses were aware of global cooling over that short recent period.

My first reaction was that the so-called “scientists” involved in the fraud were whores. I hesitate to use the word now because it’s unfair to whores. Whores make their living honestly at least and they do precious little harm.

Here is the long and the short of it: If you have to lie for your cause, it’s a bad cause. If you have to enlist accomplices in the lie, it’s a worse cause. There is probably no long-term trend of global warming that is both man-made and dangerous.

PS Polar bears are thriving, eating people every chance they get and shitting on the pure white ice, bless their big hearts!

PS2 Last minute: The University of East Anglia, of the hacked emails, has forced the director of its climate studies institute, Phil Jones. to step down pending furher investigation.

update 12/04/09

The University of East Anglia conspiracy to commit fraud does not prove that there is no global warming. It just obligates global warming advocates to adopt the scientific humility they should have had all along. And it should return the burden of proof where it belongs: You think that something alarming is happening that requires drastic measures? Show me lots of untainted, high-quality  evidence or shut-up.

Myself, I don’t believe there is a man-made, trend of rising temperature that we should worry about right now. It’s not because the liars were caught in the act though. Please, see my  several postings on the subject and the link to the site where I get much of my serious info. It’s on the front page of this blog under “climate change.” Also, there was  an excellent explanatory article summarizing our collective scientific understanding of climate change in the Wall Street Journal on 12/01/09. It’s by brave Professor of Meteorology Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute  of Technology. I call him “brave” because no one wants to sit with him at the MIT Faculty Club. Most of his colleagues think he has cooties or they are too cowardly to be seen conversing with him.

A young liberal friend of mine I believe to be personally honest tells me that the emails about tweaking graphs and losing important data  can be explained. I keep arguing that we are dealing here with a religious cult. I say this in frustration because I don’t know what to do about deeply felt irrational religious beliefs.

I can’t get away from the question of how the fraud-enriched Al Gore would fare in federal prison. A homosexual friend of mine assures me that Al is still quite a handsome man. (OK, that was the bitch in me talking; I can’t help myself.) By the way. I haven’t heard a word from Al on the subject of Climate Gate. How about you?

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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3 Responses to Update on Climate Change and Science Fraud; Peer Review Explained.

  1. Lawrence Marcus says:

    Amen!

  2. Sam says:

    Jaques,
    Agreed that “Climategate” needs to be examined thoroughly. An open and honest explanation and discussion needs to take place. I read an article just today saying that no mention of it has appeared in the three broadcast networks’ weekday morning or evening news programs for fourteen days. Their decision to ignore the story baffles me, at the very least I would expect them to attack its credibility.
    That said, I have not (in my limited perusing of the issue) seen any conclusive evidence that there has been deceit. Perhaps you can point me to some, but until I see it I choose to base my opinion on 20 years of scientific consensus (yes I stand by that) not a single instance on stolen documents from individual scientists. Very few people have read the e-mails in their entirety and even fewer can have understood them completely.

    p.s. Do you really believe Al Gore would knowingly be party to falsified data and a scandal this massive? Do you think the data hasn’t convinced him?

    The article:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/11/26/17302/203

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Sam: The article to which you referred me, from the Daily Kos, barely addresses in a substantive way the issue of fraud allegedly uncovered in the U of East Anglia hacked emails. The first or second paragraph argues that the use of the term “trick” by one of the suspects is completely innocent. That could be the case. I can imagine a scientist using the term as a shortcut in a private email to a colleague. However, the paragraph does not make that point. In fact it’s almost incomprehensible for an exceptionally well-educated person. (That would be me.) The rest is mostly a list of insults against “deniers” where the word is used in a familiar way. It’s strikingly reminiscent of the the use of the word “heretic” by the Catholic Church in its good old days. The juxtaposition of the word “denier” as applied to climate change skeptics (like me) to Holocaust deniers, is especially disgusting. I have trouble imagining that it does not repel you personally. It’s also close to the spreading of raging hatred from which criminal acts against adversaries arise. To answer your question about Al Gore: It’s been obvious to me for years that he is a fraud. The only problem with my perspective is that I also think he is a moron. (Couldn’t even carry his own state when he ran for President!) I confess that there is a disjunction between the two perceptions. I don’t think climate change backers in general outside of academia are either frauds or morons. Those within academia, by now (not so two years ago) are mostly people who are vitally interested in closing their eyes long enough to avoid endangering their careers. (In case you haven’t been in college long enough to notice, university professors and Navy Seals are recruited from different gene pools!) The revised version of what you read on my blog give the reference of a summary of climate change science by a MIT Professor.

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