Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peer Review vs. Amateurs

The case of Anil Potti.

Once again a supposed expert builds up a big reputation based on peer-reviewed publications, and then critics who are "only" trained in statistics take the work apart, with the author and his home institution refusing to cooperate every step of the way. There is an obvious analogy to climate issues.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trenberth in the middle

I'm disappointed in Kevin Trenberth. In his professional work he has been stressing that there is a lot of uncertainty in all the major findings about global climate--and the next IPCC report, if it truly follows reputable scientific work, will reflect greater uncertainty, rather than less uncertainty, than earlier reports. (Link is to Fred Pearce). The more mature the science, the less it knows? Or were a lot of people dishonest about what they knew before?

Rather than face these questions, Trenberth in his more "media friendly" role confuses, probably deliberately, the consensus that temperature is going up with the nowhere-near consensus that human actions are responsible to an important extent (Willis Eschenbach). He has made a name for himself by identifying a specific percentage of a "natural" disaster that results from AGW or climate change. Go on, don't try to kid a kidder. Then he smears any and all skeptics. Grow up, for crying out loud.

I like some of his comments in the Climategate e-mails. Communicating with a few friends, not thinking these messages would ever become public, he says there are big gaps both in what is known, and is what has been explained to lay people. So why not give some credit to intelligent lay people who are trying to explain things?

See also here, here, here.

On sea level, which apparently remains on the shrinking list of "proofs," it is worth repeating that the original, headline-making article has been retracted by its original authors. They didn't say: things may be worse than we said; they retracted the whole thing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wakefield and Peer Review

So the peer-reviewed literature people are trying to saw off the limb that used to hold up Andrew Wakefield. His most famous work is now described by the BMJ as a "deliberate fraud."

What about peer-reviewed medical literature in general? (See also here). What about peer-reviewed work in general, now that the boomers are in charge?

On Wakefield see also here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Post-Normal and Peer Reviewed

The State of Virginia, basically Attorney General Cuccinelli,is appealing in the courts to gain access to some of the documents in support of Michael Mann's famous hockey stick papers.

The State's Appeal document is here.
Bishop Hill notes Pages 14-15: after a brief account of "post-normal" science, and the advocacy of this science by famous climate scientists, notably Mike Hulme. Post-normal science means something like being a (political) advocate, wearing your heart on your sleeve, showing you are on the right side--cite the politically correct sources, no matter how questionable, and discredit or ignore the incorrect ones, no matter how rigorous.

Academics are free to follow any philosophy of science they wish. Nonetheless, Post Normal Science has produced jargon which might be misleading/fraudulent in the context of a grant application if its specialized meaning is not disclosed or otherwise known to the grant maker.

I have suggested to Mr. Montford by e-mail that his next book be on peer-reviewed science.

Some of my comments to him:

Someone like Al Gore (not the sharpest crayon in the box), and many lay people, probably think "peer-reviewed scientific literature" is somehow certain, rock-solid and objective, totally different from a blowhard, even an educated one, sounding off in a bar. What saves the warmists from being guilty of fraud, if anything does, is that the politicians think anything that comes out of the meat grinder must be true, while the scientists know it's probably not true, and can tell themselves that the politicians jump to this conclusion on their own--it's not the scientists' fault.

I think one big problem has been the rise of the boomers, combined with an incentive structure they inherited, and then reinforced. Gore seems to have little sense of how the publish-or-perish rule started to take pretty firm effect just when the boomers were starting careers. There was no way they could all do solid, rigorous work that would stand the test of time, and publish it soon so as to get tenure, release time from teaching, etc. There were huge incentives to produce headline-grabbing stuff, cherry pick data and shop among methodologies until you find one that yields the results you want, etc. Universities, journals, learned societies, the people paying for conferences, all seem to love this. In various ways, including undergraduates and their parents paying tuition, it brings in money. In some cases, especially medical issues, one can probably point to the huge influence of certain corporations, mainly the pharmaceuticals, but there is more to it, I believe, than a pseudo-Marxist analysis would suggest.

Of course with climate there is the underlying reality that boomers have somehow always wanted to save Bambi, and they have fallen for every environmental scare without exception--some of them have turned out to be fairly well grounded (CFCs?), while others have not (acid rain). They were not only ready for global warming caused by Big Oil--they were eager for it.