September 30, 2009

The sleuth is on the trail...

"Bishop Hill" has done it again. He's posted another tale, understandable by laymen, of a scientific detective at work. It's similar to his classic Caspar and the Jesus paper. Nowadays, alas, the job of a scientific truth-seeker is often to uncover the deceits of scientists themselves...

(It's probably hard for most people to even understand how shocking this stuff is. Scientific fraud used to be almost nonexistent. Scientists were really truth-seekers, once upon a time. To see the words "smoking gun" used routinely of scientists is truly calamitous.)

The Yamal Implosion:

...Having had his requests rejected by every other journal he had approached, McIntyre had no great expectations that the Royal Society would be any different, but there was no harm in trying and he duly sent off an email pointing out that Briffa had failed to meet the Society's requirement of archiving his data prior to submission and that the editors had failed to check that Briffa had done so. The reply, to McIntyre's surprise, was very encouraging:
We take matters like this very seriously and I am sorry that this was not picked up in the publishing process.
Was the Royal Society, in a striking contrast to every other journal in the field, about to enforce its own data availability policy? Had Briffa made a fatal mistake?

Summer gave way to autumn and as October drew to a close, McIntyre had still heard nothing from the Royal Society. However, in response to some further enquiries, the journal sent McIntyre some more encouraging news -- Briffa would be producing most of his data, although not immediately. Most of it would be available by the end of the year, with the remainder to follow in early 2009.

The first batch of data appeared on schedule in the dying days of 2008 and it was something of a disappointment. The Yamal data, as might have been expected, was to be archived with the second batch, so there would be a further delay before the real action could start. Meanwhile, however, McIntyre could begin to look at what Briffa had done elsewhere. It was not to be plain sailing. For a start, Briffa had archived data in an obsolete data format, last used in the era of punch-cards. This was inconvenient, and apparently deliberately so, but it was not an insurmountable problem -- with a little work, McIntyre was able to move ahead with his analysis. Briffa had also thrown a rather larger spanner in the works though: while he had archived the tree ring measurements, he had not supplied any metadata to go with it -- in other words there was no information about where the measurements had come from. All there was was a tree number and the measurements that went with it. However, McIntyre was well used to this kind of behaviour from climatologists and he had some techniques at hand for filling in some of the gaps. Climate Audit postings on the findings followed in fairly short order, some of which were quite intriguing. There was, however, no smoking gun....

* Update: Charlene says, "I guess we now know where the "anthropogenic" in "Anthropogenic Global Warming" comes from!"

Posted by John Weidner at September 30, 2009 7:01 AM

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