Fw: Re: Virginia attorney general is investigating a climate researcher
- New York Times, May 7, 2010
Varied Critics Assail Official Probing Climate Scientist
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
It’s no surprise to see Daniel Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Washington Post’s editorial board attack Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II for using subpoenas to seek files left at the University of Virginia years ago by Michael Mann, a leading — and embattled — climate scientist.
It is more remarkable to see Paul “Chip” Knappenberger join in. Knappenberger is a colleague of Patrick J. Michaels, the libertarian climate scientist whose consulting firm unabashedly peddles “ advocacy science” (whatever that is) and who routinely challenges research pointing to a dangerous human influence on climate.
Knappenberger, a University of Virginia alumnus who has been an author on some published climate research, sent me the following column sharply criticizing what he has called a “witch hunt” elsewhere:
Virginia’s Assault on Science
By Chip Knappenberger
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has placed scientists, past and present, from the state’s public universities (a group that includes me) under notice: You may be prosecuted for your work.
Roger Pielke Jr. points out this is just a fact of life at public universities (and for those conducting research with public monies).
Maybe so, but it is not one which is a) is clearly explained (at least not to grad students), and b) not often invoked. Both for good reason, as doing so would greatly limit the very creativity that science is built upon.
Mr. Cuccinelli has asked the University of Virginia to produce any and all material related to research performed by Dr. Michael Mann when he was a professor of environmental sciences there from 1999-2005. The request is extremely broad, basically involving anything and anyone Dr. Mann had contact with in those years.
Apparently Mr. Cuccinelli wants to comb through it all to see if he finds any indication that Dr. Mann may have violated the Fraud Against Virginia Taxpayers Act (FATA) — an act whose intention was to recover monies that were fraudulently obtained from the state.
The idea, I guess, would be to look for evidence that Dr. Mann produced results while working under his University of Virginia research grants (considered to be state money even though it may have come from non-state sources) that he knew to be wrong.
But, except in very rare instances — for example, completely fabricating data — scientific research and the results it produces do not fall neatly into being right or wrong, nor lend themselves to being judged as fraudulent under Virginia’s FATA.
Well, let me back up. I am not a lawyer, but I sincerely hope that scientific research cannot be judged that way. Because if it can, a FATA case can be built against virtually every practicing scientist.
Scientific research, by necessity, is marked by decisions and uncertainty, all of which are made and governed by the scientists conducting the research. There is not a single “right” way of addressing a particular question. There are usually many tools available to choose from, different approaches to take, and different interpretations of the results. Sometimes researchers develop new and novel methodologies to apply to old questions; other times they apply existing techniques to new problems.
Much more often than not, scientific research leads to results that are not particularly interesting or enlightening.
Those few results that are judged by the researcher as worthy of wider dissemination are then typically presented to the wider scientific audience through discussions with colleagues, conference presentations, and ultimately written up for publication in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Dr. Mann’s results were no exception.
Nowadays, blogs are playing a larger role in this process, to the dismay of some but to the great pleasure of others.
The purpose of all of this is to stimulate discussion and thought about the new data, methods and results and how they add to the scientific knowledge base. And, of course, to inspire new investigations.
This process moves science forward. Perhaps not always smoothly and without setbacks. But, in the long term, there is ultimately progress.
Better ideas eventually replace outdated ones. Sometimes only after bitter debate. But the discarded results are not fraudulent. They are a normal course of science.
In no way will the threat of a civil lawsuit move science along more efficiently. More than likely it will have the opposite effect as intimidation will result in fewer ideas being put forth.
I am not alone in thinking Mr. Cuccinelli’s investigation of Dr. Mann is unacceptable.
His actions are being widely condemned across the blogosphere, including by some of Dr. Mann’s harshest critics (and no doubt the very people whose work has inspired Mr. Cuccinelli’s ill-advised actions).
See, for example, the reactions of Steve McIntyre and Thomas Fuller.
They agree that this is not the correct way for Mr. Cuccinelli to handle his discontent. The potential harm to Science, with a capital “S”, greatly exceeds any potential gain.
There are many arenas where science can be properly debated. The courtroom is not one of them.
From: George Thomas <broruprecht@...>
Subject: Re: Virginia attorney general is investigating a climate researcher
Date: Friday, May 7, 2010, 6:39 AM
Is there any kind of legal backing for scientific debate? It seems fraudulent employee behavior is in the cross-hairs, while scientific debate is allowed in "good faith." Support for science is not balanced legally against voluminous bodies of fraud law.
Or is it? I plead ignorance.
Soviet-like, yes, but also very, very American. It also reflects McCarthyism. Large, complex state perceives threat -- circles wagons.
Ssssh. I'm Anonymous....
Virginia attorney general is investigating a climate researcher
Posted by: "frank lagana" frank11217@... frank11217
Date: Thu May 6, 2010 3:07 pm ((PDT))
For those who might have missed this: Virginia's attorney general has
launched an investigation of a leading climate scientist who, until a few
years ago,taught at the UVA
>It seems that any scientist who comes to conclusions incompatible with the
right wing worldview now has to worry about his/or research being
the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt. Not all that different
from the old Soviet Union it seems.
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