San Francisco Chronicle Op Ed: The Unholy Lust of Scientists

Here’s an interesting op ed by philosopher David Oderburg, who says:

I venture to suggest that contemporary science is now so corrupted by the lust for loot and glory that nothing less than root-and-branch reform can save it. For a start, although I distance myself wholly from his anti-rationalism and methodological anarchy, I share the late philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend’s demand for a separation of science and state, or at the very least a radical curtailment of public financial sponsorship of scientific research. How could the millions thrown at scientists be anything other than a veritable inducement to misconduct? When you combine it with the innumerable honors and awards that await the next would-be secular savior of humanity, one wonders that fraud is not even more common than it appears to be.

He was thinking about medical research – I wonder what he’d think of climate research.

74 Comments

  1. Andre
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    Some scientists fudge data; others omit inconvenient evidence; yet others misrepresent the evidence they do have, obtaining levels of precision discordant with what may reasonably be expected from frequently messy experimentation with its many variables. Some scientists do all of this and more. How rare cheating is in science is hard to answer

    Why certainly that would not happen in climate science, would it?

  2. pj
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    Here’s a great article from the New York Times of the subject of sceintific fraud.

    http://tinyurl.com/9lz5m

    It is titled, “Trial and Error,” and appeared on January 15.

    An excerpt:

    “Journal editors say they can’t prevent fraud. In an absolute sense, they’re right. But they could make fraud harder to commit. Some critics, including some journal editors, argue that it would help to open up the typically closed peer-review system, in which anonymous scientists review a submitted paper and suggest revisions. Developed after World War II, closed peer review was meant to ensure candid evaluations and elevate merit over personal connections. But its anonymity allows reviewers to do sloppy work, steal ideas or delay competitors’ publication by asking for elaborate revisions (it happens) without fearing exposure. And it catches error and fraud no better than good editors do. ‘The evidence against peer review keeps getting stronger,’ says Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, ‘while the evidence on the upside is weak.’ Yet peer review has become a sacred cow, largely because passing peer review confers great prestige – and often tenure.

    “Lately a couple of alternatives have emerged. In open peer review, reviewers are known and thus accountable to both author and public; the journal might also publish the reviewers’ critiques as well as reader comments. A more radical alternative amounts to open-source reviewing. Here the journal posts a submitted paper online and allows not just assigned reviewers but anyone to critique it. After a few weeks, the author revises, the editors accept or reject and the journal posts all, including the editors’ rationale.”

  3. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

    The main suggestion that I would make to peer review (and I’ve mentioned these before):
    require authors to archive data and source code in applicable areas.

    This would make after-market analysis a lot easier and create a disincentive for authors to gild lilies. I would also make authors sign an online affidavit of full, true and plain disclosure, just as promoters for a prospectus do.

  4. Hans Erren
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    re 2:

    It exists already and is called:

    Wikipedia

  5. John A
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    Re #4

    Wikipedia is nothing of the kind. It is a demonstration of how idealism, anti-rationalism, anarchism and collective ignorance can produce lies that look and feels just like truth. It is really the natural home of modern day versions of Winston Smith and Tillotson who day by day, piece by piece, revise history to conform to their own extreme belief systems, where scholarship can be wholly subverted by a thousand idiots.

    I regard Wikipedia as an interesting experiment, but one which demonstrates how knowledge should not be acquired. To me, Wikipedia is an Orwellian menace to democracy and freedom right around the world.

    See http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2006/01/18_online.shtml for further examples.

  6. J. Sperry
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    I was waiting for a place to put this. The January issue of Astronomy had an interesting piece by Bob Berman, which included a similar take on today’s science. (Assume parallels at your own risk.)

    Until recently, science dealt with theories quickly and effectively. They’d be tested. Confirmed ones were kept, wrong ones tossed, flawed ones modified. The process was merciless. But string theorists have managed to concoct dimensions, argue that no testing is possible, and yet somehow enjoy funding year after year.

    Peter Woit thinks the main reason is because it’s been the only game in town, the hot-button label, the sure way for graduate students to get grants and publicity. But Woit wonders how much longer the media will “waste its time on a perpetual, well-promoted but never-successful investigation of a theory that has no connection with the physical world.”

    Later this year, Woit’s book (among others) will be published, and the whole ball of yarn might begin to unravel publicly. Those in funding positions may finally realize it’s time to move on.

    In effect, the message will be: That was great fun, guys. But folks are eager to understand our strange universe, and they’re tired of grasping at threads.

  7. Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    Dear Steve,

    this is mostly to entertain you and the the fellow readers because I guess that you (and they) don’t care whether Climate Audit has its own page on Wikipedia.

    Someone proposed this page to be deleted:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Climate_Audit

    I did not know about the vote. But 30 minutes ago, William Connolley came to my blog and victoriously announced that I may be interested that Climate Audit page was scraped.

    Of course that the reason is that William, despite our respect for him, has some problems not only with calculations but also with reading. If he could read, he would have seen the following verdict:

    The result of the debate was no consensus, keep. Johnleemk | Talk 07:49, 14 January 2006 (UTC)

    So the page is Climate Audit alive and well. ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_Audit

    I invite everyone who knows this web to improve the page.

    All the best
    Lubos

  8. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    Steve and others,

    James P Hogan (http://www.jamesphogan.com) gets into this issue of money and science in hi “Killing The Sacred Cow” book.

    His website is pretty interesting – lots of links to scientific heresies too.

    As for Wikipedia – no thanks, it has been found to be very politically correct.

  9. Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    Dear J. Sperry,

    as you may know, Peter Woit has a blog that is often read simultaneously with mine – his is an anti-string-theory while mine is a pro-string theory blog. Let me tell you that there is a profound difference between Peter Woit and Stephen McIntyre as two examples of “skeptics”.

    http://motls.blogspot.com/

    Stephen McIntyre can actually read the climate articles, understand them, and do many things better than the authors (and write his own, as it turned out). Peter Woit has no idea what questions and answers are being studied in contemporary theoretical high-energy physics, and he is satisfied with very general and low-brow criticisms – like “there are no experiments beyond the Standard Model and therefore all theoretical physics is bull***”. He can read virtually no articles that were written in the last 20 years.

    I am the last one who would argue that everything is great and sunny in our field but the analogy with climate science is not fair. Our field is first of all not politically biased, and despite a lack of breathtaking progress in the last 3 years or so and very deep difficulties to get new experimental data (which is just technologically hard – and the cancellation of the SSC was also a big pain), we still know very well what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Moreover, we are a community of very independent people who are continuously verifying and critically investigating our work and the work of our peers.

    And modestly speaking, the people in our field simply are smarter than the climate scientists. Compare Juan Maldacena with Michael Mann, to get a clear example. You can’t really compare them.

    We study systems at much more fundamental level where actual theoretical principles work and are more or less guaranteed to work if they’re properly chosen. Climate science is about a chaotic physical system where no simplified laws are expected to be generally valid and where the truth – and the correct (messy) model including all effects that are relevant – can only be extracted by a very careful statistical analysis of large ensembles of data. In particle physics, many things are predicted with the accuracy of 12 significant figures. In climate science, the errors of the predictions are around 100 percent, much like in the economy. It’s just a completely different world with different levels of rigor and different degree of importance of statistics.

    We don’t have any critic like Steve McIntyre in string theory who could actually point out some errors in recent papers. And be sure that it’s not because the papers don’t make sense. Some of them don’t ;-), but there are still many important papers that are very robust, valuable and useful.

    All the best
    Lubos

  10. John A
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 7:10 PM | Permalink

    I’ve just edited the ClimateAudit article. Now watch the fun begin….

  11. jae
    Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    Does Wikipedia really judge the quality of a site by VOTES? Wow!

  12. Posted Jan 20, 2006 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Lubos, I hope you are better at physics than you are at reading. Connolley said that it had “scraped through”. This means something different from “scrapped”.

  13. John G. Bell
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 12:26 AM | Permalink

    If Luboà…⟠is typical of his sort, english is probably his 4th or 5th language. That he trips over scraped/scrapped doesn’t cause me to worry about his physics. You think that native english speakers are better at physics Tim?

  14. Ed Snack
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 2:09 AM | Permalink

    I would take it as a signal mark of defeat for Real Climate that they should make such an overt effort to have the CA entry deleted, and then FAIL ! It seems that they are as effective and clever at internet politics as they are at concealing their mistakes in their research. So Tim, is really something of note to be treasured, that RC tried to censor CA in something like Wiki ?

  15. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 2:40 AM | Permalink

    To be Wiki’d or not to be Wiki’d – that is the question!

    Anon

  16. Hans Erren
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 3:05 AM | Permalink

    William Connolley censored talk pages on wiki which is extremely unethical.

  17. Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 3:34 AM | Permalink

    Connolley has deleted abusive comments from talk pages. This is not unethical. The purpose of such pages is discussion, not abuse.

    Ed, maybe you can borrow Steve’s tinfoil hat?

  18. John A
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 4:02 AM | Permalink

    Deleting comments from Talk Pages is considered by Wikipedia to be vandalism.

    Of course, what you or Connelley regard as abusive is all in the eye of the beholder. When the object of your twisted ire attempts to respond to your slander, then you have them banned.

    We are all witnesses to the bizarre logic of what constitutes “abusive comments” on RealClimate, where scientific replies get censored, and comments comparing climate skeptics to Holocaust deniers sail right on through.

    So you don’t deny that Connelley has been deleting comments on Talk Pages in Wikipedia. Of course, if Connelley coudln’t answer the questions or face the facts, then like you, he puts them in the nearest “memory hole”, claiming them to be “abusive”.

    Now back to the speakwrite, Tillotson, and remember to imitate the tone of “Big Brother” which is “a style at once military and pedantic, and, because of a trick of asking questions and then promptly answering them …. easy to imitate.”

  19. John A
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 6:10 AM | Permalink

    Here’s a link to William’s finest hour

  20. Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 7:32 AM | Permalink

    John A, the page you linked to only states that removing vandalism warnings from talk pages is vandalism. The official policy states that editors should remove offensive comments from talk pages. Connolley was recently made an admin at Wikipedia. Apparently the community there think he does a good job of editing.

  21. Michael Sirks
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    Re. 2,4:
    One alternative to peer review is open review which was practiced at John Daly’s “Still waiting for the greenhouse”.
    for example;
    http://www.john-daly.com./dietze/cmodcalc.htm

    It is my opinion that when discussion in open review is organised in more structure way it could have it’s merrits. Every seperate issue should have its own thread.

    Wikipedia has achieved a lot. Very many articles of reasonable quality, but at least for the articles relating to the climate issues it is biase. William Connoley and his supporters try to discredit and misrepresent every skeptic;
    Ross McKitrick: Here he saids that Ross can’t distinguish between degrees and radians.
    Talk:Ross_McKitrick see archive
    In the 1000 year temperature reconstruction he tries to insert the reference of the same error of Ross McKitrick in an attempt to discredite the McKitrick & McIntyre paper.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Temperature_record_of_the_past_1000_years
    Calls Fred Singer the nutty proffesor. Etc. etc.

    William Connoley has got the permission to do like pleases. It is OK when brakes his parole. His parole is nullified when it is to bothersome for William.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Climate_change_dispute_2#Removal_of_the_revert_parole_imposed_on_William_M._Connolley

    Not only that the person who dears to mention that William is braking his parole ,is placed on probation himself. He is even instructed not to comment on William Connoley.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Climate_change_dispute_2#SEWilco_placed_on_Probation
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Climate_change_dispute_2#Restrictions_on_SEWilco

    He ‘s told the arbitration commission doesn’t follow “natural justice” or “due process”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Climate_change_dispute_2/Workshop#Motion_for_procedural_fairness_dismissal

    You can say that again.

    And now the head of arbitration commission seems to be a disbarred attorney.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Arbitration_Committee_Elections_January_2006/Vote/Fred_Bauder#Disbarred_attorney

    Doesn’t surprise me.

    Michael Sirks

  22. John A
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    ohn A, the page you linked to only states that removing vandalism warnings from talk pages is vandalism.

    “Actively erasing personal messages without replying (if a reply would be appropriate or polite) will probably be interpreted as hostile. In the past, this kind of behavior has been viewed as uncivil, and this can become an issue in arbitration or other formal proceedings.”

    You’re quite right Tim, it’s not vandalism if you do it to your own Talk Page.

    The official policy states that editors should remove offensive comments from talk pages. Connolley was recently made an admin at Wikipedia. Apparently the community there think he does a good job of editing.

    Thank you for this piece of information. I can now rest safe in the knowledge that such a character has such control over scientific topics.

  23. Ed Snack
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

    Its Timmy ! If I need the hat, I think the very last thing I’d do if I wanted an unbiased opinion on which one, would be to take Tim Lambert’s advice. Written your “Mann stuffs it up, AGAIN !” Article yet Tim, or still revelling in hypocrisy ?

  24. hans kelp
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    Just to mention that a reknown Norvegian cancer researcher and physician by the name Jon SudbàƒÆ’à‚ⶬ on the 16th of this month has admittedly committed scientific fraud. Jon SudbàƒÆ’à‚ⶠhas had articles published in the Lancet in which complete lists of patients with their names and personalia included in his research was and are completely a fabrication of his own from A to Z (information taken from the Danish Television News ).

    Even though Jon SudbàƒÆ’à‚ⶠis just “one more” from the world of medicine, I think it´s wise to be a skeptic also of the contemporary climate science. In medicine they fabricate data and results. In climate science they just “forget” where they put their data or their dogs ate them by accident… (Well, I have my own theory – they ate the data themselves so that they would be shure Steve Mcintyre never would be able to audit them!!!).

    Hans Kelp

  25. per
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 7:16 PM | Permalink

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/research/story/0,9865,1687476,00.html

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000082&sid=al2fCCk49Fy8&refer=canada

    per

  26. Jim Clarke
    Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    The problem with the Wikepedia entry about ‘Climate Audit’ is that it gives the impression that Steve McIntyre is some kind of mining person weighing in on the issue of global warming and climate. Those not familiar with the debate will assume that Climate Audit is just another ill-informed, crazy site ranting against the experts.

    In reality, Steve McIntrye is a professional statistician arguing with climate scientists about statistics. It is the Climate Audit site that actually has the educational advantage in the debate!

    If William Connolley really is an editor on the Wekipedia site, do you think he would prohibit this more accurate charachterization of ‘Climate Audit’ from being posted?

  27. Posted Jan 21, 2006 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

    When I read the Wikepedia Climate Audit page I got the same impression, Steve was a miner dabbling in climate science. We all know he is much more, a professional statistician, a dogged investigator, and talented mystery writer. I come back every day looking for the next chapter in this climate sciednce mystery story. Who would think science could be so interesting.

  28. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 2:13 AM | Permalink

    “Professional statistician”? This is based on what? I don’t recall that Steve makes such a claim.

    Regarding the column that triggered the post (and that was pretty much ignored in the comments), I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on what the author says. Reading through to the last couple of paragraphs, it’s obvious that his purpose was to attack the entire field of embryonic stem cell research, and in particular California’s recent foray into providing public support for a major effort in that area. His view that embryonic stem cell research is inherently unethical is a matter of religious opinion. I would suggest that he backed into his “philosophical” concerns about public funding for science in an attempt to make more credible his much narrower attack. Oddly enough, notice that the worst instance of scientific misconduct he listed (faking safety studies for pesticides) involves private sector scientists.

  29. John A
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 2:34 AM | Permalink

    If William Connolley really is an editor on the Wekipedia site, do you think he would prohibit this more accurate charachterization of “Climate Audit’ from being posted?

    What do you think?

  30. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 3:55 AM | Permalink

    Blooming ‘Ell, another misfired exocet from Surreal Climate.

  31. per
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 4:17 AM | Permalink

    Re: #28
    I think you are correct that the column is unimpressive in its argument. Just as a starter, you get precious little evidence of endemic corruption, merely innuendo, and he has no suggestions for root and branch reform, bar preventing stem cell research.

    You state that the worst example of scientific misconduct was faking safety studies; it is worth noting that the cited instance came from a book two decades old. Those sorts of criticisms lead directly to pesticide regulatory studies having to be performed to a standard called GLP; that means audit trails, data checks, and the rest of it. This stuff has been in place for a good while.
    cheers
    per

  32. the fist
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 4:31 AM | Permalink

    Na, Ed. Timmy is just being himself that’s all. Timmy has just joined a group of scientists blogging about science. Only thing is computer science, specifically website design, isn’t a hard science last time I looked. So there goes Timmy, pretending he is a hard type guy. Intellectually dishonest is more like it.

  33. Paul Penrose
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    I find all these personal attacks to be very disquieting. Calling Tim Lambert “Timmy”, for example, is just childish. Can we please just take the high road here and stick to the science?

  34. Michael Sirks
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Re.26:
    William is no editor of the article of Climate Audit. (You can see the history of a article by clicking on the history tab.)
    history
    There are many other examples were William tries to discredit or misrepresent skeptics, but he is not the great person behind all the biased material on wikipedia. There are lots of editors of wikipedia who have the same outlook on certain issues. They sometimes work together and act as a group.(as a group they can block a individual)

    Re.20
    Yes William is an administrator and what was one of his first actions.

    history_global_warming
    In a response to some mindless and random vandalism he protects the global warming article. This means that editing of this page by new or anonymous users is temporarily disabled. No big deal, but I find it typical. He by way admites that he has sockpuppets.

    Michael Sirks

  35. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    Re #31: Per, I wish the system had been fixed. It’s certainly been improved, but then we get things like Vioxx and Phen-fen (sp?). These are examples from medicine, but the same issues remain with respect to pesticides. At least the Korean scandal didn’t kill anyone.

  36. per
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

    Re: #35
    you give the example of vioxx. Firstly, it is a very bad example, because (as far as I am aware) there is no issue of falsified or hidden data. Secondly, when you look at the data that was used to slate vioxx, it is pretty shabby. See “Vioxx populi” at:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2005%20August.htm

    Pharmaceuticals go through an extensive safety procedure, and if someone falsifies, or hides, or perverts that process, they deserve all that’s coming to them. This has happened. However, you cannot expect that this limited exposure to humans will pick up all side effects; after drug testing, drugs are then prescribed to many more patients and under more varied conditions than during the trials. So there are many examples of drugs which are only found to have adverse effects on humans after the safety tests; and it is not necessarily bad science or evil pharma at work.

    If you have an example of a consumer dying from exposure to pesticide residue in their food (other than intentional poisoning), I would love to hear about it. I suspect you don’t.
    cheers
    per

  37. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 22, 2006 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    Re #36: Pesticides are of course much different from medicine since they are not intentionally ingested or injected. Without spending a vast amount of time googling, especially as this is getting pretty OT for this site, most of the pesticide problems I’m aware of have to do with things like overly-loose use restrictions. I agree that it is fair (although of course unfortunate) that subtle side effects for drugs will sometimes only be found after they are in general use. If I recall correctly, this is where Vioxx ran into trouble, with the drug company unfortunately first trying to cover up the problems after the initial reports. And for some reason I forgot to mention PFOA (teflon), a chemical but apparently another instance of an after-the-fact cover-up, this one much longer-term than with Vioxx.

  38. per
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 2:10 AM | Permalink

    I thought you were trying to imply that pesticides were responsible for deaths, which is why I asked you for an example. It seems you cannot provide such an example.

    I don’t recognise your narrative of an evil pharma cover-up in the case of Vioxx; or at least, I am not aware of the facts that would be necessary to support such a claim. If you have reputable references, I would be delighted to see them.

    PFOA is not teflon. I am bemused by your claims of a cover-up, and confused as to what might be covered up; there is a substantial publically-available literature on PFOA. However, I must advise you; when you hear the sound of helicopters, it is far better to assume that they are in fact unmarked, black helicopters, coming to take you away before you blow the whistle on the conspiracy. :)

    yours
    per

  39. John A
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 4:29 AM | Permalink

    In a response to some mindless and random vandalism he protects the global warming article. This means that editing of this page by new or anonymous users is temporarily disabled. No big deal, but I find it typical. He by way admites that he has sockpuppets.

    He also gamely admits to deliberately conflating the M&M (MckItrick & Michaels) with the M&M (McIntyre & Michaels) so as to smear Steve.

    Wikipedia has been taken over by political extremists, as anarchistic movements always do.

  40. John A
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 6:44 AM | Permalink

    Back to the original article:

    Some scientists fudge data; others omit inconvenient evidence; yet others misrepresent the evidence they do have, obtaining levels of precision discordant with what may reasonably be expected from frequently messy experimentation with its many variables. Some scientists do all of this and more. How rare cheating is in science is hard to answer.

    I think its safe to say that the more publicity, the more money, the more scientific impact, the more likely are scientists to cheat. Hiding crucial data and methodological information to rivals goes with the package.

    I don’t support the idea of less public funding of research. I do support the idea that if the public purse is to be used, then full and plain disclosure of data and emtholodogy, with the added bonus of a 1-in-10 chance of having your entire work audited by an entirely independent team should have some effect.

    I think also it should be written into the grant that results, conclusions or anything else will not be made public or allowed to be sent to journals unless and until those conditions have happened. The recent phenomenon of publication by press release has got to end.

  41. fFreddy
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    Re #39, John

    He also gamely admits to deliberately conflating the M&M (MckItrick & Michaels) with the M&M (McIntyre & Michaels) so as to smear Steve.

    John, where does he make this admission ?

  42. John A
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

    fFreddy:

    The reference is to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ross_McKitrick

    There’s a section called rv by Sirk and several paragraphs down you get this exchange:

    your admission that your purpose was to discredite M&M[6] :::M&M didn’t make a mistake in degrees and radians I think you mean McKitrick in a not related article made that mistake.

    Of course M&M did. But McK and McI don’t have a trademark on the M&M label.

    And thereby deliberately misleading people who read this talk page. –MichaelSirks 20:40, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

    That is the reason why I am amazed that you want to mention it here. You give the impression that you want to suggest that McKitrick doesn’t know the differnce between radians and degrees.(thereby suggesting that you can’t trust the work of M&M.)

    On the latter point, definitely. William M. Connolley 20:15, 20 October 2005 (UTC).

    It doesn’t surprise me, but now it is in writting.–MichaelSirks 20:40, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

  43. Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    Going back to debating the post itself, and the op-ed to which it is based, I’d like to add a few thoughts.

    Let’s just go back to this quote from Oderburgs: “contemporary science is now so corrupted by the lust for loot and glory that nothing less than root-and-branch reform can save it. …How could the millions thrown at scientists be anything other than a veritable inducement to misconduct? When you combine it with the innumerable honors and awards that await the next would-be secular savior of humanity, one wonders that fraud is not even more common than it appears to be.”

    As a former practicing scientist myself, I must say I’ve never seen the “millions” thrown at me. I had to beg for every grant penny, and that was full time work. And those “innumerable honors and awards”, I don’t know what he’s talking about! Apart from the Nobel and the Fields medal, I don’t know of any award that comes with any sort of significant amount of money!

    Let me tell you the truth: the life of a scientist is a miserable one! You study for years, to finally get a Ph.D. and then what? Maybe you’ll end up with a string of post-doc positions at $30-40K. If you’re lucky, you get a tenure-track position, and then work your butt off to get tenure, teaching and trying to run a lab at the same time, with all the pressure to publish and get rare grant money. If you thrive for power and money, I’m sorry, but a scientific career is probably the worst choice you can make!

    One certain Professor I’ve known was in fact known for publishing a lot of, let’s say, dubious results. Sure he got a lot of grant money, but that was not enough for him. Came the tech bubble. He founded a startup based on his phoney technology, was clever enough to make a reverse takeover of a Nasdaq-listed shell company, and he then rode the wave, achieving a market cap in the 100’s of millions without ever having sold a single product, let alone making one! One day he sold most of his shares, then he was fired when they figured out he was a crook, and he retired with something like $5-10M.

    What’s the lesson here? If you want to make money defrauding others, there’s nothing like the private sector!

  44. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    #43 – Most professors that I know have pretty comfortable incomes and attractive life styles (but they’ve got tenure). Obviously if you want to make millions, as opposed to being merely comfortable, then you have to do something in the private sector. Stock promotions are one way. As I’ve mentioned many times, I don’t think that business men are particularly virtuous. The purpose of standards of “full true and plain disclosure” is to provide a legal recourse and deterrent. If the guy that you knew was crooked, then the place for people to look for redress is in the offering documents or in the continuous disclosure. Don’t think that I’m proposing a beauty contest between academics and business. I didn’t trust the high tech promotions. I mostly stayed out of them, but finally gave in and got badly burned on one a few years ago – shame on me.

  45. Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    Steve,

    Surely Bre-ex must ring a bell to you? Not to mention Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Hollinger etc.

    Publishing fraudulous scientific results will at best bring you some ephemerous glory, at the significant risk of a shattered reputation, losing your job and not be able to find work for the rest of your life. I don’t see why one would take that risk. Yes, there is fraud in science. Most of it goes unnoticed because it is inconsequential (“trimming” your results to make them look better). The most spectacular ones, I believe, always get caught. If you publish spectacular results, a lot of people will try to reproduce them. If they all fail, you’re in big trouble. Prof. Hwang’s glory lasted but a few months.

    As for the comfortable life, does that compare with Conrad Black’s ?

    I just don’t agree with the point of the paper, that scientists have that much incentive to resort to fraud. Scientists are humans, and you will find dishonest scientists just like you find dishonest business people, but most of them, like the rest, are honest.

    In your case, I’d say Mann et al. didn’t publish fraudulous results. Just a sloppy piece of work, that suddenly became the flagship paper for global warming proponents. Now he’s trapped. He can’t admit that what he did was not so good, because that would damage his career in a significant way. I don’t think Michael Mann particularly enjoys being asked tough questions by Congress. You got your paper published in the end, and that’s a significant victory. Science and common sense will win in the end.

  46. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    Francois, I agree with most of what you said.

    I’m familiar with the frauds that you mentioned and the interest in promotions was one aspect of the AGW debate that intrigued me in the first instance. I’ve discussed Bre-X on a number of occasions on this blog –

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=27

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=29

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=33

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=216

    Bre-X is a very interesting fraud. I don’t know any of the principals although I know people who know them. Personally I don’t think that the President, David Walsh, was involved in the fraud. As you see from my notes, some of the psychological aspects are really puzzling – such as de Guzman relishing his awards knowing that is was a fraud. People’s capacity for self-delusion can be remarkable. I also think that there is considerable evidence that the fraud originated with field geologists and staff with no original motive more ambitious than getting more work (by reporting favorable results).

    One topic that interests me in these frauds is exactly what points of disclosure and due diligence could have alerted people at an earlier stage. For Bre-X, there were some points of due diligence that never seem to have been done. That’s something that you can’t blame on the promoters, but on the analysts.

    In Mann’s case, while there is sloppy work, I’ve been particularly critical of aspects of the reports which seem to indicate clearly to me that adverse results were withheld. This is one of the points of traction on which you can proceed against businessmen. What people have generally missed is that the Barton questions to Mann are not “scientific questions” but disclosure questions, which are well understood by securities lawyers. Academics have typically missed this point entirely.

  47. Patrick Frank
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

    After seeing your post, Steve, and reading Oderberg’s OpEd, I was moved to write the letter below. Oderberg is clearly one of the breed of philosophers that resent science for producing a form of knowledge better than their own. They’re the ones who invented the charge of “Scientism” for use as a righteous flog.

    I agree with everything Francois wrote. I’ve been around academic scientists for my entire career, and while there are some big egos and a few strange personalities, by-and-large they are professionally honest hard-working folk, very few of whom get rich from honors, awards, or start-ups; and certainly not from grants.

    Anyway, here’s my letter:

    21 January 2006

    Letters Editor
    San Francisco Chronicle

    Editor: That Prof. Oderberg has a pre-existing grudge against science
    is obvious from the sneers that disfigure even the first sentence of
    his Op-Ed (Chronicle, January 15, p. E4). Perhaps we should thank him
    for the forewarning, considering that the rest of his essay is equally
    dismissible. Publicly-financed science is responsible for virtually
    all the antibiotics that keep bacterial plagues at bay. It has provided
    the new hips and knees, the advanced life-preserving surgeries, and the
    cancer survivors. Publicly financed science produced the green
    revolution that today feeds billions. And so let’s contemplate Prof.
    Oderberg’s morally superior world: It’s full of starvation, misery, and
    death. Here’s how to recognize fraud in science: The fraudulent claims
    don’t work. Fraudsters in science are caught. They are not caught among
    professional philosophers, however, because there is no objective
    measure of their work. And so Prof. Oderberg can himself preach for
    disaster without being called upon to account for his own foolishness.

    Yours sincerely,

    Patrick Frank

  48. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

    Further to Steve’s remarks on BreX etc, and I suspect Oderburg’s comments too:

    1. That field geologists did the salting probably was the case but we need to be clear on one thing here – many geologists are essentially well trained technicians rather than scientists – and while labelled “geologist” that does not necessarily mean that they understand the implications of salting cores or samples.

    Makes me hark back decades ago when west Africans spotted diamond explorers working in their tribal region. Noticing that whenever the geologists found a diamond caused great happiness amongst them, the tribal Africans then decided to plant diamonds in the samples, diamonds being worthless pieces of junk to them. The geologists became delirious with joy until the grey cells started functioning again. Took them a while to realise what was going on.

    And then we have sample collection by field assistants – I recall getting geochemical results from one field party which seemed not to match the geology at all – in fact the geochemical variation of the data was close to zilch. A field check discovered the field assistants sitting in the shade filling the sample bags with material from a large contained of soil.

    2. Oderburg’s comments should also be viewed from one made by Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfven years back when he opined that the problem with science is that there are too many scientists.

    I tend to favour the role of the market in supplying new drugs and new discoveries and one wonders if science was not institutionalised as it is now, that private scientists might not have achieved the same results. I think it is the collusion between big companies, big science and big government that might be the problem.

    It was a problem I indentified decades ago with the largest mining companies like Rio Tinto or BHP-Billiton. These companies have reached a size and developed an expertise and a “system” or “operation” that needs a continual feed of mineral ore. Almost as if these mining companies developed into a “living mining machine” needing its daily ore fix.

    So with instiutionalised science – so many scientists and so little to do. Nothing to do? Invent something. The Peter Principle – work expands to fill the time available.

    3. The last issue involves scientists doing science with not malaforethought but not correctly understanding some of the principles and hence making simple errors which become hidden in the complex theoretical superstructures built on the data. Steve picked up on the R2 statistic. One could as well point to the Jones et al method of computing the global mean temperature using the grid cells. Wrong method and prone to errors for various reasons.

    In many cases science is divorced from physical reality – Einstein did it last century when he disconnected physical reality from his maths. It evolved into the creation of mathematical black holes to balance the equations, which astronomers then went searching for, but a black hole is a point in 3D space with infinite density. It cannot exist in a 3D world. Seems climate science has also fallen into this hole – where computer models are assumed to be reality and when reality fails to live up to the model predictions, ad hoc adjustments are made to make things fit.

    As someone wrote some time ago, “there are no scientific theories, only those that are falsified, the rest as problems of engineering.

  49. Mark Gray
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    Time for “separation of science and state” medical research via a “radical curtailment of public financial sponsorship of scientific research”. Since I’m not a philosopher I am clearly not quite clever enough to understand exactly why this is a brilliant idea. As a research scientist in atmospheric science though I am smart enough to jump on the bandwagon, thank goodness these degrees are useful for something after all.

    In the US a good first step then would seem to be a wholesale closure of the CDC and the Naval Medical Research Center. Who really needs ‘em anyway? Eliminating the root sources of public funding of this pernicious research funding will go a long way.

    In the climate world we could get this important work moving by eliminating all but the most basic observational capacity of the National Hurricane Center. NOAA we could probably write-off completely. NASA can become an engineering shop again.

    With the money saved you can pay off the national debt by as much as several percent! Maybe 3%! As I think about it I wonder at the fact that we’ve made it this far as a society with groups like the NHC around. My colleagues and I can be free of publicly funded science and move to the free-market, where no doubt we’ll be fine. Actually here’s a further thought: let’s let theoretical physics do the same, why stop at medicine and climate? I have no doubt that the breathtaking minds in the field will have no trouble at all convincing private enterprise on the need for a better alternative to string theory.

  50. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

    “In the US a good first step then would seem to be a wholesale closure of the CDC…”

    Yes because we know what good work the CDC is concentrating on nowadays.

    http://www.junkscience.com/foxnews/fn100600.htm

  51. john lichtenstein
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 9:24 PM | Permalink

    A tournament job market model of biosciences by Richard Freeman et al: Competition and Careers in Biosciences is in Science 14 December 2001. Abstract

    There is a disconnect between the scientific promise of bioscience research and the career prospects facing young bioscientists. Bioscientists work longer hours for less pay, spend many years as lowly paid postdocs, and have greater career uncertainty than most highly educated professionals. We apply the economists’ tournament job market model to explain career patterns in bioscience research, which is structured so that the chance of winning a prize–an independent academic position, tenure, scientific renown–motivates researchers. We argue that market forces will not improve career prospects for young bioscientists and suggest policy interventions to make careers more economically rewarding and productive.

  52. Paul
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 9:44 PM | Permalink

    RE #51:

    Sounds like what we do to architects, too.

  53. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 23, 2006 at 10:42 PM | Permalink

    #47 Pat – for what it’s worth, I agree with the comments in your letter and, in particular, about the woolliness of philosophy.

  54. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 12:28 AM | Permalink

    Publicly-financed science is responsible for virtually all the antibiotics that keep bacterial plagues at bay. It has provided the new hips and knees, the advanced life-preserving surgeries, and the cancer survivors. Publicly financed science produced the green revolution that today feeds billions.

    Not that I agree with everything Oderberg says, but if the rebuttal argument above is “but for public funding” we’d never have any of these advances, I’d have to say hogwash.

    I think one needs to look at return on investment, and any government funding activity is wasteful, and ineffecient, not to mention subject to the whims of politicians, and at the worst just outright corrupt. If those public funds were actually kept in the pockets of those who earned the money in the first place, we’d likely see increased private sector funding, and see it more efficiently spent. No doubt that we’d see many of the advances described above and have some money to spare afterward.

  55. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 3:19 AM | Permalink

    My concern is a little different than fraud. It is the deliberate hyping of results.

    Let’s say I’m working in, oh, I don’t know, research on the Arctic tundra. Now there is constant competition for scarce grant dollars. These dollars, while earmarked for climate research, might go to studies of tropical oceans as well as to my chosen field, Arctic tundra.

    So if I want to get a grant, the obvious thing for me to do is to come up with some mega-threat to the planet, some headline like “ARCTIC TUNDRA THAW MAY THREATEN ALL LIFE ON EARTH”. The more I do that, the better my chance for a grant becomes, and scientists are very aware of that connection.

    This push for the publicity that leads to grants is, to me, a much graver threat than fraud. After all, a scientist reasons, I’m not defrauding anybody, I’m not making anything up, I’m just emphasizing the worst case scenario, pushing the “might” and “could” and “possibly” until they squeak, but at the end of the day, everything I say is justifiable because it “might” be true.

    It is this unholy interface between scientists competing for grants and the media looking for sensational stories that is the problem … and unfortunately, I don’t have any brilliant solutions. Certainly, cutting off public funding for science would solve the problem, in the same way that cutting off a man’s head would solve his psoriasis … but I don’t think we want to take that route.

    Perhaps we could pass a law that weasel words like “might” and “could” and “possibly” would not be used in a scientific document … after all, it could be that this might possibly solve the problem … oh, wait a minute …

    One thing in all of this is very clear, however. Our regulation of scientific research should be at least as stringent as our regulation of mining offerings … that is to say, we should require that anyone doing research using public funds should be required to archive all of their data and code.

    That one is a no-brainer, and it is a tribute to the no-brains in the government and the scientific journals that it is not already in place.

    w.

  56. per
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 5:54 AM | Permalink

    re:#54

    If those public funds were actually kept in the pockets of those who earned the money in the first place, we’d likely see increased private sector funding, and see it more efficiently spent.

    what is efficiency in fundamental science ? Would you be looking for papers in Nature ?
    The whole issue of this fundamental science is that you increase knowledge, and that this increase in knowledge may be useful at some later stage.
    The idea that this is an economically viable investment which will give you ROI is sadly, an example of a paradigm which cannot usefully be employed. I am afraid I would then struggle to see how your free market would work efficiently, when you are effectively pouring money down the drain to feed the god of science.
    cheers
    per

  57. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 7:10 AM | Permalink

    And finally arrive at:

  58. Paul
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    Who financed Newton? Galileo? Edison? Who financed many of the scientists before the expanded state that is common throughout the world? Many of them were probably financed by states looking for military advantage?

    The argument for publicly funded science is a weak one… particularly in the United States where there is no Constitutional authority to do so (again, military research might be there). James Madison vetoed some legislation regarding building a bridge. Some of the langauge from his veto is:

    The power to regulate commerce among the several States” can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such commerce with a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.

    To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.

    Funny part is that we never really had the debate about roads, either. Congress just started paying for them like they have everything else. As far as I know, the Constitution was never amended to adjust for this subject.

    I cannot recall in the history of the United States when publicly funded science was a subject of national debate. What we’ve had are pork projects designed to bring money to the home state to help ensure re-election so more money can be earmarked for the home state. That is not a debate about funding science, but about federal taxes being redistributed.

  59. Paul
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    RE – #58:

    The entire text of Madison’s veto can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/94kyn.

  60. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    Re:48 Louis,

    Makes me hark back decades ago when west Africans spotted diamond explorers working in their tribal region. Noticing that whenever the geologists found a diamond caused great happiness amongst them, the tribal Africans then decided to plant diamonds in the samples, diamonds being worthless pieces of junk to them. The geologists became delirious with joy until the grey cells started functioning again. Took them a while to realise what was going on.

    Sorry, but I am not getting the point of your story. If the diamonds were worthless pieces of junk to the natives, then the diamonds must have been pretty common. This suggests that the only thing the geologists clued into was that the natives were better at finding diamonds then they were.

    Jeff

  61. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

    Or that the natives so no value in the diamond as decoration or as an abrasive. They were simply a curiosity.

    the scientists were fooled in that wherever they looked there was diamonds. The natives having taken them from other places and moved them to where the scientists were, creating an abrnormally high amount wherever they looked.

  62. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    Or should we say in respect to Bre-X:

    Noticing that whenever they found trace amounts of gold in the drill core, it caused great happiness amongst the investors and [massive infusions of funding], the [geologists] then decided to plant [trace amounts of alluvial gold] in the samples, [trace amounts of alluvial gold] being [inexpensive to purchase]. The [investors] became delirious with joy. Took them a while to realise what was going on.

  63. Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    #58: Paul, I don’t know about Newton and Edison, but Galileo was funded by the state (the state being the Medicis court).

    I would say to those, especially in the United States, who worry that their government spends too much money on science: how does that compare with the $2 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost? And what are the relative benefits of both? Government-funded research has the side benefit of helping to form good scientists, via all the graduate students, who will then be hired by industry, and develop tomorrow’s technology. Personnally, I think that there are a lot of expenses that could be cut before scientific research.

  64. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

    Well Newton was funded by the state as well, mainly by being the head of the treasury for awhile. Amongst Other things.

    Well Edison self funded a lot, he worked for the government a lot, and did recieve government funding.

    But None of these are really comparable scenarios. Most of what they did was demonstratable.

  65. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

    Re #58: The small scuffle that took place about 50 years after Madison wrote that passage had the effect of rather expanding the view of the extent of Congress’ role in providing for the common good. For better or worse, two hundred year-old interpretations of the Constitution are of very limited value in the present.

  66. per
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    Who financed Newton? Galileo? Edison? Who financed many of the scientists before the expanded state that is common throughout the world?

    Newton was lucasian professor of maths at Cambridge University at the relevant time (http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Newton.html). However, I don’t understand your point in bringing this up. The argument was adduced that the private sector will do research better than the public sector, because of its intrinsically greater efficiency. Neither Newton nor Galileo were funded on the basis that they would give better ROI for private investors.

    While it is noticeable that you hark back to the better days before these expanded states that have become so common in the last couple of centuries, I personally think it bizarre that you should use the 17th century as a touchstone for how governments should behave in the 21st century. In case you haven’t noticed, the high added value industries require highly skilled (i.e. PhD level) scientists; and much publically-funded science has seen extremely profitable exploitation- for example, the biotech revolution which now underpins much current pharma. I don’t see that there is even a model whereby you could privately fund pure science.

    cheers
    per

  67. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 5:40 PM | Permalink

    what is efficiency in fundamental science ?

    Efficiency in FUNDING of fundamental science.

    Let’s let the dollars flow from the people that earned them directly to the researchers without having them take the (far from) scenic route through the IRS, the bureaucracies, the politicians, back through the bureaucracies, and eventually to the researchers with bits and pieces shaved off along the way so that only 10-20% of the original amount makes it to the scientists. You pay a lot of overhead to get government funding, and you enrich politicians and bureaucrats along the way. Better that that money enriched scientists.

    The idea that this is an economically viable investment which will give you ROI is sadly, an example of a paradigm which cannot usefully be employed. I am afraid I would then struggle to see how your free market would work efficiently, when you are effectively pouring money down the drain to feed the god of science.

    I think it depends on how you define what is a “return” in ROI. For some contributors to science, the return may be an increase in fundamental scientific knoweledge. Others may view their contribution as a financial investment. Either way, I feel it should be an individual decision where one spends their own hard-earned money, not some politician’s.

  68. Paul
    Posted Jan 24, 2006 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

    Madison’s veto has direct bearing here, as we’re talking about the challenges with maintaining honesty in the system.

    In light of the stem stell, Dutch, hockey stick and other scandels, maybe it is important that we have the debate about the proper role of goverment in scientific research, particularly spending. In the US, there has been no public debate regarding the proper role of government in funding. It is merely assumed that this is good and proper and we leave the bureacrats to run (and abuse) the system they create.

    And, please consider that in the US, Madison’s ideas about the Constitution are relevant today. If we think that the government should do things differently, then the proper forum is public debate and then amendments to the Constitution — the Constitution provides for changes to it. Is it not more honest to work through the issues and change the Constitution rather than assume we know the outcome of the debate and act accordingly (and unConstitutionally)? If the outcom of a national debate is to change the Constitution to allow for the funding of science, then so be it…it would be the law of the land. But the law of the land, as of yet, has not yet been changed to allow for federal funding of scientific research, building of bridges, railroads, NASA, and a whole host of other things please don’t take this as a value judgement on those things, only that there is no Constitutional provision for the funding of those things on a federal level. A debate on those issues would be good and wholesome for the country, too. Through it, we might find the beginnings of the answer to the problems of funding scientific research.

    As an aside – I know Steve is a Canadian so this debate, being US centric, might be a little off. But the principles still hold for every country that funds science. How does your country’s constitution deal with the issue? Are there things we can learn from it, knowing that many in the US have an aversion to socialist ideas?

  69. Marlowe Johnson
    Posted Jan 26, 2006 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    Per –

    Early in the thread you said:

    PFOA is not teflon. I am bemused by your claims of a cover-up, and confused as to what might be covered up; there is a substantial publically-available literature on PFOA. However, I must advise you; when you hear the sound of helicopters, it is far better to assume that they are in fact unmarked, black helicopters, coming to take you away before you blow the whistle on the conspiracy.

    I have to say I’m bemused by your bemusement :)…see below

    “The move, which came just a month after DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with EPA over the company’s failure to report possible health risks associated with PFOA, drew applause from environmental groups that have frequently criticized both the administration and DuPont.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/25/AR2006012502041.html

  70. Greg F
    Posted Jan 26, 2006 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

    RE:69

    I too am bemused. The article quotes “Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

    The science is still coming in on PFOA, but the concern is there,

    Concern, or rather, peoples paranoia, is a typical rational for the EPA thugs. The article further states:

    Scientific studies have not established a link between using products containing trace amounts of PFOA…

    Hazen said yesterday’s announcement should “not indicate any concern . . . for consumers using household products” with such coatings.

    What logic! First there should be concern (presumably before extorting $16.5 million out of Dupont) to “not indicate” any concern. Sheesh! So what we have is Dupont paying $16.5 million to avoid an expensive and uncertain litigation over a technical report violation. While, on the other hand, the EPA gets a fair amount of positive press for protecting us from a perceived (read paranoid perception), rather then a real hazard.

  71. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 26, 2006 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    #54 – Your sweeping application of tar to government money spent on sponsored research is unsustainable, nanny; soul-satisfying Libertarian ideology notwithstanding. Every analysis of cost-benefit for government research has come up a very large positive return. See the end remarks here: http://tinyurl.com/dvfhf.

    Especially in today’s competitive environment most companies can support only very directed R&D with a 2-5 year payoff. Companies rely on the huge technology transfer from universities, brought to them chiefly by newly minted, newly hired Ph.D.’s. No technology-dependent US companies — nor any other, really — could compete today without that knowledge transfer. This was explicitly acknowedged by US companies during the 1980’s when they were being steam-rollered by Japan. There was a lot of government worry about transferring technology from universities to corporations. Remember Sematech? The corporations replied that technology was efficiently transferred from universities with their new hires from every graduating class. This critical economic benefit is largely invisible to a casual view, and goes entirely unnoticed by people who think as you do. You could, of course, change your mind in light of that.

  72. J Midgley
    Posted Feb 7, 2006 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

    I recently conducted an interesting sociological experiment on the subject of Fraud in Physics. The experiment concerned a comment letter I submitted in 2004 on two papers from the 1990s in OSAs “Applied Optics”. In the comment letter I prove that the first paper is fraudulent and in the second that the theory, derived from the first paper is false. Between them these papers had at the time been cited by no less than 47 author groups and the false and fraudulent theory used to justify a false experimental technique used in several other papers to the present century at significant and possibly fraudulent cost to the UK taxpayer.

    Upon receipt of my comment letter the response of the editor of Applied Optics was to deny my letter peer review with the words: “This is not the way”. So it seems that the right to publish in suposedly scientific journals is to be restricted to the cheats and liars.

    Anyway my sociological experiment was to test this “cheats and liars” hypothesis. To do this I emailed 300 copies of my rejected comment letter to 300 workers in the optics field at universities and similar institutions, telling them briefly the above story and leaving it up them to do anything they like about it.

    This was three weeks ago. So far I have had not a single reply. It seems thatthe field of physics at any rate is entirely the preserve of the cheats and liars.

    email me if you want a copy: jm@photonic-systems-solutions.com

    J Midgley

  73. per
    Posted Feb 7, 2006 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

    Dear Mr Midgley
    fraud has a number of definitions on the web, but the key aspect of all of them is the intention to deceive.

    A scientific journal is the place to show that a method is wrong, or that results cannot be reproduced; but it cannot be the place to show intention to deceive. That is not a scientific matter; that is a matter for the courts, or other duly constituted authorities.

    In case you have not noticed, in the UK, there are laws of defamation, and the publisher (the journal) is liable if they publish a defamation. If you truly claimed that a paper was fraudulent, I have every sympathy with the journal.
    yours
    per

  74. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    RE: #65. In other words, what Bloom says is, if it (was allowed to) happen(ed) it was good and should not be questioned, ergo, core values don’t matter. Benchmarks need to be “flexible” and roll with the punches (and with the winds of public opinion). It’s all relative. Let’s just move on.

    Interesting coincidence this thinking comes from a key participant in discrediting operations.

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