March 17, 2009

Nudging the data...

Alan Sullivan pointed to this blog post, Kafka at Albany, about the investigation--or rather, non-investigation--of what looks like academic fraud. Fraud involving--you will be so surprised--climate-change and big federal grants.

I suspect there is a lot more of this than we will ever know. We won't know because most of it will be more subtle. Nudging the data rather than fudging. Quite probably much of it is unconscious--very few of us would not be influenced by knowing that finding one kind of data means we remain a "star professor" with a lab full of hot post-docs.....and coming up with a certain other sort of data means academic obscurity and possibly ostracization.

And there's this other thing going on. There is, I think, a lot of incentive towards slanting science due to the personal politics of the people involved. When certain science topics come up, everyone gets twitchy because we know the issues have political implications. One of my sisters is a scientist (smart, honest as they come, not involved in any controversial research) and a liberal. We normally don't mention politics! But climate science came up once in a e-mail exchange, and she made some complaint about Bush/Cheney... and I pointed out that she had in fact instantly turned the science into a political weapon. That ended that conversation pronto, but it's stuck in my mind.

Here's a bit of the post. Looks like a juicy bit of business. (Possibly equivalent to the milching malicho around the "hockey stick" climate-history data...)
...Last June I reported on the allegations of academic fraud levelled by a British mathematician, Doug Keenan, against Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of New York State University at Albany.

Dr Keenan alleged that in work that has come to be widely cited in climate studies, work that included the collation of data from temperature measuring stations in China, Professor Wang made statements that "cannot be true and could not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated."

In August 2007, Dr Keenan submitted a report (pdf) of his allegations to the Vice President for Research at Wang's university and an inquiry was initiated. In February 2008 this was escalated into a full investigation by the Inquiry Committee.

All this was summarised in my earlier post, together with quotations from Dr Keenan's allegation....
Posted by John Weidner at March 17, 2009 8:02 AM
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