Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated

From: Dave Wallace <>
Date: Thu Nov 26 2009 - 10:05:46 EST
Don Winterstein wrote:

All scientists who do peer review have biases and in that sense may unjustly control what gets published.  These emails indicate very strong biases among people in control and a willingness to use their power to distort the nature and importance of AGW. 
Since my elementary school education (1 to 8) was  almost all outside Canada I missed a great deal of the  formal education in Canadian History that Canadians normally get.  Instead I got history of England and the United States.  One of the most important things I learned was about separation of powers in the USA.  In fact I think our Canadian government would be better with more separation of powers which I see as a way of dealing with the evil tendencies in all of us.  Thus to me peer review is not only about catching errors and sloppiness but also dealing with improper (false) recording and reporting of results.  To me subverting the peer review process is like having supreme court justices always picked by one party.  Presidents and prime ministers tend to do that kind of thing but sooner or later the electorate throws the bums out and the other party gets a chance.  I find even the appearance that such might have occurred a matter for concern. 

(As a matter of fact these emails do not come across to me as science as usual.  Unless they have explanations that are subtler than I think, they reveal a kind of science that I've never encountered.  We're apparently talking here about a conspiracy of several leading climate scientists spread around the world, a conspiracy to promote preconceived notions in spite of contrary data.  I suppose such stuff has happened before, but it can't be tolerated when so much is at stake.) 
Don I have to admit that I have seen it both ways.  In one larger experiment with about 8 people or so, that I was involved with over the period of a year the data was very carefully recorded and analyzed truthfully as far as I could see.  Initially I worked on the actual experiment itself and then helped our statistician do an analysis of variance on the results.  The results were not clearly favorable to the company I was employed by but as far as I could tell what was reported to senior management and marketing was truthful.  What was then done with the results I don't know. 

On the  other hand I have seen the internal company equivalent of peer review severely abused a number of times.  In one instance there was an apology years later from one group admitting they had been motivated by less than fair motives.  My successor in Toronto after I moved to Ottawa was criticized by a senior manager from another lab for not telling enough lies and not just him but the whole organization. 

Often our products were produced by multiple locations.  One location if they found any bug or apparent bug in our part of the product would simply down tools and tell us to come and find and fix the problem on their site.  Not all the problems were in our code.  During a project schedule review one of their middling level managers told our lab director that they wanted us to fail as they had failed previously when they tried to do what we were attempting to do.  In fact our product failed in the market because of some improper design assumptions we made and the market place changed significantly from when the project was initiated until we shipped.  Eventually since the other location was the remnant of an acquisition where IMO most of the good people had left, the other location was shut down and people dispersed.

We also cooked results to some extent like William Hamilton describes.  One disadvantage of being a student is that you rarely have the possibility of going back and repeating the  experiment in a more careful fashion.  Also in labs where the work was done in teams, some people just did not care.  Not that these factors justify changing results.  I also remember in some labs spending huge amounts of time after class trying the get the experiments to work and give close to the expected results. 

Schwarzwald wrote:
And no, I'm not going to support any policy crafted to "address AGW" - as I said, it's possible for a suggested policy change to be inane, or as bad as/worse than the problem itself.
A number of years ago when we were discussing this same problem on this list I indicated that there are remedies I could support.  If what is proposed also has the potential to address other concerns like peak fossil fuel and air pollution then I support it as long as the approach supports a wide range of proposed solutions and does not totally kill the economy.  We tend not to be good at picking winners from among technical proposals so I take the approach of let a thousand flowers bloom. 

Dave W
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