Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Transparency

Transparency

 

So, apparently there's some kind of climate thing going on...

Just kidding. The much ballyhooed hacked emails from Britain's University of East Anglia, which is a leading world research center on climate, are indeed an outrage, if maybe not exactly for the reasons that American conservatives portray them. The scandal doesn't undo the growing pool of evidence -- most of it developed elsewhere -- that the planet continues to experience warmer temperatures and a loss of polar ice, but the secrecy, trash-talking and unnecessary throwing away of raw data has indeed undermined a generation of scientific research, and made addressing the issue of greenhouse gases more problematic than ever.

The coverup is always worse than the crime, and in this case there may have been only the coverup, which in a way makes the actions of the scientists here even more ridiculous and unpardonable. The key word here is transparency, and this Financial Times article nails it pretty well:

The malice, mischief and Machiavellian manoeuvrings revealed in the illegally hacked megabytes of emails from the University of East Anglia’s prestigious Climate Research Unit, for example, offers a useful paradigm of contemporary scientific conflict. Science may be objective; scientists emphatically are not. This episode illustrates what too many universities, professional societies, and research funders have irresponsibly allowed their scientists to become. Shame on them all.

The source of that shame is a toxic mix of institutional laziness and complacency. Too many scientists in academia, industry and government are allowed to get away with concealing or withholding vital information about their data, research methodologies and results. That is unacceptable and must change.

It's sad to see this, because the lack of transparency has also been one of my biggest complaints in pushing for changes in the way that we journalists do our own business. Both climate-change research and news reporting are highly contentious areas in the 21st Century, and people develop a circle-the-wagons mentality, but that is very, very wrong. There's nothing that screams out more to be open and transparent, with data to be shared by all, than critical scientific research, especially in a Computer Age where transparency is here at the push of a button. So shame on you is right, East Anglia scientists.

Shame on you because your paranoia, etc., has now drowned out stories like this one that I think people need to hear:

The permanent Arctic sea ice that is home to the world's polar bears and usually survives the summer has all but disappeared, a Canadian researcher said Friday.

University of Manitoba Arctic researcher David Barber said experts around the world believed the ice was recovering because satellite images showed it expanding, but the thick, multiyear frozen sheets have been replaced by thin ice that cannot support the weight of a polar bear.

So let's get it all out there -- all your raw data and all your emails, etc., for the whole world to see, online -- and lets get climate-change believers and climate-change skeptics talking to each other for a change, and let's hash this thing out. Because regardless of whether global warming is the greatest threat of the 21st Century or something akin to a hoax, the regular folks of the world need answers, and we need them yesterday.

P.S. When was computer hacking decriminalized?

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Will Bunch
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