by Judith Curry
On the Part II thread, John Nielsen-Gammon summarized the constructive suggestions as follows. I’ve edited this to intersperse additional comments from John N-G and also Steve Mosher’s comments on these suggestions:
Two hundred and eighty-eight comments later, I think it’s time to take a step back and assemble the constructive suggestions. (Any comments since I began writing this are ignored.) I count seven so far, for a constructive contribution rate of about 2% (but hey, it’s better than nothing). Counting duplicates, we have five ideas so far for moving forward. Full credit to those who have contributed them. My apologies if I have mischaracterized them.
1. Get the guilty parties to admit guilt. Richard Drake: “If the group you refer wants to take responsibility for the dishonesty, that would I think be an awesome step.” Luis Dias: “What is important is that these people acknowledge it and ‘move on’. That would be great. The fact that they won’t is even worse than the original offense.” Mosher: “I think a much more achievable goal is to get a couple of people to clearly state that failing to be forthright about uncertainties and adverse results is not BEST PRACTICES. While some won’t settle for anything less than an admission of “guilt”, I think there are enough mitigating circumstances (especially with Ar4) to accept such an admission as a good step.“
2. Get the rest of the scientific community to acknowledge the improper deeds. Luis Dias: “The whole process is doomed to degeneration…unless some people start clearing up the mess and call spade a spade”. GaryM: “A rational, respectful presentation of real science, admitting its real uncertainties and limitations, will find a receptive audience after the next election. A willingness to concede past errors (even by one’s colleagues), is a real step in the right direction.” Mosher: “At this stage I think using a the term “improper” deeds is not required. There appears to be some genuine disagreement on what constitutes “improper” Again, I think we could hope that reasonable parties could agree and state that the “trick” and not showing the divergence was not “best practices.” John N-G: “It’s not clear, exactly, what level of guilt admission would be satisfactory for numbers one and two, but it seems obvious so far that “could have been clearer” is wholly inadequate. The Muir Russell report called the WMO figure “misleading” (p. 60) but not reflecting an intent to deceive, but this has not been met with a cry of “at last!” either. I hate to say it, but I think the situation is at an impasse without an investigation that the general public can buy into.”
3. Improve oversight. Labmunkey: “Had the proper QC/QA procedures been in place, this issue would never have arisen.” John N-G: Improved oversight is a great idea and it is, unfortunately, up to the organizations producing the reports to provide this oversight because it is in their best interest (I hope) to do so. It would be interesting to have a review panel of esteemed non-climate-scientists (people with no connections to the climate science community or a stake in global warming pro or con) critically evaluate the IPCC AR5. Where is the next Feynmann? I suppose it would be helpful for this purpose if all the major scientific organizations hadn’t already declared a position on climate change.” Mosher: “Independent oversight and some method
of filing a protest is required.”
4. Reduce incentives that tilt science toward climate change. Oliver: “Until the Climate Change ‘funding narrative’ as Hulme puts it, is made less pervasive, continued public skepticism seems inevitable. The likely funding adjustments in coming years are probably a good thing in this regard.” John N-G: I seriously hope that we keep the observations going (satellite, CRN, etc.). Everything else can be replaced, but there’s no real substitute for actual observations (as paleoclimate reconstructions have demonstrated).
5. Don’t present novel science as settled science. Saaad: “Perhaps the answer for now is to abandon paleoclimate reconstructions altogether until some form of universal calibration and verification procedure can be agreed upon. Frankly, whilst everyone is using different PCA methods and verification algorythms, the reconstructions will only serve to exacerbate the arguments without achieving anything positive. I favour the ‘start afresh’ possibility, perhaps using the new Berkeley temperature metric and Satellite measurements as the basis. Then we can get back to more genuine discussions about attribution and confidence.” John N-G: “Hear, hear! Let’s all avoid the temptation to focus on the latest and greatest results, because you can’t really tell if the latest results are “great” or “garbage” until two or three years down the road.” Mosher: “In pragmatic terms this issue is hard to address. One issue that Journals can address is the problem of presenting novel results from unproven novel methods. In paleo for example there are ocassions where methods are created and applied without going through rigorous methodological review.”
I think “conflict resolution” would have been a more apt theme than “reconciliation” for the Lisbon Workshop. A quick google provides many sites on this, I hope there is a conflict resolution person among the denizens. A good overall site is here, a few relevant points:
- Make sure that good relationships are the first priority: As far as possible, make sure that you treat the other calmly and that you try to build mutual respect. Do your best to be courteous to one-another and remain constructive under pressure.
- Keep people and problems separate: Recognize that in many cases the other person is not just “being difficult” – real and valid differences can lie behind conflictive positions. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging working relationships.
- Pay attention to the interests that are being presented: By listening carefully you’ll most-likely understand why the person is adopting his or her position.
- Listen first; talk second: To solve a problem effectively you have to understand where the other person is coming from before defending your own position.
- Set out the “Facts”: Agree and establish the objective, observable elements that will have an impact on the decision.
- Explore options together: Be open to the idea that a third position may exist, and that you can get to this idea jointly.
The key stumbling block IMO is Step 3:
Step Three: Agree the Problem
This sounds like an obvious step, but often different underlying needs, interests and goals can cause people to perceive problems very differently. You’ll need to agree the problems that you are trying to solve before you’ll find a mutually acceptable solution.
Sometimes different people will see different but interlocking problems – if you can’t reach a common perception of the problem, then at the very least, you need to understand what the other person sees as the problem.
The current conflict in context of conflict resolution strategies
Steve Mosher’s statement is in the spirit of conflict resolution:
The two side should be able to agree that what we saw in Hide the decline was not best practices. Skeptics may want more flesh than this, but both side should be able to at least agree to that modest proposal.
I would hope that both sides would agree to this, but I haven’t seen such agreement yet. Can we go further than this?
Well first both sides have to agree there is a problem. As far as I can tell, the folks involved in the CRU emails don’t seem to think there is a problem, other than that they continue to be harassed. Others disagree. Keith Kloor weighs in on this dispute and infers the public sees no problem. Please provide counter evidence to Kloor’s assertion; my main concern is other scientists and decision makers (I make no claim to understand public opinion).
Good relationships have long been shredded. Ravetz et al. tried to restore civility with the reconciliation workshop, didn’t work since one side chose not to attend.
I have done my utmost to keep people and problems separated. I have completely left out names, and I am prepared to believe that this is a problem created by a committee engendered by the IPCC behemoth. Nevertheless, Gavin immediately infers that I am attacking Briffa personally (actually, among the CRU emailers, I have the most personal sympathy for Briffa). I have no interest in #1 Getting the guilty parties to admit guilt (unless they have broken a law or committed research misconduct). I am interested in identifying bad practices and putting a stop to them.
I have struggled for 15 months to understand where this group of scientists is coming from and what has caused this problem, I have written several essays. They blame deniers, and say trust us we’re the experts, the science is fine. There is a fundamental failure to recognize the existence of the problem.
I am not seeing any hope of the scientists supporting the IPCC consensus to conduct the necessary self policing. Improving oversight and reducing incentives for the pro-AGW narrative are important suggestions for the institutions (e.g. UN, funding agencies) are definitely needed.
Your further thoughts?
Moderation note: Lets keep this thread focused on constructive solutions, with discussion on the other two threads for the broader issues.