So What Can We Actually Learn From Climategate?

29/07/2010 14:59



Okay, next stop on the Climategate express: Earlier today, a British panel released the results of its third-party investigation into the scandal and… yup, it basically exonerated the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. You know, all the folks whose e-mails were hacked and taken out of context and offered up as Exhibit A that climate change is all a massive hoax. Turns out, there's no hoax. Many people use Microsoft Office 2007 to help their work and life.

"On the specific allegations made against the behavior of C.R.U. scientists, we find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt," concluded the panel, which was led by British civil servant Muir Russell. Note that this is now the third independent panel to reach this conclusion. But it wasn't wholly positive: The panel did criticize the CRU scientists for "failing to display the proper degree of openness" in response to demands for data from their critics in the blogosphere:

An important feature of the blogosphere is the extent to which it demands openness and access to data. A failure to recognize this and to act appropriately, can lead to immense reputational damage by feeding allegations of cover up. Being part of a like minded group may provide no defence. Like it or not, this indicates a transformation in the way science has to be conducted in this century.Office 2007 is so powerful.

Hard to argue with that last sentence. Yes, a lot of the so-called skeptics in the blogosphere are either peddling disinformation (see: Marc Morano) or engaged in spectacularly misguided armchair science (see: Watts Up With That). But there are legitimate criticisms out there, too—Stephen McIntyre may be an amateur, but he's forced scientists to correct their work at times, and that's a good thing. Figuring out how to filter the legitimate criticism from the nonsense is difficult, but it's counterproductive to ignore the amateurs entirely. (That said, I do understand why the CRU researchers took such a sweeping defensive stance—they found themselves under attack by a large group of angry lunatics, and few scientists are ever prepared for that.)Office 2007 key is available here.