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Full Disclosure of Climate Research

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jun 19, 2018  at  at 7:17 AM
Climate Change

One of the hallmarks of scientific research is the reproducibility of research results by other researchers. However, reproducibility is extremely difficult, if not impossible, if all of the data, all of the analytical approaches, all of the assumptions and all of the computer models employed in the research project are not thoroughly documented and made available with the results of the research. Research is currently facing a reproducibility crisis.

This can be a very difficult issue with privately funded research intended to lead to commercial sale of products and/or services based on the research, since the individual or organization funding the research is seeking competitive advantage in its markets. There is no obvious benefit to assisting potential competitors in achieving the same research results and thus positioning them to compete at far lower research risk and cost. US patent law is intended to protect the results of such privately funded research.

However, this issue should not be at all difficult in the case of government funded research, since the results of the research become the property of the funding government. Government funding agencies should insist that all research program documentation be delivered by the contractor prior to payment for the research. That requirement would assure the opportunity for other researchers to reproduce the research results, or to falsify the research results.

Climate science has been plagued with a reproducibility issue, which was highlighted in the Climategate e-mails. Perhaps the most egregious example from that time was the suggestion by Dr. Phil Jones, Director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that he would destroy data rather than provide it to the team of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick for analysis of the validity of the statistical analyses used in the research.

Climate scientists have frequently forced those seeking to reproduce or falsify their research results to resort to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests and even lawsuits to obtain the documentation of their research. It seems unsupportable and ridiculous that such efforts are required to obtain documentation of research projects funded by government agencies. Perhaps the most egregious recent example is the ongoing efforts to obtain the documentation supporting the development of the hockey stick by Dr. Michael Mann and Dr. Mann’s ongoing efforts to delay discovery in his lawsuit against Rand Simberg, Mark Steyn, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

This issue also extends to research conducted by government agencies, such as NOAA, NCEI and NASA GISS. Dr.Thomas Karl of NCEI has been accused of failure to properly archive the documentation supporting Karl et al 2015, “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus”. NCEI management initially resisted providing information regarding the study to a committee of the US House of Representatives, though NCEI is a federal government agency funded by congressional action.

The most recent related controversy regarding this issue involves the use of “secret science” by US EPA and Administrator Pruitt’s intent to end the use of such science in formulating EPA’s environmental regulations.

There appears to be no obvious justification for restricting access to the documentation supporting government funded research of any type, though it is reasonable to restrict access to the personal data of individuals who were the subjects of the research, which has been an issue in the recent EPA controversy.