What they mean

melting glacier by thomas pix

Here is a very nice annotation (Thanks, NonHomogenized ) of the CRU emails that were released. (h/t to a comment by caerbannog). I particularly liked this one:

[Santer complaining about FoI requests from McIntyre. Says he expects support of Lawrence Livermore Lab management. Jones says that once support staff at CRU realised the kind of people the scientists were dealing with they became very supportive. Says the VC [vice chancellor] knows what is going on (in one case)]

I already pointed out the problems with releasing the data, but here we have an illustration of a reason why, even if it were NOT professional suicide, they might not want to release the data: “One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested. But had I acceded to McIntyre’s initial request for climate model data, I’m convinced (based on the past experiences of Mike Mann, Phil, and Gavin) that I would have spent years of my scientific career dealing with demands for further explanations, additional data, Fortran code, etc. (Phil has been complying with FOIA requests from McIntyre and his cronies for over two years). And if I ever denied a single request for further information, McIntyre would have rubbed his hands gleefully and written: “You see – he’s guilty as charged!” on his website.”


“You and I have spent over a decade of our scientific careers on the MSU issue, Tom. During much of that time, we’ve had to do science in “reactive mode”, responding to the latest outrageous claims and inept science by John Christy, David Douglass, or S. Fred Singer. For the remainder of my scientific career, I’d like to dictate my own research agenda. I don’t want that agenda driven by the constant need to respond to Christy, Douglass, and Singer.”

Now, the latter of these, while I can sympathize with him, is not a good reason to not release data. However, given the descriptions of all the various data that has been requested from the various researchers (which takes huge amounts of time that they could better spend doing productive research rather than digging through old records of their work for whatever minutiae someone has decided to ask for with a FOI request, the former is actually reasonable.

“I have an actual goddamned job to do here, stop impeding my ability to do any real work by pestering me with requests for details that you don’t need for what you’re trying to do” is a pretty good reason to not want to have to deal with such requests, imo. Especially since, the more time they waste, the less research they can do, which means fewer grants, which means they can’t maintain their equipment and staff. Were it not for data confidentiality, this would be a real issue to debate – and I’m not sure where I’d stand on it, though I’d find it hard to fault them for their decision, even if I disagreed with it. However, as it stands, I can see no reasoning by which it makes sense for them to comply with the requests if they can possibly get out of them.

I think this is one of the goals of some of these ‘skeptics.’ Not to actually get anything to do science with but simply to harass researchers and prevent them from actually doing any work. By flooding them with a ton of bureaucratic they not only make the scientist’s life miserable, they slow progress.

The researchers do not have a lot of staff who can put all this information together. And even if a request is fulfilled, it only leads to more. Because it appears that getting data to replicate the research is not the real goal here, since it does seem that it has actually resulted in any publications.

SThis is a ploy sometimes used with FOI requests. In fact, apparently the UK FOI Act permits the government to deal with some of these abuses by having a cost ceiling and by being able to aggregate multiple requests.

[Listening to: The Voice from the album “I Robot” by The Alan Parsons Project]

[Listening to: Real Real Gone from the album “Van Morrison – The Movie Hits” by Van Morrison]