Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CRU hack: Climategate?

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones discusses the CRU hack, now dubbed "Climategate", here.

Among the stash of emails recently hacked from computers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, one mentioned a "trick" for producing a nice looking graph, but the word "trick" was plainly used in the sense of "technique," not chicanery. There's nothing questionable there. Another bunch of emails shows that when scientists are communicating privately they can be as catty and nasty as anyone else. It's good gossip fodder, but nothing more. Another set of emails deals with outraged reaction to a particular journal article, but this isn't news. It was an entirely public incident when it happened a few years ago, and half the board of the journal resigned in protest. The emailers were determined not to have shoddy science published in peer-reviewed journals, and there's nothing wrong with that.


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For years the CRU has resisted public release of its underlying datasets, partly for the understandable reason that they're tired of dealing with amateurs who comb though raw data looking for ways to pretend that warming isn't really happening, and partly because they don't have the authority to release it all. Still, science is all about transparency, and annoying or not, the data should be available. Now it probably will be, and under the worst possible circumstances. It's going to be rough sledding for the next couple of years against the fever swamp crowd, aided and abetted by the coal industry.
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