An Open Letter to Science

An open letter has been sent to Science on archiving by Benny Peiser, Sir Colin Berry, Freeman Dyson, Chris de Freitas, Mick Fuller and Lord Taverne. Here it is:

22 February 2006
R. Brooks Hanson
Managing Editor, Physical Sciences, Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Dear Dr Hanson

In early March, the National Research Council of The National Academies of the United States is convening a committee to study “Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Past 1,000-2,000 Years”. According to the NAS announcement, “the committee will be asked to summarize the current scientific information on the temperature record over the past two millennia, describe the proxy records that have been used to reconstruct pre-instrumental climatic conditions, assess the methods employed to combine multiple proxy data over large spatial scales, evaluate the overall accuracy and precision of such reconstructions, and explain how central the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record is to the state of scientific knowledge on global climate change.”

In order for the NAS panel and the invited scientific experts to evaluate the overall accuracy and precision of temperature reconstructions based on multiple proxy data, it is essential that a complete archive of the data is made available. This is particularly relevant for a number of contentious papers published in Science that will feature prominently during the NAS assessment.

We understand that some authors of paleo-climate reconstructions published in Science (Osborn and Briffa, 2006; Thompson et al., 1989; 1997; Esper et al., 2002) have failed to provide complete data archives. We would like to ask Science to ensure that the NAS assessors and scientific experts will have full access to the data and that the authors in question provide a complete archive as required under Science policies.

Yours sincerely

Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Sir Colin Berry, Queen Mary, University of London, UK
Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA
Chris de Freitas, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Mick Fuller, University of Plymouth, UK
Lord Taverne, House of Lords, UK

Liverpool, 22 February 2006


  1. Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

    Well this is getting interesting. As you suggested in another post, the ultimate remedy would be to retract all papers that were inadequately archived. What a mass exodus! I wonder also what the precedent is for a the committee to subpoena data – not only published but the unpublished, or recent series that Steve has spoken of that have been collected, paid for by the public, and presumably rejected. I fear I am turning into a troll. Must stop now. Work.

  2. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

    This is an huge breakthrough. These people have staked out a clear position and have lent their gravitas. Bravo!

  3. jae
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    Great news! Steve, you definitely have the attention of the scientific community, finally. You certainly deserve it. Let’s see Science get out of this one…

  4. Pat Frankj
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

    I, too, welcome the letter, but that such a letter even must be sent to “Science” is a scandal. Its context is that the premier journal of science in the US must be called upon to live up to its own, now only purported, standards. It’s shameful.

    And honestly, I find the initial composition of the NAS panel rather shameful, too. The panel search committee could easily have found a number of fully expert and completely dispassionate scientists and mathematicians to resolve a critically important debate. But instead they chose from a line-up of the usual suspects. The whole business stinks.

    Steve, you have done an inestimable service. It’s not just climate science. The system itself has become corrupted at the top.

  5. John G. Bell
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 2:14 PM | Permalink

    When I first discovered this site and Ross and your work I thought the task of weighing the science behind the AGW scare and presenting your findings widely and intelligibly to the general public beyond the ability of a pair of mortals. It seemed the AGW crowd were well entrenched and would swat you down. Science be damned.
    Now you have added cleaning up journal review and data archiving. In all these things you are having a real positive impact.
    I am in awe.

  6. Tim
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    Dyson et al are real scientists who do real science so of course they want full disclosure by others. That is the way science works. Lets see if anyone has the nerve to call that bunch “amatuers, nit pickers, etc etc”.

    If they do the laughter will be painful but enjoyable.

  7. Reid
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    Science history in the future will be very kind to M & M. And it will be very unkind to the “Piltdown” Mann Hockey Team.

  8. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    RE: #6. We are indeed talking serious gravitas here! 🙂

  9. jae
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    It is incredibly disgusting that a journal named “Science” would act so unscientific, relaative to this issue. One almost has to conclude that the editors and principals there have a definite bias and agenda, concerning AGW. Bet they are “environmental activists,” also.

  10. Paul Penrose
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 9:59 PM | Permalink

    I welcome this development, but I think it’s a little early to celebrate. I am cautiously hopeful at this point.

  11. ET SidViscous
    Posted Feb 22, 2006 at 11:24 PM | Permalink

    It’s not even so much getting science to force them to archive the results, based on the names it’s something of a gauntlet thrown down, not dissimlar to the congresional request. Put up or shut up.

    It’s a win win. If they put the data up Steve and Ross go to work. If not they (science) loose a fair bit of standing within the community. Maybe not of “climate science” but of Science.

    Nothing worse for a periodical like Science to start moving towards “Dog boy found” stories (Complete with accurate sketch) level of veracity.

  12. Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Mr. Schelling, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, a Nobel laureate for economics for 2005, in toady’s Wall Street Journal

    “In the two major unspecialized scientific journals, Science and Nature, one has to go back a decade or two to find serious doubts about the basic science. Rarely is there such scientific consensus as there is on whether the greenhouse effect is real, even though it cannot yet be incontrovertibly detected in the climate record.”

    If you cannot detect it, is it real? If tree rings are not good tools for measuring temperature, maybe this lack of doubt in Science and Nature is with out merit? Go Steve!

  13. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    #12–A decade or 2? How about Veizer’s 2000 paper
    Or Kalnay and Cai 2003
    K&C don’t deny the ‘greenhouse effect’ but they do challenge the greenhouse interpretation of US temperature data. Of course if Schelling is saying there aren’t papers denying infrared absorption by CO2, he’s just making a trivial straw man argument. Whether CO2 is responsible for observed climatic changes is the difficult problem, and S&N have taken strong editorial positions that it does. So it’s not surprising they prefer to publish papers that support their editorial stance.

  14. ET SidViscous
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    “Rarely is there such scientific consensus as there is on whether the greenhouse effect is real”

    Let’s see… rarely hmmmm. Maybe we could start a list.

    Newton’s laws of thermodynamics
    Existence of matter

    I don’t know if the scientific is as consensus as he would infer in that statement.

    Of course what he is trying to do is infer that there is such a strong consensus on AGW, as most of the public have that tied to greenhouse theory.

    Alls greenhouse theory states is that the Earth is warmer than it would be in the absence of GHGs.

  15. Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

    Or how about this one by Jim Hansen In it he revises his estimates of forcing factors using new models such that CO2 is not responsible for the recent warming, but rather could be entirely due to non-CO2 GHGs., mainly methane.
    He believes the products of fossil fule burning essentially cancel each other out so far as effecting temperature change.

  16. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    Also …. there are absorption and radiation spectra….. and there is heat flow. To be perfectly honest, I remain to be convinced that we even understand how the net flow of energy is truly partitioned between the various mechanisms involving:
    * Radiation straightaway into space
    * Major convection events which play out wholly in the tropics
    * Ocean circulation
    * Phase changes in water
    * Geochemical processes
    * Diagenetic processes
    * Poleward transfer
    * Etc

    The standing assumption among the warmers is that the “science is settled” regarding said partitioning. Oh really?

  17. jae
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    Just check the climate models, they will give you all this information.

  18. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 23, 2006 at 11:28 AM | Permalink

    RE: #17. I get it, so the partitioning, in actuality, should be (er, make that *is* – notwithstanding the meaning of the word “is,” caveat emptor, mileage may vary, other escape clauses, etc) how it was meted out in the models. 🙂

  19. kim
    Posted Feb 27, 2006 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    My model will fly higher than yours; mine has Icarus wings.

  20. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 1, 2006 at 6:27 AM | Permalink

    No data, no argument.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] 4. Meanwhile Briffa repeatedly refused to release the Yamal measurement data used inhis calculation despite multiple uses of this series at journals that claimed to require data archiving. E.g. […]

  2. […] 4. Meanwhile Briffa repeatedly refused to release the Yamal measurement data used inhis calculation despite multiple uses of this series at journals that claimed to require data archiving. E.g. […]

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