Data Stonewalling Resumes

Ryan O asked serial Mann coauthor, Caspar Ammann, for supporting data for Ammann et al (PNAS 2007), which was referred to in CCSP (2009c) Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitude, an assessment report that was, in turn, cited in the EPA Endangerment Finding. Ryan’s request was as follows:

the monthly gridded gridded monthly temperature anomalies over the entire 850 – 2000 AD period from the NCAR CSM 1.4 experiments used for the 2007 PNAS paper, “Solar influence on climate during the past millennium: Results from transient simulations with the NCAR Climate System Model”, with Dr. Ammann as the lead author.

Ammann demonstrated the new Team openness by simply not acknowledging or replying to Ryan’s request.

The data is not confidential – Ryan observed that Ammann had previously provided the data to people who were not NCAR employees (e.g. Mann, Wahl and Rutherford)

Ryan eventually sent an FOI request to UCAR – a consortium of universities that manages NCAR for the National Science Foundation. (I’ve written on it before; it’s a sort of off-balance sheet method of public expenditure.)

UCAR’s General Counsel, Meg McClellan, refused Ryan’s request for data as follows:

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a private non-profit research organization that operates the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other programs. Neither UCAR nor NCAR are federal agencies. FOIA does not apply to private organizations.

The structure of NCAR is fairly murky. I did posts on UCAR-NCAR a few years ago see http://climateaudit.org/2006/03/23/inhofe-ucar-and-ncar/ and http://climateaudit.org/2006/03/24/ncar-competition-announcement/.

My impression was that NCAR was owned by the National Science Foundation. I can see how UCAR might have evaded FOI, but I’m a little puzzled as to the argument in respect to NCAR.

Given public sentiment, it seems foolish for Ammann and UCAR to obstruct Ryan’s request.

In the meantime, Ryan has sent an FOI to National Science Foundation, observing:


OMB Circular A-110, which defines the requirements by which private, non-profit organizations may accept NSF funds, states under subpart (C):

“(d) (1) In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for research data relating to published research findings produced under an award that were used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, the Federal awarding agency shall request, and the recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that they can be made available to the public through the procedures established under the FOIA. If the Federal awarding agency obtains the research data solely in response to a FOIA request, the agency may charge the requester a reasonable fee equaling the full incremental cost of obtaining the research data. This fee should reflect costs incurred by the agency, the recipient, and applicable subrecipients. This fee is in addition to any fees the agency may assess under the FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)).”

Full text available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/rewrite/circulars/a110/a110.html

NSF FOI specialist Leslie Jensen replied as follows:

Dear Sir:

Your request is not perfected as submitted. See the NSF FOIA regulations: http://www.nsf.gov/policies/foia.jsp. In addition, with respect to your request for research data, 2 CFR 215.36. Section 5 CFR 215.36(d) provides:

215.36 Intangible property.
* * *
(d) (1) In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for research data relating to published research findings produced under an award that was used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, the Federal awarding agency shall request, and the recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that they can be made available to the public through the procedures established under the FOIA. If the Federal awarding agency obtains the research data solely in response to a FOIA request, the agency may charge the requester a reasonable fee equaling the full incremental cost of obtaining the research data. This fee should reflect costs incurred by the agency, the recipient, and the applicable subrecipients. This fee is in addition to any fees the agency may assess under the FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)).

(2) The following definitions apply for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section:
(i) Research data is defined as the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, but not any of the following: Preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, or communications with colleagues. This “recorded” material excludes physical objects (e.g., laboratory samples). Research data also do not include:
(A) Trade secrets, commercial information, materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, or similar information which is protected under law; and
(B) Personnel and medical information and similar information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study.
(ii) Published is defined as either when:
(A) Research findings are published in a peer-reviewed scientific or technical journal; or
(B) A Federal agency publicly and officially cites the research findings in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.
(iii) Used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law is defined as when an agency publicly and officially cites the research findings in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.

This section provides for access to research data (as defined above)
– relating to published (as defined above) research findings
– produced under an (NSF) award (made after the effective date of this provision)
– that was used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law (as defined above).

Please identify the NSF awards that meet the preconditions for research data access set forth in section 215.36(d)(1). I have enclosed NSF abstracts of awards to Dr. Caspar Ammann that may be of interest to you. Please also provide your contact information and your agreement to pay accrued fees. Once you have perfected your request, I will proceed in accordance with the procedures set forth the in above Regulations.

Sincerely,
Leslie A. Jensen
FOIA/Privacy Act Officer

Ryan replied with a re-stated request containing the additional information:

Below is the complete request, with the additional information required:

Pursuant to 2 CFR 215.36, Section 5 (d), I hereby request information that was used in support of Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act (EPA). 2 CFR 215.36, Section 5(d) requires release of research data subject to the following conditions:
1. The data is necessary to validate published, peer-reviewed research findings:

A. Ammann, M. C., F. Joos, D. S. Schimel, B. L. Otto-Bleisner, and R. A. Tomas (2007): Solar influence on climate during the past millennium: Results from transient simulations with the NCAR Climate System Model. PNAS, 104, 3713-3718, doi:10.1073/pnas.0605064103

B. Mann, M. E., S. Rutherford, E. Wahl, and C. M. Ammann (2007): Robustness of proxy-based climate field reconstruction methods. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D12109, 1-18, doi:10.1029/2006JD008272

C. Mann, M. E., Z. Zhang, M. K. Hughes, R. S. Bradley, S. K. Miller, S. Rutherford, and F. Ni (2008): Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia. PNAS, 105, 13252-13257, doi:10.1073_pnas.0805721105
The data is directly required to validate A and B. Since C relies on B for evaluating the statistical significance of the reconstruction, the data is required to validate the statistical significance calculations (and, hence, whether the results are physically meaningful) for C.
2. The data was produced under a federal award:

A. Award #8217015 (special allocation from the NCAR Directors Reserve)

B. Award #0542356 (M. E. Mann) and #8217015 (C. M. Ammann)

C. Award #0542356 (M. E. Mann)

All award numbers are National Science Foundation numbers.

3. The published research was used by a federal agency in developing an action with the force and effect of law:

A. Cited in the Technical Support Document of the previously mentioned EPA Endangerment Finding via the following synthesis report:
CCSP (2009c) Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitude. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Program and Subcommittee on Global Change Research [Alley, R.B., Brigham-Grette, J., Miller, G.H., Polyak, L., and White, J.W.C. (coordinating lead authors)]. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston , VA, 461 pp.
C. Cited in the Technical Support Document of the previously mentioned EPA Endangerment Finding via the following synthesis report:
CCSP (2009c) Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitude. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Program and Subcommittee on Global Change Research [Alley, R.B., Brigham-Grette, J., Miller, G.H., Polyak, L., and White, J.W.C. (coordinating lead authors)]. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston , VA, 461 pp.

The data I request is the complete time series of monthly gridded gridded monthly temperature anomalies over the 850 – 2000 AD period from the NCAR CSM 1.4 experiments used directly in Refs. A and B, and indirectly in Ref. C above. I require no specific format for the data; however, if it is available in text format using a common delimiting scheme (such as space, tab, comma, or fixed-width delimitation) I would prefer those formats.

References:
CCSP (2009c) Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitude. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Program and Subcommittee on Global Change Research [Alley, R.B., Brigham-Grette, J., Miller, G.H., Polyak, L., and White, J.W.C. (coordinating lead authors)]. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston , VA, 461 pp. http://downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap1-2/sap1-2-final-report-all.pdf

EPA Endangerment Finding http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/downloads/Endangerment%20TSD.pdf

36 Comments

  1. RalpieGM
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Looks “perfected” to me. Keep us informed please.

  2. Doug in Seattle
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    While this obstruction might seem foolhardy in light of the issues raised by Climategate, the findings of the panels appear to support keeping data from critics whose motives are to “find something wrong” with the studies.

    It is after all “standard climate science practice” to withhold data critical to verification of climate science findings.

  3. Rattus Norvegicus
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Send it to the EPA.

    • bender
      Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Do it, Rat.

  4. BobN
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It amazes me, that after all that has occurred, some poeple just don’t seem to understand that simple releasing the requested information and letting others examine and evaluate it is the easiest and best approach, whether or not the requester’s qualifications or motives are judged to acceptable to the requestee.

    The negative impact on one’s public image far outweighs the possible impacts of having someone else examine your data, even if that someone else appears to be adverse. The science, good or bad, will eventually be sorted out, but damage to public perception and loss of confidence can be extremely difficult to repair

  5. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    NCAR may be stonewalling, but it looks like NSF has its stuff together and just asked Ryan to be more specific, and even helped him out by providing him Casper’s grants. So perhaps the title could do with a “?” until NSF gets back to Ryan.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 5:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Dave, I give those of us (not me) with the patience to persevere in cases like this one, but those replies, and including the NSF one, have, I am a bureaucrat and I want you to jump through hoops and maybe you still will not get what you want written all over it. That does not require a question mark.

      The system, the people working in it and their works are not transparent and that unfortunately has been shown time and again. It is no doubt part of the scientist turned advocate mentality and the natural bureaucrat instincts of those with nothing productive to do.

      It is unfortunate that the only way to pry information loose is if you have a popular issue in hand and have the resources to sue these bast—ds for it. Believe me, if any of these bureaucrats/scientists/advocates were genuinely interested in informing the public they would do it and could do it without all the rigmarole.

      • Tony Hansen
        Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 4:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Kenneth,
        I think I do kinda think I basically agree with you….

        …’That does not require a question mark’.

        Please forgive me – but surely that first sentence needs something more… :)

        • Kenneth Fritsch
          Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

          I will rephrase my original statement and expound- again.

          Dave, I give those of us (not me) with the patience to persevere in cases like this one lots of due credit. If it were not for those pursuing information, we would not be so aware of the measures and the bother these obstructions will use or to judge whether the Climategate revelation has changed anything with regards to transparency and cooperation.

          I think Steve M showed that while some like, Stephen Schneider, who recently passed away, can appear to be congenial face to face, that behind the scenes they show some different colors with regard to their feelings about those who might criticize or audit their works. I would have to assume that those responses are from the advocacy part of these advocate/scientists. This disposition could also color how a bureaucrat might respond, but a bureaucrat’s usual mind set could account for at least some of their reactions to information requests without any prejudices.
          The only groups that I see consistently getting information are those with a popular cause, that can be a countervailing one, that is pursued over long time periods in the courts and with a relatively large organization with the resources to litigate.

        • Scott B.
          Posted Jul 26, 2010 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

          I doubt the bureaucrat is intentionally being difficult here, and I thinks important to separate out the scientists from the bureaucrats. As a bureaucrat myself, I can say that when it comes to things like FOIA, my personally feelings have nothing to do with my responses to requests. The law makes clear what is needed for a FOI request to be honored, and Ryan’s request was deficient. While it may seem onerous to provide all the required info, the bureaucrat is just following the rules. And as was pointed out, she was actually even helpful when it came to providing the award information.

          Scientists succeed by making discoveries and publishing. Bureaucrats succeed by never drawing attention to themselves by screwing up.

  6. jim edwards
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 4:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Is there more to Ryan’s final e-mail to NSF ?

    It doesn’t look like he agreed to pay “accrued fees” [or provided a reason he should be exempt from paying].

  7. toby
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 5:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Not much to see here. If Ryan persists, he should get his data.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: toby (Jul 23 17:08),
      Undoubtedly he will get it. The point is that Ammann is extending the process as much as possible and forcing a potential critic to use FOI processes to get. Had Ammann et al 2007 not been cited in the CCSP report, there might not even be the leverage that exists here.

      Hardly the sort of conduct that representatives in parliament and even Muir Russell are urging.

      • bender
        Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 5:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Hardly the sort.

  8. pesadilla
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 7:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    They may be urging it in public but they are protecting their own in private.
    Unfortunately, that is just how things are.

    • stan
      Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

      But protecting from what? Either the work is flawed or the work is sound. If it is flawed, we can understand why the author(s) would want to keep that fact secret, but not why the bureaucrats have any interest in hiding scientific flaws. If it is sound, everyone involved has an interest in getting that fact out to the rest of the world.

      So that brings up back to those who assist the author(s) in cases such as this when they seek to stonewall against release of the data. Why? And at what cost? I’m having a real hard time understanding the cost/benefit calculation that comes out in favor of stonewalling.

  9. Neil Fisher
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 8:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Stan said:

    I’m having a real hard time understanding the cost/benefit calculation that comes out in favor of stonewalling.

    I will not address why the authors have been less than helpful, however the beaurocrats are working as anyone would – they are obeying two unwritten rules that apply in any beaurocracy:

    1) If you don’t do anything, you can’t do anything wrong. Therefore, do as little as possible; and

    2) If you follow the rules to the letter, you cannot be faulted or punished for doing so. Therefore, follow the rules to the letter even when it makes no sense.

    This is more than sufficient to explain the beaurocrats behaviour.

    • Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 8:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

      That is the sad truth !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • stan
      Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

      But we have seen a lot of stonewalling where the bureaucrats have failed to enforce their own policies. Specifically where they have actively subverted the relevant procedures. Running interference by refusing to follow the law may have seemed wise when the “consensus” seemed unmolested and critics were viewed as cranks. No longer. Steve Mc is now revealed to far too many serious scientists as a thoughtful, serious advocate for quality. The foundation of the stonewall is suffering serious cracks. Any self-respecting, ass-covering bureaucrat should be expected to read the wind. It’s shifted.

    • Ward S. Denker
      Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 5:55 PM | Permalink | Reply

      There is a third major unspoken rule: If something is requested that you don’t know how to do, don’t have rules for, or don’t want to do then refer the requester to a different department, knowing that they’ll refer you back to the department you just came from.

      In a properly functioning bureaucracy the buck never stops with anyone (unless you’re well-connected or know whose palms need to be greased) and, per your unspoken rules, nobody will ever be disciplined for doing such.

  10. GTFrank
    Posted Jul 23, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Why should anyone cooperate now? No one that we know of has been fired, denied funding, or even severely castigated by their colleagues or the mainstream media over climategate inquiries, or withholding data. Slightly bad press for a few news cycles, and then everything back to normal. Their funders, schools, and colleagues apparently are not going to force any changes. They have no incentive to cooperate.
    I don’t think the quality of the research/science is an issue for these folks. I think they truly believe that catastrophe is around the corner and the means to the end does not matter. Whatever the cost. Why else?

  11. Barry Elledge
    Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 3:12 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The journals “Science” and “Nature” have for several years required authors to provide those supporting data sets too large to include within the body of their publications as accessory matter available on the web. I would have expected PNAS to do the same. Am I mistaken about this?

    Steve: they have a policy but haven’t enforced it when I tried previously. Nonetheless, it would be worth putting them to the test.

  12. Gary
    Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 9:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

    One advantage to forcing additional FOIA requests, especially since this game now is well-established, is that they can be used as evidence of harassment by the critics. To those who have been following closely it’s not, but people who are neutral or sympathetic to mainstream climate science are likely to accept this false claim because they don’t know the back-story. They are predisposed to accepting such claims at face value because most can remember being maligned unfairly. And first impressions, even demonstrably false ones, are hard to dislodge. The science debate gets sidetracked to a PR battle and the energy of critics is dissipated on trivial minutia. The calculation is that this outweighs or at least balances the disadvantage of appearing to be obstructionist.

  13. Ben
    Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I am aware of a case within the last few years in Wyoming where a miner applied to the Bureau of Land Management for a permit to mine trona. The BLM stonewalled this request, filed under established rules, for 25 years. A lawyer, who got interested, showed him how to sue the bureaucrats personally and got the permit inside of a week. Someone should try this on these crats.

  14. PhilH
    Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 4:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    …”why the bureaucrats have any interest in hiding scientific flaws.”

    Because, in most instances, the bureaucrats and the scientists are joined at the hip.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 8:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Please be kind. Please use the term “climate scientist” in joined at the hip. You could find that some of the most constructive criticism of the bureaucracy/government comes from scientists from other sub-disciplines. Also, some of the most successful public corporations I have met have a strong Board representation of scientists.

      • PhilH
        Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Geoff: I assumed everyone would realize I was referring to the climate science community, since that’s what this is about…and only the ones involved in these fiascos. I most certainly would not condemn scientists, as a class, this way.

  15. Laurie
    Posted Jul 24, 2010 at 11:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

    NCAR has received $591,349,052.00 to date in grants from NSF (tax payer money). UCAR us MUCH bigger. We’ve paid for this work and by golly, they need to share the information for which they were paid!
    http://nsf.gov/awardsearch/piSearch.do?SearchType=piSearch&page=1&QueryText=&PIFirstName=&PILastName=&PIInstitution=National+Center+for+Atmospheric+Research+&PIState=&PIZip=&PICountry=&Restriction=0&Search=Search#results

  16. Laurie
    Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 12:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    0724828 CMG Collaborative Research: Development of Bayesian Hierarchical Models to Reconstruct Climate Over the Past Millenium AGS MATHEMATICAL GEOSCIENCES, OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESEARCH CMG 10/01/2007 Ammann, Caspar CO University Corporation For Atmospheric Res $379,637.00 US Tax Dollars!

  17. ben
    Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 5:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

    What. Idiots.

    Can’t wait for the outrage in the scientific community to roll.

  18. AMac
    Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 9:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Ryan O –

    Per discussion following this post at Lucia’s Blackboard: How many times did you request the output of the NCAR CSM 1.4 experiments from Dr. Ammann? (E.g., might the explanation for his unresponsiveness be that he misplaced or lost a single request?)

    • AMac
      Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: AMac (Jul 25 09:05),

      In that same thread at Lucia’s, Carrot Eater may have located the temperature anomaly data used in Mann07. It’s annual (not monthly) and gridded 5 deg by 5 deg (not 3.75 x 3.75).

      Carrot Eater wrote,

      I found what was used for Mann 07. I’m not sure which paper Ryan is most interested in, Mann or Ammann.

      It’s on Mann’s webspace in converted.man
      You get there if you read Mann 07, follow the link, and read the readme.

      http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/PseudoproxyJGR06/data/csm/

      In that file is a 2-d array, 1150×2592

      1150 is the years of the CSM run. That’s why I was worried about format above – Ryan asked for monthly, but monthly is not terribly meaningful in paleo. You might look at seasonal. Here, they used annual…

      Does that satisfy RyanO’s request?

    • amac78
      Posted Jul 26, 2010 at 7:28 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: AMac [AMac78] (Jul 25 09:05),

      Lucia reports that RyanO informed her that he emailed Dr. Ammann three times, without response.

  19. Laurie
    Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 12:09 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Providing data access for the public (that means anyone) should be a part of each NSF or tax paid funding source in the research grant budget. Only matters of national security should be exempt. Once the study is published or otherwise put to use as specified in the grant, the data should be uploaded and no one should have to pay anything more to get it. We have already paid for it and it’s not the researchers’ personal or intellectual property. If any revenues are generated as a result of the work, the funding source should be refunded, less any costs of that sale. Otherwise, non-profit status could be at risk when other revenues are received for work fully funded by public grants.

    All that is owed to the researcher is proper attribution, thus indicating the value (or not) for future grants consideration.

    Why would anyone think otherwise?

  20. Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Some people may be irresponsible not to say unprofessional although despite everything they freely and easily provide the public with unchecked information.

    • Laurie
      Posted Jul 25, 2010 at 5:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Donna, if I’ve understood your comment, your concern is that some irresponsible or unprofessional people will provide information as fact, which has not been checked? Isn’t that the point of asking for the researchers’ data and methods? In any case, we have the right and responsibility to see, question and use information that we bought.

4 Trackbacks

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  4. By Founding Ideals on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:25 AM

    [...] theory should go the way of the dodo.  The "scientists" in the community continue to refuse to release data so that it can be verified and attack skeptics.  AGW theory is getting such a black eye that [...]

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