It is an accepted premise in medical research that following publication of a paper the data upon which the research was based upon should be available to the scientific community. It is seldom requested, but if the research is suspected to be fraudulant the raw data must be handed over and if none if forthcoming then the paper is condemned as fraud. One would hope that other areas of science would observe the same standards.
Let us examine anthropomorphic global warming.
In the early 1980s, U.S. Department of Energy funded scientists at the UK's University of East Anglia to establish a Climatic Research Unit to produce a comprehensive history of global surface temperature. The report by Phil Jones and Tom Wigley served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a “discernible human influence on global climate.”
Putting together such a record is not straightforward. Long-standing weather stations were usually established at points of commerce, which tend to grow into cities that induce spurious warming trends in their records. Trees grow up around thermometers and lower the afternoon temperature. Further, many of the newer stations themselves are placed in locations, such as in parking lots or near heat vents, where artificially high temperatures are bound to be recorded. An overwhelming majority of stations are in the US and Western Europe.
It is perfectly legitimate for critics of the analysis to ask to see the raw data, but when Warwick Hughes, an Australian scientist, wrote asking to see the raw data he was met with a blunt refusal. Jones wrote to him, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” It may have escaped Dr Jones's notice but the whole purpose of scientific investigation is to "try and find something wrong with it". If I made an observation that all swans are white and conducted my investigations only in Europe then all the evidence would agree with my hypothesis. Now as you know there are black swans in Australia. I could disprove my hypothesis by making observations in Australia, but supposing I refused to go there on teh grounds that making observations there might disprove my ideas.
In June 2009, Peter Webster from Georgia Tech told Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre that he had requested raw data and Jones had freely given it him. So McIntyre promptly filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the same data. Despite having been invited by the National Academy of Sciences to present his analyses of millennial temperatures, McIntyre was told that he couldn’t have the data because he wasn’t an “academic.” So his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, asked for the data. He was turned down, too.
This sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy to deny people who disagreed with Jones any access to teh data. After turning down several requests from so-called 'climate change deniers' (which of course is itself a snide phrase, attempting to place such people in a group that includes holocaust deniers)Jones eventually had to respond to a request from Roger Pielke Jr, an esteemed professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. He received the following reply:
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.
If data cannot be examined by independent adjudicators many people will assume that the data are unreliable.
I am grateful to seablogger for drawing my attention to this story.