by Judith Curry
A few things that caught my eye this past week.
The momentous decision by the US EPA re the greenhouse endangerment is discussed at length in a post at Climate Law Blog: D.C. Court of Appeals Dismisses Challenges to EPA Climate Regulation. Summary:
On Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in a major victory for the environment and President Obama’s Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a series of challenges to EPA’s body of greenhouse gas regulation. The cases, called Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, were brought by various states and industry groups.
In Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases “unambiguous[ly]” may be regulated as an “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act (CAA), (id. at 529), and that EPA had a “statutory obligation” to regulate harmful greenhouse gases. (Id. at 534). In direct response, EPA then issued an Endangerment Finding, in which it determined that greenhouse gases may “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” See 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1). This finding led to the promulgation of a series of greenhouse gas-related rules. First, EPA issued the Tailpipe Rule, which set emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks. EPA next determined that the CAA requires major stationary sources of greenhouse gases to obtain construction and operating permits. However, due to the fact that immediate regulation of all such sources would result in overwhelming permitting burdens on permitting authorities and sources, EPA issued the Timing and Tailoring Rules. The Timing Rule required that new controls of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources be triggered Jan. 2, 2011. The Tailoring Rule determined that only the largest stationary sources would initially be subject to permitting requirements.
Petitioners challenged all four of these rules, arguing that they were based on improper constructions of the CAA and were otherwise arbitrary and capricious. However, the three-judge panel, which included Chief Judge David Sentelle, a conservative appointed by President Reagan, Judge Judith Rogers and Judge David Tatel, both Clinton appointees, concluded that: 1) the Endangerment Finding and Tailpipe Rule were neither arbitrary nor capricious; 2) EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions was unambiguously correct; and 3) no petitioner had standing to challenge the Timing and Tailoring Rules. The court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction all petitions for review of the Timing and Tailoring Rules, and denied the remainder of the petitions. The major points of reasoning behind the courts holdings are explained below.
On another topic, there is an article from Fox News: EPA blasted for requiring oil refiners to add type of fuel that’s merely hypothetical. Punchline:
Federal regulations can be maddening, but none more so than a current one that demands oil refiners use millions of gallons of a substance, cellulosic ethanol, that does not exist.
So the refiners are now suing the EPA, in part because the mandate gets larger and larger– 500 million gallons this year, 3 billion in 2015 and 16 billion in 2022.
Ethics and science journalism
At Bishop Hill, Doug Keenan has a very good post on the recent UK Conference of science journalists. He presents some interesting examples of fraud and misconduct. His summary statement:
For me, the take-home message from the conference is that a large majority of science journalists are extremely naive about scientists. The naivety is so extreme that I suspect it must be partially willful.
For global-warming skeptics, something else should perhaps be mentioned. Many global-warming skeptics seem to think that there is something special about the prevalence of bogus research in global warming. There is not. Anyone who has looked at other fields of science knows that there are fields that are worse than global warming. This tells us something important: the underlying cause of the problem is not specific to global warming.
I mention this especially because some skeptics seem to believe that what is needed is reform of the IPCC. Yes, the IPCC could benefit from reform. But that would not solve the problem.
We have known for millennia that prerequisites for integrity in human affairs include things like transparency and accountability. Those things should be in all scientific research.
An interesting case has emerged this past week regarding the drug Celebrex, see this article In Documents on Pain Drug, Signs of Doubt and Deception.
Grappling with advocacy in science
AAAS reports on a workshop to address advocacy in science, that was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Some excerpts:
Many younger scientists, including those in graduate school, express an increased interest in the impact of science on the broader society. Unfortunately, workshop participants noted, few educational or training resources are available to assist scientists interested in advocating in a responsible manner. Most participants at the workshop agreed that advocacy could be included as one topic for discussion within an ethics curriculum.
See Steneck’s code of conduct for advocacy in science:
Code of Conduct for Advocacy in Science
- As a scientist:
- Be honest, accountable, fair and a good steward in all of your professional work
- Accept responsibility for the trustworthiness of your science
- When acting primarily as a scientist reporting, explaining and interpreting your work:
- Present information clearly, in understandable terms; avoid making exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims
- Be aware of and make your interests transparent when presenting views on particular decisions
- Point out the weaknesses and limitations of your arguments, including data that conflict with your recommendations
- Present opposing scientific views; recognize critiques by others
- Recognize when your activities as a scientist merge into advocacy
- When providing advice to others on policies and courses of action (advocating):
- Base your advocacy on your area(s) of expertise, separating formal expertise from experience-based expertise and personal opinions
- Make clear when you are speaking as an individual scientist as opposed to someone formally representing a scientific organization and/or group of scientists
- Be aware of the impact your actions as an advocate can have on science and its uses
- Take steps to become knowledgeable about the complex issues that have a bearing on public decisions
Two good articles this week on open science.
In the New Scientist, Stephen Curry has a very good article Set Science Free From Publishers’ Paywalls. This point in particular caught my attention:
But if open access is so clearly superior, why has it not swept all before it? The model has been around for a decade but about nine-tenths of the approximately 2 million research papers that appear every year are still published behind a paywall.
Part of the reason is scientists’ reluctance to abandon traditional journals and the established ranking among them. Not all journals are equal – they are graded by impact factor, which reflects the average number of times that the papers they publish are cited by others. Nature’s impact factor is 36, one of the highest going, whereas Biochemistry’s is around 3.2. Biochemistry is well regarded – many journals have lower factors – but a paper in Nature is still a much greater prize.
Unfortunately, it is prized for the wrong reasons. Impact factors apply to journals as a whole, not individual papers or their authors.
Despite this, scientists are still judged on publications in high-impact journals; funding and promotion often depend on it. Consequently few are willing to risk bucking the trend. This has allowed several publishers to resist calls to abandon the subscription model.
Nature has an article Open your minds and share your results. The article is by Geoffrey Boulton, who chaired the Royal Society report discussed last week. Some excerpts:
We also need to be open towards fellow citizens. The massive impact of science on our collective and individual lives has decreased the willingness of many to accept the pronouncements of scientists unless they can verify the strength of the underlying evidence for themselves. The furore surrounding ‘Climategate’ — rooted in the resistance of climate scientists to accede to requests from members of the public for data underlying some of the claims of climate science — was in part a motivation for the Royal Society’s current report. It is vital that science is not seen to hide behind closed laboratory doors, but engages seriously with the public.
Too often, we scientists seek patterns in data that reflect our preconceived ideas. And when we do publish the data, we too frequently publish only those that support these ideas. This cherry-picking is bad practice and should stop.
Data curation should be viewed as a necessary cost of research. Creative data generation should be a source of scholarly esteem and a criterion for promotion. We need a revolution in the role of the science library, with data scientists supporting the management of data strategies for both institutions and researchers. We need strategic funding to develop software tools to automate and simplify the creation and exploitation of data sets. And above all, we need scientists to accept that publicly funded research is a public resource.