Data, Data, Who's Got the Data? (A strange situation at Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia)
Roger Pielke Jr. has posted an interesting tale to his blog, about key data going missing from the hands of a theoretically trustworthy scientific institution. No, I’m not talking about the fact that NASA lost the original tapes of the Apollo moon landings (though they did!), I’m talking about the apparent loss of original climate data by the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU). The CRU is one of the key research centers which publishes data regarding the Earth’s surface temperature record.
In a nutshell, the story is this. Canadian Steve McIntyre, co-demolisher of Michael Mann’s hockey stick chart, has been after the CRU to let him review their original climate data. For those unfamiliar with Steve, he is like a dog with a bone when it comes to data, and to validating statistical methodologies used in data representation. To come to Steve’s analytical attention is a bit like coming to the attention of a 60-Minutes news crew, only a few hundred times worse, particularly if you have anything to hide.
So Steve politely (He is Canadian, after all) requested the climate data from CRU, only to be refused on the grounds that he is not in academia. That’s where the story gets interesting, because Roger Pielke Jr. (who IS in academia), put in his own request, and was also turned down. Not because he didn’t qualify, but because the CRU apparently didn’t bother keeping the original climate data used in compiling the first surface temperature record!
As they told Pielke,
“We are not in a position to supply data for a particular country not covered by the example agreements referred to earlier, as we have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value. Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”
In other words, there is now no way to test to see whether any of the “homogenizing” that has been done to the original record biased it in any way, or whether any of the subsequent “adjustments” to the data for things like urban expansion, and such can be validated.
For those who believe that verification and validation of research methods is central to the scientific method, this admission by CRU should be absolutely shocking. By insisting that people just trust that all of their adjustments to the original data are perfect, CRU Anglia takes their work out of the realm of science entirely, and turns it into little more than a sales job.
Makes you wonder if the people at NASA who lost the moon landing tapes didn’t move over to the UK at some point.