Threats from the University of Queensland

1_herrcook[1]As many readers are aware, John Cook of SKS refused to provide complete data on his 97% Consensus Project (flatly refusing date-stamp and anonymized rater identification.) Ironically, Cook left the data lying around the internet (to borrow a phrase from Phil Jones). In an incident remarkably similar to the Mole Incident, Brandon Shollenberger alertly located the refused data, which he has provided a teaser at his blog.

The University of Queensland sent Brandon Shollenberger a threatening cease-and-desist letter. Brandon has been discussing the events at his blog. This morning, he announced his surprise at discovering that the University’s threatening letter had been parodied as a Hitler video online.

In the letter, the UQ asserted that the data was “owned” by the UQ and ordered Shollenberger to immediately “cease and desist” from “any and all activities that involve the use or disclosure in any manner of the IP; and any further correspondence with Mr Cook.”

Eerily reminiscent of the U of East Anglia, they stated that the University had “contractual obligations to third parties regarding the IP [intellectual property]” and that any publication of the IP “will expose the University to civil actions from third parties”.

They stated that the UQ had conducted a “forensic investigation” which determined that the “site where the IP was housed” had been “hacked”.

They even claimed that “any publication” of the legal letter “and/or publication of defamatory comments” about the UQ “will be the subject of action” by the UQ. For good measure, they stated that the University held the copyright of the legal letter and that “any publication by you of this letter, or persons acting in concert with you, will constitute an infringement of The University’s copyright” and that the UQ “reserves its right to take any and all legal action against any person, including you, who publishes this letter”.

The UQ letter raises a variety of interesting issues:
– the original Consensus rating project was carried out by SKS volunteers: how did title migrate from SKS to the University of Queensland?
– if the ratings data has been owned by UQ all along and the UQ had confidentiality obligations, why did they leave it lying around the internet (apparently) without password protestion?
– are there any documents that actually demonstrate the existence of “contractual obligations to third parties”? This is eerily reminiscent of the U of East Anglia.
– on what conceivable basis can the University justify its refusal to provide anonymized rater information and datestamps?
– etc etc

For the record, the 97% consensus thing is not an issue that has particularly bothered me. Although this topic has been a sore point at some blogs, I’ve always presumed that the views of IPCC and various national academies represented a form of consensus among the climate science community. However, I doubt that the consensus endorsing the proposition that 2 deg C is “dangerous” is as unanimous as the consensus endorsing the propositions that temperatures are currently warmer than the 19th century and that CO2 has a direct impact on temperature – a proposition uncontested by Lindzen, Christy or Spencer. (Please do not discuss such general issues in the comments. Please restrict your comments to the UQ letter and to Brandon’s work.)

115 Comments

  1. Posted May 17, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I’m still trying to reckon up whether the UQ is filled to the brim with muppets or it believes that Brandon is a complete muppet. Here in the UK, if you don’t want something you’ve said or done let out into the public domain then you have to apply and be granted a “super injunction”. Perhaps UQ thinks it can wing it.

  2. Posted May 17, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    the original Consensus rating project was carried out by SKS volunteers: how did title migrate from SKS to the University of Queensland?

    Are we even allowed to ask?

    • MikeN
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Queensland considers Cook its property, and SS is the domain of Cook.

      • Ian H
        Posted May 25, 2014 at 2:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Does that mean UQ also claims copyright on all the nazi photos cooked up on that site?

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

          Does that mean UQ also claims copyright on all the nazi photos cooked up on that site?

          Now that’s a really good question. I’ve used this photo and I would prefer not to be sued by the University of Queensland for breach of copyright. Maybe I (and Lucia and others) should seek permission from the University of Queensland for our use of Cook’s Nazi photos.

        • HAS
          Posted May 26, 2014 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

          This all seems like a red herring to me. As I’ve noted elsewhere here UQ regard SkS as an independent web site. It is described in those terms in at least a couple of places on their web site/communications, and it existed before Cook joined UQ. The study on the other hand was UQ led (again as described by UQ in its communications).

          So it is the contractual relationship between UQ and SkS/private JC that governs the storage and use of the data. But the law intrudes on that relationship once it exists at least as far as personal info is concerned, and the policies of the funding agencies will also no doubt cover UQ/private JC’s behavior in respect of the study. This is putting aside any of the UQ’s policies that are included in the (possibly only implicit) T&Cs of the subcontract.

  3. Posted May 17, 2014 at 1:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The problem with this type of work is reproducibility and validation. If a group of people are given some text (abstracts) and a pre-cooked scale, how will they fit it?

    Cook reported nice-sounding aggregate statistics and gained media fame. Upon pestering he released data from paper authors who had rated the same papers (ostensibly) which Cook’s volunteers had rated. This was the first step towards bringing out problems. To test for inter-rater reproducibility, stereo-typing, rater bias and fatigue, the same type of data from volunteers would be needed.

    It is this data Cook has fought tooth and nail to avoid becoming public.

    Brandon and David Howe pulled together all existing data starting with a preliminary version from me. Ratings from first two volunteers (for each paper), their reconciled and final ratings, along with year and title of abstract – is available in a single csv file. This is legitimate data made available by Cook put together in a usable format. I would be happy to provide this data. Tol makes his files available here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/rt220/consensus.html

    Composite time-sorted ratings are present in this data. But, the real meat will come from time-stamped inter-rater reproduciblity analysis. Cook presents summary statistics that completely obscure the randomness of their rating scheme.

    This is their two initial independent ratings for abstracts

    Second Rating
    First Rating 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    0 184 0 1 2 38 1 0 0
    1 0 23 66 38 13 1 0 0
    2 1 27 371 430 235 4 0 0
    3 2 15 337 1210 1510 3 2 0
    4 13 7 138 904 6242 25 2 0
    5 0 0 1 4 32 15 3 4
    6 0 0 0 0 9 10 7 3
    7 0 0 1 1 0 1 2 6

    Put in values from ratings ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ into this page and look at the values for kappa yourself: http://vassarstats.net/kappa.html. Calculate percent agreement figures, whatever. You’ll see their system didn’t do a good job. Don’t input all 7 ratings, that would artificially depress kappa.

    It is doing the same between individual raters – Cook, Nuccitelli etc – that is sought to be suppressed.

  4. Spence_UK
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I wonder if the letter is within the remit of FOI laws? Not to discover the contents of course, merely to highlight the utter absurdity of the “do not publish” demands. Does the Australian taxpayer feel this letter was a good use of public funds?

    Steve: Spence, no need to FOI. Look at the script in the video.

    • Posted May 17, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I’m not sure if the letter would be covered by FOI laws, but I do think it’d be interesting to try using FOI to establish the basis for the letter. There should be documentation for a number of claims it makes, if those claims are true.

      I haven’t figured out just what would need to be requested though.

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

        see my post below for the forms they have to fill out to claim IP.

        Your request should be for the forms they are required to file.

        You probably want to break up your requests into several topics.

        You might want legal help framing this.

        • Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

          I believe I can’t file any requests given I’m not a citizen of their country, but I imagine I can get someone do so for me.

          The thing I’m most curious about is probably one of the less interesting things for other people. I want to hear about the “forensic investigation” the University of Queensland conducted. It’s selfish, but I’d like to know on what basis I was accused of being a criminal.

        • HAS
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 10:58 PM | Permalink

          I’m not sure you can’t. I can’t see any reference in the Right to Information Act 2009 which seems to cover requests that imply anything other than that you need to be person.

        • HAS
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 11:33 PM | Permalink

          The other thing I would have a poke around in is the following:

          The information they are so up-tight about seems to be related to personal information (if I understand your earlier correspondence). As such they have obligations for the management of it under the Information Privacy Act 2009 so it doesn’t become publicly available. (In fact these may in part be the contractual responsibilities your QU lawyer friend is referring to since they may not want to be crass enough to say we are carrying legal liabilities in this area because we didn’t look after it well enough).

          A search of the UQ site will produce the background on this, and the bits of legislation are on-line. Schedule 3 of the cited Act sets out Information Privacy Principles, and IPP4 requirements related to storage and security. Note too there are special provisions related to transferring personal information out of the country in respect of security, and other provisions relating to service contractors.

          Now I don’t know this area at all, but am reasonably familiar on how things work on the other side of the Tasman. I suspect you could have some fun letting the Privacy Commissioner know that UQ left personal information lying around and you’d be pleased to help them tighten up their sloppy procedures under the Act :)

          But as I said – just a possible line of inquiry if you are worried about their forensic analysis (aka spotty faced youth with cap on backwards).

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Spence,
      more interesting IMO is whether the supposed “commercial agreements with third parties” are within FOI laws. Remind of you anything?

      • Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Please not a group effort this time!

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I would think the first thing is a request for policies and procedures regarding staff entering into confidentiality agreements.

        There is usually a paper trail.. or should be.

        Staff to legal: I need an agreement
        Legal: Justify your request under form A-123
        Staff: ok..
        Legal: we got your request.. here is the agreement have them sign it.

        That kind of throat clearing stuff should be there if they did it.

      • Spence_UK
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Certainly lots of interesting avenues that could be explored… I think I do see where you are coming from regarding the commercial agreements, although along Richard’s sage advice I will certainly be leaving it to those with more savvy on these topics than me!

        Steve: YEs. Let me reiterate a request to readers: Please refrain from ad hoc letters and complaints to UQ as they will just be ignored. It’s better that such requests be carefully drafted by parties directly involved. Be patient. There will be more to this story.

    • Mooloo
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I wonder if the letter is within the remit of FOI laws?

      Almost certainly not. Legal privilege would be the basis for its rejection in NZ, and I have no doubt Australia.

      While I am a big supporter of proper Official Information laws, legal correspondence will always be exempt.

  5. Concerned Citizen
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 1:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Brandon Shollenberger: “what if I wanted to try to sell the data, perhaps even back to Cook et al?”

    Isn’t there a word for this?

    • Posted May 17, 2014 at 2:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I can’t think of one. Maybe courtesy? If somebody unintentionally gives you the right to distribute material, you can distribute it how you want. You can also sell or lease that right to somebody else. It’s entirely up to you. You can also give up that right if you wish, such as by selling it back to the original owner.

      Unless there is some legal issue which prevents you from selling the material, there is nothing wrong with selling it to whoever.

  6. dearieme
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Years ago I had a lovely time at UQ. I’m about to write a new will; they will not be appearing.

    • jorgekafkazar
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 4:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

      They might very well attribute being neglected to mere forgetfulness on your part. A token sum, perhaps ₳6.66, could set their minds at ease in that regard, as well as indicate where they might go.

  7. Steven Mosher
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    https://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/1.50.01-code-conduct

  8. AndyL
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Best Downfall parody ever

    I wonder if UQ can sue for “being turned into a laughing stock”

    • HAS
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Section 41A of the Oz Copyright Act allows “Fair dealing for purpose of parody or satire”

    • PaddikJ
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Only if it sues itself.

  9. pax
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Sorry to say, but that Hitler spoof is the worst I’ve ever seen – not funny at all.

    • szilard
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I’d guess that the aim wasn’t to be funny, but to get the content into a form that is clearly a parody, for legal reasons.

      Ref Mosher’s suggestion over at Lucia’s that BS do a Youtube reciting the letter in a silly pirate voice etc etc.

      The advantage of the approach taken here I guess is that “everybody knows” Hitler videos are parodies, whereas it might not be obvious that BS doesn’t in fact have a silly pirate voice normally :)

      • HAS
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 6:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Not to mention the running joke around Cook and the SS (ref. photo added to post)

    • jorgekafkazar
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 4:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Well, of course, you’re right. But there will be others.

    • Skiphil
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It is VERY funny (imho) if one now imagines UQ lawyers & bureaucrats, John Cook et al. co-authors, SkS/Cook groupies, et al., assorted sundry Alarm oriented people, etc. needing to watch the video to confirm exactly what is in it…..

      Great idea, whoever may have made the thing!

  10. Steven Mosher
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    see

    http://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.20.06-research-data-management

    section 5

    then

    http://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.10.13-intellectual-property-staff-students-and-visitors

    see 8.1

    FOIA for the forms related to IP.

    basically there are forms that need to be filled out to notify and assert IP

    • Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

      “assert IP”
      that’s to notify the University. The University asserts (sec 5.1)
      “Except as otherwise stated in this Policy, the University owns all IP created by Staff (other than Affiliates):”

      • Carrick
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

        But the University’s IP rights are not unlimited of course.

        From the UQ manual (see Section 5):

        (a) created in or during the course of employment with the University; or
        (b) using University Resources […]

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

        yes Nick I understand that.

        The request for documentation has a specific purpose which you dont get.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Nick Stokes argued that the following UQ policy (sec 5.1) established that IP produced by Cook was the property of the University and not personal property of John Cook:

        “Except as otherwise stated in this Policy, the University owns all IP created by Staff (other than Affiliates):”

        A number of years ago, I discussed title to IP under nearly identical policies of a US university:

        Except where precluded by the specific terms of sponsorship or other agreements, tangible research property, including the scientific data and other records of research conducted under the auspices of the University, belongs to the University. The PI is responsible for the maintenance and retention of research data in accord with the policy.

        In that case, the academic in question claimed with considerable indignation that the IP (in this case, computer code) was his personal property.

        It also bears emphasis that my computer program is a private piece of intellectual property “and whether I make my computer programs publicly available or not is decision that is mine alone to make” It is a bedrock principle of American law that the government may not take private property … “without just compensation.”‘?

        If the true owner of the IP was the university, then, as I argued in the post, by asserting ownership against the true owner of the IP (the university), the academic in question had committed the tort of conversion. I observed that it was an interesting case – see the above link.

        The academic who had converted the IP to his own use was, needless to say, one of Nick’s favorites – Michael Mann.

        • Posted May 17, 2014 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

          The academic who had converted the IP to his own use was, needless to say, [...] – Michael Mann

          Now why am I not in the least surprised to learn that such an upside down reading of ‘the law’ originated with Mann?! What a guy, eh?!

          As I have mentioned previously, Mann tops Holocaust denier, David Irving in the ‘Free speech for me, but not for thee’ department.

          By the same token, I would not be in the least surprised to learn that his next argument (for want of a better word!) in Mann vs Steyn (and/or his other nuisance suits), will be something along the lines of: You must disclose all your documents to me, but I have no obligation to disclose any to thee!

          No wonder Mann chose to team up with Lewandowski, late last year! Both seem to mistakenly believe that they are laws unto themselves.

        • Posted May 17, 2014 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

          “Nick Stokes argued that the following UQ policy”
          I’m not arguing anything; I just note what the document says.

          What UQ chooses to do with any claim of ownership is for them to decide.

        • MikeN
          Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

          >“assert IP”
          that’s to notify the University. The University asserts (sec 5.1)
          “Except as otherwise stated in this Policy, the University owns all IP created by Staff (other than Affiliates):”

          “Apparently this does not qualify as an argument the University established that IP produced by Cook was the property of the University and not personal property of John Cook”

          to the point that Nick objects that he isn’t arguing anything, and then says it is up to the University to decide what it chooses to of with any claim of ownership, not what was originally stated, and also obvious tautology. Yet Nick complains that Steve Mcintyre is engaged in semantics.

  11. HAS
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I posted a reported UQ statement over at The Blackboard (http://rankexploits.com/musings/2014/queensland-to-brandon/#comment-129432 in this I linked to the Australian article but had got to it via Google but see the direct link is paywalled)

    Something O/T that I resisted adding at the time, but is an amusing coincidence in light of our host’s comment “Eerily reminiscent ..”: UQ’s acting pro-vice-­chancellor (Research and International) Alastair McEwan first lectureship was at UEA in the early 1990s (but in biochem and pre-1996 for those conspiracy theorists).

  12. Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The ‘consensus’ work was done by Cook on his own. A small portion was run U of Q assistance. This survey was independent of, but related to the 97% consensus project. If you recall, emails were sent by Cook inviting participation in a survey.

  13. PaulH
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 3:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Is it possible that the UQ letter is phony? Has anyone actually confirmed that it originated from the UQ legal department? I’m just wondering, since it seems (conveniently) designed to push a lot of buttons.

    • Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      PaulH, John Cook told me I’d be contacted by one person at the University of Queensland in a day or so. A day or so later, I got an e-mail from the account belonging to a different person at the university, with an attached letter written on the university’s letterhead. That’s not absolute proof, but it’s enough there’s no reason to doubt the letter’s authenticity.

      • PaulH
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Brandon. As long as there was a follow-up verification.

        • Gerald Machnee
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

          I am still not convinced.

        • Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

          If you’re not convinced, you’re welcome to write to the university to ask them to confirm/deny the letter. The solicitor’s name was Jane Malloch. You can find her official profile page, complete with contact information, here.

      • gober
        Posted May 17, 2014 at 7:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I’m reminded of the 1974 lawyer’s response to a ridiculous legal letter: “Attached is a letter that we received on November 19, 1974. I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters.” (http://www.snopes.com/business/consumer/browns.asp)

        • j ferguson
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

          Gober,
          It might be effective to send a letter along the lines of the one you wrote to whoever runs UQ.

        • j ferguson
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

          oops, the letter to which you refer, not wrote.

        • Posted May 18, 2014 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

          I see parallels with the case of “Arkell v Pressdram”

          http://www.nasw.org/users/nbauman/arkell.htm

  14. Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    How did they get John Cook et. al. to put on the uniforms and act out this funny little skit? /sarc

  15. Adam
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The “we own the copyright to this letter” thing is pretty standard boilerplate these days in cease and desist letters. It appears quite often in letters dealing with DMCA take downs and patent trolling. Most people ignore them and I don’t think one has ever held up in court or even been tried. A “Fair Use” defense would be very strong. If UQ pulled in an IP specialist to draft the letter I’m guessing it’s just part of their standard C&D template.

    • j ferguson
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Adam:

      The “we own the copyright to this letter” thing is pretty standard boilerplate these days in cease and desist letters.

      Do you have any idea what the thinking behind this might be? It seems like it could only be intended to be threatening to someone without counsel.

      • Adam
        Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

        It’s mainly to try and prevent bad PR by making people afraid to publicize that they’re being threatened.

    • Dave L.
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I do not understand how a letter directed to an individual would qualify under the US Copyright Law as being material that can be protected under copyright. Below is the general scope of the US Copyright Law copied from the government website. Perhaps a legal expert could elaborate…

      § 102 . Subject matter of copyright: In general

      (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

      (1) literary works;

      (2) musical works, including any accompanying words;

      (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;

      (4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

      (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

      (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

      (7) sound recordings; and

      (8) architectural works.

      (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

      http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

  16. johanna
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If the text of the video did prove to be accurate :), it looks like it was cut and pasted from boilerplate letters by the work experience person.

    For example, it talks about defaming the university and the negative consequences of doing that. In Australian law, it is impossible to defame a university. Only people can be defamed – organisations can’t be.

    But it is concerning that a university should try to prevent criticism by using even an empty threat like this.

  17. JD Ohio
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 7:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Speaking as a lawyer unfamiliar with Australian law and not being an intellectual property lawyer, but being familiar with the way that lawyers operate, if I was Brandon, I would get legal counsel familiar with these areas of the law. No. 2, I would have legal counsel ask Queensland the precise Australian and statutory and case law basis for their claimed rights to silence Brandon as well as the precise facts that supported the legal allegations. Would also ask for the precise basis for their claims that the Australian laws apply to Brandon in the U.S.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if a very substantial portion of their claims turned out be “creative” overreaching not based on well established law — lawyers routinely write threatening letters that are based on major and unsubstantiated attempts to stretch the law beyond its current limits. In my view, there is little downside in attempting to get the University to be more precise and much potential upside.

    JD

    • Beta Blocker
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: JD Ohio (May 17 19:47),

      JD, if Brandon complies 100% with the demands contained in UQ’s letter, can he even forward a copy of the letter to his own lawyer?

      • JD Ohio
        Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

        BB

        The question you posed is a fair technical one. However, as a practical matter, no one would know that Brandon had disclosed the matter to an attorney because such matters are privileged. In a lot of threatening letters such as this, there is an implied understanding that the person being threatened can see a lawyer. The idea being if there is a real violation in disclosure, the lawyer would not be dumb enough to disclose it.

        JD

  18. Richo
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 11:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think that more follow up work could be done by Brandon on the adequacy of the rating methodology, data management and project management for this study. Brandon could consider the following when doing this. Please note that Steve Mosher posted some handy detailed tips about rating on Brandon’s post on the WUWT website:

    Rating is normally used by engineers to establish the condition of assets such as road and bridges and the principles used should be the same for this study.

    The rating methodology needs to be documented and detailed, more than the one liners. In this instance I would probably include examples of existing extracts that would be included in each category. A good example of a detailed rating manual used for bridges is the VicRoads Road Structures Inspection Manual which is able to be downloaded from their website for free.

    The raters used in the study should be provided with comprehensive training in the rating methodology used. The rating manual should be their bible.

    There should be a adequate data base which should provide as a minimum, a copy of each abstract rated, a unique identification number for the extract, identity of the rater, the date and time of the assessment,the score and comments about the reason why the score was allocated. The raters should read the abstracts in full and not do a word search for key phrases.

    There should be regular random auditing of the rating by the study owner so as to assure the quality of the data collected say a 5% to 10% sample. In most instances rating is subjective judgment and it is important that regular random auditing is carried out to reduce any biases in the collection of data. I think that it would counter productive to assess issues regarding the bias of the raters in this study because all raters have a bias of some sort and generally carry out the rating in good faith.

    Also, I would recommend that these studies used proper project management methodology such as PRINCE2 to monitor the study and sign off on the study at each stage ie approval of rating manual and methodology. Meetings of the study board should have minutes that are included as an addendum to the study.

    I agree with Steve McIntyre that the 97% consensus figure probably sounds about correct and is a refection on the corrupt processes used by governments to allocate funding for climate research and we as a rational skeptic community should be using this figure lobby governments to provide funding to indy climate researchers.

    With regards to the University of Queensland we as a skeptic community should be writing to Chris Pyne, the Minister for Education expressing concern about the heavy handed actions of this University and request that the University retracts their threats of legal action, release the data and that they issue a written apology to Brandon. Also, a similar letter should be sent to Senator George Brandis, the Attorney General with regards to issues of free speak in this matter. Senator Brandis recently expressed concern about the vilification of skeptics by the warmists. Finally, a letter of concern could be sent to Senator Dennis Jensen who is the only scientist and acknowledged skeptic in the Australian Parliament.

    If I was Brandon I would lodge an FOI request for the data as suggested by Steve Mosher above. In the event that the University knock back his FOI request take the matter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. These Administrative Appeals Tribunals enable the small guy to appeal against a decision at reasonably cheap cost and in a non threatening legalistic environment. However, the University could chose to finally refer the matter to the High Court.

    • Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:31 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Richo, I’ve had a post written highlighting the inadequacy of the Cook et al rating system for about a week now. I have about half of a follow-up post written as well. I’ve just held off on them because they reference some material that hasn’t been released yet.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t agree about the 97% figure being “about correct.” I think that figure is too low if we define the “consensus” view as a weak one (humans cause some amount of global warming) but too high if we define the “consensus” view as a strong one (humans are primarily to blame for recent warming). I believe that’s the central problem of this project. Cook et al did not define their “consensus.”

      Several of them them raised the same concern in their forum while working on this project. No resolution was ever reached. Instead, they just plowed ahead with a system whose design was guaranteed to produce low-quality results. That led to humorous aspects of their study, such as the finding I was shocked by: More abstracts were rated as rejecting a strong view on global warming than were rated as endorsing a strong consensus on global warming.

      I received a notable amount of criticism for that comparison. Dana Nuccitelli (second author of the paper) even insulted me for making it. That’s funny because the comparison I made was the same comparison Nuccitelli had recommended prior to the ratings being done. In other words, a test he proposed showed unfavorable results so he wound up insulting people who used it.

      On the issue of FOI, I’m hoping we’ll get them filed for a few different things. I won’t be doing it personally though. I don’t live in Australia.

      • Richo
        Posted May 18, 2014 at 2:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Hi Brandon

        Thanks for the reply.

        I think that you will find the FIO process a bit more streamlined in Oz than in the States. Hopefully, you will not have to go through the same rigmarole as Mark Steyn is going through in his law suit against our friend Michael Mann on an FOI issue.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Brandon’s earlier post (to which he linked) is worth reading. Brandon observed:

        That led to humorous aspects of their study, such as the finding I was shocked by: More abstracts were rated as rejecting a strong view on global warming than were rated as endorsing a strong consensus on global warming.

        Brandon appreciates that this doesn’t mean that more scientists oppose the stated view than endorse it – only that the methodology of the study is inadequate. This is a distinction that is too often ignored – on both sides of the aisle. In substantive terms, it is evident to me that there is a “consensus” of climate scientists on many points, not all of which have equal evidentiary support. Although science is “self-correcting”, at any given point in time, the “self-correction” may not have taken place. IMO people interested in the connection of scientific articles to policy are very much entitled to inquire into the evidentiary support for each proposition and should be praised, rather than ridiculed, for such interest.

      • Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Brandon:

        For what it’s worth, I don’t agree about the 97% figure being “about correct.” I think that figure is too low if we define the “consensus” view as a weak one (humans cause some amount of global warming) but too high if we define the “consensus” view as a strong one (humans are primarily to blame for recent warming).

        Which got me thinking what question would get a lower percentage. How about this from Michael Kelly’s submission earlier in the year to the UK select committee on Energy and Climate Change:

        Who takes legal responsibility if it proves that the expenditure in pursuit of the Climate Change Act is shown to be ineffective, unnecessary or counterproductive?

        Somehow I guess those putting their hands up for that one would be less than 97%. I’m not criticising, of course, just thinking it would be a useful number for politicians and voters to be aware of, alongside the others.

  19. michael hart
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 6:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The video needs more work. The sentence lengths and text match very poorly. Very poorly indeed. A bit like IPCC model outputs match reality. Sorry.

  20. thingadonta
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 7:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

    What would one expect from a project which a title that is an outcome?

    For something called ‘the Consensus Project’, they have to suppress anything that undermines or weakens the said ‘consensus’, as this is written into the very purpose of the project to begin with.

    To work towards the ‘consensus’, only things that support such ‘a consensus’ are allowed, so no sharing of data, or critical review, or rebuttals are allowed. (Never mind that this isn’t how science works.)

  21. Craig Loehle
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    To prevent someone (Brandon) from contacting a person (Cook) it is standard to use a restraining order, but a university can not issue restraining orders. Nor is one likely to be issued when all that is required by Cook is to block Brandon’s emails, especially since Brandon is just asking questions about research data and he is not making any threats or even insults. It is sad but not surprising when universities start thinking they can issue legal judgments (here in US they put men on trial for sexual assault, though not for any other crimes, which is also bizarre).
    It is also concerning that a university would assert IP rights to research data necessary to replicate or comment on a scientific study. This is certainly not data that will lead to any inventions or financial benefits, nor is it likely to be ever used again. Preventing replication using lawyers does not speak well of their confidence in their own scientists and shows they have lost the plot of how science works.

  22. Andrew M
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    OK, so the letter copyright part was a bluff, however the IP over the survey data is probably legitimate since Cook has been an officially listed researcher of UQ’s “Global Change Institute” since August 2011.

    Are we just looking at a situation where a corporation owns data and can do what it likes with that data, including keeping it secret?
    In that case, this would be just the latest manifestation of the conflict that exists generally in our society between the transparency demanded by the scientific method and the perfectly legal rights of any IP owner.

    To show there is anything “wrong” with what they are doing we’d have to show that UQ’s obstructionist approach is extremely unusual in world class scientific research institutions.
    If Brandon publishes then it will change the situation from one where UQ is doing something wrong but legal into a situation where Brandon does something illegal. It takes all the focus off the university and makes them look like the victim.

    • pottereaton
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Andrew M:

      If Brandon publishes then it will change the situation from one where UQ is doing something wrong but legal into a situation where Brandon does something illegal. It takes all the focus off the university and makes them look like the victim.

      You may be underestimating the respect generated in society by the whistleblower dedicated to uncovering corruption in high places. If it can be proved that UQ is protecting scientific malpractice, they won’t come out of this looking very good either.

      Yesterday Brandon was discussing the legal implications of his ownership and his right to sell the data he had acquired. I didn’t comment, but the question I had was whether he felt he had any ethical obligation to publish the material in order to expose what could be an abuse of the scientific method.

      This would be the direction from which I would approach the problem. Which is not to diminish the threat of legal action against him, which could be very real and might give me pause.

      This is similar in some aspects to the NYT publishing the Pentagon Papers where the government attempted to impose prior restraint on a newspaper and forbid them from publishing classified information. In that case Daniel Ellsberg thought he had a moral duty to distribute the information.

      • Andrew M
        Posted May 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

        The problem every whistleblower has is taking that risk. They have to break the 2nd rule to expose a transgression of the 1st rule. They take the risk that society will value the 1st rule highly enough to overlook breaking the 2nd rule.

        Which means Brandon has to be pretty darn sure that the secret data proves something dastardly occurred, otherwise there is nothing to blow the whistle about.

        • HAS
          Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Permalink

          Just a comment on this sub-thread. I would accept UQ’s view that it owns and therefore controls the use of the information even if it is housed elsewhere. The consequence is they can pick and choose who gets to use it (although that will be subject to the conditions of funding attached to the study).

          Withholding information for commercial reasons by researchers is nothing new – who knows it may contain the information necessary to develop a vaccination for climate skepticism. It does however reduce the usefulness of the study in contributing to the wider body of literature, other wise researchers will put it aside as “unproven”.

          On the whistle-blower issue I think (as I mentioned elsewhere) that the perfectly legitimate angle assuming the data includes personal data is to take the lack of secure storage by UQ of it with the Privacy Commissioner. This involves no improper disclosure of the information and would be what we would all expect of a good citizen concerned to help UQ lift their game.

        • pottereaton
          Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

          “. . .who knows it may contain the information necessary to develop a vaccination for climate skepticism.”

          That’s hilarious.

    • Another Ian
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

      A friend has looked at this list and can’t find him on it

  23. ossqss
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    By virtue of the posturing of their response, it appears there are others that aquired the same data from the same place. Hence, the attempt to squelch any reference or acknowledgement to any material related to the topic in all respects.

    Austrailian laws may not apply in other countries.

    I would imagine that some folks are not sleeping well knowing that.

  24. Posted May 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is U of Q in effect laying claim to the content of SKS? This could be quite interesting if so…

    • Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I fear QU does not seem to own the site…It is Cook all the way down:
      Domain Details

      Domain Name: skepticalscience.com
      Registry Domain ID: 1046786008_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
      Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.tppwholesale.com.au
      Registrar URL: http://http://www.tppwholesale.com.au

      Updated Date: 3-May-2014
      Creation Date: 25-Jun-2007
      Expiration Date: 25-Jun-2015
      Registrar: TPP Wholesale Pty Ltd
      Registrar IANA ID: 900
      Registrar Abuse Contact Email: http://www.tppwholesale.com.au/contact.php
      Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +61 2 9215 6247
      Reseller:
      Domain Status: ok

      Registrant ID: 117707
      Registrant Name: John Cook
      Registrant Organization: Sevloid Art
      Registrant Street 1: PO Box 3181
      Registrant City: Warner
      Registrant State/Province: QLD
      Registrant Postal Code: 4500
      Registrant Country: au
      Registrant Phone: 61 07 3882 3208
      Registrant FAX: 61 07 3882 3264
      Registrant Email:

      Admin ID: 117706
      Admin Name: John Cook
      Admin Organization: Sevloid Art
      Admin Street 1: PO Box 3181
      Admin City: Warner
      Admin State/Province: QLD
      Admin Postal Code: 4500
      Admin Country: au
      Admin Phone: 61 07 3882 3208
      Admin FAX: 61 07 3882 3264
      Admin Email:

      Tech ID: 117708
      Tech Name: John Cook
      Tech Organization: Sevloid Art
      Tech Street 1: PO Box 3181
      Tech City: Warner
      Tech State/Province: QLD
      Tech Postal Code: 4500
      Tech Country: au
      Tech Phone: 61 07 3882 3208
      Tech FAX: 61 07 3882 3264
      Tech Email:

    • John Bochan
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 2:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

      We have two entities to consider, J Cook the person, and J Cook the business entity.

      Publicly accessible ABN business details (www.abr.business.gov.au):

      ABN: 62 273 972 392
      Entity name: COOK, JOHN-FREDERICK OLIVER
      ABN status: Active from 16 Mar 2000
      Entity type: Individual/Sole Trader
      Goods & Services Tax (GST): Registered from 01 Jul 2000
      Main business location: QLD 4034
      Trading name From
      SEVLOID ART 16 Mar 2000

      Unless the domain registry has not been updated, the domain skepticalscience.com is owned by the business entity J Cook trading as Sevloid Art, not J Cook the person. Cook claims the work was done with volunteers at SKS not UQ. “theconcensusproject.com” has a UQ logo and appears to be a fudge domain with only an email address, john@skepticalscience.com, to identify the possible owner; could be Cook or UQ?. An FOI directed to UQ about the existence of a commercial relationship with Cook’s business, SKS and the consensus project may be in order. I can’t see how UQ can claim IP from a private unrelated individual business without some type of commercial agreement with J Cook the person.

      This web page may give some pointers about fiduciary interests.

      http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/DeakinLRev/2004/32.html

    • HAS
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

      No, UQ is laying claim to the ownership of the data associated with the study.

      John Cook, the person, claims copyright in the material on SkS, although he says “Skeptical Science is maintained by John Cook, the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland” in a section headed “About the author”.

      This could imply a formal link to the university for the web site but going back the other way from the GCI site John Cook is described as a post doc fellow under the “Researchers” heading (alongside some who one trusts feels embarrassed by his youthful antics) and there is a broken link to SkS as his “personal website”.

      As I said elsewhere the issue is how UQ protected the personal info they owned and allowed Cook to store at his SkS site.

      • Posted May 19, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: HAS (May 19 03:27), No, UQ is laying claim to the ownership of the data associated with the study.

        I accept that, however point two (the point labeled “2)” in the letter) is a condition of no further contact with John Cook. However he is the proprietor of a blog which invites public comment. To impose that condition I suspect that some judges would say that they were acting for him in that capacity as well. (Having argued similar points before — sometimes to a sympathetic judge — other times not.)

        fwiw

        • HAS
          Posted May 19, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

          Yes, UQ can’t stop contact with JC as proprietor of SkS (and this would include discussing security on the site) unless they wish to assert he is working on this site as an employee/contractor to UQ. I suspect they wouldn’t wish to do that.

          I note however that this does imply that UQ regard JC’s time working on the paper as time he was employed with UQ. This will be the basis for the IP ownership isssue, and UQ establishes responsibility for the quality of the research and the stewardship of the data (including personal data) associated with it.

  25. JunkPsychology
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    There is an important difference between a corporation collecting data and keeping it secret, and a public university collecting data and keeping it secret.

    The corporation normally paid for everything out of its own earnings.

    The public university didn’t pay for everything. A significant chunk was picked up by the taxpayers.

    When a public university is asserting intellectual property rights over stuff that will never be patentable—and withholding it is contrary to what are considered best practices in that line of work—it will draw sympathy only from university researchers also have something to gain from withholding their data.

    Those folks do not make up a large percentage of the population.

    Publish it and dare UQ to make something of it.

    • wrecktafire
      Posted May 23, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      “The corporation normally paid for everything out of its own earnings. The public university didn’t pay for everything. A significant chunk was picked up by the taxpayers.”

      I can think of exceptions to both of these statements. The meat of the matter is in the contractual relationship between the various parties involved in a project. Funding of the work and ownership of the assets are aspects subject to negotiation.

  26. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I urge readers not to assume that the data will show anything other than poor design of the ratings project. Just because the university is being uncooperative doesn’t mean that the data contains anything very surprising.

    We saw this previously in the similar incident where CRU refused temperature data. I said that I did not expect the data to show anything other than that CRU did surprisingly little due diligence; I categorically urged readers not to expect any smoking guns. I didn’t think that CRU had any valid reason to withhold the data.

    • Chuck L
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Maybe there will be a smoking gun, or maybe not, IMO, this is mostly confirmation bias to the nth degree but when Phil Jones wrote,

      I should warn you that some data we have we are not supposed to pass on to others. We can pass on the gridded data – which we do. Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it…
      -Phil Jones email Feb. 21, 2005

      well, it’s hard not to be suspicious, especially of Cook et al, given their history. The type of mentality displayed by Phil Jones, University of Queensland and others is completely contrary to traditional scientific theory but perhaps this is “post modern science.”

    • ossqss
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps you are right.

      The alarming part of this equation is the continued systemic resistance to disclosure of data that influences policy.

      No vetting of output.

      Akin to submitting your yearly taxes without documentation.

      Think about it…;.

  27. JunkPsychology
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t see how there could be a “smoking gun” from Cook’s study. It’s so obviously been a complete mess from the beginning.

    That doesn’t detract from the value of publishing all of the data.

  28. Keith Sketchley
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Pffft…..sounds like some amateur lawyer got carried away.

    (Few lawyers are pros IMO – I’ve worked with pros but encountered the amateur, and scummy too, all had licenses but that does not ensure competence let alone ethics.)

    The University thinks it can forbid communication with a third party (Cook)? Seems presumptive.

  29. John Archer
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 5:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Brandon,

    How would you feel if someone else had had exactly the same idea as you did—namely, finding that publicly available url—and downloaded the same info but sat on it for while, until now?

    I was thinking that on hearing of your plight he might well upload the info anonymously onto a few of those free data-hosting sites and, again anonymously of course, broadcast its various locations in a series of comments on the regular CAGW-sceptic blogs and elsewhere. Periodically, he might check its continued availability on his chosen data-hosting sites and, if necessary, repost it on the same or different sites.

    Meanwhile he might even have hacked your computer and be considering doing a similar job on the letter you received from UQ. Oh dear!

    Well, I’m sure you’d be very, very upset indeed about that. Still, I imagine you’d pull yourself together eventually and bravely soldier on.

    Of course then you’d be free to comment away to your heart’s content, including on the letter. :)

    See? So it wouldn’t really be that bad after all.

    Of course, it could well be that the computer that was hacked was your old cheapo backup laptop which, unfortunately was recently stolen by some pickpocket from your bag in the rush hour at the crowded train station. So there’s just no way now of you tracing the hacker. What bad luck!

    Sh*t happens! :)

    • Brandon Shollenberger
      Posted May 18, 2014 at 6:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

      John Archer, I’d be very upset with them stealing my glory!

    • Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

      You, Sir, have a most devious mind! :)

  30. szilard
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    FWIW, I have some familiarity with legal units within Oz university research offices (not Uni of Qld specifically). The lawyer involved here, Jane Malloch, wouldn’t be UoQ’s inside corporate counsel. Rather, she would be responsible for things like legal contractual aspects of co-operation agreements of various kinds, with industry and other universities & grants etc etc. Not a litigator.

    I suppose if they were/become more serious than Mr Nasty letter-writing mode the university’s corporate counsel would be involved and they’d presumably brief things out to some scary-looking litigation firm.

    • JunkPsychology
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I noticed from the letterhead (on the now publicly available letter) that Ms. Malloch is not UQ’s numero uno lawyer.

      Not that numero uno is necessarily much better. Universities don’t hire top-tier lawyers.

      If UQ actually sued, they would hand the depositions and courtroom work off to an outside firm. At least that’s the standard practice in the US.

  31. Geckko
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    I understand your position on this (writing to UQ).

    However, I and many other alumni have genuine cause to be concerned about this behaviour and every right to communicate or views to the University adminstration.

  32. Ed Barbar
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “- if the ratings data has been owned by UQ all along and the UQ had confidentiality obligations, why did they leave it lying around the internet (apparently) without password protestion?”

    Many potential reasons. People who are unfamiliar with the security procedures of computer systems/the web server running on them? Even professionals make mistakes.

    Perhaps they didn’t think the data was worth protecting at the time, but later decided it was important to protect.

    The only question is whether or not University of Queensland owns the data and has a right to assert control over it in the manner they are, not whether they left it lying around.

    Steve: yes, ownership is the larger question, but one can still ponder lesser questions.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

      There is no possible economic value to this data, and if anonomized can not harm the raters. The only reason to prevent access is to thwart criticism of a UQ staff member/student.

      • Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

        A problem is the data cannot be truly anonymized because Skeptical Science actively discussed how active their raters were. They even posted images showing the progress. That would make it trivially easy to identify a number of the raters, even if the the data were anonymized.

        I think a study like this should have required that information be kept confidential, even amongst the participants. Apparently they disagree, and believe Skeptical Science wasn’t responsible for their forum being hacked, so they shouldn’t have their anonymity broken because of it.

        A point against that argument is they’ve left the graphs showing rater progress on Skeptical Science for the two years since they were hacked. Here are archived copies I made just today:

        http://archive.today/ECyEB

        http://archive.today/CxeDd

        If they don’t want people to have information about the identity of raters, it’s difficult to see why they’d leave such information on their site, in a publicly accessible location, for over two years.

        • Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

          Another point against their argument for privacy is people not participating in the project were able to read the discussions of the project. That meant they had access to “confidential” information. Showing this data was actually private would require showing everyone on the Skeptical Science forum who had access to the subforum about the project agreed to confidentiality requirements (perhaps as a requirement for joining the forum?).

          On a related note, I’m not convinced there were any confidentiality agreements with the raters. If there weren’t, I’m not sure what argument there is to claim their identities need to be protected. And I’m not sure what to make of confidentiality when many participants self-identified themselves in public.

    • HAS
      Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I beg to differ.

      I think the ownership issue is essentially trivial. UQ assert this, whether because it was done by a researcher in their employ or they somehow subsequently acquired the rights (I’d go with the former JC’s first affiliation as lead author is shown as Global Change Institute, University of Queensland, Australia).

      The issue is how well UQ looked after their data (particularly the personal data “that could identify research participants who took part in the ­research on condition of anonymity” in the words of acting pro-vice-­chancellor (Research and International) Alastair McEwan).

      The heavy handed and sanctimonious approach to protecting it now the horse has bolted is just a distraction from the casual way they dealt with this info.

      A related issue is the extent of quality control the UQ accepts over studies done in its name, but there is a fine tradition of rubbish coming out of universities that I’m sure they’ll defend in the name of academic freedom. It is only their reputation they are trading in here, but with self described personal info they have the law to contend with.

      These are the larger issues IMHO.

      • Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

        HAS, the issue of ownership is important in establishing the University of Queensland has standing in any legal issues arising from this. Them claiming to own the data doesn’t mean they do own it. If they don’t actually own it, everything falls entirely upon John Cook.

        • HAS
          Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

          I don’t think a court would muck around for long contemplating ownership if UQ asserts and JC and other authors and UWA all agree. Paper done as an employee ergo UQ owns data (see policies an probably JC’s employment contract).

          I didn’t mean to imply by what I posted that personal data trumps research quality, just that personal data release is the best way into the debate about the wider issues of the quality of research.

          In many ways it is better to have the UQ putting their hand up and saying they own this study because it is much more likely that the issues will get a hearing outside the subculture that JC has found himself in. Extending that idea “Minor climate groupie and web designer stuffs up research” is much less influential than “UQ defends poor quality research”.

  33. Posted May 19, 2014 at 8:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The video is hilarious. I’d rate it at at least 97%.

  34. Posted May 19, 2014 at 8:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    My kids went to UQ (arts, science, engineering, medicine), but I was seriously ill through those years and had little contact with it, even though it is nearby. However, in my last published paper (“Achieving sustained economic growth,” 2006), I demolished economics papers by UQ’s head of department and another author. I didn’t send a draft to the prof, as I had given him extensive comments on his draft paper: he was very appreciative, but published it unchanged. He did not challenge my published critique, which was launched at a press conference. I sent a draft to the author of the second paper, he fully accepted all of my criticisms and, having moved on to LSE, wrote: “I now laugh at my time in Queensland.” Just saying.

  35. James Perth
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 12:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Regarding the copyrighted letter to Mr Shollenberger, the Right to Information Act does provide an exemption from disclosure for documents subject to legal professional privilege. The scope of legal professional privilege however extends only to confidential communications made for the dominant purpose of submission to the legal adviser for advice (whether connected with litigation or not) or for use in existing or anticipated litigation.

    Since the letter has been delivered to Mr Shollenberger, it is no longer confidential and therefore is not subject to the privilege. Likewise, it could be requested under the RTI Act although there would be no sense in doing that at this point.

  36. Fen
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “For the record, the 97% consensus thing is not an issue that has particularly bothered me.”

    Non-scientist here. I lurk and try to understand the math, etc. But my expertise is in politics. The 97% myth has been a huge problem for people like me who try to explain to alarmists where the science has gone off the rails. They cling to that 97% like a life raft in stormy seas. You can win every point in the “layman” debate, and they will rest their argument on the 97%.

    I’ve even done the math for them, explained how the response group of 3,146 was whittled down to 79 to get to 97%. How its more like 2.4% (77/3146). They are immune to math and reason.

    Point being, its similar to the “lies travel around the world before truth gets its boots on”. I know it may to be signficant to the scientific community, but the 97% has been a lynch pin keeping the average joe from looking deeper into the science.

    Steve: well, it seems obvious to me that there is a “consensus” among climate scientists that climate sensitivity is in IPCC range. I am baffled as to why people bother trying to challenge this. Nor do I believe that it is unreasonable for someone who is not especially interested in the topic to accept IPCC views on the matter. (Nor do I think that skeptics have proven that sensitivity is not in the IPCC range.) Equally I don’t think that IPCC supporters have demonstrated that a low-sensitivity model is precluded – their negligent failure to squarely address this issue is one of the main reasons why controversy continues. On the other hand, I think that it’s reassuring that we’ve already coped with a lot of forcing seemingly without major problems. If your friends are unconvinced by your arguments, so what. You can always chat about something else.

    • Ed Barbar
      Posted May 25, 2014 at 4:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve Sez:

      Nor do I believe that it is unreasonable for someone who is not especially interested in the topic to accept IPCC views on the matter. (Nor do I think that skeptics have proven that sensitivity is not in the IPCC range.)

      I could be mistaken, but I was under the impression one of the reasons you became involved in understanding the Paleo reconstructions is that you were of the view that sudden spikes such as that indicated by MM temperature spikes were often wrong. Do I have that right? Is this a change in that view?

      Note, I personally believe Climate is more complex than IPCC makes out, or than Climate Scientists think (not think: believe as the recent spate of articles regarding MM’s AMO paper, another one on whether increased CO2 concentrations affect ocean temperatures by their uptake of IR, are simply beyond me (it would take a lot of time to make sense of them). So I’m more interested in observations as opposed to models. Isn’t the truth in the observations? Is their time for the observations to hold out if IPCC sensitivity #s are correct? (There is also the practical matter of if they are correct, what meaningful (practical) steps can be taken).

      Steve: I had no prior view that “sudden spikes such as that indicated by MM temperature spikes were often wrong.” I had seen many hockey stick graphs in business projections where the blade was the result of a change in assumptions. So I was interested in what produced the blade. But I didn’t have a preconception that it was “wrong” – only that it was worth checking. And that it didn’t seem to have been audited prior to being used as an IPCC frontispiece.

      • Posted May 25, 2014 at 8:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Mr. McIntyre, I think your comment more or less encapsulates the attitude of many of us and in a sane world would be the appropriate antidote to much of the invective coming from either extreme.

        Put it on a t-shirt or let Lucia put it on a coffee mug.

  37. Fen
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    /edit

    I know it may NOT be significant to the scientific community…

  38. Posted May 25, 2014 at 7:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If your friends are unconvinced by your arguments, so what. You can always chat about something else.

    Wise, wise words.

  39. MikeN
    Posted May 30, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Brandon uses gmail, and Google claims a non-exclusive license to use anything that passes thru their services.

  40. Matt Skaggs
    Posted Jun 9, 2014 at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I think Jim Bouldin has the last word on the “97% Consensus Project” here:

    http://ecologicallyoriented.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/our-new-consensus-study/

  41. RayG
    Posted Jun 29, 2014 at 12:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Over a month has passed since the UofQ rattled its saber at Branden Shollenberger. Is there any update regarding follow-up on the part of UofQ?

  42. Mervyn Sullivan
    Posted Jul 2, 2014 at 2:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    John Cook’s paper does nothing but reflect adversely on the reputation of the University of Queensland.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Read more at Climate Audit … […]

  2. […] fresh from demolishing the science and statistics of a number of Australian papers from Cook (Threats from the University of Queensland) and Lewandowski (The “Ethics Application” for Lewandowsky’s Fury), to Marcott (April […]

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