The "ClimateGate" affair - the publication of e-mails and documents hacked or leaked from one of the world's leading climate research institutions - is being intensely debated on the web. But what does it imply for climate science? Here, Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz say it shows that we need a more concerted effort to explain and engage the public in understanding the processes and practices of science and scientists.
Practising scientists know that they do not simply follow a rulebook to do their science, otherwise it could be done by a robot
As the repercussions of
reverberate around the virtual community of global citizens, we believe it is both important and urgent to reflect on what this moment is telling us about the practice of science in the 21st Century.
In particular, what is it telling us about the social status and perceived authority of scientific claims about climate change?
We argue that the evolving practice of science in the contemporary world must be different from the classic view of disinterested - almost robotic - humans establishing objective claims to universal truth.
Climate change policies are claimed to be grounded in scientific knowledge about physical cause and effect and about reliable projections of the future.
As opposed to other ways of knowing the world around us - through intuition, inherited belief, myth - such scientific knowledge retains its authority by widespread trust in science's reassuring norms of objectivity, universality and disinterestedness.
These perceived norms work to guarantee to the public trustworthy scientific knowledge, and allow such knowledge to claim high authority in political deliberation and argumentation; this, at least, is what historically has been argued in the case of climate change.
What distinguishes science from other forms of knowledge?
On what basis does scientific knowledge earn its high status and authority?
What are the minimum standards of scientific practice that ensure it is trustworthy?
For an open, enquiring and participative society, these are questions that have become much more important in the wake of ClimateGate.
They are also questions that scientists should continually be asking of themselves as the political and cultural worlds within which they do their work rapidly change.
Doing science in 2010 demands something rather different from scientists than did science in 1960, or even in 1985.
How science has evolved
The understanding of science as a social activity has changed quite radically in the last 50 years.
The classic virtues of scientific objectivity, universality and disinterestedness can no longer be claimed to be automatically effective as the essential properties of scientific knowledge.
Instead, warranted knowledge - knowledge that is authoritative, reliable and guaranteed on the basis of how it has been acquired - has become more sought after than the ideal of some ultimately true and objective knowledge.
The public... may not be able to describe fluid dynamics using mathematics, but they can recognise evasiveness when they see it
Warranted knowledge places great weight on ensuring that the authenticating roles of socially-agreed norms and practices in science are adequately fulfilled - what in other fields is called quality assurance.
And science earns its status in society from strict adherence to such norms.
For climate change, this may mean the adequate operation of professional peer review, the sharing of empirical data, the open acknowledgement of errors, and openness about one's funders.
Crucially, the idea of warranted knowledge also recognises that these internal norms and practices will change over time in response to external changes in political culture, science funding and communication technologies.
In certain areas of research - and climate change is certainly one of these - the authenticating of scientific knowledge now demands two further things: an engagement with expertise outside the laboratory, and responsiveness to the natural scepticism and desire for scrutiny of an educated public.
The public may not be able to follow radiation physics, but they can follow an argument; they may not be able to describe fluid dynamics using mathematics, but they can recognise evasiveness when they see it.
Where claims of scientific knowledge provide the basis of significant public policy, demands for what has been called "extended peer review" and "the democratisation of science" become overwhelming.
Science has changed a lot since Einstein's day - and so has society
Extended peer review is an idea that can take many forms.
It may mean the involvement of a wider range of professionals than just scientists.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, included individuals from industry, environmental organisations and government officials as peer reviewers of early drafts of their assessments.
More radically, some have suggested that opening up expert knowledge to the scrutiny of the wider public is also warranted.
While there will always be a unique function for expert scientific reviewers to play in authenticating knowledge, this need not exclude other interested and motivated citizens from being active.
These demands for more openness in science are intensified by the embedding of the internet and Web 2.0 media as central features of many people's social exchanges.
It is no longer tenable to believe that warranted and trusted scientific knowledge can come into existence inside laboratories that are hermetically sealed from such demands.
A revolution in science
So we have a three-fold revolution in the demands that are placed on scientific knowledge claims as they apply to investigations such as climate change:
- To be warranted, knowledge must emerge from a respectful process in which science's own internal social norms and practices are adhered to
- To be validated, knowledge must also be subject to the scrutiny of an extended community of citizens who have legitimate stakes in the significance of what is being claimed
- And to be empowered for use in public deliberation and policy-making, knowledge must be fully exposed to the proliferating new communication media by which such extended peer scrutiny takes place.
The opportunity that lies at the centre of these more open practices of science is to secure the gold standard of trust.
And it is public trust in climate change science that has potentially been damaged as a result of the exposure of e-mails between researchers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and their peers elsewhere.
Policy-makers are looking for reliable projections from climate scientists
The disclosure and content of these private exchanges is only the latest in a long line of instances that point to the need for major changes in the relationship between science and the public.
By this, we mean a more concerted effort to explain and engage the public in understanding the processes and practices of science and scientists, as much as explaining the substance of their knowledge and how (un)certain it is.
How well does the public understand professional peer review, for example, or the role of a workshop, a seminar and a conference in science?
Does the public understand how scientists go about resolving differences of opinion or reaching consensus about an important question when the uncertainties are large?
We don't mean the "textbook" answers to such things; all practising scientists know that they do not simply follow a rulebook to do their science, otherwise it could be done by a robot.
Science is a deeply human activity, and we need to be more honest about what this entails. Rather than undermining science, it would actually allow the public to place their trust more appropriately in the various types of knowledge that scientists can offer.
What should be done?
At the very least, the publication of private CRU e-mail correspondence should be seen as a wake-up call for scientists - and especially for climate scientists.
The key lesson to be learnt is that not only must scientific knowledge about climate change be publicly owned - the IPCC does a fair job of this according to its own terms - but that in the new century of digital communication and an active citizenry, the very practices of scientific enquiry must also be publicly owned.
The IPCC has won a Nobel Prize - but does it need a rethink?
Unsettling as this may be for scientists, the combination of "post-normal science" and an internet-driven democratisation of knowledge demands a new professional and public ethos in science.
And there is no better place to start this revolution than with climate science.
After all, it is claimed, there is no more pressing global political challenge than this.
But might this episode signify something more in the unfolding story of climate change - maybe the start of a process of re-structuring scientific knowledge?
It is possible that some areas of climate science have become sclerotic, that its scientific practices have become too partisan, that its funding - whether from private or public sectors - has compromised scientists.
The tribalism that some of the e-mails reveal suggests a form of social organisation that is now all too familiar in some sections of business and government.
Public trust in science, which was damaged in the BSE scandal 13 years ago, risks being affected by this latest episode.
A Citizen's Panel on Climate Change (CPCC)?
It is also possible that the institutional innovation that has been the IPCC has now largely run its course.
Perhaps, through its structural tendency to politicise climate change science, it has helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusive form of knowledge production - just at a time when a globalising and wired cosmopolitan culture is demanding of science something much more open and inclusive.
A number of social issues need attention, the writers argue
The IPCC was designed by the UN in the Cold War era, before the internet and before GoogleWave.
Maybe we should think about how a Citizen's Panel on Climate Change might work in today's world, as well as a less centralising series of IPCC-like expert assessments.
If there are serious ecological and social issues to be attended to because of the way the world's climates are changing - as the authors of this article believe - then scientists need to take a long hard look at how they are creating, validating and mobilising scientific knowledge about climate change.
Climate science alters the way we think about humanity and its possible futures.
It is not the case that the science is somehow now "finished" and that we now should simply get on with implementing it.
We have decades ahead when there will be interplay between evolving scientific knowledge with persisting uncertainty and ignorance, new ways of understanding our place in the world, and new ways of being in it.
A more open and a better understood science process will mean more trusted science, and will increase the chances of both "good science" and "good policy".
"Show your working" is the imperative given to scientists when preparing for publication to peers.
There, it refers to techniques.
Now, with the public as partner in the creation and implementation of scientific knowledge in the policy domain, the injunction has a new and enhanced meaning.
Mike Hulme is professor of climate change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change
Dr Jerome Ravetz is an independent scholar affiliated to the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at Oxford University
The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website
Do you agree with Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz? Does the ClimateGate affair have implications for the way science, and climate science in particular, is run? Does the way we communicate nowadays mean that science has to become more open? Are you enthralled or appalled by the idea of ordinary citizens being involved in reviewing scientists' work?
My 2 pence. You can only interpret data correctly if you are familiar with the technology used to gather it (and the experiment in general). Web 2.0 greatly expands the ability of the general public to gather certain types of data, which definitely is a big plus; and for these projects the inclusion of the general public in the analysis is must. But ... Fact is, the guy on the street (even most geneticists) are not able to correctly work with the output from, say, a 454 sequencing machine. Still, some nice wishful thinking.
Thanks for the article. Science is pure, which can not be change. Scientists are also human being, not robot. They do well for human and all natural creature. Every people of the world are depending on science and people can not think anything beyond science. We know that evidence suggests global temperature is beginning to rise. There are several factors that could cause this. Only one is affected by human activity. If sciences are disappeared than how can we know the temperature of the planet over time-scales of billions of years? Is this current warming part of the Earth's natural temperature variation? What factors affect and force changes to the global temperature, and to what extent are these being affected by human activity? What are the best predictions for change over the next 100 years? So, I would like to say that only science can present us a green planet.
Engr Salam, Kushtia,Bangladesh
The statement in the article that IPCC was established in the time of the cold war and when there was no internet etc is totally misleading ! IPCC was established in 1989 by WMO and UNEP well after the "cold war era". The authors express views which contradict to the excellent scientific base of the IPCC Reports.
Prof. Dr. Rumen D. Bojkov, Dresden, Germany
To quote Malcom; Global warming is a particular difficult science because of the vast sums being spent by vested interests in fossil fuels to encourage doubt in the results. We need a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to fund public education. Malcolm, UK And the "other side" have vast sums being given to them now for research and will earn even more once trading in Carbon Credits (Carbon Dioxide Credits ?) gets going. The money argument applies to all. (Except me - I had to pay for the internet accesss to post this).
Interesting discussion about scientific knowledge by two scientists (I assume). I am not sure many people notice this, but they are not "doing science" in talking about this, they are "doing philosophy"- in particular, they are talking epistemology, in a fashion. It would be nice to have some experts, say some philosophers of science, involved in this discussion to help ground it a bit. Though these two authors bring up some good points to be considered, they make some mistakes that could be avoided.
Todd, San Diego, CA
This has less to do with how the public perceives science as it does the way politicians an specialist interest groups can coerce the science into justifying their agenda. This isn't the first time science has been hijacked for political ends - remember eugenics - and it won't be the last. We really don't need extra laws or layers of bureaucracy to prevent this happening. All we need to do is to force those promoting their ideas to answer simple but decisive questions posed by genuine skeptics. For example, ask any of these climate scientists to show you the real-world evidence (i.e. field measurements and not computer models) that proves their core thesis; which is that positive feedbacks dominate the climate system. If their answers are not sufficiently clear and accurate to convince the average person, as well as the skeptic, then they're also insufficient to be used as the basis for real-world actions. Let's teach people about the "scientific method" and then simply let them apply it.
Dave Salt, Darmstadt, Germany
Respectfully, I think the authors misunderstand the nature of science. The purpose of Science has never been to build a consensus. In fact, a far better model of science is as a competition, a struggle between 'me' and 'myself'. Science was at its best when carried out by individuals, and not as a bureaucratic endeavour. Science is perverted when it is drawn into politics and not devoted to the pursuit of enlightenment. The fact that Science was done 'for its own sake' and that it was detached from the political realm were the key attributes that afforded it high status. The authors propose nothing other than the end of Science.
K Gelling, Hong Kong
The lines between climate science and religion continue to blur.
Daniel, Ostrava, Czech Republic
This article clearly overlooks the scientific fact that most people are too stupid to know what's good for them. For example, smoking.
Robert , Bramhall, Cheshire
For me it's simple If my doctor tells me I have cancer, but won't show me the lab work. I will not except his word. A PHD behind a name does not mean blind faith. There is too much at stake for science to only let one side of the facts out. When this is done they must have something to hide, or they worry about their grants. In true science the negitave is just as powerfull as the posative. When it is the truth you are after.
tom jones, calabash n.c.
The use of the word "belief", and the lack of the concept of "proof", says it all. If science had always followed this paradigm, we would be living on a flat earth, at the centre of the universe, and surviving without the benefit of gravity. This is not science - it is snake-oil.
David Weston, Wellington, New Zealand
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of science. For instance: Science is NOT all founded on reproducible experiments. Take cosmology: we only have one sky, and we can only look at it. True, many different people can look at many different bits of it on many occasions, but nobody can perform an experiment on it. Alternatively, take child psychology: no two babies are alike, so no experimental observations of a baby will ever be reproduced exactly. In the first case, experiment is impossible. In the second, reproduction is only approximate. Progress in science is NOT all by rational analysis. The classic example is Gregor Mendel's theory of inheritance. Fisher, a celebrated statistician, argued that Gregor Mendel's numbers were too good to be true. It seems likely that either Mendel was very lucky or he was devious. That doesn't mean his conclusion was wrong. Nowadays, he is generally accepted as a great founder of the subject of genetics. Science is NOT about facts. Facts are so rare that studying just facts is not worth much time and effort. In almost all cases, science is about trying to make sense of apparent approximate patterns and correlations which people think they have observed; but, if we understand anything about the world we live in, then human bodies and brains are subject to the laws of statistical mechanics. Our eyes and ears and memories are fallible, so who can say what actually happened? When science goes wrong, and occasionally it does, that is NOT always because a scientist is unscrupulous (although that can happen). Peter Woit, in his book "NOT EVEN WRONG", describes in detail how social factors can disrupt the processes of peer review and funding and the whole course of development of a major subject. Science can sometimes be explained to lay people, but if lay people don't grasp it then that is NOT a reason to ignore it. For instance, the recent Cambridge Primary Review recommended some changes to primary schools. They are not in accord with the ambitions of many upper middle class parents, so the report has been rejected. This will harm many thousands of children. Science can sometimes NOT be explained to lay people. There are very few lay people who could grasp the derivation and significance of Bell's inequality. Of course, any lay person who wants to understand science is very welcome, and we should all encourage him or her and give all the help we can; but, if we fail and the lay person cannot grasp the science, that does not mean we should bow to the lay person. One duty of those who can understand is to save humanity from itself. Climate change is a classic case.
Alan, Winchester, U.K.
I want to remind all of you that the brightest minds in the world do not work for universities, overwhelmingly they work for industry and do not necessarily have the title of "scientist". They are more than qualified to address these issues.
Gene Williams, Boise ID, USA
It's funny, is it not, that this revolution in science did not seem to be needed before the leaking of documents from the CRU? Likewise, British MPs did not seem to realise that they needed to be policed before they were discovered enriching themselves on the public purse. By empirical knowledge we know that an organisation/movement that has found to be acting contrarily to the expectations of a public with a vested interest will behave in a predictable way. That is, it will try to mitigate the damage done by harmful revalation by claiming progression to a newer, more moral high ground. It is hoped that the old problem, without ever having been dealt with directly, will be overlooked as the new focus falls upon the clean start. In short, we know what the obsfucation in this article really means.
Watt Tyler, Chichester England
Was Einstein "almost robotic" when he became interested in Brownian motion and wondered if it held a clue to the ultimate reducibility of matter. Or J Lister when he wondered if carbolic acid might serve in the fight against infection? I think the writers caricature the "classic view." I'm sure intuition and accidental discovery have always played a part in scientific advance. I am more comfortable with the idea of scientists having a burning desire to discover truth than with anything proposed in this article. There are many more comments I could offer, but, not to use up too space, I'll finish by expressing my astonishment with the phrase "the public as partner in the creation and implementation of scientific knowledge in the policy domain." The CREATION of knowledge?!? God help us!
Piers Anderson, Highworth, Wilts
I believe its a wonderful day for people of common ground and interest in around the world can now openly admit that there is more to life than yourselves. Climate change is an issue that affects this planet and asking the public for answers is the right way to gain undiluted knowledge and beliefs. We have to deal with a growing and changing world that is becoming increasingly hostile to living creatures (including us). Need I remind that Maine once upon a time use to get buried up pass telephone poles and second floor houses in the past now we are experiencing rare weather patterns of extremes such as no snow for a some in the state. Although most are not complaining its just not natural in this part of the world at this time of year. YES to we need to talk and solve ways for future generations to survive on this fragile planet.
Sheila Mckenney, Portland Maine USA
A lot of these comments seem to believe that all climate science is made by a couple of scientist working together. This couldn't be any further from the truth. There are thousands of people world wide working on the subject, they don't all work on the same set of data, they research many dierent things, they have very differnet belieffs and social status. But they all come to the conclusion that human made climate change is a serious problem that needs to be adressed. Its not an english, american ou german thing. Scientist from all over the World have studied many different aspects of our climate and noticed many different effects and changes on our planet. Be it receading glaciers, fish migrating north or temperatures rising. What is also a fact is that all these scientist do not agree on a great many things. that is exactly how science works. Both Darwin and Einstein, and even Galileo are still disputed today, but that tus not mean they were wrong, and the larger body of science as confirmed their findings, even if ocasionaly some one comes up with an argument against their views. It is a good thing to question. But questioning science can only be made with hard data and sound methods, not with internet bullying and invented proffs, as is usually the case.
Pedro, Barcelona, Spain
More openness - sure, why not? But letting the general public decide on the merits of a scientific work probably goes too far. "Truth" (whatever this means) cannot be established by voting. So often science progresses by transcending intuition and common sense. Imagine holding a referendum on Darwin's evolutionary theory or the second law of thermodynamics back in the 19th century. Bad idea.
Svetoslav Danchev, Athens, Greece
A lot of well reasoned comments have been made but the main point I think has been missed. All the fine theories put forward and the disproving of these theories make interesting reading but the driving force behind AGM is money. Countless billions have been spent so far on funding research and making people like Al Gore multimillionaires and Governments can use this climate doomsday scenario as a way to impose more 'green' taxes. Is any argument going to make them change their views? No AGM, no need for AGM research. No jobs for the Profs and the thousands who work for them.
Gilbert Paton, Knutsford
Writing as a non-scientist and having had a few windows into the scientific world the impression given is that science is frequently far less absolute than scientists would have us believe. Petty rivalries and 'believers' and 'non believers'seem to permeate the discipline just as in other walks of life and of course we know that today's science maybe disproved tomorrow. With regard to the climate debate I have yet to be convinced that man-made CO2 is the cause of global warming and am concerned that this conclusion was arrived at too rapidly because of vested interests such as those of the university in question.
Andrew Allen, Lahore, Pakistan
In what way is climate science massively discredited? Because the climate scientists said nasty things about sceptics? For climate change to be discredited, it has to be shown to be a complete sham from the word go AND the sceptics have to have been able to present a lasting, viable and solid alternative from the start, which is blatantly not the case.
Roland, Nantes, France, British ex-pat
One of the greatest gifts of science is to constantly question. Nothing is ever absolutely true. We have only theories. Good enough only until they are disproved by a weight of evidence. Evolution is also "just a theory" supported by all currently observable evidence. One could spend days, weeks, months reading all of the available evidence and all of the expert viewpoints on Climate Change. Perhaps this would all make for great TV? Endless debates are certainly Reality. Be sceptical of any scientist who claims that Climate Change is absolutely true. Be equally sceptical of someone who claims that buying stuff is your patriotic duty! So given that we will absolutely never know if Climate Change is completely true, what should one do? Sit at home reading until one is entirely surrounded by water? or not... It seems to me that there is sound logic in wanting less and consuming less:
1. There will be more people on the planet tomorrow than there were today. Never in the history of our planet have tomorrow's number of people attempted to live on earth at the same time.
2. We are sitting on a finite amount of water and, to a certain extent, soil.
3. We all have an impact on the environment by our very existence. After all, why feel guilty for enjoying ourselves while we are here?
4. Given an increasing population and finite resources, attempting to pollute less would seem logical
5. We could all pollute less by consuming less stuff.
When keeping up with the Joneses, why are the Joneses always the ones with more than us? Why don't we keep up with the people who have less than us? This is not to naively suggest that poverty is happiness and equally naive would be to suggest that having more makes you happy. Have a great year ahead of wanting less and consuming less.
Mark Heffernan, Oxfordshire, UK
Climate change is not only a issue between sellers and buyers of CO2. I t has become a political and social issues. Therefore, climate change talk need to address the issues of social and political justices.
suvas chandra devkota, Kathmandu
Not twenty years ago, these same scientists were telling us we were heading for the next ice age. Where is the credibility of these people. Its just job and publicity, bandstand seeking. The earth has been dramatically changing climate for far longer than man has been here and will continue to do so long after we have died out.
pdeitch, PB, Germany
I think from the bulk of comments above and elsewhere, most people will not think, only indulge in playground abuse. If CRU are right, the effect of global warming is likely to reduce the world human population to one billion in 2100 and much less thereafter. If CRU are wrong, the sort of people posting here will find some other way of finishing us off. If only the bright survive then there may still be a future for humanity. If there is not a large improvement in intelligence compared to what we see above, humanity does not deserve a future.
Could it be that global climate is still too complex for science? Could we be facing both Natural and manmade global warming? I feel that few are convince by evidence, rather thet are swayed by emotions and inclination. If you are happy go lucky guy, you need a lot of convincing before you believe in climate change as it would mean inconveniences. If you are a fearull type, you would be afraid of the what-if and more likely to take precautions.
Hans Dreisig, Almaty, Kazakhstan
You talk of your scientific consensus , well we have a consensus too, and it is growing very rapidly. The Copenhagen meeting will have global consequences and we also live on this globe. Democracy is really about individuals as the Swiss understand very well. There is a small group of men who seem to have been misinformed , deliberately, are about to commit me to things that haven't been discussed adequately amongst all those affected. Let's have the raw data out in the public view. Lots of these denizens on here have got interesting and sensible things to say. Several of them claim to be in a position to analyze it as rigerously as Prof Jones if not moreso. There may well be a large minority who are unable or unwilling to understand the debate , the big rest of us want to understand this whole thing better. I have been involved in a very active political debate on-line for the last four years and when the fight gets down to faith that's the side picked clean looking for justification for the faith . It's always faith based on some rickety construction which is quickly knocked down but the faith always lingers and the debate goes on. Science isn't faith. Every stance taken is measurable and it lives or dies on reproducibility. Then science stands on that truth and tries to climb higher. Strongly held views are demolished by physical proof , never by debates. let's have millions of people involved proving or disproving. Some big science work, like CERN , is hooked up to a few thousand computers each handling a discreet set of tasks. SETI combined the processing power and flexibility of millions of small personal computers to examine radio waves from space, statistically. In my opinion the more science affects people directly and involuntarily the more opportunities for involvement they should have. It will also make it much more likely for the true science to get done, and quickly. Cancel Copenhagen and lets get the whole Internet working on this problem using the source data freely. Encourage every country in the world to share it's complete climate data and when the work is done as to speed, effect and cause then get together and agree a way forward . At least we won't have to go on being treated as"other ranks " by the scientific "officers".
thethinkingman, Harare, Zimbabwe
While making scientific knowledge publically accessible is a laudable goal, in such a politically-charged area as climate change, I can foresee demands being made that all research had to be published in language that even the most uneducatd can understand. A certain balance is needed, between scientists' uncomprimised ability to perform science, and the public's scrutiny of and involvemetn with said science. Neither absolute is a laudable goal.
Andrew, Glasgow, UK
I read this article with a degree of amusement and sadness; the author seems to have no idea how hard scientists try to interact with the public and how dearly we wish it was as simple as 'show your data', which all scientists do anyway. The problem is more deep-seated than that; many people have zero knowledge of critical reasoning, and the finer points of investigation is lost on many. As if this weren't enough, most people seem passionately disinterested in science, unless some 'critic' stirs up a storm in a tea cup; you can show people all the evidence you want, and they still won't believe it and that is entirely disheartening. I recall watching Dawkins debate with a creationist and her ignoring every fossil he showed her! This debate is the exact same; the reason scientists worry about climate change is that the data suggests it; if the data stopped suggesting it, we'd change our minds in an instant. The general public wouldn't. Poor media understanding of science is to blame here, and suggestions that science is somehow an elitest secret club where evidence is hidden is pure bunk.
David Robert Grimes, Dublin
Perhaps what many people don't realize is that science never definitively "proves" a theory. (I will exclude mathematics here, which proves theorems and not theories anyway.) It merely formulates probable theories from observations. Global warming due to human activity is just another theory well supported by evidence. It is very probably true, but there is always the possibility that it is actually wrong. Those who think that it (or any other commonly accepted scientific theory) cannot possibly be false, as well as those who think that it cannot possibly be true, need to be more open-minded.
Isabel, Sydney, Australia
Note to self: Way to discredit scientific work that damages my product's profitability or happens to be inconvenient generally: Find a scientist who can be said to be "corrupted", fund the hacking of his/her email and attach -gate to it. Now that's what I call a scientific discovery!
Jeff, Toronto, Canada
But the general public is largely neither scientifically educated nor capable of critical thinking, as the majority belief in a wide swathe of twaddle from creationism to astrology, fork-bending, the 9/11 conspiracy and the 2012 'cataclysm' demonstrates. It cannot 'follow and argument' nor spot evasion.
Bob Couttie, Olongapo, Philippines
Global warming is a particular difficult science because of the vast sums being spent by vested interests in fossil fuels to encourage doubt in the results. We need a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to fund public education.
The current state of science is not so far from the ideal put forward here. Scientific results already are open to the general public. Papers published in journals are not certified as true, they are being published for discussion by all parties able to contribute.
Raphael Sofaer, NYC NY, US
All scientifically collected raw data should be freely available and published in a way that all scientists can access and use the data. By restricting access to raw data there is a control over how the data is used and scientists outside the group have to negotiate the access to data. If the group controlling the data does not like a point of view they deny access to the data and the collected data can not be used in a scientific publication. This problem exists outside of climate change and is found whenever there is raw data from experiments. (But global warming is occurring and there is a great deal of information to support that) Publish all raw data and make it open to others.
Colleen, Bethelehm,PA US
Climate control is a shared responsibility, the recent incident has been much more effective than all the critics of global warming in discrediting the theories of the change supporters. Program of major importance such as the Human Genome project or Climate Change should be managed in an open manner. Raw data set should be made publicly available via the internet (I believe this is the case for the Human Genome) to allow anyone to perform their own analysis, as this is now easily done using cloud computing (one can rent a server at $ 0.85/hour)with an obligation to disclose on demand the results of their calculations. Given the situation, I believe the East Anglia team has no other choice than to open their books and submit their work to the scrutiny of the public.
Jerome Denis, Austin Texas
These guys live in some alternate reality. Scientists, journalists and policy advocates, Gore, IPCC, journals Science Nature and all the climate ones, as well as bloggers, have been communicating and trying to figure out how to communicate with non-scientists FOR.EVER. This article completely ignores these efforts, as well as the multimillion dollar opposing propaganda campaigns by the oil companies, and the lack of executive leadership - by GW Bush- for instance. I'm not sure whether the emails will do damage, but their straw man here are scientist, and the article is infuriating in its misconceptualization of the problem. If there is a problem its that some scientists, and I don't use the derogatory "Ivory Tower" label too often since I work at a University, are only engaged when it comes to prognosticating the problems afterwords in overly wordy philosophical ditherings that ignore very strong evidence contrary to their argument.
This article is a step in the right direction, however, to go further, the evidence now disclosed appears to implicate and undermine the entire basis upon which Anthopological Global Warming (AGW) was founded. There should be no action taken until the case for AGW is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Copenhagen summit should be disbanded immediately.
Jason, Colchester, England
What rubbish. 'Post modern scince' as you call it is abhorent in its very nature and all who practise this form of scince are racing towards a wake up call comparable to the french revolution. And please don't get me started on your sly web 2.0 comment. We are awake and we are growing.
graham kelly, Waterford, Irelamd
If ever there was a time of great need for newspapers, and other news outlets, to step up to the line, take proper responsibility, and start taking real CARE over what they publish (like scientists normally do), then that time is NOW passing us by, and pretty quickish too. Judging by many of the comments above, they are failing, worse than miserably, in their duty to disseminate accurate and useful information to the populations of the world. I for one do not believe that the editors of newspapers like this one are literally stupid enough (sorry, but it MUST be said - PLEASE do not delete this - it is not 'merely' rude!) to not understand the stakes, and what we must do to avert the demise of the human race (or most of it). So I have to wonder who pays them for the work they do. I tend to think it isn't just the owners of the newspapers who pays their way through life. And Exxon-Mobil comes to mind, as it probably should.
Tim, Winnipeg, Canada
This article amplifies a number of misunderstandings and distortions while failing to clarify the role of toxic PR in this matter. There is no 'scientific debate' about the causes,facts and implications of climate warming. This science is as incontrovertible as the evidence of any reasonable persons senses...floods, wildfires and extreme weather events are changing our landscapes before our own eyes and these are all global warming phenomena! The hacking episode being discussed was part of an absurdly selective extraction of minor presentational discussions. what it demonstrates is how far so-called 'sceptics' will go to create doubt about climate science in the in the public perception. These people are well-funded professionals in manipulative PR, playing with the public's human tendency towards denial, ie, their psychological defence mechanisms. The usual nonscientific suspects like Lawson etc pile on to amplify the PR strategy. We are seeing a sophisticated effort in social engineering, not a debate. Your article fails to educate anyone about the fossil fuel industry's lavishly funded PR campaigns in the UK and the US to manufacture doubt about genuine science. Sir David King has written: "Human activity is to blame for the rise in temperature over recent decades, and will be responsible for more changes in the future...If anybody tells you differently, they either have a vested interest in ignoring the scientific arguments or they are fools."
Dr John Stanley, Galway, Ireland
Thank you for telling people about the impacts that Climategate should have on scientific processes. I am ashamed of being danish; Copenhagen will always be remembered as the city in which political agreements were build on a lie...
Niels Jakobsen, Aarhus, Denmark
This is just not good enough in my humble opinion. It is no more than beautifully written waffle. Consensus has no place in science. If you set up the achievement of consensus as a principle objective of science you are in effect mandating exactly the sort of incestuous relationship between author and reviewer which we have witnessed in the climate change fraud which has taken place over many years at the University of East Anglia and moreover you render legitimate the ostracising of non-conforming researchers as we have also seen in this case. There is simply no other way to reach consensus where no consensus exists. Science is not science which eschews the Scientific Method. Climatology is too young a field of enquiry to merit the term 'settled.' Too little is understood as yet and that is why there is so much angry dissent. The results of climatological predictions must never form the basis of national policy. Perhaps in a generation or two we will understand more. Who knows?
D Horton , Reading UK
The peer review process is not working. A better process should resemble the us supreme court mode. A majority opinion documented with different opinions allowed, documented and signed. I was doing graduate research at Unv KS when a Prof. admitted to me that as a reviewer for a Journal he rejected all papers done by a graduate student who's advisor was a disliked rival of his. So what's new...
D. V. MATHUSZ, TACOMA WA USA
Interesting paper, written by scientists in scientific jargon, much like politicians who talk in "politico talk" ie much said little done. However, I agree mostly with John, from Liverpool. The "old school methods of scientific review" may not be appropriate in today's world. As John points out, PhD's as an academic qualification, are obtained by doing research in a very limited (almost microscopic) region of science. Putting this in perspective, it's like saying "I know a hell of a lot about this speck of sand I found on the beach but I know nothing about all the other specks of sand!" What I have just said is, of course, heresy in the revered Land of Academia. But let the brand new PhD step outside the confines of a laboratory into the cold hard world of industry and it frequently becomes a whole new learning curve for them. Science, in the "old world" was all about "certainty". Does this do that or does it not? Is it black or is it white? But life is not always that simple. Are tomatoes safe to eat? For most people, the answer is yes but some people have an allergy and to them eating tomatoes can have serious side effects. So today, out in that big cold hard wide world, we often find ourselves in the area of "uncertainty". Many veterans from the Vietnam War are suffering from strange medical symptoms (fact). Are these symptoms due to their exposure to Agent Orange? Probably, (or possibly) but regrettably we cannot prove it either way with certainty. More and more today we are obliged to work in the area of Risk Management (see recent article from Dr Stern on the BBC website) because it is impossible to prove certainty in so many areas. Sorry if this offends pure scientists but that's the way it is in the "real" world outside the laboratory. Risk Management is based on Probability rather than Provability and if we remember the IPCC report quoted (somewhat paraphrased!) ..."In their opinion, based on the data available, there is greater than 90% probability that mankind's activities, particularly in the last 150 years are having an adverse effect on the atmosphere which if unabated will lead to catastrophic climate change." Despite this assessment being around for more than 18 years (first report in 1990), no scientist or group of scientists have come up with sufficient information (note..doesn't have to be "certainty" orientated! They just need to demonstrate that the probability is greater for natural effects to be causing the observed effects) to enable decision makers to develop different policies. And so Copenhagen will go ahead with or without "Climategate".
Mike Perkins, Whangarei, New zealand
How can this be "the final nail in the coffin of the [AGW] coffin?" Since when has the work of the CRU been so foundational to the AGW consensus? What a lot of overblown, hyperbolic nonsense! Did the Piltdown Man hoax topple the whole edifice of evolutionary biology? Does any isolated example of bad science ever discredit the entire field? Nobody with any serious grasp of the facts will be duped by this ridiculous smear campaign. It has taken nearly a century for consensus to form, and there is now a vast body of highly scrutinized research. For all this evidence to be undermined, you would have to discredit tens of thousands of scientists, and hundreds of thousands of studies and papers! Just how do a few poorly-worded emails among one small group of scientists come even remotely close to doing that? How, for example, does this incident cast doubt on the findings from satellite data, radiosondes, borehole analysis, glacial melt observations, sea ice melt, sea level rise, proxy reconstructions, permafrost melt and such like, gathered completely independently of the CRU? How does it in any way throw doubt on the integrity of the many other, independent scientific bodies who support the AGW consensus? Here is a list of just a few of them: Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil) Royal Society of Canada Chinese Academy of SciencesAcademié des Sciences (France) Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany) Indian National Science Academy Accademia dei Lincei (Italy) Science Council of Japan Russian Academy of Sciences Royal Society (United Kingdom) National Academy of Sciences (United States of America) Australian Academy of Sciences Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts Caribbean Academy of Sciences Indonesian Academy of Sciences Royal Irish Academy Academy of Sciences Malaysia Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences "Even if the average global temperature increases by only 2C the target set for next week's Copenhagen summit sea levels could still rise by 50cm, double previous forecasts, according to the report...SCAR, a partnership of 35 of the world's leading climate research institutions, made the prediction in the report Antarctic Climate Change and Climate..." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6938356.ece You people need a serious reality check! Regards, P.
Manapatra, Derby, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Oh, poppycock - the scientific method, as laid out by Roger Bacon nearly 800 years ago, is based upon reason and is not invalidated by changing political fashions. The problem I have with the material leaked/stolen from the CRU last week is not with the e-mails. These simply demonstrate that scientists are human, and become attached to their conclusions. The real killer is a file called HARRY_READ_ME.txt, which documents the 3-year struggle of a programmer to try to make sense of a confusing mass of data from thousands of weather reporting stations all over the globe, covering more than 100 years. It should be clear to any computer-science graduate reading this document (caution - it's 15,000 lines long!) firstly, that there are severe problems with the data on which CRU's conclusions about historical global temperature are based, and secondly, that their approach to processing this data is so amateurish that the output should not be trusted. Despite this, it seems that the CRU's conclusions based on this data will inform decisions involving billions of dollars at Copenhagen. "Peer review" should mean that every part of the data and methodology is subject to scrutiny by other experts - this means that all program code should be examined and tested by skilled programmers, not just taken on trust by other climatologists.
Mark Barratt, Budapest, Hungary
We do not need to democratize science. We need to de-politicize it. The Scientific Method has always required that theories be tested and validated through repeatable experimentation. "Climate Science" does not follow the scientific method. In any other scientific field, data manipulation and "made up" computer code would result in censure, not Nobel prizes. When the theories (based on made up models) do not correspond with the data (10 years of steady/declining temperatures), real scientists would question the theory. They would not claim a travesty. Real scientists embrace scepticism. They do not attempt to silence it. Real Scientists look for explanations of discrepancies. They do not claim "concensus" whilst fiddling the data. The behavior of the Climate Science community demonstrates the worst effects of mixing politics and science. Get the politics out of science!
Andrew Vickers, Philadelphia, USA
I would like to specifically address the point "And to be empowered for use in public deliberation and policy-making, knowledge must be fully exposed to the proliferating new communication media by which such extended peer scrutiny takes place". I believe we should be looking to the high-tech industry for guidance. The classic scenario is a team of software engineers, whose mindset is locked in those of academia, where for example failure is a success in that one gained knowledge from the failure. Then there is the business executive tasked with managing those engineers, with a lack of technical expertise, so much so that they often cannot communicate clearly with their engineers. In business failure is very much not deemed a success. So how is this often resolved in these work environments? Usually not very well. Interestingly there seem to be a small group of people I think of as generalists, possessing enough knowledge to converse with and understand the engineers, and able to interpret that information in a form that business executives can understand. Mock me if you will, but I would assert that someone like Jared Diamond is an outstanding example of a generalist. Scientists must be allowed to work as scientists, it is really quite effective. Due to the nature of their work they are almost always by definition horrible at communicating with the rest of humanity. The right answer is not to change scientists, the right answer is to find a way to bridge the gap.
Steve Frost, Astoria, Oregon, USA
Interesting article. I would add that we should be careful not to go to the other extreme and bind up science in so much red tape that it cannot be free and creative as is needed for innovation. Also I'd look more at the way governments and business use science as a tool for promoting their agendas. IMO this is what corrupts science and looses respect in the public eye more than anything else as ClimateGate appears to indicate.
Tim Jenvey, San Francisco, USA
I would agree that scientists, working on behalf of the human race, should make public their workings and share their data, before rushing towards publishing their conclusions. Although the authors addressed the closing of the stable door, they failed to address what to do about the run-away horse. From my reading of the data, -released to the internet from CRU-, not only was the information not shared with others, it appears that it is not as accurate as some at the IPCC believe it to be. It also looks like the results could not be recreated by another lab, -and here was me, (a mere mortal), thinking that that was the science part!-. If indeed this is the case, then surely the information passed on to Governments around the globe is as risk of being, -at least-, flawed? pete.
PeteH, East Kilbride
What a lot of piffle this article is. "Post-normal science" - utter rubbish. If science was a matter of the consensus, we would still be living on a flat earth and the sun would revolve around us. What "Climategate" shows is that there is at least one sphere of science that has started down the track of being politicised and democratised. Those at the centre of this new science have an hypothesis that they will prove come-what-may and "no correspondence will be entered into". It shows that we need to return to a more objective scientific methodology. Those in CRU and their collaborators who have perverted science should be called to account. (They will find their talents will be well suited to their future careers in fiction writing). We also need a media that is more versed in science matters and not so gullible as to report everything they are told.
Compliments to the authors, although I am not sure they really said anything that was not fully understood by most scientists before. One thing not addressed is the hubris that enters many scientific endeavors, and scientists are not immune to pride and deception, even self-deception. I would submit that the idea of "experts" in any discipline must be guarded, whether scientific or otherwise. We are now engaged in a prolonged recession because of "experts" who controlled the finances. The scientists at IPCC exhibit the same kind of hubris. Scientists, politicians, businessmen, physicians, and others at every level believe that since they have a modicum of learning they are now experts. Having been there and struggling myself with godhood, a measure of humility is in order.
Michael Chandler, St. George, Utah, USA
My first reaction was pleasure, at last the BBC were, rather belatedly, giving some coverage to what is probably the most important news item in the environmental field this year. My second thought was equally warm; your two authors recognised , if fitfully, that there was something rotten in the state of climate change. (Though I fear that this will all be well buried under the floorboards in the state of Denmark next week.) However as I read on my enthusiasm was blunted. Professors Hulme and Ravetz seem keen to turn this into a polite drawing room discussion on the benefits of a relativist approach to science. What they are really witnessing, and I fear I must offend their sensibilities in saying this, is the opening round of a bare knuckle fight. The sceptics and , to a degree, some members of the public are not roused because they suspect the CRU at East Anglia has failed to make a " more concerted effort to explain and engage the public in understanding the processes and practices of science and scientists." Would that the alleged sin were so venial. No, the sceptics and members of the public are accusing scientists at East Anglia, and some of their American associates, of falsifying evidence, avoiding proper scrutiny and hamstringing their professional opponents in defence of their thesis. (Perhaps now more properly relegated to a hypothesis.) Moreover the public are aware that this dispute has consequences well beyond the Groves of Academe. If the hypothesis prevails then both American and British tax payers will see their energy bills increase by significant amounts. The changes will not stop there. This is a game being played for very high stakes ( to change my sporting metaphor). The team from East Anglia has been accused of dealing from a marked deck. They , no doubt ,reject these charges, Whichever way it goes we are not in a drawing room discussion on the merits of Kuhn and Popper.
David Petch, London United Kingdom
The most obvious lesson of the recent hacking episode is that scientists whose work is in the public eye must treat all emails as public communication. Voice communication for anything of a private nature. This has been the situation for some time in government agencies whose emails are subject to Freedom of Information requests. There's plenty of precedent for handling politicized science, particularly in the realm of tobacco and healthy or unhealthy food. I suspect that tobacco researchers can quickly bring climate scientists up to date on dealing with controversy, real or contrived.
David Martin, Vero Beach, Florida
The scandal is not in the emails. I agree that they could have been taken out of context. The real scandal is in the programs used to come up with the projections. Assuming the leaked program source code is real - well then - I'm astonished that it could possibly have been used to predict, well, anything. I say that as a computer scientist with at least as many qualifications as any climate scientist. Could it be that my counterparts in climate science have completely blown their research by not following fundamental principles? Looking at the, now infamous, harry_read_me file, it seems that it is possible, even likely. If so, I am very disappointed to say the least...
Dr Paul, Bristol
as we have seen, occasionally scientists are just as stupid as any other human. And then the truth comes out. Yep, get all indignant, but skewed numbers on a page still can't contradict the melting of glaciers, ice caps, and observed change of climate.
andrea, harrisburg, USA
There is an important backstory to ClimateGate. It can be summarized as: "Doubt is our product," a cigarette executive once observed, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."
Brian Crounse, Concord, MA, USA
We need less political and social interference in science, not more.Climategate simply proves that things go horribly wrong when politics starts meddling with science - just like all projects where politicians get involved. They invariably turn into disasters. In this case an extremely expensive disaster, quite possibly the most costly disaster in the history of mankind. Lord Monckton was completely right - see his brilliant remarks on youtube.
Andre, Manila, Philippines
It is now commonly known there exists a multi-million pound slush fund to promote oil based industies. It is used to poke holes in the inexorable mountain of evidence of oil created environmental catastrophes by 99% of engaged, independent scientists. Dis-information, the old weapon of the corporations being weilded as blatantly as WMD. Are we going to fall for it again? Keep the focus. Who benefits from climategate? Who would come up with a name like that? Think about it!
Excellent article. Two thoughts : (a) many people in the public accept the knowledge of facts and shorter term reactions, but reject the deeper level work that ties these together because it is 'just a theory' (b) they do this because this is the first major situation in our civilisation where science is moving from something that informs and enables to something that limits, and they don't like it. When something is inconvenient, the standard of proof goes up a couple of orders of magnitude. Our reaction as a civilisation to beginning to collide with the limits of our environment will determine our pathway through the Fermi Paradox.
David Ayre, Nelson, New Zealand
This article actually makes me angry. Science is not a debating sport. It is a totally one sided debate, you are either right, or you are wrong. Yes, you can debate which parts are right, but at the end of the day, one truth wins. There is no gray. The concept of Post Normal Science is like mixing media studies with quantum physics where everyone has an opinion, and everyone is right - it don't work, and it can't work. The only reason Climategate is in the news is because it has proved that legitimate policy is based on fraudulent science - and perhaps, more importantly, the facts were found to match the requirement for the policy. It only takes looking at the original IPCC report from 1990 and comparing the data in the latest one to see that what these 'scientists' did was change historical fact to make the future they wanted. That is not science - that is just creative writing. If this article is proposing that the future is make believe science, then the days of enlightenment are well and truly over.
Oli Rhys, Flintshire
The Climate Change theory may or may not be total nonsense, but much of the political propaganda it engenders is. The corrupting influence of politics is the driving force behind the falsification of data we are seeing. This is not the first instance of data manipulation we have seen nor is it likely to be the last. Even studies which fail to support the Climate Change hypothesis give lip service to it. You can't get funding if you don't. A cynical person might note the neat way that this theory fits with environmentalist ideology and how readily it translates into a scheme to give politicians more power.
Michael Kelley, Mercer Island, WA USA
Through school and university every teacher and lecturer asks the student for the workings out to show how they reached an answer, whether the answer is wrong or right. As a consumer of "climate information" I want accurate information before an opinion is formed. The jury is still out....
Stephen Evans, Banbury
As a climate scientist myself, I think the concept being spread around as a result of these hacked emails that a small group of scientists could have distorted the data so as to mislead the world is ridiculous. Several other groups are producing similar data sets from different sources. The IPCC involves a huge number of scientists, most of whom are arguing with one another quite vigorously much of the time. Science involves many groups of people testing each others' results continuously. Scientists would love for politicians to stop politicizing climate science. We scientists want to be allowed to do our jobs and talk about our results without having to appease politicians or the politicized public. I think the only thing to come of this will be an increased appreciation that email is not private communication. At my institution in the US we know that our email may be monitored, subpaena-ed etc. If you want to say something rude about a colleague you don't like, you say it in person, not by email. Maybe the other thing that will come out of this is that European meteorological agencies will finally make their data public domain, as it should be. Otherwise, I predict that any investigation which reveal no need to change any scientific conclusions. Only a need to be more careful how you phrase your opinions in email. I would no more want the public deciding what is and isn't good science than I would want my mechanic performing heart surgery on me.
sonya, British living in US
The problem with climate change science is it relies on naive inductivism rather than the method of hypothesis. Look it up.
Jeremy Bowman, Cork, Ireland
The actual practice of science involves many hidden agendas, mis-steps and even corrupt bias, through the processes of ego and insatiable greed for status, power and financial gain. These are part of the human condition. Even the pillars of moral authority like "the church" and "the law" can fall foul of these common behaviours. The prevailing mainstream arguments are focused on two stupid ideas, as expressed by John Knight. "global warming" and "climate change" are mega ambiguous abstract terms and tell us nothing Pause. The crucial question is ARE WE HUMANS DAMAGING THE PLANET, ITS SYSTEMS AND CYCLES?..... or not? The answer is obviously yes. This then is the situation upon which we ought, instead, to focus. This view demands contributions from a multitude of disciplines and thinkers as well as the "common man".... all blended with transparency, wisdom, balance, justice for the environment, examination of moral values, common agreement on ethical standards and common sense. We would be well advised not to place confidence in, and rely on, the directions given us by exclusive decision makers namely: politicians, entrepreneurs, financiers, model makers and climate scientists.
Joffa Powys, Woolgoolga Australia
Anyone involved in government-funded "science" in the US is aware that it is NOT true science but rather a "product" that is sought. Programs are laid out in marketing terms...products are developed to be sold and tailored for different markets. Data manipulation is only one aspect of massaging the science and in the case of Climate-gate this manipulation was exposed. In general, limitations are placed on the extent of the data that will be monitored. If for instance you can monitor data from A to Z, you will be directed to only consider data from say A through M and omit data from source C and F. This data discrimination would not be exposed by Climate-gate style leaks. Government science is bad science. One must conclude that ANY science presented by the government is manipulated and contains a political component. It's nice to talk about full disclosure and pure science, but that isn't the world we live in.
Michael S. Copley, Milbridge USA
This article is a lot of waffle that slips in the conclusion that we should accept the status quo in climatology, and maybe think about changing things in the future. Despite the title of "Show your working", there is no sign that the authors think that Copenhagen, the IPCC and all the rest of the global warming industry should immediately be put on hold, while the corruption at its heart is rooted out.
It fills me with dread and despair, that the BBC would publish such content-devoid, psycho-babble nonsense. I agree with the comments by John Knight, Bob W, and M.McClure... science has NOT changed since the 1960s. Clean research with repeatable results is not dependent on society's whim or "approval," in any way, now or ever. Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont would have a field day with this article. It is a classic example of intellectual imposture.
Al Lewis, Belleville, IL, USA
I believe that scientist in today's environment have a difficult task ahead of them. With more and more information at the publics finger tips they will be hard pressed to keep things under wraps. I do not believe they should have a peer review from ordinary citizens. However they should have cross peer review from other scientists that may not have there same belief but have open minds to new ideas. That is the only way we will have scientific truth.
George Gibson, Ocala, Florida USA
# To be validated, knowledge must also be subject to the scrutiny of an extended community of citizens who have legitimate stakes in the significance of what is being claimed # And to be empowered for use in public deliberation and policy-making, knowledge must be fully exposed to the proliferating new communication media by which such extended peer scrutiny takes place. The authors are clearly not scientists, as no honest scientist would claim this to be a good idea of what science means. To be validated, knowledge only needs to represent the reality around us correctly, regardless of who has stakes where. If you make a claim about reality it will either be true of false (assuming it's a meaningful assertion to make) and that status is independent of its consequences to the general public. Regarding the second point, I'm all for educating the public in all matters relevant for their lives (such as by communication media). But I disagree the public's feedback should be relevant for science making. It should however be relevant for policy making, of course. This is a different way of saying that the public should be allowed to decide about their society, but at the same time having a large number of people saying a lie won't make it a truth. I really don't think ClimateGate will influence the way of doing science at all, because what does guys were doing wasn't science to begin with. They were lying to the public, stealing from the funding entities and as if that wasn't enough, tax evading.
John Appster, Spain
Scientist has a deep and profound moral obligation to society especially when they affect the lives of millions of people. I am ashamed for this people, a sad day for science.
jca, Irving Texas USA
Why is so much money (around $80bn a year is it?) being spent researching something of which, realistically, there is no hope of modelling accurately anytime soon. The fact that the research has been so shockingly unscientific (deleting original data should be unthinkable to any proper scientist) just adds salt to the wound. Perhaps the money and time would be better spent in research and development of renewable sources of energy? Regardless of if someone accepts man made global warming or not, conventional fuels will not last much longer, even uranium resources will be used rapidly as countries shift to nuclear power.
James B, Bristol
I strongly second the point raised by Malcolm McClure. It is now time for open and honest debate - let's see what the two camps have to say and let's see how each answers the claims of the opposing camp. We never ever get to see a proper debate (and generally on the BBC, we only ever get a one sided view). I believe Lord Monckton, for example, makes clear and compelling statements and we should be able to listen to what he has to say. How can anybody reach an informed decision if the arguments are never presented properly and the case never open to scrutiny. Why can we not have this open debate? Perhaps the BBC knows why, but I certainly don't.
John Catley, Bristol UK
The scientific process has not changed, integrity has not changed but people constantly must be on guard for manipulation of science and/or integrity. I agree with the statement above indicating that some scientists are corrupted by funding sources; and this is not new or unusual in any scientific field. All people would be well served by adhering to the "4-way test" promulgated by Rotary International for all we think, say or do. 1.Is it the truth? 2.Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? We deserve the best, not only from science but from each other.
Tim Gust, Ph.D., Los Angeles, CA, USA
Interesting redirect of the situation. Instead of looking at the misuse of data to make money for lobbyists (politics), the science community is being blamed for not reviewing their own work. There have been many scientists that have said the data was not presented accurately, but none of that has been reported on. Lord Monckton tried to talk about this issue, what happened to that? Is Al Gore a scientist? How is it that he would get more press for his views? Hackers usually try to expose the establishment's deceptions, just as they have done here. Hackers do not get paid to show the truth. How many people have been paid to hide the truth? Science is thinking. Maybe we should do that more often.
randy johnson, thousand oaks, USA
It's not about ownership it's about openness of communication and integrity of information and leadership. At the base of all inquiry needs to be a balance of scientific inquiry, subjective reasoning intuition and humanities emotional intelligence. I believe this is to paramount for society moving forward. Lack of integrity drives fear, which drives a flight or flight response... If we use out dated methods of communicating based upon power, ego, money, IP, in this highly complex world it is deemed to fail, because the boundaries of are transparent, the system is more aware than the practice of communication being used... this we experience as lack of integrity, even if the initial intention was purposeful. Stricter laws need to be enforced into a "Global Integrity of Information Act" that needs to be the bases of leadership, politics, business, science, society etc. Greater Governance needs to be ensured around the Integrity of Information, business practices and their effects on humanity. Shareholders need to be made accountable for the businesses they invest in, if a business polutes the shareholder needs to be aware that he is the investor and he is liable to prosecution, this way individuals will start to invest in humanity minded businesses. Leaders need to start leading with integrity even if it's vulnerable for them to do so, start sharing what they know versus what they think can be shared, after all they are voted by most to be in the positions they hold. The time is for real openness with conversations between leaders and people, irrelevant of how hard the conversations are. The fear is only causing more dysfunctionality in society that perpetuates the problems, once open, solutions are more readily found.
Marc West, Horsham West Sussex
What is left out of the article is the billions in public funds that go to "prove" man-made global warming. What has been exposed is an oligarchy, wallowing in tax-payer funds. Science is authenticated by reproducible results, a point missing in the article. If data and programs are kept secret, this is not possible. There is no other conclusion except to believe that it is science in the service of the state. Its scientific precedent is Lysenko and his efforts to find data to "prove" a politically acceptable result. Or an extreme example, the extermination of an undesirable race. Shame on scientists, and the Nobel Committee as well to validate this bogus science by giving it recognition.
Munawar Karim, Rochester, NY
I am distributing this article and the blog comments to all philosophy courses in my college teaching 'knowledges' and general epistemology. The subject is here shown in its proper proportions as a contentious issue of modern life and not just as part of Aristotle's "Metaphysics".
David Alexander MITCHELL, Montreal, Quebec
No, I do not agree with the article. It seems to be portraying those exposed by Climategate as victims of the modern internet world. We already have strong principles on how scientific ideas should develop - through peer review, openess with data and methods, and proper debate. Scientists are only human, so many will have one-sided views and look for less than totally honest ways to discredit their oponents. However, when they are found out, the problems need to be addressed (eg. as with MPs expenses), not swept under the carpet, as is being attempted by many scientists and media outlets with regard to Climategate. Also, the idea of public review of science is ridiculous. Would we ask the public to diagnose a sick patient, or decide on the valditiy of the Big Bang theory?
The problem with this article is that it applies issues inherent to the so-called social sciences to the natural sciences. With respect to climate change, this process means distinguishing the somewhat narrow facts that natural science has discovered from the larger educated guess that belongs to the realm of policy: global warming will cost such to some people; the current trajectory MUST be anthropogenic, specifically carbon-based; and so on. What thoughtful citizens and policy-makers alike desire is that "science" spell out what we know for certain and what we statistically can predict reasonably might result. The current state of knowledge relies so heavily on models precisely because it will take another several hundred years to scientifically confirm that the past century of warming is part of a larger multi-century cycle. The larger conclusion is an abductive (burden-of-proof) argument based on combining many different trends into a coherent framework, which is where the interpretation comes in. What "ClimateGate" has exposed is that many scientists do not trust other fields to make decisions based on science, which is why they want to provide interpretation that crosses into economics, politics, sociology, and other fields. As an academic in the humanities, I am skeptical about the ability of most of these natural scientists to fully grasp the nuances of policy - let alone ethics - that their research raise. The recent e-mails show an undue emotional investment in the interpretation of many data series that goes beyond academic interest in modeling the processes of the natural world. Of course, academics too often "own" their work, but objectivity is far from passe. A text is historically bounded, not simply what I would like it to mean (pace Fish). Polling data can imply certain attitudes within a culture and not others. Data series may fit one model of interpretation better than others, but it does not make model true, only more likely to a greater or lesser extent. Scientists should stick to ascertaining the verifiability of natural processes and leave policy to a wider sphere of discussion. Trying to head off inquiry into their data exposes bad scientists at work.
Jim, Baltimore, USA
Oh dear - no we don't need any more "Web 2.0" lily-livered, buzzword laden claptrap. We don't need a "New" way of doing Science, we just need good honest Science, the same as we always have. If the system has been abused, then you need to clean house and discipline those found guilty, it is not complicated. Also science policy can not be decided by 14year olds on Facebook. This article is all style and no substance, and is very disappointing.
SilverWave, Wallsend Tyne & Wear
There is nothing wrong with the existing scientific process. What has gone wrong is that a small group of disingenuous individuals have attempted to subvert the scientific process, some may argue as a result of political influence and funding from vested interests (renewables). Having been caught red-handed, these individuals should be publicly discredited, along with their fanciful theories and stripped of their credentials and the right to practice publicly funded science. Thank you to the BBC for opening this debate....I am appalled at the lack of coverage that this matter has received, given the magnitude of what (astoundingly) is still being considered at Copenhagen. I say astoundingly because the IPCC projections were based on computer models that were fed by erroneous data supplied by these 'scientists'. The whole basis for action at Copenhagen has just dissolved and yet our leaders are ploughing ahead with 'cap and trade' and other lunacy, based on fraudulently manipulated and withheld data!
"How well does the public understand professional peer review, for example, or the role of a workshop, a seminar and a conference in science? " After reading some of the e-mails, it would appear you get a like minded colleague who won't be too critical to rubber stamp it.
M White, chippenham
"Science has not changed. Full disclosure and reproducability have always been crucial. If others do not see all your data and methods and cannot reproduce your work you have *nothing.* BobW, Plano, Texas, USA" Unless you're a drug company researching drug efficacy. In which case, keep that stuff secret, 'cos that's what we like!!! Right bob? The unequal desire for openness shows that "openness" isn't the desire. Something else is.
Mark, Exeter, UK
While I think what Messrs Hulme and Ravetz have said has some value, particularly with regard to removing the opacity around data and modelling currently prevalent in pro-AGW climate science, I think they are ironically obscuring the main problem, which is credibility. Climate science methods, models and, apparently, core data are perceived by many intelligent and interested people to be out-of-date, inaccurate and incapable of any verifiable predictions, but the scientists and other stakeholders in the pro-AGW camp refuse to allow anyone to question their processes or beliefs, to the extent that they reduce opponents to being "climate change deniers", with all the baggage attached that comes with the phrase "denier". They've been denying publication to opponents and, as a result, funding. These are the actions, not of scientists, but of Scientologists. If science, and scientists are to have any credibility at all with the public they need to realize that we are tired of press-releases saying cancer will be cured in the next decade, that cold fusion is just around the corner, and that we're all going to die as a result of global warming. We stopped believing you a long time ago because you have consistently and increasingly become publicists and spin-merchants, massaging your models to provide support for your beliefs, beliefs which all too often have taken on the flavour of fundamentalist religion.
Mark Green, London, UK
Well-meaning and sincere, this attempt to redefine the philosophical underpinnings of Science sounds to me more like an attempt to re-invent the wheel. Or perhaps to re-formulate Fire: as if the prior Fire was no longer sufficient, since not enough members of the public fully understood Combustion. "Warranted knowledge" is an exercise in futility: ultimately, any kind of Knowledge is open to doubt. Do I know the precise date of my birth? But what if the calendars were off? Will the sun rise in the morning? But what if one day something causes the earth to cease its revolutions? This kind of childish game can be played ad nauseam with literally any kind of "solid" data. Is 2+2 actually 4? But what, exactly, is 2? Isn't the precise value always something infinitesimally greater or lesser than the purported abstract value? Can any measurement truly be accurate? Can we speak of 2 degrees C? In translation, can any word in one language actually have a true equivalent? Isn't the existence of cultural constructs, connotations and suggestive semantic clusters ultimately proof that no language can ever be translated accurately? Should we even bother trying to communicate? How can some 200 nations ever hope to agree on anything? These kinds of reflections, while interesting as manifestations of the ambiguity of Certainty to thoughtful folk, do not ultimately help anyone get anywhere in life, within science or outside of it. How can anyone assert "doing science in 2010 is different from doing it in 1960 or even 1985?" Why? Because everything has to be voted on & cleared by groups external to the process & the discipline? Because school systems have failed to explain, most notably to Americans, how numbers operate or how human beings depend on oxygen, which is not infinitely renewable? The purpose of democratic processes is to ensure some social order, a semblance of harmonious coordination in administering the public trust, and a reasonable attempt at safeguarding justice. The realm of Knowledge has nothing to do with Democracy. You do not need to take a vote on the diagnosis, or explain to every last man Jack exactly why we need new types of engines, or less nail lacquer. If the price of nail lacquer doubles so that less of it might wind up in landfills, we do not need to create new institutes and encyclopaedias to satisfy the inquisitive young out there as to why there is less of their little luxury being produced. Only supremely learned & well-mannered people such as the authors of this appeal to scientists to be "nicer" to those who revile or rebuke them could actually imagine brutes can be reasoned with. Had they lived more amongst these brutes, as some of us have, they would not be wasting their breaths on trying to win their sympathies.
Maria Ashot, London, UK
Thank you for the excelent article. Very important in today's world. We need to reach a larger group of society; to be inclusive rather than exclusive. I will share it with my students
César, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
I see that Lord Lawson's new lobby group, launched last week with harsh criticism of CRU, has now owned up to use an inaccurate version of CRU's data on its website: http://timesonline.typepad.com/science/2009/12/climate-sceptics-get-it-wrong-1.html I wonder if they will hold a public inquiry into the data on its website?
Bob Ward, London
The question ought to be: "what does 'ClimateGate' imply for JOURNALISM?" There is no smoking gun, here. There is no conspiracy. The lid has been lifted and, guess what, climate science is sound and broadly accepted. Journalism has, however, in its eagerness to constantly make everything into a scandal, created an impression which bears little resemblance to the facts. The same journalists who are constantly reminding us of the viewpoint of "skeptics" and maintaining that there is a global warming "debate" long after the issue has been clearly settled (there are still "skeptics" about AIDS' connection to HIV; why do we not hear about their views every week; who is hushing them up?) are now telling us that dissenters are being stifled! Incredible. Never mind all of the efforts by polluting industries to fund disinformation campaigns. Never mind efforts by America's government, under the Bush administration, to muzzle its own scientists' opinions. Never mind that the consensus of the vast majority of climate scientists is still entirely ignored by most of those who set policy. Never mind all of that, journalism has apparently decided; context and "balance" are only important when reactionaries are the ones accused of doing something wrong. If thoughtful people who dare to suggest that there is actually a problem which needs a proactive solution are "exposed" as being less than 100% consistent and perfect, however, let's break out the "-gate" suffix and make a scandal of it. Congratulations.
Matt Kuhns, Lakewood, Ohio, USA
Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz are attempting to redifine the definition of science 'We argue that the evolving practice of science in the contemporary world must be different from the classic view of disinterested - almost robotic - humans establishing objective claims to universal truth.' 'Science is a deeply human activity' This sounds more like disinformation rather than information For their future reference the real discription of science is in fact. Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is, in its broadest sense, any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique or practice. In its more restricted contemporary sense, science is a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word. Science as discussed in this article is sometimes called experimental science to differentiate it from applied science, which is the application of scientific research to specific human needsalthough the two are commonly interconnected. Science is a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Dont take my word for it or theirs look it up on wikidepia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science
Part of the big deal of "Climategate" is that is shows that MIke Hulmes colleagues have not in fact even been sharing their research with colleagues - they can't have because if they had the code on display would have to have been far better. Yes the output is shared, but they have not been "showing their working" in any meaningful manner. I have no doubt that to a large extent this is due to the fact that scientists these days tend not to try and replicate other people's work before extending it. This was once a key part of the scientific method (see Richard Feynman's Cargo Cult Science essay) but funding issues and other pressures mean that it has mostly gone by the wayside. Now with the availability of broadband and high performance computers amateur scientists are able to try and replicate work that they read in journals. And they can't because the journals have not required sufficient supplementary information to allow this to occur
Francis Turner, France
Your middle bullet point makes me very unhappy, so it can't be true, can it? Seriously, how could one do evolutionary biology in the United States on that principle? Let's have a global referendum on whether the BBC exists. If enough people decline to "validate" its existence, maybe Bush House will disappear in a puff of social-science hogwash.
David, Bergen, Norway
Many of us accept that we don't know enough about the science, but we want to protect the environment for ourselves and our kids. Even without looking to the UEA CRU, it is obvious that there is at least some warming, and most of us accept that CO2 contributes to it, but we can no longer be sure either to what degree humans are responsible overall, nor how much of any warming is down to CO2, because the models and data on which much of the theories are based are corrupted. It is rapidly becoming obvious that very many climate scientists and even supposedly objective science bodies have too much tribal allegiance to do their work honestly. Trust is essential if we are to proceed and to engage everyone in any necessary actions, and that trust now has to be rebuilt pretty much from scratch. Any studies that have used data from UEA or any of the other tarnished labs or scientists must be redone, and we must stop using them immediately. We also have to look openly and honestly at the whole environmental system without the prejudices that have been created by the previous, now tarnished, theories. It may be that CO2 is still the main problem, or it may be high atmosphere water vapour left by planes, or it might just be natural after all. We need to know the truth to protect the environment, and it is essential that climategate is not simply pushed under the carpet by science groups or the media, to protect existing interests.
Ian Pearson, Ipswich
An excellent article that accurately focuses on the need for science to be more transparent in light of its social implications. I would add that scientists are not adequately trained or disciplined to apply the "null hypothesis" in their research endeavors. For scientists on both sides of the climate change argument, this means accepting hypotheses that they don't believe and testing their data against them rather than using their data to support their own bias. Unfortunately, climate change is rapidly becoming another "dogma eats dogma" effort that destroys the credibility of science as a philosophy and a discipline.
David Danley, Seattle, Washington, USA
Anyone who knows anything about climate change and how human causes are affecting climate change also know we don't have decades to act. There are many in the scientific community who believe we are already past the point of no return. That some e-mails were "leaked" or "hacked" does not alter the facts. The Greenland ice mass is melting at a rate unprecedented in history. The Greenland ice mass contains significant amounts of methane a gas that is, conservativly, 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. The Antarctic ice mass is melting at, from what I've read, five times the expected rate. The weather in England is much changed from what it has been. The weather in the Pacific northwest is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. The scientific community does research but the governments and those running them do not implement policies and practices to remidy the situation. Why? because governments are in the pockets of the multinational corporations. They, the politicians, have been bought and paid for. Tell me, what good is a lot of money when there isn't any food? When the Earth is so overpopulated that that's all there is, people? When almost all other life forms are gone?
Larry Pardun, Portland Oregon
Here's a great quote from Mike Hulme, one of the authors of this article: "Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists - and politicians - must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity." I wonder what has caused this sudden and catastrophic change of mind Mr Hulme?
Rob Laundon, Cambridge, England.
Thank you, Mike and Jerome. The quest for a philosophy of science begun by Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend has indeed entered a new chapter in the digital age. Your vision inspires me.
Erik Anderson, Ashland, Oregon, USA
What Climategate proves is that politics must be kept out of science.
A big problem for science is that it cannot be couched in the certainties that policymakers want. So the tendency is for scientists to shape the science according to policy by removing doubt. That is where the dangers lie for science. It can become a habit. There is a double danger. Powerful advocacy groups can shape public opinion and the politics making it much easier for small groups of activist-scientists to dominate the scientific process. This leads to less science. Climategate has shown we need scientists to continue to do their job but in a more open and transparent way. That allows the public to have confidence in the science.
Finally, a REAL mainstream media article on this very important issue. Great job BBC.
No. I don't think the public is interested in owning science; they are by and large passive consumers of the drivel the media feeds them. Science in the service of society is too easily subject to serving a warped, politicised version of society; witness medicine in Nazi germany, or anthropology in the 19th Century. What this article seems to miss entirely is that there are two propositions at stake: global warming either is anthroogenic: global warming is not anthropogenic. And in the end it doesn't matter a monkey's nose what anybody thinks about it, whether or not the 'processes' are 'validated' by society, it is either true or not. All science can do is have a stab at finding out which. We need much less political and social interference in science, not more, John
John Knight, Beveley UK
The public ultimately fund this work, and the outcomes of it will effect us all in some way, shape or form. Science can only thrive when scientific method is left to thrive. Imagine if it is the future CPCC that helps unlock secrets about our climate... It is foolish to ignore the collaborative benefits of such a huge task!
David Crabtree, Leeds, UK
Science has not changed. Full disclosure and reproducability have always been crucial. If others do not see all your data and methods and cannot reproduce your work you have *nothing.*
BobW, Plano, Texas, USA
This is really about the politicisation of science. How do you open up the science without that process becoming distorted by the powerful and well funded political, economic and religious lobby groups? No science is perfect but if the whole debate centres around those small number of imperfections and ignores the bulk of the (more) settled science then that does the ordinary citizen a disservice. Climate science (as well as medical, genetic and other areas) will have enormous impact on our future and we must find a way to protect the science and scientists from the onslaught of vested interests as well as try to open it up to public scrutiny. I just hope there is a way to do this.
Climategate appears to be very very serious indeed for the way the public perceive how science works, as well as how government/media works to decide and implement policy. What we are seeing here is the very foundations of a theory (as it is a theory and is still subject to scientific debate) which could affect us all and the way we live bought into question. Even more seriously, we are seeing this debate unfold out of control on the internet and be publicly debated in a scientific manner (as the original data should be available for debate- not hushed up). In answer to the original question, it is paramount that climategate gets investigated in a legal and scientific manner, by non-biased individuals in order that the process of implimenting policy is not based on untruth. The science is not settled and for the good of everyone's wallets as well as everyone's planet, we need to revaluate the whole situation properly in the correct scientific manner, even if it means obtaining the deleted data again from scratch. As a scientist, I am proud of my discipline and it's methods. This is exceedinly bad for an otherwise valid meta-democratic process. I assume you will publish this comment, thus justifying your impartiality. Thankyou. S Dann
Stuart Dann (Scientist/Educator), St John, SE Cornwall, UK
All well and good, Drs., but you fail to address the existence of noisy, media-savvy, well-funded independent and commercial agents arrayed against any science that does not accord with their ideological, political or commercial goals. What specific measures should we scientists take, if any, to counteract their influence and their 'spin', which we are seeing in abundance now in reportage on the CRU email hack?
Steven Sullivan, New York, USA
I strongly disagree with Mike Hume and Jerome Ravetz. Wikipedia records that Dr Ravetz' PhD is in Mathematics, which equips him to appraise the data manipulations accomplished by the UEA CRU but does not provide the perspective on climate provided by hard-evidence based subjects like geology. Mike Hulme is a professor at the University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences so his views cannot be considered unbiased. "Show your working" suggests providing insight into the statistical processes involved and is no substitute for providing access to the original data, for instance photographs of the tree-rings measured in just 12 trees from Siberia that provided the foundation for Jones' study. On a broader point this contribution by BBC just diverts attention from the essence of climategate, which was the fraudulent distortion and elimination of basic data and the manipulation of the peer-review process. The BBC must allow well-qualified Global Warming skeptics like Lord Monckton to reply to this piece so that it an re-establish its even-handedness in this debate.
Malcolm McClure, London UK
This is certainly a thoughtful, balanced and very welcome assessment of the climate gate situation and the implications for the future of public science. Some of the leaked emails do seem to point to a distorted practice of science and science politics. It was striking that at the large scientific conference that took place in Copenhagen a few months ago to inaugurate the Copenhagen summit, no proponents of the role of the sun and cosmic rays in global warming were invited. These climate sceptics are routinely called climate deniers with obvious reference to Holocaust deniers. It is also very disturbing to see how long time it took for mainstream media to report the story. Instead we have been flooded with stories of dying polar bears and flooded capitals. To me it indicated that tribalism and authoritarianism had spread to the science correspondents of mainstream media.
Dan H. Andersen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Of course Climategate has enormous implications for how climate science conducts itself. It's nothing to do with the stupid idea of involving ordinary people in the process - that's simply a populist cop-out. What should happen is that the scientific establishment/Royal Society take a very hard look at themselves. The scale of self-interest exhibited by the MPs expenses scandal was of a totally different order of magnitude to this appalling ego trip/politically motivated scandal. Charlatan is too good a name for these people.
Plato Says, UK
The faults in the scientific process exposed by the CRU email leaks are an inevitable consequence of the way science is now funded. Scientists are no longer funded to develop and refine theories over several years. Instead funding is short term, rarely more than 3 years, often less, and is usually tied to specific projects. The next set of funding is tied to success of the last, with publication of scientific papers the benchmark of success. So publish and be damned has been replaced by publish or be made redundant. Even if you know what you are publishing could be improved with more work this is not an option. Furthermore, because there is competition for space in scientific journals there is an incentive to 'sex up' results and ignore or downplay areas of doubt, so your paper will be accepted ahead of another. If you want to improve the scientific methods change the way science is funded.
Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz's contribution should be welcomed by all. I cannot believe that what might as well be the most "pressing global political challenge" of our times, has run into difficulties that include petty squabbling and invoking IPR. Are we all going to die of politics and intellectual property?
Maurizio Morabito, London, UK
I certainly agree that the ClimateGate affair has huge implications but not in the rather distorted and long-winded way this article displays. There needs to be far less bias and politicisaiton in the reporting of these important matters. Scientists need to get back to the proper 'peer- reviewed process' and not merely their friends rubber stamping their entries. Who would choose the panels you refer to ? I have great concerns they would simply be packed with like-minded people who support the required message, similar to the way the BBC Question Time audience is packed with those supportive of BBC type agenda. I am absolutely not impressed by this article.
Marion Spencer, UK
...at last.... the publication of theses internal emails has shown how 'scientists' actually work. Doing a phD one becomes an expert in one tiny regionof science. You meet people who are also experts in these and related fields and your horizons become fixed. Who should my supervisor get to viva my phD ? A fellow traveller that's who...often from the same University your supervisor went to and with that the scrutiny can be diluted. 'I'll do your students if you do mine'. I've seen it happen many times.
There are so many percieved flaws in the Global Warming/Climate Change theory, that when something like climategate appears, it just affirms what many of us has thought all along. But to disagree with the whole Climate Change cause and effect issue means you are imediatley regarded as worse than some sort of baby killer. The views of those who see the MMGW issue as totally unproven need to be heard and not quashed by media. Those who advocate the ridiculous amounts of money being spent on this non issue need to prove to the rest of us where there evidence is, openly. There are far more issues in the world that desperatley need funding. History will show that we have wasted far to much time mone and resources on 'tax cow'
Daniel Green, Oxford
This article can be summed up by one sentance: "SHOW YOUR WORK!" Einstein understood the importance of this. When a pamphlet was published entitled '100 Authors Against Einstein', Einstein retorted "If I were wrong, one would be enough." The IPCC's Climatologists understand it too. Until this scandal, they were notorious for NOT sharing raw data and NOT releasing computer code used to reach their outrageous conclusions. Now that they have been forced to, it will only take one serious scientist to expose the scientific truth. Let the chips fall where they may.
Louis Hooffstetter, P.G., Folly Beach, SC
Wow! Some straightforward commonsense at last! No need for Copenhagen if the ideas put forward here are put into practice. CO2 is neither a poison nor polluter. Prof Hulme and Doc Ravetz - well done! A great idea so long as the ordinary citizens involved are taxpayers!
Brian Johnson, Farnham Surrey UK