FOI Myth #1: USA

Climate scientists have recently been promoting the myth that providing data in response to FOI requests was interfering with their work. Nature uncritically accepted this myth in a recent editorial calling for action to protect climate-change researchers from “endless time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts.”:

If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…

While the scientific method is supposed to require fact checking, in this case, the mantra had merely been repeated over and over by climate scientists like a sort of tribal chant and, without carrying out even a modicum of due diligence to determine the veracity of the claims, Nature joined into the chant.

Today I’m going to review the allegation that U.S. scientists have been unduly burdened by FOI requests, showing that they haven’t. I’ll discuss the UK situation in a follow-up post (and would appreciate that commenters defer discussion of the UK situation until then.)

In the five-year period from 2005-2009, I made a total of three FOI requests to U.S. institutions. I am unaware of other FOI requests made by CA readers (there is no record of any such requests in CA posts included in the FOI category). Of the three requests, only one actually resulted in the provision of data under the FOI request. (In the other two cases, the institutions apparently planned to archive the data anyway and the requests were resolved outside FOI – see below.) To say that U.S. climate scientists were inconvenienced in any way by the provision of data in response to FOI requests is totally untrue. I will review each of the three FOI requests below.

FOI to NOAA regarding Jones et al 1990
My first FOI request to a US institution (NOAA) was in March 2007. This was the only request actually resulting in information being sent to me pursuant to the FOI request.

This FOI request requested station lists and data for networks (China and Australia) used in Jones et al 1990, an influential study on urban heat island effect that had then been recently cited in IPCC AR4. The request to NOAA was concurrent with an identical request to CRU (coauthors were at each institution.) Oddly, as of a year later, I hadn’t heard back from NOAA – not even an acknowledgement that my request was under consideration.

However, the parallel request to CRU was resolved expeditiously (anomalously.) In April 2007, they posted up station lists for China, Russia and Australia (cache here) As I result, I didn’t follow up with NOAA, as the request had become moot.

To my surprise, as I reported at CA here, I saw two NOAA presentations on the internet referring to my FOI request (not identifying me by name, but referring to an “international researcher” and quoting the exact language of my request.)

Mildly amused, I emailed Tom Karl of NOAA, twitting him about the oversight. He promptly apologized and sent me the station lists for the Russian network (by then moot as noted above.) They also provided information on U.S. stations that I hadn’t requested but appreciated. See here here . The data provided by NOAA consisted only of station lists (the original data having been overwritten by subsequent data) and was not extensive in scope.

IPCC Review Comments
My second FOI request to a U.S. institution, also in 2007, was about IPCC Review Comments.

As an IPCC reviewer, I had previously asked IPCC to provide me with AR4 Review Comments, which IPCC was obliged under its procedures to maintain in an open archive for up to 5 years. IPCC’s answer was that I could inspect a hard copy of the Review Comments in person at Harvard Library during limited hours, where I would be able to only copy up to 100 pages. In an internet age, I (and others) regarded this response as an affront to IPCC’s obligation to be “open and transparent”. This view was shared by some “community” climate scientists, who supported my request for an online archive (e.g. Andrew Dessler, James Annan.)

After IPCC refused to provide a digital version of the Review Comments, I submitted an FOI request to NOAA asking them for any copies of IPCC Review Comments in their possession (US FOI requiring institutions to provide digital copies of information if available). The Chair of Working Group 1 (Susan Solomon) and the head of the WG1 Technical Services Unit (Martin Manning) were both NOAA employees. Both of them had used their NOAA email addresses for their IPCC correspondence. Astonsihingly, NOAA refused the FOI request on the grounds that NOAA did not possess any relevant documents, apparently taking the legal position that correspondence by NOAA employees pertaining to IPCC was IPCC property. In my opinion, this unsupportable legal theory was simply one more case where a climate institution diminished its reputation by making an untrue and absurd statement.

However, shortly after the NOAA refusal, IPCC reversed its stance and placed the majority of Review Comments online. (While the online archive is very extensive, it does not include review comments if chapter authors evaded the requirement to archive all review comments, e.g. Eugene Wahl’s “off the record” review comments sent to Keith Briffa outside the IPCC system to Keith Briffa, or review comments by review editors, but that’s another story.)

Santer Data
My third FOI request was for the monthly tropospheric data for the 49 individual models used in Santer et al 2008. See here for Santer posts.

In October 2008, I had noticed that Santer had used obsolete observations (ending in 1999) and that some key results for model ensembles were reversed using up-to-date data. (Ross and I submitted a comment to IJC on this topic in January 2009, where it was promptly tied up by reviewers – see discussion in the Climategate Letters.)

I was interested in doing a similar comparison of Santer’s individual models with up-to-date data and, in late October 2009, I emailed Santer requesting the monthly tropospheric data used in the statistical analyses reported in Santer et al 2008. (Santer, by the way, is an employee of PCMDI, one of whose principal missions is to provide data to the research community in user-friendly formats.)

In one of the Climategate Letters [link], Tom Wigley suggested to Santer that the requested data would be of considerable benefit to the community and even recommended that Santer provide an even more extensive archive than I had requested. In January 2009, the requested data was placed online. Shortly thereafter, in response to a CA post, Dave Bader, Santer’s supervisor, notified me by email as follows (see here) that the archiving of the data was not in response to my FOI request and that Livermore had always planned to archive the data:

I want to clarify several mis-impressions on your “” web site with respect to the Synthetic MSU data sets on the PCMDI website.

1. The data were released publicly on 14 January 2009, at which time our Department of Energy sponsors and NNSA Freedom of Information Act officials were notified. These data were released voluntarily by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and we were never directed to do so as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Furthermore, preparation of the datasets and documentation for them began before your FOIA request was received by us.

Taking Bader’s statements at face value, Santer should obviously have informed me of these plans when I originally requested the data in October 2008. Instead, as reported at CA here, Santer not only made no mention of Livermore’s data release plans, instead repudiating my request in extremely rude terms, broadcasting his refusal to 16 climate scientists around the world, most of whom were not employees of Lawrence Livermore or the US Department of Energy, the operator of Lawrence Livermore.

I am copying this email to all co-authors of the 2008 Santer et al. IJoC paper, as well as to Professor Glenn McGregor at IJoC.

I gather that you have appointed yourself as an independent arbiter of the appropriate use of statistical tools in climate research. Rather that “auditing” our paper, you should be directing your attention to the 2007 IJoC paper published by David Douglass et al., which contains an egregious statistical error.

Please do not communicate with me in the future.

Other contemporary Santer emails are in the Climategate Letters and contain a variety of inappropriate allegations and language. After Santer’s refusal, I sent FOI requests to NOAA (the home of several coauthors) and DOE.

Lucia reported on these events in a contemporary post here, drawing the conclusion that it was “Santer’s intransigence” that resulted in any unnecessary paper work – not the FOI requests. Lucia:

Taken at face value, this means that Santer’s intransigence resulted in a lot of unnecessary paper work for SteveM, FOI officials and Bader. Right? Too bad Santer didn’t just hand over the data in the first place, right?

Nature’s claim that US scientists have been inconvenienced by “endless time-consuming demands for information” under FOI is totally untrue. As noted above, during the five years from 2005 to 2009, there were only three FOI requests in the US involving me (or, to my knowledge, CA readers). In two of the three cases (IPCC, Santer), archiving the requested data was either endorsed by “community” climate scientists or had been planned all along or both. In both these cases, the FOI requests were turned down (but became moot before an appeal was necessary because of institutional recognition of the desirability of archiving the data.) In the third case (the request to NOAA for Jones et al 1990 data), NOAA did not even acknowledge the FOI request, which was moot by the time that it had responded; in any event, the data consisted only of station lists and did not inconvenience NOAA scientists.

The claim by Nature and various climate scientists that U.Sclimate-change researchers had been subjected to “endless time-consuming demands for information” under U.S. Freedom of Information requests is unsupported by the record – something that could have been easily determined had Nature carried out any due diligence, instead of relying on gossip.

Update: NOAA FOI requests for 2007 are tabulated at (h/t reader RS Brown).


  1. Susann
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 10:43 PM | Permalink

    Nature’s claim that US scientists have been inconvenienced by “endless time-consuming demands for information” under FOI is totally untrue. As noted above, during the five years from 2005 to 2009, there were only three FOI requests in the US involving me (or, to my knowledge, CA readers).

    I suppose one could submit an FOI request to NOAA that requested the number of FOI requests for data to see if there were any other requests besides yours. Then one might be able to justly conclude that NOAA’s claim about “endless time-consuming demands for information” was actually true or false.

    • hemst101
      Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

      Ya Susann maybe Nature could do a little due diligence, get off their asses and inquire regarding how many FOI requests were made before they wrote the editorial. Why does everyone else have to do their work for them?

      • Susann
        Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:02 PM | Permalink

        If someone was really truly interested in debunking a myth about the onerous burden faced by some US scientists who have to field FOI requests for data, one might do something like check to see how many US scientists were struggling with FOI requests.

        Just sayin.

        Steve: And maybe Nature could check to se how many US scientists were struggling with FOI requests before making allegations in a leading magazine. Just sayin. Of course, why would anyone expect you to expect Nature to carry out due diligence?

        • Harold
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

          I’d like to know who wrote the editorial, I don’t believe they have the competence to intelligently comment on this subject.

          I could see there would be a real burden if everything was being scribed onto clay tablets with styli. The data sets I’m used to working with are much larger and more complicated than what’s under discussion here. All this talk makes it sound like it’s a herculean task, but any basic set-up these days (or 20 years ago, for that matter) would take the incoming station data sets, convert them to a standard format, check data validity, stuff into a data base, extract back out, convert back to the station formats, and compare original to extracted versions. A data dump of all code, station data sets, and corrected (I’m not talking about adjusted, just cleaned versions of the data) extracted data is trivial, and for something like this would fit on a CD. Then there is the homogenization routines, etc, and these versions in the database and associated code could be easily be dumped as well. This would entail typing one line to run a script to dump everything to a CD or an on-line zip file.

          I don’t think typing a single command (with options) is too burdensome, so at face value the claim is fallacious. I also think that one who claims there is a problem is the one who has the burden of proving there is a problem – I only saw assertions in the editorial, but no proof. If some burden is arising due to poor practices on the research team’s part, rather than shifting the blame to the requests, the researchers should accept the blame for this situation and correct their practices.

          It’d be nice if the people doing the talking had some competence in the areas they’re discussing.

          Steve: This is OT. We’re not talking about the merits of archiving, but whether Nature had any evidence for their allegation that FOI requests were interfering with (for now) US climate scientists.

        • Harold
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

          Steve, I wasn’t referring to archiving here. In a normal setup, complying with requests (FOI or otherwise) is trivial. Even if Nature had affadavits from the researchers saying the requests were interfering, this situation could only be a result of poor practices, and it should be up to the researchers to fix their problems. I don’t think it’s off topic per se, but a different point.

        • OBloodyhell
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 4:52 AM | Permalink

          Grailwolf, over at Wolf Howling, notes:

          >> Everything that a scientist chooses to publish should include not merely conclusions, but raw data, meta data, and methodology, including any and all computer programing used to massage the data. Only then can their conclusions be vetted and verified. Not one iota less should ever again be tolerated.

          And to which I would add —

          If the bastards were doing what GW suggests above, as they SHOULD be doing, then there would be little need for “time-wasting FOIA requests”, wouldn’t there?

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:24 AM | Permalink

          And maybe Nature could check to se how many US scientists were struggling with FOI requests before making allegations in a leading magazine. Just sayin. Of course, why would anyone expect you to expect Nature to carry out due diligence?

          How do you *know* they didn’t? I suspect *you* didn’t because all you quoted was your own three requests, as if that’s the sum total and you were the only skeptic in the world who thinks it’s a great idea to try to get hold of the data, emails, code.

        • Ron Cram
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

          Susann, Nature claimed the Climategate emails showed how researchers were burdened with FOIA requests. The emails do not mention requests made of US researchers by anyone but Steve. If Nature was going to do ANY fact checking, don’t you think they would have contacted Steve first?

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

          Here is the quote:

          If there are benefits to the email theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…

          The editorial says the emails “highlight” the experience of “some climate change researchers often in the form of” demands for information under the FOI acts.

          In other words, the hacked/leaked emails are illustrative of a larger problem for some researchers. They did not limit their commentary to only the emails and only the FOI requests revealed in them.

          The particular was used to highlight the general.

          Steve’s focusing only on the FOI requests he submitted as evidence that the claim is a “myth” is ubsubstantiated.

          Steve: Susann, I’m sorry to be rude, but your reasoning here as elsewhere is pathetic. Demonstrating that FOI requests from myself and CA readers did not constitute “endless, time-consuming demands for information” under FOI is evidence that their claim is a myth, though it is not proof, since, as others have pointed out, it is possible that others (perhaps even Macavity the Cat) have submitted “endless, time-consuming demands for information” under FOI that I’m unaware of. However, Nature hasn’t provided any evidence of such demands and there is no such evidence in the Climategate Letters.

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

          Steve: Susann, I’m sorry to be rude, but your reasoning here as elsewhere is pathetic.

          To be polite, you claim to debunk a myth, yet you only supply a small bit of evidence — for someone interested in data and evidence, you provide very little and not enough in my estimation to prove that it is a myth.

          If you had limited yourself to a reasonable claim and used your own experience to support it, you wouldn’t be subject to such critique. But you went well beyond the content of Nature’s editorial.

          Sorry, but I found your post to be unsupported and overreaching, to be polite.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

          Steve, you have absolutely no reason to “be rude” here. Your statement is a non-sequitur. Whatever evidence the editorial provides, or doesn’t provide, has nothing to do with the fact itself.

          Here are just a few other statements in the editorial which are likely without evidence in either the editorial or the emails:

          “obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse”

          “That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails” [This is just an unspecified claim that there is evidence.]

          “First, Earth’s cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate.”

          “Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.”

          “Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability.”

          “But for much crucial information the reality is very different. Researchers are barred from publicly releasing meteorological data from many countries owing to contractual restrictions.”

          “After all, the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science.”

          In other words, the editorial, like probably most editorials, is full of such sentences without evidence.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

          Susann, that’s a good find. I didn’t even notice, in Steve’s framing, that the editorial’s sentence isn’t even limited to FOI requests !

        • Heino
          Posted Jan 8, 2010 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

          The words “endless, time-consuming demands” are.

    • deadwood
      Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

      I take it then that you are volunteering to do so? No point in duplicating efforts.

      • Susann
        Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:08 PM | Permalink

        I’m not the one all upset over the myths promoted by climate scientists. For one, I don’t know which climate scientists are indicted –some of them? A small handful? Goodness – not all of them? I haven’t seen any data on the number of FOI requests submitted to US or UK scientists so I have no way of knowing if the number is onerous or reasonable. All I do have is Steve’s quoting his own 3 FOI requests. Certainly that can’t be the total number of FOI requests submitted to climate scientists in the US since the dawn of the discipline, can it? How could anyone debunk a myth without more data?

        Nature’s claims were based on inspection of the Climategate Letters. I’m unaware of any evidence in the Climategate Letters of FOI requests unrelated to Climate Audit. We’re discussing whether Nature’s allegations could be supported by the due diligence that they carried out.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:54 PM | Permalink

          Steve, the Nature quote only says that the emails highlight that. It doesn’t say where the information about what happens “often” comes from.

          Steve: OK, where does it come from? What evidence did they have that US scientists had received “endless” requests? Isn’t Nature supposed to provide evidence for its claims? Isn’t it supposed to have a higher standard than the National Inquirer? Do you seriously think that they did any investigation before writing their editorial? I think that you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:41 AM | Permalink

          Whoever wrote that article may have had some form of communication with some of the scientists involved. Do you know who wrote the editorial? I don’t. That issue might have been discussed among scientists for a long time.

          I read the quote once more, and noticed the “yet again” part. I conclude that the writer has previous sources of information, other than (unless it is a false statement). In consequence, the “often” part also goes outside of what is contained in the emails.

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

          the construction “yet again”…. “often in the form”

          Suggests the following. That climate scientists have been harassed before ( A phrasing used throughout the mails WRT steve asking them for data.. with no FOI) and that now the form of harassment is often FOI.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:16 AM | Permalink

          Steven Mosher, that doesn’t sound right to me. The sentence is:

          If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts.

          To me this clearly means that it had been highlighted already before the “e-mail theft”. (Probably multiple times) before the emails, and now by what was found within the emails. Highlighted “yet again” means it was highlighted “one more time” (Merriam Webster dictionary).

          The “often” part relates to the “form” of the “harassment”, not to the form of the highlighting.

        • geronimo
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:06 AM | Permalink

          Susann, the problem I’m having here is understanding how a FOI request could take up much of the scientists’ time. I worked in a research laboratory many years ago, and we kept a day book with all our activities in it, and when we published a paper we kept a file with all the details of the work reported in the paper. I am assuming that this is all done on a computer nowadays, so that a FOI request for data, methods, assumptions etc. on a particular paper should take less than five minutes to respond to. As far as I am aware the FOIs sent in by Steve Mc referred to published papers which should have had all the data, and methodologies available to others at the time of publication by the rules of the journals publishing the papers. It’s a little disingenuous of Nature to complain that the climate science community has been overwhelmed by FOI requests for information about published papers when they refuse to follow their own rules and show the data and methodologies that have been used in the papers publishe in their journal. I have little doubt that since the climategate scandal broke the climate community have been inundated with FOI requests, but before? I doubt it.

        • Mark T
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:29 AM | Permalink

          It doesn’t. It takes up a grad student’s or a new grad’s time – or perhaps some admin’s time. They are simply making excuses.


        • Neil Fisher
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:13 PM | Permalink

          Indeed – I would add that such an archive, once created, can be easily referenced to anyone else who asks for the same data.

        • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:24 PM | Permalink

          Well the obvious solution would be to make such content available on a public FTP.

          Oh wait, The Team was advised by Jones “[..] don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling.”

          Yeah, yanno, undesirables.. taxpayers and the like..

        • John Cunningham
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

          Susanne’s defense of the Nature editorial is baseless. Note that Nature cited no figures, nothing along the lines of “NASA was forced to deal with X FOI requests over a period of Y months, costing Z hours of labor time in replying. By the way, as a Federal employee, I regularly reviewed files to respond to FOI requests. An agency is permitted to charge reasonable hourly fees for professional and clerical time expended in doing FOI work. Our agency rarely charged, since there were clear guidelines on the few categories of info which were exempt from FOI requests. I see no sign that CRU or NASA over here ever tried to quantify how much time was expended on FOI/

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

          Nature’s claims were based on inspection of the Climategate Letters.

          How do you know that? How do you know that editors of Nature didn’t and haven’t received private communications about this in the wake of the CRU hack/leak discussing how FOI requests took up their time? You are assuming. Your claim isn’t based on data.

          I’m unaware of any evidence in the Climategate Letters of FOI requests unrelated to Climate Audit.

          You actually think your followers haven’t submitted them? Or other “skeptics” who might have the same idea? There are other skeptic blogs out there around the world.

          We’re discussing whether Nature’s allegations could be supported by the due diligence that they carried out.

          And it appears you followed in their footsteps by not doing your due diligence to check and see if this is a “myth” or if there is any factual basis. You appear to have only used yourself when checking the data. One could say pot-kettle.

        • Ron Cram
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

          Susann, you ask how Steve knows Nature’s claims were based on the Climategate emails. If you had read the top post well, you would know. Steve quotes from the Nature editorial:

          If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…

          If Nature was going to do ANY fact checking at all, don’t you think they would have contacted Steve first?

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

          The issue I raised was with Steve’s claim that he debunked the “myth”:

          Here is what I objected to:

          Climate scientists have recently been promoting the myth that providing data in response to FOI requests was interfering with their work. …


          The claim by Nature and various climate scientists that U.Sclimate-change researchers had been subjected to “endless time-consuming demands for information” under U.S. Freedom of Information requests is unsupported by the record – something that could have been easily determined had Nature carried out any due diligence, instead of relying on gossip.

          He is alleging that the claim is a “myth” without any evidence, and he is claiming his 3 FOI requests are all the data he needs to debunk that “myth”.

          I disagree with his conclusions because:

          1) his claim that it is a myth is not supported by any data, and

          2)his use of his own 3 FOI requests is not enough to debunk the claim that he has not proven to be a myth.

          My criticism was directed towards Steve’s claims, not Nature’s.

          Steve: Susann, would you try reading what I wrote. I said that Nature’s allegation was “unsupported by the record”. I am unaware of any published record or evidence supporting their allegation. You think otherwise. Where is it? Where is the record supporting their claim? They made the allegation.

          They’re supposed to be a “science” magazine dealing in evidence, not myths.

        • Susann
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

          Susann, would you try reading what I wrote. I said that Nature’s allegation was “unsupported by the record”.

          Perhaps you could read mine as well. I was not critiquing Nature’s editorial, but your claims about it. You claim that “climate scientists” are promoting a myth, implicating all climate scientists, yet you provide no evidence of it. Nor have you satisfactorily proven it is a myth, nor have you debunked it as a myth since the only data you provided was your own 3 FOI requests.

          I am unaware of any published record or evidence supporting their allegation. You think otherwise. Where is it? Where is the record supporting their claim? They made the allegation.

          My focus is *your* allegations. I see no support for them.

          They’re supposed to be a “science” magazine dealing in evidence, not myths.

          You’re supposed to be about auditing the claims of scientists and reviewing the data to see if it supports their claims. I see no data presented other than your own to support your claims about Nature’s editorial. Surely you don’t think yours are the only FOI requests sent to climate scientists?

        • nandhee jothi
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

          this whole questioning belongs to the nit-picking category. looks to me that some people just want to keep writing. I have had the pleasure of responding to the research our group did under DOE funding. the process is simple. Before anything is published ( by email to a community, a journal, a manuscript or a book ), all the relevant stuff ( data, assumptions, extensions, methodology, code, results and conclusions ) are packaged in a file ( tarred up or zipped up ) and handed to the assistant in the chairman’s office. When comments and Errata pop up, they are added to the tarball, and an email is sent to the chairman’s office. They resolve all requests & follow-ups, FOI or otherwise. It matters very little to us, in the research group, whether they get 3 requests or 3000 requests.

    • Antonio San
      Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 10:57 PM | Permalink

      Then why donchya?

    • Hoi Polloi
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

      And this is a reason NOT to comply with FOIA requests? That’s plain silly. You’re turning around the issue. Nature is asking for a “Protection of Climate Change Scientists from Endless Time Consuming Demands” for information. And now you ask McSteve to prove that it was NOT too much? Why is Nature asking for this unscientific and unlawful act in order to “Protect” Climate Change scientist, who, which is as much proved from from the same emnails, are fudging the data and blocking contrarian science?

      And these are the same busy Climate Change Scientists who claim that sampling tree ring data cost too much time and money, while McSteve and his team proved that it can be done in an afternoon with restricted financial and time sources during the “Starbuck”operation? When will your eyes be openend for the real world, Susann?

    • Warrl
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:08 PM | Permalink

      To my thinking, and with the limited exception of data sets containing information about individual people or companies (and possibly some other limited exceptions I haven’t thought of – but wouldn’t cover collections of climate data), the fact that an FOIA request is actually needed to get access to data relating to published research should be a serious embarrassment to any honest scientist or research institution.

      They should be making their data available concurrently with publication.

      And if they do that, then anyone filing an FOIA request to get that data embarrasses HIMSELF, so the institution should have no objection to publishing the request and its response (prepared by a low-level administrative assistant) listing the previously-available URLs.

  2. Jumbo
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 10:50 PM | Permalink


  3. Bob
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

    I can see the tears in Sir Isaac Newton’s eyes.

  4. Neville
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

    snip – please do not editorialize on difficulties in getting data. This is about NAture’s FOI myth.

  5. geo
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:23 PM | Permalink

    Some allowance should be made for the Brits not having experience in FOIA when it first landed on them, so far as becoming emotionally reconciled to the new requirements. But somewhere around here in one of the threads immediately after the climategate release I provided a link to a report on total US government FOIA requests for 2008 (or maybe it was 2007) by department. . .and it makes Phil Jones’ complaints about being buried in FOIA absolutely giggle-worthy in comparison.

    If you want public monies, then you have to deal with the legitmate demands of the public to know where their money went –that’s the heart of the entire FOIA concept. That, indeed, that ideal meshes nicely with the core values of science –transparency, reproducibility, iteration (wtf does “we stand on the shoulders of giants” mean if not iteration?) and informed skepticism– ought to be considered a *beautiful* thing rather than a burden.

    this may be so, but there is no evidence that the Climategate Letters provide any evidence that US scientists were inconvenienced by FOI requests.

    • geo
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

      Steve –Sure, I agree. I’m just trying to point out that “inconvenienced” is a subjective term that properly must be put in context of what is “reasonable” (another subjective word), and that it seems to me that the appropriate context is necessarily the experience of others who are also subject to FOIA requests –where at last we can apply some objective standards rather than subjective ones. Is that really a controversial opinion?

      • geo
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

        Oh, and btw, if it turns out that similarily situated entities are successfully replying to many more FOIA than you (whoever “you” is) are, then the physical motion I make to your plight is to rub my right index finger across the top of the middle knuckle of my right thumb while moving both gently from side to side. This is called “the smallest violin in the world playing ‘My Heart Bleeds for You’.”

  6. Pete
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:26 PM | Permalink

    As someone who has looked on with interest for some time, I now find myself a little confused about Nature calling for “action to protect climate-change researchers from “endless time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts”.

    Maybe Steve could clarify for me. Would I be right in assuming that before resorting to an FOI, a standard requested for code etc was either ignored or turned down?

    Has someone been interfering with editorial process at Nature? It would appear to me, as an onlooker, that someone is at it AGAIN!

    Steve: Data refusals have been frequently documented at CA. The Climategate Letters provide abundant evidence that refusal was an intentional policy on the part of Jones, Mann and associates. But again, please stick to the narrow topic.

    • hengav
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

      This may come off as coat-racking about Wikipedia, but I will take the chance. Considerable time has been taken up by the editorial staff there to restrict the history of Climategate to the Nov 2009 “leak” date. Climategate needs to include the historical context of repeated requests for source codes, raw data, and open dialogue. Theses requests were not at first FOI requests, many were personal appeals that ultimately hit dead ends. That both Nature and Wikipedia editorialize about the “effects” of the leak is predictable. This thread reminds us that Climategate began a long time ago, long before the earliest of the CRU emails.

      • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

        I’m answering this at Unthreaded, hengav I’d be glad if you’d email me as well.

  7. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:32 PM | Permalink

    Susann, Nature made the claim about “endless time-consuming demands” citing the Climategate Letters, in which Santer makes petulant and unjustified allegations that Nature appears to have accepted at face value without carrying out any due diligence.

    The Climategate Letters discuss FOI requests by me and ClimateAudit readers; they do not discuss or refer to FOI requests by others.

    Please do not criticize me for Nature’s lack of due diligence. They are supposed to be a premier science magazine and they should have checked before making their allegations. It is impossible that they could have done any due diligence of the sort that you recommend prior to writing their article.

    • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:47 AM | Permalink

      Steve, I agree wholly that it is Nature’s responsibility to fact-check its editorials. That I think, certainly at this juncture, should be a well-established given. I understand Susan’s point, but it’s moot. Nature is citing Santer, who is citing requests from CA/readers.

      I should ask, Steve, did Nature approach you to establish the number of FOI requests you and your readers had made? It strikes me that, of all the fact-checking necessary in the realm of climatology, this would be certainly one of the easier to perform. So obviously my presumption is that they DID contact you to ask. Right?

      Steve: you know the answer: no.

    • Susann
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

      Susann, Nature made the claim about “endless time-consuming demands” citing the Climategate Letters, in which Santer makes petulant and unjustified allegations that Nature appears to have accepted at face value without carrying out any due diligence.

      “appears to have accepted” – where’s the due diligence on your part to check and see if there was any basis to your conclusions? Nature made a statement that they did not back up with data. You are right to criticize that, but then to turn around and do the same seems rather, well, it doesn’t seem consistent with your complaint.

      If I was to honestly try to debunk this “myth”, I would collect some data so I could see if my assumptions were on target or faulty. Like, maybe my null hypothesis might be “Climate scientists receive the same number of FOI requests as other scientists”. I wouldn’t say — hmm, let’s see how many FOI requests I submitted and figure I’d done my job. I would collect data on how many FOI requests were submitted in a fiscal year to the various scientific institutes in the US, and determine from that how many were submitted to climate scientists. Then I could make a claim with some actual evidence.

      The Climategate Letters discuss FOI requests by me and ClimateAudit readers; they do not discuss or refer to FOI requests by others.

      Sure, but that doesn’t mean the Nature editors limited their claims to your FOI requests. You are assuming.

      Please do not criticize me for Nature’s lack of due diligence.

      No, you’ve misunderstood. I was criticizing you for what I perceived to be your lack of due diligence. You know, like you were doing to Nature.

      • Doug Badgero
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

        I think it is suspect to suggest that Nature did perform due diligence on their claims but then did not document the results of that due diligence in their editorial. Those results could have made their argument much stronger – or weaker.

      • Don Wagner
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Permalink


        Natures editorial referenced the climategate e-mails only

        The only FOI requests mentioned in the climategate mails were Steves and Climate Audit readers, no others.

        Steve addressed the FOI’s mentioned in Nature’s editorial, no others.

        Natures editorial, by referring to climategate, restricted it’s harrasment claim to Steves and Climate Audit members FOI’s, no others.

        Any assumption of other FOI’s is yours alone. If you want to write your own editorial including others, go ahead. Steve addressed the 3 FOI’s deemed “harrasing” by Nature, and quite rightly proved any harrasment claims to be nonexistant. As evidenced by the climategate e-mails, little effort was made to comply with Steves 3 requests, theremore little time was wasted and the claim by Nature is indeed mythical

      • justhere
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

        SO let me get this straight. Person A makes an accusation about Person B. The accusation is that Person B has inflicted some harm to person C. Now it’s Person B’s responsibility to prove he didn’t? How does that make any sense?

        If Person A claims that Person B stole something from Person C, shouldn’t Person A at least have some kind of evidence to support the claim? Or is the accusation of a crime enough to shift the burden of proof onto person B. And at the VERY least, wouldn’t person C be speaking up about the crime if it was true? You logic makes no sense.

  8. Drew
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I asked this on another topic but the question was buried. Please feel free to move this post to the proper place. (I really don’t know where to put it).

    I’m curious about the names of the members of “The Team” and all the relationships they have with one another, and the RealClimate blog, etc etc. I’m also interested in the names and relationships of some of the “Defectors” and what’s happened with them.

    Is there a who’s who link anywhere that maybe I cannot find?

    • Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:53 PM | Permalink

      Climategate – Who’s Who

  9. RoyFOMR
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

    So, if I’ve read correctly, you made three US FOI requests in five years. The first of these resulted in direct FOI activity that complied with the legal requirement that underpins the public-funding process, the other two subsequent submissions became ‘moot’ when the requested information was released voluntarily as a matter of course!
    I quote the word moot as its meaning is ambiguous. In the New World it most likely means irrelevant whereas in the UK it once substituted for ‘arguable’.
    I toyed with adding quotes to the phrases ‘ voluntarily’ and ‘matter of course’ but didn’t want to be accused, by some, of ‘piling on’
    You’re a troublesome Gadfly Steve, that’s for sure, but I never would have thought that just the one bite in five years would have inconvenienced the legions of the consensus climatologist to the extent that they can, legitimately, cry foul!
    Susann, you do agree! Don’t you?

  10. Norbert
    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

    Today I’m going to review the allegation that U.S. scientists have been unduly burdened by FOI requests, showing that they haven’t. I’ll discuss the UK situation in a follow-up post (and would appreciate that commenters defer discussion of the UK situation until then.)

    Steve, you present this blog as if your 3 FOI requests to US institutions (how many others?) have been the only one’s.

    Here is a quote from James Hansen:

    Click to access 20091216_TemperatureOfScience.pdf

    The recent “success” of climate contrarians in using the pirated East Anglia e-mails to cast doubt on the reality of global warming* seems to have energized other deniers. I am now inundated with broad FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for my correspondence, with substantial impact on my time and on others in my office. I believe these to be fishing expeditions, aimed at finding some statement(s), likely to be taken out of context, which they would attempt to use to discredit climate science.

    It seems there have been more FOI requests on US scientists than the 3 from you, but you argue as if you had reason to believe that yours are the only ones. It is also a bit meaningless to debate the Nature quote if you want the UK part to be excluded from the discussion, since the Nature article refers to US and UK only together.

    Steve: I’m sorry to be rude, but can you try reading what I wrote? I’m going to get to the UK part in its own post and asked people to wait for that portion until I reviewed the information. Not that this be “excluded” . C’mon. And Hansen’s December 16, 2009 post refers to requests made AFTER Climategate and AFTER the Nature editorial. I know that climate scientists often get confused by before-and-after, but here at Climate Audit, let’s try to adhere to the obvious: that later events cannot cause earlier events.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:17 AM | Permalink

      Yes, I did try, and I think I accomplished reading this: “(and would appreciate that commenters defer discussion of the UK situation until then.)” That’s what I was referring to.

      The request Hansen mentions was made after the email debacle. But how do you conclude it was made after the Nature editorial? A non-sequitur, so far.

      And even if it was, why does it matter, it shows that there are other persons than you who are making FOI request, how would you know that was their first one?

      Steve: Norbert, you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing. Do you seriously believe that Nature had any evidence in mind other than the Climategate Letters? Hansen’s jeremiad is after the Nature editorial. Possibly some of the new requests came to him before the Nature editorial (I agree that my inline comment is too categorical on this point), but this point is tangential to the main issue as there’s no reason to believe that Nature knew of them or that the Nature editorial writer knew of them or that this is what the Nature editorialist had in mind. Or maybe Macavity the Cat told them.

      • Harold
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:31 AM | Permalink

        Norbert, it’s the editorialist’s position to show that the FOI requests were burdensome – just asserting it is so doesn’t make it so. You are engaging in “shifting the burden”.

      • Gerald Machnee
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

        Well, Norbert, you can ask Mann exactly how many requests he was “burdened” with. Maybe one is a burden to him. Then come back and tell us.

      • Norbert
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:49 AM | Permalink

        As I wrote above, the phrase “yet again” points to other sources of information.

        For the editorial, this was just a small part, mentioned in a single sentence. I know of no rule that an editorial has to provide evidence for each sentence.

        Furthermore, Steve’s blog post not only claims that Nature doesn’t have evidence (or that it should provide it), but also that the fact as such isn’t true.

        The burden of proof rests on Steve in the first place.

        • stephen richards
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:57 AM | Permalink


          Stop waffleing and go ask. One email should do it.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:17 AM | Permalink

          Ask what? I made the straightforward point that Steve has no reason to make the statement that he is the only one making FOI requests in the US. (Nor does he have much of a reason to speculate that the author of the editorial would think that).

        • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

          “It seems there have been more FOI requests on US scientists than the 3 from you, but you argue as if you had reason to believe that yours are the only ones.”
          “I made the straightforward point that Steve has no reason to make the statement that he is the only one making FOI requests in the US.”

          The Nature article CLAIMS that:
          “If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers,”

          The only ‘harassment’ mentioned in the emails are Steve’s requests.

        • Ian
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:05 PM | Permalink

          In some respects, I think commentators have misinterpreted the language in the relevant section of the Nature editorial. The phrase “yet again” refers to or modifies “harassment”, not FOI requests. FOI requests are a subset of a perceived pattern of harassment. There is nothing in the editorial to suggest that Nature has or is relying upon evidence of other FOI requests than those evidenced by Climategate – rather, they have concluded that sceptics generally are harassing “climate-change researchers”, and the Climategate emails are evidence of this harassment in that they have revealed allegedly burdensome FOI requests (“endless, time-consuming demands for information”). Based on the language in the editorial, the Climategate emails are the sole source of evidence of harassing FOI requests.

          Mr. McIntyre’s point is pretty simple in this regard: for US researchers ALL that the Climategate emails showed was that he had made several requests for information that the researchers had failed to make available. (The ONLY FOI requests of US researchers shown in the Climategate emails are the three he made or was associated with.) He made those requests (if I understand the record correctly) only after trying to obtain the information through other, more standard channels. I’ve also not seen any evidence or reasoned argument to suggest that it was information that should not have been made available (and as Tom Wigley’s email indicates with respect to Mr. Santer’s data, it was material that would be of benefit to all researchers).

          So, for US researchers, all we have is several requests for data/information which they likely should have made available when their work was first published.

          The execrable aspect of the editorial is to suggest that the Climategate emails themselves provide substantive evidence of FOI requests being used as a form of harassment. For US researchers, at least, as Mr. McIntyre has shown, that is not the case (i.e., the Climategate emails do not show provide the evidence that Nature claims they do).

          Indeed, what the Nature editorial failed to do was consider the individual requests and attempt to assess whether the requests in question were appropriate. They appear to start from the presumption that such requests are intended as a form of harassment, when there is at least as strong an argument that what has occurred is that the scientists (and the journals) have failed to take sufficient steps to make data and evidence available. The presumption in the editorial is offensive, and in the case of the FOI requests of American researchers evidenced by the Climategate emails, demonstrably unsupported by the evidence provided.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:17 AM | Permalink

          That one sentence indeed implies several things without providing evidence, and I don’t have any problem with Steve attempting to make the case that what he personally has done should not have been a big problem.

          Having said that, I can’t quite follow your interpretation of “yet again”, I’m not sure what you mean. The “harassment” is the thing being highlighted (supposedly), and “yet again” means that it had already been highlighted an unknown number of times before the “email-theft”. The words which go together are “highlight yet again”.

          If one wants to draw any such conclusions from a single sentence.

        • Ian
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

          The point on “yet again” is that it refers to harassment, rather than FOI requests. Susann initally appeared to be suggesting that an inference could be drawn from the phrase that Nature had additional evidence of burdensome FOI requests. If they do, they’ve not relied upon it in the editorial (nor is there anything in the language that would allow this inference to be drawn)

          In fact, all they’ve said is that, yet again, climate scientists are being harassed – the evidence being in the Climategate emails which show all of these time consuming FOI requests.

          The point I take from Mr. McIntryre’s post is that the Climategate emails do not provide this evidence with respect to US researchers.

          As others have pointed out, this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been requests of such a burdensome nature being made – but that case is not demonstrated by the Climategate emails, as is argued in the Nature editorial.

          Or, to put is another way: from the evidence of the Climategate emails, one cannot legitimately argue that American “climate-change” researchers have been the subject of harassing FOI requests.

          More importantly, by failing to consider the substance of those requests and the background to them, Nature has suggested that they were somehow improperly made, or made for improper purposes. Again, as Mr. McIntyre’s post demonstrates, the Climategate emails do not support that argument. (Again, I’m limiting the analysis to US researchers.)

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

          I think I mostly agree with your last comment, except for these points:
          – the sentence doesn’t mention any evidence at all, only a “highlight”. (Of course it is logically correct that if one is looking for evidence, the only direction pointed to are the emails).

          – The sentence isn’t limited to FOI requests. “Often” doesn’t necessarily mean “mostly”. It does not even necessarily imply that the FOI requests themselves could be found within the emails (as opposed to their effects), or that they would be only from persons mentioned in the emails.

          – Steve’s response is so far restricted to FOI requests, which are only part of the story. (And so far, in this part, as well as in part 2, only subsets, we don’t know yet what the total is.)

  11. Shallow Climate
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

    Yes, SM, point well taken. Nature, a “premiere science journal”, ought to have collected some data (number of climate scientists, number of FOI requests), checked that data, reported that data, archived that data, and THEN launched themselves into petulant self-pity (circle-the-wagons) mode. With all due respect to National Enquirer, this editorial reads like something one might find in said distinguished magazine.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:22 AM | Permalink

      The editorial also seems to be missing any references to peer-reviewed literature. (Except two off-topic ones).

  12. RoyFOMR
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:16 AM | Permalink

    Posted Dec 28, 2009 at 11:49 PM | Permalink | Reply
    Today I’m going to review the allegation that U.S. scientists have been unduly burdened by FOI requests, showing that they haven’t. I’ll discuss the UK situation in a follow-up post (and would appreciate that commenters defer discussion of the UK situation until then.)

    Steve, you present this blog as if your 3 FOI requests to US institutions (how many others?) have been the only one’s.

    That thought crossed my mind as well but I quickly dismissed it. Steve has no issues with who wins the debate, AFAIK, his position is rather cold-bloodied. He is the hardest opponent that is possible. He is agnostic!
    If the data supports one POV then he has no choice! That’s where his opinion lies.
    That’s just my opinion, prove that he lies, and i will support you.
    I’m waiting!

  13. S. Geiger
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

    Sorry if this was already answered, but is there any evidence from the ‘leaked’ emails that the scientists were truly upset with the amount of FOIA requests? The emails I saw seemed to be more along the lines of how do they continue to keep the information from the public (i.e., asking others to delete emails, mentioning something to the effect “hope they don’t find out UK has its own FOIA laws”, etc). I never got the impression that they were upset about the amount of time they were spending on FOIA-type requests. However, perhaps this sentiment was displayed in some of the emails (?)

    Steve: This is a little OT of the issue in the post. There is evidence of complaining, but let’s not sidetrack the thread into establishing this point.

    • Harold
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:39 AM | Permalink

      From reading the emails, they were upset that there were any requests (at least from people other than their friendly fellow climate scientists). I Didn’t see any complaining about the number, but they did complain that if they comply with one, that would lead to further requests for information (implying that they knowingly wouldn’t be releasing all the necessary information at once).

    • Calvin Ball
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:26 AM | Permalink

      One thing that was clear is that they had no intent to comply if it could be avoided. Why they didn’t want to comply is another question entirely. You’d have to do a complete search to be sure, but I don’t seem to remember the “why” question being discussed. It seemed like they all understood that, and it was never discussed. It was one of those “if you have to ask, you’ll never know” things.

  14. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:38 AM | Permalink

    My experience has been that more time is wasted by refusing to answer FOI requests. Competent people can do this very quickly. When they give you the time required during stalling, it is usually over-estimated. I am sure that an annual report has to be made on the number of requests. That is the duty of the employees, just like collecting the paycheck. So before accusing Steve of suggesting that his were the only requests, check and report back.

  15. Kevin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:38 AM | Permalink

    Is it not perfectly clear by now that Nature is far from neutral in the AGW debate? Why show suprise at more evidence?

    The entire concept of climate scientists being overburdened by requests for data (FOI or otherwise) is utterly insane by default as all data, research, methods and code from ALL sources with any relevance to global warming should be in the public domain anyway.

    • snowmaneasy
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:39 AM | Permalink

      Excellent point, it is a ridiculous claim by Nature.

  16. Raven
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:47 AM | Permalink


    Do you know what FOI request CEI submitted and whether they would ‘involve scientist’s time’?

    Today, on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for those bodies’ refusal – for nearly three years – to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

    • Phil
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:05 AM | Permalink

      Go to the link that you provided. The links to the FOIA requests is provided at the end of the post.

  17. Tom C
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

    One would think that the climate scientists making the “onerous” claims would have at least some numbers readily at hand with which to buttress their claim. The fact that no quantifiction has been produced is damning in itself.

  18. Greg F
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:56 AM | Permalink

    Wasn’t Mann’s hockey stick published in Nature? While not technically a FOI request, I don’t recall Nature being especially helpful getting the data and code from Mann. I guess Nature didn’t want to put “endless time-consuming demands for information” on the authors by making them comply with their data archiving policy.

  19. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:07 AM | Permalink

    NASA received 1,316 FOI requests in 2008, according to their most recent report.

    Of these, 162 were directed at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

    There is no breakdown of how many of these went to GISS as opposed to other parts of the GSFC.


    For my money, if these idjits would just publish the data and code when they publish the results, they could avoid all of this. But what do I know, I’m just an amateur scientist, as they joy in repeatedly pointing out. What would I know about scientific norms regarding disclosure and transparency and all that old-fashioned out of date stuff?


    • Calvin Ball
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:31 AM | Permalink

      For my money, if these idjits would just publish the data and code when they publish the results, they could avoid all of this.

      Correct. It gets back to good management practice. If you take them at their word that the issue is time and productivity, then they’re essentially admitting that they’re poor managers, and can’t be expected to follow the law because of that.

      Can I use that one next time I get pulled over for speeding?

    • thefordprefect
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:33 AM | Permalink

      Code and data are one thing (2 actually), but when McIntyre requests 100s of emails over many years that is way over the top in my view.
      How long will it take to filter out all the irrelevant emails?

      • Scott Gibson
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:14 AM | Permalink

        From looking at the FOI requests, he asked for no emails, which is a number somewhat smaller than 100s.

        • thefordprefect
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

          Mr. Gibson that is not true! From McIntyre’s own pen:

          I sent the following FOI request today to NOAA:

          National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
          Public Reference Facility (OFA56)
          Attn: NOAA FOIA Officer
          1315 East West Highway (SSMC3)
          Room 10730
          Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

          Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

          Dear NOAA FOIA Officer:
          This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

          Santer et al, Consistency of modelled and observed temperature trends in the tropical troposphere, (Int J Climatology, 2008), of which NOAA employees J. R. Lanzante, S. Solomon, M. Free and T. R. Karl were co-authors, reported on a statistical analysis of the output of 47 runs of climate models that had been collated into monthly time series by Benjamin Santer and associates.

          I request that a copy of the following NOAA records be provided to me: (1) any monthly time series of output from any of the 47 climate models sent by Santer and/or other coauthors of Santer et al 2008 to NOAA employees between 2006 and October 2008; (2) any correspondence concerning these monthly time series between Santer and/or other coauthors of Santer et al 2008 and NOAA employees between 2006 and October 2008.

          The primary sources for NOAA records are J. R. Lanzante, S. Solomon, M. Free and T. R. Karl.

          That is one heck of a lot of email requested – both the in and sent boxes will have to be investigated of all 4 authors and their contacts, and relevant mails extracted.

          In fact the request is a complete shambolic piece of bumf. Designed to impede santer and the authors. Why request all emails – certainly not for auditing purposes. I would suggest it is simply to try to find text that can be taken out of context to embarrass the authors (cf. handling of CRU hacked emails). Shameful! in my opinion.

        • thefordprefect
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:55 AM | Permalink

          Apologies for this but I just re-read McIntyres FOI.

          It is not just emails, it is correspondence between the authors that he is requesting. I.e. paper and e-mails. Even more time consuming.

        • Neil Fisher
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

          Ford, surely this would not involve the “scientists time”? Surely such mundane FOI requests would be handled administratively by their FOI officer?

        • IainG
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:39 PM | Permalink


          You conveniently overlook the fact that the FOI request was only made following the rather discourteous refusal by Santer to provide the data to MrM directly (as the OP describes).

          If the data had been archived in accordance with the requirement of making replication possible, there would have been no need of MrM’s direct request of Santer, or of his subsequent FOI request.

      • vboring
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

        The big picture here is that these scientists are establishing the facts of climate science that will be used to guide international public policy that could result in the expenditure of at least hundreds of billions of dollars.

        If they need to hire an extra staff member or two (or twenty) to deal with FOI requests, then they should do so. But to claim that FOI requests represent an irresolvable barrier to scientific progress just makes them sound silly.

        Steve: You’re missing the point here. There was negligible effort in compliance with FOI here.

    • snowmaneasy
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:49 AM | Permalink

      FOI requests are trivial and would take no time at all if the data has been archived properly…the real issue here is that they simply don’t want to make the data available….Nature is clearly complicit in this. Their statement “endless time-consuming demands for information” is obviously untrue.

      • thefordprefect
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:31 AM | Permalink

        Sorting emails for the FOI request is not trivial. It requires each authors mail boxes to be searched for relevant contacts and then the mail read manually for requested content. How many mails is that? How many hours!

        It is not surprising that FOI recipients are not cooperative.

        And how many other “followers” of McIntyre decide to follow their master and hit NOAA with their own requests?

        • Harold
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

          It could be tedious or it could be simple, depending on how they use email. Emails (hard copy) and other hard copy documents were always a part of any project file / topic file, in my experience. With the advent of Unix and elm email, it became trivial to index under multiple kewords, authors, dates, etc. A little awk can go a long way.

          It seems the management systems requirements were never defined for the researchers’ environment – whose fault is that?.

        • ErnieK
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

          Maybe they should have used the CRU whistle blower/hacker(?) to do the email search/sort. Seems he/she was able to extract pertinent emails from various sources right up to a few days prior to their release. I am guessing, but I assume those emails were collected using a keyword search (not hard to do on a UNIX system.)

    • Susann
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:06 AM | Permalink

      NASA received 1,316 FOI requests in 2008, according to their most recent report.

      Of these, 162 were directed at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

      Ahh, some actual data. This does not answer how many were targeted to climate science, but it gives us something to work with.

      Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center received 162 FOI requests in 2008? Given that there were 262 work days in 2008, that works out to more than one every other work day. Some of them may be requests for the same data, so I would expect those would be less time consuming, but still, agencies and corps hire FOI people just to handle these requests so they do take some time.

      When reflecting on my own experience with FOIs, the request is received, is processed first by the mail room as all correspondence is, and then it goes to the FOI office, where it is handled by their admin support, and then assigned to the FOI officer, who reviews it. At the same time, it is sent to the department where I work, and is handled by another admin person, and then sent to me. I read it, and then I meet with our data people to see what is available, and then I meet with the FOI officer and we sort through the request and determine what is easily at hand and what is in archives or storage, and estimate how much time it will take to retrieve it or create the data, etc. Then the FOI officer does work to reply to the applicant and convey the information, and once their response is received (in case there are added costs etc) the response is one again handled by the mail room, the admin support, and it goes to the FOI officer who oversees the process and then to me to actually collect the data and send it to the FOI officer. Then it is sent out. The request is then annotated and becomes part of the record. It is reviewed at some later point in time as part of the year end review and reporting.

      For my money, if these idjits would just publish the data and code when they publish the results, they could avoid all of this.

      With the exception of the derogatory term used for scientists, I agree. If the data was published and easily accessible, FOI requests for it would be a non-issue.

      • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

        Susann’s info can be found:

        and Annual FOIA Reports FY08 info:

        Steve: this sheds no light on supposed harassment of climate-change researchers.

      • Marvin
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

        Fair enough Susan that is one request every other day but your math is starting to fall short when you neglect more variables such as which employees are required for the requests (surely not the same employee every second day). And if the FOI requests are all mostly the same then when the theoretical employee is getting them they could cut down on a lot of time by as you correctly state, making the data published publicly and easily accessible.

        It’s not up to public servants to declare their research is hindered by an inundation of requests for information no matter what the amount of requests is anyway. It should be completely available in one form or another because the work is publicly funded and belongs to the community. Either it is publicly accessible to all or is capable of being retrieved through a request process (FOI) where they are obligated to obey the rule of law and go through the process. Obviously it would be better if it were just made publicly available.

  20. thefordprefect
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 20, 2007 at 6:34 PM | Permalink | Reply#63-64. Let’s just wait and see what NOAA does. I’ve got a couple of other irons in the fire as well. But for readers who’ve commented here: please send your own FOI request to NOAA or some other government agency. I don’t mind the suggestions but there’s a lot more chance of success if other people take some initiative as well. A few people have, but any reader who’s taken the time to comment here, should have taken the time to make his own FOI request. I’ve given a template and address.
    Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 30, 2008 at 9:59 PM | Permalink | Reply#98. This is not as “bad” an example as, say, Lonnie Thompson withholding ice core … At this point, I’m waiting for answers from DOE both under FOI requests
    1226451442.txt OK only 1 request but 2 demands
    My personal opinion is that both FOI requests (1) and (2) are intrusive
    and unreasonable. Steven McIntyre provides absolutely no scientific
    justification or explanation for such requests. I believe that McIntyre
    is pursuing a calculated strategy to divert my attention and focus away
    from research. As the recent experiences of Mike Mann and Phil Jones
    have shown, this request is the thin edge of wedge. It will be followed
    by further requests for computer programs, additional material and
    explanations, etc., etc.

    Quite frankly, Tom, having spent nearly 10 months of my life addressing
    the serious scientific flaws in the Douglass et al. IJoC paper, I am
    unwilling to waste more of my time fulfilling the intrusive and
    frivolous requests of Steven McIntyre.
    > In addition, a previous FOI request was discussed by the NOAA Science
    > Advisory Board
    Not FOI but a request:
    > *From:* Steve McIntyre []
    > *Sent:* Monday, October 20, 2008 1:29 PM
    > *To:* ‘ (’
    > *Subject:* Santer et al 2008
    > Dear Dr Santer,
    > Could you please provide me either with the monthly model data (49
    > series) used for statistical analysis in Santer et al 2008 or a link to
    > a URL. I understand that your version has been collated from PCMDI ; my
    > interest is in a file of the data as you used it (I presume that the
    > monthly data used for statistics is about 1-2 MB) .
    > Thank you for your attention,
    > Steve McIntyre
    Also where is the email referenced here:
    it does not appear in the cru hacked mails
    Is something being hidden or can I just not find it?

    • Scott Gibson
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:26 AM | Permalink

      Who knows? Maybe Phil Jones didn’t send it through the CRU server, or perhaps it is one he deleted. Since it and the preceding emails are shown in the post, there doesn’t appear to be anything hidden.

  21. Steven Mosher
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

    Ah lets see.

    I sent the following.

    1. FOIA to NOAA requesting that reviewer comments be posted online.
    ( following steve’s lead )

    I dont see how this impacted ANY us scientist.
    A. The comments were already collected and deposited in harvards library
    B. NOAA attempted to placate Steve by agreeing to send him the data.

    2. FOI’s to CRU
    No US scientists there

  22. Steven Mosher
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:33 AM | Permalink

    If hansen feels put out by having to go through his mails and such to respond to requests, he could just email his passwords to CRU and I’m sure that in due course another zip file will appear, somewhere on a russian server…

  23. Phil C
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:51 AM | Permalink

    At the risk of being ironic, we now require a FOI request to ascertain how many FOI requests have been made of the NOAA and other publicly-funded climate researchers.

    What is most interesting about the Nature editorial is not it’s claim of researchers being inundated and overwhelmed with FOI requests but that the editors thought it worthy of comment. The defense of ’embattled’ climate scientists in the UK is not (or, at least, should not be) in the purview of the editors of Nature as this is a political and social question. Nature is a publisher of peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary science. American, British, Canadian scientists must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous FOI requests because they use public resources. Ironically, those privateers in the pay of Big Oil and Big Coal, do not.

  24. John
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:56 AM | Permalink

    Even if they got “constant FOI” requests they could simply have some collage kid zip up the documents subject to FOI requests every day and put them online. They get millions of dollars a year so they can afford to pay some kid $15/hr to zip up files for them.

    • ErnieK
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

      What takes time is fighting each and every FOI request. Once the FIRST FOI is answered and the data and other supporting in formation compiled, then answering the rest of the FOI’s should be rather simple since they are all asking for the same basic data. Only when they decided not to fulfill any FOI does it become time consuming.

      Steve: again you’ve missed the point. There is no evidence of compliance with FOI requests from me and CA readers actually consuming time for US scientists.

  25. Flints
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    Why would there be a need for FOI if Nature and the other journals enforce their own Availability of data and materials rules?

    • Mark T
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:04 AM | Permalink

      Crap. Figures your nearly identical post shows up while I’m cross-posting. I elaborated, however. 😉


  26. Steven Mosher
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:02 AM | Permalink

    Steve. here is how I read this.

    “If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, ”

    They are referring obliquely to your pestering of Mann. ( yet again)

    “often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. ”

    1. They claim that “often” the harrasment is in the form of FOIA, other harrasments include asking mann for his data and code. Posting about their papers. etc. being funny at their expense. Forcing Hansen to watch Beyonce in order to get your jokes
    2. The FOIA are not endless, but that does give me an idea……
    3. There are time limits on compliance. if its too hard they can say no. Then
    a couple days later they can suddenly discover how to do it.

    “Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden.”

    We need more money and guys to help us organize our lost data.

    • TerryS
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:42 PM | Permalink

      Forcing Hansen to watch Beyonce in order to get your jokes

      I thought the UN had banned cruel and unusual punishment.

    • Keith W.
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

      snip – UK discussion comes later

  27. Mark T
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:03 AM | Permalink

    If esteemed journals such as Nature, and organizations such as NOAA, DOE, NSF, et al., would simply uphold their data release policies, we wouldn’t need to discuss the silly Nature article in the first place. For that matter, scientists would never be inundated with any requests for data, FOIA or otherwise, as it would be available at the time of publication.

    Those in here that are trying to split hairs on this subject are doing nothing but erecting weak strawmen to tear down since they know they don’t have a case otherwise.

    I’m surprised bender hasn’t commented yet.


  28. Dan C.
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:44 AM | Permalink

    It’s only logical that a necessary part of the collaboration between the various scientists and institutions involved would be having data sets organized in a way that made sharing easily possible. Therefore it would be trivial to provide that same data to anybody, whether under FOIA or not. The same goes for methodology and source code. Hitting “reply” and attaching those files hardly constitutes being harassed and could be handled by an intern or secretary.

    The FOIA requests Mann now complains of are more along the lines of the type of information demanded under legal discovery and are indeed much more burdensome. However, had the earlier simple requests been answered, he wouldn’t be faced with that now. Hard to feel sorry for him.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:35 AM | Permalink

      I would hate to make a liar out of the Nature opinion writer. He claimed that US scientists were subject to endless FOIA. Maybe folks should do their level best to make a truth teller out of the editorialist. That would be an act of kindness.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:21 AM | Permalink

      I’m not sure if you would still say that after reading the quote from James Hansen, which I quoted above. (AFAIK, Nasa is already making a lot of data public).

      • tty
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:59 AM | Permalink

        As a matter of fact, excepting GISS, the NASA policy on publication and data archiving is exemplary. Much of the data (particularly images) from their space-related activities is published in real time, and for the rest the concerned scientists have a limited time to publish on the data, and after that time has expired everything is put in a public online archive.

      • Dan C.
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

        Norbert, I read your quote of Hansen but I don’t see where that changes Steve’s assertion.

        As I understand things (and someone will correct me if I’m wrong, no doubt), the US FOIA is one of those very rare pieces of Federal legislation that actually makes sense and addresses most reasonable concerns fairly effectively. In particular, agencies have broad latitude to decline requests that serve no public interest. If these refusals are made in good faith, and that’s the presumption, there’s very little that can be done. The petitioner can, of course, appeal administratively and ultimately to the courts, but at that point you would have to demonstrate a good reason for wanting the information requested. In other words, the implication that cranks can shut down the government with an unending stream of FOIA requests, however desirable that might be, doesn’t hold water.

        The existence of the Climategate emails pretty well proves my point: nobody involved seemed unduly worried that their correspondence was subject to instant surrender at the drop of a hat. And in normal circumstances, it’s not. I know we’ll be looking at the UK later, but I suspect that Jones’s ability to get his FOIA officer “on board” is something common in the US as well. That is, if the FOIA compliance officer is told that email threads do not contain anything of public importance and the officer has no reason to suspect anything other than good faith, requests for emails will then be routinely turned down, precisely to keep our public servants from being “inundated” with “fishing expeditions”. Of course, knowingly misleading the officer in charge of ensuring the public’s access to information is most likely criminal.

        Much has been made in this thread of Steve’s request for data AND correspondence from Santer, et al. Again, the implication that the bureaucrats are automatically then obliged to roll up their sleeves and start wading through years of letters and emails can’t possibly be true. A typical response would likely be providing the requested data, but denying the correspondence for lack of any public interest being served. In a roundabout way, this essentially is what happened.

        Hansen now protests the results of attempts by some to ignore the “good faith” requirements of public service regarding provision of information. I’m sure it probably is burdensome, but it’s not normal. There is a high level of interest, just as with any scandal. You can pretty well expect your tidy little world to get turned upside-down during such times. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that keeping oneself and one’s colleagues honest would be the best way to prevent things like this from happening in the first place.

        So, finally, Steve’s criticism of the Nature editorial still stands. Comparing the normal handling of public inquiries, which hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats seem able to live with, to the kinds of demands one gets when connected to a high-profile scandal is disingenuous at best.

        • Chris
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:22 PM | Permalink


          Given the policy implications (which we do not speak of here) I don’t see how any taxpayer funded “climate science” material serves no public interest. While my position is about 180 degrees opposed to yours there, I think the net result is still the same with regards to a conclusion against Nature’s position. Everything a taxpayer funded climate scientist does is in the public interest thus it should all be made public, and thus there is little time required for meeting FOIA requests because everything is available with a short period of time after it is created.

        • Dan C.
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:01 PM | Permalink


          I let it go without saying, but my assumption is that most of what goes on in an organization involves a lot of informal give-and-take, false starts, etc. that really is not outsiders’ business. It would be extremely chilling and unproductive if everything one said or wrote wrote was subject to being made public in normal circumstances. Seriously, we already get little enough from the public sector in terms of useful work. Putting them in a position where every foible and minor mistake was in the spotlight would only ensure they made sure to make no mistakes. The only way to do that is to do nothing.

          That said, “official” conclusions, positions, statements, and and the data to back them up are, and should be, considered public property. These are the results of all that time spent on the taxpayer’s dime and are what they are being paid to do.

          So, yes, I do make a distinction between information that has “public interest” value and information that is normally nobody’s business, but can become interesting when there is evidence of wrongdoing. Again, the best way to keep your informal professional life from becoming interesting is to stay honest. Lots of people here have pointed out that making the data available that backs up assertions made, whether in journals, press releases, or whatever would have prevented the need for FOI requests

      • JohnG
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

        Norbet that funny! That’s like saying NASA is making a lot of science public – they are holding the rest because it’s too takes too much time to publish.

        All this discussion against Steve’s post can simply be boiled down to the Scientific Method is too time consuming and we can’t burden our scientists with request for reproducibility.

        You’d think these organizations would hire FOI compliance officers to address Nature, Susanne’s and Norberts concerns. Oh, they do? Er..never mind. I guess I’ll stop reading Susanne’s and Norberts grasping at straw’s comments.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

          As if it would be difficult to understand that scientists don’t seem to be all that happy about getting this very specific interest from people who try to prove they are producing nothing but crap (by definition).

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

          Oh, I forgot to point out that they want to publish only the good stuff. Publishing is always lot of work. Documentation and support for externally available material is, according to everything I know, much more demanding than internal docs and support. Just look at how many people think the “raw data” is all they would want. Nonsense.

        • JohnG
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

          Yeah, you’re right. It’s just too tough and demanding to adhere to the scientific method and transparency. What nonsense – the older generations of scientist were just too nice.

          I see this too in hiring engineers. Some find it too “demanding” that their supervisors require their calculations, steps, procedures and raw data be compiled in a clear and coherent manner for review and documentation. They’d rather just give me the answer. Imagine how they’d howl if our public agency clients would request the data. Oh wait, since they have to produce their work in a clear concise manner, it’s already done. It’s a simple trick my father (a scientist) and my Physics and Engineering profs taught me years ago. But I guess those are antiquated ideas from a bygone era…

          Too funny. Your posts give me a good chuckle.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

          I didn’t say that the *final* data and procedure shouldn’t be published/accessible, I’m actually in favor of that. Just that it will surely be some amount of work, especially since there are apparently also requests for email correspondence etc, which is not the final data. It seems that the total amount of data is huge, and handling it correctly requires a good amount of know-how. Individual articles then draw specific data from this huge pool, and use it in a specific way, but rest on top of this large pool of work that was done previously. For all I know, it may require a lot of work, behind the scenes, to make the used subset of data available in a digestible form.

          As far as I know, for example M. Mann’s latest studies include data and code. I don’t know yet what Steve’s response was, if any.

        • JohnG
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

          You got a laugh out of me with your “it may take alot of work to bring the used subset of data in digestible form” comment. Do some scientist work with indigestible forms of data? If so they have bigger issues than FOI requests to deal with.

          Transparency in the Scientific Method and FOI requests don’t require any work. It’s simply a copy of what was used and how it was used. Not a request to rewrite results for elementary students.

          I think I’ve spent more time writing to you than it would have taken to fulfill Steve’s FOI requests to US Scientists.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

          Yes, I think they do, “indigestible” in so far as there is a huge pool of data from a variety of sources. They probably spend a considerable amount of time learning how to correctly work with all that data about coral sediments, satellite proxies and what not.

        • JohnG
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:08 AM | Permalink

          Do you think these same US scientist can reproduce their results and steps from this “indigestible” data? Do you think peer-review of their “indigestible” data can be reproduced? If so, then the data isn’t indigestible. If not, then it isn’t science.

          The advent of the personal computer has made managing a huge pool of data from a variety of sources easy. There are no excuses. The onerous work is done the first time, before publishing. From then one the vast majority of work amounts to copy/paste by FOI officers. The Nature editorial is simply parroting an irrelevant statement to provide political cover for friends. The editorial has nothing to do with science. It’s really that simple.

        • Norbert
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

          Science never stops at doing “easy” things. As soon as something becomes easy, science has already moved on to new territory.

        • Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 3:55 AM | Permalink

          Sorry Norbert, but “doing easy things in a complicated way” is not even an old tongue-in-cheek definition of science, but rather of poetry. I trust you’ll agree that in view of this, readers will look at your postings as expressions of poetic licence and fantasy rather than scientific rigor and reality.

        • JohnG
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

          Norbet – While data management & documentation is used by scientist it isn’t science, nor will it ever be. I guess by your definition, once the management of large amounts of indigestible data becomes easy, or digestible, it’s up to the scientist to make it indigestible again? That concept/logic may give you political cover but it isn’t science.

          Again, your posts are too funny and give me quite a chuckle.

  29. jef
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:48 AM | Permalink

    At least in the US, FOI requests seem like part and parcel of government’s business.

    The Commerce Department (which includes NOAA) publishes metrics annually on their performance; things like the percentage that were deemed simple, complex and whether the request was fully or partially granted, and the time required to fill.

    Overall, about 10% are denied (these are broken out by type of exemption) and they can tell you how much time it took them to respond.

    For fiscal 2007 the Commerce Department had 1852 requests.

    My only point is 1. they get a lot of requests about a lot of subjects, 2. they have procedures that they take seriously enough to measure their compliance with the laws, and 3. they like to improve their performance from year to year.

    So at an adminstrative level this is the cost of doing business…no biggy, and as far as I can tell, there’s no whining.

    Click to access foiarptFY07dept.pdf

  30. andy
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:55 AM | Permalink

    Hei, sorry for OT, but I couldn’t find the “(Ross and I submitted a comment to IJC on this topic in January 2009, where it was promptly tied up by reviewers – see discussion in the Climategate Letters.)” discussion. Anyone?

  31. blueice2hotsea
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:31 AM | Permalink

    When a Nature editorial requires pettiness and slander to persuade, the facts must be weak. Hugely disappointing.

  32. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:20 AM | Permalink

    I bet that I get far fewer requests for information (2-3 a week) than my colleagues in climate science proper. I do find these requests disruptive, because it means taking your mind of the data you’re working on and focussing on data you worked on years ago. I have a simple solution for that: I post all relevant data on my website. As the data is in the public domain anyway per the various freedom of information acts that govern my work, I might as well put the data there.

    Steve: Quite so. If authors archive their data in the first place, there aren’t any problems. FOI requests have arisen only because authors did not archive their data and then refused to provide it. While I appreciate your agreement expressed here, it would be better if you spoke out to the “community” who are confusedly honoring the obstructiveness of a few.

    • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

      Well said, Richard.

      I introduced FOI into a major public body in the UK and luckily we had no problems with compliance once colleagues understood the point of it.

      Our Decision Makers were top class and frankly pretty fearless in turning down CYA requests.

      Our archives relied heavily on email based traffic, hence my interest in the Climategate leak. I have no time of other public bodies that I’ve worked for which simply posted a statement on their website stating that they replied to an FOI request with no details about it or a link [Dept for Env, Food & Agriculture/Rural Payments Agency]

    • Chris
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

      I think Richard has the perfectly correct viewpoint here. All of his work would be covered by the FOIA thus it should be treated as public domain from the get go.

      I would be curious to hear Nature’s (or any other climate scientist doing research with taxpayer funding) legal theory on how any climate scientists work was exempt from FOIA. Unless some substantial portion was exempt their argument is entirely spurious.

      • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:22 AM | Permalink

        I’m not a lawyer. I do know, however, that research that is used to support federal decision making is governed by stricter rules than the general freedom of information act.

        Whenever I do work for any branch of the US government, I have to be able to (and typically do) supply source code, data, and detailed documentation. If not, so I’m told, the proposed regulation, rule or legislation is in procedural breach and could be thrown out.

        This used to be arduous, until we found a software solution, but that is not the point. Democracy demands accountability.

  33. stacey
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:37 AM | Permalink

    if the data has been properly filed and archived then its release is fairly straightforward. The information can be emailed or if too large then uploaded to a secure location for download.
    So how long will this take from beggining to end:
    1 receive request and read. 10mins
    2 locate information. 5mins
    3 send information .5 mins
    So 20 mins maximum. Nature have a very good point, as it is clear that settled science could be thwarted based on this timescale.

    • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:06 AM | Permalink

      This is exactly the comment I was planning to make. I suspect most authors concentrate so hard on getting the paper finished and off to the journal they leave their data files in a mess and by the time the paper is published they are no longer sure exacly what data they used.

      Given the confusion over what data the CRU has or does not have it also seems as if their data similarly disorganised.

      After financial problems it was generally possible to work out who still had money and who owed what and to whom. Warmists claim that climate change is an even bigger threat to humanity; their data systems should as well maintained as those of the banks.

      • Dan C.
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

        Ron, what you are talking about is at the heart of the matter, at least in my simple mind. Maybe I’ve got a naive way of understanding the publishing process, but I would expect that any paper worthy of submission is first checked, then double-checked with colleagues. That would imply that any relevant data has already been collated and organized such that said colleagues could verify your conclusions.

        After submission, I would expect that the editor and any reviewers would have the right to demand my data and methods in order to establish whether or not the paper was indeed worthy of publication.

        So (if this is true), there should be no problem whatsoever with providing same data to anybody, other than whether or not they are willing to provide it.

        If, as you say, their data and methodology is in such a mess that they can’t use it to defend their work, then I can’t possibly reconcile that with what proper science is proclaimed to be. What are the standards, then? Can I publish my random musings in the literature without anything meaningful to back it up?

        Now, if I’m right and if real scientists DO have their ducks in a row, how is providing professionally archived data a burden and why is providing that data considered harassment?

  34. Dave
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:02 AM | Permalink

    I think it bears pointing out that the number of FOI requests is immaterial. What matters is the number of *unique* FOI requests. If ten thousand people want the same thing, it’s entirely reasonable that the researcher should provide it. Either it’s trivial to do so, in which case there’s no reason not to, or it’s not, in which case it would seem to be vitally important to release it to back up the work being challenged.

    If data is publically available, then there’s no FOI burden whatsoever.

  35. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:54 AM | Permalink

    Some observations:
    1. Not releasing data only stirs suspicion, which leads to multiple subsequent requests. So release it the 1st time around.
    2. Data neatly prepared, or posted as Richard Tol mentions above, eliminates much of the hassle and time involved in handling requests. This is something we call “management”.
    3. Nature bases its assertion on the grievances of a few embattled scientists, and does not present any administrative data or work records showing the time actually expended for fielding requests.
    4. Many of these busy “time-strapped” scientists don’t seem to have any problems finding time to run (and contribute regularly to) well-known climate blogs, like RC or Klimalounge.
    (If these points have already been mentioned above, then please do not delete me for “piling on” as I don’t have time to read through all the comments. Thanks.)

    • thefordprefect
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:50 AM | Permalink


      • Bob_L
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

        P Gosselin is not taking public funds to read through CA. These scientists knew that there were strings attached when they bellied up to the public trough. As a taxpayer, I have an expectation that when the work is published, the underpinning data and work is complete and ready for distribution.

        These guys could use the time they spend in airports and on airplanes, jetting from one resort destination to another to attend “conferences” on taxpayers money, cleaning up data sets and programs. As far as the straw man argument about sorting emails, I maintain several files where emails of different topics are stored. It is not hard.

  36. Slabadang
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:56 AM | Permalink

    Totally absurd!

    Unproffessional indeed by Jones and all working under FOI law.This is evidence that they see themselves above laws.
    Who can justify any organisation NOT to organize thier work according to its regulation and laws?
    They are trying to build a case on thier own unproffessionality and lack of organization and efficency skills.
    Its embarrasing easy to build rutines to fullfill the simple FOI demands.
    Obvious is that Mr Jones is a control guy and tries to control the hole chain of information on his work.
    Even if I get snipped i can not from my life and proffessional experience,see other that the actions from MR Jones is the action of a man who is in fear.
    Whats appaling to me getting to know this “metrological/climate field” is the gigantic what we in the finance sektor call “black box” (lack of transparancy)of totally harmless raw data from world temperatures.
    Why there is a lack of transparency is becoming clear to me now.
    If there where a serious interest to spread the knowledge of climate and climate science its obvious that raw data should be standardised and availible to anyone.

    The anti FOI arguments from the IPCC “scientists” are embarassing thin.It confirms that they are trying to keep control and prevent audit.
    Thats how you act and reason when you are weak and uncertain.
    If IPCC would be a found manager they would not get any clients and they woldnt even get a permit.

  37. dearieme
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:10 AM | Permalink

    Let’s get to the BIG ISSUE. It’s not a good idea to use “moot” in writing for an international readership, since its meaning in Britain and some other countries is practically the opposite of its US meaning.

    P.S Doesn’t Mr Santer take an awful lot of words to say “Piss off”?

  38. Kevin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

    Steve, I appreciate your efforts and due diligence. It’s unfortunate about Santer’s response and rude tone. He’s not helping his position.

    In a perfect world, you would think that some of the grant money given these scientists would stipulate administrative duties to handle this kind of thing. Or, at least, maybe that should have been the “lessons learned” from this whole mess that Nature should be talking about. In a world of FOIA requests, institutions need to adapt. Even still as you have pointed out, it doesn’t seem that these scientists were unnecessarily burdened with FOIA admin duties.

    The Nature article is disappointing in it’s labeling and tone. I would expect a more of balanced position.

  39. Sean Inglis
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:53 AM | Permalink

    Although the principle stands, some of the BOTEC calculations seem off to me.

    Unless someone is involved in the work from start to finish, there can be many quirks and side issues that require context and experience to spot and allow for before passing on information to someone else. This isn’t necessarily evidence of sloppiness or intransigence, it’s just the inevitable consequence of working with data from more than one source when it may undergo several transformations or adjustments to arrive at the “finished” product.

    Unfortunately people who understand the quirks well enough are also those most likely under most pressure of time, their experience and history with a particular project being valuable to other people for other reasons.

    So quoting 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there is a bit misleading in my opinion.

    If you’re genuinely diligent, you’ll want to ensure you’re providing the right data, in the right format, and in the spirit of the request, rather than to the *letter* of the request.

    To the letter may actually be unhelpful to the questioner depending on how their question is phrased; surely we’ve all been in the position of asking someone *why* they’re interested in a particular question, in an effort to establish what would be genuinely helpful.

    But I have no disagreement with the core of Steve Mc’s argument; before you can subjectively descibe something as onerous, you have to make some attempt at quantification.

    • Harold
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

      I appreciate how labor intensive some of this is to do the first time around. Yet the assumption of multiple researchers working with the data over periods of years pretty much demands (from a mangement perspective) that the details be documented in real time. This would be considered part of work standards definition and included in the overall management system so you don’t keep duplicating efforts. I’m used to having complete traceability on these types of issues or “quirks” – it’s basic efficiency / effectiveness stuff.

      If I assume the researchers are disorganized, then I can see how disclosing could take significant time. But Steve’s point stands – Nature says it’s a terrible burden for the researchers, but in the words of another statistician, “How do they know?”.

      Steve: Again you’ve missed point. It wasn’t a burden for US researchers.

  40. michel
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:43 AM | Permalink

    Its only a burden to do all the documentation required for release if your data and code is a mess in the first place. If its such a mess, it probably is too messed up to do a quality job of analysis.

    The burden argument is a bit like the argument that we want to see the team get on with coding, not waste all their time on documentation. It is flawed for the same reason, documenting is part of coding. Ordering your data and commenting your code and getting the whole thing structured is, or should be, part of doing a quality job in climate or any other science. Its not any sort of additional burden.

  41. Ryan O
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    The scientists should archive their data and code anyway. What was done in the past can’t be fixed, but going forward, it is an incredibly poor excuse to say that FOI requests place an undue burden on them. Hell, the vast majority of them never throw anything away anyway . . . it would be a 5 minute job for a TA to collate and post. Besides, the archiving of data and code is technically already required by most of the major journals.
    Sorry, Nature and all such sympathizers . . . you’re just being petty.
    And to some of the comments above where apparently putting the data/code into the right format might cause an undue burden, who at CA has ever asked for a specific format? We simply take what is given and transliterate.
    Lastly, fordprefect, NOAA’s servers are public. My tax dollars pay for them. If someone wants copies of emails, they are entitled to them. Besides, how does that place a burden on the scientists? Do you really think that Ben Santer himself would go through the emails? If you do, I have a bridge on Betelgeuse to sell you. It will be some underutilized GS-2 IT dude who will do the search in between coffee, cigarette breaks, and YouTube surfing.

  42. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    Nature is essentially asking for climate scientists to be exempt from FOIA requests. This goes along with their emphatic stance that “the science is settled” although if it is settled I don’t know what they are going to publish. Very curious–a premier science mag saying that efforts to replicate and check scientific work of the highest importance should be thwarted…

    • Jon
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

      Craig: That was my first interpretation too–based on the meme about the burden of compliance, but no, I now think the essay is attempting something somewhat more apolitical.

      “Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…”

      They want the provisioning of additional special funds and resources to aid in compliance.

  43. Jason
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:25 AM | Permalink


  44. welikerocks
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    LOL poor time strapped climatologists!

    Remember the Wegman report?
    see here:
    SteveM writes: “The Team have snarled back at Wegman here [link to RC]. They’ve posted up an August 16, 2006 letter from David Ritson to Waxman, accusing Wegman of not responding with a request for information that had been outstanding for almost 3 weeks (?!?) .

    Yes, you read it right. Jeez, I’ve been waiting almost three years for data and the Team complains to Congress if they have to wait for 3 weeks.”

    Dr. Mann was “burdened” further by the Congressional hearing. He couldn’t make the first day because of babysitting issues and then when he finally made it; showed up with a lawyer.

  45. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

    fordprefect is correct about the language of my FOI request to NOAA, but incorrect about this causing any inconvenience to the scientists. NOAA refused the FOI request with each of the scientists denying that they had any relevant correspondence. I’ve added a paragraph to the head post to clarify this:

    My request to NOAA asked for both the monthly time series and any correspondence between Santer and the NOAA coauthors concerning the monthly time series. Tom Karl at NOAA acted as point man for NOAA. He sent an email to the three other coauthors containing the following form response language:

    I have searched my records and have no monthly time series from any of the 47 climate models used in our paper and thus no correspondence concerning monthly time series that were neither requested by me nor distributed by Dr. Santer.

    The three coauthors immediately replied (see here) with one sentence emails, each containing the above statement in slightly different language. Whether their responses are true is a different story. I did not pursue the matter further with NOAA because DOE elected to provide the requested data.

  46. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    snip – leave UK for a forthcoming post as I requested

  47. Dave L.
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    Regarding the unnamed author of the editorial in Nature under discussion, if you go to the Nature Website, you can find out the composition of the Editorial Board at:

    The top person is identified as:
    Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief, Nature and Nature Publications, London.
    Education: BSc, aeronautical engineering, University of Bristol; MSc, astrophysics, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London; PhD and postdoctoral fellowship, upper atmospheric physics, University of Leicester.Areas of responsibility include: editorial content and management of Nature, long-term quality of all Nature Publications.

    Whether or not he wrote the editorial can be debated, but his job description states that “editorial content” is his responsibility.

  48. Ivan
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    Steve, I think that you concede too much and only feed the trolls like Sussan and Norbert with this kind of approach. You assume somehow, at least implicitly, that it would be a problem if scientists were really inconvinienced by the frequent FOIA requests. But, the only reason for FOIA requests is because they did not publish all data and the method as required by the canons of any science. The only problem here is politicization of climate science that allowed a complete discarding of all usual standards of scientific work. To spend lot of time to respond to FOIA request is a minor thing they have to do in order to recover the broken reputation of climate science. Poor little scientists, “harassed by denialists” to make publicly available the data and methods upon which the claims that trillions of dolars per year should be sacrificed to “save the planet” are justified. Give me a break.

  49. Henry chance
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    I laughed when James Hansen applied drama by saying “inundated with requests.”

    His helper Gavin Schmidt has time all day to delete posts and comment on most posts on the blog named Realclimate. If he was on task, he could help Hansen send data.
    In today’s world we heqr a lot of health care and banks. They all have numerous auditors and inspectors any one of which can shut them down for non compliance. These “scientists” are not only not inspected or audited, they are indignant when some one asks them to back up some reports with information.

    • Demesure
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

      Likewise, Santer has spent much more time evading Steve’s request for the data of Santer et al 2008 than simply properly archiving and releasing them like any real scientist would do.
      Not only did he try to prevent replication of his paper because he was perfectly aware that stopping data after 1999 was pure – snip – , but he has the nerve to put the blame on others with the ludicrous pretext of “harassment”.
      The – snip- of such AGW “scientists” turned activists and their defenders leaves me without words.

  50. jae
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    It is totally unscientific for Nature to use the word “denialist,” regardless of the issue. That is political. SHAME on Nature, which I always thought considered itself a scientific organization (I didn’t read all the comments so far, so if someone already said this, then I second it).

    • Calvin Ball
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

      It’s unprofessional, either from a scientific standpoint, or a journalistic standpoint (not knowing the precise background of this editor(s)). The whole thing would have been a screed, even if it had appeared in a non-scientific op-ed. We have an extra expectation of decorum from scientists, and this is a long ways from that expectation.

  51. Harry
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    In normal jurisprudence, any and all information related to a claim is subject to discovery.
    If one is going to be in the business of ‘expert witness’, then dealing with ‘requests for discovery’ is part of the business.

  52. Anand Rajan KD
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    susann’s comments saying whether Mr Mcntyre did ‘due diligence’ in verifying whether Nature magazine has evidence that scientists are harassed by FOIA is plain and simple internet trolling. The rule is simple: do not argue the argument, argue the issue.

    Does the climate community not see value of making data publicly available? McIntyre and others spotted glaring errors in the hockey stick from Mann and the Yamal rings after data was made available right? Is that a good thing or a bad thing in the long run?

    One way the harassment value of a FOIA request originates is when you do not want to comply with the request. From the emails it is abundantly clear that Ben Santer did not want to comply with the requests as he had been ‘forewarned’ by Jones.

    Jones for example appears to have expended enormous effort in hunting ways to deny FOI requests. He got the information officer ‘on board’ which one can be pretty sure, is not legal. Wasted time in legal disingenuity – “IPCC does not come under UK law”. Wrote emails to delete rather than comply with FOI. A small fraction of this effort could have been put into making data available. Apparently, he spread the same canards of harassment to Santer who seemed to have bought the logic wholesale.

    These people brought about the situation where FOIA requests were needed to do science. How can they complain about harassment thereof?

    • Susann
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

      susann’s comments saying whether Mr Mcntyre did ‘due diligence’ in verifying whether Nature magazine has evidence that scientists are harassed by FOIA is plain and simple internet trolling. The rule is simple: do not argue the argument, argue the issue.

      You misunderstand my comment. I was not joining in the chorus of “oh how terrible is Nature’s editor!”, I was commenting on Steve’s post.

      In particular, on the assumptions he made about the issue. He first of all does not discriminate among climate scientists — they are all promoting a myth — here is his quote:

      “Climate scientists have recently been promoting the myth that providing data in response to FOI requests was interfering with their work.”

      Are “all” climate scientists promoting this “myth”? Where’s the evidence that all are doing so? How many climate scientists are there? Show me the evidence that they are all promoting this. There is none provided.

      Next, we have the issue of the “myth” itself — is the claim that providing data in response to FOI requests was interfering with climate scientists’ work factual or not?

      The only evidence Steve provides is his own 3 FOI requests. He is but one “skeptic” — surely there have been other FOI requests submitted to the various climate related institutions in the US… Yet, he doesn’t provide any other evidence, hence I conclude that there is not enough evidence to make that conclusion and thus, the idea that it is a “myth” is not supported.

      I was criticizing Steve’s claims, not Nature’s.

    • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:45 PM | Permalink

      well said Anand

  53. James Chamberlain
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    I could be wrong, but I also believe that e-mails, notes, and other correspondence may have not been requested if data availability was more straightforward in the first place.

  54. EdeF
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    All gov’t agencies have to respond to FOI requests. Its da law. They have a
    budget and personnel allocated for that. Santer could have assigned
    a junior scientist to run down this info between mid-morning coffee break and
    lunch on one day.

  55. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    “C’mon, folks”:

  56. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

    Nature is quite reserved compared to New Scientist, who pulls all skeptics into the mix via the magic word ‘concerted’:

    “They fear the hacking of their emails is the culmination of a concerted attack by data terrorists.”

    Witness a possible undercurrent of psychological projection in that such anonymously spasmodic slander plays out under the headline “moral high ground”, in defense of those who are accused of a textbook cases of “torturing the data” and “lying with statistics”.

    The term “bleeding heart liberal” explains much when used to stereotype specific AGW enthusiasts, since it suggests infantile impatience with a mortal enemy who refuses to froth at the mouth in debate.

    Metaphoric modeling of rhetorical comity suggests that “logic makes their eyes bleed”.

  57. Anand Rajan KD
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    Steve – you are a data terrorist! 🙂

  58. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

    Since hardly any of those receiving FOI requests actually compiled and released any data, except those who were going to do so anyway, it is hard to argue that they expended any effort and time responding, except the time spent in meetings trying to figure out how to avoid responding.

  59. Kate
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

    Look at the comments here.

  60. Ralph
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    Having been strategically involved in a FOI request for years of planning correspondence, historical reports and large data sets associated with an extensive environmental review I can say it would have taken more time and effort to resist than to comply. The time consuming part of collecting the information was doing searches to ensure it was all there. We are not talking months, but days and most of the time the computer did the work. Trying to figure out how to hide or withhold material would have taken more effort and would have consumed more time. To imply it was too much effort to comply with a FOI request is not a legal excuse and does not take into consideration the electronic age.

  61. WillR
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    I read the editorial — it is “all over the place”. However, regarding the FOI requests” Nature has a policy which I have read.

    I found references to SteveM on several occasions in the leaked emails (I have reviewed about 80%), and I believe that there might have been a reference to another request — I was not certain that it was.

    While the conclusion of the article is consistent with the policy, much of the preceding article is more of an advocacy document for global warming and has nothing to do with the emails and the issue of whether data should be “public”. Had writers followed Natures own policy — the email to Santer et al, and the FOI request would never have existed.

    Since a significant portion of the article focuses on scientists that did not abide by their policy (of openness), or live by the principles, then they should withdraw the article and perhaps rewrite it in a tone more consistent with their policy.

    As to the editorial approach, Wegman had it correct: Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science.

    I have participated in research consortiums on a number of occasions over a decade. The rules are clear, there is a public research portion — and if you want to be published you make your data and notes available as required. If data is to remain confidential or restricted you state what and why — convincingly (client data for example) and that part remains private research — paid for by the company and is not publicly funded.

    I saw nothing here in this blog, other web sites, numerous peer reviewed articles, in Nature or the emails that convinced me that scientists were inundated with FOI requests, or that they should not have been required to show their data — especially when you consider the stakes.

    As far As I am concerned they can’t have it both ways — so they should either change their data policy, or withdraw and re-write the article.

    • Chris
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:00 PM | Permalink


      An interesting thought. As a taxpayer, I’m actually not that interested in the ‘Bad Science’ part of the equation. I’m terribly interested in the ‘Answer Correct’ part, though. I accept that everyone has a right to be interested in anything that they want to be interested in. I don’t really understand it, though. I do see that to an academic, the ‘Bad Science’ would be interesting. But I don’t understand the ferocity of the reaction by others, though. In general, if the answer is correct, I don’t care if you got it from a magic 8 ball.

      Now, as a fan of Steve’s, I wish he would keep to the ‘Answer Correct’ part of the equation. Steve says that he “doesn’t know”, which I probably agree with. Concentrating on the ‘Bad Science’ part of the equation doesn’t do much to actually tell us if the answer is correct. And, honestly, that is the only part that the rest of the world really cares about, too.

      I love when Steve makes posts that address whether a published paper actually gets the answer right or not. I use his arguments when discussing the issue. Posts like this just make it difficult to use Steve as a reference. Susann is right. At best, it looks like no one has done any diligence. At worst, it looks like Steve doesn’t really know what Nature knows or what they are basing the editorial on.

      • WillR
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Permalink


        The point of the equation is that it is nonsense.

        If you look at the editorial it is nonsense. I have read about 80% of the emails and documents. I can support the claim that I saw references to about three — but no more than five FOI requests. So I have not done complete due diligence — but to claim that scientists are harassed is a little over the top…

        If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden.
        End Quote

        snip – OT –

        Since nobody else has addressed this I will say it.

        I saw a lot of emails that addressed the issue of how not to comply with FOI requests. I also saw lots of email that complained of harassment. But they all seemed to be related to Steves request.

        So lets see — three — maybe five request spread out over 10 years — about 40 scientists on the team….

        Hmmm the math says something other than the tone of the article.

        • Chris
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

          I’m sorry. I must have misunderstood. When you wrote “Wegman had it correct” and then followed it with that equation, I thought you were actually referring to the equation.

          And to mention again what has already been said:
          [quot]If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment [/quot]
          That seems to say that the highlighting has happened in the past and that it hasn’t depended on the emails.

          [quot]often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts.[/quot] That seems to imply that it also happens in ways other than demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts.

          Once again, Steve has written an interesting post. But this is another post that proves nothing. And actually hurts ‘the cause’ because energy is spent asserting and defending that it actually proves something. It doesn’t. This post has nothing to do with the ‘Answer Correct’ part of the equation. That isn’t to say that Steve has to spend all of his time on the Answer Correct part, but lets not get confused and think that this has anything to do with the ‘Answer Correct’ part. No one here (including myself) has any idea how much diligence went into the editorial. At least, if they do, they haven’t mentioned it yet.

        • Robbo
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

          I think Wegman’s humour is a little heavy-handed. The point is, ‘method is wrong’, excludes ‘answer is correct’, at least as far as ‘this answer, based on what we actually know, is no more or less likely to be correct than any other answer’

        • Chris
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:07 AM | Permalink


          It looks like one or both of us will need to be a bit more specific with the Name field.

      • Warrl
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

        Chris: the problem with the equation “Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science.” is that it has a hidden assumption.

        I’ll restate it without the assumption:

        Method Wrong = Bad Science = Answer Untrustworthy

        Is the answer produced by the wrong method correct? You have NO IDEA. That is, unless there is some other research, using Good Science, that supports or undermines it; and if you have that, you don’t need the Bad Science.

        On the other hand… if it is repeatedly pointed out that something is a result of Bad Science, and the allegedly scientific body basing their recommendations on it continues to cite it, one comes to suspect that they can’t find or do Good Science that replaces it and supports their conclusion – but have some other reason for making the recommendations, that is more important to them than the science.

        I note that the IPCC still cites Mann’s hockey stick.

  62. Ralph
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    p.s. For added information the data used in the referenced FOI posted at 11:07 were documented and coded. How else can a team work with the data?

  63. Brian B
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    All gov’t agencies have to respond to FOI requests. Its da law.

    Exactly. All this whining boils down to is a complaint that it’s very troublesome and time consuming for scientists to have to obey THE LAW, like all the rest of us have to.

    If the IRS wants to audit my taxes I don’t get to stonewall them by whining about how much of my valuable time it takes from my important work to go dig up my records. I archive them and produce them on request because that is the law.
    And if I haven’t archived them properly and can’t replicate my tax return I can expect more such ‘requests’ in the future.
    Does Nature think there should be one law for taxpayers and another one for recipients of the taxpayers’ money?

  64. MartinGAtkins
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    OT coat-rack

    • MartinGAtkins
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

      OT coat-rack

      I profoundly disagree.

      Your dismissive attitude is uncalled for.

      Steve: sorry. Your comments are appreciated and there is no intent of being dismissive. The blog is swamped with OT comments right now – often unintentional. My editing is not infallible. I realize that readers go to trouble to express themselves, but editorially I’m trying to keep threads a little bit focussed – something that the majority of readers want.

  65. Kate
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    I perceive that Steve’s board is attracting cynics who are struggling to come to terms with the real questions posed to their long-held beliefs. I guess he is a natural target.

    I have to admit to over 300 hours of reading on this topic. Steve is only one voice.

    Read Will Alexander, a South African. He is easy to understand and is a true patriot to his beloved South Africa. He is deeply troubled by policy-makers who are not doing what is needed for Africa.

    Hoping this will take you to all his work.
    He uses .pdf files or I would just post them here. There are seven, at least, that are essential.

  66. Andy
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    The bottom line is FOI requests must be handled as provided by law. Inconvenience to those subjected is irrelevant, and for Nature to argue otherwise is not a rational supportable position.

  67. R.S.Brown
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    Actually, due diligence in assembling Nature’s editorial should have been a no-brainer.

    Please see:

    The Freedom of Information Act
    5 U.S.C. § 552, As Amended By
    Public Law No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 3048

    § 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

    e)(1) On or before February 1 of each year, each agency shall submit to the Attorney General of the United States a report which shall cover the preceding fiscal year and which shall include

    (A) the number of determinations made by the agency not to comply with requests for records made to such agency under subsection (a) and the reasons for each such determination;

    (B)(i) the number of appeals made by persons under subsection (a)(6), the result of such appeals, and the reason for the action upon each appeal that results in a denial of information; and

    (ii) a complete list of all statutes that the agency relies upon to authorize the agency to withhold information under subsection (b)(3), a description of whether a court has upheld the decision of the agency to withhold information under each such statute, and a concise description of the scope of any information withheld;

    (C) the number of requests for records pending before the agency as of September 30 of the preceding year, and the median number of days that such requests had been pending before the agency as of that date;

    (D) the number of requests for records received by the agency and the number of requests which the agency processed ;

    (E) the median number of days taken by the agency to process different types of requests;

    (F) the total amount of fees collected by the agency for processing requests; and

    (G) the number of full-time staff of the agency devoted to processing requests for records under this section , and the total amount expended by the agency for processing such requests.

    (2) Each agency shall make each such report available to the public including by computer telecommunications, or if computer telecommunications means have not been established by the agency, by other electronic means.

  68. A Reader
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    To Susann: I have been reading your random posts for a couple of days, and honestly, it is really tiring. It is a pity there is no “spam” buttom in this forum. I think we have all understood you are a “critical” and “inquisitive” mind, but you do not need to challenge every post, every thought and every line…

  69. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Considering that world leaders and bankers are planning on burdening the West with trillions of dollars of taxation all based on the work of “climate scientists”, I find it incredibly uppity of Nature to complain at all. FOI requests should, and must, come thick and fast, and every aspect of research that is used to justify the foisting on the world of massive taxation must be made public. On one hand Nature treats warmist science as if it is the most important research being done on the planet today … on the other, it sulks when those doing said research have to be transparent. You can’t have it both ways. Is global warming research important? Can be trusted to impose massive structural and economic changes on the world? If so, make every single crumb of data, including internatl mail, public.

  70. Kate
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 12:41 PM | Permalink


  71. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

    I read the editorial and was enraged by it.

    snip – sorry, but this is OT.

  72. Falafulu Fisi
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

    snip – over-editorializng

  73. Steven Mosher
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

    FWIW. Did a short interview on the Dennis Miller radio show this morning. At some point I’m sure somebody will post the audio.

    Steve Mc: Cool. Look forward to hearing another Steve M on the radio.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:39 PM | Permalink

      Tom and I are finishing up the book. I have a couple of todo items. The problem, as you know, is that to understand the mails you have to have a command of a great deal of material, history, etc. I had put some things to bed, but your climategatekeeping series added some vital bits to the overall argument. But enough is enough. In the end I’ve tried to do a master chronology weaving in mails and chunks of CA. Bender was always beating on me to read the whole blog ( I started in 2007) so I only had to go back to the start in 2005.

  74. rafa
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

    FYI I apologize if you are already aware of the statement of the IPCC’s Working Group I on the hacked UEA mails. See here

    Click to access WGIstatement04122009.pdf


    Steve: Hadn’t seen this. Thanks.

  75. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

    Nature, I assume like other defenders of the climate science status quo and some of whom post here, are doing what is very common in the political world of spin.

    When someone or something is criticized on your side, instead of answering or affirming the criticism, you go on the offensive by attempting to put those who criticize in a bad light and effectively attempt to shift the debate. Even some of the more neutral participants will concede some failures from the consensus side, but at the same time pointing to the “denialists” and in very general terms and often pointing to some extreme examples and even using the argument that it was the denialists’ bad behavior that precipitated the excesses of the consensus side ( see Judith Curry in her posts here at CA).

    These types of discussion would normally soon fade if one were to ask for factual and specific evidence and to avoid the generalities that are so frequently used. If Nature, as a science journal, had any factual evidence they would have presented it, or at least accepted something unverifiable from a scientist willing to offer anecdotal evidence.

    What if drug companies complained about their scientists having to respond to request for information taking up too much of their valuable time? Would one expect Nature to back then up or them to receive the silly defenses we see from defenders posting here at CA.

    Of course, what is really important in these matters is not so much the failure of the scientists to share critical data with the public and/or interested parties or any lame excuses that these scientists might offer for not sharing, but the fact that they have not shared and what that means in terms of the uncertainty that thus must be added to any evidence presented based on the “private” evidence. I think many consensus scientists and their defenders realize that this is what is really important and thus their seemingly over reaction and haste to change the subject.

    In the meantime I see much wasted band width here conjecturing about the load that FOI requests have put on climte science/scientists. Nature made the claim and as a science organization let them provide their data for making those claims – or can they also invoke: I am too busy to provide that data so you will just have take me at my word.

    • Calvin Ball
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:50 PM | Permalink

      When someone or something is criticized on your side, instead of answering or affirming the criticism, you go on the offensive by attempting to put those who criticize in a bad light and effectively attempt to shift the debate.

      FWIW, the piece has 974 words. In it, I found the following counts of “fighting” words:

      Instances of “denial, denialist”, or variations: 8
      Instances of “conspire, conspiracy”, or variations: 3
      Instances of “theft or stolen”: 5
      Instances of “fringe or paranoid: 2

      I think that qualifies as circling the wagons.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

      It seems to me that you are applying a lot of double standards here.

      Before any action, of the kind which the editorial proposes, would be taken, the “harassment” would surely have to be quantified. It’s just an editorial. I don’t want editorials to be subject to “skeptic” engineering-style audits. If you disagree with them, you are always free to say so.

  76. hengav
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:32 PM | Permalink

    Here’s the rub.
    US scientist have not to my knowledge completed a full FOI request. They have, as a result of the FOIs made more data public now. But to argue like many others have here that it is ornerous is ridiculous. The CRU “leak” proves that it can be done. One of the interesting aspects of email archive is that the majority of the volume is taken up by data, not text. I am fairly confident that the majority of my work results exist in storage for the past 10 years, including all attatchments. Many times that is where I go first to find something quickly as the requests come from people who asked for it previously. My point is that it can be done, why it hasn’t in the US baffles me.

  77. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 1:50 PM | Permalink

    I’m not familiar with the colloquial term “coat-rack”.
    Someone kindly briefly splain that to me. (Sorry)

    • MJW
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

      Coat-racking is using the current subject under discussion as a springboard to talk about something else. (A technique used endlessly by politicians in political debates.) As Wikipedia says about coat-rack articles:

      A coatrack article is a Wikipedia article that ostensibly discusses the nominal subject, but in reality is a cover for a tangentially related biased subject. The nominal subject is used as an empty coatrack, which ends up being mostly obscured by the “coats”.

      • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

        aha! so in Wikipedia, I look up “Climategate” and am redirected to “Climatic Research Unit email hacking incident”.

        Wiki coatracks Climategate.

  78. TG
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    bender posted Dec 24, 2009 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | ReplyCoat-racking:

    It means using someone else’s specific argument as a platform to make pronpincements on some tangentially related pet peeve of your own. For example, Steve discusses Jones review of Mann and someone uses that to argue that the peer review system doesn’t work. Or Steve writes about a claim in a paper by Gavin Schmidt and I take that as an opportunity to complain about other things Schmidt has said. It makes for boring reading and detracts from a threaded strucutre, which is a very useful way to organize a lab notebook.
    Stop tossing your coat on my table as if it were a coat rack. If you do it, everyone else will follow.

    • P Gosselin
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:15 PM | Permalink

      Clear as a bell – thanks!
      My wife does that a lot. I call it conversation-jacking.

  79. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    The tone is clear. They’re saying the issue is settled – basta. If there ever was any doubt whether the IPCC is scientific or political…(self-snip).
    Note how the letter does not even ask scientitists to fully cooperate and show the world the data that underly their conclusions. Certainly provides cover for U.S. scientists to make their data hard to get.
    On it goes…

  80. Les Johnson
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM | Permalink

    I am considered an expert in my field, and I was constantly asked for information from internal users.

    Yes, it took up a lot of time. That is, until I posted all my data, and programs, on an internal company web site.

    All requests for information were then replied to, with the URL address, usually on the relevant bulletin boards.

    This process also improved the products. I had more users, with more feedback, and more suggestions.

    The higher level of expert scrutiny, also meant that I needed to better validate my products before posting them publicly.

    A classic feedback loop….

  81. Ken Harvey
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    I can fully understand how an organisation such as XXX could be totally overwhelmed by just one FOI request. If the organisation’s computer records are exceptionally untidy and juggling has been going on with the data, and the compiler’s are not confident regarding the “good” data and dare not release that which has been over homogenized, then, just that one request could reduce the organisation to bedlam. Just thinking.

  82. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:31 PM | Permalink

    Maybe someone in this thread has mentioned it, but it seems to me one salient factor has been ignored. That is, the purpose of FOIA in the first place. The purpose is to allow the public in general to have access to information produced by or at the behest of the government. It really doesn’t matter how easy or difficult it is for an organization that falls under the aegis of the act, though there are provisions for payment where the information is particularly costly to produce. The point is that all such organizations should be prepared for such requests and be prepared to fulfill them if necessary. The cost of doing so should be built into their overhead, and they shouldn’t need to have scientific journals write editorials on their behalf (or at their behest).

  83. MIchael Smith
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

    Odd, but prior to reading that Nature editorial, I’d never heard a single public complaint about the time climate researchers were spending fulfilling FOI requests from “denialists”.

    Does it state somewhere in the IPCC reports that the progress of climate science in proving the impending doom of our planet is being impeded by this shocking burden? I missed that part.

    • Bernie
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

      Michael: In line with the actual responses or non-responses to formal FOIA requests, there has been a long tradition among many climate scientists to defend the non-posting of data and code by claiming that preparing the code and data for an archive takes time away from primary research and besides such work is not funded. Your namesake, Michael Tobis, was for a brief while a frequent defender of this position here, at RealClimate and on his own web site
      Of course the argument was silly and ultimately Michael Tobis acknowledged that archiving code and data should be SOP.

  84. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    I must admit that if your response to FOI requests is to circle the wagons, duck for cover, hide behind excuses, run around in circles, gnash your teeth, cry, and dither, this could be quite tiring. So I guess Nature has a point.

  85. Norbert
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    As far as I know,, the collection of emails that constitutes “Climategate”, is only a set of carefully selected emails, not all the emails. (And, I’ve heard, mostly emails in which Phil Jones was either the sender or the recipient.)

    So how would the absence of mention of other FOI requests than Steve’s 3 requests (plus the unspecified number of UK requests in this subset of emails, prove that there are not more FOI requests on US researchers?

    Steve: Norbert, there’s a difference between evidence and proof. It is possible that there are relevant unreported FOI requests from Macavity the Cat and others (and, in that narrow sense), it is not proven that Macavity didn’t submit an FOI request. But there is no evidence of it.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

      To me it would seem more than likely that there have been other FOI requests. We already know that there other living persons who make FOI requests on Nasa (even though we don’t know whether or not that was before the editorial, one can safely assume that the person making that FOI request was already alive before the emails).

      You made no statement that you made a reasonable effort to find out if there have been other FOI requests, or that you have reason to believe that you would know about them. How would you know about your own claims, if they hadn’t been discussed in the emails?

      Steve: Norbert, please stop saying the same thing over and over. To date, I am unaware of anyone at realclimate or elsewhere having complained about other FOI requests. How would anyone know about my inquiries? Easy. They were documented at Climate Audit.

      • Michael Smith
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

        Norbert, I hope you are aware that the burden of proof rests with the person making the positive assertion.

        In the case at hand, Nature has asserted that “denialists inflict harassment on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US FOI”. They only evidence they’ve offered to support that assertion is the leaked CRU e-mails.

        So we are entitled to look at that evidence and decide whether or not it supports the assertion. And even if we accept your interpretation of Nature’s claim — that is, that the “yet again” language means that Nature is only citing the leaked e-mails as an example of a larger problem — the fact remains that said evidence does not support the assertion. The FOIs mentioned in the e-mails hardly constitute “harassment” or “endless, time-consuming demands”.

        So Nature’s claim is completely unsupported at this time — meaning, there is no basis for believing it to be true.

        There is no burden on us to look for any possible additional evidence — not cited by Nature — that might support Nature’s assertion. The burden is on them to do that.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:03 AM | Permalink

          Michael, I was planning not to comment on this topic any further, but I think your message deserves a response.

          First, I’d like to say that, in my understanding, editorials make many statements without providing evidence for each statement. In this case, the editorial merely claims that it has been highlighted (perhaps even indirectly), but not that the emails would provide the supporting evidence. An editorial is not a research paper.

          You are certainly entitled to say if you don’t believe the statement in the editorial to be correct, not being aware of any actual evidence. You could also object that the editorial is presenting things as if they can be taken for granted, when that isn’t the case.

          However, what doesn’t make sense is to claim as an actual fact (rather than just in the rhetorical sense of “I could equally claim”) that scientists are *not* unduly burdened by FOI requests, just because evidence to the contrary is not in the emails, or just because Nature has not provided contrary evidence, or just because your own personal FOI requests would be benign. At that point, it would be your turn to provide evidence, especially if you announce that you are “showing” that there is no unduly burden, in general.

          And last but not least: “often” does not necessarily mean “mostly”.

        • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

          Norbert, a scientist – most especially a publicly funded scientist, working in the field of climatology – definitively cannot be “unduly overburdened” by requests to “show their workings”, even if that burden results in the requester being forced down the FOI route. If you’d read the blog and comments thread, and paid attention to the same, you’d have been able to make this determination yourself.

          There are many problems with this Nature editorial, not least of which is that it accepts and reasserts the straw man of scientific burden of proof. Surely if the burden of proof that scientists have to bear is too great then one can only conclude that there must be some fundamental problem with the science that those scientists are burdened with proving.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

          Too good to be true.

        • Michael Smith
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

          Norbert, prior to reading that Nature editorial, I’d never heard a climate scientist complain about “endless, time consuming harassment” in the form of FOI requests from “denialists”. Not once.

          I HAVE heard them make all sorts of OTHER complaints about the “denialists”. They complain that the “denialists” “don’t publish in the peer reviewed literature” — they complain that they are “industry funded shills” — they complain that they “improperly and unjustly accuse climate scientists of fraud” — they complain that they “misrepresent the data” — they complain that they “take statements out of context” — etc.

          So, in the face of all that, the claim put forth by Nature that these climate scientists are having a major problem with “harassing, endless” FOI requests from “denialists” is hard to accept. When the alleged supporting evidence offered by Nature fails to support the claim, I am justified in concluding that it is false.

          If Nature or someone else comes up with evidence to the contrary, I’ll reconsider the issue — but all of the available evidence to this point, including the fact that none of these allegedly harrassed scientists came forth before the Nature editorial — convinces me it is false.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:13 PM | Permalink

          Michael, I think I have read the article the first time when Steve posted the link above, but in various forms I have already read many times that scientists were complaining about all kinds of requests (also including FOI requests).

          I can’t give you pointers, but I really have read that many times in various forms before the Nature article (however I started looking at this behind-the-scenes stuff only when the email debacle started).

        • ianl8888
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:17 PM | Permalink

          “debacle” for who, exactly ?

  86. jryan
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    In a startling turn of events, Nature released a second editorial today stating that they are unfairly burdened by the endless and time-consuming requests for copies of their journal…

  87. Keith Herbert
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    The article confuses an important distinction: 1) requests for data due to scientific process and journal requirements and 2) demands for data under the FOI.

    In either case, the writer must quantify “endless”. Do three requests constitute endless? six? fifty? And requested of how many scientists? again 3, 6 or 50? Without this information it is pure rhetoric.

    • jryan
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

      It’s even simpler than that, Keith. The problem that Mann and others are encountering is not one of scientific interference, but simply political interference.

      Not from Steven McIntyre, Anthony Watts, Jeff Id and others, but political interference that they themselves have imposed on their own work.

      Consider it this way: When Einstein published his theory of relativity he was actually interested in getting the science right. While he did spend the remainder of his days defending that theory is one fashion of another, he did not withhold his proofs to avoid review by non-scientists (probably because he wasn’t one of the science in-crowd when he published… but that’s simply an aside).

      Mann, Jones, Briffa, Hansen, and many others are simply not interested in defending their work because they have too much invested in being right, and they have too much invested due to the political maelstrom that they helped build — which is mild considering their culpability in the politics of AGW.

      The trouble is that politics is far more susceptible to bogus critiques than is the actual science. You don’t fear scientists rejecting your theory due to the influences of Rush Limbaugh. Indeed, they spent a great deal of time selling the scientific consensus for this very reason… and quite successfully for a lot of years.

      The actual science stands on it’s own while as the public perception — the politics — must be nurtured and treated with kid gloves. The Team wasn’t worried about the science, but the opinion. Unfortunately they were so worried about protecting their theory in the political arena that they completely forgot about the science in the scientific arena. They could no longer abide even the hint of doubt in the theory for fear of collapsing the political will.

      Finally, the types of pesky nuisances that the Team complain about — and who Nature describes, the Limbaughs, etc — do not need to be rebutted by Mann, Jones, and other scientists. Gratuitous assertions can be refuted by anyone willing to make a gratuitous rebuttal… and such rebuttals were numerous. What Steven McIntyre shined a light on was the science itself, which had the same effect on Jones, et al. as a field general turning around from battle line to find the enemy general sitting in his tent reading his maps and communiques.

      While it is true that many great scientists go down swinging in defense of the theory that made them famous, before now we haven’t had famous scientists refusing to engage in a fair fight over their theory at all. But the Team, as was often guessed but never claimed, was revealed in the CRU emails to be engaging in a deliberately unfair defense of their theories… stacking the “peer review” defense in their favor all while claiming to the public that they held the high ground due to the peer reviewed literature.

  88. george h
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

    I find Nature’s use of the term “denialist” in their editorial extremely offensive. Use of this demeaning term is clearly meant to imply that answering FOIAs is not just a burden to legitimate scientists but also a unnecessary waste of time. Let’s not question the great Oz.

  89. Leo G
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

    Hmmmmm, wouldn’t it just be easier, that if you are funded by the people, i.e. the government, then a simple stipulation that ALL of your work after publication must be uploaded to the ‘net?

  90. W F Lenihan
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    The purpose of FOIAs is to insure transparency and full disclosure of every aspect of government research and administration. In keeping with applicable laws and scientific methodology, all scientists working for the government and/or supported by government research grants need to disclose the data, meta data, and computer code that underlies their research and analysis when it is published. Their refusals make the burden of FOIA compliance self-inflicted. TS, no?

  91. KDK
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

    Regardless, aren’t FOIA requests given a certain amount of time to comply with? If so, as is the case, it cannot be accepted that they were not complied with. ALL and EVERY FOIA request to a company could use that same excuse, making FOIA meaningless… wouldn’t it?

    The fact is: FOIA is legal and it was not completed by a number of agencies..

    Just my opinion.

  92. templar knight
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    I thought it was the law. Enough said.

  93. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    A new editorial from Oz notes that the Great Wizard is hardly able to work due to the incessant pulling at the curtain by a little dog…it is suggested that he needs more funds to keep the curtain closed.

  94. David Longinotti
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:16 PM | Permalink


    In arguing that the FOI requests weren’t onerous, you’re implicitly accepting Nature’s premise that scientists are justified in not responding to FOI requests if such requests are time-consuming or otherwise interfere with their work. This is an error. There is no such exception in the FOI act. Scientists are legally obligated to provide the requested information – end of story. While there are nine exceptions in the bill regarding the information that must be provided, none has anything remotely to do with the inconvenience of providing the requested data.

    Steve: I am not “implicitly accepting” their premise. I am arguing an alternative: that in this particular the actual compliance wasn’t onerous. BTW FOI legislation does not typically require institutions to do onerous searches and, if something onerous was required, it would probably require a different approach.

    • David Longinotti
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

      I looked more deeply into the US FOIA and its amendments. From my reading, US agencies are legally required to provide to US citizens, within no more that 30 days and in electronic format, the sorts of databases that are of interest here.

      There are no exceptions based on amount of data requested, but a delay of 10 days (in addition to the normal 20 day turnaround) is allowed for “unusual circumstances” that include:

      “(II) the need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request“

      Regarding the electronic provision of data: “For records created on or after November 1, 1996, within one year after such date, each agency shall make such records available, including by computer telecommunications or, if computer telecommunications means have not been established by the agency, by other electronic means.”

      Regarding data bases, the 2007 amendment to the FOIA specifically addresses data sources used to generate reports: “each agency shall make the raw statistical data used in its reports available electronically…”

      I believe the law supports your request. If so, the Nature editorial is encouraging scientists to act illegally.

  95. Harry Eagar
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    Here is the totality of what the very angry Stephen Schneider has to say about abusive FOI requests in his recently published ‘Science as a Contact Sport.’

    Sometimes absence of evidence IS evidence of absence:

    “Ben Santer, still at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, did not want to spend his time making his line-by-line computer program accessible to public perusal. He knew – and obviously so did his attackers – that the programming codes would be virtually useless to any one trying to replicate his results. The beauty of systems science is that we come to conclusions through independent efforts that confirm one another – it’s not merely a matter of rerunning someone else’s computer code or models. We like independent groups using independent models coded by each separate group to try the same experiments or look at the same data set, and if reasonably conforming, we increase our confidence in the conclusions. Personal codes are so idiosyncratic to the programmers that it could take months to explain them to others who could, in much shorter time, do an independent audit by building their own code using the same equations or data sets. The National Science Foundation has asserted that scientists are not required to present their personal computer codes to peer reviewers and critics, recognizing how much that would inhibit scientific practice.

    “A serial abuser of legalistic attacks was Stephen McIntyre, a statistician who had worked in Canada for a mining company. I had had a similar experience with McIntyre when he demanded that Michael Mann and colleagues publish all their computer codes for peer-reviewed papers previously published in Climatic Change. The journal’s editorial board supported the view that the replication efforts do not extend to personal computer codes, with all their undocumented subroutines. It’s an intellectual property issue as well as a major drain on scientists’ productivity, an opinion with which the National Science Foundation concurred, as mentioned.

    ‘Ben Santer was on the verge of quitting the Livermore Lab over this pernicious attack – it would have been a great loss to climate science. He worked for the Department of Energy, and it would have been admirable if the DOE had stepped in and informed McIntyre that his request was unreasonable. DOE, still under the Bush Administration at that time, did not. The Obama Administration, however, appears poised to fight these battles side by side with concerned scientists. Time will tell how it turns out.”

    • Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

      Schneider certainly writes good entertainment. In his interpretation of scientific method, it seems that if several witches were to cast runes and make similar predictions as a result, their prophecies could feasibly be entered into science as “the consensus”. Personally, I don’t hold with that. An experiment must at least be independently replicable. If it isn’t, it’s just postulation, and that’s simply not acceptable.

      “Programming codes” (lawl!) are mathematical routines, not a private or personal diary. There is very little reason to explain it, even if it’s uncommented (which I hope it’s not, I’m paying for this stuff), because the subroutines should be purposeful and self-explanatory. By asking for the programming code, rather than an explanation of the actions performed on the data, I’d say that SteveM was doing the climatologists a favour. When a friend asks me how I “did” something, I invariably send them the function’s code rather than compose a step-by-step explanation of the procedure, even if I’ve been particularly slack and not commented the code. They can figure out how I did it themselves by seeing my code, and they invariably do.

    • John M
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:25 PM | Permalink

      The Obama Administration, however, appears poised to fight these battles side by side with concerned scientists.

      You know, there’s an old joke about a farmer, a stubborn jackass, and a two-by-four. What will it take with these guys?

      Click to access m10-06.pdf

      Of course, following Norbert and Suzanne’s leads, we need to scour these openness directives for loopholes the scientists can hide behind. Especially the “concerned” ones.

    • Chris
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:42 PM | Permalink

      As someone who has written considerable code I find Schneider’s position completely absurd. What happens if some other researcher doesn’t replicate your results and no one knows why? Of course the original can then just claim (as the hockey team did numerous times) that the person(s) trying to replicate their work “just didn’t understand” it.

      Replication/validation requires ALL material used to arrive at a conclusion. Since we’re not talking about private IP rights here there’s no reason to hide computer code or anything else. The argument:

      We like independent groups using independent models coded by each separate group to try the same experiments or look at the same data set, and if reasonably conforming, we increase our confidence in the conclusions. Personal codes are so idiosyncratic to the programmers that it could take months to explain them to others who could, in much shorter time, do an independent audit by building their own code using the same equations or data sets.

      does not hold water when you consider that a truly independent and thorough reviewer will likely write some of his own code anyway. Seeing how it was done originally actually makes it more likely that this will occur rather than less likely.

      If a scientist’s code is so novel and/or ingenious he could apply for a patent to protect it prior to release. If not the only reason to hide it appears to be fear of someone finding its flaws.

      Steve: let;s leave this issue for its own post. There is much interesting Climategate context for this.

    • John M
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

      snip – political reference

      • John M
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:09 PM | Permalink


        That “political reference” was Obama’s directive on openness in government, including FOI standards.

        OMB just issued a detailed memo delineating the responsibilities of government entities. That’s what my links are to.

  96. R.S.Brown
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 4:43 PM | Permalink


    Your second FOI request to NOAA was logged into their weekly summaries of FOI requests,
    and they dated it for 06/04/07.

    It shows up in a summary of NOAA FOI requests from September 29, 2005 to June 28, 2007 on
    this site:

    Click to access FOIA_Logs_NOAA_FY2006-07.pdf

    Between your request and the 20th of June, there were five other separate requests by five other individuals (at least two of them CA readers) for the same or similar information.

    For the rest of the report through June 28, 2007, no pesky requests for data, models, or codes.

    Prior to this, going back to September of 2005, I see one request for their SLOSH computer model, one for their OB6 code and one for GIS compatible climate data. On November 14, 2005 a UCAR employee requested the source code for the D2D component of AWIPS. None from you or known CA folk.

    Throughout this period NOAA was awash with FOI requests concerning their various contracts, proposals, suppliers, employees, but NOT for onerous amounts of data, code, or programs.

    P.S. If you’re going to send me off to Unthreaded Land, or just delete me, please let me know why.


    Steve: this is empirical information. I like this sort of comment.

    • UpNorthOutWest
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

      Gasp! So, if I have this correct, the climate scientists were inundated with less than 10 FOIA requests over two years?

      And several of them could have been responded to by providing the same compiled information?

      How could they ever get a thing done under such a burden?

      While that’s comical enough, taking a further step back and realizing these are scientists we’re talking about — the people who are supposed to provide their data and methodologies and allow skeptics to pick them apart to see if they hold up — makes it even more funny/sad.

      Steve: No, it;s even less than that. Six requests were for IPCC Review Comments and were made to the NOAA administration. No climate scientist had to lift a finger. All became moot when IPCC more or less lived up to its obligations by archiving REview Comments (“confidential” Review Comments remain an issue.)

    • Phil
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

      Between your request and the 20th of June, there were five other separate requests by five other individuals (at least two of them CA readers) for the same or similar information.

      Probably only 4. One appears to have been a duplicate as shown on pages 8 and 11.

    • ErnieK
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

      Very interesting. Do you know if is there is any similar document showing the deposition of these FOI requests. I wonder if Greenpeace received any of the cilmategate emails before the rest of the world did.

      “Received on 02/23/2006, from Hayden Llewellyn, Greenpeace USA, request for “all NOAA emails beginning January 1,2005 to December 31st, 2005, that contain one ofthe terms “climate change” or “global warming” and one ofthe terms “hurricane,” “cyclone,” tropical stonn” or “named stonn.” “

      • IainG
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:50 PM | Permalink

        Sorry, I know it’s OT, but…

        I suspect Greenpeas would have been out of luck on that request. “Stonn” just happens to be a Vulcan name (Google it!) You don’t suppose they mean’t “tropical storm” and “named storm” do you?

  97. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:06 PM | Permalink

    R.S. Brown at Dec 29 4.43 has an excellent comment referring to NOAA logs of FOI requests. The logs show that 5 CA readers also requested IPCC Review Comments; these requests, like mine, became moot when IPCC decided to live up to their responsibilities by making the Review Comments available online. Perhaps the fact that requests were made by others helped IPCC do the right thing. In any event, U.S. climate scientists were not inconvenienced by these requests.

    As reader RS Brown observes, the NOAA record for 2007 does not show an endless accumulation of requests. I turn up twice – both of which were reported in my head post. Reader Brown reports that he did not notice relevant inquiries going back to 2005.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

      Thanks steve. So I downloaded it and found my request. They for kicks I started to search around for others..

      Greenpeace, Associated press, who really burdened people?

      JeffRuch Of a public Employee union. He’s got more requests than you. Including requests for all emails containing words like climate change, scientists talking to the press.

      Context context context. people need to put your requests in context with all the other requests. So folks can check on wildlife organizations, etc.

      have fun folks

    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:59 PM | Permalink

      SteveM, et al.,

      Here is a handle on another 3 years (FY2003, FY2004, FY2005) of NOAA FOIA request logs:

      Click to access noaa_fy2003.pdf

      Click to access noaa_fy2004.pdf

      Click to access noaa_fy2005.pdf

      These appear to be physical copies of the actual agency intake logs.

      I haven’t had the time to dig through them. Since the information
      is hand written, it may take extra time to figure what a particular
      request was really about.

      For the life of me, I can’t get into the Department of Commerce’s
      NOAA FOIA request case file for 2008.

      Good hunting !

    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:12 AM | Permalink


      OK. I’ve waded through the roughly 565 FOI requests logged in through NOAA in their
      Fiscal Year 2002-03 using:

      Click to access noaa_fy2003.pdf

      Other than reviews of documents, there’s not all that many requests for NOAA/NWS weather
      information except one for weather conditions in Hawaii (for the year, I guess), a bunch
      of requests that are date and place specific, and a quarterly request (repeated in each
      quarter through 2007) for weather for Huntington, West Virginia, filed by a law firm from
      that city.

      There were no requests for raw data production, station or temperature database information,
      codes, programs, or much of anything that might have gone to researchers that entire
      fiscal year.

      One side note, Request #2003-00494 dated 08-11-03, was filed by one “Revkin, Andrew”, for:
      “Copies of Review Comments for the Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan.”. This didn’t
      go to the scientists either… unless they got an internal “heads up” that someone was looking.

      Good night.

      Steve: THanks for this summary!

    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:41 AM | Permalink


      Doing a quick review of the NOAA FOIA case logs for their FY 2003-2004 shows roughly 480 FOI requests reported for between 10-01-03 and 09-27-04 at:

      Click to access noaa_fy2004.pdf

      There one can find:

      Request #2004-00090 of 11/18/03 asked for “River ice conditions –Calumet River, Il. 1992 – 2003.”, This was logged as fulfilled on “11/18/3”.

      Request #2004-00097 of 11-18-03 requests “A copy of the latest Linux AWIPS distribution & source software.” The form indicates this was fulfilled on “12-19-03”

      On 12-08-03 FIOA Request #2004-000125 asked for “Historic weather data records, hydrologic data & storm surge data for the past decade.”. There was no note indicating this was limited to a specific place or region. The request was indicated as having been fulfilled on “12/8/03”.

      Request #2004-00331 of 04/01/04 requested “Winter season’s temperature[s] between the months of December [2003] and March 2004. (There’s no note indicating this was a place specific request.) The request was noted as fulfilled “4-12-04”.

      Request #2004-00547 of 08/25/04 asked for “A copy of the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) program that computes storm surge heights from tropical storms. They indicate the request was fulfilled on “9/20/04”.

      It looks like these requests came from average citizens, with each of the above requests noted as “fulfilled’.

      It appears that during NOAA’s Fiscal Year 2003/04 there weren’t any FOIA requests relating to weather station data or temperatures that would have been impinged upon the valuable NOAA scientists’/researchers’ time to help formulate a response.

    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Permalink


      A review of the NOAA FOIA request case log covering the
      roughly 532 requests in the period 10-05-05 through 09-29-05
      for FY 2004-05 reported at:

      Click to access noaa_fy2005.pdf

      yielded no requests for raw weather station or
      temperature databases, no one asking for code
      or programs and norequests for meta-data that
      was used for GISS or other regional or continental climate
      descriptions or modeling efforts.

      There were five separate requests covering the NOAA 2004
      FOIA request logs. These were all “fulfilled” within 60 days
      or less.

      Request #2005-00450 entered on 08/05/05 from Mr. Hayden
      Llewellyn of Greenpeace asked for, “Copy of all documents
      on “Climate change” or “global warming” and “hurricane” or
      “tropical storm” or [“]named storm”, from Jan. 1, 2001 to
      August 4, 2005.”, The request was marked “fulfilled on

      There seemed to be more interest in who held credit cards
      and who got contracts than anything else.

  98. Nigel
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    Exclusive Interview with Dr. Philip Campbell, 2009-12-03 16:20:33:

    “Dr Philip Campbell is the Editor-in-Chief of Nature, the world prominent scientific journal. He takes direct editorial responsibility for the content of Nature’s editorials, especially on the current hot topic—climate change. As the Copenhagen climate summit is scheduled to be held in a few days’ time, our reporter Wang Wenwen talked with him on this issue.”

  99. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

    Here’s the record from R. S. Brown’s citation above:

    Received on 06/04/2007, from Stephen Mcintyre, private citizen, request for specific records concerning the Second Order Draft and the Final Draft ofthe Fourth Assessment Report ofthe International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I and all annotated responses to such comments by Chapter Lead Authors.

    Received on 06/11/2007, from Joe Sumrall, private citizen, request for specific records regarding the Second Order Draft and the Final Draft ofthe Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (lPCC) Working Group I.

    Received on 06/11/2007, from Steven Mosher, private citizen, request for specific records regarding review comments on the Second Order Draft and the Final Draft ofthe Fourth Assessment Report ofthe International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I.

    Received on 06/13/2007, from Warwick Hughes, private citizen, request for specific records relating to Working Group I review comments by NOAA – International Panel Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.

    Received on 06/20/2007, from James Randolph, private citizen, request for specific records concerning the Second Order Draft and the Final Draft of the Fourth Assessment Report ofthe International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1.

    Now, to me, as the guy in our company who answers this type of request from various government agencies, this is just another day in the life. In fact it is far easier for them than for me to avoid this problem, because what has been requested is what should already have been made public — the review comments for the drafts of the IPCC FAR. There is a discussion of the IPCC’s egregious flouting of their own rules here and here. If the people involved had followed their own procedures regarding honesty and transparency, there would have been no need for any FOIA requests at all. Instead, they hid their actions and concealed their data, and now they want us to feel sorry for them because they have to dig it out … sorry, no sympathy from me. Despite Susann’s claim that the scientists are poor overworked victims, in fact they are like the guy who killed his parents and then asked the judge for leniency because he was an orphan … bad scientists, no cookies.

    Next, all five of the requests were for the same thing, the reviewer’s comments on WG1. So to claim that there is some huge burden here is nonsense. Make up one package, send it to all five requesters, and keep going. Total time, a couple hours. How long does it take to search emails for a particular word or phrase?

    But this whole claim that the FOIA is burdensome is a red herring. It is burdensome for the company I work for to keep a whole host of different records regarding safety, finance, employee complaints and many other aspects of the business. It is even more burdensome to dig out and produce these records when requested by one of a number of government agencies with a legal right to make these types of requests.

    So??? The government has the legal right to request them, regardless of the burden it places on us. That’s the law.

    And the same kind of law applies to government employees, regardless of the burden. They are obliged to keep and produce records of what they have done. The purpose of the law is clear — to bring sterilizing sunlight into the dark recesses of government when the employees, as in this case, try to hide what they have done.

    So no, I have absolutely no sympathy with the argument that the FOIA places a burden, onerous or otherwise, on climate scientists. If they simply followed the practices which other scientific disciplines follow as a matter of course, there would be no need for anyone to file an FOIA and there would be no burden of any kind. They were hoist by their own petard, and frankly, Scarlett and Susann, I don’t give a damn … and neither should Nature.


    • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:51 PM | Permalink

      Willis, strange detail… all the requests were “received” on the 6th day of the month. Were such issues only examined once a month?

      • Ian Castles
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

        No, the dates were recorded US-style – so all requests are recorded as received in the sixth month of the year, i.e. on 4, 11, 13 and 20 June 2007. And all five requests are recorded as having referred to the International (sic) Panel on Climate Change.

      • Earle Williams
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

        Lucy, you may recall that in the US dates are typically noted as month/day/year. These were all received in June of 2007.

      • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

        My bad. English dating system puts day of month first.

        However, looking at the NOAA FOIA logs, there are a total of 6 FOIA requests (Randolph twice) in a single month which had over 60 requests total, and that seemed like the normal rate of requests.

        6 FOIA requests out of 60. Over the timespan of nearly 2 years, a total of well over 1000, and though I didn’t examine all carefully, the majority are clearly totally unrelated and we hear nothing of them, even though some seem to have a lot more requests in the fire.

        Interesting, I did notice Chris Horner had 3 FOIA requests in the same time period. Still, the total re Climate Science looks like it is in the order of 1 in every 100 requests.

  100. Bill
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:07 PM | Permalink

    An excellent analysis Steve. I will take it one step further. The number of requests for data is not relevant. This is the 21st century – not the 1950’s. Data is no longer recorded in record books requiring manual transcription each time a request is made for access to the data – it is electronic. The data could be made available to anyone via transferring the data files to an open ftp folder and this could have been done easily within a half day. One might argue that the data had to first be organized. Given that the data was consistently used in their models, it should already be organized. Furthermore, Nature has no creditability when discussing issues involving Global Warming.

  101. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

    Another NOAA FOI request:

    Received on 06/12/2006, from T. J. Faircloth, Greenpeace USA, request for documents since January 2005 pertaining to OAR/GFDL staff and NOAA Press Officials or Administrators concerning the link between their climate phenomena research and human induced greenhouse gasses, etc.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 7:07 PM | Permalink

      ya I found that one as well. Search on PEER. I gotta run be back later

  102. Brian Macker
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 8:21 PM | Permalink

    Reading the CRU emails it sounded like they were willing to do extra work beyond what was required by the FOI requests in order to make the data harder to process, and to yank out portions of the data. So they seem to have lots of time on their hands when they are obfuscating.

  103. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

    The complaints about FOIA requests are especially ironic in light of this rebuttal from Mann, etc. (PDF)

    Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley, Malcolm K. Hughes
    The recent paper by McIntyre and McKitrick (Energy and Environment, 14, 751-771, 2003) claims to be an “audit” of the analysis of Mann, Bradley and Hughes (Nature, 392, 779-787, 1998) or “MBH98”. An audit involves a careful examination, using the same data and following the exact procedures used in the report or study being audited. McIntyre and McKitrick (“MM”) have done no such thing, having used neither the data nor the procedures of MBH98. Thus, it is entirely understandable that they do not obtain the same result. . .

    Heads I win, tails you lose . . .

  104. WHR
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:58 PM | Permalink

    If they are so taxed for time, perhaps they need to shut down “RealClimate” and get to work. I see a lot of climate researchers wasting tax dollars congregating on that peanut gallery site.

  105. WHR
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    How can FOI requests tax their time when they never replied or complied to/with them? An analogy: My in-box probably has 200 spam e-mails that I never opened or deleted. (Yes I’m bad about that). I can’t rightly claim that the e-mails have burdened my time when I’ve done nothing but ignore them. This doesn’t mean I appreciate getting spam, but my complaint can’t logically be time-burden related.

  106. Stephen Smith
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:51 PM | Permalink

    snip – policy

  107. Don Jordan
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

    These climate scientists can whine all they want about the “endless, time-consuming demands” placed on them by FOIA requests. As long as the charlatans in the climate change industry use their science as the pretense to tax the American people into a state of third-world poverty, then they better darn well be able to prove their case to the general public–and provide all of their raw data too.

  108. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

    Norbert, you say:

    As if it would be difficult to understand that scientists don’t seem to be all that happy about getting this very specific interest from people who try to prove they are producing nothing but crap (by definition).

    Norbert, I find it difficult to believe that you still fall for this nonsense. This is the well-know Phil Jones defense. He infamously said to Warwick Hughes “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” It has been discussed and demolished so many times that I’ve lost count, but you are like Chucky, “He’s baaack”, raised from the dead to bring us the hot news from yesteryear.

    The answer to your tiresome repetition of Phil’s objection, of course, is “Because that’s the heart of how science works”. In fact, scientists should give their data and methods to their worst enemies. Because support from your friends and acolytes means nothing, but if your worst enemies can’t show that you are “producing nothing but crap”, you’re home free.

    Anyone who is unhappy that scientists are trying to find fault with his/her work is by definition not a scientist themself. One scientist trying to poke holes in another scientist’s theories is the core, the essential part, of the scientific process. Without that part, without scientists trying to show that somebody is producing junk, the scientific system doesn’t work.

    While I can see that you don’t understand this, there is no need to parade your lack of understanding as some kind of badge of honor … do your homework, reanimating arguments that are long dead and buried just makes you just look foolish.

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

      I think you are missing (or don’t know) three things:

      a) I’m in favor of publishing data (and code, where feasible).

      b) It was obvious to me that this is a component in the whole story long before I read the quote from Jones the first time.

      c) In science itself, there are no “enemies”. However, speaking in general, “enemies” can cause a scientist a lot of trouble, for example by gaming the system, which has surely happened throughout the history of science.

      • TerryMN
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

        for example by gaming the system,

        Indeed. This is the reason for the FOIA requests in particular, and climategate in general.

  109. John Slayton
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

    Last summer, as a part of the surfacestations project, I attempted to locate the USHCN station in Red Lodge, Montana. The station had been moved. The last observer didn’t know its current location, but he put me in touch with the Billings NOAA office. That office refused to disclose the current location, so I filed a FOI request and shortly thereafter recieved a notice that NOAA had 30 days to make the information available. The current location is now available at MMS. I suppose one could make the claim that they were going to do so anyway, but I would point out that this station move occured in May of 2007, and had not been posted over two years later.

    As far as demanding time: If, as I suspect, the Billings people had the information at their fingertips and could have given it to me over the phone in seconds, then who is responsible for wasting people’s time–mine, the FOIA people, and, yes, NOAA’s staff. Go figure…

  110. emelks
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    The editorial makes perfect sense when one understands the underlying premise. The editor(s) consider(s) this group of individuals to be more than scientists, more than people–they’re priests preaching the dogma of a pseudo-religion. No one demands the Pope release his notes on an encyclical. Why should anyone dare demand the data and processes relevant to the dogma of “climate change?” That is heresy, and the climate changers won’t tolerate heresy.

    Of course, I refute the premise.

  111. DCC
    Posted Jan 4, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    The chronology is a bit confusing. If the data was posted in January, 2009, why are there two references to October, 2009, as “in late October 2009, I emailed Santer.”

    Should these be October, 2008?

    Steve: Yes. typo.

  112. Julian Constantine
    Posted Jan 10, 2010 at 4:30 AM | Permalink

    I fully support your requests for data from the climate scientists.The Climategate emails show definite weaseling as do the explanations for them.I personally retain some doubts as to the causes and dynamics of climate change.There are various simple stats that serve to illustrate this position.Firstly the fact of paleohistorical warming and cooling trends and secondly the example of Mt Pinotubo,which was cited as having produced more greenhouse gases in it’s most recent eruption than had been produced by all industry since the industrial revolution.

    • DCC
      Posted Jan 10, 2010 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

      snip – responding to OT comment

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