Monday, February 08, 2010

Clear on the Concept

Considerable skepticism has been expressed in the press and elsewhere about the limitations associated with release of data from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit. Indeed the usual suspects have been rather loud on this (contributions of links appreciated)

As part of the spreading FOIgate investigation at Rabett Run (the comments are hopping), in which Steven McIntyre has been proved to have organized and administered through Climate Audit a vexatious FOI attack** on the CRU one of the bunnies, bluegrue points to a letter from Tom Peterson, which not only shows McIntyre's inherent sliminess when he writes:

And oh yes, Jones’ correspondent, Tom Peterson of NOAA, wrote back:

Hi, Phil,
Yes, Friday-Saturday I noticed that ClimateFraudit had renewed their interest in you. I was thinking about sending an email of sympathy, but I was busy preparing for a quick trip to Hawaii ...

Not Tahiti, as some speculated.

and manages to leave out that this was a two day trip including travel from the east coast of the US to Hawaii, which leaves precious little time, as bluegrue points out
A bare minimum of digging would have shown to you, that Tom Peterson was a panelist for the session “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” (page 14) on Tuesday, July 28 2009, at the Hawai’i Conservation Conference 2009.
McIntyre tries to play the innocent while spewing additional slime
I’ve done enough business travel to know that these sorts of things are necessarily not a holiday and, as you say, it wasn’t in Peterson’s case here. But Hawaii is still a nice destination. And parlaying the endpoints of this sort of business travel can be a sort of hidden perq – one not exercised by Peterson in this case, but perhaps others did. I didn’t notice any emails mentioning meetings of climate scientists in Flin Flon or Saskatoon in January.
but what concerns us are the other parts of Peterson's letter which flatly contradict the nonsense spewed at Climate Audit over the past three months
Hi, Phil,

Yes, Friday-Saturday I noticed that ClimateFraudit had renewed their interest in you. I was thinking about sending an email of sympathy, but I was busy preparing for a quick trip to Hawaii - I left Monday morning and flew out Tuesday evening and am now in the Houston airport on my way home.

Data that we can't release is a tricky thing here at NCDC. Periodically, Tom Karl will twist my arm to release data that would violate agreements and therefore hurt us in the long run, so I would prefer that you don't specifically cite me or NCDC in this.
Interesting that the Director of the Center, Tom Karl, contrary to the McIntyre party line, has actually been pushing for data release even when that has the potential to hurt research programs.
But I can give you a good alternative. You can point to the Peterson-Manton article on regional climate change workshops. All those workshops resulted in data being provided to the author of the peer-reviewed paper with a strict promise that none of the data would be released. So far as far as I know, we have all lived up to that agreement - myself with the Caribbean data (so that is one example of data I have that are not released by NCDC), Lucie and Malcolm for South America, Enric for Central America, Xuebin for Middle Eastern data, Albert for south/central Asian data, John Ceasar for SE Asia, Enric again for central Africa, etc. The point being that such agreements are common and are the only way that we have access to quantitative insights into climate change in many parts of the world. Many countries don't mind the release of derived products such as your gridded field or Xuebin's ETCCDI indices, but very much object to the release of actual data (which they might sell to potential users). Does that help?
Emphasis added. Let Eli repeat such agreements are common and are the only way that we have access to quantitative insights into climate change in many parts of the world.

Given their track record, who is so naive as to believe that McIntyre and his horde would honor a subsequent no disclosure agreement? Given the need to protect the original data from release in order to ensure its continued availability the requirement that such data only be released to academic researchers who can be trusted is obvious.

Comments?

**McIntyre obviously is as deep into denial on this as he was when his bot expedition to the GISSTemp server made it impossible for others to access the web site and the administrator threw him off. The correct answer is GMAFBA

20 comments:

carrot eater said...

Whenever Steve McI uses ellipsis, it's time to track down whatever he omitted. We've seen this behavior before.

Oh, and he didn't mean to imply whatever he was implying. Of course not. We've seen that behavior before, too.

What a greaseball.

Anonymous said...

Then what's so hard about producing the actual agreements, instead of saying it is obviously true?

ankhank said...

> Given their track record, who is
> so naive as to believe that
> McIntyre and his horde would honor
> a subsequent no disclosure
> agreement?

Is the agreement a legal contract? Is there a standard form used for commercial sale of the information with a commitment not to disclose to others, and perhaps the same language used in agreements giving the data free to scientific groups?

Something like the RIAA uses, maybe? A real contract has penalties specified for failure.

Or is it a commitment, presumably written, not to pass the data on, but with no penalty clause, just the knowledge that if they don't keep it private they'll never get cooperation again?

Serious question, if anyone who knows is able to say.

Of course, some contracts include a prohibition on discussing their terms. Could be.

-----
let's see if OpenId works here, this is Hank.

Anonymous said...

MarkyMouse says: Rabett, meet Rock: "In today’s Times, the work involved in creating this “small document” of 1257 words increased to over 1000 hours." http://climateaudit.org/2010/02/07/a-small-document/

Jones is a lying Criminal.

Anonymous said...

Mouse @2:34, try and actually read the Times article:

"Last year in July alone the unit received 60 FoI requests from across the world. With a staff of only 13 to cope with them, the demands were accumulating faster than they could be dealt with.

“According to the rules,” says Jones, “you have to do 18 hours’ work on each one before you’re allowed to turn it down.” It meant that the scientists would have had a lot of their time diverted from research.

A further irritation was that most of the data was available online, making the FoI requests, in Jones’s view, needless and a vexatious waste of his time. In the circumstances, he says, he thought it reasonable to refer the applicants to the website of the Historical Climatology Network in the US.

He also suspected that the CRU was the target of a co-ordinated attempt to interfere with its work — a suspicion that hardened into certainty when, over a matter of days, it received 40 similar FoI requests. Each applicant asked for data from five different countries, 200 in all, which would have been a daunting task even for someone with nothing else to do......

“We were clearly being targeted,” says Jones. “Only 22% of the FoI enquiries were identifiably from within the UK, 39% were from abroad and 39% were untraceable.” What irked him was that the foreign applicants would all have had sources closer to hand in their own countries."

Jones does not make the rules about how much time it requires to turn down a FOI. Has anyone checked the 18 hour number? The certainly did not have 1080 hours to spare to take part in McI's experiment. McI is assuming that drafting that document was the ONLY work done to decline the vexatious FOIs....and why would someone submit a legit FOI and not make it traceable? So 40% of the requests were bogus; that is, they had no interest in receiving any data b/c it would have been impossible to send it to them. How many of the 60 FOIs actually needed to be processed/investigated by UEA? Yet, paperwork etc. would have probably been required to be completed for each and everyone one the bogus requests, probably even the untraceable ones.

Also, as it turns out your master McI knew very well that " foreign applicants would all have had sources closer to hand in their own countries." Oops.

Now climb back on your wheel and keep spinning Mouse, and when you are done go crawl under that rock in your cage.

Anonymous said...

ankhank:
I started looking when the emails were hacked. Even with no background ( and no dog) in the fight it took only a few minutes to find one of the data agreements.

The Hadley site has an online form for all to see. If you are an academic working on a paper for publication they will send you data. You have to agree to use it once only and not share( no matter what your mother says). As well you have to agree to destroy the data ie. erase it from memory at the end of the project.

Remember folks this is Hadley and the CRU has to destroy the data at the end of the work. It seems that Mr. Jones is a man of his word. It is also certain that M&M and the rest of the naysayers have also read this .

John McManus

ddn said...

@MarkyMouse I'm sorry it is Mcintyre that is twisting words and being dishonest, or perhaps just not reading things very well (surprise surprise).

No one said that 1000 hours was what was spent on the 'small document'. What is said, is that "18 hour" would be what is required to correctly deal with the requests. The requests of course were rejected, so the 1000 hours were never spent.

My guess is that the "18 hours" comment by Jones was said fairly casually and is probably based on his memory of conversations he had had with the FOI officer.

The thread on ClimateAudit details where the "18 hours" figure probably comes from and the explanation seems reasonable to me.

Whether or not it is exactly correct is a distraction - the point that Jones is making stands: dealing with the FOI requests (and all the other denialist nonsense, law suits, requests prior to the introduct of FOI laws, Wegman report etc) was an irritating waste of time.

Anonymous said...

MinnieMouseJon says

This is simply evident for any climatologist working, for instance, in spain. I pay for the data (even for research) and every time I buy data I have to sign a contract stating that I can't disclose data to ANY third party. Neither for research nor for any other users of the third party. Well ... why doesn't McIntyre simply buy the data to the original owner instead of requesting it from CRU? (The national weather services are the owners...)

I can't understand why this is so hard to understand.

David said...

If he had sixty requests for the date, why didn't he turn down 59 and direct one of the requests to an uploaded file where everyone could access the data? And i mean all the data, not most of it!

This could have all so easily been avoided, instead he went out of his way to avoid releasing any data, and probably spent more time doing so than granting one request.

I agree with global warming in general, however Jones has come out of this looking very bad. I read he received death threats which is terrible, however i also remember reading jones cheering at the death of another scientist was announced.

carrot eater said...

I've made the same point before, MinnieMouseJon.

McI could easily get a corporate sponsor to hand over a bit of cash to get whatever commercial data he wants.

But that wouldn't prolong the theater.

Anonymous said...

A passing anonymouse says

@David: naughty concern trolling, especially as the comment posted just before yours explains the why.

Anonymous said...

Steve's obsession with FOIs should be the least of his worries right now:

http://www.desmogblog.com/plagiarism-conspiracies-felonies-breaking-out-wegman-file

MapleLeaf

Oh, and David you know very that it is not as simple as loading the data on a FTP site or something for people to grab.

Neven said...

"McI could easily get a corporate sponsor to hand over a bit of cash to get whatever commercial data he wants.

But that wouldn't prolong the theater."

Ouch, that's a good point...

skanky said...

As well as what was stated above David, (many of the) requests were for five countries, with a different five countries for each request. Thus they were "separate" requests.

Hank Roberts said...

MinnieMouseJon
> every time I buy data I
> have to sign a contract

Could you post typical contract language somewhere? It'd be interesting to see if it's always the same for everyone, for example.

Anonymous said...

It is not at all obvious that all of these countries have placed such limitations. Do you truly believe this?

dhogaza said...

"It is not at all obvious that all of these countries have placed such limitations. Do you truly believe this?"

If it wasn't true, they'd be in GHCN's database. This is why GISTEMP only uses the GHCN database, they made the decision to only use publicly available data. There's enough data made public in the GHCN database to make a reliable temperature reconstruction, so they don't bother with the proprietary stuff. CRU, for whatever reason, decided long, long ago (25 years? 30?) to use both proprietary and freely available data.

UK's own Met service places very severe restrictions on data they release to researchers, they actually *require* deletion of any copies after the researcher's done working, unless *explicit* permission is given to keep them.

You can look this up.

Think. If possible.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

What is GMAFBA and what question is it the correct answer for? (Is it the correct description of what McI did or is it a beter way to get data from a server?)

EliRabett said...

G - Give
M - Me
A - A
B - Break

The rest are ...let us say not polite, but it is the correct answer when someone gives you an unbelievable answer and dares you to question him.

skanky said...

"If it wasn't true, they'd be in GHCN's database. This is why GISTEMP only uses the GHCN database, they made the decision to only use publicly available data."

Is it *also* to do with the fact that US law (and I'm shaky ground here so correct me if I'm wrong) requires government funded research data to be freely available, so they'd have an issue of they used restricted data?

Whereas the UK (as instituted under Thatcher/Major) requires government funded institutions to raise x% of revenue from commercial activities *and* requires the same institutions (eg Met Office, OS, etc.) to "sell" their services to other government departments in some fake market.

Thus it gets very difficult to make data freely available even if they wanted to (the motivation there tends to inversely proportional to height up the organisational tree). That's to do with the Hadley Centre, not CRU BTW. Using other people's proprietary data is not such a great issue in those circumstances.

CRU are free to do whatever they wish, they're a university.