NSF relies on "Social" Networks

I’ve described in the past how the U.S. government has adequate policies for data archiving on paper, but that NSF had been totally co-opted by non-compliant scientists and their administration of data archiving could be described only as ineffective or non-existent. Doug Keenan wrote in on some calls to NSF:

NSF grant conditions are specified here: http://www.nsf.gov/awards/managing/general_conditions.jsp

There are different grant conditions depending on the year in which the award was granted. In fact, though, all grants made since 1995 (possibly earlier—conditions prior to 1995 are not listed) include a condition entitled “Sharing of Findings, Data, and Other Research Products”. My interpretation of the condition is that researchers must share their data.

So, I telephoned the NSF and spoke with someone in the Policy Office about this. (The person was Beth Strausser.) I was informed that my interpretation was correct, although there could be some dispute about how raw the shared data had to be. Apparently, partially-processed data might suffice; it seemed unclear as to how that would be judged. I then asked what should be done if a researcher refused to share data. Strausser said that in principle the program manager might get involved, but that in reality the sharing policy was “self policed” by scientists in the field. She briefly elaborated: the NSF relied on other scientists in the field to put (social) pressure on a researcher who refused to share data.

I can imagine rare cases where that approach might not be fully effective. Perhaps the FOI Act would be of use in such cases? I telephoned the Justice Dept. and spoke with an attorney in the Office of Information and Privacy (which deals with FOIA matters). (The attorney was Anne Work.) I was informed that because the NSF does not have the data, there is very little chance that a request made under the FOIA would be achieve anything.

Obviously “social pressure” has not accomplished anything with Lonnie Thompson or other non-compliant scientists. What a ridiculous way to produce and verify results being relied on for climate policy?

14 Comments

  1. David Brewer
    Posted Apr 16, 2007 at 2:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Yes, and it’s not just climate policy. “Social pressure” is totally inadequate to ensure recording of actual EVIDENCE in any field. Anthropology is another discipline that has been thoroughly corrupted by reliance on social networks instead of rigorous archiving and debate of findings.

  2. David Brewer
    Posted Apr 16, 2007 at 2:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Yes, and it’s not just climate science. Anthropology is another field which has been corrupted by a reliance on “social networks” instead of on rigorous archiving and debate of findings. The results are the same: instead of a body of evidence and a set of competing theories, one gets a mish-mash of obscure myths and half-truths.

  3. Pete
    Posted Apr 16, 2007 at 3:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Other fields have different operating proceedures that are enforced and that work:

    Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM)

    In order to achieve the goals of the AIM mission, the data collected, generated, and analyzed as part of the mission must be quickly shared among investigators, the scientific community and the general public. It is the goal of the AIM Science Data Services website to provide the data in an easily accessible interface, using the latest internet technology.

  4. JohnN
    Posted Apr 16, 2007 at 5:55 PM | Permalink | Reply

    A lot of people were hoping that no one would notice, Steve. You are asking some very inconvenient questions. Science becoming an exclusive club would not be so bad if exclusivity were based on merit. Unfortunately, exclusivity in climate and anthropology is based on one’s political aims. Such a club obviously offers much potential for abuse.

  5. tc
    Posted Apr 17, 2007 at 12:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Here’s one way to beat this NSF diversion and shirking of responsibility. Regardless of any hopes that NSF has for outside forces to self-police, the NSF has its own responsibilities to enforce compliance of NSF grant conditions for sharing data.

    1. If someone wants data from a particular NSF-funded study, first find the name of the NSF project manager for the study.

    2. Then, by certified registered mail/return receipt requested, send a request for data to the NSF-funded researcher with carbon copy to the NSF project manager.

    3. If the NSF-funded researcher refuses to share the data, then, by certified registered mail/return receipt requested, send a letter to the NSF project manager providing documentation of the researcher’s refusal to share data and requesting that the project manager enforce compliance with NSF Grant General Condition on Sharing of Findings, Data, and Other Research Products.

    4. If the NSF project manager does not enforce compliance, then ask the NSF project manager for the name of the NSF official that you can appeal this decision not to enforce compliance.

    5. If notice that you intend to appeal does not cause the NSF project manager to reconsider the decision, then by certified registered mail/return receipt requested, send a letter to the NSF official stating your appeal of the decision of the project manager.

    By the way, a similar case of shirking responsibility (passing the buck) is described by Willis at:

    Climate Dynamics Passes the Buck

    See especially Willis #4 response.

  6. Roger Bell
    Posted Apr 17, 2007 at 7:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re 4.
    In general, if the project manager does not help, talk to the Division Director.
    Roger Bell

  7. JerryS
    Posted Apr 17, 2007 at 8:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If it’s the EPA, I’m not sure even the Division Director will do anything.

  8. tc
    Posted Apr 18, 2007 at 5:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Regrding #8 post on Steps to find NSF Program Manager, I need to add, as the last line of Step 1:

    “In the left side table of contents, click on “Award Search and Proposal Deadline”.

    So, Step 1 reads:
    STEP 1 – Go to NSF Award Search Introduction webpage where 4 types of search are described. Two types of searches of immediate interest are: 1) the Program Information search (Figure 3) that includes Program Officer, and 2) the Awardee information search where you can query by Principal Investigator and limit search to Active Awards Only, Expired Awards Only, or Historical Awards.

    https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/NSFHelp/flashhelp/fastlane/FastLane_Help/fastlane_help.htm#introduction_to_fastlane.htm

    In the left side table of contents, click on “Award Search and Proposal Deadline.

  9. tc
    Posted Apr 18, 2007 at 7:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Repost of original #8. My original post #8, for some reason, did not appear. My second post, adding an instruction line to Step 1,is now listed as post #8. The following recreates original post #8.

    Thanks Roger #6 for the tip of helping to make the NSF responsive to scientists who request the sharing of data from NSF funded projects. JerryS #7 makes another good point that the degree of responsiveness from federal agencies will vary.

    Here is follow-up to post (#5) on how to get the NSF to enforce compliance of NSF grant conditions for sharing data. Step 1 of post #5 is to find the name of the NSF Program Manager for the particular project one is interested in. Below is one way to find the NSF Program Manager or Officer using the NSF website. Note also that the NSF Award Search discussed below provides a wealth of information, including current projects and who is getting funding. Here are the steps to find a NSF Program Manager.

    STEP 1 – Go to NSF Award Search Introduction webpage where 4 types of search are described. Two types of searches of immediate interest are: 1) the Program Information search (Figure 3) that includes Program Officer, and 2) the Awardee information search where you can query by Principal Investigator and limit search to Active Awards Only, Expired Awards Only, or Historical Awards.

    https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/NSFHelp/flashhelp/fastlane/FastLane_Help/fastlane_help.htm#introduction_to_fastlane.htm

    In the left side table of contents, click on “Award Search and Proposal Deadline.

    STEP 2 – Click on “Search for Awards” near top of webpage, and go to NSF webpage that lists the steps to Search for Awards.

    STEP 3 – Click on “URL” under “1.”, and go to Award Search webpage.

    STEP 4 – To test the search function Award search webpage, under the default Awardee Information tab, under Principal Investigator I entered Michael Mann. I accepted the default “Active Awards Only” checked box at bottom of page. Then I clicked “Search”.

    STEP 5 – The search results are then displayed at the bottom of the screen. For Michael Mann there are two awards listed, one for $100,000 and another for $299,761. The larger award is for “Analysis and Testing of Proxy-Based Climate Reconstructions” Award Number 0542356.

    STEP 6 – In the left column, click on the Award Number 0542356. Viola! The Award Abstract page appears with the name of the Program Manager.

    STEP 7 – Go to NSF Staff Directory search page. Type in name of Program Manager to get contact information.
    http://www.nsf.gov/staff/

  10. Posted Apr 19, 2007 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The NSF Division of Earth Sciences data policy states some relevant things, such as the following.

    For those programs in which selected principle investigators have initial periods of exclusive data use, data should be made openly available as soon as possible, but no later than two (2) years after the data were collected.

    The policy even states that this is a binding condition.

  11. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 19, 2007 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Doug, you have to wade through the organization chart a little more. Our guys are funded by the Atmospheric Sciences Division not the Earth Sciences Division (both of the GeoSciences Directorate.) The directorate page on data policy contains the following self-contradiction so characteristic of climate science bureaucracy”

    GEO Data Policies

    Each of the GEO Directorate divisions has issued a data policy statement:

    ‘€¢ Earth Sciences (Adobe Acrobat file)
    ‘€¢ Ocean Sciences
    ‘€¢ Atmospheric Sciences (under development)

    How can the Atmospheric Science Division have “issued” a data policy statement when it’s under development? Why has it taken so long for the Atmospheric Sciences Division to issue a data policy statement? Maybe they’re waiting out a new administration. I have been unable to locate an overall NSF statement on data policy, although some individual divisions have satisfactory policies. Given the absence of an overall NSF policy, the following NSF statement on their adherence to INformation Quality appears to be untrue:

    NSF promotes data sharing by its grantees through its data sharing policy and by data archiving by its grantees. NSF does not create, endorse, or approve such data or research materials, nor does the agency
    assume responsibility for their accuracy. NSF’s encouragement of data sharing and archiving helps to ensure that researchers and the public have quicker and easier access to data and research materials.

    If there is no overall NSF data sharing policy, then the above claim is untrue. Behaviorally my own experience has been that David Verardo, the NSF official responsible for MBH, not only failed to encourage data sharing and archiving, but actually intervened to encourage the opposite behavior. Maybe an American would like to file a formal complaint with NSF under their Information Quality Guidelines about the above claim in their Information Quality Guidelines – an amusingly self-referential procedure that should appeal to logicians.

  12. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 19, 2007 at 1:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Further to #11, Doug Keenan has tracked down the following statement which is said to be the NSF Policy:
    NSF Data Sharing Policy

    The Foundation expects its awardees to share results of NSF-assisted research and education projects with others both within and outside the scientific and engineering research and education community. Our sharing policy is stated in article 36 of our Grant General Conditions.

    Article 36 of the General GRant Conditions pertains to Liability and does not apply. Article 37 is what they meant and it says:

    37. Sharing of Findings, Data, and Other Research Products
    a. NSF expects significant findings from research and education activities it supports to be promptly submitted for publication, with authorship that accurately reflects the contributions of those involved. It expects investigators to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of the work. It also encourages awardees to share software and inventions or otherwise act to make the innovations they embody widely useful and usable.

    b. Adjustments and, where essential, exceptions may be allowed to safeguard the rights of individuals and subjects, the validity of results, or the integrity of collections or to accommodate legitimate interests of investigators.

    That is a pretty limp-wristed policy. It’s not ideal, but maybe it’s time to revisit the Thompson data under this policy.

  13. T J Olson
    Posted Apr 19, 2007 at 1:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The Wegman Report called for much more inclusion of statisticians in paleoclimatology. This is one step forward in needed reform.

    Another would be to amend NSF legislation to establish an office Inspector General of Science to enforce full data disclosure, as the currently unenforced law requires.

    Together with the ongoing media’s scandalous neglect of the Hockey Stick fiasco itself, this remedial course is a path many public policy institutions can rally behind.

    Normally, such an important reform require Congressional hearings, after the heat from publicity becomes too much. Given the media’s committment to ACW environmentalism, as we saw in the misreporting of last summer’s NAS reports, however, the odds are heavily against any media swarm exposing the scandal. Therefore, the future for progress falls upon public policy institutions and any political friends.

  14. Posted Apr 19, 2007 at 2:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #13 (T J). I believe that the NSF is indeed in need of substantial reform, but that this will not work from the inside. What I believe is needed is some external entity to apply pressure. That is what worked in the UK, with the data from Jones et al. [1990]: there was the real threat of intervention by another entity (the Information Commissioner’s Office).

    In Sweden, for example, there is the Parliamentary Ombudsman, which works to ensure that other government agencies act appropriately. I do not know that the U.S.A. has something like that—?

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