Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Troll Needs a New Bridge

To start at the middle, Daniel Sarewitz had a rather confused, but typical, thumb sucker in Nature (Similar but wrong link:  This is the one that Eli should have used)which Gavin Schmidt got in one tweet:

Sarewitz's hook is the recent failed attempts to replicate a number of psychology studies especially in concert with the glam mags (Science, Nature, Cell) pursuit of the novel.  That is a valid issue, and it raises troublesome questions:
As the spotlight shines on reproducibility, uncomfortable issues will emerge at the interface of research and 'evidence-based' policy.
But there are strawmen to build, and Sarewitz quickly passes over to the Republican attempt to limit the EPA
Consider, for example, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, a US bill that would “prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible”.
This is pretty universally acknowledged as another attempt to hamstring the EPA but it is a platform for DS to talk about the difficulty of reproducing large surveys
Replication of the sort that can be done with tightly controlled laboratory experiments is indeed often impossible when you are studying the behaviour of dynamic, complex systems, for example at the intersection of human health, the natural environment and technological risks. But it is hard to see how this amounts to an argument against mandating open access to the data from these studies. 
Growing concerns about the quality of published scientific results have often singled out bad statistical practices and modelling assumptions, and have typically focused on the very types of science that often underlie regulations, such as efforts to quantify the population-wide health effects of a single chemical.
I other words the problem is bad studies, bad scientists.  That the funding agencies have instituted mandatory data sharing and maintenance plans appears to have, well, not been discussed.

But there is something more concerning here that Eli sought to bring to the reader's attention (slightly edited):
One wonders which bridge Daniel Sarewitz is playing troll under. One of the scandals of the last century, brought to light in the master tobacco settlement, was the suppression of their own data by the tobacco industry. Of course, the tobacco industry also demanded that FDA and EPA only use "public" and "statistically significant "data in their rule making. There is strong evidence that many studies about pharmaceuticals have not been made fully public by the pharmaceutical industry and reasonable suspicion that similar chicanery has occurred with studies undertaken by industry with respect to fossil fuel extraction and usage.

Still, Prof. Sarewitz uses a study of replication of psychology experiments  as a strawman to support an attack on the EPA and its use of scientific results. He generalizes to an overarching conclusion on science placing the blame squarely on scientists.

Perhaps Prof. Sarewitz might poke his head from out under the bridge?
However, beyond troll baiting there is a serious point.  We know of how industries on both sides of the GMO bridge are funding academic scientists to advocate for them.  We know how tobacco has funded scientists and economists to push their POV on legislation and how this information was kept secret.

The problem is not public science, but private science.  Think you are going to read about that in Nature bunnies?

(Added:Thanks to EFS for pointing out the wrong link.  OTOH the fact that both are strumming the same guitar is a useful piece of information)


48 comments:

Everett F Sargent said...

Eli,

Your 1st link goes to a Nature op-ed dated 02 January 2013 "Science must be seen to bridge the political divide"

I think you want to link to this Nature op-ed dated 09 September 2015 "Reproducibility will not cure what ails science"
http://www.nature.com/news/reproducibility-will-not-cure-what-ails-science-1.18339

Blogger profile said...

Private funding should either be no reason not to be as open as public funded science or should be refused as independent evidence of proof. ESPECIALLY if it is to be endorsed or used by government.

If the (lack of solid) evidence is problematic as proof, outsourcing the proof to private industry is not a valid way to avoid the problem.

andthentheresphysics said...

I think Gavin's tweet nails it. I find it interesting how some self-professed public intellectuals seem to be quite comfortable making such intellectually juvenile arguments. That a system isn't perfect and that there are things that could be done in a better way, doesn't justify drawing such broad conclusions. In a sense you could make such an argument for anything; nothing is perfect.

Bryson said...

Wow. The linked piece is as crude a 'blame the victim' story as I've ever seen. The assumption seems to be that if science disagrees with one party more than with the other, that must reflect political bias on the part of scientists. How could someone even minimally aware of Republican politics blame scientists for their broad disaffection from the party of climate denial, creationism and 'pain-capable' fetuses?

Harry Twinotter said...

"We know of how industries on both sides of the GMO bridge are funding academic scientists to advocate for them"

That is a poor article from The New York Times.

E. Swanson said...

The first linked piece by Sarewitz mentions the fundamental aspect of the US political process, which is, the US political system has evolved into a two party system. As a result, each party approaches election season by trying to attract voters by claiming one side of the latest political issues. Our parties are thus made up of coalitions of the various interest groups involved. The Democratic Party has gravitated towards the education and science oriented groups, since there's no other avenue for these groups to seek political influence.

Repeated efforts to start third parties have been overwhelmed by the basic lock on the voting process as exercised by the two parties. Back in 1980, we tried to start a third party, the Citizens Party, and other efforts, such as the Green Party, still simmer in the hinder lands. The so-called Tea Party has now been completely absorbed by the Republicans, which forced the party toward an ultra conservative and Fundamentalist agenda. The Democratic Party has attracted the more progressive voters, including those with environmental or scientific concerns.

Trouble is, most voters don't have the educational background to make an informed judgment on the merits of issues such as Global Warming, GMO crops or the dangers of newly created chemicals spreading widely within ecosystems. Basic economic issues are also poorly understood as well and economics isn't a hard science like biology. Somehow, the scientific understanding must be communicated to the public if the political process is to produce positive (that is, rational) results. This of necessity must include people with scientific backgrounds. Science can not exist for long in academic isolation from the political process which uses (or misuses) the results of scientific endeavors.

EliRabett said...

Added the link that should have linked. Kept the other - Eli

Fernando Leanme said...

The EPA seems to have based its findings about CO2 on climate models with an 8.6 watts per m2 radiative forcing by 2100. That sure looks like goofy science. In a sense, they set themselves up for challenge and eventual failure with such profound bs.

I'd like to add this week's Free Mumia moment for human rights supporters: Free Leopoldo Lopez!

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: The EPA seems to have based its findings about CO2 on climate models with an 8.6 watts per m2 radiative forcing by 2100. That sure looks like goofy science. In a sense, they set themselves up for challenge and eventual failure with such profound bs.

BPL: RF = 5.35 ln (C/C0) where RF is in watts per square meter, C is ambient CO2 fraction in ppmv, and C0 is a reference level, usually taken as the preindustrial 280 ppmv (Myhre et al. 1998). This is a 15% reduction from the coefficient of 6.33 used in earlier IPCC studies.

At the moment this would yield radiative forcing of 1.9 W/m^2 since the industrial revolution began, counting CO2 alone. 8.6 would require CO2 to increase by a factor of 5 since 1800, or about 1400 ppmv. Where, exactly, does the IPCC expect CO2 to quintuple by 2100? Chapter and page number, please.

Russell Seitz said...

Bryson:

How about by studying the history of the politicization of science, from the days of Haldane and Bernal, through the relatively copacetic era of Eisenhower and Kennedy, into the metamorphosis of the AAAS into a body devoted lees to the advancement of science than its conversion into a political toolkit for social engineering ?

It's almost as interesting as the embrace of advertising by the erstwhilw ethical professions

Blogger profile said...

What the hell is the problem? What's pissing you off, Russtle, is that it's saying things you don't like.

That's the only difference between "politicised" science and "independent". Just like the difference between "Activist judge" and "fair and balanced" is if you disagree with their ruling.

Bryson said...

Russell, the history you cite is irrelevant to the point I was making. Today's Republican party has turned against science whenever scientists are delivering unpalatable results for their base (a strange blend of fundamentalism and money-grubbing industries hoping to socialize losses and privatize profits). Denial is their response to bad news, from failed economics to evolution to tobacco, and climate change (and the Strategic Defense Initiative, for that matter). Some Democrats also fall into denial on some issues-- but it's not at the center of their public image and key policy positions. So what's a scientist (or anyone who cares about the facts, and about whether policies will actually work for the interests of the country and the world) to do? My own leanings are fairly conservative- (in the dictionary sense of the word, not the ideological sense) I like social and economic policies that have been shown to be successful, such as single-payer medical care, for instance. Of course today's Republican party is dead-set against that, too...

Russell Seitz said...

Bryson : "The assumption seems to be that if science disagrees with one party more than with the other, that must reflect political bias on the part of scientists"

" Don't you know, Mister President, all us scientists are Democrats? "
-- Herbert York to Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the inaugural meeting of PSAC in 1956.

York's autobiography notes that Ike responded to the effect that he didn't give a damn as long as hos adviors checked their politics at the door before entering the White House.

I esteem as conservative the principle that the political neutrality of science must first exist in order to be defnded.

BBD said...

Russell

What you are saying, in essence, is that [climate] scientists are effectively engaged in sustained and systematic scientific misconduct. That they are exaggerating their findings in furtherance of a political agenda.

That's a conspiracy theory which is very difficult to defend in the cold light of day.

Russell Seitz said...

BBD what you are saying, in essence is complete bollocks--what part of dis·in·ter·est·ed don't you understand ?

Unbiased ?

Unprejudiced ?

Impartia l ?

Nonpartisan ?

Objective ?

Les Salines France said...

FL, one scenario used in the models uses 8.5 w/m2 and could be considered a BAU scenario.

BBD said...

Russell

You are still arguing a conspiracy theory. I could say 'bollocks' too ;-)

EliRabett said...

Russell is a Jason at heart.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Russell - you write: "...what part of dis·in·ter·est·ed don't you understand ?"

The only problem is, you never used the word 'disinterested' - at least I couldn't find it upthread. The last term I saw you use in that vein was 'political neutrality.'

Your claim is that science is politicized. I.e., that scientific results are based on political allegiance. Or that their interpretation is based on political allegiance.

I cannot fathom how this doesn't lead almost directly to a huge international conspiracy theory.

Nevermind the Bollocks .....

Russell Seitz said...

I think I'm missing something: how exactly does celebrating Herb York's candid bipartisanship as an example to future generations map into belief in a "huge international conspiracy" ?








Blogger profile said...

Rustle sez:
" Don't you know, Mister President, all us scientists are Democrats? "
-- Herbert York to Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the inaugural meeting of PSAC in 1956.

Bryson said:
Russell, the history you cite is irrelevant to the point I was making

Rustle don't read too good. He done gone wrong agin.

NURSE!

Blogger profile said...

"I cannot fathom how this doesn't lead almost directly to a huge international conspiracy theory. "

That's why the conspiracy WORKS! Nobody can believe it, therefore it works!! The more unbelievable it is, the conspiracy isn't even believed by those who believe it exists,THAT IS HOW WELL IT IS HIDDEN!

But Shhhh. Quiet. Nod's as good as a wink.

Russell Seitz said...

BP " the party of climate denial, creationism and 'pain-capable' fetuses" is the Tea Party.

The one that invented the NAS and the EPA is known as the GOP.


Blogger profile said...

Your off your meds, Rustle. Hearing voices and then thinking "I believe BP said that because my brain doesn't know what reality looks like!".

Also, tip here: Teabaggers weren't invented when NAS and EPA were "invented".

One would have thought that a senile old bugger like yourself would have remembered history right, but I guess you just don't like reality even when you get to wear specs to see it.

Fernando Leanme said...

Barton Paul: the IPCC RCP8.5 pathway strives to achieve the 8.5 watts per m2 by adding CO2, and methane and other greenhouse gases. Please look around in the IPCC AR5 references, they have a paper describing the RCP8.5 case. The EPA didn't have a well documented report showing how they developed the 8.6 watts per m2 case.

My concern, as a very experienced engineer, is that we have an un sound basis to generate projections. The eventual result is failure on several fronts. Many of you are exposed to the science. I'm exposed to decades of trying to shape science so it serves as a solid basis for engineering designs and solutions judged in hindsight to have been appropriate, elegant, and which didn't cause harm. I don't see the work quality by EPA to justify their moves. They are shoddy. And if you think government agencies don't do poor quality work, consider the Space Shuttle or the New Orleans sea defenses as built prior to 2005.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

RS: The one that invented the NAS and the EPA is known as the GOP

BPL: If you think the modern GOP is anything like the GOP of the 1970s, you're off your rocker. Nixon couldn't get nominated today, and neither could Gerry Ford. Ike definitely couldn't. If they paid attention to his full platform, I'm not even sure the Great Communicator could--he was, after all, for an assault weapons ban.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: My concern, as a very experienced engineer, is that we have an un sound basis to generate projections. The eventual result is failure on several fronts.

BPL: Look again.

http://bartonlevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

FL: Many of you are exposed to the science. I'm exposed to decades of trying to shape science so it serves as a solid basis for engineering designs and solutions judged in hindsight to have been appropriate, elegant, and which didn't cause harm. I don't see the work quality by EPA to justify their moves.

BPL: That's because for the most part, EPA didn't do it. The FAA didn't do most of the theoretical work on flight theory, either, but I don't think there's much of a question how aerodynamics works in most cases.

Blogger profile said...

"My concern, as a very experienced engineer"

OIL industry engineer. Retired, so "worked a lot of years in the oil industry", but other than never having had another job, what *experience* is relevant to the implication that you're a WELL EDUCATED IN THE SCIENCE engineer does that indicate? A desk jockey at the post office is a very experienced civil servant.

Everett F Sargent said...

"Space Shuttle or the New Orleans sea defenses as built prior to 2005"

Is New Orleans on the sea coast? They are usually called flood protection works.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_management
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_control

Which were originally designed for a Cat III hurricane and today are still rebuilt for a Cat III hurricane.

Or perhaps we should talk about congressional underfunding over several decades, the USACE wishes to do --> X for Y dollars <-- the USACE gets to do --> X for y dollars <-- y << Y (USACE asks for maintenance monies to maintain the original Cat III design but Congress decides otherwise).

Or perhaps we should talk about the corrupt political parrish system deep down there in New Orleans (we need a levee over here and we need a levee over there and my buddy down the road can build a levee).

As to the Space Shuttle, I'd like to see YOU do a better job. Somehow I seriously doubt you could fight your way out of a shredded wet paper bag.

Why not mention the WTC and 9/11? How about BP and the GOM?

Cherry Picker! Goal Post Mover!

But here, let me help you ...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_disasters

Although there does appear to be one critical item missing from that list ...

Homo effin' sapiens!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_sapiens

snarkrates said...

Russell,
I am politically neutral in the sense that I will give exactly the same technical advice to an administration or lawmaker whether they are DEM, REP or IND.

I will, however, still cast my vote for the party I perceive to be least anti-scientific. Litmus tests for anti-science include rejection of the theory of evolution, rejection of mainstream climate science, acceptance of anything ever written by Andrew Wakefield, a belief that economic growth can continue indefinitely in a finite environment, etc.

I am more than happy to entertain voting for any party that does not directly oppose the above. Unfortunately the the Gerrymandered States of America, it is about the party, not the candidate.

E. Swanson said...

FL wrote:
Please look around in the IPCC AR5 references, they have a paper describing the RCP8.5 case. The EPA didn't have a well documented report showing how they developed the 8.6 watts per m2 case.

The EPA didn't produce the emissions scenarios. The IPCC began to work on that part of the problem, publishing scenarios for model studies back in 1992. Here's a link from 2000 to the SPM of an updated version:
Emissions Scenarios (2000)

I'm an engineer too and I'm well aware the difference between basic and applied science and that engineering falls in the latter category. In my education, there was almost no reference to the environmental impacts of engineering, reflecting the common assumption that it was A-OK to do what ever we (read: the boss) wanted to the land, (aka: the natural world).

I think that assumption may actually have been coded into our DNA, since humanity's ascendance to total dominance of the planet is the result of our modification of our environment since the invention of agriculture. Sad to say, every time we humans build something, we must destroy some other part(s) of our surroundings to do so, being it the cutting of trees or burning rocks to make concrete and steel. Economists call that "creative destruction", but their accounting usually ignores the value of that which is destroyed, thus only the short term wealth created is entered in the balance sheets. But, we now know that Nature does not work that way.

I went to see Bernie Saunders deliver his stump speech yesterday in Greensboro, NC. Toward the end of his list of important issues, he hit on Climate Change at the end. Some 9,000 people showed up and it was a well run show for so early in the election cycle. Must have been some committed scientists (and engineers?) at work...

Russell Seitz said...

BP, get back in your time machine:

the NAS was instaurated by Abe Lincoln.

Everett F Sargent said...

E. Swanson,

Where did you go to school?

I went here ...
http://www.vtc.edu/academics/program/civil-environmental-engineering-technology
http://www.uvm.edu/~cems/cee/
http://www.cee.cornell.edu/

Civil and Environmental Engineering

But if you went to a school in the Deep South (e. g. Mississippi) it was likely called ...

Uncivil and Hanging Engineering

Even took two courses in something called Environmental Fluid Mechanics (and yes, air is a fluid) circa very late 70's.

"since the invention of agriculture"

How about since the engineering of animals (e. g. domestication), stone tools, cooking food (fire), before that we engineered sticks and before that we were great apes, or some such.

As to Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben and Howard Dean us natives call them Leaf Peepers and if they stay we call them flatlanders and if they stay long enough we call them Mayor/Representative/Senator and Environmentalist and Governor.

Hank Roberts said...

> suppression of their own data by the tobacco industry.

I remember Duke University biologists in the 1950s and 1960s commenting critically and sadly about some in their departments who took funding from Duke Tobacco -- who rarely if ever published any science, but always had ample funds to support several graduate student stipends and frequently updated well equipped labs.

Huge amount of research done on tobacco and tobacco mosaic virus among other things. It's still one of the best studied plants.

Pity most of the work wasn't ever published.

Sarewitz is being a clown for the rodeo.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

RS, do you think the GOP in 2015 is similar to the GOP in 1860? If so, you're even crazier than I thought.

Everett F Sargent said...

RS, do you think the GOP in 2015 is similar to the GOP in 1970? If so, you're even crazier than I thought.

E. Swanson said...

Everett F Sargent said...

E. Swanson, Where did you go to school?


Ga Tech, BSMe 66, Stanford, MSMe 67, with some further graduate courses in Aero & Astro...Until I found I could not tolerate the air pollution in the Bay Area, (aka: Silicon Valley) in the mid-70's.

Yes, humans manipulated their environment before agriculture, but agriculture provided the large surpluses of food which allowed the release some of some of the population from food production to make other stuff and to grow cities.

Everett F Sargent said...

Eli,

I thought you might fine these links useful ...

H.R.4012 - Secret Science Reform Act of 2014
https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4012
S.2613 - Secret Science Reform Act of 2014
https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2613
H.R.1030 - Secret Science Reform Act of 2015
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1030
S.544 - Secret Science Reform Act of 2015
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/544/all-actions-with-amendments

Basically, post election control of the Senate (Inhofe), brings this up to a floor vote in the fall session.

I found this even more interesting though ...

R E P O R T together with MINORITY VIEWS
https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/srpt69/CRPT-114srpt69.pdf

That one links to two Nature links ...

http://www.nature.com/authors/open_access/about_open_access.html

"About open access

Nature Publishing Group publishes more than 30 fully open access journals and a further 40 with a hybrid open access option. 44 per cent of the research articles we published last year were open access."

Policy: NIH plans to enhance reproducibility
http://www.nature.com/news/policy-nih-plans-to-enhance-reproducibility-1.14586

This whole thing reeks of Deniersville, the source code, the raw data, your medical records and the kitchen sink even.

Don't expect Nature to do that job.

Private sector for profit journal publishing industry down the terlet, you say? Don't count on it.

We review sh1t, we publish sh1t, we make $$$, if the sh1t turns out too really be sh1t, not our problem, talk to the authors, they did it, see, we don't ask for the source codes and we don't ask for the raw data, because we never do, not our problem, we make $$$, bye.

Oh, and if you send use some new sh1t, that remotely smalls like the old sh1t, we already published that old sh1t, skat now.

Russell Seitz said...

There is an understandable tendency to identify political parties with the public utterences of people prepared to say anything to get elected in an age of universal suffage. Such folk are Chris Mooney's lawful prey, but it is a capital mistake to elide what they say with what republican scientists and engineers think.

My published view

http://takimag.com/article/climate_of_here_russell_seitz/print#axzz3lY70P881


is that the GOP's institutional science problem consists catering to people who believe in metaphysics instead.

As a fan of the party's progressive 1904 platform , I find this development almost as alarming as the prospect of John Holdren working for Bernie Sanders.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Russell, when you wrote "As a fan of the party's progressive 1904 platform...." I hope you had tongue firmly in cheek. The Gold Standard? Really? Militarism, colonialism, and not a word on the plight of labor or native Americans.

What exactly in that platform do you see as progressive? I mean, someone says 'progressive' and I think Fightin' Bob LaFollette. Fightin' Bob was Governor of Wisconsin from 1901 to 1906, centering right on that 1904 GOP platform. And as wiki says,

"As governor, La Follette championed numerous progressive reforms, including the first workers' compensation system, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, municipal home rule, open government, the minimum wage, non-partisan elections, the open primary system, direct election of U.S. Senators, women's suffrage, and progressive taxation. He created an atmosphere of close cooperation between the state government and the University of Wisconsin in the development of progressive policy, which became known as the Wisconsin Idea. The goals of his policy included the recall, referendum, direct primary, and initiative. All of these were aimed at giving citizens a more direct role in government."

I didn't notice any of that in the GOP 1904 platform.

And the current GOP has destroyed the Wisconsin Idea.

Russell Seitz said...

I hope you have your tongue firmly in cheek - only a very low Whig would embrace direct election of US Senators, the minimum wage and progressive taxation .

Everett F Sargent said...

RS,

Well it's kind of late now but I found a mistake ...

"With barely concealed deference to the tar sand industry, Dr. Robert Ball has responded to ... " should be ...

"With barely concealed deference to the tar sand industry, Dr. Timothy F Ball has responded to ... "

At least that's what his CV says, or so I've been told. I think you should have used Richard though as he's such a Dick in a Box.

Oops, found another one ...

"That’s how science works. For all Senator Inhofe’s words (often drafted by staffers) to the contrary, the iconoclast who lauded Crichton’s State of Fear on the floor of Congress no longer defends many talking points that the yack-TV pundits still cleave to. Though scarcely part of the “consensus” that so dismays the idiotarian blogosphere, he has alienated many in it—as I hope I have—by committing the unpardonable political sin of allowing scientific facts to change his mind."

Care to back that one up with some, you know, facts?

Taken from the the acknowledgements section of ...

The Greatest Cons Piracy: Al Gore Is Fat ... published by WingNutDaily Books

"My former EPW Committee communication director Marc Morano, who had previously worked for Rush Limbaugh, regularly did an outstanding job exposing the hoax and gathering information from a variety of sources and researchers eager to be counted among the skeptics."

This one is a classic though ...

"If any species of principle is at once worth conserving and profoundly endangered, it is that the political neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist in order to be respected."

I'm pretty sure there is no such beast called "political neutrality" I mean seriously. This whole Overton Window thingie, as of late (Tea Party with Trump), somehow doesn't remind me of either Lincoln or Nixon.

But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps we do need conservative arts colleges and universities and WingNutDaily scientists.

BTW, who is this person you speak of "Carl Sagan" and what is this thing called "Nuclear Winter" you speak of at rather great lengths?

Russell Seitz said...

Everett, you have rather a lot of reading to do if you want to catch up on the last four decades of the climate wars.

Bon voyage on the paper chase.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Russell - "only a very low Whig ..."

All I know about Manifest Destiny is that it's one of my favorite Guster songs ....

Russell Seitz said...

Kevin " don’t need no stinkin’ papers :)"

Blogger profile said...

Or sanity, apparently.

Blogger profile said...

"the NAS was instaurated by Abe Lincoln."

And here we see the failure of our education system is not a new phenomenon.

Hank Roberts said...

"... devoted lees to the advancement of science ...."

You saying that the Tea Party has taken up tasseography now?