Top Fifteen Reasons for Withholding Data or Code

Here are the current top fifteen climate science reasons for not disclosing data or code:

15. It’s on a diskette somewhere, but I don’t know where.
14. If we get a good climatic story from a chronology, we write a paper using it. That is our funded mission! The rejected data are set aside and not archived.
13. A source code request by a reviewer is unprecedented in the 28 years since I founded the journal.
12. It’s on our FTP site, but I’ve forgotten the location.
11. His research is published in the peer-reviewed literature which has passed muster with the editors of those journals and other scientists who have reviewed his manuscripts. You are free to your analysis of climate data and he is free to his.
10. With regard to the additional experimental results that you request, our view is that this goes beyond an obligation on the part of the authors.
9. It’s password protected.
8. It’s the property of the originating author.
7. It will be available after we publish an article.
6. We’re planning to publish another article.
5. As an ex- marine I refer to the concept of a few good men. A lesser amount of good data is better without a copious amount of poor data stirred in.
4. I’ve misplaced it.
3. 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.
2. Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in.
1. No reply


  1. John A
    Posted Mar 5, 2005 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    There’s something definitely bothering you, Steve. I can tell.

  2. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 5, 2005 at 10:22 PM | Permalink

    Even more bothering is the sudden lack of copy in the Australian Press, with the last 2 weeks being a bit short on any comment about climate. I suspect that with Kyoto signed, it is "legal" and that is that. As there is nothing being emphasised in the Oz media, apart from some put downs that climate change realists are an extreme minority, I wonder whether the current policy by both Mann et la Media is to keep ignoring us until we run out of puff?

    John – one other factor – co2 derived from Ice cores – the limit seems 280 ppm, from "uncracked" ice which means ice that was not under internal stress due to dissolved volatiles. That suggests CO2 measurements are not of historical CO2 levels but merely the CO2 saturation level of Ice at surface pressures and temperatures. Might be worth following up I think.

    John replies: There’s more to ice core records than meets the eye. Certainly whoever is claiming that ice core records show low carbon dioxide readings prior to the 19th Century is being “economical with the truth”

  3. Joanne Ballard
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    How about, “This data is for climate scientists’ eyes only. You are not a climate scientist; therefore, you don’t get to see it.” 😛

    “My computer crashed, and I didn’t have it backed up. Those darned viruses…”

  4. Joanne Ballard
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

    “I’m big, you’re little; I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m somebody, you’re nobody,” (thinking of Danny DeVito in the movie, Matilda–Great movie btw)

  5. Hans Erren
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    “You must pay us a licence to use it, and promise not to publish the original data yourself” (Homogenised temperature data for Uccle Belgium)

  6. John A
    Posted Mar 7, 2005 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    We’re climatologists. We use different laws of physics, different laws of mathematics and different laws of logic from everybody else.

    So you may have a degree in mathematics, a PhD in physics, a Masters in logic, but you’re not qualified to see our data.

  7. Posted Mar 7, 2005 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    16. [We] have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. Disclosing data or code would make us less effective.

  8. Hans Erren
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 3:32 AM | Permalink

    I have no time to archive the old stuff as I just returned from an expedition with new material (Thompson)

  9. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 5:14 AM | Permalink

    The noise level in this thread is getting such that the signal, if there is one, is impossibly obscured. Lets call it a fog of disrespectful indignation.

  10. Michael Ballantine
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    The message in this thread is still a lot clearer than the temperature signal in a Bristlecone Pine. You will just have to trust the experts on this that we can see the message no matter how much noise there is in the comments.

  11. Patrick Boyle
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    I know this is off the topic of this particular thread but I just finished Jared Diamond’s book Collapse. He speaks at some length about mining and the environment. Any comments?

  12. Posted Mar 9, 2005 at 11:59 AM | Permalink

    The underlying political/sociological/philosophical bias in all of this would be funny to see, if it weren’t so tragic with the potential to bankrupt civilization. Without total transparency we are left with faith and science is supposed to rest on fact, reproducible, openly presented fact. Anyone not totally transparent has something to hide. That is indisputable. However, sometimes hiding is necessary, such as to protect trade secrets, but usually the output of that trade secret is not the thing in question, since it is a usable and acceptable product and the tradeoffs to allow that secrecy are small, if they matter at all.

    That is not the case in this venue, and the only trade secret of value is the reputation of the person being not transparent. We are not talking about a marketable process to produce something of repeatable value that will lead to prosperity for the owner of the trade secret. We are talking about essential science that uses hidden processes that fundamentally affects the outcome. To avoid full disclosure is dishonest and anyone who refuses absolute transparency in such cases should be dismissed outright as attempting to perpetrate fraud.

    When you want to put your hand in my pocket, you have given up the right of secrecy in any form or fashion as it relates to the how, when, and why your hand is in motion. Otherwise, expect it to get broken and you to be considered at best a common thief.

  13. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 9, 2005 at 9:45 PM | Permalink


    Obviously I will have to read Diamond’s book, but the most interesting statistic on mining and the environment is the actual physical area mining takes. In Australia we suggest the environmentalists consider the parking areas assigned to shopping malls in terms of area, and then the area taken up by mining. Mining is the smaller area by a significant degree.

    Apart from the fact that EVERY facet of civilisation is the end product of mining – be it the iron for the plough or the hydrocarbon for the oil lamp. Just imagine life with no tools, just naked humans eating bananas and mangos off trees in Roussian bliss.

  14. John A
    Posted Mar 10, 2005 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    Re: #13

    I have difficulty enough not thinking about naked humans, which is why I’ll never be a good environmentalist.

  15. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 14, 2005 at 3:58 AM | Permalink

    Top fifteen climate science reasons for not disclosing data or code – or preventing others from doing so!!

    I have just read this :
    and Willie Soon has this comment about publishing his paper “Estimation and representation of long-term (>40 year) trends of Northern-Hemisphere-gridded surface temperature: A note of caution”.

    He says “Actually the paper was not off to a good start, it was first scheduled to appear on January 27 after being approved by two reviewers and the editor in charge. But upon not seeing our paper appearing as planned and promised and after several rounds of my persistent inquiries, I found out that the publication of our paper was being delayed and the paper may not be printed because of a presumed copyright violation issue. The misunderstanding about and the attempt (indicated below) to prevent the publication of our paper is both alarming and sad but the raw fact is that I had obtained all the necessary copy-right permissions for the purpose of this academic research work prior to the submission of our scientific manuscript to the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) around November 2003. The matter is now resolved and our paper was published two-and-a half weeks later. Upon my satisfactory resolution with the GRL production office by presenting all the proofs, the GRL production person I spoke to said: “We should not have taken Michael Mann’s word for it.”

  16. William Pearce
    Posted Mar 15, 2005 at 2:36 AM | Permalink


  17. Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    Re: 2
    “… one other factor – co2 derived from Ice cores – the limit seems 280 ppm, from “uncracked” ice which means ice that was not under internal stress due to dissolved volatiles. That suggests CO2 measurements are not of historical CO2 levels but merely the CO2 saturation level of Ice at surface pressures and temperatures. Might be worth following up I think.”

    I’m interested in research on the “problem” with ice cores and low levels of CO2. Suggestions, please.

  18. JerryB
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 9:26 AM | Permalink


    A short paper at may be of interest.

  19. John G. Bell
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

    Re #19: JerryB, Reference 13 in the paper, Wagner’s work on Holocene CO2, I’ve been trying to figure out how much confidence one can have stomatal frequency as proxy for CO2 concentrations alone. Wagner in the 2004 paper shows a wordwide phenomenon but couldn’t a global average decrease in humidity or an increase in temperature, windspeed or some other factor that increases evaporation and also drive stomatal frequency down? Wagner reads like a methodical and rigorous fellow. The basic idea has a touch of genius in it.

    Even if CO2 was higher back in the Holocene, we don’t know what the sun’s luminosity was back then.

    The nut content in AGW crowd would make any squirrel happy. Wagner’s work, if correct, doesn’t bury them but does dig a hole. Does his stuff hold up? Any other methods out there that give us a Holocene CO2 chronology?

  20. John G. Bell
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

    Couldn’t Wagner’s method be used to look at the past several thousand years? Why not use it to look at more recent times?

  21. JerryB
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

    John G.,

    Other than to mention that Wagner et al 2002 addresses some of your questions, there is not much that I could add to the topic.

  22. John G. Bell
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    Jerry, thanks. I didn’t catch that.

    OT- Limestone formation, sedimentation, extracts carbon from the sea. Does this occur at a uniform rate? Could sea and atmospheric levels of CO2 be related to oceanic sedimentation rates?

  23. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Oct 3, 2005 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    The AGW team bases their beliefs on two premises. First, that atmospheric CO2 levels have increased dramatically during mankind’s industrialization. Second, that average temperatures have increased in a direct relationship to the increase in CO2 levels.

    It would appear that the Jawarowski and Wagner papers undercut the first premise of the AGW proponants. One major underlying assumption of AGW is that CO2 levels were much lower in pre-industrial times.

    Clearly the Mann, Jones, and Crowley use of proxy data to determine temperature is open to question. The assumed temperature trends which have lead to Kyoto are certainly highly suspect.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] of you may recall the memorable climate science phrase: We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when […]

  2. […] at CA in October 2005 here. Earlier in February 2005, Jones had famously refused Warwick Hughes as follows: Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. […]

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