Is Hughes in compliance with data archiving requirements?

Hughes’ letter to Barton says that NSF issued him an opinion that he was in compliance with all NSF and US government obligations regarding access to data. Why would NSF go out of its way to issue such an opinion letter? I wonder what due diligence that NSF did before issuing the opinion letter. Here are some thoughts.

Hughes’ letter to Barton states:

The U.S. National Science Foundation has stated that I have “complied with the policy guidelines set out by the US government, and the NSF in particular, regarding access to data from publicly funded research” [Email from Program Manager David Verardo 10 August 2004]

In another recent internet posting in response to the Barton inquiry, the President of the University of Arizona and other top university officials posted a memo stating the following:

In December 2003, the NSF declared in writing that the three scientists had fully complied with NSF policies regarding public access to data generated in federally-funded projects.

It’s hard to tell from here whether there were two different letters or whether one of the dates is incorrect. Both dates correspond to dates of my inquiries to NSF. In December 2003, I asked NSF to intervene in my search for MBH source code. They refused. I also copied David Verardo of NSF in a request to Mann for residuals (a very different request not involving source code). To my astonishment, Verardo intervened and said that Mann did not have to – even prior to an actual refusal by Mann.

I can think of no valid reason for a bureaucrat to preempt Mann’s decision – he could have had a change of heart and for some reason be willing to disclose residuals. At the time, I had not raised the issue of unarchived data by Hughes. Verardo’s statement was limited to the position that the source code was personal property — a highly questionable view — see my recent post on this. Perhaps Verardo issued a letter to Hughes around this time, which we do not otherwise know about, or perhaps the President of the University of Arizona has mixed up the dates.

On June 26, 2004, I sent the director of NSF a letter complaining about unarchived data sets from Hughes (and others), referring to unarchived Yakutia data in the case of Hughes. This letter caused a little bit of scurrying by some of the scientists involved to archive data or otherwise respond. On June 29, 2004, Crowley answered my email for the first time and promised to archive his data at WDCP by the end of August (which he didn’t do — I’ll discuss Crowley elsewhere). In July, Mann archived the Corrigendum SI at WDCP; Jacoby archived an updated version of the Sol Dav, Mongolia series and Hughes sent most of his Yakutia data to WDCP (according to information from WDCP), which were posted up in October 2004 – see here.

On July 28, 2004, NSF sent me an email, which was completely inaccurate, saying that:

I understand that their data has been sent directly to you, in some instances, via electronic means. In other cases the data is archived in the publicly accessible World Data Center (WDC) that is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (NOAA) and from which you are free to download information of interest. This facility houses a wealth of paleoclimatic data that is organized by scientific subspecialty involving biological, sedimentological and chemical proxies from terrestrial and marine environments.

Most of the data referred to in my letter was then unarchived (and remains unarchived.) Given that (for example) Hughes’ Yakutia data had been archived between the time of my letter and the time of the response of the administrator, the position of the administrator seems a little disingenuous. If I’d been writing the NSF letter, I’d have been inclined to at least acknowledge that Hughes’ Yakutia data had been archived in the meantime and perhaps even credit my inquiry with prompting some action. Shortly thereafter, on August 10, 2004, (according to the Hughes letter to Barton), Verardo of NSF – the same official who intervened with the Mann residual series – sent him an email saying that he was in full compliance with all NSF and U.S. government archiving requirements.

Examining Hughes’ publication record and grant record in even a cursory manner suggests otherwise. For example, Hughes’ NSF grants are accessible at NSF . These show nearly $700,000 in awards in 1998 and 2002 for Western U.S. tree ring studies: ATM98-09431, Temperature Variability Since AD 1000 in the Western U.S. from Tree Rings; and, ATM02-13962 Natural Spatiotemporal Variability of Climate over the Western United States in the Last Holocene. WDCP has a search function that locates all contributions by contributor and country. Hughes is named as a co-contributor in only 6 western U.S. site chronologies, of which only 2 end in 1998 or 1999. Connie Woodhouse and Peter Brown are co-contributors in all 6 sites. These scientists have received separate funding in which Woodhouse is PI (see ATM97-02951 Expanded Dendroclimatic Reconstruction of Great Plains and Central Rocky Mountains Drought) .

It appears that all 6 western U.S. sites in which Hughes appears as a co-archiver were funded under the grants in which Woodhouse and Brown were co-PIs — and are part of a larger set of about 39 sites archived by Woodhouse and Brown. Some details are at Brown’s web page here. Accordingly, Hughes does not appear to have so far archived any western U.S. sites from the funding of almost $700,000. (His archiving record for North American sites is about on a par with Jacoby – see posts on this). Hughes has also collected measurements from a number of sequoia sites, all sampled prior to 1992, [Hughes and Brown 1992], but has not archived any measurements from sequoia sites at WDCP. It looks to me that some federal funding for the sequoia sites came from the U.S. Forest Service.

I don’t know how the NSF was in a position to warrant to Hughes that he was in compliance with potential federal obligations with respect to his obligations with respect to this data or what due diligence they carried out with respect to the sequoia sites. U.S. government archiving policies propose a very limited grace period for exclusive use, which I discussed here. For example, the guidelines to NSF are as follows:

For those programs in which selected principal investigators have initial periods of exclusive data use, data should be made openly available as soon as they become widely useful. In each case the funding agency should explicitly define the duration of any exclusive use period.

While some period of exclusive use is contemplated, I think that NSF periods of exclusive use are either inappropriate or unenforced. In this case, Hughes has some unarchived measurements from pretty interesting sites. Salzer and Hughes [2004] mentions new ring width measurements taken at bristlecone pine sites at Sheep Mountain, Pearl Peak and San Francisco Peaks AZ in 2002. None of these updates have been archived. These are important sites — Sheep Mountain is the most heavily weighted series in the MBH98 reconstruction. I presume that other high-altitude sites have been measured. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what’s happened to bristlecone pine growth since 1987? After all, bristlecone growth is supposed to be a uniquely essential proxy for world climate history.

Mann has told us that we have to rely on old data because new data is from “inaccessible” and “expensive” sites. Well, here’s some data that Hughes is simply sitting on. Elsewhere, Hughes has been funded to do studies pertaining to the Sahel, but has not archived any data from this area. Hughes has archived results from 1 site from Jordan, 9 sites in Turkey, 7 sites in India, 1 site from China and 1 site from Great Britain. I have no idea whether this archiving is complete or whether there are unarchived sites. Here is a summary of Hughes’ NSF funding.

In summary, I can see no valid reason why Verardo should have given Hughes a letter stating that he was in compliance with all NSF and U.S. government archiving guidelines (even if he was, which doesn’t appear to be the case). For Hughes and the University of Arizona, he (they) should keep in mind that any unfulfilled obligation does not disappear merely because of an assurance from Verardo. For NSF, it seems impossible that Verardo carried out adequate due diligence to ensure that Hughes had actually complied with all applicable obligations prior to sending out his letter. Time will tell.

23 Comments

  1. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Jul 25, 2005 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

    To my astonishment, Verardo intervened and said that Mann did not have to – even prior to an actual refusal by Mann. I can think of no valid reason for a bureaucrat to preempt Mann’s decision – he could have had a change of heart and for some reason be willing to disclose residuals.

    Maybe Mann simply made his decision of refusal and passed the buck to Verardo to respond without responding to you personally.

    Steve: In this case, I think that it was all Verardo. The refusal was within minutes of the first email and for some reason, I think that Mann was traveling although I wouldn’t put too much weight on this recollection..

  2. John A
    Posted Jul 25, 2005 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

    What interests me are the stipulations put on the grants disbursed by the NSF – does the NSF require that all climatological data be archived? If not, why not? If so, why does the NSF not make the grant holders do this? (I think Barton’s Committee wants to know the answer to this one as well)

    David Verardo’s behavior just seems bizarre. Why provide affidavits that a researcher has fulfilled archiving requirements when they clearly haven’t?

  3. Roger Bell
    Posted Jul 25, 2005 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    I was a program director at NSF about twenty years ago. It’s a very interesting job – I got to see what very good scientists are working on in great detail. These scientists would send in proposals and I would choose the referees who would analyse the proposals and send me their comments. If I felt the proposal should be funded then I’d recommend how much it should be funded for and for how long. I say recommend because 3 or 4 different levels above me had the opportunity to reject my recommendation but in practice I decided.
    Verardo signs his letter as Director, Paleoclimate Program, and so his job must be very similar to the one I had. I’m a bit puzzled by the letter he sent to Steve – I would have thought that someone above him must have cleared it. If I were him, I would also be worried by what MBH98 did – don’t the climate people have big meetings where it’s possible for folks to ask penetrating questions? I did that at a meeting where I had a very similar problem to the on Steve and Ross have – getting someone to admit to an egregious error.
    After I left NSF I continued my science, much of which was devoted to calculating the spectra of stars. To do this I needed a lot of atomic and molecular data and I tried to get some of it from a person, K, who had calculated such data. He just wouldn’t give it to me. This was causing me problems, because reviewers of my proposals were asking why I wasn’t using K’s data. In the end he did send me 56 magnetic data tapes – fortunately I had an energetic graduate student! I calculated solar spectra using K’s data and my own and took them to a meeting of the International Astronomical Union. K gave an invited talk and in the question period I compared the calculated spectra with the observed. I used color to make the differences stand out. Suffice it to say that there was an audible gasp from the audience of about 500 people when they saw how badly the spectrum calculated with K’s data matched the Sun.

  4. Tillie Morgan
    Posted Jul 26, 2005 at 3:39 AM | Permalink

    I am going to say some things I hope you’ll all take as they are meant.

    I’m an old activist, a Green, who cares about the environment, but who happens to think you may be right about the issue of climate change.

    The trouble is. (forgive me please!) you seem SO bad at putting your case out there. Most people see you as mouthpieces for the fossil fuel corporations and they look no further, and to be frank, you make it easy for them to do this with some of your own (again forgive me) quite politically naive nonsense about the media being controlled by ‘the left’.

    Can we be clear? The media is and always has been controlled by vested interests of money and power (the ones who own the tv stations and the newspapers, and who also own pretty much everything else), and it seems likely that if they sometimes seem to support ‘left’ causes it is only because for a short while it benefits them to do so. For example maybe ‘global warming’ is being pushed to facilitate a re-uptake of nuclear power? (I have already seen some signs of it being brought back on the agenda).

    So, by bashing at Blair’s non-existent lefty Greeny agenda you are actually playing his game rather than your own and effectively ghettoing yourselves.

    Can I suggest this forum and the movement generally would benefit from just a few things:

    1. clue in more to the politics of today. Since 911 we are in danger of a frighteningly authoritarian resurgance, with governemnts in America and Britain using ‘the war on terror’ as an excuse to remove all our civil liberties. By attacking them for their ‘caring’ you are only making it easier for them to look good (and caring) and youto look bad (and fascist), which is essentially a revrsal of the truth.

    2. Instead attack them for what they are: manipulators and controllers of the truth, more interested in pursuing agenda and their own power than in enlightenment.
    Some of your natural allies are the real liberals and free-thinkers who despise all ideologies and want to make their own choices, but presently they are not getting your message at all.

    I hope you take on something of this. You have valuable things to say and you need to be heard. Your real opponents aren’t Greenpeace (they are just deludued on this one and anyhow they have next to know actual power). Your opponents are those presently using the ‘environment’ and the stupid Greenies to push one aspect of their controlling agenda.

    best to you all
    Tillie Morgan

  5. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 26, 2005 at 4:26 AM | Permalink

    Re 4, Tille, firstly, an interesting contrast between your admission you’re ‘a Green, who cares about the environment’ and ‘Greenpeace (they are just deludued on this one and anyhow they have next to know actual power)’, ‘the stupid Greenies to push one aspect of their controlling agenda’. You can’t be all three can you? Do you draw a distinction between ‘greens’ and ‘greenies’? What is that distinction?

    Secondly ‘but who happens to think you may be right about the issue of climate change.’. What do you mean by that? Steve is, by his own admission, not seeking out to reconstruct past climate, and I’ve seen but little evidence he is interested in present or future climate. So, what do you man by ‘may be right about the issue of climate change’?

  6. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jul 26, 2005 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

    Re #4 (at this moment in time) Tillie,

    Firstly, I would say that MOST peope don’t really care about global warming one way or the other. All the polls seem to indicate this.

    A large percentage of the people who do care about global warming believe skeptics are mouthpieces for “big fossil” because that is what they are told to believe by the proponents of the AGW hypothesis. People like John Hunter and the main contributors at web sites like RealClimate like to perpetuate this belief as part of their “approximation” to good debate.

    Perhaps skeptics “seem SO bad at putting your case out there” because skeptics generally deal with boring facts or mathematical minutia while proponents of the AGW hypothesis deal with scary rhetoric. Scary rhetoric is so much more interesting than boring facts and therefore attracts more the attention to sell more newspapers/air time/advertising.

    There is no vast overweening conspiracy. The self serving vested interests of money and market share in the media will push the stories that attract attention/cash/power to themselves.

    It is only recently that a hint of scandal has attracted better representation in the media to the skeptic side of the debate.

    You may be mischaracterizing the skeptic side of the debate. Most skeptics (I believe) believe that we do not know enough right now about global climate and climate change to justify spending our limited resources on mitigating the possible future impacts.

    Jeff

  7. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 1:08 AM | Permalink

    That’s an iteresting last paragraph, Jeff. Would I be right to suggest you think we’ll never know enough? And if that’s not the case what would clich it for you (and others, it’s something that does interest me)?

  8. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    Re #7 (at this moment in time) Peter,

    I think that more research and data is always good. I think we should be focusing our attention on monitoring and recording climate data right now. I think getting a better handle on actual continuous global temperature trends over a period time better representative of climate (~30 to ~60 years) would be better. (At the GISS web page you can see how many of the temperature data sets used in the global averaging, end in ~1990).

    Developing GCMs is useful. When they can actually model clouds and the climate changes approximated during the 20th centrury and explain major climate events like: major droughts, the PDO, el Nino, the mid 20th century cooling and cloud cover, they might be useful for forecasting future climate.

    Maybe when these have been achieved I will lose my doubts. No promises.

    What has convinced you that the AGW hypothesis is clear and present threat that requires immediate action to mitigate possible future impacts? I think you have been asked in the past but I do not recall if you ever answered.

    Jeff

  9. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 3:11 AM | Permalink

    Jeff, actually, if you look in the ‘conflict of interest #2′ thread I HAVE answered pretty much that question, and at length. It’s a threat, and one we should respond to – in my opinion, just like in your’s it isn’t. For me it’s about taking out insurance for the future. OK, I know others think that mean I want to wreck the world economy and plunge us back to the stone age ( yup, seriously, I do…) , but I think it’s wise to take precautions not carry on regardless (which I asssume you would given your stated position?).

  10. David H
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 5:08 AM | Permalink

    Peter,

    They must just love you at Dixons. From my experience it is only worth insuring against consequences which are severely damaging in a financial sense and only then if the premium is small. The problem with Kyoto is that we do not know with any precision either the cost of the insurance policy or the cost of the damage that we are insuring against.

    What would be a worthwhile insurance policy right now would be to invest in the critical examination of all the key climate research like the proxy reconstructions and the surface temperature estimates. The cost of doing this is trivial in comparison to the billions spent so far and if no fault is found AGW theory will look more likely to be correct. On the other hand if the sort of problems Steve is finding in MBH98 are found to be present in other studies we might find it unnecessary to return to the stone age.

  11. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 5:28 AM | Permalink

    David, ok, you disagree. Fair enough. Btw, I know what Dixons are like, they’ve tried to sell me their da*n insurances, and have been told were to go! Oh, and my back to the stone age comment was meant to be ironic…

    So, you’d carry on regardless too? Do you see any problem, in principle, with emission of ghg’s increasing over time for say ten decades?

  12. David H
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    Peter,

    That depends upon what you think is normal. The drive to energy efficiency did not start in 1998. The cavity wall, double glazing, loft insulation and condensing boilers were all developed well before the current AGW scare. The UK’s dash for gas which has so far let us meet our Kyoto target was political and market driven and also began earlier.

    A few years ago I did a caravan tour round Europe and as “insurance” took a pile of spares that I chose carefully. Few if any were used and I realised that the only spare thing worth having was cash. With it I could fix any problem and it was a less heavy to lug about.

    Relating this to the issue of GW. I think we should concentrate on raising the living standards of the world as a whole. This will level off population growth and give us the wealth to cope with whatever disaster arrives, whether from a warming world, the next ice age, a new virus, giant meteorite or tsunami. I think your idea of insurance is more like the pharaohs building pyramids.

    As to your question, I do not know if another 100 years of emissions will be a problem. I have great difficulty in accepting the scale of feedback that turns a physics derived estimate of a degree or so into any thing up to 10 or more depending on which alarmist is talking. However I think we are very short sighted if we continue to burn valuable raw materials. We should go nuclear like the French.

  13. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    David, well, I don’t strongly disagree, though I don’t much care for it being implied my thinking is ancient Egyptian – obvious nonsense. Mild by comparison to some I’ve read though :).

    I would guess that such disasters as a serious meteorite or a serious pandemic might well see the breakdown of economic order, depends upon the scale I guess.

  14. John A
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 7:46 AM | Permalink

    David, well, I don’t strongly disagree, though I don’t much care for it being implied my thinking is ancient Egyptian – obvious nonsense. Mild by comparison to some I’ve read though

    …and homeopathic compared to some you’ve delivered.

  15. Tillie Morgan
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 8:45 AM | Permalink

    Peter,
    I am so sorry to have confused you. Try to bear with me and I’ll do my best to straighten it out

    1. To me it seems perfectly rational to a)think the Green movement is currently ‘stupid’ to blindly follow the ‘global warming’ belief, and b) think the Green movement as a whole is worthwhile. Why do you think it isn’t?

    The way I see it, we don’t have to blindly follow any accepted ideology, we can follow our own conscience, remain forever alert and open-minded. I think the greatest enemy of science and the human soul is knee-jerk adherence to wholesale belief systems; group-think, the tyranny of the consensus view. When people succumb to this they do indeed create a very tragic spectacle, manifesting intellectual degeneration, hysterical defensive thinking and a rather discreditable tendency to try to disparage other viewpoints without proper consideration of their merit.

    You know the kind of thing?

    So, because I try to steer away from group-think I feel free to both support the Green movement as a whole and think the Greens are currently (potentially at least) stupid to be blindly following one not very well-supported theory as if it were fact.

    Does that help in understanding me?

    2. You ask what I mean by ‘who thinks you might be right about climate change’, which apparently has puzzled you almost to death!

    Let me take you through my thinking on this:
    I wrote what I did because I thought the people on this site were trying to argue that the Mann interpretation of massive warming and the denial of the medieval warm period etc. was flawed and that the current ideas in the media re. global warming (or ‘climate change’) were over-simplified or in need of reconsideration.

    And because I tend to think this might be correct, I wrote that I thought ‘you may be right’.

    Do you see how it works now?

    But of course maybe I am wrong in thinking this is what you all stand for? If I am then I do apologise for my stupidity.

    If I’m not wrong, and you are saying what I think you are saying then maybe you in turn could explain why you are pretending to misunderstand me?

    Is this your usual way of dealing with any critique you can’t otherwise dismiss?

    best
    Tillie

  16. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 9:05 AM | Permalink

    Tillie,

    Re 1 a) and b). Well, I don’t follow anything blindly, nor am I a green (in that I support that political party). Why do you think people are ‘following blindly’? Meteorologist read thermometer, scientist do the sums, is it blindly following to think they may be right? It’s following blindly to be certain Steve is right. Are you certain he is? I’m not, not certain. Is that allowed?

    Are you open to the possibilty that AGW will be serious? I’m open to it being somewhre between (in all likelyhood) 1-4C – is that closed minded? Surely not. I don’t dismiss any outcome, I think 1-4C is likely, any less very unlikey any more very unlikely – try and pin closed mind label on that?!

    Re the rest, I know what you wrote. I only asked a question to try and undertand *why* you think Steve is right. What’s wrong with that?

  17. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

    Re#9 (at this moment in time) Peter,

    I found the thread (7/152005 @ 6:55 am). To summarize, I think you told fFreddy that you believe the world will warm 1 to 4°C some time in the future. You believe the world has warmed and that the published global temperature trends are reasonably correct and accurate. You believe that human society is responsible for the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases which will cause a delayed warming though you don’t believe that the recent warming has been proven to be anthropogenic. You believe the RSS MSU data is a better representation of tropospheric temperatures. You believe the planet has warmed pretty fast and continues to do so.

    Jeff

  18. Michael Ballantine
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    Tillie,
    “If I’m not wrong, and you are saying what I think you are saying then maybe you in turn could explain why you are pretending to misunderstand me?

    Is this your usual way of dealing with any critique you can’t otherwise dismiss?”

    YES! He also fits the definition of a “tar-baby”. Look up “Uncle Remus” in American literature if you don’t understand the reference.

  19. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    Peter,

    If you “don’t follow anything blindly”, why do you believe the RSS interpretation of the MSU data is a better representation of tropospheric temperatures?

    Jeff

  20. Hans Erren
    Posted Jul 27, 2005 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    re #16:
    Re the rest, I know what you wrote. I only asked a question to try and undertand *why* you think Steve is right. What’s wrong with that?

    Steve shows what he did , you may disagree weith that but you’d have to substantiate it with science. MBH haven’t shown what they did.

    [proxies] -> [?] -> [hockeysticks]

    In first instance even the used proxies were unclear (Steve is this issue now settled?)

  21. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 31, 2005 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    Hans, I’m wading through the new code dump to se what’s missing. I have to pick it up and put it down, as it’s dull work. The code dump is not complete by any means: it refers to many input sets that haven’t been archived. I would have thought that MAnn would have tried to be comprehensive. I’ll do a reconciliation against my list of outstanding steps. For example, there’s nothing showing a Presiendorfer calculation for the tree ring networks. Cheers, Steve

  22. TCO
    Posted Sep 21, 2005 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    This issue of access to data and of archiving is an evolving one. Basically standards have traditionally been very low (even though for 50 or 100 years) people have talked about the need to share data and recheck analyses. In many cases (physical science) this is not such an issue since the experiment can be redone. (Not effiecient, but still…) Also, in the past, the ability to digitally record and share information was much less. The publication really was the publication. We are evolving to a world where SIs will be the real publication. We’re just not there yet. But this case will help…

  23. TCO
    Posted Sep 21, 2005 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    And NSF is behind the times and has not really thought through actually carrying out their nice sounding policies (which will require people to change behavior). But this case will help.

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