Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Nature" magazine calls on UVA to stop obstructing AG Cuccinelli's investigation of Michael Mann

They do in effect anyway. We read:

Long misconduct investigations do not serve anyone, except perhaps university public-relations departments that might hope everyone will have forgotten about a case by the time it wraps up. But in cases such as Wegman's, in which the work in question has been cited in policy debates, there is good reason for haste. Policy informed by rotten research is likely to have its own soft spots. Those who have been wronged deserve resolution of the matter. And one can hardly suppose that those who have been wrongfully accused enjoy living under a cloud for months.

So, what incentives do universities have to pick up the pace? Agencies such as the US Office of Research Integrity and ethics offices at funding bodies should take universities to task for slow investigations and demand adherence to the schedules listed in university policies. However, the agencies themselves haven't exactly been models of swift justice. The most recent annual report from the Office of Research Integrity — for 2008 — reported that the cases closed in that year spent a mean of 14.1 months at the agency. Perhaps it should fall to accreditation agencies to push for speedy investigations. Tom Benberg, vice-president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools — the agency that accredits George Mason University — says that his agency might investigate if the university repeatedly ignored its own policies on the timing of misconduct inquiries. To get the ball rolling, he says, someone would have to file a well-documented complaint.

Even if funding and accreditation agencies fail to apply pressure, universities should take the initiative to move investigations along as speedily as possible while allowing time for due process. Once an investigation is complete, the institution should be as transparent as it can about what happened. Especially when public funds are involved, or at public universities, the taxpayer has a right to know what happened when papers are retracted — even if the faculty member in question is eventually exonerated. This tidies the scientific record, clears the air and kicks the legs out from under any conspiracy theories.


Never again will we be able to accuse the Green/Left of rubbery principles! Background here and here

Warmist secrecy and dishonesty has destroyed trust in them

So now they want the government to stop people making detailed enquiries about their work. The whine below is from the Guardian

Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.

Nurse's comments follow the launch of a major Royal Society study into how scientists' work can be made more open and better used to inform policy in society. The review – expected to be published next year – will examine ways of improving access to scientific data and research papers and how "digital media offer a powerful means for the public to interrogate, question and re-analyse scientific priorities, evidence and conclusions".

Nurse said that, in principle, scientific information should be made available as widely as possible as a matter of course, a practice common in biological research where gene sequences are routinely published in public databases. But he said freedom of information had "opened a Pandora's box. It's released something that we hadn't imagined ... there have been cases of it being misused in the climate change debate to intimidate scientists.

"I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it's intimidating."

It was possible some requests were designed simply to stop scientists working rather than as a legitimate attempt to get research data, said Nurse. "It is essential that scientists are as open and transparent as possible and, where they are not, they should be held to account. But at times this appears to be being used as a tool to stop scientists doing their work. That's going to turn us into glue. We are just not going to be able to operate efficiently."

Nurse said the government should examine the issue, and think about tweaking freedom of information legislation to recognise potential misuse. Otherwise, he predicted, FoI aggression could be in future used by campaigners to cripple scientific research in many other controversial areas of science, such as genetically modified crops. "I don't actually know the answer but I think we have a problem here. We need better guidelines about when the use of freedom of information is useful."

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics said the intention of many of those making freedom of information requests was to trawl through scientists' work with the intention of trying to find problems and errors. "It's also quite true that these people do not care about the fact that it is causing a serious inconvenience," he said. "It is being used in an aggressive and organised way. When freedom of information legislation was first contemplated, it was not being considered that universities would be landed with this additional burden."

Evidence of the aggression first began to emerge when personal emails and documents were stolen from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) servers in November 2009 and leaked on to the internet. Climate sceptics seized on the contents as evidence that apparently showed scientists were colluding to keep errors in their research hidden and prevent rivals' research from being published at all.

In an independent inquiry a year later, the scientists at the UEA's climatic research unit (CRU) were cleared of any misconduct, but Muir Russell, the former civil servant who led the investigation, found a "consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness", although he stressed he had no reason to doubt the CRU team's honesty or integrity.

"The current fog of ambiguity concerning, for example, drafts of research papers produced in other countries is deeply damaging to our scientific standing," said Tom Ward, pro vice-chancellor at UEA. "Part of the discussion should be informed by what we can learn from Scottish and US law, which explicitly recognise the need to extend some protection to research in progress."

Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, said he has been involved in many long-running exchanges with people making freedom of information requests for his data. "In the case that went on the longest, I answered all the guy's questions. I spent half a day writing a long email explaining the answers to all his questions, but it wasn't really that which he was after: he was after some procedural questions about IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. He wanted some evidence that an IPCC statement had been changed – it wasn't about science at all; it was about procedure."

He added: "I can see what someone with a very specific political comment might gain from an unguarded comment, but it's very hard to see how science or public understanding of science gains from every exchange between scientists being made public. No other discipline operates in that way. The net effect of this, incidentally, is that senior people in government and senior scientists close to government are basically just using the telephone again. Which is very bad for science because email exchanges are an extremely useful record."

Nurse said that scientists were not blameless. At the University of East Anglia, they were too defensive in their responses to freedom of information requests over climate change, but their experience was one among many that highlighted a need for better training for scientists in the most appropriate way to respond to information requests.

Ward agreed that most universities do not have a very good grasp of the requirements of freedom of information law. But he added that researchers should be able to have confidential conversations with colleagues and researchers in other universities, and that it was increasingly difficult for researchers to do that by email.

"There's no other walk of life where every conversation you have ought to be made public," he said. "There's a massive double standards because a lot of the people submitting these requests are themselves not transparent at all. They don't reveal their sources of funding or the details of what they're doing behind the scenes."

He added that the best way for scientists to respond was with more openness. "Scientists are going to have to get used to the idea that transparency means being transparent to your critics as well as your allies. You cannot pick and choose to whom you are transparent," he said. "Increasingly it is going to be an issue for anyone working in contentious areas. Part of retaining the public's confidence and trust is transparency and openness, and scientists should accept that that is part of the price of having the people's trust."


Idiot modellers forget reality

Computer models at Stanford University have just “told” us that man-made global warming has already sapped some of the yield potential from our food crops. They say wheat yields would have been 5.5 percent higher since 1980 without the earthly warming; corn yields would have been 3.8 percent higher.

Stanford’s computers apparently didn’t tell their programmers that U.S. corn yields have actually risen by more than 60 percent since 1980 - during a period when they were supposedly hampered by too much heat. Wheat yields rose 14 percent, aided by higher levels of CO2, which act like fertilizer for plants.

In fact, if you’re worried about global food production, don’t pay much attention to this study. Recall that our recent temperatures have recently been about the same as in 1980 and 1981. Net warming since 1940 is only about 0.2 degrees C. Those are not numbers that would frighten a plant breeder, who understands that all of the wild species have proven they can handle climate changes of at least 4 degrees C with little problem.

Computer models only work if they have been programmed with adequate information. The computerized climate models, for example, claim that the earth’s recent warming is “unprecedented.” However, nobody told the computers about the Medieval Warming (950–1200 AD) and the Roman Warming (200 BC– 600 AD), both warmer than today.

Moreover, our corn, wheat, and rice are all originally tropical crops:

* Corn originated in the hot, wet lowlands of Mexico - and didn’t get cold-tolerant enough for the Corn Belt until after 4,000 years of careful seed selection by many generations of farmers.

* Wheat was native to the Fertile Crescent - the hot, dry regions of Palestine and Israel. In the Punjab today, it tolerates summer temperatures as high as 100 degrees F.

* Rice evolved in the Yangtze River Valley of China, where summer temperatures also rise above 100 degrees F. But rice thrives, too, in Manchuria at summer temperatures of only 80 degrees.

Drought, not temperature, has been the real enemy of food production, around the world and over time. The big droughts have come more often during the “little ice ages” than during the predominantly good weather of the global warmings. The warmings have been the good times, for humans, crops, and wildlife.

Over the last 4000 years, the region of Iraq has had droughts as long as 300 years during “little ice ages.” Its cities and fields were abandoned, left to nomadic shepherds. Egypt suffered only 8 percent of its Nile floods below-normal during the Medieval Warming - but 38 percent below-normal floods during the Little Ice Age. Closer to home, California had two century-long droughts during the Medieval Warming. Perhaps the computers should be programmed to look for shifting rain patterns and not worry about a 0.2 degree shift in temperature.

The real food challenge? The world will need to nearly double its farm output in the next 40 short years, to meet a last, moderate increase in population—and a huge surge in affluence. The rising incomes will have everybody in the world bidding for a high-quality diet. We’ll need all the technology research can muster, including drought-resistant crops. Otherwise, food prices will soar and wildlife habitat will disappear under innumerable plows


Bill “Chicken Little” McKibben

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Bill McKibben blames deadly recent weather events on climate change. And he snarkily dismisses as naive the argument that humankind can adapt well to such change.

Let’s look at data from the National Weather Service on annual fatalities in the U.S. caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes from 1940 through 2009. Naturally, these data show that the number of such fatalities varies from year to year. For example, in 1972 the number of persons killed by these weather events was 703 while in 1988 the number was 72. On average, however, the trend is clear and encouraging: the number of such fatalities, especially since 1980, is declining.

The average annual number of such fatalities over this entire 70-year span is 248. In each of the four decades prior to 1980, the average annual number of fatalities was higher than 248; in particular:

1940-49: 272

1950-59: 308

1960-69: 282

1970-79: 296

The average annual number of such fatalities over the full 40 years 1940-1979 was 290.

But in each of the three decades starting in 1980, the average annual number of fatalities caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes was lower than 248; in particular:

1980-89: 173

1990-99: 171

2000-09: 238

The average annual number of such fatalities over the full 30 years 1980-2009 was 194. (This number falls to 160 – just over half of the 1940-79 number of 290 – if we exclude the deaths attributed to hurricane Katrina, the great majority of which were caused by a levee that breached a day after the storm passed.)

This decline in the absolute number of deaths caused by tornados, floods, and hurricanes is even more impressive considering that U.S. population more than doubled over these 70 years, from 132 million in 1940 to 308 million today.

Seems that McKibben’s apocalyptic prognostications about humanity’s future are as fact-based as are those of the Rev. Harold Camping.


Skepticism in New Jersey

Whenever Republicans gravitate toward big government polices during their time in office, as they tend to do especially in New Jersey they are said to have “grown.” That is to say, they have become more enlightened in the eyes of the media and academia. There are a few asterisks here that right-thinking people should also consider when digesting the governor’s record, but there is also good reason to view Christie as someone who is serious about restoring constitutional limits.

If so, the biggest beneficiary here would be New Jersey’s beleaguered taxpayers who have labored under “cap and trade” policies implemented by Christie’s predecessor. The law, which became effective in 2008, calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to where they were in 1990 “no later” than 2020. It further requires that emissions not exceed 80 percent of their 2006 levels “no later” than 2050.

But with the collapse of “cap and trade” on Capitol Hill, states that previously signed up for regional greenhouse gas restriction agreements in lieu of federal action are now reconsidering. There is a one-two punch at work here. The appetite for intrusive regulation has receded with the economy in recession and the public cynicism toward alarmist claims has grown in the aftermath of “climategate.”

New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez, a Republican, has moved aggressively to cut environmental regulations and has resisted moving her state into Western Climate Change Initiative (WCCI). Most recently, the New Hampshire state legislature took action to modify its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers the Northeast. State lawmakers are still considering a complete withdrawal. New Jersey could be next.

Although Christie did not make environmental regulations a central theme of his campaign, and even express openness toward renewable initiatives, his movement in the direction of free market thinking is unmistakable.

On March 11, the governor pulled New Jersey out of a multistate lawsuit aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions from power plants, and on March 24, he said he might end the state’s cap-and-trade program. A key turning point came during a town hall meeting last year when Christie was asked about scientific date that has been used to underpin anti-industry regulation.

His full comments here are as follows: “Well I’ll tell you something,” he said. “I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I’m skeptical — I’m skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we’re going to need more science to prove something one way or the other. But you know — ‘cause I’ve seen arguments on both sides of it that at time — like I’ll watch something about man-made global warming, and I go wow, that’s fairly convincing. And then, I’ll go out and watch the other side of the argument, and I go huh, that’s fairly convincing too. So, I go to be honest with you, I don’t know. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can’t figure this stuff out. But I would say at this point, that has to be proven, and I’m a little skeptical about it. Thank you.”

Almost every Republican candidate for president in 2012 has a history of embracing green policies at odds with free market principles. If Christie does have national ambitions, this is one sure way for him to connect with the conservative faithful.

Already, a handful of conservative leaning state lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal NJ’s cap and trade. Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) and Alison Littell McHose (R-24) are leading the charge for A 3147 on the Assembly side. They are now joined in this effort by Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) and Sen. Steven Oroho (R-24), who have introduced mirroring legislation in the upper chamber.

But New Jersey does have a long and progressive history that figures into the equation. A key figure here is Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, who previously served as the New Jersey environmental commissioner under former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. She was a major driving force behind the regulations Christie now says he wants to unwind. Furthermore, there were three House Republicans in NJ who voted to pass the federal “cap and trade” law. That’s a lot of baggage for one state.

Some conservatives expressed dismay when Christie decided to meet recently with the New Jersey Environmental Federation. But Christie is not living in red state America. What is more remarkable about his tenure so far is that he is pushing fiscal reforms in an area of the country where it would normally be unthinkable.


Failing Federal solar scheme in Australia

COMPLAINTS about shonky solar power companies are rising as homeowners cry foul over bad contracts and half-finished work. The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is receiving a complaint every business day from people who believe they have been ripped off, although there have been no prosecutions. There have been 75 complaints so far this year.

Most complaints relate to delays or failure to supply the product, incorrect installation, faulty components or misleading representations about the solar panel system's performance.

Thirty-five companies, mostly based in the state, had been the subject of complaints in relation to solar panel systems, the OFT said. Of these, 12 were the subject of multiple complaints. It said it had not needed to "initiate any prosecution", as the complaints had been "largely contractual disputes" between the trader and consumer. "The majority of these matters have been resolved through conciliation to the satisfaction of the complainant," the OFT said.

Following an $850 million solar spending blowout, the Commonwealth next month is reducing by $1500 the subsidy for a typical home solar system, prompting high-pressure sales tactics on the part of some solar retailers ahead of the deadline. Some solar contracts contain hidden charges, including extra hook-up and maintenance costs and warranties with questionable value.

The problems come after the Federal Government was forced to scrap the failed Green Loans and home insulation programs.

Industry insiders said some of the worst offenders in the solar industry were previously involved in the Commonwealth's failed Batts insulation scheme that resulted in widespread rorting as well as the deaths of some installers.

There has been an explosion in the number of solar installers, from 280 across Australia in 2007 to more than 3500 today, and a 17-fold jump in Queensland in the same period to 785.

Consumer body Choice this week warned customers to be wary of very cheap quotes and short warranty periods.

Reputable installers say they are frustrated by "cowboys" giving the industry a black eye, yet are reluctant to name and shame competitors.

AllSafe, a major solar franchiser, has helped victims of improperly installed work. Lorraine Biggin, a Toowoomba-based AllSafe franchisee, said a recent customer was dudded by an installer who didn't supply all the racking for his home solar system and left the job unfinished. "He paid for everything and they just left him twisting in the wind," she said.

Complaints about solar installers are commonplace on consumer websites. Homeowners have vented anger at the quality of some solar systems, delivering less electricity than predicted, unprofessonal installations, and installers who disappeared, making their 10-year warranties worthless.

Homeowners also are frustrated when state and federal governments change the rules for their solar schemes reducing the expectations for a return on investments.

The Queensland Government has stopped subsiding new large solar systems to keep people from profitting from its scheme, but that was precisely why some "solar farmers" invested heavily in solar systems.

Homeowners also have discovered that electicity providers are knocking back some solar systems or their systems don't pass inspection because they haven't been installed to standard.

Consumers have attempted to protect themselves by turning to websites such as, where the work of solar installers is discussed.

Website spokesman Finn Peacock said it appeared from the discussions there were dodgy contractors involved previously in insulation work who jumped into solar when the federal money dried up. "Any time you have government throwing money around, you'll get all sorts," he said.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


1 comment:

John A said...

Info requests: yes, responding to requests is not easy, not always possible, and often expensive. And yes, I do not doubt there are some who overdo the requests. BUT I also see that "climate scientists" (as opposed to, say, meteorologists) have shot themselves in the foot.

"... said that, in principle, scientific information should be made available as widely as possible as a matter of course, a practice common in biological research where gene sequences are routinely published in public databases."

? In bio research, gene sequences are generally published after they have been copyrighted or even patented, and in parallel with publication/announcement. Or are withheld.
Thing is, with publication the accompanying research IS made available, not destroyed. And yes, this is done with the knowledge that others will be looking for faults in the research as well as help and ideas for future research. This is part of what we call "the scientific method" as used in all branches - except "climate science." Einstein published, and made his supporting work available, though even his friends had already started checking for errors.
"The real food challenge? The world will need to nearly double its farm output in the next 40 short years, to meet a last, moderate increase in population—and a huge surge in affluence"

Yes. Even mainland Chinese working class are becoming affluent enough to look for something more than rice, which is an enormous market. Producing the food is simply not possible with hand plowing, planting, harvesting, etc. as many Greens want, and certainly not as the trendy "locavore" types insist is easy and "more sustainable."

Subsets of the general "more sustainable" theme, which implicitly if not explicitly says the proposals are almost always more "sustainable" IF population - us - is decreased twenty to ninety percent.