Schmidt on FOI

In yesterday’s post (as noted), I only responded to one aspect of Schmidt’s Yamal article, as it contains numerous extraneous spitballs, each of which takes time to respond to.

In yesterday’s post, I focused on points of agreement or points where agreement ought to be possible. In a subsequent RC comment, Schmidt complained that I had failed to respond to his “main point”, which now appears to be his ruminations on the UK Freedom of Information Act.

Schmidt complained inline:

Also of interest is that McIntyre doesn’t even mention the main point I brought up. That this is ongoing and *unpublished work*, and there is a clear FOI exemption for this (for obvious reasons), that can only be trumped by a clear public interest – and despite the endless exaggerations by McIntyre about the importance of these reconstructions, that bar is nowhere close to being met.

The argument in the post itself was:

UK FOI legislation (quite sensibly) specifically exempts unpublished work from release provided the results are being prepared for publication. So McIntyre’s appeals have tried to insinuate that no such publication is in progress (which is false) or that the public interest in knowing about a regional tree ring reconstruction from an obscure part of Siberia trumps the obvious interest that academics have in being able to work on projects exclusively prior to publication. This is a hard sell, unless of course one greatly exaggerates the importance of a single proxy record – but who would do that?

Gavin expanded further on his interpretation of UK legislation in an online response as follows:

RC Reader Jason had written:

UK FOI legislation (quite sensibly) specifically exempts unpublished work from release provided the results are being prepared for publication.” Gavin, this is simply untrue.

Schmidt responded:

Response: You are incorrect, see Section 22. It is not an absolute exemption (it can be overridden by a great enough public interest), but the text is quite clear that: “Information is exempt information if— (a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not)”. Please look stuff up before accusing people of lying (that would be the lesson all around actually). – gavin]

First, let me make a passing editorial comment about all-too-characteristic Real CLimate rhetoric – the inflation of any criticism into a supposed “accusation” against integrity. In this case, Jason had merely asserted that Schmidt’s statement on FOI legislation was “untrue”. Schmidt responded by accusing Jason of “accusing people of lying”. Jason had done nothing of the sort. He merely said that Schmidt’s statement was “untrue”. The express language contained no accusation or even implication that Schmidt had been “lying”.

Jason’s experience here very much accords with my own – a matter that I’ll return to some time.

Schmidt’s argument was based on UK Freedom of Information Act section 22. Now let me quote from the opening paragraph of my Appeal:

On Feb 28, 2011, I submitted a request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) to the University of East Anglia (UEA) for a regional tree ring chronology referred to an April 28, 2006 Climategate email … On March 28, 2011, the UEA refused all three requests, citing the exemptions set out in sections 6(1)(b) (available elsewhere), 12(4)(d) (incomplete) and 12(5)(c) (intellectual property rights) [my bold].

My request and appeal are under the Environmental Information Regulations, rather than the Freedom of Information Act itself. Speaking colloquially, I’ll sometime (perhaps even often) use the more familiar term “FOI” to describe these proceedings, but the actual applications and appeals are under the Environmental Information Regulations, which under UK practice and precedents have been found to govern this sort of data and information. The EIR is related to the Freedom of Information Act, but differs on some important issues, (which David Holland, in particular, has paid close attention to.) The EIR has been discussed in a number of blog posts, sometimes at exhaustive length.

In short, no matter how convinced Schmidt may be that UEA has a slam-dunk case under FOI section 22, the actual decision will turn on whether they have a case under either EIR section 12(4)(d) or EIR section 12(5)(c).

I submit that the argument is by no means as clearcut as Schmidt believes and urge him to re-read my Appeal in terms of the actual exemptions at issue, rather than the inapplicable one that caught his fancy. In addition, Schmidt should weigh the fact that East Anglia has already lost numerous decisions. In the present case, a number of East Anglia exemption claims have already been discarded; and I’ve already been notified of success on one aspect of the appeal (the list of sites).

After misunderstanding UK law on the matter, Schmidt made the following editorial remark:

So McIntyre’s appeals have tried to insinuate that no such publication is in progress (which is false) or that the public interest in knowing about a regional tree ring reconstruction from an obscure part of Siberia trumps the obvious interest that academics have in being able to work on projects exclusively prior to publication. This is a hard sell, unless of course one greatly exaggerates the importance of a single proxy record – but who would do that?

The first claim is completely untrue.

None of my appeals “insinuated” that no such publication is in progress. The point is irrelevant to exemptions 12(4)(d) or EIR section 12(5)(c), as opposed to Schmidt’s imaginary application of FOI section 22. Further, in my Appeal, not only did I not make the alleged argument, but I quoted at length from David Palmer’s brief describing CRU’s planned publication (see page 13). It’s frustrating that Schmidt makes untrue statement after untrue statement without ever correcting or apologizing,

Schmidt’s argument about trade-offs partly transposes to the EIR “intellectual property right” exemption, but not totally. And while his argument may seem “obvious” to academics, I can say with total certainty that his argument is far from “obvious” to professionals and non-academics, once the data is cited by IPCC and policy decisions are made, even in part, from such data.

Whether policy-makers chat with Schmidt about proxies hardly resolves the tradeoff. The “regional tree ring reconstruction from an obscure part of Siberia” was one of only eight proxies shown in the IPCC AR4 proxy graphic and was used in 5 of 8 AR4 medieval multiproxy reconstructions. If IPCC had not cited Yamal, then the situation would be different. But it did.

East Anglia’s argument under section 12(5)(c) is that disclosure of the data would result in financial loss to the university through reduced grants. Their argument on this point is far-fetched. However, in a tradeoff between relatively remote prospects of reduced grants,as compared to the public interest in a complete record for data used by IPCC, it is hardly “obvious” that the financial interest of the University of East Anglia should be preferred. (In passing, given the usual vehemence with which climate scientists reject suggestions that alarmism is affected or influenced by grant-seeking, it’s ironic that CRU’s primary argument in this case depends on grant-seeking.)

Another important issue that Schmidt more or less sweeps under the carpet is that, in my opinion, many, if not most, professionals would regard the contemplated Yamal-Urals regional chronology as being within the scope of Briffa et al 2008 and, not in the strictest sense, “unpublished”. I realize that reasonable people can disagree on this point and that many academics may not. The difficulty arises because Briffa et al 2008 did not properly disclose that they had considered various Yamal-Urals regional chronologies but had not been able to “finish” one in time for the article. In my opinion, had this been properly disclosed, the editor and reviewers would have demanded that they “finish” the calculation as a condition of acceptance. I’ll discuss this issue some more in a separate post.

Much of the present problem arises from the dissembling Muir Russell “inquiry”, which should have dealt with all of this, but negligently failed to do so.


35 Comments

  1. Jerry Haney
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Gavin Schmidt needs to take a reading comprehension course, either that or he is not as intelligent as a 5th grader, and definitely not as intelligent as he thinks he is.

  2. Nosmo King
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 5:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “In passing, given the usual vehemence with which climate scientists reject suggestions that alarmism is affected or influenced by grant-seeking, it’s ironic that CRU’s primary argument in this case depends on grant-seeking.”

    Indeed. The sad thing is that this point would be completely lost on them.

    • diogenes
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 6:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Nosmo King@333590 – I agree that this is a particularly rich irony.

  3. TerryMN
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Nice write up. It will be interesting to see whether and how long Schmidt decides to continue digging this particular hole he’s found himself in.

  4. TerryMN
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 6:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Gavin posted a reply at the end of his Yamal post.

    Summary: McIntyre is correct on EIR vs. FOI. But it doesn’t matter.

    • stan
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 6:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      This summary applies to pretty much everything Gavin writes. Steve Mc is correct, but it doesn’t matter. When religion or politics is involved, this dogged determination to stick to the faith regardless of inconvenient facts is usually the case. And of course, with Gavin and realclimate, it’s both.

      • nono
        Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I indeed fail to grasp the difference between FOI section 22 and EIR section 12(4)(d)? Here is the latter for you:

        “For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that (…) the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data”

        Steve: I guess it depends on what the meaning of “finished” is. And what the meaning of “used” is. I think that academics may have somewhat difference ideas of what these mean than other people. I think that I’ll write this up in more detail.

    • DaveS
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Funny how that’s always the case with Schmidt’s mistakes and those ot the Team generally.

  5. nvw
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 6:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If it was made clear to UEA that financial loss to the university through reduced grants would occur with non-disclosure of the data, the matter would be quickly resolved. If you accept public funding, the public has a right to share in your results. No results, no future funding.

  6. ObtuseFaction
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 6:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    First, let me make a passing editorial comment about all-too-characteristic Real CLimate rhetoric – the inflation of any criticism into a supposed “accusation” against integrity.

    Equating being in error with acting in bad faith? Sounds like modus operandi, Climate Science(c) edition! Steve, you should be quite familiar with that.

    Personally, I feel like they don’t even feel compelled to act in good faith, especially with you. You, are after all, completely acting in bad faith in their opinion. You are [b]WRONG[/b], Climate Science(c) edition.

  7. Salamano
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 6:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Gavin at least did declare a correction…

    …There are other times in which the response simply skips right to ‘it doesn’t matter’ …

    Consider the original MBH paper… No flaws in methodology or data are explicitly admitted and/or attributed to SM’s independent bringing to light (they were discussed privately in the emails outside of the literature)– and then subsequent papers of a better quality are pointed to to say that anything other than goodness “doesn’t matter” with respect to the original work, so anything hearkening back to it is a waste of time.

    Same thing with these Yamal cores once the fuller reconstruction is actually published. They may not ever acknowledge that the first go-at it was less than robust in light of the new publication (or that it perhaps is nearly unpublishable by comparison) … they may simply declare any comments to that end as a ‘rehash’ or ‘irrelevant’, etc.

    It’s ironic though… For all the comments that seem to put Yamal itself as “totally irrelevant” in the grand scheme of Global Warming, and that it “never comes up” in discussions with other climate scientists…. it seems odd that they’re also declaring some sort of gross financial harm (presumably with forward-oriented grants) if the data were released.

  8. Mark T
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 7:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “It’s frustrating that Schmidt makes untrue statement after untrue statement without ever correcting or apologizing,”

    People that intentionally make untrue statements/claims act without conscience, and thus, have no inclination to correct or apologize for their untruths – why should they when they do not care? People that make untrue statements out of ideological belief can never be convinced they need to correct or apologize for anything they say or otherwise claim – why should they when they believe they are right?

    I’ll leave it to readers to decide which category I think good ole’ Gav falls under.

    Mark

  9. observa
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 7:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “In passing, given the usual vehemence with which climate scientists reject suggestions that alarmism is affected or influenced by grant-seeking, it’s ironic that CRU’s primary argument in this case depends on grant-seeking.”

    It’s more than just politely ironic. It’s OUCH! and cop that Big Climate by holding up a crystal clear mirror to them, as anyone but the totally blind can see. Try the sunlight fellers and you’ll get used to it after a while.

  10. Paul Penrose
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Since trillions of dollars of taxpayer money hangs on decisions which are being made largely based on the work of the IPCC, the public interest in this case clearly trumps that of the UEA.

  11. Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Schmidt displays classic Left/Green victimhood and narcissism in his knee-jerk reaction to Jason.

    He simply cannot abide criticism of any kind — the narcissistic mind automatically converts this into a personal attack, and then retreats into school-age victimhood (“Boo-hoo, the nasty man said a bad word.”)

    Read anything written by Michael Mann, and you will see the same immature and spoilt thought processes visible throughout.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I agree. Their response to criticism from CLimate Audit is to convert any criticism into a personal attack (“accusations of fraud”), re-assure themselves that they are not “frauds” and therefore do not need to address the criticism itself.

      Unfortunately, this is sometimes re-inforced by over-charging by hardline skeptics who actually do make such charges. But it happens regardless.

      • Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Yes, and it’s quite important in the perception of these matters.

        (I have to use their language) Once you have ‘framed’ the debate in terms of ‘victims’ (Schmidt, Mann, Briffa), then everyone else can be classified an ‘oppressors’ (more specifically ‘deniers’), who, inevitably funded by, or influenced by, evil corporate interests, are trying to suppress the heroic voice of the planet’s saviors.

        It’s called grandiose malignant narcissism, and is congruent with the AGW scare.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It is surprising that the review process doesn’t give them a stroke, because one must deal with sometimes pages of criticism–perhaps they avoid much of that by being politically correct and getting reviews from friends. If I had such a thin skin I would have quit science a long time ago.

  12. pouncer
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Why is getting that data so intriguing? What’s so special about a few more trees, here and there from an area that’s already been studied?

    http://www.ecowho.com/foia.php?file=0845217169.txt

    “From: Fred Pearce
    To: keith briffa
    Subject: new sciwentist feature
    Date: 13 Oct 96 10:32:49 EDT

    The models all suggest that anthropogenic global warming will show a very distinctive pattern. For instance, they predict that anthropogenic warming will be greatest in the northern latitudes of the great continental land masses, such as Eurasia. And that makes the finding of Briffa’s team that summer temperatures in northern Siberia are higher than for a millenium potentially extremely important, and the prospect of further data from this region to confirm that finding so intriguing.”

    The models suggest the data will show …

    Well, it’s been over a decade. If Briffa isn’t going to get any more data, or release the data he already has — and if McIntyre, according to Gavin, isn’t qualified to do the work — where to I go to buy the data and who do I hire to analyze it?

    Oh Mr Mosher? Are you busy?

    • Tony Mach
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Fred Pearce to Keith Briffa: [The models] predict that anthropogenic warming will be greatest in the northern latitudes of the great continental land masses, such as Eurasia. And that makes the finding of Briffa’s team that summer temperatures in northern Siberia are higher than for a millenium potentially extremely important. And the prospect of further data from this region to confirm that finding so intriguing.

      Pouncer, that is a nice find from the Climategate Emails. Very nice indeed. Would be interesting what Keith Briffa’s reply to this draft by Fred Pearce has been.

      Steve: Pearce discusses this point in The CLimate Files(an excellent read) and dismisses CRU’s present claim that they don’t think that Yamal matters..

  13. Jeff Alberts
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    (In passing, given the usual vehemence with which climate scientists reject suggestions that alarmism is affected or influenced by grant-seeking, it’s ironic that CRU’s primary argument in this case depends on grant-seeking.)

    The irony is that all this obfuscation for something that “doesn’t matter” will no doubt have an effect on future grants. They’re digging their own holes.

  14. Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It strikes me that some of the barriers being recycled by “the team” are somewhat similar to those Doug Keenan had encountered in his (ultimately successful, IIRC) battle to obtain tree-ring data from Queen’s University Belfast.

    Perhaps Gavin and his pals should concentrate on developing some new, improved non-responsive obfuscations.

  15. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Gavin, you are modestly understimating the importance of this Yamal exercise.
    For many scientists it is of great public interest because it is a big ingredient in the question “Does dendrothermometry work at all?”

    I passed the point of credibilty a couple of years ago. For me, wishing hard for an ecceptable proxy method, dendrothermometry has failed and I’ve written it off unless and until you and others who promote it can show otherwise. You’ll need to understand concepts better, for a start.

    If there was a court of adjudication where the pros and cons could be balanced, I’d be quite confident of winning the pros and showing up the cons.

  16. Frank
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

    CRU withheld the information about the number of cores used to determine recent “unprecedented” temperature at Yamal, while other climate scientists relied on Yamal to conclude that recent global temperature is unprecedented in the last millennium. CRU hasn’t published the regional reconstruction including Yamal that was underway in 2006. And Gavin’s mad at Steven, for bringing this problems to the community’s attention; rather than at CRU, for causing it???. Perhaps Steve’s EIR will finally provide the climate scientists with a reasonable scientific answer to what happened in NW Russia during the MWP.

    Briffa may have scientific reasons for delaying a regional reconstruction including Yamal. Some of the 17 sites in the regional reconstruction could suffer from divergence, a problem that would limit, perhaps severely, CRU’s ability to demonstrate unprecedented recent warmth. CRU would conclude – correctly – that their regional reconstruction can’t be trusted (whether or not divergence might be an issue during the MWP). If they thought their research on might provide a solution to the divergence problem, there would be a strong temptation to hold back the regional reconstruction until it could be processed with improved methodology.

  17. Adam Gallon
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

    They’re incapable of admitting that SM has a valid point.
    Admit once and then there’s the spectre of many, many other people going, “Well, if he’s right about this, what about……”
    Roll on Climategate III.

    • James Nickell
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I believe the reason Gavin and the rest of The Team are incapable of acknowledging that Steve is right about so many of the errors he finds in their collective works, is that they quite simply are enraged that Steve, an amateur in their minds, not only understands their specialties despite having no specific academic training in their fields, but he actually understands it better than they do, apparently.

  18. Steve Fitzpatrick
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 6:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I suspect Briffa’s reluctance is related the the firestorm of public criticism he received when it became clear that the entire Yamal hockey stick trend depended on only 12 trees (the Yamal ‘dirty dozen’). He is without doubt caught between a rock and a hard place: expand the chronology to the region, with a lot more trees, and the hockey stick goes away. Carefully choose only trees that ‘respond’ to temperature changes and face the same (quite justified) criticism as with the original reconstruction. Admit that trees really don’t say much about temperature, and, well, your profession becomes worthless. No easy exit for poor Briffa.

    • Jeff Alberts
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Actually it depends on ONE tree, YAD061. Period.

  19. TerryMN
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    For all of his bluster, I imagine that Schmidt knows full well there’s a very different standard that will be applied between FOI.22 (“unpublished”) and EIR.12 (“incomplete”).

    The request is for data, not a document. The data collected can only be said to be incomplete in the same sense that “a mothers work is never done.” This leaves the contradictory exemptions “available elsewhere” and “intellectual property.”

    Combining the three, the UEA seems to be somehow arguing that their incomplete intellectual property is already available elsewhere.

  20. Dave
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “First, let me make a passing editorial comment about all-too-characteristic Real CLimate rhetoric – the inflation of any criticism into a supposed “accusation” against integrity. In this case, Jason had merely asserted that Schmidt’s statement on FOI legislation was “untrue”. Schmidt responded by accusing Jason of “accusing people of lying”. Jason had done nothing of the sort. He merely said that Schmidt’s statement was “untrue”. The express language contained no accusation or even implication that Schmidt had been “lying”.”

    I don’t think you’ve quite understood what happened there, Mr M. The statement ‘that is simply untrue’ can be paraphrased as ‘you’re either mistaken or dishonest’. Schmidt’s response to someone telling him ‘you’re either mistaken or dishonest’ was ‘so you’re saying I’m dishonest?’ The alternative is simply not a possibility, in his head.

  21. Don Keiller
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve, I think your last statement needs correction.

    “Much of the present problem arises from the dissembling Muir Russell “inquiry”, which should have dealt with all of this, but negligently failed to do so.”

    It should read “but diligently failed to do so.”

    Muir Russell is much more about conspiracy than incompetence

  22. Iain McQueen
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “East Anglia’s argument under section 12(5)(c) is that disclosure of the data would result in financial loss to the university through reduced grants. Their argument on this point is far-fetched.” – from Steve’s post above.

    I actually do not think this is too far fetched, at least as far as the long term financial health of the UEA/CRU is concerned.

    Eventual revelation and actual evidence of the highly significant effects of their data exclusion and selection activities, this time published with actual corroborative fact, may cause some grant givers to pause and think what they have been/are supporting.

    “Do we want to support this bunch for always” they might say!

    Incidentally a comparison of grants awarded since and before climategate might already be quite revealing!

    Iain McQueen

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Here’s another Schmidt distortion.

    In this post, I used term “grant-seeking”. Schmidt referred to this sentence using the phrase “grant-grubbing”.

    One of his readers looked at the post and now accuses me of changing the post:

    It appears as if this is now changed to ‘grant-seeking’ in the post, a correcting not acknowledged with cross-outs.

    Dude, the post is unchanged. Ask Gavin why he pretended to quote a word that I didn’t use.

    • TerryMN
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s kind of funny how quick these obvious things are being caught – Schmidt replied in-line and corrected. He mis-rembered [sic]. I have a cartoon bubble of the team all monitoring CA, hitting F5 repeatedly.

      Odd for something of such little insignificance, innit?

  24. Posted May 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The RealClimate M.O. is clear; bury the substantive issues in a smokescreen of false indignation over inflated complaints about trivia.

    If the Team had any really substantive rebuttal of Steve’s position, they would already have posted it.

One Trackback

  1. [...] fort sätter här, här  och här. Relaterade [...]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

*
*

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,902 other followers

%d bloggers like this: