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Posts Tagged ‘FOI’

Killing FOI

2012/01/26 4 comments

(I have left this comment at Andy Revkin’s “A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists”)

Andy – I’m very surprised by the phrasing of your FOI question. So what if there is “fishing” involved?

The important bit about FOI is that it applies no matter what the intentions of the requester are.

Otherwise every Government agency will always argue FOI exemption by claiming the requester is “fishing” for information. And especially so if the requester is a journalist (who is presumed to be looking for something to publish, therefore pretty much single-mindedly interested in “fishing”).

Intention-dependent FOI is not freedom, rather a gracious (and always temporary) concession on the part of the State. It’s like trying to define as democratic a Parliament you can vote for only if invited to the electoral polls.

Are you sure decades of struggle to get FOI in place should be considered as wasted just to defend publicly-funded scientists who can’t understand their rights and duties, and pretend FOI is a waste of time when in reality it’s a clerical activity?

ps I’ve been subject to FOI In the past and anything I write at work can potentially be used in a court of law

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The New York Times (Inadvertently) Demolishes Mann’s Defence

2011/11/04 5 comments

If this doesn’t kill Mann’s attempts to avoid FOI, I don’t know what will. The New York Times reports about the latest example of (massive) scientific fraud:

Outright fraud may be rare, these experts say, but they contend that Dr. Stapel took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged. “The big problem is that the culture is such that researchers spin their work in a way that tells a prettier story than what they really found,” said Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s almost like everyone is on steroids, and to compete you have to take steroids as well.” […]

Dr. Stapel was able to operate for so long, the committee said, in large measure because he was “lord of the data,” the only person who saw the experimental evidence that had been gathered (or fabricated). This is a widespread problem in psychology, said Jelte M. Wicherts, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Dutch research psychologists said they did not make their raw data available for other researchers to see. “This is in violation of ethical rules established in the field,” Dr. Wicherts said.

For the reading-challenged amongst us, the point is that secrecy and refusing to share research material is the perfect environment for fraud. That’s why every sharing tool is important including FOI.

And before anybody asks I don’t believe Mann is a fraudster. His emails will likely be as interesting as Sarah Palin’s or even less. But the principle of FOI must be defended to protect ourselves from the fraudsters out there.

I Know Why Some Scientists Can’t Tolerate FOI Requests

2011/06/07 4 comments

It’s because those e-mails will make them look and sound petty and manipulative, with all those white and not-so-white lies peppered around, the fence-sitting dominating their writings, the brown-nosing, the bullying, the cult of their personality, the disdain of outsiders.

And so FOI requests can destroy a lot of the veneer of hypocritical respectability, professionalism, “cool” image of the fearless purveyor of what reality is about.

Sad isn’t it…and still, it shouldn’t take a PhD to understand that you should consider anything you write on the internet as something that could be put up tomorrow as first-page news. Or should it?

Next Stop, Pyongyang (The New York Times vs. FOI)

2010/07/14 1 comment

to Letters IHT
date Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:21 PM

Dear Editors,

Is climate change a threat large enough to make you undermine the very foundations of your trade? That’s the most important question upon observing your cavalier attitude to Freedom of Information (FOI) in the editorial titled “A Climate Change Corrective” (printed on the IHT on 14 Jul 2010), regarding the alledgedly “manufactured controversy” also known as Climategate.

Forget science, and forget politics for a moment: Climategate, as established by every official British investigation about it, has shown a deliberate, concerted attempt at circumventing the letter and the spirit of the local FOI Act. In more than one circumstance, the Information Commissioner’s Office has found that FOI requests were not dealt “as they should have been under the legislation“. Lord Oxburgh’s and Sir Muir Russell’s reports say as much too, just like the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s.

A wide range of commentators of all scientific and political stances have remarked this, and the general consensus is that from now on science itself will have to change its practice, becoming more transparent and open especially to knowledgeable members of the public. We are talking FOI, after all, an extension to the freedom of speech, a right that people including journalists, and The New York Times, have successfully fought for during the past half-century.

It’s only because of the statute of limitations that there has been no prosecution in the UK regarding the attacks on FOI revealed by Climategate. And what do you have to say about that instead? Absolutely nothing, apart from an absurdly understated remark about “a timid reluctance to share data“.

And so you have sacrificed the right to FOI in an attempt to get “firm action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases“. Good for you. And good for Governments the world over: they will surely rejoice upon hearing that the most influential and authoritative global and US newspaper does not care about FOI. Why, all they have to do is claim “a timid reluctance” to open up their files: and all you will be able to print, will be regurgitated propaganda and half-truths.

I have heard the hamburgers are good, in Pyongyang.

saluti/regards
maurizio morabito
journalist and blogger, “The Unbearable Nakedness of Climate Change”

Willis vs. The CRU: A History of (FOI) Evasion

2009/11/24 137 comments

(a guest blog by Willis Eschenbach, originally posted to the Climate Sceptics mailing list. Published almost completely as-is).

An excerpt for those without time to read it all

the issue is not Trenberth or scientists talking smack. It is the illegal evasion of legitmate scientific requests for data needed to replicate a scientific study. Without replication, science cannot move forwards. And when you only give data to friends of yours, and not to people who actually might take a critical look at it, you know what you end up with? A “consensus” …

Freedom of information, my okole…
by Willis Eschenbach

People seem to be missing the real issue in the CRU emails. Gavin over at realclimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency.

Science works by one person making a claim, and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists attack the work by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking the FOIA allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record (HadCRUT3) was valid science.

This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry. This is an attack on the heart of science, by keeping people who disagree with you from ever checking your work and seeing if your math is correct.

Read more…

UK Government: Met Office Source Code ‘Available For External Use’

2009/11/10 2 comments

As one of the signatories of the epetition on “CRU Source codes” I just received the following message:

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: 10 Downing Street
To: e-petition signatories
Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 4:18:55 PM
Subject: Government response to petition ‘CRUSourceCodes’

You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to “Force the Climate Research Unit, or other publicly funded organisations to release the source codes used in their computer models.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to that petition and you can view it here:

http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page21266

Prime Minister’s Office

Petition information – http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/CRUSourceCodes/

And this is the text from that page 21266 (my emphasis):

The Government is strongly committed to the principles of freedom of information, and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 specifically implement our international obligations over access to environmental information. The Met Office’s commitment to openness and transparency in the conduct of their operations and to the sharing of information is set out clearly on their website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/legal/foi.html).

Simple and transparent licences are in place to facilitate the re-use of the Met Office’s meteorological and climate data, and large quantities are freely available for academic and personal use, for example through the UK Climate Impacts Programme and the British Atmospheric Data Centre.

The Met Office’s climate models are configurations based on the Unified Model (UM), the numerical modelling system developed and used by the Met Office to produce all their weather forecasts and climate predictions.

You may be interested to know that the UM, including source code, is available for external use under licence. For general research, the licence is free; the Met Office just asks individuals to submit an abstract describing the research to be undertaken, and to provide an annual report describing the work undertaken, the results achieved and future work plans.

To improve access to their climate models, the Met Office has worked with Reading and Bristol Universities and NERC to develop a low-resolution version which can be run on a PC and is available to all UM licence holders.

Further Information on how to apply for a research licence can be found on the Met Office website.

(http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/science/creating/working_together/um_collaboration.html)

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