10 December 2009

The "Trick" in Context

[UPDATE 12/12: Over at MasterResource Chip Knappenberger takes issue with some of the details of McIntyre's post (which McIntyre has updated), but both CK and SM agree with the central point of my comments below, specifically: "the IPCC presented some data in a way that was different from how the data was originally presented in the peer-reviewed literature." For the IPCC that should be a no-no, and is evidence of what I call below "stage managing" the science.]

Steve McIntyre is at it again. He has a new post up that puts the much-discussed little-understood CRU email "trick" into definitive context. The "trick" does not show scientific fraud. It does not show that climate science is a sham. What it does show is a group of scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC stage managing their presentation of climate science for the greatest possible effect via their creation of a graphic showing paleoclimate reconstructions -- the so-called "hockey stick." It also shows the conflict of interest faced by an IPCC lead author with responsibility for placing his own work into broader context.

McIntyre writes:
The Climategate Letters show clearly that the relevant context is the IPCC Lead Authors’ meeting in Tanzania in September 1999 at which the decline in the Briffa reconstruction was perceived by IPCC as “diluting the message”, as a “problem”, as a “potential distraction/detraction”.
The emails show that the "trick" was fairly obviously shaped by at least two clear incentives.

First, it was the result of an author of the IPCC (Mann) seeking to present his own work unencumbered by that of his colleagues/competitors. The relevant email cited by McIntyre shows this scientist expressing a desire to use his work as the basis for the overall IPCC consensus. I have no doubts that Mann believes his work to be true and others less true, and that is the problem:
But …Keith’s [Briffa] series… differs in large part in exactly the opposite direction that Phil’s [Jones] does from ours. This is the problem we all picked up on (everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this was a problem and a potential distraction/detraction from the reasonably concensus viewpoint we’d like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al series. (Mann Sep 22, 0938018124.txt
The second incentive was clearly to avoid burdening the readers of the IPCC with complexity, lest it detract from the clear message that the authors wanted sent:
So, if we show Keith’s series in this plot, we have to comment that “something else” is responsible for the discrepancies in this case.…Otherwise, the skeptics have an field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith in the paleoestimates. I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder! (Mann Sep 22, 0938018124.txt)
Rather than simply presenting what the peer review literature actually said, warts and all, these scientists decided to create a facsimile of that literature that represented how they thought the literature should be represented in order to maximize "faith" in their work and to deny "skeptics" an opportunity to "cast doubt." They thus misrepresented the science to present a more digestible picture in line with the message that they wanted policy makers to receive. I've seen this before.

Not only does McIntyre put the "trick" into its contemporary context, but his efforts also helps us to understand the present spinning by the scientific community suggesting that the "trick" is just science-speak for a clever method. It is not. The "trick" in context is clearly an effort by activist scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC to misrepresent scientific complexity to policy makers and the public.


  1. "The "trick" in context is clearly an effort by activist scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC to misrepresent scientific complexity to policy makers and the public.


  2. "The "trick" does not show scientific fraud. It does not show that climate science is a sham. "

    If this is not a "sham," what is?

  3. Roger:

    If we are talking science policy or political science, then no fraud, just SOP.

    In physical science, it is most definitely fraud. Would you ride on an airplane designed on such non-fraudulent "science"?

    It's time to man up and call the spades.

  4. Any comments whether this is relevant to the breach of standards investigation being conducted on Michael Mann at Penn State?

    Here's the policy.

    BTW, THB just went on my Amazon Christmas gift list.

  5. I don't quite understand the contradiction in your statements

    "The "trick" does not show scientific fraud"


    "Rather than simply presenting what the peer review literature actually said, warts and all, these scientists decided to create a facsimile of that literature that represented how they thought the literature should be represented in order to maximize "faith" in their work and to deny "skeptics" an opportunity to "cast doubt." They thus misrepresented the science to present a more digestible picture in line with the message that they wanted policy makers to receive"

    Merriam Webster

    1 a : deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick

    Perhaps we should let the scientific community redefine the dictionary to their satisfaction as well. It seems the scientific community takes upon themselves not only the authority to set political and economic policy for us poor peons in the real world, they are entitled to define words to excuse the FRAUD they perpetrate on us.

  6. Hmmm... Roger, I'm wondering if you have connected the dots in your own thinking.

    1) What is the difference between "misrepresent scientific complexity to policy makers and the public" and "fraud" ("intentional deception resulting in injury")? It seems to me you are describing a fraudulent presentation.

    2) You say "the 'trick' does not show scientific fraud." Am I correct in hearing you say this is not a case of scientific fraud, but of fraudulent presentation?

    3) Many are adamant that the peer-review publishing process is an inextricable part of viable science. To the extent that is true, does not #2 therefore imply that fraudulent presentation of science is actually fraudulent science?

    Seems to me we can't have it both ways.

  7. The IPCC TAR does bring up the divergence problem:

    "Furthermore, the biological response to climate forcing may change over time. There is evidence, for example, that high latitude tree-ring density variations have changed in their response to temperature in recent decades, associated with possible non-climatic factors (Briffa et al., 1998a)."


    Is this not "presenting what the peer review literature actually said, warts and all"?

  8. This is fraudulent science because the tree ring data was used to get rid of the Medieval Warming and then the modern parts were scrapped as an inaccurate proxy and replaced with a temperature record suitable beefed up with UHI. It is not science to use a proxy when it agrees with your hypothesis and scrap parts that dont!!

  9. You acknowledge that they knowingly misrepresented the science. Nevertheless, you say that this is not scientific fraud. You must use a different English language than I do.

  10. I stopped following this debate when, after a brief flirtation, i gave up on climate science dissillusioned by my own attempt to verify some of the hockey stick results. At the time (~2003), these attempts seemed to show quite clearly that the historical reconstructions systematically failed basic crossvalidation tests. Now in my line of work, this is the deathknell of any statistical inference procedure and would guarentee rejection from any reputible journal. So now, I am curious, do any of the recent reconstructions cross validate at significant levels.

  11. Selective quoting, Roger. Mann went on to say:
    "I'm sure we can can up with an arrangement that is amenable to all, and I'm looking forward to hearing back from Keith, Phil, and Chris in particular about the above, so we can quickly move towards finalizing a first draft.

    And they did. Briffa's view was well represented in the AR3 outcome Sec See comparison Fig 2.21.

  12. This is a very unsettling analysis by Steve McIntyre because it quickly gives an alternative context to the emails that counters the defensive arguements of RealClimate and CRU scientists.

    McIntyre's joined up arguement reveals a subtlety to the way these emails were collected, collated, referenced and then released into the public domain.

    The hackers/leakers, and I now use the plural, of this information are a lot smarter than most give credit to. This was no mere FOI request gone wrong nor an opportunistic hack. This was organised, deliberate, knowledgeable and insightful.

    Some people were saying, "We know what this group of scientists were up to. We have known for some time. We have the incriminating information at hand and will release it for maximum effect."

  13. So we have strong evidence that the Paleoclimate section of the IPCC was slanted.

    We've heard from you that the sections on damages from extreme weather did not accurately reflect the literature.

    I recently read a convincing argument by an expert in the field that the section on sea-level increases is slanted and poorly done.

    Of course, your father also had big problems with the portions he worked on.

    It doesn't sound like the IPCC is a good place to find a fair assessment and balanced assessment of the science.

  14. A word or two of explanation of the difference between "misrepresent[ing] scientific complexity" and "scientific fraud" would be useful

  15. I thought "Science" was to form a hypothesis, and then create an experiment to prove or disprove that hypothesis, and provide enough information so that others could prove or disprove the hypothesis.

    I did not know that "science" included the belief in the unknown, with the expectation that what you believe will be correct. That is "faith".

    Thank you for correcting my error.

  16. "The "trick" does not show scientific fraud."

    Roger, I think you are toeing a very fine line here. It is likely true that there is little fraud if any in the science itself.

    It does look as though there is mis-representation, or non-representation in how the science is presented. Since we are being told that the "science" supports this conclusion and that, if the science doesn't actually provide that support, then what would you call it if not fraud?

    I like science that goes like this:
    1. We thought this might be true.
    2. We tried these experiments to see if we were on to something.
    3. Here's what we did and how we did it.
    4. Here's what we found.
    5. Here's what we are comfortable saying about what we found.

    When statements in step 5 are wildly expanded from those in step 4, then I sense fraud. And if the words and visuals in step 4 have to be hidden or tricked so as not to dilute the effect of exaggerations in step 5, it is still fraud.

    I cannot understand why you take such a benign view of this. Don't you see that the credibility of science is diminished as much by faulty representations of honest work as by faulty work itself. These guys are killing you and you don't seem to understand it.

    Why? Roger Why?

  17. very good analysis.

    The ability to preserve the autenticity of science is more important than anything else in fact.

    The acts leading to this "trick" are simply said shameful.

  18. Mr Pielke Jnr in saying The "Trick" does not show scientific fraud" are you saying that that the results of the research were not misrepresented?

    Is the graphic itself a true representation of the state of the research at the time?

    'Stage managing' and 'Conflicts of interests' are excuses for the actions taken. They explain why the actions took place, they do not seem to determine what those actions amount to, do they?

  19. I read Steve's post last night, and thought of the same clip!

    I'm reading Arne Naess' "Scepticism" right now, which advocates and expounds on, a philosophy based on Sextus Empiricus' view of Pyrrho's Scepticism. This philosophy (from a layman's perspective) allows for uncertainties, and questions the possibility (or impossibility) of truly knowing. Yet, this philosophy does not render the adherent paralyzed, unable to make decisions. Rather, and Arne discusses this in Chapter 3 "Scepticism and Positive Mental Health", it provides a a more positive framework from which to view complex situations and decisions. It is definitely worth a read.

  20. How is this not fraud? They lied about the science. They were dishonest. They went to great lengths to mislead.

    If this doesn't qualify as scientific fraud, science is worse off than I thought. Because what they did is beyond reprehensible.

  21. Fraud certainly, maybe not scientific fraud (whatever that is), but fraud nevertheless.

  22. Sorry gang,
    I left out step 4.5 from my listing of a form ot science methodology.

    4.5 Here are the things which need answers we couldn't find and here are the things which could be wrong with what we tried.

  23. Any word on who the hacker was? The more that comes out the more it sounds like an insider.

  24. Reading through the post and the comments, I see 4 possible uses of "fraud."

    1. Everyday parlance.

    2. Dictionary

    3. Legal

    4. Scientific

    Clarification of what is not "fraud" would focus the discussion.

  25. Roger,

    Do you hold the philosophical position that science is necessarily political and not reducible to methods alone? Note: I'm not asking about the intersection of science and public policy, but the internal workings of science itself.

  26. -25-TIM

    Not sure what you are asking here?

  27. There is no innocent interpretation of what these guys did.

    The divergence in the tree ring data in the last half of the 20th century calls into question the very validity of tree rings as thermometers. Failing to disclose this divergence -- while continuing to rely on tree ring data to show a stable temperature history in the past -- is pure deceit.

    There is also no excuse for what Gavin Schmidt is doing at RealClimate on this issue. He would have us believe that this divergence problem was "well known" -- well, yes, it was "well known" to the climate scientists, but it is preposterous to claim that it is "well known" to the public at which the graph in question is aimed. If it were "well known" to that public, there'd be no reason to "hide" it and nothing to gain by doing so.

    And Gavin knows this -- so he is attempting to whitewash one deceit with another.

  28. The IPCC report is a summary of the state of the science at the time. A summary is by definition a simplification and doesn't mention all the details. The IPCC reports include information on the degree of certainty for the conclusions it reaches.

    Is the decline in Briffa's reconstruction that we're talking about here the same as the divergence issue, where we know that the most recent tree rings don't follow actual non-proxy measurements? If so, what would be the point of including proxy data that we know doesn't match the direct measurements? If it is something else, what is it?

  29. Roger,

    pardon the tangent:
    One thing that I can't get my head around specific to the divergence problem in the Briffa series, is this:

    if the proxy values seem unrelated to temperature in the current period where temperature is relatively well known, how can it be considered to be of any value in past periods where temperature is less well known?

    To me, this seems to really call into question not just the actions of the scientist who use the "trick" to "hide the decline", but also the value of using the briffa data to justify a flat part of the hockey stick.

    Why didn't they reject all of the Briffa proxy data (or at least reject a hypothesis that the data correlates closely to temp)? How can they only reject a part of it?

    am I off base here? I am a lay person...

  30. Roger

    I was an R&D (chemistry) manager for 25 years. If scientists on my staff manipulated the data in order to convince me to proceed on a project I would consider terminating them.

  31. What the "trick" shows us is that these folks practiced "Pick and Choose" science, where they can use the data they like to supports the case they want to make at times when they want to make it.

    On the good news front, we should consider ourselves lucky these guys chose climate science rather than aircraft design. If they had, flying would be much more problematic and very much more exciting.

  32. Do you hold to some variation of Kuhn's ideas in "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" or does the basic gist of Popper's "Logic of Scientific Discovery" seem most plausible to you?

  33. -32-TIM

    I tell my grad students that the answer to every "or" question (such as in comprehensive exams) is "yes." Context matters. So I guess I'd say that Kuhn and Popper both provide useful perspectives for interpreting the world. But absent a context I don't really have an answer for you.

    Pragmatists can be frustrating, I know ;-)

  34. Dale writes in by email:

    "Given your occupation, you have a much greater understanding of the significance of the manipulation/fraud being perpetrated by fellow scientists. Is there no governing professional association that deals with issues like ethics? Do other scientists not have a duty to report breaches of ethics? Do you not have other colleagues that see the problem in the same way as you do? Where is the outcry???? How do you deal with these issues with students who must inquire about the issue of ethics/fraud? Every day there seems to be a few more scientists that are questioning the IPCC but it is too few and too slow. I challenge you, your colleagues, your students to make more of a public statement NOW, not tomorrow, not after the politicians of the world have been duped into a wealth redistribution scheme based on fraudulent science!! Organize and make yourselves heard, there is strength in numbers. Is this not an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the economies of the world. All it takes is the will to stand up and be heard. Start the snow balling rolling and soon it will have the momentum needed to squash the unethical promoters of AGW!"

  35. -33- Roger

    Well, it could be argued that such a response actually entails more of a Kuhnian view, as method (ala Popper or Peirce - if you wanna get all pragmatic on me lol) can be thought of as working without strict regard to contexts.

    In such an understanding, the pragmatic recognition of the social dimension to scientific inquiry is NOT made reducible to the politic concerns of hegemony (ala Kuhn.) We can still have a conception of method that can identify certain scientific/social constructs as inherently suspect. In this case, one could argue the scientific/social construct (i.e. the desire not to "dilute the message") led them to "stage manag[e] their presentation of climate science for the greatest possible effect" and in doing so violate the scientific method pure and simple.

    As you can probably tell I'm not much of a Kuhnian. James Harris in his book "Against Relativism" laid out a Peircean pragmatic argument in line with what I'm presenting here. I simply find the discarding of scientific method in the name of "message potency" unacceptable qua science. Kuhn would call it par for the course, and I can't stop thinking he's dead wrong.

  36. -35-TIM

    I guess where I get hung up on your argument here is the idea that the IPCC is "science". It is not. It is different than the peer reviewed literature and should be held to different standards.

    At the same time, I do see what you are saying wrt Kuhn, and yes, I suppose I am more of that persuasion.

  37. What Roger describes here (mis-representing the science to policy makers and the public) has a famous precedent, climate sensitivity. An early assessment carried out by the US National Academy of Sciences in 1979 estimated the climate sensitivity as a result of a doubling of global CO2 concentrations to be near 3° C with a probable error of ± 1.5° C, thus giving a range of 1.5 – 4.5° C warming. This range has remained remarkably stable over time: the same range appears in all major modeling efforts (by the US National Academy of Sciences in 1979 and 1983; in Villach 1985; by the IPCC in 1990, 1992, and 1994; by Bolin in 1995; and by the IPCC in 1995). This has been documented by van der Sluijs et al. (1998) who show how the IPCC has held on to this range of climate sensitivity despite evidence to change it. It was thought that a change in the sensitivity range would confuse the audience and indicate scientific uncertainty. Only with the Third Assessment Report has the range been extended to 1.4-5.8° C.

  38. Re. the Kuhn-Popper question, it is obvious that Kuhn describes the working of science (which is conservative, and influenced by powerful groups within the scientific fields). Popper has a normative view of how science should be done (i.e. by always challenging every exisiting knowledge claim). I recommend reading the work of Steve Fuller on this.

  39. EZ has a tangentially related commentary:


  40. -36- Roger

    Your way of thinking of this seems to suppose scientists can and will employ one set of standards while conducting scientific research, and another set of standards when dealing with policy implications resulting from that research, AND will keep those differing standards distinct for the most part.

    I guess my question is do we even know if that is psychologically possible? I know in my own experience I have a hard time keeping to my plans to hold freshmen and sophomores to one standard (being they are usually non-majors when they take me), while holding upper-classmen to another because they are usually majors and should know better what I'm demanding from them. Each standard begins to creep into the other, largely because they are so closely related in the first place - but that is kinda the point. These scientists are still dealing with climate science regardless of the context of the moment. It may very well be it is impossible to keep such differing standards separate.

  41. -40-TIM

    Perhaps so ... however the evidence on this thread (and over at CA on the same subject) is related to the preparation of the IPCC.

    I had another thread on peer review and efforts revealed in the emails about intent to try to stage manage that process.

    In evaluating the emails and their significance, I'd prefer to stick to what they say in context, rather than speculate. What they say is plenty damning enough.

  42. Is there no governing professional association that deals with issues like ethics? Do other scientists not have a duty to report breaches of ethics? Do you not have other colleagues that see the problem in the same way as you do? Where is the outcry????

    Well, the answer is, no, not much. Fraud on federally funded projects is sometimes punished by granting agencies by the withholding of future funding for some length of time. One's institution may sometimes choose to punish one for fraud. But ACS/APS etc. don't generally have much to say about it. The scientific societies aren't licensing bodies.

    In fact one doesn't formally need any credentials at all to call oneself a scientist. Lars Onsager, one of the greats of theoretical physical chemistry, was on his third faculty job and had already done the work for which he was later awarded a Nobel, before it was noticed he hadn't actually gone through the fuss and muss of a Ph.D. thesis. Legend has it he just pulled an unpublished manuscript off the shelf and turned it in to Yale, where he was an Assistant Professor.

  43. -43- Roger

    Perhaps so ... however the evidence on this thread (and over at CA on the same subject) is related to the preparation of the IPCC.

    The question still remains, can they keep the different hats they wear separate? After all, we are still talking about the same individuals by and large.

    Let's take an example. Let's say we have Dr. Smith. Dr. Smith is a heart surgeon involved in medical resaerch on survival rates after heart surgery. Let us also say that Dr. Smith is on a committee overseeing the hospitals "Toys for Tots" holiday campaign. Both of these efforts are important in their own way, and Dr. Smith approaches both efforts in a serious and conscientious manner.

    Now, each endeavor will have standards that are appropriate to the undertaking, and they will differ quite a bit from one another. Data collected in the medical research will be more meticulous and exact; personal interactions on behalf of the charity effort will be more cajoling or involve showmanship, etc. Now, because the activities are so different from one another, I'd argue it is easier for Dr. Smith to "take off" the medical researcher standard and "put on" the charity standard (and vice cersa), then it would be for climate scientists involved in crafting the IPCC reports. For starters, the actually activities, though directed towards different ends, remain pretty much the same for the climate scientists. They still deal with the same sorts of statistical questions, a similar need to present data in an understandable manner, the same effort to relate the material to the literature, etc. As I read the emails, I certainly cannot tell if they are dealing with a research question or an IPCC question based upon their approach to the matter at hand. Context can reveal that, but it is not revealed by the WAY they are treating the material. There is very little indication that they are adopting different standards as they switch from IPCC work to non-IPCC work. Besides, when you are as close to the inner workings of the IPCC as they are, what climate research are they going to do that ISN'T going to wind up in the IPCC?

    So, if we cannot discern a difference in their standard based upon their observable behavior, well then it does become an open question as to what standard they are adhering to at all times.

  44. Nick Stokes in comment 11 chimes in that Briffa was well represented in AR3 and directs us to Fig 2.21 as proof.

    Perhaps, The Team had better review McIntyre's "context" post a little more carefully before they continue that line of argument.

    He posts a blow up of Figure 2.21 which clearly shows that they 'artfully' truncated post 1960 Briffa data and concealed it beneath the spaghetti lines that continue. And they did so without revealing that they had 'tidied up' and hide the decline.

    I wonder if Roger can tell us when some line gets crossed into outright fraud. Or is he preserving for himself the opportunity to be the go-to guy when the "prestige media" (I love that formulation in the emails) come a-callin' for some authoritative guy who has blissfully staked out territory in the middle.

    It's time to call a spade a spade, I think.


  45. Roger,
    You have been not yet replied to the main point of many, perhaps most, of the replies in this thread. You like evidence, so I will just point to replies by Mike Smith (#2), Mr Pete (#5), deancrowe (#7), Connie (#9), Bishop Hill (#4), and John F (#16).

    These people (and others, including me) would like to know how deliberate misrepresentation (the "trick") is not fraud. You say it is not. Why is it not?

    Perhaps you consider the questions in some of these replies to be rhetorical? If so, please take it from me that I really do want to know how or why you care to make this differentiation.

  46. -2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 16 ... 45-

    Is the truncation of the divergence by the IPCC "scientific fraud"?


    Here is why. First, the IPCC is not engaged in research. It apparently violated its own terms of reference when it allowed scientists to re-process data from the peer reviewed literature. So the IPCC clearly violated its own norms. However, even in violating its own norms, because it is not a research organization, it is very hard to say that it engaged in scientific fraud.

    But even if the IPCC was a research organization, the selective omission of data might be a questionable practice but hardly rises to any level of misconduct, which generally refers to fabrication, falsification or plagiarism. There is no evidence of that here. Just cherrypicking, perhaps egregious leading ultimately to misrepresentation, but nonetheless cherrypicking. It can appear unseemly when revealed (which is why it is not a good idea to do so in the first place), but misconduct? No.

    Did it engage in any other kind of "fraud"? Well now we are into the area of semantics. As The authors of the IPCC TAR chapter under discussion clearly wanted to present information that (a) best positioned their work for inclusion in the SPM, and (b) avoided giving "skeptics" ammunition. So they stage managed the process to present a picture that they thought best conveyed the storyline that they wanted. Was this fraud? I see no evidence for such a claim. Again, misrepresentation but not fraud.

    I suspect that others may have a different view, and perhaps some of this is more than semantic. But let me say this. If the IPCC finds itself in a situation where people are debating whether its activities are best characterized in terms of misrepresentation or fraud, then that is not a good place to be.

  47. "So they stage managed the process to present a picture that they thought best conveyed the storyline that they wanted. Was this fraud? I see no evidence for such a claim. Again, misrepresentation but not fraud."

    Is it fair to suggest that the attitude I'm sensing is "We do the science. We have no responsibility for what they do with it?"

    In the ordinary world, this is practical and reasonable, but when people are suggesting we have only 10 days left to save the world as we know it, would it be fair to ask for a bit more "speaking out?"

    Maybe I'm mis-characterizing what you are saying. If so, I'm sorry because I know my suggestion is offensive.

  48. "The 'trick' does not show scientific fraud"

    I disagree strongly. What would you call it, if a banker or a farmaceutical company would use it to "hide a decline" ?

  49. -47-JohnF

    No, it is not fair, as my view is pretty far from that;-)

  50. -48-Hans

    If it were a bank or pharmaceutical company you could be sure that they'd have far more rigorous procedures for integrity of process. The IPCC did not.

    Thus, the problem is with the process. That is not fraud.

  51. The scientist who were involved in this process all stood to gain financially and professionally by the misrepresentation they perpetrated. In any other professional field this would not only be considered unethical, it very well could be criminal.

    Worse than their own misdeeds they have conspired to represent a view of science which leads others in positions of authority and responsibility to make decisions they might not otherwise make. They did this knowingly and it very much appears as if this was their very goal. To put it simply they had an agenda. To use semantics to justify anything but the strongest sanctions against these and others who have perpetrated this FRAUD certainly can not be considered the best way to rehabilitate the quickly sinking reputation of science.IMO

  52. Roger

    You are splitting hairs. As I said in #30 employees doing this in corporate America might be terminated. In my case the boss CEO would expect me to do just that. It puts the corp. at risk. I have experience in litigation (science/technology issues) in federal court vs. competitors. One case actually turned on the competitor trying to conceal unfavorable results. This is what was done by the IPCC. In the IPCC case I don't see how you can say they are not doing science. If they are not doing science they should not be drawering conclusions about AGW. I would love to see the IPCC conclusions adjudicated in US federal court with full discovery and depositions.

  53. Some of the explanation, "That is not fraud," strikes me as splitting hairs on a bald head.

  54. -51, 52-

    These are just empty assertions. If you want to make a case for fraud, this thread would be a fine place to do so, but you have to make the case. Such a case will include a definition of "fraud" that has practical meaning, and then a compiling and presentation of evidence that makes the case.

    Note that starting with a dictionary definition will allow you to make a case of "semantic fraud" which means very little.

    So if you have a case, make it with evidence and logic, not assertion and outrage. I don't think that such a case can be made, but feel free to convince me otherwise.


  55. Dr. Pielke, please provide your elements of fraud so that there is a target to shoot at. As I wrote above I see at least 4 variations.

  56. I don't think it's the IPCC which is culpable, but rather that "group of scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC" that mention in your post.

    We know that Eduardo Zorita (for instance) believes that this sort of misconduct deserves some type of punishment ("Michael Mann, Phil Jones, and Stephan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process"). We don't need to call it fraud if that makes you uncomfortable. Still, do you agree with Zorita that some sort of censure or punishment is deserved?

  57. Roger -
    I can appreciate the importance of drawing distinctions. The IPCC does not do research. But, in the college classroom and in the lay public, the default position is an appeal to the authority of the IPCC precisely because it represents and exhaustive review of the scientific literature. It is one giant review and sythesis paper. If a review and synthesis journal article were to misrepresent the scientific literature it wouldn't be scientific fraud. Though in this case it seems that, at least in comparison to other disciplines, the editors and writers were reviewing their own scientific work -- which they misrepresented! We may be having trouble with the semantics here because this is quite the unique situation -- one that is quite damaging to appeal to authority based on the IPCC.

  58. Roger

    Do you accept that they meant to mislead? Here are the synonyms

    give the wrong impression, misinform, deceive, lie, hoodwink, delude, take in, lead on, misrepresent, distort, fabricate, bamboozle

  59. McIntyre used his scissors to mis-represent what was said in the Emails, now that is fraud.

  60. -58-MIKE

    I have no way of discerning what they intended.

    But were I to guess, I'd say no, they had no intent to deceive, they thought that they were simply providing a clearer picture of the truth.

  61. -56-chopbox

    No, I do not think that any sanctions are called for based on the sort of thing discussed in this post.

    These guys are going to be locked in their own echo-chamber for a long while and that is punishment enough.

  62. -55-Craig

    Scientific misconduct generally refers to falsification, fabrication or plagiarism.

    "Fraud" in common parlance can mean many different things.

    I am referring to the former in this post.

  63. Legally -- Fraud is a misrepresentation of material fact, for the purpose of inducing others to rely thereon, justifiable reliance, and damage resulting from said reliance.

    Every one of those factors is present here. Play semantic word games or try to construct process defenses all you want. They lied. They knew they were lying. They lied for a reason. People relied on their lies. And peopled have suffered as a result of that reliance.


    Of course at this rate, Roger will soon be debating the meaning of "is"

  64. From a CBSnews article on APS's problems:

    Socolow's research institute at Princeton has received well over $20 million in grants dealing with climate change and carbon reduction, plus an additional $2 million a year from BP and still more from the federal government. In an interview published by Princeton's public relations office, Socolow called CO2 a "climate problem" that governments need to address.


    The whole article is a rather sad commentary on conflict of interest, people afraid of career damage, and, of course, upset over "who stole our e-mail list?"

  65. Thanks for the clarification, Roger.

  66. Having read the Harry Read Me Txt file comments, is it even possible that people can defend the principles in these e-mails as having been performing science at all. Certainly Phil Jones was aware of the problems that were in the data sets on which he was relying to of his research an some scientific papers.

    Putting aside the issue of the "lost" original data. How could a scientist in good conscious be responsible for the data which was obviously a mess make claims of certainty based upon that same data?

    If a seller of a house knows of a problem with the house and does not disclose it to a potential buyer, the seller is open to prosecution. Yet here we have the head of a "prestigious" climate research facility upon whom the entire IPCC and governments around the world depended for accurate information and analysis hiding the fact that the data is a shambles. Not only hiding pertinent fact, but promoting science based upon this data.

    Perhaps this is not fraud, perhaps this is just scientist doing what scientist do since they seem to find defenders from the four corners of the scientific world. But for us dumb old hicks out here in the real world it is disgraceful. If the scientific community does not soon stand up and condemn and correct it, then they will be viewed in the same light as politicians, not to be trusted. The disenfranchising of the public by the "best and the brightest" is the predominant story of the 21st century so far, but the best and the brightest are too smart to even see it.

  67. Roger, I'm just catching up after being down with the Cold to End All Colds, but it does seem you're drawing a very fine distinction here (and down the blog a few posts) one that i'm not finding at all easy to understand.

    Let's put aside the word "fraud" for the moment and concentrate on "misconduct". It appears that we agree on basic facts: that (1) the Briffa series was truncated arbitrarily in 1960 when presented in the IPCC report;(2) that the effect of this truncation was to conceal data that weakened the case; and, (3) from the emails that McIntyre examined, that this took place at least in the context of general pressure to make the story of anthropogenic, CO2-dominated global warming more effective as a political statement.

    Do you think any of these represents "scientific misconduct", either severally or together?

  68. EliRabett(59) said: "McIntyre used his scissors to mis-represent what was said in the Emails, now that is fraud."

    Before you start claiming fraud because you don't think McIntyre quoted enough of an email, you might want to inform your pals in the realclimate echo chamber of your opinions. They certainly snip my posts and answer only the bits that suit them. But then again they think it is good science to slice together unrelated data into graphs for their papers.

    Perhaps Eli might want to enlighten us about any peer-review biological papers that describe a PHYSICAL mechanism for arctic trees to respond negatively to temperature increases such as to justify Michael Mann's use of inverted tree proxies in his papers.
    My expectation is that Eli remain silent or attempt to deflect, because he'd have to recognise that the real fraud is happening on his side of the fence.

  69. Everyone who is arguing that here is strong evidence of fraud is missing the point. The important question in my mind is 'has the data been presented in a way which is favourable to a specific objectibe' - not the reason for that seletive presentation. Bringing in the semantics of justification only confuses the issue. Concentrate your efforts on convincing people that prior to September 1999, a tree ring reconstruction would have looked very different, and any concerns about active dishonesty will drop out in the wash.

  70. Jer, I will say that Roger has a point when he says: "These guys are going to be locked in their own echo-chamber for a long while and that is punishment enough." Phil Jones is unlikely to return to his position as Director of the CRU; Jim Hansen is already complaining that he has trouble getting papers published; Hulme is already saying in public that IPCC has outlived its usefulness and is too political. And the embarrassments contained in the ClimateGate files are almost untapped. The punishments for violating the social contract of science are all the more painful for being subtle.

  71. Seneca the Younger 68-

    Before I could return to this discussion, you posted the essence of what I was thinking. Some here are suggestion a more classic understanding of fraud while Dr. Pielke is in the realm of scientific misconduct stemming from falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism -- presumably as determined by fellow academics and scientists. To the public at large, the question is what would a reasonable man believe regarding the societal consequences stemming from the political policy purposes behind the questionable scientific behavior that deceives the person on the street with the paper mache hockey stick "Trick."

  72. I just read a provocative column in the Calgary Herald. http://www.calgaryherald.com/technology/Real+scientists+should+care+more+about+fraud/2333666/story.html

    To me the money quote is :

    >>As French philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss wrote: "The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions." When it comes to climate science however, those who ask the questions are treated as heretics and called deniers.<<

    The British PM calls them "flat-earthers." If not to deceive, then what purpose is served by such tactics?

  73. By email from Chip Knappenberger:


    The problem, be it as it may, as you probably agree, arises when the IPCC authors are the very same researchers who have published most of the literature on the topic.

    A non-paleo researcher tasked with writing that section would probably have simply reviewed the peer-reviewed literature. However, IPCC authors and the peer-review literature authors were one and the same, so they could decide amongst themselves what they thought was the best way to present the contents of the literature, even if they needed to tweak it a bit--something that they no doubt felt justified in, since after all, who knew better than they.

    As long as this remains accepted in the IPCC procedures, problems like this will probably keep creeping up.


  74. -74-Chip

    I don't think the choice need be so stark as paleo vs. non-paleo in a writing team.

    But clearly, the IPCC needs to revisit this particular issue.

  75. Seems there is more to this chain of emails than McIntyre has reported.


  76. -76-mazibuko

    Yes, see the update above (top of post). McIntyre's update (bottom of his post) and Knappenberger's piece.

    None of that changes the discussion in this post.

  77. I'll take a stab at making a case that fraud was committed.

    To adhere to scientific principles, Briffa should have concluded that the post 1961 diversion could not be explained AND THEREFORE the entire chronology was suspect. He should have concluded that, until the divergence was adequately explained, the tree ring data he had should not be used to determine past temperatures. Ethics compelled Briffa to announce that his findings did not support his hypothesis. That he did not do so was deceitful, and to the extent he knew how his findings would be used by others, was fraudulent as well.

  78. "Rather than simply presenting what the peer review literature actually said, warts and all, these scientists decided to create a facsimile of that literature that represented how they thought the literature should be represented in order to maximize "faith" in their work and to deny "skeptics" an opportunity to "cast doubt." They thus misrepresented the science to present a more digestible picture in line with the message that they wanted policy makers to receive."

    Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say this was Enron. Here's how your statement would look modified in context:

    "Rather than simply presenting what the financial results actually were, warts and all, these executives decided to create a facsimile of their financial statements that represented how they thought the financial statements should be represented in order to maximize "faith" in their earnings and to deny "short sellers" an opportunity to "cast doubt." They thus misrepresented the earnings to present a more digestible picture in line with the message that they wanted investors to receive."

    Honestly, how would you react to such a statement? Given the magnitude of the decisions involved, why to we hold these scientists to a different standard than executives of public companies?

  79. in case anybody is looking for it,
    I found PAGES Newsletter, Vol. 7 Nº 1 (The "hide the decline" reference in WMO 913)
    Not a word about divergence, no mention (AFAIK) of the three WMO spaghetti studies, an obituary on Hans Oescher and extremely interesting tornetrask and taymir chronologies on page 6!