I still think that there is a need for some public airing of the issues raised by Steven McIntyre's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We are seeing a pattern of behavior here - a pattern that began with Mr. McIntyre's "auditing" of Mike Mann, and then continued with investigations of Phil Jones, Jim Hansen, and Gavin Schmidt. Yesterday it Mr. McIntyre audited the hockey stick; today it's the GISS and CRU temperature datasets, and our comparison of modeled and observed temperature trends. Mr. McIntyre is not using FOIA requests as a vehicle for true scientific discovery. He does not seek to understand what we did, and why we did it. He has no interest in rational scientific debate. His intent is purely destructive - to suck us into a never-ending stream of requests for data, programs, explanations, emails, and even more data.
I fully endorse the idea of writing a commentary on this matter in Nature or Science. That commentary should be written by someone outside the main circle of protagonists; by someone who can look at these issues a lot more dispassionately than I can. The commentary should cover the issue of what is - and what is not - legitimate game for FOIA requests.
The commentary should also address the issue of how one determines the "reproducibility" of a scientist's results. Is it reasonable for Scientist B (or Citizen C) to request all of Scientist A's data, programs, experimental apparatus, etc., in order to replicate Scientist A's results? Should the "auditing" of Scientist A be done on Scientist B's publicly-accessible blog, in the 21st century equivalent of a public hanging? Who audits the auditor, and determines whether Scientist B or Citizen C has the expertise necessary to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of Scientist A's data, methods, and findings?
I'm very angry about the events that have unfolded after publication of our paper, but have to find some way to "move on". I'm hopeful that I'll now be able to return to my research. That's all I want to do. [Ben Santer]
New Mexico Burning
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