“Building Trust” and FOI Refusals

Judy Curry has written many posts on “climate communications”, linking to a small academic industry to which Andy Revkin, Keith Kloor and others pay attention to. Whenever I read one of these articles, I cannot help thinking that academic concepts of “communication” are forged far too much by their day-to-day experience with essentially captive audiences of students, and not enough from experience with customers or investors, i.e. adults with other interests and opportunities not subject to control or grading.

I’ll reflect on this in connection with the most recent East Anglia refusal of my FOI request for the Yamal regional chronology referred to in a Climategate email of April 2006.

One of Judy’s recent posts reflected on an article by Jean Goodwin entitled “GOOD REASONS FOR TRUSTING CLIMATE SCIENCE”. Goodwin:

In this paper, we therefore aim to supplement previous discussions of appeals to peripheral processing with a discussion of how climate scientists can give their audiences good reasons for trust, thus appealing to their audiences’ central processing/critical thinking. What are good reasons for trust? This has been the subject of significant recent scholarship in philosophy, political theory, and argumentation theory. These fields use humanistic methods such as conceptual analysis and pragmatic reconstruction to build theories of the kinds of reasons for trust which are likely to survive even harsh critical scrutiny. While social scientific methods can show us what heuristics audiences in fact are using–an empirical question–philosophical methods can show us what reasons audiences ought to accept as good–a normative or value question.

I must say that I was less impressed than Judy by this article -I think that she tends to be over-impressed by philosophical jargon, but that’s another story. (And, for my sins, I actually took philosophy courses at Oxford, then a leading center of philosophy.)

Goodwin observed (in my opinion) platitudinously that

“It has long been recognized that the impact of any message is in part due to the trust the recipients place in the messenger.

She provides a variety of footnotes to social science literature as documentation, but the point is kindergarten to anyone with experience in practical affairs. I’m sure that one could find more compelling citations in classical literature as in recent social science journals.

Judy’s recent post linked back to an exchange between her and Willis Eschenbach in the early days of Climategate that (I think) illustrates the difference between the approach of an academic (though in Judy’s case, she manages a large department and is very practical) and a business person (though in Willis’ case, his academic interests are an important part of his life), an exchange in which both parties were polite to one another.

Judy argued that the rebuilding trust was primarily a matter of “better communication”:

To rebuild trust, climate scientists need to better communicate their ideas to the public, particularly regarding uncertainty. The blogosphere can be valuable in this regard.

Willis, on the other hand, took a position that anyone in business understands: if someone is dishonest with you in business, you are never going to trust them again. That’s just the way it is. You may have no alternative other than to deal with them, but you’ll never trust them. Nor does it mean that everything that they say is wrong. It just means that you will no longer believe them on their word. And honesty in Willis’ world means (in my terminology) “full, true and plain disclosure”. Willis rebuked the climate “community” for standing by when Jones famously refused Warwick Hughes’ data request:

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

Willis also criticized institutions like NAS and AAAS for their failure to police itself when confronted with such conduct. (Actually, Ralph Cicerone of NAS did not merely stand by; in establishing the terms of reference of the NAS panel in 2006, he sabotaged examination of this issue, an issue that the Science Committee had asked to be examined.)

Willis’ quotation left out the next sentence, which is important for today’s post (see here):

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it? There’s IPR [intellectual property rights] to consider.

I will return to supposed “intellectual property rights” and CRU below.

Goodwin briefly departed from academic jargon with one suggestion for trying to move the debate forward by suggesting that climate scientists voluntarily assume “extra responsibility” as follows:

A simple instance of this practical logic is the used car dealer who can reasonably be suspected of peddling lemons, but who succeeds in persuading some customers to buy by offering an extended guarantee. This enforceable undertaking of extra responsibility creates for his audience a new reason to trust him…

I don’t think that Goodwin necessarily understood the connection of this point to the battleground issue of data obstruction by climate scientists. If she did, she didn’t mention the connection in her article. However, if CRU doesn’t want to be suspected of “peddling lemons”, to borrow Goodwin’s term, they cannot at the same time refuse to produce data on the grounds of “IPR”.

Earlier this year, I submitted an FOI request for the Yamal/Polar Urals regional chronology referred to in a Climategate email of April 2006. Obviously this chronology should have been obtained and examined by Muir Russell and/or Oxburgh but it wasn’t. In my FOI request, I asked for (1) the URALS regional chronology referred to in the email; (2) a list of identifiers for the measurement data sets used in the calculation (3) a list of the measurement data sets used in the “long” Polar Urals chronology referred to in the email.

In their first refusal, CRU/UEA refused all three on the grounds that (1) the chronology and the lists of sites were “incomplete” i.e. works in progress (even though the chronology had not been altered since 2006; (2) that the chronology and lists of sites were “intellectual property” and disclosing this intellectual property to me would adversely affect the ability of CRU/UEA to get grants and publish articles in prestigious journals; (3) identifiers for the various sites were among the sites listed at the NOAA Paleo website and/or Russian websites.

In their most recent refusal of my appeal, they continued to refuse to provide the regional chronology and list of sites for the regional chronology but abandoned some of the previous arguments. The ICO recently ruled in the CRUTEM applications of Jonathan Jones and Don Keiller that an institution could not, in effect, say that the site identifiers were somewhere in the London telephone book. In my appeal, Colam-French acknowledged that saying that the identifiers were somewhere on the internet did not qualify as an FOI exemption. (Nor should it have been presented as such in the first place.)

Colam-French also acknowledged that CRU’s refusal to identify the sites in the “long” Polar Urals chronology was bogus. Here my interest was whether they had included the additional Polar Urals measurement data set that became available in 1999 (referred to in Climategate emails to Briffa) and which, when incorporated, resulted in a noticeable MWP (as reported at CA a number of years ago. In their original refusal, they had said that this list was “incomplete” and “intellectual property”. It turns out that these assertions were untrue. According to the new information, the “long” 2006 Polar Urals data set used in the regional chronology did not include the additional Polar Urals measurement data that Briffa was told about in 1999. They said that it was just the data used in the 1995 study, after all, and abandoned the previous excuses of the list being “incomplete” and “intellectual property”.

On the list of sites used in the URALS regional chronology, they abandoned their claim that this was “incomplete”, but continued to insist that it was “intellectual property” and exempt from FOI on those grounds.

As to the URALS regional chronology, they argued both that it was intellectual property and that it was “incomplete”. They argued that a chronology was “incomplete” unless accompanied by metadata, including measurement data. (Given past refusals by CRU/UEA to archive measurement data for their prominent chronologies for Taimyr, Tornetrask and Yamal, it seems to me that this excuse is total hypocrisy, but that’s a story for another day.) In this particular case, however, they have elsewhere said that the measurement data is already online and that the list of sites is complete. ICO policy is rather unsympathetic to incompleteness excuses where the incompleteness can be easily remedied by providing the associated metadata. This excuse seems unlikely to be sustained.

The key argument is then “intellectual property” – the same argument that Jones referred to back in 2005 in refusing Warwick Hughes.

CRU/UEA have now undertaken to report the 2006 regional chronology as part of an article planned for late 2012 and argue that disclosure of the 2006 regional chronology at present would have a direct adverse impact on their ability to publish their results in a prestigious journal. (They don’t explain why this information would be so adverse, while their October 2009 web article wouldn’t, but again that is a different story.) In my opinion, the 2006 regional chronology should have been reported as part of Briffa et al 2008 (from which the present dispute originates.)

In my appeal, I’ll argue all of the above points.

However, for the purposes of today’s post, let’s consider CRU’s reliance on the IPR exemption and its relation to the problem of “trust” in CRU. I’ll be perfectly frank about my own attitude towards them: I no longer “trust” anything from CRU/University of East Anglia. That doesn’t mean that I assume that it’s “wrong” – just that I don’t trust it. Moreover, I do not expect anything from them (or from obvious others) to be “full, true and plain disclosure”; I expect everything to be parsed like the fine print of a contract with an unscrupulous leasing company. Buyer beware. That’s the problem for the climate “community” with the many readers of climate blogs and, in my opinion, is at the heart of the problem with the wider community. And, as Willis observed, once trust is forfeited, it’s not easily regained. And it’s foolish to think that it can be regained merely by telling the “story” in a more forceful way,

And if they want to “rebuild trust”, hiding their 2006 Yamal regional chronology on the grounds of “IPR” is a bad way to go about it.

If there were any adult supervision in the climate community, it would start, not with polysyllabic ruminations about climate communications, but with practical measures to stop pointlessly counterproductive conduct by members of the community. The first thing that any business lawyer would ask a corporation in a similar dispute is: even if you’re right about FOI and IPR, is there any point to getting into this fight? How do you expect to win trust, when you’re refusing to show the data? why not give them the data voluntarily even if you’re not obliged under FOI (which you might be anyway)? And is this really a good case to take a stand on? Maybe you’ll lose and the precedent will hurt you in cases that you might have won.

Of any institution in the world right now, CRU has the least justification and right to engage in obstructive FOI litigation. It should be the climate “community” – not climate blogs – that should be dissuading this madness.

However, as Willis observed, the community stands mute. None of them wrote to Michael Mann or Phil Jones six years to urge them to provide data and none of them are writing to CRU now. It’s time for them to write East Anglia and urge them to come to their senses. Tell them to provide data that they’re asked for without fighting it every inch of the way.


  1. mitchel44
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

    No different than any large organization, deny, delay, deflect and wait until legal action is taken before doing anything.

    Sad, but they all seem the same, governments, corporations, Universities….

  2. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:20 PM | Permalink

    Steve, well done. You captured my issues exactly. The issue is not building trust, it is getting past totally blown trust … and that is both a different and a harder task.

    A question. Are they claiming IPR on behalf of the individual scientist(s), or on behalf of the University? And do we know what the UEA contracts say on the matter? I find the general regs here:


    2. It is the policy of the University that wherever possible and practicable Intellectual Property which arises in the course of work undertaken by staff or students of the University (“University Intellectual Property”) should be exploited for the benefit of users and for the generation of revenue for the University and the individuals involved.

    In any case, a well laid out discussion. My thanks.


    • Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 11:47 PM | Permalink

      In forward thinking organizations there is a push to either

      1. declare IPR and generate cash from it YESTERDAY Or
      2. openly publish stuff you are unwilling to follow course #1 on.

      That gets people off their asses. If tey are unwilling to generate cash from it immediately, they have to open source it. Priorities get set correctly when guys realize they cant hoard data. Use it or lose it.

    • Speed
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

      The Scientist

      Criticism from academics and industry, and fewer deals being made: What’s going on?

  3. Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    In fairness, I think that Dr. Curry’s approach to communication and building trust is somewhat more nuanced than is represented by the quote you cited, Steve. Consider, for example, her observation earlier this year at Kloor’s:

    Climate scientists got lazy and thought communicating that there was a consensus among the scientists was sufficient to convince the public. Now they seem annoyed that this didn’t work and are blaming the journalists.

    But that aside …

    Of any institution in the world right now, CRU has the least justification and right to engage in obstructive FOI litigation. It should be the climate “community” – not climate blogs – that should be dissuading this madness.

    Hear! Hear! You’ve obviously been observing this scene much longer than I have; but even with my limited exposure to the antics of CRU (and the IPCC), I cannot fathom how (or why) so many supposedly intelligent adults could be such astoundingly slow learners.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

      I’m not saying that this is the sum total of Judy’s thoughts on the matter. I’m glad that she takes an interest in the topic and I’m interested in her posts on the topic. I picked on this one contrast not to be invidious, but more to illustrate what seemed to me to be a difference in perspective between the zero tolerance attitudes of Willis and myself towards people lying and, for us, the virtual impossibility of “rebuilding trust” in individual climate scientists who’ve lied to us.

      A defining moment in my own history in this field was when, in response to MM2003, Mann said that we had asked for an Excel spreadsheet, that errors had been introduced in the preparation of the Excel spreadsheet for us and that we should have checked with him to ensure that we hadn’t used the “wrong data”. His response was greeted with general hilarity in the “community”. However, he had lied on each component of his response.

      I had not asked for an Excel spreadsheet and had the emails to prove it. (CA readers know that I like to work with data in its original form and will not find this hard to believe. ) I had been directed to a file on Mann’s website that was dated nearly a year prior to our request; Mann then erased this data and the date evidence. In addition, I had emailed Mann prior to MM2003 asking him to confirm that this was indeed the data used in MBH98.

      The Climategate dossier showed that Tim Osborn at least was aware of the lies, as he counselled his CRU colleagues to be wary of defending Mann’s claims about the Excel files since I might produce the emails. Indeed, Ross and I did produce the emails, not that anyone in the “community” cared.

      Remarkably Mann repeated the lie about the Excel spreadsheet to the Penn State investigation when he probably could have got away with just saying that it was a long time ago and he didn’t remember, like so many business executives do when in trouble.

      It hadn’t occurred to me prior to that that a prominent and successful scientist would lie about something, especially when the lie could be easily proven. That doesn’t mean that everything that the scientist says or writes is “wrong” – only that I don’t trust it on his word or on the peer review of his pals.

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:37 AM | Permalink

        This clarifies the post and is important testimony in its own right.

        Whenever I’ve read Dr Curry in this mode I’ve given her the benefit of doubt in this sense: that she is using the latest language of academia to try to convince other academics. When in Rome and all that.

        But this raises a stark question. What matters more, convincing academics or convincing independent citizens with a good grasp of the science and maths or the ability and training to pick them up? If we ever arrived at a world when it only mattered convincing an academic elite then we’d have forfeited our freedom. That’s the stark answer I at once arrived at.

        That’s why I’m so deeply on Steve and Willis’s side in this matter. But not against Judy. Because at least she talks and debates with such representatives of the ordinary people as if they were her equals. That breaks the spell.

        • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:43 AM | Permalink

          Another thought follows at once, insisting on expression. Thank God for Ross McKitrick. Absolutely awesome, again and again. A light for many of what true academic excellence should mean in the future.

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:05 AM | Permalink

        Thanks for the clarification re Dr. Curry.

        I remember you highlighting Mann’s “recyling” of the Excel spreadsheet lie; it is precisely such “recycling” behaviour (and this is but one example, isn’t it?!) that led me to conclude that Mann (and the CRU crew) must be “slow learners”. How could they be so oblivious to the fact that people are going to want to verify their claims?!

        All their recent whining about “communicating better” – as if so many years of ‘science by press release’ hadn’t gotten them mind-numbing coverage – is quite ludicrous. Even as recently as July 2009, during the course of articulating his “vision statement”, Pachauri was crowing:

        [T]he IPCC AR5 is being taken in hand at a time when awareness on climate change issues has reached a level unanticipated in the past. Much of this change can be attributed to the findings of the AR4 which have been disseminated actively through a conscious effort by the IPCC, its partners and most importantly the media. [emphasis added -hro]

        He’s singing a somewhat different tune now, but that’s another story (and par for the Pachuari course). But I digress …

        They certainly had (what turns out to have been un-earned and undeserved) “trust” – which, by their choice of actions, they have betrayed. And as you had noted, it’s almost beyond belief that the “community” should continue to let them get away with such unacceptable behaviours.

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:34 AM | Permalink

        Bullying behavior comes from lower on the brainstem than the logical part of the brain, and statements made that you and I call lies are simply growls and barks meant to chase away the losers of the argument. Like all too many fights between couples, unfortunately.

  4. Hank Zentgraf
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

    I read Judith Curry and think she makes a great contribution with her blog. However I wish she had more experience in the outside world involved in decision after decision, the consequences of which come back to bite if one gets “fooled” into taking the wrong path. She has been properly critical of the IPCC but will not take on individual scientists. But she is not alone. Look at the Penn State review of M. Mann! I spent a second career in academia after 40 years in the corporate world. I found no accountability there. Also managing a large department in academia has its challenges but accountability is not one of them. You can’t ask “hockey stick” apologists who are government funded to read a philosophical paper and expect them to change their ways. In the corporate world they would lose access to future grants and their phones would stop ringing.

  5. Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:47 PM | Permalink

    Correction in bold — last para.

    However, as Willis observed, the community stands mute. None of them wrote to Michael Mann or Phil Jones six years [ago] to urge them to provide data and none of them are writing to CRU now.

    I enjoyed that article. 🙂 — it sums up many of my concerns.

  6. Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    By not championing public data release, the climate science community indicates that it does not trust the data to support AGW.

  7. John Whitman
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Permalink


    Great article on the differing world views of JC and Willis.

    Some of the IPCC centric Academia who operate mostly within Academia seem to assume they have an entitlement to be trusted. They seem confused when their publically funded climate science hits the simple ethical standards of the real world.

    Instead of hearing ‘You are a professor and an expert so you are entitled to the public’s trust’, a shocked IPCC centric Academia got ‘show me all your stuff (which we the public paid for) then I will decide if you are trustworthy’.

    Is IPCC centric Academia really clueless about simple ethics? Or is it just part of a PR shell game?


  8. peter
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Permalink

    Extraordinary claims require extra ordinary evidence .. not trust.

  9. Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

    It is true that sometimes people take a decade to publish the results of their field work, or dice it and slice it a dozen ways….however, once you publish Briffa et al 2008 people should be allowed to check your work.

    And yes, I have had people ask to see my data (I sent it) and my code (I sent it). It took 5 min to respond. Keeping nice discrete Mathematica notebooks makes it simple as pie to respond to requests (and helps with one’s own absent-mindedness down the road as well).

  10. Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM | Permalink

    It is very difficult for Acton, on the one hand:

    “The Vice-Chancellor accepted the report’s conclusion that the University could and should have been more proactively open, not least because – as the report makes clear – we have nothing to hide. He said the University accepted the need for our response to Freedom of Information requests to be positive and appropriate and he was confident that steps we are already taking in this area will improve further the awareness and understanding of the importance of the Act within the University.”

    “Prof Acton talked about the latest review into ‘Climategate’ leaving the “honour and integrity of the scientists unblemished”. However, Prof Acton highlighted the importance of “following the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information act”, and of responding to FOI requests even if there is nothing to hide” (oops – sounds like a little freudian slip there Edward)

    (http://soliptical.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/jul2faug2010.pdf – wherein one also sees the difficulty of contradicting the party line with the 372k pounds in prize money confirming that everything must be kosher)

    …but on the other hand – the CRU continue to refuse reasonable requests for data which underlie their publications.

    Why would anyone consider attending, much less working at, such a dishonest University?

  11. JCM
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

    They think they can outlast you.
    Are the UEA science students required to take a course in ethics or read the work of William Barclay ?

    • Alphabet Soup
      Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 11:25 PM | Permalink

      I doubt it but the UEA does do a good creative writing course.

      • DEEBEE
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

        Does that mean Nick Stokes will soon be joing UEA faculty?

  12. Venter
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 9:17 PM | Permalink

    I deal with Universities worldwide on research projects and studies related to healthcare all the time. Good Universities immaculately document their work and have no problems giving access to data. Many scientists and Universities in this field deal regularly with corporate clients, licensing, contract research etc. and are well attuned to accountability and reproducibility of work as that is the primary criterion in science. These institutions and scientists make their reputation by being meticulous in their work and having it verified and commercialised in the real world.

    Some of these big Universities also have ” Climate Change ” departments and during lunch breaks at staff canteens, I have made it a point wherever possible to go engage them in discussions about climate science. I’ve been astounded at the difference in their approach to science compared to colleagues in the same University in other scientific disciplines. It’s like comparing chalk and cheese. There’s a distinct lack of accountability and professionalism in this field.

    Climate Science has a long way to go to even be half competent as other branches of hard science. In my opinion, this field is currently making a living off scare stories funded by Government Grants.

    There are many good scientists in the field but they are marginalised by the radical few in positions of power who control the purse strings. And this goes right up to University administration levels as all of them see Climate Science as a cash cow to bring in grants and don’t want to rock the boat.

    No wonder this system has spawned institutions of the likes of UEA.

  13. John Carpenter
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 10:12 PM | Permalink


    Goodwin also suggested one way to improve ‘trust’ between science communicators and the public with,

    “scientist-communicators will need strategies for assuring the public that scientists will in fact be held responsible and bear significant consequences, if it turns out that what they are saying is wrong.”

    Though this idea refers more toward the merits of the science and its effect on policymaking and not so much on FOI request resistance, you state;

    “If there were any adult supervision in the climate community, it would start, not with polysyllabic ruminations about climate communications, but with practical measures to stop pointlessly counterproductive conduct by members of the community.”

    What would be the practical measures? Or in light of the struggles you have experienced, are there ‘serious consequences’ UEA should face to rebuild your trust?

    • mt
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

      I disagree with Goodwin on that point. Being wrong is not the issue. It’s everything surrounding being wrong that’s the real problem.

      1. Not providing access to data and/or code that prevents determining if there is an error
      2. Not admitting error once the error has been shown (not just a difference of opinion)
      3. Not fixing the error, whether it’s retracting or amending results
      4. Not acknowledging the effort from the person that found the error
      5. Not learning from the error to prevent the same error from occurring in the future.
      6. Not using known erroneous results in future work

      • Posted Aug 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

        Not me.


        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Aug 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

          you disagree?

        • Willis Eschenbach
          Posted Aug 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

          My read was that Michael Tobis was saying that the “mt” who wrote the post above wasn’t him … but I could be wrong.


        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Aug 25, 2011 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

          yes, but Im asking him if he disagrees

    • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM | Permalink

      It seems like the focus is on “assuring the public” as opposed to making sure scientists are actually doing what they’re supposed to. “Assuring the public” should not be part of the statement.

  14. Bernie
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    You have captured my thoughts on the Goodwin piece(s) exactly. I found the discussion at Climate, etc. very frustrating. I think highly of JC’s willingness to be open-minded but she does seem to prefer abstract and tortured argumentation to dealing with the facts at hand – the strong point of your and Willis’s approach. Willis’ point on the inevitable consequences of lost trust and your Starbuck project are excellent examples of the latter, IMHO. I think JC’s approach is to try to argue from the general (a model of some kind) to the specific (the observations), whereas most people who work in business are very much concerned with the implications first of the specifics and then, if it is warranted by the size, scale and complexity of the issues at hand, the implications in a more general form. The funny thing is, this approach is closer to the practice of replicable science than Goodwin’s almost data free empty taxonomic musings.
    In business, when confronted by behavior similar to that demonstrated by CRU/UEA and where there is a need to sustain a relationship with a corporate/institutional entity, I and, I suspect, most business folks would require the visible and immediate “firing” of those involved in the problem. While such actions do not of themselves build trust, they do allow the possibility that trust can be rebuilt.
    All this seems to me to be commonsense and JC is very smart, so I am still at a loss as to why exactly she does not see the problem for what it is. Surely she has had colleagues she has learned to mistrust. On that basis it would be nice to hear from Judy on your above Post.

    • Brian H
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

      An interesting aspect of that preference for abstraction is her repeated refusal to “name names”, sort of “hate the crime, not the criminal”. In practice, this is very like declining to finger perps in a line-up after witnessing (or suffering) a stick-up, because you don’t want to make it personal.

  15. scp
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 10:48 PM | Permalink


    “…Trust can be gained once and lost once. Once lost, it’s lost forever.

    So let’s ask how we can keep trust from the start. It’s really quite easy; if you want to be trusted, simply be trustworthy. The pressures will be great to act otherwise, and if you succumb, well, you’ll lose trust and you’ll never get it back…”

  16. ausiedan
    Posted Jul 23, 2011 at 11:01 PM | Permalink

    Steve – well done – you have captured my thoughts on this issue exactly.

    I have a lot of time for Professor Curry and admire her ability to learn and to change her views, at her stage of career development.
    Somebody should show her the words of John Maynard Keynes, when asked by a reporter why he had changed his mind on a certain issue.
    He replied “when the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do?”

    Professor Curry should realise that the “Team” and their supporters in the scientific community have forfeited the right to be trusted on face value.

    Beter and better (PR based) comminutation will only make distrust worse and worse. We all know the difference between truth and PR spin.
    Full disclosure of data, methods and equipment is required, now and for many, many years into the future, if they really want to mend bridges and not just win battles.
    Winning battles is easy (remember Vietnam) but they have already lost the war for trust and believeability.

  17. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

    paper in the end of 2012.

    perfect timing.

    that way there will no chance for it’s findings to be challenged or audited. You can bet that the lead author already knows what to expect from the paper. if the mails leading up to AR4 are any indication..

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:02 AM | Permalink

      Despite advice from von Storch to IPCC that they would do well not to have CRU lead authors, CRU’s Osborn is a Lead Author of the chapter where Mann (AR3) and Briffa (AR4) were previously lead authors.

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:39 AM | Permalink

        In a world of millions of scientists they pick another one from CRU? These guys are tonedeaf.

      • John Whitman
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Permalink

        Where are the journalists? They should at least raise the red flag to the public about the appointment of Osborn as an AR5 CRU lead author.

        What the IPCC is doing seems like incestuous behavior. I think it is cultist in nature. This kind of appointment goes against the spirit of the 2010 NAC report on the IPCC.


  18. Scott B.
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

    This whole discussion of “rebuilding trust” baffles me. Isn’t the whole point of the scientific method that you don’t just trust what someone tells you? That someone can check what you’re saying for themselves by repeating the experiment? Either you have the data to back up your claim, or you don’t.

    This isn’t a romantic relationship. This is science. Trust should have no bearing here. You can either prove it or you can’t. If you got away with not proving your claims for 20 years, then suddenly no one believes you without you proving your claims, so what? Shame on you. What else is there to say?

    Getting back people’s “trust” totally misses the point of what should be happening here, doesn’t it? It misses the point of science. Trust is something a politician needs. Or a priest. Scientists asking you to trust them? Seriously? Are they really even scientists? Is saying “I’m a scientist, trust me” remotely scientific? I don’t see how. That conversation should go “I’m a scientist, I can prove it. Here are the facts. Trust them. Check it for yourself.”

    This article by Jean Goodwin and this whole discussion of trust isn’t about climate science, or even science in general. It’s about “how to make friends and influence people.” And if a group of scientists are really focused on various techniques they can use to influence you, you have to wonder about their data, don’t you? Especially if they won’t make it available.

    • j ferguson
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

      Scott B.
      I agree that trust should not be part of scientific activity, or its reporting, but….

      My impression from reading Dr. Curry is that she would like her and her colleagues observations accepted by people who are unable to follow closely the work on which they are based.

      She didn’t answer the question I posed about how such trust might be established, possibly because i couldn’t figure out how to ask an insulting question without the implicit insult.

      It was: When you share information or opinion about a scientific study, have you always read the entire paper, and its references, and have you the physical, math, and statistical (if statistics are critical to the work) expertise for your opinion to be fully informed?

      I suppose it was a bit like asking an MD if he practiced outside his expertise, but I suspect that many in Climatology do, but don’t know for sure.

      I also asked how she decided whom to trust and if there were practitioners in her areas of expertise (no names) that she didn’t trust and why?

      Knowing that the work has been done scientifically and that the data and processes are public is a good start but not enough unless someone capable looks at it. Don’t you think?

  19. Barry Woods
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:51 AM | Permalink

    I’m reminded of Professor Cruz, suggesting that even if no compelling reason to make Manns code data available, to just DO IT anyway…

    Prof Jones sentan email to Mann,, about this saying your only, delete after reading!


    [Professor Cruz]
    Dear all,

    I agree with most of what has been said so far. Reproducibility is the key word. If the Mann el al material (to be) posted on the website is sufficient to ensurereproducibility, then there is no compelling need to force them to hand it out.

    If not,then the source code is warranted. Also, even if there is no compelling need to make the source code public, doing it anyway would clearly be beneficial for the entire debate.
    Christian Azar
    Department of physical resource theory
    Chalmers University of Technology


    I wonder if Professor Cruz ever sort that Jones, please delere climategate email response

    Steve: interesting in this context. This concerned my request as a reviewer for Climatic Change. The request was sent to the editorial board – both Jones and Santer were on the editorial board and lobbied hard with Schneider that Mann not make code available. Jones making the presumably confidential discussions available to Mann on the qt.

    • simon abingdon
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:46 AM | Permalink

      Barry “I wonder if Professor Cruz ever sort that Jones, please delere climategate email response” I’m not being picky: I really cannot make sense of this. Please read what you’ve written at least once before posting.

      • Barry Woods
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

        Sorry about that:

        I wonder if Professor Cruz or any of the others are aware of that climategate email.

        Ie a number of scientists were discussing why not share code data if if they did not have to, it would be beneficial and a good idea.

        The comcept of which seemed to upset Professor Jones, who gave M Mann a heads up.

    • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

      Barry: Thanks for the link. Interesting to re-read the email communication in the present context.

      So, is Phil Jones being genuine in this communication? If so, then it seems that at the time of writing this email (Jan 2004), Jones really doesn’t know what to make of Steve or seem to actually understand the criticisms that were raised.

      From the email noted above:
      “MM have hounded us about this for the last four months. In the MM article, they have a diagram which says ‘corrected version’ when comparing with MBH. We have seen people refer to this paper (MM)as an alternative reconstruction – yet when we said this is our paragraph MM claim they are not putting forward a new reconstruction but criticizing MBH 1998 !! We have decided to remove the sentence on our web page just to stop these emails. But if a corrected version isn’t a new or alternative reconstruction I don’t know what is.”

      Steve: at the time, we stated that we did not endorse the MBH selection of proxies or the MBH methodology and thus did not take the position that correcting their erroneous PC methodology would be sufficient to yield a reconstruction that we endorsed. We made the narrower point that, using correct principal components calculations on their data, they could not conclude that the 1990s were the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year. This sort of distinction is very common in mathematical reasoning. Jones’ lack of mathematical sophistication may explain his trouble in understanding the argument.

      This has been much discussed over the years and I urge you to read older blog threads, as I don’t have time to engage in this right now.


      • Bdaabat
        Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

        Steve: exactly. Jones response does not appear to be genuine.

        His response appears to be phrased in a way to attempt to provide him with protection…so that his colleagues will buy in to his message and support him, as well as to paint an unflattering picture of you (e.g., you’re “hounding” him for data, for what purpose, he’s not exactly sure). It appears he’s attempting to build support for the “circling the wagons” approach to dealing with you and with data access requests.


    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

      Re: Barry Woods, posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:51 AM.


      I hope you realize the importance of that the web site you gave…


      … which will take the reader to a page with an e-mail from the great Phil Jones addressed to
      the equally great and munificent Mike Mann at his e-mail address the University of Virginia.
      With the usual To/From header there follows:

      Subject: CLIMATIC CHANGE needs your advice – YOUR EYES ONLY !!!!!
      Date: Fri Jan 16 13:25:59 2004

      After that Phil tells Mike: “Mike, This is for YOURS EYES ONLY. Delete after reading – please !”
      and there is attached a longish e-mail from Phil to a flock of climate science folks around the
      world and covers the problem the “Team” was having with the MM paper and follow up comments.

      Oooooops. Wait a minute ! Mike Mann was long gone from the University of Virginia
      by the year 2004. He’d moved on from the University of Massachusetts by then too.

      It looks like a great deal of the Climategate e-mails will be coming out under the Court
      order for review by ATI to answer their FOI request to the University of Virginia.

      Too bad this will show up in the middle of the thread… nobody but you and I will read it.

      • j ferguson
        Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

        That is some email.

      • Bernie
        Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 7:42 AM | Permalink

        Others will read it. Thanks for resurrecting it. I do not recall this particular email. It is very odd. It is full of defensiveness and paranoia, not to mention machiavellian intent.
        Can you say a little more about your thoughts on the issues associated with the UV email address?

  20. KnR
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:11 AM | Permalink

    If the situation is as bad, as claimed , if need to do something about is as urgent as claimed , and if the science is as settled as claimed , when you combine those three the moves over FOI and the refusal to release data would seem to be mad . You would actual expect them to be kicking people’s doors down to hand them the data , to be actively out there pushing it into the public realm.

    So what your left with is a idea that the claims of ‘settled, urgent and bad , are in fact over stated and the basic fear is that being unable to control who see’s the data leads to people realizing how badly made the house of cards really is . snip – overeditoriaLIZING

  21. TerryS
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:22 AM | Permalink

    Let Greenpeace know. Since they are a none partisan organisation I’m sure they would be willing to fight for open data availability on your behalf.

  22. PaddikJ
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:44 AM | Permalink

    As usual, Steve gives Team AGW more doubting benefit than cynical black-hearted I would – those emporers stone-wall because they have literally nothing to hide. As this latest mass hysteria winds down we can only hope that it will be the vastest scam in history.

    As to the Goodwin paper, just another academic tricking out the trivially obvious in tortured hifalutin’ prose.

  23. stephen richards
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 4:53 AM | Permalink


    Spot on as usual.

    “And it’s foolish to think that it can be regained merely by telling the “story” in a more forceful way,”

    This is classic academia v’s real work. School v’s business. They don’t think the same because their life experiences are totally different although, of the two, it is academia which believe it is alway right.

    That’s my ‘life experience’.

  24. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Partial statement: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
    Expanded statement: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it? There’s IPR [intellectual property rights] to consider.”
    Partial statement: “Ammonium nitrate and fuel oil form an explosive mixture.”
    Expanded statement: “Ammonium nitrate and fuel oil form an explosive mixture. A detonation is required to make the explosion.”
    Partail statement: “The average global air temperature changes as concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere vary.”
    Expanded statement: “The average global air temperature changes as concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere vary. The relation between temperature and CO2 is not yet known with adequate accuracy.”

    In each example, the problem is not one of science, solely, nor of communication, solely. The problem is the disconnect between relevant statements, to place the wider subject on a more credible basis.

    Disbelief of many aspects af climate work arises because John and Joan Citizen have been given access to certain parts of the jigsaw puzzle, but no guidance as to how connect them efficiently.

    snip – policy

  25. PaulM
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    Regarding this FOI request there is an interesting post at Bishop Hill


    where lawyer Richard Brearley discusses how the same requests from him and from Steve have been treated differently by UEA.
    It is particularly interesting since Tim Osborn has joined in the discussion (he claims that although the original requests were the same, the appeals were different and so that explains the different treatment).

    It would be interesting to hear Steve’s view on this.

  26. Richard Brearley
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 6:26 AM | Permalink

    The IPR argument is baffling on many levels to me and does destroy “trust”.

    Ok the FOI/EIR regs do permit this argument, but it only succeeds if the impact on IPR of disclosure is adverse and proven. Then the publc interest still has to fall on the side of IPR.

    UEA says that release would be publication of its creative work and make it less likely that it could publish in prestigious journals, thus attracting further grants.

    That’s back to front in my mind. What would attract grant funding (particularly from government)in my view is a professional climate science department that published data, engaged with other scientists, both in residence at other univesities and “lay” scientists, and was seen to be a robust and engaging participant with nothing to hide and the expertise and scientific skill to explain its opinions and conclusions and to modify them where appropriate as a result of this process. It would soon be seen as a centre of excellence, the “go to” institution driving the process of scientific understanding.

    For UEA contracts will come and go – UEA will always be there. Sacrificing reputation to grub about for a bit more money on top of many millions already received is not edifying. (As the dean said in The Nutty Professor 2 – The Klumps – “Its only 150 million dollars. Contracts come and go but [name of college] will always be here. What gets me is the little girl who just pointed at me and said “Mummy, there goes the hamster’s bitch!””).

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

    So, CRU/UEA crouches behind IPR, like a movie cop behind a cardboard box in a shootout, engages in “Humpty Dumpty” parsing of every word it ever wrote, and takes every point at every opportunity. Dealing with it is like pulling teeth.

    As Steve rightly identifies, “trust” is a stranger at this party, standing on the landing unrecognised by all around hm and muttering to himself that he’d rather be somewhere else.

    • KnR
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

      The fact they find it very hard to actual produce documents that contain the information on IPR’s , really suggest either they don’t exist or no don’t have results in the actions claimed of them. In the one case we in fact know it was the latter , there was no problem with releasing the original data but the third party did not want CRU’s manipulation of this data released as being the original.

  27. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

    A post touching on a lot of different areas.

    The first would be the idea that a FOI request can be dismissed because the information wanted is somewhere on the internet already. While that might be true, such information has no provenance; it might very well have been “modified”. eg a topical example would be the amount of modification on corporate websites with regard to their exact relationship to individuals running foul of the NOTW telephone scandal.

    With regard to the Goodwin paper per se; it’s so elementally “bottom upwards” with regard to how people come to make judgements that it that it becomes jaw droppingly naive.

    People come to judgements on areas the have some knowledge of on their own because they can. For everything else, they trust the opinion of someone they consider a domain expert.

    Shopkeeper’s simple rule; everyone starts off with a line of credit. If they abuse it, they become a cash up front customer.


  28. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    IPR for CRU means that they want to continue using the same data in various ways for future publications. Forever. Mann also. This conflicts head-on with the idea that scientific work must be replicable/checkable. The issue gets particularly bad when nonstandard and poorly described data massaging techniques and statistics are used. In other contexts at universities, a particular data set is usually used up with a particular paper or two, and the scientist moves on to new experiments. No reason not to share it after publication. The idea that you could keep using the same data for 20 yrs+ is a uniquely dendroclimatology idea.

    • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

      Did CRU actually originate any of the source data? If not, can there be IPR by them? There can certainly be IPR on how the data is presented, but on data they didn’t originate?

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:06 PM | Permalink

        I believe that some of Briffa’s data may be his own, but much of the Russian data was subcontracted to Russian scientists who cored the trees and Mann has never touched a tree himself (nor Jones).

        • Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

          Meaning paid for by the university/public funds, and not personally belonging to Briffa.

    • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

      Craig Loehle
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      IPR for CRU means that they want to continue using the same data in various ways for future publications. …. The idea that you could keep using the same data for 20 yrs+ is a uniquely dendroclimatology idea.

      In fact, a small clique of scholars took control of the Dead Sea Scrolls after their discovery in the late 40’s, and wouldn’t let go until after the Biblical Archaeology Society did an end run around them in 1991. In some cases, deceased original scholars had actually bequeathed their control to their pet students! The New York Times called this the “academic scandal of the century.”

      So CRU — and Lonnie Thompson — have a few decades yet to go to set a record with their resistance!

    • ianl8888
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 1:47 AM | Permalink

      Agreed. I think this issue (using the same data sets for future papers) is at the root of the problem. The reason is that when analysing climate, useful data sets are time-dependent, in the sense that they need to cover a long period to be of value – so there’s really not too many of them available, and no one can wait around another 60 years to build a new set

      So the fear is: publish full data sets and lose your job/funding in a year or three, when everyone’s had a go at the data. This possibility is worsened if full publication then also allows someone else to find errors within the set

      I believe this is a common enough academic situation. I once asked a Professor of Geology at an Australian Uni why academics fought each other so viciously. “Because there is so little to fight over”, he replied. The cankerous problem we now have arises because this survival attitude (keeping data/code out of the public arena) has resulted in drastic economic proposals (and in some cases, drastic legislation) that directly affect entire populaces without them being able to get their hands on the nitty-gritty basis for this. I don’t see this situation as resolvable with equanimity, hence my comment on Judith C’s thread: “Reconciliation is a naive pipe dream”

  29. observa
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    I no longer trust the very words climatology or climatologist anymore because they immediately conjure up human hubris just like humanology and humanologist would if such labels were used to prevent the fields of medicine, physiology, biology, psychiatry, psychology, economics, statistics, chemistry, physics,etc from commenting on human beings and human existence. There is no such animal as a climatologist anymore than there are humanologists. The very idea is preposterous that somehow an overarching field of science can subsume all others as inferior and of no value to intelligent understanding which is exactly what the climatology club professes to do.

    There are merely scientists who may specialise in particular fields but have equal or greater powers of scientific enquiry and analysis. Have a listen to an interview with one such scientist who immediately instils trust and respect due to his achievements as a physicist, who can actually sing for his supper rather than whine and dine for it- http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/06/08/3238621.htm
    Take the time to listen to a very humble but breathtaking lifetime of science and those final chilling words of warning about those who would covet the mantle of some omniscient and overarching title of climatologist to the exclusion of all others.

  30. John Whitman
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Permalink


    In your main post you touched on adult behavior wrt climate science community. You said, “ . . . If there were any adult supervision in the climate community, it would start, not with polysyllabic ruminations about climate communications, but with practical measures to stop pointlessly counterproductive conduct by members of the community. . . .”

    I would add to your thought a comment I made on JC’s site 3 days ago.

    Post on JC’s Blog site entitled: ‘Stephen Schneider and the “Double Ethical Bind” of Climate Change Communication’

    Comment by John Whitman | July 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Reply

    When speaking within their own profession, climate scientists must simply be totally honest. Where lack of honesty occurs in the profession then science in general should act promptly to protect its reputation vigorously. That is it. You know, sort of like most young children are required to learn the lesson of telling the truth, and adults act to correct a child when he does not.

    I do not wish to be trite by saying this but everything the article’s author and you need to know about honesty in climate science you learnt by the 6th grade of elementary school.

    I cannot perceive any merit in the referenced article (Chris Russill’s) and your post when it emasculates the simple ethics that apply to the scientific profession in the climate science area.


    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

      One big difference arises in the concept of “full, true and plain disclosure”. There was an interesting discussion at Pielke Jr’s about “fudging” where he observed that tailure to provide “full, true and plain disclosure” did not constitute academic misconduct, because it happened all the time – he called it “fudging”. Obviously if your business partner “fudged” information about the business, it’s probably going to be fatal to the partnership. Roger’s argument was that “fudging” was acceptable in academic literature. People shouldn’t blame Roger for being a messenger.

      • Pat Frank
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

        Roger Jr. ought to speak for just himself.

      • Hank McCard
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

        I wonder why Roger considers ‘fudging’ to be a more acceptable term than ‘lying’?

      • Ron Cram
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

        A curious comment by Pielke Jr. ‘Fudging’ is usually associated with politicians and used car salesmen, not people you trust. I’m willing to bet most academics would not be pleased for their profession to be known for ‘fudging’ and fewer still would be comfortable going on record to defend ‘fudging.’ I wonder if Pielke Jr would be willing to conduct a poll among climate scientists to see if his perception holds up?

      • Tom Gray
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Permalink

        Read the philosopher of science Paul Fererabend’s “Against Method”. He shows how “fudging” is the way that new and uncertain theories can overcome the incumbent power of accepted results. He has ample historical examples of “fudging” used in the development of major physical theories.

        • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:16 AM | Permalink

          How many historical examples are there of fudging being used on a new and uncertain theory that turns into an old and discredited one? Did the fudging ever delay the necessary process of falsification?

        • Jeremy Harvey
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 4:51 AM | Permalink

          This is a great point and one that I thought about when I read the discussion here about fudging. The way I see it, and the way I understand Feyerabend’s description of it, science is inherently messy. It is attractive to view it as Popper did, as a Great Game of logic and chess-playing. And to an extent that is true. But it is also not quite so true – and at least some scientists will gain from understanding both Popper’s view and Feyerabend’s. According to the latter, experiments & their analysis are quite often hard to perform, and the volume of potentially pertinent other studies is so large that reading all of them represents a major opportunity cost preventing getting things done. This means that a degree of ‘fudging’ is almost inevitable in science if you want to push things forward, rather than spend your time crossing t’s and dotting i’s. The history of science is full of stories of major scientists engaging in fudging in defense of theories that ultimately prove to be (essentially) correct. If you wanted to ban people winging it, science would not move forward very fast.

          That being said, there’s also evidence from history of a lot of fudging in support of theories that prove not to be correct. In a healthy field of research, any topic that is important creates an adversarial process whereby researchers challenge other researchers’ results (though unimportant incorrect results often survive unchallenged because no one cares). The strange thing in climate science is that clear examples of fudging don’t seem to get commented on by other people in the field.

        • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 6:25 AM | Permalink

          I accept everything you say here. Here are some inferences I draw. Science is not as robust as the avid Popperian would like to think but depends crucially for its effectiveness on the wider freedoms of free societies. There has never been such a phenomenon as the IPCC (and the parallel growth of ‘government science’) and its symbiotic relationship to climate science. The lack of democratic accountability of the UN, UNEP and IPCC – in the most basic HL Mencken sense of “throw the rascals out” (his answer whenever asked for advice on how to vote) – exploits the lack of robustness of science. But events like Climategate have led to widespread public distrust of climate science. Without historical precedent we don’t know how it’s going to pan out. I doubt it will turn out well without considerable sacrifice from some. I fear that the poorest have already had, and will continue, to bear the brunt. History will judge this mania as much worse than others for this very reason.

        • j ferguson
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 7:14 AM | Permalink

          I’m not sure there isn’t a precedent. How about eugenics? Suppose our present period parallels the period when eugenic based policies were employed by some governments (States in US and I think UK) prior to its adoption as a basis of national policy by a madman.

          My likely insufficiently informed take on the demise of eugenics was that it didn’t die of its own internal inconsistencies, but by being associated with the programs of someone that (almost) everyone could see was a really bad guy. He killed it.

          He did it by attacking his neighboring nations and specific ethnic groups. Because his eugenic programs were integral to his national policy, everything went down together. Eugenics went out of style among the chatterati, no longer all the rage. We certainly aren’t there yet with climate science.

          This thing we have here, is a stage where the victims are not obvious – the energy impoverished in England, and indeed the less affluent populations around the world. Because the ill effects are so diffused, they are not visible, and of course the bad guy hasn’t showed up yet.

          But it’s a form of economic aggression masquerading as good policy.

          Maybe we are fortunate that Mr. Gore is so ineffectual as a politician. Or maybe he could have run the thing to its irrational conclusions with enough enabling policy to cause the kind of damage that can be universally understood.

          I concede that this theory is not well thought out, yet.

        • Bernie
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 7:13 AM | Permalink

          Fudging is but one aspect of what can happen in any scientific field especially in a field like Climate Science. While the scientific method is designed to be logical and objective. The trust issue involves interactions among individuals and is a part of the scientific process, if not the scientific method. The actual practice of science is very human, with all the attendant virtues and vices. While most professional bodies have mechanisms to police themselves these are seldom perfect and rarely quick. The same with researchers. Stories of rancor among scientists are legend, e.g., Hooke and Newton. (See the great little book by David and Stephen Clark, Newton’s Tyranny: The Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of Stephen Gray and John Flamsteed) I suspect the fields where critical experiments are harder to design and conduct, personal animus and ideological conflicts will be more prevalent, e.g., sociology.
          IMHO, the antidote to both the fudging and personal animus is the same – transparency and openness. The compounding issue with the Team is the rejection of transparency and openness which are part of the scientific method and the establishment and maintenance of trust in human interactions like the practice of science.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

          “Fudging” needs to be defined here. The case at hand isn’t just “crossing t’s and dotting i’s”; it’s withholding material adverse results.

          The same considerations apply in business offerings and there have been numerous litigations over whether a misrepresentation was “material”. In this particular case, the verification r2 failure was an important statistic and once the failure became known, attitudes of even scientists in the field changed. Zorita has mentioned this. It also led to AR4 abandoning the specific “warmest year” claim.

        • Jeremy Harvey
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

          I’m sorry – I got led into making a rather waffly general comment from an academic / philosophy of science point of view, so the meaning wrt the original post may have been unclear. I have looked at your responses to Jonathan Jones and appreciate your points.

          There was some relevance of my comment to the thread, and that relates to what or who the correct object of trust should be. Goodwin’s paper suggests that the relevant people who should be seeking to be trusted are individual climate scientists. I would agree with people like Willis that many people who have looked into the issues are simply never going to trust some scientists again. But in a sense, that should not matter. I don’t think it is realistic or indeed right to expect that each paper should be fully “trustworthy”. It is human nature to present data in a way that supports ones’ theory, and it happens all the time in science. Again following Feyerabend, it may be practically impossible not to tweak some things when writing papers – because hard, solid, rules of scientific method do not really exist and there’s always an extent to which you need to use careful rhetoric to convince people. So as an isolated incident, I could live with Mann stage-managing his results rather carefully, and even with some researchers being untrustworthy. That happens in other fields.

          But fields or sub-fields should be trustworthy. When papers in those fields are shown to have made material misrepresentations, then that should be broadly reflected in subsequent work. You say that this has happened to some extent in climate science. To me, though, it doesn’t seem to have happened enough, on paleo reconstructions or other topics.

        • John Carpenter
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

          My definition of ‘fudging’ has always been ‘to make up information’. If you are ‘fudging’ data, you don’t have it, so you make it up to look like you do have it. It is the deception of producing information from thin air. That is the definition I have always taken it to be.

        • ChE
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:47 AM | Permalink

          The idea that science won’t progress without a certain amount of fudging is nonsense. If you have a theory that can’t be proven, you can still pursue it. You just refrain from declaring it to be settled science. People simply need to work with theories as maybes instead of certainties.

        • Neil Fisher
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 9:37 PM | Permalink

          Indeed – the issue, it seems to me, is that in climate science at least (and perhaps it is the same in other fields – I cannot say) there are sometimes several levels of indirection to follow before one comes to the realisation that something has been described as “proposed” rather than “demonstrated”. How many people actually read all the references in a paper, let alone follow those references references and so on back to the initial paper to discover if what is being used has been “demonstrated” or merely “proposed”?

  31. Ron Cram
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

    Great post, as always. Whenever Dr. Curry has a post on improving climate communication, I always try to go back to openness and transparency.

    Trust was broken between the US and USSR. Reagan and Gorbachev used to talk about “trust but verify” which, of course, means you don’t trust so you have to verify but you do so politely (politely allowing others to verify your statements and politely verifying statements made by your opposite).

    CRU is in the position of the USSR. They have violated trust and still demand to be trusted. It doesn’t work. No one is buying it. They are living in a fantasy world because they believe what they read in Pravda.

  32. Joe Crawford
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

    Willis, on the other hand, took a position that anyone in business understands: if someone is dishonest with you in business, you are never going to trust them again. That’s just the way it is. You may have no alternative other than to deal with them, but you’ll never trust them. Nor does it mean that everything that they say is wrong. It just means that you will no longer believe them on their word. And honesty in Willis’ world means (in my terminology) “full, true and plain disclosure”.

    Trust requirements in business (or at least on the engineering side) can be even tighter than that. Years ago, I worked for a manager that had the marvelous ability to determine in the first few minutes of discussion/questioning whether you knew what you were talking about and how much you knew of your subject. He didn’t have to know the subject himself, I guess he just had an excellent BS detector. Once someone got on his wrong side they were still allowed to work on projects, but everything they did had to be verified by others before he would accept it.

  33. MarkB
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    I responded in the Curry thread with the lesson my mother taught me: Just tell the truth. Mark Twain said that if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. In the case of climate science, if you tell the truth, you don’t need to ‘communicate.’

  34. Noblesse Oblige
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    Goodwin and others indulge in after the fact rationalization. They fall far short of the Socratic method. At best, Goodwin provides a basis for belivers to continue to believe, regardless of the science. At worst, it is held up as new thinking that makes continued skepticism and investigation irrelevant. Move on.

  35. Latimer Alder
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

    Just an observation that in the business world trust is a far more precious commodity. A businessman who has a reputation for being untrustworthy will not be a businessman for very long. He will find few people willing to do business with him.

    But an academic seems to have no need for such a good reputation. His/her success s measured in the number of papers published, not in the quality or content thereof. It seems to matter to nobody at all within academe whether the papers are complete c..p ,, just so long as they have been published.

    So we have the bizarre situation where those who loudly proclaim that they occupy the moral high ground have no incentive to actually behave in a morally satisfactory way, while those they chastise and demean are the ones for whom trustworthiness is essential. Ho hum!

  36. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

    Although in principle science relies heavily on replication and checking, in practice every day science rests very heavily on trust. We simply don’t have time to check most papers in detail; you generally get no credit for confirming a result, and precious little for disproving one; it is almost impossible to get funding for replication. (Of course the really core results get checked all the time, not by explicit checking but simply because other things rely on them.)

    When you’re reading a paper you normally assume that the authors aren’t lying. Of course they might have made honest errors of many different kinds (errors of measurement, of calculation, of interpretation), but you generally assume that the paper can be taken at face value. If you don’t have this basic level of trust then the only alternative is to check every single detail. This is so much work that its almost always simpler just to ignore the paper, and either get the information from somewhere else or do the whole thing from scratch. This is, I assume, what Muller meant when he said ” I now have a list of people whose papers I won’t read anymore”. If the authors aren’t trustworthy they are best just ignored.

    You mentioned Pielke Jr’s comments about “fudging”. As certain level of fudging is indeed accepted in some areas of science, but it is quite limited. In some fields it is considered permissible to present data in the most favourable way consistent with basic honesty; I don’t know of any field where it is considered permissible to withhold data that strikes at the core of your hypothesis. The degree of fudging also depends on the “audience”; it is never permissible to fudge when talking to a co-author. It’s also important to be open about fudging if you are called on it. In short: fudging certainly happens in many areas of science, but the climate science standards seem to be the lowest I have come across.

    In a normal field these sort of problems would be handled by the community, much as you suggest. People who carry on abusing community standards after warnings usually find this is a career limiting approach. Why climate scientists haven’t done this is a mystery to me.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

      The issue of “fudging” arose in discussion of whether climate scientists were obliged to disclose adverse results – the most discussed example being Mann’s withholding of adverse verification r2 results for early periods (despite showing results for the AD1820 step) that were “good”. Pielke argued that this sort of withholding would not be regarded as academic misconduct in most universities – only as “fudging”. I am not familiar enough with academic misconduct protocols to say whether his opinion on this would be right or not. However, if he is right (and I hold Roger in high regard) and there is no obligation to disclose adverse results, then the inevitable result is that you can’t “trust” the articles without further due diligence. Jonathan, as you observe, in most cases, it’s too much work to carry out such further due diligence. In my opinion, given the desire to use this information in public policy, it would be better if stiffer standards were insisted on this field – a “full, true and plain disclosure” standard in which “fudging” was no longer tolerated (at least in this field).

      • Faustino
        Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 11:39 PM | Permalink

        In economics, the norm is (or at least was for decades before my retirement) to show all results, whether the r2 was good or bad. It was recognised that there was information in the low-correlation results as well as the high ones. And generally authors were cautious about 95% confidence levels, regarding 99% as robust.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Permalink

      This is so much work that its almost always simpler just to ignore the paper, and either get the information from somewhere else or do the whole thing from scratch. This is, I assume, what Muller meant when he said ” I now have a list of people whose papers I won’t read anymore”. If the authors aren’t trustworthy they are best just ignored.

      However, what do you do when those articles continue to be used by IPCC?

    • Latimer Alder
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

      I think that when reading an academic paper by a cliamtologist, it might be wise to take Jeremy Paxman’s approach to TV interviewing:

      ‘What is this lying bastard lying to me about today?’

      Climatologists en masse have done nothing at all to gain the trust of the public, nor have they demonstrated the slightest conception conception that such action might ever be needed.

      They seem to think that ‘I’m a climate scientist, trust me’ is a slam dunk argument winner, whereas increasing numbers of the public see it as a contradiction in terms.

  37. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    Not publishing adverse R2 values in the original paper is dubious, but probably still qualifies as fudging. Refusing to reveal them when asked goes beyond fudging by my judgement. Pretending that you didn’t calculate them when you did is very naughty indeed.

    None of this, except possibly the last of the three, constitutes academic misconduct; Roger is probably right in this point, simply because academic misconduct is very tightly defined. Academic discipline is largely structured around the primacy of academic independence, and the importance of not firing people for holding unpopular views.

    The IPCC is a different problem entirely. A body which can’t even introduce a robust conflict of interest policy has fundamental problems, as many people have pointed out.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

      the situation in the original paper is more complicated than simply not publishing verification r2 results. One of their figures showed very favorable results for the AD1820 step and in their text they referred to the calculation of the verification r2 results. This seems more problematic than a total omission.

      The conduct of the NAS panel in respect to verification r2 was really quite breathtaking. It was then a red-letter issue, being referred to in Cicerone’s letter to the House Committee. Ross and I had clearly presented the issue to them, even showing the step in the recently available source code where it had been calculated.. Christy asked Mann whether he had calculated the verification r2 statistic for the AD1400 step and what was it? As I presume that you know from your arch commentary, Mann denied calculating the statistic saying that it would be a “foolish and incorrect” thing to do. The NAS panel sat there like bumps on logs, all of them apparently afraid to grasp the nettle. I don’t think that academics like confronting this sort of problem and so they didn’t.

      There was supposed to be a public question period after the morning presentations, but Mann fled before he could be asked any questions by me or other potential critics. Someone observed him walking off with his NSF handler. I sharply rebuked the NAS panel for failing to follow up. Afterwards, Nychka, who is a very pleasant guy and who I quite like, came up and said that just because they sat there like bumps on logs, didn’t mean that they didn’t notice. However, they didn’t take notice of the issue in their report. The nettle wasn’t grasped.

      The trouble with not dealing with this sort of thing is that the people have gotten even more undisciplined as a result.

      • KnR
        Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

        And that is very good point , the poor way the ‘reviews’ was done seems to actual encouraged them to ‘carry on as before ‘ . The way they currently deal with FOI shows us in this area nothing as changed . The really sad part is the opportunity to clean out the stables and so produce a far better science, which is in everyone’s interesting , was thrown away .
        Arrogance, ignorance or ego one of or three stopped them from doing a job by which ever would have gained and so like seemly so much in climate science the situation is now house of cards where if one part falls it all falls , but that’s what happens when you stop doing science with the data and start doing advocacy with it instead .

    • Ed Snack
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

      Jonathon, depending on quite how you interpret the various academic misconduct rules, to calculate a specific statistic and to use it when it supports your position and to also NOT cite it when it disagrees; is very arguably a misconduct offense. To then deny using it at all it in a public inquiry would underline the matter of intent and reinforce the interpretation that would make it so.

  38. pesadia
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    I recall listening to The father of a child, who was caught stealing pens from a department store, At one point in the interview, the father said that he could not understand why his son had committed the offence and then went on to say that, had his son asked him, he would have brought some pens from work.
    My point is that most people take advantage of the position they find themselves in.
    I am not sure how this story applies to the discussions but I include myself in with “Most people”

  39. Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I haven’t followed the R2 story in great detail, though as you surmise I am aware that there are details that would no doubt repay study. The situation you describe is certainly murky, though exactly how murky would depend on fine details (in particular, whether Mann actually denied having calculating R2 when he had done so, or whether he merely relied on the inquiry misinterpreting a misleading answer, such as “it would be foolish to do so”). In any event such behaviour would certainly constitute grounds for treating past and future papers with suspicion (the Muller treatment).

    As you say, the real problem is that the supposed grown ups running the inquiry didn’t follow up properly. We have had similar problems on this side of the pond as you will no doubt be aware. And that has always been my real concern: not the misbehaviour of individual scientists, but the failure of the community to respond to it.

    • j ferguson
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

      The thing that worries me is what happens to the guy who does good work, doesn’t exaggerate his results, and maybe advances our understanding in a carefully specific way?

      If the people in the discipline don’t squawk about the sophistry of the people who don’t do that, then those who don’t have the time required as you noted in another comment to take the papers apart step by step will dismiss the entire genre and the guy above’s work along with it.

      • Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

        Unfortunately, the guy who makes his work sound clever and publishes the same idea over and over is likely to become more well-known (via repetition) than someone who does new things and does not beat the same drum so much. That is due to the difficulty in getting a piece of work recognized–much good work is lost in the thousands of papers published each year. But it also encourages the single-minded bully who pushes his idea and ignores contradictions.
        I would add that contradictions bother people like Steve and me, but many academics (and many people) do not seem to notice that A and Not_A should not coexist.

      • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

        j ferguson, “what happens to the guy who does good work, doesn’t exaggerate his results, and maybe advances our understanding in a carefully specific way?”

        I can tell you from personal experience what happens to that guy. He doesn’t get any grant funding.

  40. John Whitman
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    The earlier discussion in this thread of academic fudging was very informative for me. Thank you for all that contributed.

    It leaves me with concerns for academic integrity in climate science. Fudging appears generally acceptable up to some quite arbitrary degree. It appears to be invoked very reluctantly as a cause for academic ethical investigation.

    Lest we forget, fudging is to fake or falsify to some degree or to go beyond the proper limits of something to some degree or to act dishonestly or cheat to some degree.

    My impression is that climate science (frequently claimed to be critical for the earth’s survival) accepts fudging in general. My impression is climate science academia appears to find it acceptable if it is adequately hidden and not flagrantly flaunted in the face of the public or fellow academics.

    If my assessment is above has merit then it would be a reason for me to increase my concern about the lack of integrity in the key climate scientists of the IPCC’s so-called consensus. Therefore it is less trust by me from more communication on climate science, not more trust by communication.


  41. EdeF
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

    CRU/UEA: Where exactly on the net is the tree data to be found, and where exactly is
    the list?

  42. John Whitman
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Permalink


    My 6:04 pm comment still in moderation after one hour since submitting.


    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

      Readers, there are too many angry and piling-on comments.

  43. Tom Gray
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

    Click to access Dowell2.PDF

    The growth and formation of trust is somethng that has been studied extensively for relationships in group services, busuness relationships etc. There are many kinds of trust and all of these interact to establish the level of trust or mistrust in a relationship. I believe that the paper at the URL above gives an indicaion of these kinds of trsut. It seesm to be approriate to this diuscussion becauase a main objective of the IPC should be to establish a trsuting relationship with the population

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Permalink

      The title and abstract of the paper are shown below. I think that it adequatelys shows what factors are important in developing trsut and how this is important to the effective collaboration of the parties within a relationship. The same factors with different orderings of importance have been found to be impoortant in the effective operation of groups

      Trust Formation at the Growth Stage of a Business-to-Business Relationship

      A significant proportion of the relationship marketing research conducted in the area of trust
      has examined this critical relationship variable as stable over time. However, as a
      relationship constantly grows and develops, it is argued that trust will develop in different
      ways depending on the stage of the lifecycle in which the relationship exists. This research
      uses a case study methodology to explore trust development at the critical relationship growth
      stage of the business-to-business lifecycle. Findings suggest that three types of trust lead to
      the generation of total trust at the relationship growth stage. In order of importance, they are:
      (1) Competency/ability trust, (2) Goodwill/benevolence trust, and (3) Contractual/integrity
      trust. The contribution of this paper lies in the identification of the variables that lead to these
      forms of trust, thus producing total trust at the relationship growth stage.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 7:34 PM | Permalink

      Click to access CEBsupport.101202_1046.Toronto_TR_2010_151.pdf

      The paper at the URL above has a summary of the work in organizational psychology on trust repair. Given the current state of the AGW issue, trust repair is a very important topic. Prof Judith Curry’s statements seem to be about repairing the trust that the public has lost in climate science so it is my opinion that this paper offers some useful guidance

  44. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

    I have not been paying good attention to JC’s trust thread or this one, but the trust Judith Curry is attempting to curry would I think be back to the policy thing on AGW and obtaining the trust of the public at large and those persons responsible for policy. The trust in that case would be more along the lines of the less informed public, and that includes many of those persons responsible for policy, “trusting” the advocacy of climate scientists, in a general way, being backed, more or less, with hard science evidence. It would be more related to the consensus on AGW being trusted than in SteveM’s case where the trust, or lack thereof, appears to go to the individual scientist and is based on that individual’s handling of the scientific evidence.

    There are certainly climate scientists whose works and papers I would look at in great detail and not without complete analysis before accepting (or rejecting) any of their conclusions. That is based on my level of trust of those individuals and is based on my evaluations of their past actions and works. When their works do not mention or attempt to use available sensitivity tests my trust light goes red and usually stays red for a long time.

  45. Tom Gray
    Posted Jul 24, 2011 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    In my reading of Goodwin’s article, I find that she is not concerned with the building of trust in climate science but in the persuasion of the public to accept the AGW consensus. This to me is one of the reasons for the lack of trust in climate science. As she points out in the paper, if people believe that they are being sold something then they lose trust.

    Climate science should focus on the trust part of the problem and not on persuasion especially in a field this uncertain. If one is persuaded of a finding by authority and then that something turns out to have been superseded by newer findings then why should one believe in any of these findings. These findings are believed because of an essential trust in the competency and the integrity of the source. It is this that has been shaken by Climategate and the rest. It is this that climate scientists must work on and not on trying to devise new and improved ways to convince the public since without trust noone is going to be convinced.

  46. zmarkran
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:18 AM | Permalink

    This constant stonewalling by leading climate scientists is remarkably damning to their credibility. What amazes me is the Team’s pathological refusal to admit any error, even when the evidence of such is laid out plain as day. This doesn’t seem like the behavior of those who chave “multiple lines of independent evidence that are all in agreement”. While we now know that the “evidence” that has been put forward so far is generally far from independent, the Team’s actions tend to undermine their own argument.

    Why cling to the last shreds of tattered and fraying evidence supporting one vanishing line of “proof” if you have so many other independently robust evidential trump cards to rely on? Even a certain (now-former) US congressman folded his tent when certain Twitter images came to light. That’s about where I’d peg the current state of this R2 claim, the Excel claim and others.

    It simply makes no sense unless the whole evidential construct really is a teetering house of cards. That would require the Team to defend the indefensible and to never abandon any position no matter how overrun it’s become. I, for one, am very glad Steve is subjecting their arguments to a bit of verification.

  47. Don Keiller
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 5:33 AM | Permalink

    With people like this running our country, wghat do you expect??

    Let me introduce our Energy and Climate Change Minister, Chris Huhne (currently under Police investigation for telling lies to get off a traffic offence).

    Here is our Right Honourable Chris Huhne in full rant;

    Unfortunately this nutter is in charge of our energy policy and deciding where future £billions are spent

  48. Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    I want to thank Steve and the Climate Audit community for the “extended peer review” of my paper–unless that’s too “post normal”!

    One clarification: Anyone with the expertise and time to review the evidence–whether credentialed scientist or citizen auditor–indeed does not need to trust. They can verify. It’s the rest of us–those without time and expertise–who need to figure out who to trust.

    I’m interested in what the experts can do to help non-experts judge trustworthiness soundly. I’m hoping that there are lots of such methods, including ones that will work even in extreme cases where there’s lots of distrust around. Otherwise, “lemon knowledge” will shut down the “marketplace for knowledge”–just like lemons threaten to undermine the marketplace for used cars.

    • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

      Re: jeangoodwin (Jul 25 08:50), “They can verify”.
      Jean, thank you for joining the discussion, but I am not sure that you appreciate the problem. In climate science, often this is not possible because the scientists involved have not released the primary raw data or the full details of the methods used to analyse the data.

      I would also be interested in whether you can address the main point made by Willis and Steve, which is that once trust has been lost it is virtually impossible to regain it.

      • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

        Hi, Paul: Thanks for the welcome!

        I think we can both agree that an expert’s illegitimate failure to release data and methods provides a reason for a non-expert to distrust. But your first question is more about how other experts should react. That’s a great question, but it’s outside my current line of research, so I don’t have much of an answer. I know that sounds weasely, but you don’t want me to show myself as untrustworthy by speaking outside my expertise, right?!

        Can trust be earned after it has been lost? In principle, yes. In the paper I’m arguing that one general reason we can trust someone is if they very visibly and accountably have something at risk should the relationship go wrong. Let’s say I’ve been burned by a used car dealer before. But now she has the exact car I’m looking for, at a good price, and she’s the only dealer in my small town. Can we make a deal? What if she puts up a bond of twice the price of the car, to be held by a good friend of mine, who will give me the money if I have the slightest complaint? That guarantee not only makes me feel assured that I won’t be hurt, but it also allows me to reason: “Well, she wouldn’t risk that much money if she wasn’t pretty confident that the car was a good one; so in this case at least, I can trust what she says.”

        Notice that this “in principle” answer may also sound a little weasely. Do I think that there’s any communication technique that would get Mann and McIntyre to trust each other? Absolutely not. Any time a communication “expert” tells you she can solve all your problems, keep your hand on your wallet. On the other hand, do I think that there are ways for people involved in the climate debates to marginally increase their manifest trustworthiness, even in the face of deep distrust? Yes.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

          Jean, I’ve been in business a long time and have settled some very difficult disputes. I don’t have to like someone to settle with them. Most negotiations between suspicious parties work on trying to reach agreement on small issues as a start. Take as many things off the table as you can before tackling the big issues. My own approach to a difficult negotiation would be try to see if you can reach agreement on about 2/3 of the problems and then just split the difference on the balance.

          One of the many strange aspects of climate academics is their unwillingness to concede an inch on anything. It is a remarkable phenomenon, noted not just by me, but by Lucia, Steve Mosher and others in this for a long time. This is completely opposite to the way that people in the real world resolve problems.

          From a blogging point of view, this in itself becomes an interesting phenomenon. But it’s not a recipe for building trust.

        • Bernie
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

          First it is great to have you engage directly on this site.
          That said, I would be more intrigued with your taxonomies if your research actually highlighted the longitudinal analysis of the breakdown and re-establishment of trust in one or more real world arenas. For example, have you examined the sales records of some used car dealers and followed up with the customers to determine their experience and reactions to their experience? Arguing that an insurance policy would somehow increase trust in a used car salesperson logically makes sense but does it comport to reality, when somebody has had a bad experience with said used car dealer. I do not know and nor do you unless you have some empirical data to support the claim.
          I expect that many here, including me, will push for your take on what actually happened as documented by those submitting FOI requests and how those requests were handled by the scientists and institutions involved. Many contributors here have engineering and business backgrounds and much prefer specific, data-based discussions.
          Regardless, congratualtions for your two comments here so far, I believe, surpass those of many others whose articles have been critically assessed by our host.

        • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

          Hi, Bernie: Yes, I’m trying to follow my own theory. Trust can sometimes be earned, slowly, by people who show themselves committed to an ongoing relationship and vulnerable within it–if nothing else, vulnerable to being dumped. So I suppose two comments is at least a beginning.

          I agree that empirical work on trust is vital, to test and fill the conceptual work I was attempting in this paper. (On the plus side, let me note that the “market for lemons” example is based on the analysis that won George Akerlof the Nobel Prize in economics, so it’s not totally out there.) In the paper, I cite off to some of the leading experimental studies. For more a more case-studies approach, Mitchell et al.’s _Global Environmental Assessments: Information and Influence_ (MIT Press, 2006) is good, although as political scientists they are more interested in an institutional perspective than the communication perspective I’m taking.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 11:39 PM | Permalink

          Jean, at your blog, you ask:

          Here’s one central question for communication theory, though: Assume that you’re an expert of good character in possession of some important knowledge. What can you do to make your good character and knowledge apparent to people who don’t know you, who don’t share your expertise, and who may even already disagree with things you’re going to say? I’m studying communication strategies which aim to do that.

          Let me ask you a question. Isn’t Climate Audit a relevant case study for your question? My approach to archiving source code and data for our articles was experimental for these precise reasons. My approach to the blog was also experimental. I intentionally established some standards and practices that were different from other blogs, internet discussions and journal articles in order to try to achieve some of the goals described in your problem statement (though this was not done as a formal goal, it was more instinctive.) And think about it: what were the odds of someone in the business of mineral exploration stocks establishing a flourishing and influential climate blog? Isn’t this a mildly interesting case study given the question that interests you?

          Real Climate is a related case study. It started with much more obvious advantages but which has arguably not lived up to the franchise despite Gavin Schmidt’s considerable talent and energy.

          Readers can probably describe the practices, better than I can myself. If you worked through these case studies, my guess is that you’d end up with a more interesting analysis than trying to do so abstractly.

        • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 2:42 PM | Permalink


          My background is much like Mr. McIntyres’s — but more on the science and math side — not stats. However like him I end up negotiating (and un-negotiating) and troubleshooting deals in minerals, mining and exploration — simply because I can relate to the issues on the science side and have a grasp of contract law and for some reason can figure out how to make a deal work — if it can.

          Here is what you said:

          I think we can both agree that an expert’s illegitimate failure to release data and methods provides a reason for a non-expert to distrust. But your first question is more about how other experts should react. That’s a great question, but it’s outside my current line of research, so I don’t have much of an answer. I know that sounds weasely, but you don’t want me to show myself as untrustworthy by speaking outside my expertise, right?!

          Here is what I thought as I read this…

          Sentence one: The word illegitimate says it all. If the other party can;t recognize that issue — then the deal is over. Unwinding the deal is where we are going.

          Sentence two: “How other experts…”? Why bother splitting out categories — that is really frustrating — if you are dealing with someone who wants to perform illegitimate acts — you are unwinding the deal! There is no need to say: — “How should ewe react if we are an expert?” Nor should we bother to say “How should we react if we are one of the (perceived) peasantry?” If the other party wants to justify and perform illegitimate acts — we don’t need to analyze too deeply to see where this is going.

          Sentence Three: Honesty is outside your line of research? If you need to study whether honesty is required in a business deal — and justifying the creation of programs to spend Trillions of $ is such a deal — then I really don’t know how to negotiate with you.

          Sentence four: Weasely? What can I say. If you don’t have expertise in honesty then we can only assume that your deals won’t hold up over time. The first paragraph seems the type of thing that people have said to me and the associated parties over the years in an attempt to infuriate and try push a loss of control on our part…

          It’s those sort of answers that can make it difficult to deal with academics. …and that’s why I am no longer there..

          By the time I read the first paragraph my strategy would be to remedy what I could, ditch you as a partner or participant and spend my time in a more productive manner — all as nicely as possible — but with finality.

          I hope this post meets the standards of reader to reader interaction.

    • John Whitman
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Permalink


      Glad to see you join the CA discussion.

      I think the resolution of the issue of lack of trust in key climate science experts has a solution primarily in the area of the science of rational ethics. It does not appear the solution can come predominately from physical science itself when the problem appears to be essentially ethical.

      This leads me to conclude that what is needed for the resolution of lack of trust toward the climate science experts is a broader treatment of a fundamental discussion ethics based on the science of rational ethics.

      Evaluation within the science of rational ethics has the potential to be independent of the problem area of climate science expertise; so we should get a much more independent evaluation of the untrustworthy issue instead of a biased evaluation that could reasonably be expected from within the climate science expert community itself.

      A set of climate science experts who appear to be running without a set of rational ethics would be a problem for trustworthiness. I suggest we need to probe their ethics from the outside, not from within to eliminate the appearance of whitewashing.


    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I would urge you to think about “trust” as it earned and dissipated in other fields. One of the fundamental themes in my analysis of scientists communicating with the public is drawn from the rules for business promoters communicating with the public. Business promoters do not have a right of “free speech” to the public. They are subject to “full true and plain disclosure” obligations. These obligations require, for example, the disclosure of adverse results – disclosure, which, in academic practice, seems to be optional. Violation of full, true and plain disclosure in a prospectus can lead to charges under securities legislation (and this is what is typically invoked in charging Enron etc.), whereas failure to provide full, true and plain disclosure is not academic misconduct. Business prospectuses must undergo expensive and time-consuming audits and verifications. This permits investors to trust the statements without having to do their own audits. Journal peer review, by contrast, is a very cursory form of due diligence and one whose objective is not to “audit” the paper in question, but to determine whether it is worth publishing.

      I urge you to consider the accumulated knowledge of practical people in increasing the trustworthiness of investments in a world of pretty unscrupulous people.

      Also, in my own detailed analysis of some important papers, it has become clear to me that what you call “credentialed scientists” were doing statistical work for which they were, using your word, “uncredentialed”. Nor do I think that your word “citizen auditor”, one of Judy’s terms that I don’t use myself and rather dislike, does justice to the fact that the “core” statistical commenters at Climate Audit and related blogs (Jean S, UC, Ross McKitrick, Roman Mureika, Hu McCulloch, Nic Lewis, Ryan O’Donnell , Jeff Id, Lucia and myself) to name only a few) are more “credentialed” in statistical analysis than the “scientists” that are being criticized.

      At this point, it is foolish to expect us to defer to the statistical authority of Mann, Jones, Briffa et al. It’s not gong to happen. Nor should this be described as a dispute between amateurs and professionals, unless you characterize the “scientists” as amateurs in statistics and their critics as professionals.

      • Tom Gray
        Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

        I think that several issues are being confounded in this discusison all of them being described as trsut. Teh issues that I see being discussed are

        a) peer review to verify submitted papers
        b) auditing a scientific corpus to ensure a sound consensus
        c) presentation methods for the lay audience to understand a scientific consensus
        and finally
        d) the generation of trust in teh lay audience for a scientific community

        These are all related in some way but are quite distinct. For the generation of trust I have provided links to the lprganizational psychology iterature on trust in my comments of July 24th above. In particular, my reading of Goodwin indicates that she has missed the point on just what trust is. That is, I don’t find in her paper an acknowledgement of the work that has gone on in trust generation in organizational psychology. She does not discuss the issue of “trust repair” or how trust can be regained once it is lost. This is discussed in the paper at

        Click to access CEBsupport.101202_1046.Toronto_TR_2010_151.pdf

      • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

        Steve, thanks also for the welcome. I agree with you that communication scholarship should take seriously the best practices of the most skilled practitioners. Although it’s not the approach I adopted in this particular essay, it is something I’ve attempted elsewhere.

        Let me also apologize for being unclear in the “scientist/auditor” remark. My goal was not to divide the world into two classes, but rather to focus on expertise in general, whether or not it is formally credentialed–i.e., I was trying to be more open rather than more restrictive. Would replacing “whether credentialed scientist or citizen auditor” with “anyone with expertise relevant to a given topic, whether formally credentialed or not” improve the statement?

    • ChE
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

      Just a fine point:

      One clarification: Anyone with the expertise and time to review the evidence–whether credentialed scientist or citizen auditor–indeed does not need to trust. They can verify.

      That’s not really true. That’s one of the main themes here; getting the data to verify is like pulling teeth. Making that statement true would remove a major point of contention, and probably would have prevented climategate.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Permalink

        That’s one of the main themes here; getting the data to verify is like pulling teeth. Making that statement true would remove a major point of contention, and probably would have prevented climategate..

        The failure of Jean Goodwin and others to recognize the corrosiveness of these refusals is part of the problem.

        This post is about a specific FOI refusal that makes me and many readers think that the 2006 results are “unfavorable” and that’s why they weren’t reported. of course, people’s trust in the data refusers is going to be reduced. Again, I don’t know why Jean and other concerned parties don’t simply write to Briffa and tell them their data obstruction is hurting their cause. Von Storch,somewhat to his credit, did write an email along those line in 2006, but Briffa disregarded it and nothing happened. Von Storch did not publicize the failure of his intervention at the time (the exchange is in a Climategate email,)

        As I say over and over, the people who should be concerned about CRU’s conduct are the climate “community”, not the blogs.

        • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Permalink

          Hi, Steve: Does it help that the paper you generously brought to the attention of your readership is the extended abstract of a 15 minute presentation at the American Meteorological Society convention last January?

        • Willis Eschenbach
          Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 1:31 AM | Permalink

          Jean Goodwin, first my thanks for showing up to discuss your work.

          Next, a question. You raise the following issue:

          Here’s one central question for communication theory, though: Assume that you’re an expert of good character in possession of some important knowledge. What can you do to make your good character and knowledge apparent to people who don’t know you, who don’t share your expertise, and who may even already disagree with things you’re going to say? I’m studying communication strategies which aim to do that.

          But that’s not the situation we are facing. We are facing experts of bad character, the improper actions of whose leaders have destroyed the trust that we once reposed in the entire field. We know that the experts are of bad character because they have, almost to a man, refused to criticize the actions of their leaders in even the smallest way. Finally, despite being convicted by their own words and actions, the leaders have refused to take responsibility in any form for their reprehensible actions, and the followers have pointedly not required that the leaders do so. That’s a thumbnail sketch of where we stand.

          Now in our situation, all of your good ideas so far are totally worthless. I hate to be blunt, but your advice assumes that the experts have good character, so clearly you’re not discussing climate science.

          So have you done any studies on the proper “communication strategies” for dealing with “experts of bad character”? It’s a serious question …

          My best to you,


        • j ferguson
          Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

          Jean Goodwin,
          If you would like a succinct and very readable exposition of what Willis is talking about, get and read Andrew Montford’s “the Hockey Stick Illusion” – available in Kindle by the way. The actual history of this subject is far worse than I thought, to use a “Climate Science” term of art.


        • Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

          Hi, Willis: It’s likely that speakers of bad character will not choose to adopt the communication strategy we lay out in this paper. The core of the strategy consists in the speaker’s committing him/herself to a long-term relationship with the audience, and in making him/herself vulnerable to them in ways that they can reliably enforce. A speaker who was planning something bad would be unlikely to be willing to create conditions in which they could be caught.

          On the other hand, if there was a bad person, his or her willingness to undertake such a vulnerability might be a sign of repentance or conversion, right?

          I know that the communication discipline has a reputation for teaching how to successfully mislead people. The tradition that I work in doesn’t do this. Although we are certainly interested in helping communicators succeed, some of us follow the ancient scholar/teacher Isocrates in thinking that the best, easiest and perhaps only way of maintaining a good public character over the long haul is to actually have a good character. Especially in controversial settings, communication is effective when it is conspicuously appropriate (or ethical in a broad sense).

          Since the work that Steve brought to your attention was written with one specific purpose, I’m not at all surprised that you may find it “worthless” for other purposes. On the other hand, as Steve points out above, the analysis in the paper may help us all understand a variety of communication situations, such as this blog. Plus I do appreciate the useful feedback you all have been providing.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

          The core of the strategy consists in the speaker’s committing him/herself to a long-term relationship with the audience, and in making him/herself vulnerable to them in ways that they can reliably enforce.

          Let’s see.

          One of the reasons why I made all the source code and data available for our articles – and indeed for many blog posts – was that I didn’t expect people to believe our results simply because we said so. Ross and I set new standards of transparency in the field for precisely this reason. Total transparency definitely creates “vulnerability” as Ross discovered in the radian/degree error in his code for a different article (which he promptly acknowledged and corrected.) Had we described our methodology obscurely and not placed our code out there for people to criticize, I think that we would have attracted less attention.

          And on blog management. Real Climate reduces its “vulnerability” by censoring critics, boreholing critics, burying comments by delay. In my opinion, these practices have contributed to the dissipation of the credibility of their franchise so that it has ended up preaching to the choir far too much, when it had a tremendous opportunity for outreach to the large interested community.

          They are also more unpleasant than they need to be or ought to be. I’m not sure where that fits into your communications theory, but it’s important in practical communications. I try pretty hard to be polite and I think that it pays off over the long run. I know that I occasionally do not live up to this policy, but I also understand departures from this policy are counter-productive and self-indulgent and still try to adhere to the policy.

        • Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Permalink

          Based on Willis’ assessment, which I tend to agree with, and your clarification, your paper is irrelevant to the situations highlighted by most of the posts on this blog.

          Perhaps, early on, it might have been relevant, but that time has long passed.

          FYI, I’m one of those who isn’t able to verify (I have no degree in anything, terrible at math, etc), so I have to trust someone. While I don’t understand the mathematical and statistical nature of the posts here, I do understand the concepts. And so far I have not seen a legitimate counter to Steve’s concepts. So I trust what Steve says, unless someone can show me I’m in error to do so.

          I have NO reason to trust the persons running RealClimate. I know they suppress reasoned but dissenting views, even purely technical rebuttals to their posts, as Willis can show you if you’re interested.

        • Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Permalink

          Jean, by interesting coincidence, the August edition of the American Economic Review-Microeconomics has a group of articles on reputation-building (and preserving) in market settings. Here’s one that I think has some bearing on your project.

          Can Warranties Substitute for Reputations?
          James W. Roberts
          In markets where product quality is imperfectly observed or delivery is uncertain, seller reputations and product guarantees or warranties can impact equilibrium prices and quantities. Using data from a decentralized online market, this paper empirically investigates the substitutability of product guarantees for seller reputation. I find that a “guaranteed or your money back” promise from the market maker does not substitute for reputation, either in determining price or the probability of sale. The most likely causes of the policy’s ineffectiveness are delays in buyer response to the guarantee and skepticism about reimbursement in the event of fraud. (JEL D82, L14, L15, L81, M31)

          As Steve has explained, he and I had no reputation to offer (though we had/have better credentials than the insiders for the specific work we do, namely statistical analysis), so we substituted warranties in the form of disclosure: here’s the data, here’s the code, find a flaw in what we’ve done and we’ll give you your money back, so to speak. Our antagonists had the reputation, but trying to collect on their warranty when we found product flaws turned out to be basically impossible. Over the ensuing history I have come to conclude that, in line with the above abstract, warranties and reputations are at best imperfect substitutes. Building a reputation by offering a generous warranty is slow and is not guaranteed to win over a hostile market. If you start with a strong reputation, offering a phony warranty and failing to fix or replace defective products doesn’t always cause you to lose it. But if it does eventually, generous warranties won’t provide a quick or easy remedy. Reminds me of the US auto industry, actually.

        • Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 9:05 AM | Permalink

          Thanks, Ross: very useful citation.

          It’s interesting to notice that online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have all managed to build relatively trustworthy reputation systems. In fact, in addition to just making it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other, what these sites can charge money for is probably being neutral designers/enforcers of ratings.

          Unfortunately, no group has yet gained reliable “neutral” status on political issues, and so there is no blog rating system that would allow deserving start-up blogs to earn a reputation quickly. Something like the League of Women Voters in real-space?

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

          The paper seems to have rediscovered the concept of “competency” and “integrity” trust from orgainzational psychology. if A causes B to doubt their “competency” then this loss of trust will spill over and B will as well doubt A’s integrity. So if A says “Trust me to accomplish something and if I fail I will give you compensation,” the B’a natural thought would be “What is A trying to prove with this guarantee?”

        • Willis Eschenbach
          Posted Jul 28, 2011 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

          Jean Goodwin said:

          Hi, Willis: It’s likely that speakers of bad character will not choose to adopt the communication strategy we lay out in this paper. The core of the strategy consists in the speaker’s committing him/herself to a long-term relationship with the audience, and in making him/herself vulnerable to them in ways that they can reliably enforce. A speaker who was planning something bad would be unlikely to be willing to create conditions in which they could be caught.

          Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, it emphasizes the difficulties with your work as regarding climate science.

          You are looking at it from the point of view of a speaker who wants to increase how much the audience trusts them. It is a valid and valuable point of view. But that situation, of a honest speaker who wants to show people he’s trustworthy, is not where we are today.

          Instead, we are in a situation where (to use your example) the audience has been shown evidence that the speaker has engaged in unscientific, unethical, and possibly illegal actions and practices. Not only that, but the speaker refuses to take any responsibility or admit any wrongdoing. Far from being accountable, the speaker refuses to answer any and all questions about his actions. And to add insult to injury, the speaker’s co-workers refuse to say anything bad about the speaker, and deflect all inquiries.

          Now, you study the issues of trust … so what is your recommendation for our situation?

          You see what I mean about the difficulties regarding your work and climate science? We don’t face the problem you are aiming to solve.

          On the other hand, if there was a bad person, his or her willingness to undertake such a vulnerability might be a sign of repentance or conversion, right?

          Oh, goodness, dear lady, thank you very much, I needed a good laugh, the idea of that happening in climate science is hilarious.

          In any case, as an outsider to your field of study, let me say that I find your use of the term “vulnerability” to be, well, kinda squicky. If you think you’ll gain adherents by advising “vulnerability” I predict a small following.

          I do think it is a matter of terminology, however, and not substance. Let me suggest that you do a global search and replace, and substitute the word “accountability” instead. I have absolutely no desire to be vulnerable to the audience, that’s a rhinestone cowboy foolishness I avoid. I do, however, consider myself accountable for my words and actions.


        • Bernie
          Posted Jul 28, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

          I love your bluntness. Jean Goodwin is trying hard to practice what she preaches. I hope her response takes you at face value and responds with equal bluntness. If she does, then real progress might occur.
          I do think you are right about her strange and strained vocabulary – I would be tempted to ask her how come she chose “vulnerability” as opposed to “accountability”. It seems to me that at base it reflects an implicit assumption of superiority of the person sending the message vis a vis the listener. If that is the case, then a major attitude adjustment is needed. She certainly should look at the bios of frequent commentators at Air Vent and Climate etc.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

          Here’s one central question for communication theory, though: Assume that you’re an expert of good character in possession of some important knowledge. What can you do to make your good character and knowledge apparent to people who don’t know you, who don’t share your expertise, and who may even already disagree with things you’re going to say? I’m studying communication strategies which aim to do that.

          In organizational psychology that is called “quick trust”. People will tend to give others the benefit of the doubt and provide them with trust intially. People want to collaborate. We are social animals and we want to cooperate and trust each otehr.. You have to do something to lose trust

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

      One clarification: Anyone with the expertise and time to review the evidence–whether credentialed scientist or citizen auditor–indeed does not need to trust. They can verify. It’s the rest of us–those without time and expertise–who need to figure out who to trust

      This misses the point of about what trust is about. Trust is essential to collaboration even among peers. How can progress be made if every step needs to be checked and rechecked? Peers must trust each other so that an effective division of labor can be created. Organization psychology has shown that people will enter a relationship assuming trust. They call this ‘quick trust”. The assumption in made so that collaboration can be assumed. However this trust can be lost, if there are doubt created about a collaborator’s competency or integrity. Competency trust and integrity trust bleed in to each other so that doubts about one will cause doubts about the other. And without trust, collaboration will break down with the repair of trust being very difficult.

      There is a peer-reviewed literature of long standing on trust in organizational psychology which, to my mind, can illuminate the issues being faced in climate science

    • stan
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Permalink


      The trust starts when a quality process can be observed. How do unsophisticated jurors assess the relative claims of two experts whose testimony is contradictory? If both lawyers have been skillful in cross-examination, an important evaluation tool will be the quality of the work, research, etc. of each.

      I don’t have to know anything about climate science to know that instruments should be sited in accordance with basic scientific standards and calibrated regularly. That’s basic quality control.

      I don’t have to know anything about climate science to know that having other people check the work is a good idea. And that to do that, all the data and codes and methods have to be open and available. If a scientist refuses to be transparent, it doesn’t take a PhD to know that he shouldn’t be trusted.

      If numerous stats experts state that certain scientists are screwing up their stats, I don’t need to be an expert myself to know that a red flag has been raised.

      If numerous software pros tell us that the code is substandard, I don’t have to be a software expert to know that anyone truly interested in producing the best quality product will seek software help. Same for computer models and forecasting.

      It’s all about simple quality processes. When people fail to try to do quality work, it’s ususally not quality work.

  49. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    I have not read Goodwin’s piece in detail, but from the excerpts I read here I judge that she assumes the scientific evidence is primarily correct for the scientist/advocate to argue their AGW cases and what she recommends is some generalized strategy to regain or gain “trust” from some “misunderstandings” of the public about climate scientists.

    I was of that opinion about what I recall of Judith Curry’s initial reactions to Climategate. While her criticism of some facets of climate science, such as the IPCC, have sharpened over time as well as the reactions of some climate scientists and their defenders to her crtiques, I wonder how much her initial stance, as I viewed it, has actually changed.

  50. Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    Financial institutions that rely entirely on the confidence of their investors in their soundness are by definition “confidence rackets” or “con games.” While all financial institutions require the confidence of their customers to operate, the sound ones earn this confidence through substance: they publish regular financial statements, and checks are in place to guarantee that they really have the assets they claim they have. Most investors don’t really study the financial statements and guarantees in detail, but odds are that some will and that unsound institutions will be exposed in due course.

    Similarly, a doctrine that purports to be a science but relies entirely on the trust of the public in its sacred writings or in the pronouncements of its high priesthood is not a real science, but in fact a religion. A real science earns the public’s trust through open disclosure of its data and methods and through relentless exposure to attempts to disprove established theories. Most laypeople don’t really check the data or calculations, but as long as anyone is free to do this, the odds are good that the theories most professionals in a field subscribe to are reasonably valid.

  51. Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

    Judith Curry is highlighting ethical issues in science in:A Scientist’s Manifesto from Andrew Maynard’s post is entitled “Building trust between science and society: A Scientist’s Manifesto.”

  52. jim
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    What one does speaks volumes over what one says. Any scientist or institution that does not supply ALL code and data to the public does not deserve my trust.

  53. Stacey
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 12:11 PM | Permalink

    The idea that scientists need to build trust with society in my view is absurd. There is little or no evidence that society has lost trust in scientists. Far from it scientists are revered.

    That a group of climate scientists have acted in bad faith, behaving as Satre’s waiter with self delusion and a lack of autenticity then they and their supporters should not be surprised that society has lost trust in them.

    Trust in the context of their behaviour and actions against society means trust can never be re-built with society. That of course is how it should be.

    It is not just the message which is wrong it is also the messenger.

  54. stan
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

    BTW, I think the fudging/academic misconduct issue isn’t that important. Yes, it shows us how academics think about ethics and quality. That can be be useful in assessing their pronouncements, see e.g. Penn St, UVa, and individual academics.

    In the big scheme of things it’s about policy implications. And fudging is fudging. If the public reads that sceintist Q fudged his data, the footnote that his university didn’t think it merited his firing won’t do much to rehabilitate that work (or the university for that matter 😉

    Too often the debate is about what scientists or academics consider sufficient or appropriate. That’s the wrong question. The proper question is one of policy –whether the work is sufficiently rigorous in quality that we can be confident it is solid enough to justify invoking the use of govt force against innocent citizens. That should be a really high bar of quality. Certainly a heckuva lot higher than whether some academics are flustered about someone’s fudging.

  55. philh
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    After almost twenty-two years as a criminal court trial judge who has listened to thousands of cases, I would guess I am as qualified as most to guage the trustworthiness of individuals and their proposals. One thing I have learned over the years is to watch carefully for signs that someone is NOT teling the truth. Such signs are often more decisive than the ones that indicate truthfulness.

    In the context involved here, in the years I have been reading CA there have been so many, many “tells” that the “Team,” or the “Concensus” or whatever one wants to call this group of scientists, has not been truthful with the critics, the politicians, the media or the public.

    Their conduct, outside the shelter of their clique and it’s supporters, consisting almost entirely of obfuscation of FOI requests, failure to voluntarily release their data and their codes, ad hominem attacks on their critics, dependence on friendly peer reviews and cozy “investigations,” refusals to engage in debates here or elsewhere, misstatements of their critics positions, all these and more remind me of lawyers — and I have seen plenty of them — who don’t have the facts or the law on their side and so simply blow smoke at the judge or the jury.

    I now fully believe that their fundamental problem is that they do not trust their data and do not trust themselves. If that is right, then their situation is hopeless…and, in some respects, deeply tragic. They cannot admit it, they cannot go back, start over; too much time, too much prestige, too much money at risk. In short, they must continue to depend on…smoke.

    • John Whitman
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Permalink


      Your fundamental observation of their tragedy is sobering.

      What you think of some kind of clemency action by the scientific community to induce them to step forward to reveal their past conduct, for the good of their honored profession of science?


    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM | Permalink

      A great summary of the basic problems in the Climate Science field. But one thing bothers me. When such a situation arises, it’s usually broken up by someone turning “state’s evidence” or the like. Why hasn’t that happened in this case? My best guess is that the issue isn’t the science, but the politics. Unless and until one of the inner circle decide the politics behind the reification (and perhaps deification), of climate science is corrupt, everyone will try to hold on to their theories for dear life.

      • mondo
        Posted Jul 28, 2011 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

        Dave. There could be financial issues involved as well, don’t you think? When telling the truth means the loss of grants, and/or employment. Pretty compelling reasons I would have thought.

  56. BlueIce2HotSea
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

    An elephant in the room, is the unstated role that science is expected to play in a society. At times, science has been a handmaid to truth; and at other times, a handmaid to politics. Depending upon expectations, a trustworthy scientist may be defined either as one who is scrupulously honest or one who can be trusted to dissemble on cue.

    If science is about truth, then dishonesty can be a ferocious hot-button (i.e. Willis and Lucia). That is when dispassion becomes a conditional scientific virtue. I am OK with that.

    Others have managed indomitable, dogged pursuit of truth – projecting a relatively patient, calm temperament – while fully immersed in a polarizing slanderous fracas!

    To that latter stereotyped group (of mature, natural-born scientists), I would place both Steve and Judith Curry. And though I trust them both, they may differ in their politics and Climate policy recommendations. That is when I must trust my own judgment.

  57. oneuniverse
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

    Jean, thank you for your engagement.

    In Goodwin and Dahlstrom, you wrote :

    Persuasion literature has a long history of examining how to increase trust in a message through manipulating source factors, such as the communicator’s expertise, attractiveness or similarity with the audience. Early research suggested that a message from a source that is more physically attractive or similar to the audience should likely be more accepted (Brinol and Petty 2009); other factors which have been linked to credibility include fluent delivery, humor and likeability (O’Keefe 2002).


    It is unlikely, however, that simply enhancing such source factors will be sufficient to establish trust in climate science communication. This is because factors such as likeability and attractiveness are unlikely to survive the critical scrutiny they will encounter in a controversy as heated as that over climate science.


    In fact, within controversial settings the use of source factors to persuade may turn out to be worse than ineffective. Lay audiences do examine scientific messages for potentially manipulative persuasive strategies (Kolstø et al. 2006). Polling by the CCCC, for example, found that among Americans who had followed the “Climategate” story, close to 70% thought that scientists had misrepresented their results in order to make global warming appear worse (Leiserowitz et al. 2010b). But as Scheufele & Nisbet (2009) have acknowledged, “if the public feels like they are simply being marketed to, this perception is likely to only reinforce existing polarization and perceptual gridlock…[When] public engagement is defined, perceived, and implemented as a topdown persuasion campaign, then public trust is put at risk.”

    It seems to me that the Climategate story corroded trust because it provided confirmation that some key IPCC scientists engaged in unethical behaviour such as :
    – Withholding or obscuring adverse data in their publications
    – Withholding data from scientific auditors
    – Blocking FOI requests (requests prompted by the refusal to share data)
    – Seeking to delete sought-after correspondence pertaining to possible violations of IPCC guidelines
    – Attempting to block publication of critical papers by hostile reviews, exertion of influence at the editorial board level, and the threat of boycott.

    You attribute the loss of trust resulting from the Climategate scandal to a back-firing “use of source factors”. Yet none of the above has anything to do with the communicators’ perceived level of expertise, attractiveness, similarity with the audience, fluency of delivery, humour, likeability, etc. These emails weren’t visible to the public until the leak or hack, so even if you don’t agree that this list identifies the trust-damaging elements of the Climategate material, I find it difficult to see how you came to attribute the damage to source factors.

    Do you believe that the ethical issues involved in withholding or hiding adverse data affecting key results in a scientific publication are of equal weight to the choice of looking presentable and speaking personably, with wit and clarity etc, in order to make a good impression on an audience? The first is inevitably misleading, the second is not.

    • Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

      Hi, oneuniverse! Thanks for reading our paper. That is always extremely flattering, at least to stray humanities professors like myself.

      In the paper, we’re relying on the polling and analysis of the Center for Climate Change Communication for the decline in general public trust post Climategate. I think you’re right in saying that their results don’t show exactly what kind of communication the “scientists misrepresenting” view they found really refers to.

      At the same time, just on a conceptual level, the theory we lay out in the paper predicts that behaviors like the ones you list indeed give some good reasons for distrust.

      I’m not sure it makes sense to say whether appeals to people’s “peripheral processing” (roughly intuition, or heuristic thinking) are better or more effective in some overall sense than appeals to people’s “central processing’ (roughly, critical thinking). Speaking as an member of the audience, I need to use both kinds of processing; there are plenty of decisions that aren’t worth spending a lot of time thinking about, like which toothpaste to buy. And it doesn’t strike me that it is always “misleading” to appeal to someone’s quick-and-dirty peripheral/heuristic cognitive processing. Is *all* advertising misleading?

      But I am pretty sure that it is a mistake to rely on “source factors” when addressing an audience that is paying attention, that is highly engaged, and that already has some reason to distrust. The purpose of our paper is to start laying out some of the kinds of communication that will give even such an audience some good reasons for trust. In our view, one main way to gain trust is to make oneself vulnerable; although we don’t specifically mention it, it seems clear that sharing data creates such a vulnerability.

      • Bernie
        Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 8:23 AM | Permalink

        oneuniverse picked up on a similar issue that I had with the CCCC survey (Leiserowitz 2010): “Alarmed” and “Concerned” seemed to be less aware of Climategate and IPCC errors than the “Dismissives”. How does that happen, when these same groups claim significant levels of knowledge about global warming? Is it not also true that trust can be lost when those who appear to support a position are seen as “untrustworthy” – a kind of mistrust by association. Many regulars here are as skeptical of Greenpeace as they are of Tobacco companies. Gore’s AIT might have been persuasive for many, but I suspect that it had precisely the opposite effect for many here.

        Having re-read your article and Leiserowitz’s survey results, I am with Willis – when certain scientists are not open, do not enable the verification of their work, actively resist legitimate efforts to obtain relevant information, misrepresent or disparage critics of their work, why would you trust? When these scientists are not held to account by their peers, why would you trust their peers?

        Separately, I am not a fan of the segmentation type of CCCC survey. They potentially suffer from the same problem that paleo proxies that include Bristlecone Pine chronologies suffer from – the “clusters” are driven by a non-relevant factor that masks critical information and processes. If I was researching how to communicate climate science findings to skeptical audiences, I would be much more interested in how the group of individuals who self report having a lot of information about the subject evaluate the trustworthiness of their sources of information. Hyperbolically, I would be more interested in finding out how Steve McIntyre thinks than Al Gore!

      • thisisnotgoodtogo
        Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

        Hello, Jean.

        I noticed that in the 4th report both in intro and in poll question, there is a problem. It says:

        Even among the Alarmed and
        Concerned, however, awareness of the strength of scientific agreement is low: While
        approximately 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that
        it is caused primarily by human activities”

        Jean, this seems to be a mixture of Doran poll question and IPCC declaration; Doran said 97 % agree with human input being a “significant contributing factor” – not “primarily caused by ”

        The poll question is similarly affected.

      • Bdaabat
        Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

        There are a variety of valid reasons for lack of trust in climate science. One of the less obvious reasons is the lack of professionalism displayed by the community.

        Professionals have an ethical responsibility to correct misinformation, to acknowledge improper behavior and implement practices and policies to correct that improper behavior. That responsibility has not been implemented by the community.

        In the case of climate science, there does not appear to be any acknowledgement of problems. There doesn’t appear to be any effort to correct improper behavior. The criticisms of improper scientific practice and unethical behavior have almost entirely been from outsiders. Even when directly confronted with very basic issues, such as journals selectively enforcing data access policies, the response has generally been to solely support the wishes of the climate scientists. even when climate gate showed improper an unethical behavior, the community made (or attempted to make) excuses.

        Steve has correctly criticized the “silence” of professional peers…they have not only NOT held the team to account, they’ve largely worked to support the team’s efforts.

        In every discipline, there will always be a couple folks who push boundaries or do things that are wrong. However, the expectation for professionals is that there will be internal mechanisms to deal with those outliers…those who don’t follow standards or who behave inappropriately. That is not the case with climate science.

        This lack of professional accountability shows that the normal and expected corrective mechanisms that should be in place are not, making the rest of the community less trust worthy.


  58. Faustino
    Posted Jul 25, 2011 at 9:33 PM | Permalink

    Here’s my post on Goodwin on CE:

    Goodwin differentiates between intuition and critical thinking, perceiving (I think) the latter as superior. Critical thinking has underpinned my work as an economist. However, this approach depends predominantly on that small part of the mind where conscious reasoning takes place. By contrast, intuition depends on that much larger and deeper part of the mind, the so-called subconscious or unconscious, where a vast array of experience and data is stored, and where the emotional drivers of our responses reside. Most people make an intuitive assessment of people they meet within seconds, even at a glance, and these instant assessments – obviously crucial to how we get on in life – tend to be accurate (sorry, can’t cite sources other than me at this point). When it comes to issues of trust in matters which might significantly affect our well-being, such as CAGW and government policies relating to it, we do well to depend on our intuition, whatever critical thinking suggests. It appears to me that, intuitively, people are increasingly less trusting of proponents of CAGW and political responses to it. Anyone who wants to influence understanding on these issues must as a basis have great integrity and commitment to truth. Cf how many posters on CA are influenced not just by McIntyre’s data and arguments but by their perception that his integrity and commitment to truth far exceed that of those who decry him. This has influenced many who have gone to CA as CAGW-accepters to change their views, even though McIntyre’s aim appears to be to get at the truth rather than to change opinions.

  59. James Evans
    Posted Jul 26, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    If someone’s in the business of selling hammers, there’s very little point in trying to tell them that what you really need is a screwdriver. The salesperson will continue to tell you how great their hammers are.

    Jean Goodwin is in the “vulnerability” business. You can point out that the lack of trust stems from dishonesty and a blatantly deplorable lack of ethics. You can do that till the cows come home.

    Jean Goodwin will continue to tell you about the advantages of vulnerability.

  60. JamesD
    Posted Jul 27, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Permalink

    The Republicans control the House of Representatives. Any chance of getting a House investigation into this obstruction?

  61. R.S.Brown
    Posted Jul 28, 2011 at 4:12 AM | Permalink


    You can find the new House of Commons Select Committee report – Science and Technology Committee’s
    “Peer review in scientific publications” at :


    There’s a fairly neutral write up by Daniel Boettcher on it from the BBC at:




  62. Tom Gray
    Posted Jul 30, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    In the current (July – August 2011) issue of the American Scientist, there is an article on the creation of codes of scientific ethics entitled “Making Ethical Guidelines matter”. It is by Michael J. Zignond and recounts the efforts that he has made in creating a set of ethical guidelines for neuroscience under the auspices of the Society for Neuroscience.

    Of particular interest for the interests of this blog is the section in column 3 of page 298 of the issue in which discusses the ramifications of the guideline on the sharing of research material. The society’s guideline’s prescribe ” … unique material used in studies being reported must be available to qualified scientists for bona fide research purposes…” This principle appears to me to be reflected in the ICO’s decision and would require the sharing of data sets in climate science.

    However the analysis continues with the presentation of a case study that was presented to a panel of established scientists. The case study posited a young scientist who had developed a mouse that could be sued as a model for schizophrenia. She intended to use this mouse in further studies and as a basis for establishing her career. However, the case study also posited that she had received a request from a major established researcher for a number of mice. The established researcher, with his ample research facilities, would be well able to perform the experiments that she was planning and do them before she could. he could thus take the greater part of the value of her work and short circuit the establishment of her career. The case study was presented to the panel of established scientists and they all concurred that she should not supply the mice regardless of the ethical guideline of the society.

    The case study presents the conundrum of scientific openness versus the right of someone to benefit from the fruits of their own labor. The guideline is intended to benefit the progress of the whole of science but it is countered by its effect on the rights of the individual scientist.

    This to me indicates that the use of the model of scientific research and publishing is not appropriate for a project such as that assigned to the IPCC for AGW. The use of independent researchers each with their own intellectual property rights runs counter to the sharing, as recognized in the neuroscience society guidelines, that is necessary for scientific progress. There are other models available for the organization of projects beyond that adopted by the IPCC. The organization of large space missions, particle accelerator construction, etc. are examples that spring to mind. These avoid the issue of IPR

  63. Sean
    Posted Aug 3, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    Steve, your message is starting to gain broader acceptance! Here is a quote from realclimate.org, reacting to a new paper questioning climate models’ assumptions regarding temperature feedbacks:

    “The basic material in the paper has very basic shortcomings because no statistical significance of results, error bars or uncertainties are given either in the figures or discussed in the text. Moreover the description of methods of what was done is not sufficient to be able to replicate results.”

  64. Eric Rasmusen
    Posted Aug 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

    One thing that’s puzzled me is why in climate science people don’t instantly distrust any scholar who refuses to disclose his data. In economics, such disclosure is routine and it’s taken for granted, perhaps because we are so used to thinking about incentives, that someone who hides something has something to hide.

    I wonder whether control of the pursestrings is the difference. We don’t get much grant money in economics, and it’s perfectly possible to make a good career entirely without it. Thus, we aren’t scared of the big names (well, some of them do edit journals, but at least it’s only one journal each and they only get flattered in submissions to their own journal). I gather that in climate science, rude questions about the emperor’s clothes results in loss of grant money and destruction of one’s career. The consequence is predictable.

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  5. […] more curious about specific communication strategies we can adopt to make comment threads work.  Steve McIntrye of Climate Audit recently referenced an essay by myself & Michael Dahlstrom, and my participation in the comment threads gave me an opportunity to observe close up several […]

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