ClimateGate: The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

Regular readers of this blog know that many of my posts on the global warming controversy end with this prediction: “The current approach to the global warming issue will someday be taught in universities as a good example of how not to do science.”

Perhaps we have reached that point much sooner than I expected. Andrew Revkin (NYT) links to a published essay by Dr. Judith Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, that directly addresses young climate scientists, encouraging them to learn a lesson from the Climategate scandal that is still unfolding.

If climate science is to uphold core research values and be credible to public, we need to respond to any critique of data or methodology that emerges from analysis by other scientists. Ignoring skeptics coming from outside the field is inappropriate; Einstein did not start his research career at Princeton, but rather at a post office. I’m not implying that climate researchers need to keep defending against the same arguments over and over again. Scientists claim that they would never get any research done if they had to continuously respond to skeptics. The counter to that argument is to make all of your data, metadata, and code openly available. Doing this will minimize the time spent responding to skeptics; try it! If anyone identifies an actual error in your data or methodology, acknowledge it and fix the problem. Doing this would keep molehills from growing into mountains that involve congressional hearings, lawyers, etc.

From the comments to Revkin’s post:

The sad thing is that scientists are supposed to be skeptics. The minute someone becomes convinced that they know it all is the minute they make the transition from scientist to ideologue. To question, to doubt, to double-check, to scrutinize: this is what it is to be a scientist. A scientist should accept someone else’s statement as the unvarnished truth simply out of respect for them or their position. And a scientist should never ridicule someone for expressing doubts about the accuracy of the data, the methodology for collecting them, the methodology for interpreting them, and the conclusions drawn.

True science has never been the issue in this controversy. Practiced with integrity and openness, science is humanity’s friend. It is when science becomes tainted with political ideology that it becomes corrupted and harmful.


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