Science shenanigans made visible; a surprising (or not) appointment to CIHR; announcing a wee holiday

Human nature, even scientists have it. They recently reasserted their human nature with the climate change controversy over possibly suppressed and/or distorted data. According to the Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders (Breach in the global-warming bunker rattles climate science at the worst time), even scientists who agreed with the group at the University of East Anglia were not given access let alone people who were perceived as hostile to the cause. Note that word, cause.  From the article,

Unusually, even sympathetic scientists and some activists have concluded that the credibility of climate science has been seriously harmed.

“We should not underestimate the damage caused by what has happened, either for the science or for the politics of climate change, and potentially it could have some very far-reaching consequences,” said Mike Hulme, a climate scientist at East Anglia whose e-mails were among those included in the pirated files and who has been critical of the secrecy and lack of impartiality in his colleagues’ work.

Independent scientists are quick to point out that the actions described in the e-mails do not describe anything like a fabrication of global-warming evidence, and that two other major sets of historical data drawn from the same sources, both held by NASA institutions in the United States, also show a historical warming trend.

While such insinuations of poor scientific practice have drawn the most attention, more damaging for climate scientists are e-mails which reveal the hostile, partisan, bunker-like atmosphere at the lab, which goes to ridiculous lengths to prevent even moderate critics from seeing any of the raw data.

In one e-mail, Prof. Jones [head of the CRU] wrote that climate skeptics “have been after the CRU [Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia] 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 it to anyone.”

Jones demonstrates the kind of behaviour and communication (or lack of) that we associate with a wrongdoer trying to cover something up or with a fanatic determined to convince you at all costs. Unfortunately, human beings, even with the best of intentions, can take a wrong turn and it would seem that Jones stopped being a scientist and became a true believer.

Some of what’s being discussed in view of the public eye is the usual back and forth amongst scientists as they dispute each other’s findings in sometimes less than genteel tones and cast aspersions on each other’s methodologies. The more high profile the work, the more bitter the fight.

Very quickly, I want to direct you to Rob Annan’s latest postings on a CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research] appointment, a representative from Pfizer, to their governing council and science policy in Europe. If you’re interested in science policy and the implications of some of the new decisions being made and/or taking view of science policy discussions elsewhere, please do check these postings out. Plus I just (5 minutes ago at 9:45 am PST) received this email from the folks who organized the 2009 Canadian Science Policy Conference,

We have just made the entire content of the CSPC publicly available for all Canadians at our website (, including:

  • video of keynote addresses and plenaries
  • audio of all conference sessions
  • video interviews with opinion leaders, conducted on-site at the CSPC by The Mark News
  • written report of all sessions

We are working towards the production of a comprehensive evaluation of CSPC 2009, including detailed performance measures and outcomes of the conference. To that end, we would greatly appreciate your input.

I look forward to viewing the material from the conference (thank you, organizers) when I settle down a bit. I am currently in the throes of a major transition and may not be blogging again until Dec. 17, 2009 or after.

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