Industry funding and bias

by Judith Curry

When should research come with a ‘warning’ label?


The issue of funding-induced bias in climate research has been addressed by these previous posts:

Specifically, the disclosure related to Willie Soon’s fossil fuel funding, and Representative Grijalva’s inquisition into skeptical climate researchers’ funding sources has raised a host of new issues for climate research to grapple with.

The fields of health/nutrition/food has long been wrestling with the issue of industry funding, some insights into the broader issues are raised in a serious of recent articles that are discussed below.

Conflicts of interest:  Sugar and diet

PLOS Medicine published a recent article entitled Financial Conflicts of Interest and Reporting Bias Regarding the Association between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews.  As the headline on put it, succinctly, “Big Sugar Tips The Balance Of The Research Scale.

Another article, in the NYTimes: Coca Cola funds scientists who shift blame for obesity away from bad diets.

And for a different take: US govt actually encourages sugar consumption.

Harvard Business Review

The Harvard Business Review has a thoughtful article on the PLOS paper When research should come with a warning label.  Excerpts:

Here is the problem with the PLoS study: it cannot answer the question it claims to answer because of the way it was designed. The researchers looked at systematic reviews conducted between 2006 and 2013. But this period saw a significant change in the kind of research done on sugar and weight gain. At the beginning of the period, there were few randomized control trials and a lot of observational studies; at the end, more randomized control trials, which provide much better evidence of cause and effect. The effect sizes for these trials are still quite small, but when added together, there was more, and qualitatively better, evidence associating sugar consumption and increased weight gain the closer one got to 2013. In fact, the four systematic reviews from 2012 onwards all found mostly positive associations; none were funded by industry.

One particular review is labeled as having a conflict with industry not because it was industry funded (it was funded by the National Institutes of Health) but because the authors had past industry funding from the food industry.

In fact, the people who would immediately know why the PLoS study is misleading are relatively few. Most would not have access to or even an interest in engaging the media, while many would be from industry, the very people the PLoS study effectively warns you not to trust.

Peer review is valuable, but it is not a guarantor of reliable knowledge. And while the editor of PLoS Medicine defends the paper in a preface by arguing that industry has particular reasons to be biased (“increased sales of their products”) but that academic researchers don’t (because they are engaged in “the honest pursuit of knowledge”), the distinction has become meaningless in the face of publish or perish academic pressures, publication bias toward positive findings, and the growing awareness that poor statistical methods and weak experimental design undermine so much academic research in medicine and health.

The key difference between academic and industry produced data is that we currently treat the second skeptically. That asymmetry is the flaw in our knowledge economy; it leads to moral hazard — and worse.

The PLoS findings may well be used to delegitimize legitimate scientific perspectives in future debates over sugared drinks and food in general. A cohort of scientists has been impugned, and a younger cohort warned that such is their fate if they work for industry. Like a malign butterfly flapping its wings furiously, the storm damage that a biased finding can do in a dynamic system of knowledge is considerable. And repairing it with the truth is very, very difficult.

Funding: Tales of Defamation

Nutrevolve has a provocative post entitled Funding: Tales of Defamation.  Excerpts:

Wide generalizations are being made in the media lately, regarding nutrition and obesity researchers and where they get their funding. Often, these get to levels of insulting comparisons accusing researchers of being just like big tobacco scientists. The issue with the researchers is that they’ve taken money from Coke for their research, that their research pushes exercise over dietary intake as a cause of obesity  and they pretty stupidly didn’t disclose the funding on their webpage until it was pointed out to them. While I don’t fully agree with their perspective on obesity, to claim that this is a front group and that these researchers are bought out is a far stretch. The lay perspective of this article appears to see little beyond the conspiracy, as evidenced by the comments. Even MedPageToday is telling readers that Coca Cola money has bought out these researchers.

I’ve been watching the industry funded research wars for a while now, and have popped in occasionally, particularly as the message has become less about improving research and talking about industry lobbying, and more about attacking independent researchers who have sought out industry funding. Often, I see little more than conjecture in accusations against researchers, and those shouting the loudest don’t help their case when they just point out funding and insinuate folly. It’s not surprising that some of the loudest voices in this field are those with no need for funding themselves – the few common names we see popping up and commenting have jobs/positions that rarely require the individual to be constantly writing grants in hopes of getting just one, and the reputation of a couple researchers’ is just a necessary casualty in the righteous crusade against industry funded research. Coke funding does not make the research bad, despite their corporate interests. The sacrifice of independent researchers’ reputations in this crusade is truly a shame, since Coke is going to run ads of thin people running with Coke bottles, regardless of whether or not scientists get funding from them.

We could talk forever and ever about what level of bias is instituted by industry funding, how we weigh that bias against the many other biases that occur in research, and whether that bias actually hurts the research in ways that things like peer review and editors can’t detect. We could also talk forever about whether we should be working with or against industry (or just flat out ignoring them). But these are likely conversations we’ll never get people to agree on.

What I want from those concerned about industry funding is to come off as genuine as possible. I challenge those concerned about industry funding to make a conscious effort to match every statement of concern about industry funding, with a call to action, to get taxpayers to write to their congressmen/women and advocate for higher NIH/NSF funding. Shout from the rooftops both your concerns, and the plight of researchers who write 14 grants in hopes of getting 1 or 2. At the very least, present the argument to the public that research costs money, and that if they don’t want it to be industry, they better be okay with it being their tax dollars.

This notion that researchers seeking industry money are doing conflicted research does little but subtly suggest that academic researchers find a new job or risk having their reputations threatened due to their funding source.

Do we only accept money from Quaker Oats and not the American Beverage Association? This can sound great on the surface, until you acknowledge that Quaker Oats is owned by Pepsi. The issue gets pretty complicated when you note that companies make many products e.g. do we not allow Coke funding because of their sugar sweetened beverages, even though they produce 100 percent fruit juices and diet beverages? Do we accept dairy money when they offer low fat milk but their product is also made into ice cream? Depending on who you ask, funding from the Whole Grain Council can be a sound choice or the biggest bias in the world. Do we only accept nutrient dense food producers, and soda producers are out because soda has no other nutrients besides sugars? Do we then not accept producers of foods like potatoes, that are ‘associated’ with more weight gain than are SSBs? I don’t particularly agree that there is righteous and non-righteous sources of funding.

It gets into a dangerously ambiguous realm to start saying that some types of industry funding are good but others are not. If anything, personal bias from researchers’ attachment to a theory seems the stronger hypothesis, as opposed to mindless drones/shills doing Coke’s bidding. The fact that Coke wants to toss a bunch of money at their hypothesis is just business as usual.

 JC reflections

But . . . oil company funding.  This is too often used as an excuse to reject a climate scientist or their findings, even if the funding is very indirect and has nothing to do with the specific study.  For example, having accepted travel funds from a think tank that is in some way has some funding from an unacceptable industry group or individual can be game over for that individual.

In climate change research, there is no righteous source of funding – government funding can be a source of bias just as much as industry funding can, and there is A LOT more government funding out there.  The need for greater intellectual (and political) diversity in climate change research has been addressed in this previous post.

That said, funding is probably a smaller source of bias than peer pressure to follow a consensus and to defend your own hypothesis, not to mention political preferences, environmental proclivities and career pressures.

In climate science, the ‘bogey’ is funding from fossil fuel companies.  Well, regional power providers are also involved in wind power, solar power, geothermal and hydropower (not to mention nuclear, but not clear if nuclear is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?).  Not to mention providing power for all those computers running weather and climate models.  And where would the climate research elite be without fossil fuels to support their extensive air travel (its a badge of honor among them to be flying at least 100,000 miles per year).  And is  natural gas good, relatively good, or bad?

So . . . is funding from power and oil companies ok if it funds research related to wind, solar geothermal and hydro?  Better predictions of extreme weather events that hamper both energy supply and demand, whatever the source of power?  Or is it only a problem if it supports outreach efforts by a climate scientist to deny humans are the cause of climate change?

If independent scientists obtain funding from power and oil companies, would this help support needed intellectual diversity into climate science to avoid the massive groupthink we now see?

There is a lot we can learn by the extensive experiences and track record of the health/nutrition research interaction with industry funding.

At Georgia Tech, we are encouraged by the administration to interact with industry and get industry funding, particularly in this era of shrinking federal research dollars.  Georgia Tech gets plenty of money from oil and power companies, although not nearly as much as heavy hitters such as Stanford, etc.  [see Big Oil Goes To College]  So . . . is funding from oil and power companies ok, as long as it isn’t used for climate research?

You can see that there is a lot of hypocrisy and stuff that simply doesn’t make sense.  We need to have a serious discussion about bias in scientific research, and sources of funding is only one part of this discussion.

But witch hunts related to funding, even if unrelated to research, is a very disturbing trend, stay tuned for an interesting case from the GMO world.


212 responses to “Industry funding and bias

  1. stevefitzpatrick

    So long as funding sources are accurately disclosed, research should be judged on its merits, and nothing else.

    • Exactly right.

      George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

    • David Wojick

      The problem is that funding biases the question, not the results. I call this paradigm protection. For example, the US Government funds many studies on how bad AGW climate change impacts will be, assuming dangerous AGW, such as four degree C warming. The studies may in fact be well done. It is the funding that is biased, not the study.

      As Kuhn pointed out, the paradigm defines the questions and CAGW is the paradigm in climate science today. That is the bias issue. In fact I am doing research on this very issue, measuring paradigm protection in climate science.

    • @stevefitzpatrick – I’m not sure that’s right. The strength of peer review largely rests on the tradition that you take the researcher at his/her word. You may disagree with their conclusions, but one expects them to be honest about the data and analysis they used to get there. It seems to me there is ample opportunity for a bad actor to falsify data, since peer review is not (as I understand it) designed to discover fraudulent results.

      In fact, often reviewers will not try and replicate results; rather, they decide whether they agree or disagree with the described method only. When it comes to the results of that method, they generally trust that the author was careful enough to carry it out correctly.

      • Peer review is a dreadfully poor way of doing anything like quality assurance. And it is verging on fraud by academics to try to fool the public that it is some sort of gold standard of trustworthiness and correctness. It isn’t.

        Phil Jones (remember him? A deeply flawed key player in the Climategate revelations) published over 200 papers in his career. They were all ‘peer reviewed’, and yet nobody ever asked even to see his data and methods, let alone check them.

        That’s 200 papers about the temperature history of the earth that are completely the unchecked work of one man. A man who we know was deeply personally and professionally invested in the (C)AGW narrative and the success of his ‘team’ of fellow believers.

        And yet all 200 passed ‘peer-review’ with no methodological scrutiny

        Peer revoew is crap. And its time that academics cleaned their house and recognised that fact. Their assumed air of moral and intellectual superiority about it fails to pass even superficial scrutiny.

      • Peer reviewed or meerly peer approved?

      • Latimer

        Phil Jones is an old school academic who doesn’t like sharing data or being asked to display his methodology and who is hopeless at putting his data into a spread sheet.

        However, as a researcher and writer I would say he is often pretty good. I have several books of his and I think he is much more sceptical than many of us think, but he is part of the establishment and is well aware that his position and status is tied up with following the narrative.


      • @tony b

        I had to ‘show my working’ when I was doing my O levels – the results of which really mattered only to me.

        I see no reason why a senior professional guy whose work is used to justify endless predictions of the end of the world and largely unscrutinised political changes worldwide should be granted a dispensation not available to my 14-year old self.

        Especially when he is self-admittedly poor with numbers.

        When I began to research climate issues about seven years ago, I started with a relatively starry-eyed awe of the integrity and professionalism of academics. Jones (Phil) was a prime mover in removing that unwarranted optimism.

        Nowadays I prefer Jones (Jonathan)’s approach:

        ‘Do I expect you to publicly denounce the Hockey Stick as obvious drivel? Well yes, that’s what you should do. It is the job of scientists of integrity to expose pathological science… It is a litmus test of whether climate scientists are prepared to stand up against the bullying defenders of pathology in their midst.’

        Huge swathes of ‘climate science’ are drivel. And yet ‘peer-review’ has never stopped any of it. Peer review in climatology is a sham

      • Latimer

        Absolutely agree that you should show your work especially if govt funded and especially if you have a known weakness with figures. Dr Mann is also guilty of not providing data.

        However from my own research I think that a lot of the Jones stuff I have read is pretty good and he is not a dyed in the will warmist if you read between the lines rather than go by the public pronouncements.

        How they get away with not showing their work behind their research I find surprising


      • They show some of their work, they just don’t like to talk to us about it all.

        Twenty-one was too short, so they added a fifteen at the end.

      • “Huge swathes of ‘climate science’ are drivel.” – Lati

        Is there any thing other than your personal opinion here?

    • Actually, my view is that the source of the funding should be disclosed if information is requested, but that research should stand on its own (or not).
      Attacks on research based purely on its funding is merely a variation of ad hominem. (Ad corporatum?)

    • Absolutely agree. And proper real peer review and full disclosure of all data raw, and otherwise with no hiding behind “intellectual property rights” would allow everyone else to evaluate the paper and make a decision about how valid the research is. The current climate of some research money being bad has been fostered by the IPCC crowd of scientists because many of them won’t share data fully, hide their methodology in “black box” models because they know their work is inadequate and won’t stand up to real scrutiny yet some of the research that the “skeptics” and “deniers” have done is properly done, everything is shared with anyone who asks and the results are easily replicable. I think those who cry about the foul nature of industry funding need to be looked at just as carefully as the people doing research on industry funding. Those who screech about industry funding may well be using the industry funding as an excuse to shield their own inadequate work.

  2. … interesting case from the GMO world. Would that involve GMO round-up ready crops? Europe has banned GMOs is the US now the last bastion. .. the last battlefield?

  3. daveandrews723

    I wish I could rely on scientists to be honest and objective all the time. But in the field of climate science everything has been so politicized and the money is so big, more so on the pro-AGW in my opinion, that I just can’t. There is much more pressure for scientists to go along with the so-called 97% concensus that “the science is settled.” Peer review in climate science is a joke in my opinion. The last 18 years are evidence that the scientifi method has been tossed out the window by scientists with a self interest and a political/social agenda. Scientists are just people and people have flaws. So excuse me for not taking the word of people like Hansen, Mann, Schmidt, etc… the vocal scientists who act more like politicans and activists than people in lab coats.

    • What the climate science global warming “scientists” have done to public trust in science and the smearing of the reputation of all scientists is beyond appalling. Hopefully once this mess settles down we can learn to guard ourselves from such charlatans.

      • Yes, it’s tainted my feelings toward all of science. It’s a shame. I mean I’m hoping the Pluto team isn’t pulling anything over on us (and I have no reason to believe they are) but the uncertainty introduced by the train wreck of much of climate poli-science has far reaching ripples. It’s taken some of the fun out of it when you can’t just look and say, “Hey, that’s cool.” Because climate science has demonstrated that there might be more than meets the eye going on and agenda’s beyond science are in play.

      • The lack of accountability and self-discipline so clearly on display in this case, makes one wonder about it all. It’s been very disappointing not to see the problems tackled head on, but rather just swept under the rug and ignored.

  4. Enron was the leading US company behind the political movement to price CO2 internationally as supported here:

    Does this mean the climate alarmists are corrupt? BP, too, under John Browne led the climate crusade.

  5. Curious George

    PLOS: ” Among the reviews that reported having no conflict of interest, 83.3% of the conclusions were that SSB consumption could be a potential risk factor for weight gain.” Does the word ‘could’ remind anybody of anything? Do we see a ‘could-consensus’?

    The city of Berkeley, CA is taxing soft drinks, a big victory over BIG SODA.

  6. I could believe that industry was funding the global warming agenda to take the heat off of pollution except that, the rules and regulations of the Left has moved manufacturing offshore to dirtier foreign manufacturers. Like Ringo said, “Everything government touches turns to crap.”

  7. That big “Coke” paper is going to raise some hackles.

    “To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories.”

    What a novel finding :)

  8. Slander has become the first tool of choice of the left. Smearing people as corporate shills is a whole lot easier than making an intelligent argument.

    • Slander has become the first tool of choice of the left. Smearing people as corporate shills is a whole lot easier than making an intelligent argument.

      Ironically, all smearing in this thread so far has been smearing climate scientists as government shills. Apparently slander has become the first tool of choice of the right. Santer, Jones, Gore, Hansen, Mann, you name them, they’ve been smeared.

      Intelligent argument, wherefore art thou intelligent argument?

      • Out of curiosity, Vaughan, do you really not know about all the failed predictions, exaggeration, dodgy science, and outright lies made by those you listed? Because if that’s true we can make you a list of those ‘intelligent arguments’. But if you’re just another troll, I’ve got better things to do then feed you.

      • There is one side of the political debate that is constantly calling the other side “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, “hate-filled”, “mean-spirited”, and of course — “denier”. Lies and slanders.

        I’m not surprised you can’t find an intelligent argument. Or even use the word ‘wherefore’ accurately.

      • Dr. Pratt is not just another troll. He is almost always a very lucid and erudite troll. He probably shouldn’t be commenting at 1:55 AM. He is Emeritus and needs his sleep. (Just funnin ya, doc. More or less.)

      • 1:55 would be 10:55 in his time zone.

      • That is assuming he is not vacationing in Russia with all his commie buddies (sarc).

      • Yes, and 10:55 is still past his Emeritus bedtime.

      • Why would you link yourself to a protected blog? Makes no sense.

      • schitzree

        Dr Vaughan Pratt is a well respected and liked academic contributor to this blog and is certainly not a troll. He is worth feeding.


      • Gore got his lampooning the old fashioned way – he earned it?

      • The Voters spoke.
        Prop 39 passed.
        The money flowed.
        And Hilarity ensued.

        We have no data by which to measure anything and no plan to collect any data by which to measure anything but I’m absolutely sure everything is peachy keen and anyone who doubts it is just a hater and against children
        learning science.

        Only in California, use to be the saying in the rest of the country. Thanks to Global Warming the California model is now Global in the US.

        No meeting in three years cause their is no pretense that this is a serious program with any interest in it working. Typical of the Left, the core of reality for them lies in appearance, and how it makes them feel about themselves. But I guarantee you that the next meeting about continuing funding will be met.

        Tracking data to measure results would mean they didn’t BELIEVE in the program and that would cause great emotional dissonance. Better not
        to look and KNOW FOR SURE that it’s working.

        ‘Why should I give you my data,’ said the Climate Scientist,
        ‘if you’re jst going to show me I’m wrong?’

        ‘Why should we bother with tracking data or follow up studies,’ asks the Progressive Puke, ‘if there’s a chance it will prove our ideas are just utter slop?’

      • Santer, Jones, Gore, Hansen, Mann, you name them, they’ve been smeared.

        Pointing out incompetence, public dishonesty and bad science is not the same as slander. Maybe you would find a dictionary helpful.

      • A real scientist does not sue a journalist or a fellow scientist critic for disagreeing with them. A real scientist shares all data in request and helps everyone else to try to replicate how he did what he did. Only a political shill hides behind law suites.

      • Vaughan Pratt

        “Ironically, all smearing in this thread so far has been smearing climate scientists as government shills.”

        I believe you have that backwards: climate scientists smearing protected by government shills. Ah, that’s it.

  9. “At Georgia Tech, we are encouraged by the administration to interact with industry and get industry funding, particularly in this era of shrinking federal research dollars.”


    Industry dollar influence may be a growing problem, but perhaps to the reduction of government influence that Eisenhower warned about.

    • Eisenhower didn’t consider the current military-industrial-governmental-academic complex we now “enjoy.”

  10. I concur with those who believe the funding source doesn’t matter. The work should stand or fall on its merit.

  11. When should research come with a ‘warning’ label?


  12. The main connection between the government and climate science these days is the Republicans in Congress attempting to defund it, much in the way that has already happened in Canada and Australia. It is not a given that the government favors the AGW side of the question, and this goes back to the muzzling days of the previous administration. So, before saying government bias is in one direction, take a look at what is actually happening. Science, like truth, prevails, but sometimes the process is not particularly well supported.

    • Jim,

      You bring to mind the days when the press called Ronald Reagan the Teflon President.

      Facts slide off you as easily as burnt eggs on Teflon

      • Maybe you are not aware that the current Congress doesn’t want NASA to have satellites pointing at earth any more, because that is too much use for climate science. They would prefer NASA to go to the other planets instead. This is just a sample of their biases in their purse-string holding. Spencer will be disappointed.

      • David Wojick

        The Republicans are trying to cure the deep pro-CAGW bias the infects the present climate research program. That deep bias makes the satellites worthless, or worse.

      • Jim D: Doesn’t the satellite record back the skeptic position?

      • David Wojick

        Indeed, Reality Check. According to UAH the 1970s to 1990s warming, that is the basis for AGW, never happened. The warmers simply ignore this fact and rely on the questionable surface statistical models, from HadCRU to BEST, which all use convenience samples. Another fine case of paradigm protection, just as Kuhn described. Ignore the data that does not support the paradigm.

      • The satellites measure the imbalance that for sure does not support any skeptic view because it says that the remaining imbalance means that all the warming we have had is not enough to catch up to the GHG forcing change (>100% attribution). I am not saying that the Republicans realized this, but they are generally not happy with NASA getting this type of data on the earth’s energy budget. Other satellites are showing a healthy El Nino growing while somehow Spencer’s and Christy’s has that warm anomaly still missing as of July while they show all the others around the globe.

      • Not enough warming for forcing change? WTF are you babbling about?

        (IIRC) There’s been more temperature change than is required for the ghg forcing this century and there is no indication of a large energy imbalance, particularly the past decade. A re-analysis of energy flows on this site even suggest that we were recently running a deficit.

      • aaron, the GHG forcing has been at least 2 W/m2. The remaining imbalance is 0.5-1 W/m2 from satellite and ocean heat content estimates. This means that all the warming we have had so far (0.8-0.9 C) has been insufficient to cancel that 2 W/m2 because 0.5-1 W/m2 is left to produce more warming. The mere presence of a remaining positive imbalance puts the GHG attribution at over 100%.

      • Jim D, I could be wrong but I think your logic is the shape of a circle. If what you are claiming is true and attribution is mere arithmetic then you are logically calling for defunding all climate research immediately since we already know equilibrium climate sensitivity ECS, which is the question.

      • Ron Graf, I think we can only put a lower limit on the attribution percentage with this, which is something larger than 100%. That is, all this warming and more due will be from the GHGs released so far, even if we stopped emitting tomorrow. I am not saying anything new here, but it is just unrecognized on sites like this.

      • Theoretical pure forcing is ~1.2C per doubling of CO2 equivalent, 3.71w/m^2. Or, 1.730458221*LN(C/C0).



        (via wikipedia “The global average (land and ocean) surface temperature shows a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C in the period 1880 to 2012, based on multiple independently produced datasets.”)

        Observations at TOA cannot rule out a decrease in incoming-outgoing energy during the satellite era.


        Implying a potential yet unrealized negative forcing of .711w/m^2.

        see also

      • Or, looking at it another way, another 57ppm CO2 equivalent for forcing to catch up to temps.

        Or, another 28 years for forcing to catch up to current temperatures at current co2 growth rates.

        (Of course this ignores other man made (other gasses, land use…) forcings to date and any feedbacks.)

      • I’ll add that the step-wise temp increase suggest that feedbacks are likely near zero.

        The “hiatus” tells us that feedbacks are very likely near zero and not very unlikely that feedbacks are negative.

        The quasi-cyclical 60-80yr pattern in the instrumental record suggest that it is not unlikely that feedbacks are negative.

    • Yes, Jim D, the Australian Coalition government’s $20 billion medical research fund has definitely knocked the stuffing out of that area.

    • Jim, you could at least TRY to write something that others will find credible.

      I will give you this though, the truth IS prevailing. Every year provides another stack of climate predictions to throw on the fire of history. And the light of that bonfire is getting harder and harder to ignore.

    • David Wojick

      The US Global Change Research Program budget has been about $2.5 billion a year for some time now, divided among 13 different agencies. The vast majority of that money is spent on pro-AGW research, which simply assumes CAGW. Natural variability is barely mentioned in the USGCRP program descriptions. The government is basically buying support for its climate control policies. The bias is dramatic. Defunding is an obvious solution.

      • Bias is often in the eye of the beholder.

        “The vast majority of that money is spent on pro-AGW research, which simply assumes CAGW”

        Look at this statement and marvel.

      • David Wojick

        Have you studied the USGCRP, Michael, as I have? For example there is a huge carbon cycle program but no solar cycle program. The CAGW paradigm says the warming is mostly due to the carbon cycle. The natural variability paradigm says it may be largely due to solar cycles. Hence the research is assuming the CAGW paradigm by ignoring solar cycles. This is paradigm protection personified.

        Then there is a lot of research on the adverse impact of major future warming, say 3 to 4 degrees C, as in the social cost of carbon (!) modeling. This is the essence of CAGW. There is no research on the benefits of increasing CO2, even though CO2 is the world’s food supply.

        Do you not see a pro-CAGW pattern here? Have you looked? There is a lot more.

      • Your statement is comic?

      • That’s a great comedy routine David.

        Claim bias then demand that research should be pointed in a very particular direction.

        Even better is the appeal to natural variability. Every time I see this, I like to bask in the nuclear-blast-level-irony of the near-daily ‘skeptical’ collective melt-down over a piece of almost 16 yr old research into natural variability.

      • When will some people come to their senses?

        There is still hope.

      • Michael, the point is that there are two prominent theories of warming — AGW and natural variability. Each is well known. The huge USGCRP budget is almost entirely spent on AGW based questions. There is almost no research on natural variability.

      • “The vast majority of that money is spent on pro-AGW research…”

        It looks to me as though a substantial portion goes to fund “non-profit” pro-AGW propaganda mills. And even more goes to fund climate activism promotion in otherwise-defunded agencies.

        “I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior,” said Sally Jewell, and darned if I didn’t find climate change concerns expressed throughout the National Park Service website, where the Climate Change overview page tells us:

        “Today’s rapid climate change challenges national parks in ways we’ve never seen before. Glaciers are retreating at an unprecedented rate, increasingly destructive storms threaten cultural resources and park facilities, habitat is disrupted—the list goes on.”

        From there, you can visit a Facebook page where you learn that California and Alaska face a “climate bomb” from climate-change-caused wildfires…that $40+billion in cultural resources are at “high risk of damage from sea-level rise caused by climate change”… and other scary stuff. There are 21 videos on YouTube. And if your fear needs constant stoking, you can subscribe to Twitter for updates.

        Tracking effects of a changing climate on national parks is fine. But when a “Climate Questions” answer attributes the claim that “97% of scientists believe humans are the primary cause of climate change” to an IPCC study, it’s clear this is pure propaganda, not science. If similar claims are in the climate change lesson plans in public schools and NPS kids programs, there can be no doubt the Obama administration is working to ensure there will be no lack of Climatastrophist bigots in the younger generation.

        Last I checked, the Climate Questions on the NPS site were offline. Maybe the most blatant lies are being purged. The NPS would do well to purge unsubstantiated claims from the rest of the site as well. They’re currently looking pretty creepy.

      • David Wojick

        Interesting point Verdeviewer, but I am not sure much of this money comes from the various USGCRP agency appropriations. There is a huge amount of climate related money sloshing around in the Federal budget that is not part of the science budget. I have seen estimates of 20 to 30 billion dollars. But then Federal funding is an unbelievably complex dark passage.

      • You’re right, David, the NPS funding was not part of the $2.66 billion for USCGRP in the proposed FY 2014 budget. Other Climate Change Expenditures were $7.9 billion for Clean Energy Technologies, $893 million for International Assistance, and $110 million for Natural Resources Adaptation (including $9 million for NPS).

      • David Wojick

        Thanks for the NPS data, Verde. My understanding is that every Federal agency now has funding for CAGW adaptation planning, including scaring the public, websites t follow.

      • David Wojick | August 17, 2015 at 12:21 pm |
        ” The huge USGCRP budget is almost entirely spent on AGW based questions. There is almost no research on natural variability.”

        Seems to be a self-serving, unstated, definition of “research on natural variability” at work here.

      • David Wojick

        Not really, Michael. The natural variability issues are well known and the USGCRP is simply ignoring them. THis is what I call paradigm protection, as originally described so well by Kuhn over 50 years ago.

        I am in the middle of a semantic analysis of USGCRP summary reports. Paradigms have core concepts which means that certain words indicate that the paradigm is being invoked. I have one list of CAGW core words, such as carbon, and another of natural variability core words, such as solar. The USGCRP documents are loaded with CAGW centric terms, with virtually no occurrence of natural variability terms. The results are pretty dramatic.

    • Jim, I think opposition has primarily to do with the unpopularity climate policy suggestion and the use of an obsolete paradigm in allocating dollars.

    • Theoretical pure forcing is ~1.2C per doubling of CO2 equivalent, 3.71w/m^2. Or, 1.730458221*LN(C/C0).



      (via wikipedia “The global average (land and ocean) surface temperature shows a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C in the period 1880 to 2012, based on multiple independently produced datasets.”)

      Observations at TOA cannot rule out a decrease in incoming-outgoing energy during the satellite era.


      Implying a potential yet unrealized negative forcing of .711w/m^2.

      see also

    • Jim D, looking at it another way, it’ll take 57ppm CO2 equivalent for forcing to catch up to current temps.

      Or, another 28 years for forcing to catch up to current temperatures at current co2 growth rates.

      (Of course this ignores other man made (other gasses, land use…) forcings to date, ie assumes they’re negligible.)

      I’ll add that the step-wise temp increase suggest that feedbacks are likely near zero.

      The “hiatus” tells us that feedbacks are very likely near zero and not very unlikely that feedbacks are negative.

      The quasi-cyclical 60-80yr pattern in the instrumental record suggests that it is not unlikely that feedbacks are negative.

  13. One reason Big Sugar has to fudge and fib is because Big Anti-Sugar is just as ruthless and hungry for funds and self-justification. Think how carefully fast food and soft drink businesses have to weigh every word and commitment when millions are queued up to make them responsible for personal weakness and excess. How frank and open can you afford to be in a lawyered-up jungle? And even when there is a (possible) genuine liability at law, there are a lot of Brockovich types out there, great at showing concern and prepared to ransack corporation and victim alike to come by millions.

    It’s been known since forever that smoking is bad for you, sugar shouldn’t be shovelled or gulped in large quantities, and that New York was built too low in a notorious hurricane belt. It’s easier to pretend something is new and act shocked for profit than to take responsibility. (I’m guessing that more than 97% of the real estate developers who narrowed the mouth of the Hudson think “climate change” is the greatest problem facing humanity. In fact, I’ll guess 100%.)

    “Studies” should be for stuff people don’t know. Those who ignore common knowledge should simply pay the price. During production of The Insider, the finger-wagging movie against Big Tobacco, the stars frequently popped out for a puff. Will Al and Russell tell us they’re victims too? Are they waiting for more “studies” before they sue?

    I think it’s just great if there are campaigns to inspire common sense in diet or in shunning tobacco (or locating cities!). Even try the impossible and campaign against corn subsidies. (I’ll really admire you for that one). Make Coca Cola pay millions to individuals and you’ve just created another industry, albeit an anti-industry – and it will act just like Coca Cola. Expect lots of “findings” tilting just the way the initiators want them to. And don’t be surprised if Anti-Coke turns out to be Pepsi, or if either side uses the words “kids” and “asthma” a lot.

    • “studies should be for things we don’t know”

      If it were only so.

    • @momoso: Those who ignore common knowledge should simply pay the price.

      And pay the price they did, back in the days when the earth was considered flat, the Sun went round the Earth, and other such bits of “common knowledge”.

      • Common knowledge is knowing that pumping smoke into your lungs or sugar through your anatomy is bad for you. (Look up a hundred year old Everyman’s Encyclopedia to save yourself the investment in compelling new “studies” and “findings” on such subjects.)

        Common ignorance is where you think that the Sun goes round the Earth…or that New York hasn’t been visited and flooded by violent hurricanes since the 1600s. Or that the climate shifts which have wiped out civilisations as recently as the the Chaco Anasazi less than a millennium ago can be explained by the behaviour of certain trace gases in glass receptacles. That sort of thing.

    • mosomoso, “One reason Big Sugar has to fudge and fib is because Big Anti-Sugar is just as ruthless and hungry for funds and self-justification.”

      Isn’t fudging part of health research?

      “Also consider reducing your protein intake to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight. It would be unusual for most adults to need more than 100 grams of protein and most likely close to half of that amount. Replace the non-vegetable carbs (sugar/fructose/grains) and excess protein with high quality fats, such as organic eggs from pastured hens, high quality meats, avocados, and coconut oil.”

      Eat mo Fat but make sure it is “high quality”, “pastured” and “organic”. The fairly simple Atkins diet doesn’t require high quality, pastured or organic, it just requires eliminating carbs as much as possible and … getting some exercise. You can get the same results with a vegan or semi-vegan diet if you include … some exercise.

      Dr. Mercola is your typical whackadoddle health nut including lots of unscientific but catchy buzz words.

  14. phyllograptus

    I will state this right up front. I’m a petroleum geologist for a large integrated oil company. I have been involved in several industry-academic research projects and I have seen the setup and results from others. Maybe it’s different in the U.S. (I’m Canadian) but all of with all of these evaluations and projects the researcher proposes to look into whether X, something the oil industry is doing, is impacting the environment or fauna. They approach government and industry for funding. Both usually end up providing the funding. The extent of the industries control on the study is usually along the lines of not identifying who funded the research and allowed access to collect the data, but most importantly agreeing to what the terms of research will be in conjunction with the researcher and the University. After setting up this it is basically we hand off the funds and wait to see what comes out of it. From the industries perspective, good, bad or ugly, the results are the results and that’s what you live with. So in a situation like this, if it is good for the industry, does that make the researcher biased? If it was bad for the industry, do you ignore industry financing because any financing from industry made them biased even though it was negative for them, or do you just ignore where the money and publish what the results are? Potential Research bias should be judged on the terms of the funding, not on where the funding comes from. Arms length, non pre-determined results for funding from any source should still be considered non-biased. Well designed studies requesting funding with well controlled and well written research protocols should be considered valid whomever funded them!

    • And nobody is looking at the great benefits from fossil fuel use,only researching possible detriment in certain fields? Sounds pretty biased to me! How can you assess trade-offs if you only look in one direction? Faustino

      • And nobody is looking at the great benefits from fossil fuel use

        Those great benefits killed off battery electric vehicles a century ago, Michael. Are you suggesting that there may be new benefits as yet overlooked? What might those new benefits be?

      • What’s an entire industrial civilisation with massive production and democratisation of goods, transport, communications and services?

        I dunno, Faustino, you’re easily pleased.

      • When the internal combustion automobile emerged, it was hailed as a tremendous advance for public health because it saved cities from the great manure crisis predicted by all the “best minds” of the time. Some people should learn some history. They’d learn that global warming isn’t the first Chicken Little call for the Malthusians. The Ehrlichs are always with us.

      • VP – correct, they killed off EV because EVs could not compete. The issue is not necessarily if any new FF benefits will be discovered (they undoubtedly will), but the simple fact that virtually all known benefits are ignored, misrepresented, and sometimes outright demonized. The bias has turned into an uncontrolled malignant cancer that idealogues refuse to acknowledge, much like a cancer patient in denial.

    • phyllograptus – I find your characterization rings true with the electric utility industry as well. Call me naïve and a true believer, but I think most cases (for the long run) this industry wants to know and act upon the truth. (Sure someone with a particular problem in a particular area will want “spin” to help them.) Perceptions of self interest have been colored too much by the tobacco industry. But in their case it was sell tobacco or not. Whatever the findings on any major issue for the most part, public utilities are going to figure out a way to make a buck one way or another. If EMF poses cancer risks – that’s more expensive infrastructure to earn a rate of return on. Pollution mitigation -again more infrastructure and greater costs to earn a return on. Utilities in the end can benefit from mitigating well documented risks. But jumping on the bandwagon of the flavor of the month scare can leave them holding the bag. Utilities seeing long term value in solar and wind are jumping on that and will continue to do so as/if the benefits of such become apparent and certain over the long term. Shading the research does not provide real benefits.

      You might argue that the impacts of electric generation (and oil) are so dire that recognizing the “truth” would spell the end of the industry. Some claim the utilities are fiddling while Rome burns, i.e. they are going to take the short run benefits until the disaster hits. It’s hard to argue with conspiracy theories of that sort. If someone who believes that utilities focus only on the short term and are self-interested, evil and stupid monoliths, I can’t add much. .

  15. The late Michael Crichton’s testimony to congress in 9/28/2005 covered the topic of bias in depth.

    I am not casting aspersions on the motives or fair-mindedness of climate scientists. Rather, what is at issue is whether the methodology of climate science is sufficiently rigorous to yield a reliable result. At the very least we should want the reassurance of independent verification by another lab, in which they make their own decisions about how to handle the data, and yet arrive at a similar result.

    Because any study where a single team plans the research, carries it out, supervises the analysis, and writes their own final report, carries a very high risk of undetected bias. That risk, for example, would automatically preclude the validity of the results of a similarly structured study that tested the efficacy of a drug.

    Under Crichton’s protocol, for example, if a proxy study was to be done two teams with opposing hypotheses would be funded. They would be directed to work concurrently, but not collaborate, and broadcast their data online publicly at the conclusion of their study. They would then have their studies reviewed independently but again published concurrently, so that no alterations could be made in reaction to the competing study. The aim would be to change peer review into purely a supporting role and take away its gate-keeper function.

    Clearly there are two outcomes to the above: either the studies concur and one admits the other’s hypothesis is more valid or each will dissect the other’s data and analysis until the truth is found or proved inconclusive. The cost will be double but the quality gain will provide conclusive results that all can build from.

    • U still have the situation where somebody decides what the two sides of the debate are.

    • The cost will be double but the quality gain will provide conclusive results that all can build from.

      Given that around 30 CMIP5 models are all being funded, the cost will not be double but 30x.

      Do you have 30 null hypotheses to suggest to them?

    • Ron, if it means say ten pairs of studies rather than twenty with a particular bias, the costs are the same, the benefits are much greater.

      • Faustino, Indeed, there is no question that ever get’s decided by one team now, let alone 30. Why not split the teams.

        Vaughan Pratt, If you feel there is no null hypothesis it’s a sure sign you need a competing team. Even if you doubled the studies the cost would not be 30X, just double. (I know that’s what you meant.)

        The costs ultimately are actually much less because if all sides cannot trust the results then the experiment needs to be repeated, but non-concurrent studies lose a control leaving the first team an out not to accept the conflicting later study. When the investigation is performed in the environment of pre-organized head-to-head potential conflict all measures will be taken to ensure quality.

        Vaughan Pratt, Two people reading my same original comment come away with vastly different hypotheses. I think this proves the point. I one believes there is no null hypothesis it is a sure sign they need a competing team.

      • McIntyre and McKitrick’s most devastating finding hockey sticks with MBH98 model using noise substituted for data, as Crichton points out in his testimony to the US congress. It would be hard to imagine MBH98 under concurrent direct competition. It would have saved millions of dollars in research and of reputations, not including that of climate science itself.

      • If a quality engineer is a requirement for a successful scientific team that would become apparent when two teams are put head-to-head.

    • Crichton’s concern is for quality control. Scientists don’t understand quality control. Totally foreign concept.

  16. “So . . . is funding from oil and power companies ok, as long as it isn’t used for climate research?” – JC

    It’s not even remotely complicated – declare it.

    People can then draw their own conclusions

    • Declare it. Sounds fair to me. Won’t stop renaming, funnelling, dummy funding etc, but still a good place to start.

      And instead of allowing fronts like “Concerned Citizens for a Better Future for Our Children”, “The Galileo Centre for Excellence” etc, at least ask to see the hard sources of the money. No need for compulsion, of course. Just gentlemen’s agreement stuff. Donors should feel free to conceal what they do legally with their own money…but I will feel free to doubt their motives and the quality of their studies. (I do that anyway as soon as I see the word “climate” – but let’s not allow it to disturb our fleeting moment of agreement, Michael.)

    • There is no easy fix. Bias may be subtle.

      A donor doesn’t need to directly influence a researcher. A donor is free to fund researchers who have produced the desired results in the past. Researchers, on the other hand, may produce work catering to a particular interest in the hope of attracting money from deep pocketed donors. This problem will be intractable as long as researchers are dependent on outside funds to maintain their livelihoods.

      Now replace “researchers” with “politicians” and we can rename this discussion “Campaign Finance Reform”. Good luck on that one.

      Transparency is not a bad start though.

    • Let’s see…. Utility and energy companies require accurate weather and climate information for operational and planning purposes. Funding bogus research is not useful for that. Accuracy is what counts, not spin. Assuming industry funded research is tainted makes less sense than questioning research from advocacy agencies such as the environmental groups.

      Often we say “Follow the money!” Private companies fund research that potentially helps them operate more profitably. Advocacy groups, however, receive money specifically to push a particular view and fund research toward that end. These days, funding from government agencies is often directed by politicians whose decisions are based upon appearances, not accuracy. Of those three, which is more likely to fund unbiased research? All have the potential of providing bogus information but only the industrial group actually needs true, accurate information to survive.

      • Gary that is a great point I hadn’t considered. Governments pushing global warming and climate change frequently have their own reward in mind. That is justifying carbon tax and wealth redistribution. Therefore governments, who don’t have to survive in reality and always have the public purse to dip into, are far more suspect than industry that needs accurate results.

  17. Pingback: ¿Se puede criticar el “sesgo de financiación”, y al mismo tiempo defender que la ciencia es objetiva? |

  18. “In effect, commerce was doing nothing more than harnessing the best and brightest kids as an off-site research and development department, but of course that doesn’t work when you’re dealing with the once a century type of kiddo. It’s all very interesting young Isaac, but tell me how can we make money out of shining a light through a prism? Is there any way you can kill people with it?”

    There’s not been much pure research around for a long time.


    • It’s all very interesting young Isaac, but tell me how can we make money out of shining a light through a prism? Is there any way you can kill people with it?

      This is one of the silliest dismissals I’ve seen in a long time. “[I]s there any way you can kill people with” a theory of gravitation that lets you accurately predict the flight of cannonballs?

      Physics and chemistry, as sciences, have their origins in the use of gunpowder. The connections may not have been direct, but they were there.

    • Good blog post, Pointman. Recommended to those who haven’t seen it.

  19. Inside an oil company are buildings with scientists and labs: physicists, mathematicians, geologists, etc.

    They do not produce much climate science. There are major reasons. See if you can figure out why… One clue: legal department.

    Artist’s rendition of the new science lab at ExxonMobil’s new Houston campus:

    • I’m shocked shocked to discover that an oil company is doing research on oil and not climate!

    • “…past climates…”

      Sure, today’s fossil fuels comes from life in the past. Whatever the motivation, I am all for paleoclimate research.

      • I think the notion is that industry would be interested in contrarian science, either form their own shops or the shops of outside scientists. They don’t show much interest. There could be more than one reason. One possibility, their in-house scientists have looked at the science and told their executives they largely accept it. Another possibility, their legal departments won’t let them.

      • “One possibility, their in-house scientists have looked at the science and told their executives they largely accept it. Another possibility, their legal departments won’t let them.”

        Third possibility: they can make money from carbon trading etc.

      • Fourth possibility: despite the never ending cry from alarmists of a Koch funded denial machine, no Oil company would actually profit from disproving consensus climate science.

      • Looks like coal companies would profit. The answer is, their scientists largely agree with the science. They went to the same schools, and studied under the same professors. And, their legal departments know the liability of being associated with contrarian science, later proved to be wrong, would be megagigantically hugemongous.

    • JCH, oil companies don’t produce much climate science because it’s not their main business focus. They do have weather, climate, oceanography, and other experts who focus on regional climate trends, and are asked to provide long term probabilistic forecasts. The degree of sophistication they have varies widely, and quite a few simply rely on outside consultants.

      I’ll give you an example: let’s say we want to explore for oil in the Pechora Sea in 80 meters water depth close to the existing Prirazlomnoye platform. One of the critical paths in the project plan is development of a description of the regional climate(used for the design basis, project optimization, economic evaluation). If I were in charge (and I’ve led such projects) I would need a full description of sea state, wind, temperature, visual conditions, ice cover, density, ice ridges, ice edge, other ice structures, probability of ice keels hitting the sea floor at various depths, yada yada yada. I need it detailed, by the week of the year, at least 10 years forward (40 years may be better).

      I’m pretty sure that if you visit Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Statoil, Rosneft and others you will find they do work the problem. Whether they share the results is another issue. When I worked on remote area exploration we didn’t share any results unless the other side had information or something very valuable to contribute.

  20. David Wojick

    It is important that for tenure in the sciences, get funded or perish is just as important as publish or perish, often more so. And publication is itself a step toward funding. Funding drives the system.

  21. Food Politics: Coca-cola’s partnership with cooperative scientists – a cartoonist’s perspective

    • that was cute.

      Let see, 12oz Coke, 140 calories, 12 oz Budweiser 145 calories, 12 oz Red Bull 157 calories, 12 oz grape juice 231 calories, 12 oz red wine ~289 calories.

      Calories burned per hour of internet surfing: ~100
      Calories burned per hour of walking your dog (without texting): ~450

      Which has increased more, per capita consumption of Coke or per capita hours per day of butt in chair?

      Once upon a time an overweight person was considered “prosperous”. Overweight people also has this “happy” stigma associated with them.

      • What has increased more, hours per day of butt in chair, per capita consumption of coke, outlook for success, or worrying about ridiculous bs. I think the hormonal response to society’s decisions to encourage and discourage certain traits will likely prove to be significant factor in health outcomes–not for the good.

        Why do we see so many adhd boys these day? Because society no longer values those traits. What that alone does to their endocrine system??

      • Butt-surfing has been really expanding! Lots of open jobs for software developers but hardly any for mountain bikers.

      • Butt in chair is one of those confounding factors. Another interesting confounding factor is fad diet health impacts. Once you are “labeled” obese you are more likely to experiment with various fad diets to ditch the label, the over doing it effect.

        The canned tuna diet came close to killing a number of people and highlighted the Mercury issue. The high dollar “white” tuna and Albaco has more Mercury so the more affluent were more greatly impacted.

  22. I would like to point out that while the focus of my taxonomy of funding-induced biases is Federal funding, it also applies to industry funding, or any funding. In fact for each of the 15 different biases we give a snapshot of the existing research and most of that is on industry funding (where there is any). The biomedical community does most of it, because human health and lives are at stake, as with the sugar issue.
    See my

  23. There is extreme point of view bias in academia that doesn’t need funding as an excuse. Any topic touching on social issues, psychology, economics, history, etc. is heavily affected by politics/worldview and academia is 95% voting democratic. Many faculty are quite radical (left). No conspiracy or nudge is needed for them to agree that sugar is bad, smoking should be banned, socialism is good, the minimum wage should be raised, etc etc. On a topic like climate, separating real impacts from the fevered imagination of people who see the end of the world everywhere all the time (like John Ehrlich way back in 1970) is unlikely to be done objectively.

  24. David Wojick’s point:

    “As Kuhn pointed out, the paradigm defines the questions and CAGW is the paradigm in climate science today. That is the bias issue.”

    is correct except the bias, at least from my point of view precedes the paradigm. The bias begins with the Administrations’s appointment of the Department Administrator who then chooses the Department Head who will follow the guidance of the Administration. Department Head pliability; not making waves; being agreeable in a disagreeable situation; being a “yes” man/woman. The Department Head then chooses the lead staffers and so on down the line. The Staffers then choose who to invite to write and review Requests For Proposals. Only known people with a known perspective are allowed. Money and administrative resources are then allocated to the Administration’s priority and all other projects are either carried to completion and not renewed, or administratively axed: “no results yet? bad project. Terminate funds. Thank you very much for your time and effort. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

    Bias all starts at the Administration level, and really at the Donor’s level who then help select the administration’s choices for Senate approval for Government Agency appointments. The President’s Chief of Staff then makes sure the Administration’s paradigm is articulated in all the right nooks and crannies of political power.

    Only later do we hear where the the biases originated. CAGW is no different. We have a complicit President, encircled, as one might envision a moat, with the first line of defense for the castle walls: the Manns, Schmidts, etc under the watchful eyes of now, Tom S.

    • David Wojick

      The political appointees certainly play a role, but in the climate science case much of the paradigm protecting bias exists at the career level. Gore in particular staffed up the USGCRP agency program offices with CAGW alarmists. We skeptics were appalled that when Bush came in he left most of those people in place, as he had no interest in the climate science issue.

  25. Government agencies that provide research funding are the elephant in the room. The bureaucratic imperative is to grow and maintaining/increasing the research budget is part of that.

    Government RFPs are rarely written in a vacuum. The symbiotic relationships between research contractors and government agencies are obvious. There is a great deal of coordination (e.g., tailoring the RFP to exclude potential competition) and padding of annual budget requests — simply “throwing some money” at a favored contractor is not unheard of.

    About the only example of budgetary punishment for failed/incompetent research that I can think of was the time EIA paid a contractor to conduct the periodic CBECS survey of commercial building energy consumption. The contractor so flubbed the work that the Congressionally mandated tri-annual CBECS update could not be produced. In response, Congress cut the office’s budget.

  26. I started a project about a new class of solar tracker (for dirt poor countries). I called the new trackers “dripper trackers” . There are 3 main variations. And a researcher from University of Victoria said it would be a “perfect project” for a student to complete in the “mecatronics” program. He was actually quite excited about it. Ideally a tiny stepper motor would be the timer for the thing. But 3 months later, “sorry, we cannot complete the project because you are not a company and you have no plans to commercialize the result”. And because I released the plans on the net, this applies to all universities worldwide. (Because they all have this stupid rules). Charity research is forbidden. And frankly, without the weight of a university “proof” that it works, nobody will bother with it. This is a weakness in the system. We should not be abandoning things because someone has no plans to commercialize it. Other people can commercialize it if they wish but it is never going to happen without the initial university input. Brian

    • The university role is overrated.

      Build it, record a video of it working, post the video on YouTube…

    • I work with High School age kids. We have several ongoing projects. Last year they did a gas, smoke, and motion detector (I’m testing it in my entry hallway), a theremin, and left a self guided maze navigating car about half way done. Last month a couple of them came by with an idea so weird I’m not free to discuss it. Bottom line: if you find smart HS students they seem to take to it very well. All you’ll need is a couple of hundred dollars a semester to help out when their parents start complaining about the cost of the lab equipment or parts.

    • Brian, a tracking version with bird poop avoidance would go well with the coast guard aids to navigation. Just get it to face down at night to cut down on guano and possibly jiggle a bit when it senses a bird perching on it during the day.

  27. When corn syrup was cheap and excess sugar intake was being rightfully demonized, there were claims that high-fructose corn syrup was healthier than sugar. When sugar became cheaper, the reverse claim was made. But there has apparently has been only one published study showing any difference, and it was funded by the NIH. (

    The real culprit in misleading consumers is the media.

    • Yes. It seems we only demand science be careful when mistakes lead to immediate catastrophic danger to life, as there is in pharma research. If we demanded the same kind to quality out of all science as we do medicine, and as Dr. Michael Crichton suggested, to have competing interests concurrently do the same study in open competition, it would be very hard to broadcast junk conclusions.

      The losers in those competitions would have dings against them that would impair their future funding, kind of like pairing boxing matches.

  28. As someone who practiced workers compensation law for 17 years and frequently deposed expert witnesses (mostly specialist physicians), my opinion is that bias is intrinsic to human beings and is always present. The question is not whether there is bias, but whether a researcher is aware of his or her own biases and has the self-awareness and honesty to put them aside when the science comes down in a manner that challenges the researchers innate bias. It can be put aside, but it is almost always there.

    I should also add that in trying cases before juries, it becomes apparent that people from different walks of life have highly predictable biases. For instance, in all my years of workers comp trials, I never had a farmer or insurance agent decide in favor of a worker. On the other hand, people with back injuries tend to be highly sympathetic to workers with back injuries.

    Of course, government scientists and university scientists quite often have huge biases, but a large number of them are so simple minded and lacking in self-awareness that they are oblivious to their own bias.


    • Even Kahneman says that his research on bias has not made him any better at spotting his own bias. The best way to deal with bias is to decorrelate bias by having a diverse group of people involved in any process. Is the climate science community diverse? Is the science community diverse? How do we define diversity?

      In my own experience the high tech world Is not diverse – it is dominated by young men. Over time, the bias is self-selecting and self-reinforcing. Could something similar be said of climate science?

  29. “In climate change research, there is no righteous source of funding –”

    This…only without the limitation to climate science. Science tells us very little–and most of what we think it tells us, it doesn’t. See, e.g., John Ioannidis, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, PLoS Med. 2005, Aug; 2(8); e124; The painful truth is that “science” has essentially taken over as the predominant religion of modern society–what the guys in vestments (lab coats) tell us, we accept without challenge, because, after all, who are we to argue with a scientist? By the 1970s, this process had progressed to the point where Carl Sagan was taken seriously, even when he was opining on matters having nothing to do with his scientific expertise.

    This is equally true of both servants and enthusiasts of the public and private sectors alike. Honestly, the most dangerous development in the public psyche today is the bizarre idea that government can be trusted. No–EVERYONE has their own agenda, and the government is made up of people, too. The only defense against self-dealing is sunshine and skepticism.

    • Add the Amgen and Bayer efforts to replicate. Science has no quality control. Scientists make bold representations to the public about “findings” they read in the abstract of a paper as if all published papers are true when the reality is that most are wrong. This is fraud in the real world (specifically negligent or reckess misrepresentation), but the poor scientists have no clue.

  30. I see part of the problem as the religious influence that science results are now given. Its like every paper is a new verse from the lips of the holy. Used to be people would roll their eyes at science reports. But common sense seems to have evaporated and any sort of human wisdom that used to buffer society from science seems to have evaporated. Papers go straight to (poorly thought out) policy, which the leads to the unintended consequence cascade.
    I notice it in the technology fields where each new technology is pushed as the revolutionary solution. But those of us in the field for years understand the larger dimensions to any solution, the human elements; management, morale, skillset distribution, tendancy for solutions to be WORSE, plus the accumulation of benefits that a traditional solution accumulates with use, which the new technological solution will miss.
    Technological should not be a religion.
    And fortran still sux.

    • Good observation. I think people who do not show due deference to “science” are judged as deficient, as perhaps belonging to an “out” group. Worshipping and deferring to science shows one to be deserving as a member of the “in” group. The tribal cycle feeds itself.

    • I will try to describe a very odd thing (without using names) that I see with some regularity. It happens with people who believe in in psychics, spiritual healing, alternative medicine and such who frequently say things like “there is more than can be known by science” or “science is necessarily incomplete”. These are people who have in their view standing up against the tyranny and overselling of science. They react with vehemence and disdane toward those who express any doubt about the climate orthodoxy, calling them science deniers. What can that be but tribalism?

      • Engineering is unforgiving to counting on spiritual force or spiritual enlightenment or tribalism. Even medicine can get away with it for a time.

      • When I see New age, alternate spiritual business nowadays I just have to think of Yuri Bezmenov’s tactic of getting people into as many nonsensical organizations as possible to help diffuse the stronger ties of tradition and church.
        All part of the liberal collective in the end, though, so not surprised they side with the climate evangelists!

  31. I’m afraid of oil, gas, and other energy companies getting involved in climate research. There is just too much to gain from anti-ghg policy. It’s a great way to prevent competition.

    Cap and trade in particular would benefit current oligopolies, especially oil producing nation states. It restricts supply in the now, driving up prices, and at the same time give current producers a claim on extraction in the future.

  32. Funding doesn’t matter. The organization of the science does.

    If it’s organized, it’s corrupt.

    If you’re paying for curiosity, you’re okay. But it’s not going to organize. It will just be curious. Advancements will happen by accident and only retroactively be recognized, at a point that somebody’s taking charge and corrupting the field.

  33. I think the analogy between climate science and some of the diet and nutrition scares is very helpful. It helps us to understand that people with credentials can get things wrong, get caught up in group think, etc., and that government research can be biased. I think governments are retreating from the scares about fat, cholesterol and salt, but the sugar one probably still has credibility. That’s one out of four. Bureaucrats and politicians probably thought they had to provide a counterweight to the food industry, which might sell crap for profit; so they’re willing to use massive funding to cultivate group think. Before you know it, Lewis Black is able to ask his audience: “Is milk good for you or not?,” and get no answer because we don’t know whom to trust.

  34. “When should research come with a ‘warning’ label?”

    No great mystery : when the funder has an obvious vested interest in the outcome.

    – tobacco companies, because they obviously stand to benefit from a finding that smoking is safe
    – governments, because they obviously stand to benefit from a finding of CAGW

  35. 3/4’s of scientific funding comes from private entrerprise…

    But somehow when it comes to climate science, you are treated as though your sleeping with the enemy

    Give me a break

    • 3/4’s of scientific funding comes from private entrerprise…

      But close to 100% for climate science is from government.

      (Hence the ‘conclusions’ favoring government).

  36. DOE Carbon Storage Program advances the development and validation of technologies that enable safe, cost-effective, permanent geologic storage of CO2:
    Partners are the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratory, and Chevron: $1,323,866, of which $1,061,886 will come from DOE, and $267,000 is non-DOE funding.

    Other grant recipients:
    The University of North Dakota Cost: DOE: $2,507,627 / Non-DOE: $696,600 / Total Funding: $3,204,227
    The University of Texas at Austin Cost: DOE: $1,315,873 / Non-DOE: $346,354 / Total Funding: $1,662,227
    Archer Daniels Midland Cost: DOE: $2,891,996 / Non-DOE: $728,897 / Total Funding: $3,620,893
    Battelle Memorial Institute Cost: DOE: $1,149,327 / Non-DOE: $327,868 / Total Funding: $1,477,195
    Montana State University Cost: DOE: $2,000,000 / Non-DOE: $518,750 / Total Funding: $2,518,750
    C-Crete Technologies LLC Cost: DOE: $1,999,414 / Non-DOE: $499,960 / Total Funding: $2,499,374
    The University of Colorado (Sandia National Laboratories) is a partner in the project) Cost: DOE: $1,038,475 / Non-DOE: $261,525 / Total Funding: $1,300,000
    The University of Virginia Cost: DOE: $609,639 / Non-DOE: $167,236 / Total Funding: $776,875

    • How many tons of CO2 has DOE “permanently stored,” and what is the cost per pound?

      My guess is that the CO2 would be better and more productively stored in plant growth that might eventually be used as fossil fuel.

  37. “Our results,” write the authors in their paper in PLOS Medicine, “confirm the hypothesis that authors of systematic reviews may draw their conclusions in ways consistent with their sponsors’ interests”

    In the sugar sweetened beverage wars the conflict of interest story has achieved prominence. Those who make a living at selling sweetened beverages have a conflict of interest when telling their story. Those who are from the “crunchy granola” crowd, the “healthy whole wheat (bird seed)” nutrition advocates have no conflict of interest when they study and report upon diet, sugar intake, and obesity.

    For me, the lessons of high carbohydrate and absent protein diets were settled during the war in Biafra (Southern Nigeria), the tribal (Igbo) war where families lived on foraged yams and the protein content of their diet was zilch. The Harvard academics battled each other regarding what diet led to marasmus and which led to kwashiorkor and children developing red hair at age two years.

    Exciting stuff, mostly deduced while musing and ensconced in the Channing Lab in Baaston, Mass. Its hard to argue with Harvard scientists who know they are right.

    When one lives in the world of “maybe” and you are always second guessing one’s self, straight out of the box, self-assured academics seem to carry the political day. It is only after the passage of time and a little more thoughtfulness that the conflict of interest meme is replaced, at least in some minds, of a consideration of the facts.

  38. “That said, funding is probably a smaller source of bias than peer pressure to follow a consensus and to defend your own hypothesis, not to mention political preferences, environmental proclivities and career pressures.”

    I thought there was professional pressure to do new science and not to follow the crowd, Isn’t that how you get recognition and awards? Einstein being a prime example.

    • Joseph-
      No – funding is the primary force.

      It selects who will and will not get to be a peer that exerts peer pressure in the first place, and so get to decide any consensus.

      And where – as in climate science – there are large political ramifications, this selection process will also extend to which political beliefs and environmental will and will not be allowed on the team.

      • Punksta, so what aspects of climate science are not being funded and what’s the evidence for this?

      • Joseph, the aspects that are not getting funded are the various well known natural variability issues. The evidence is that if you read the annual reports — “Our Changing Planet” — of the USGCRP (which summarize the annual $2.5 billion US climate change research program) you will find virtually zero mention of natural variability. Solar variability is not there. LIA emergence is not there. Ocean circulation is not there. Chaotic oscillation is not here. It is all about CAGW. See

        This is what I call paradigm protection, where CAGW is the paradigm. They protect it by not looking beyond it.

      • The evidence is that if you read the annual reports — “Our Changing Planet” — of the USGCRP (which summarize the annual $2.5 billion US climate change research program) you will find virtually zero mention of natural variability. Solar variability is not there. LIA emergence is not there.

        Are you telling me that research on natural variability (like solar) isn’t or can’t get funding? Any evidence>

      • David, the EPA is high level summary for the public and not a reflection of all climate research.

      • I get 148,000 hits for natural climate variability on Google Scholar since 2011. The real number is going to be a lot less.

        There could be 10,000,000,000 hits and, how does Mosher put it, nothing would change.

      • Joseph

        Unfortunately David is broadly correct. As you know I am interested in historic natural variability and observations and have had a number of meetings at the Met office on this subject.

        There is no doubt the met office is interested in this topic and several years ago removed from their website a refetence that stated the climate was broadly static until recent times.

        I was told however that there was no money in any budgets to look into the type of work I was doing as the met office considered there were other things they needed to concentrate on in order to meet their govt brief of researching what future climate will be like as this ties in with the uk’s legal requirement to cut carbon emissions.

        Individually there are some scientists interested in natural variability but I think the last major paper on this topic was by Phil jones In 2006 who expressed himself surprised by the extent of the natural variability he observed during the very warm 1730’s which came to a grinding halt in the extremely severe winter of 1740 .


      • David Wojick

        Joseph, when you say EPA do you mean OCP, which is what I am referring to? Digging deeper the USGCRP includes a huge interagency program on the carbon cycle, but no solar cycle program. NASA tried to launch a sun-climate research program several years ago but got shot down. The Danish are doing most of the work in this field.

        There is a big program on aerosols and clouds but almost nothing on ocean circulation and climate. The LIA is not even mentioned, in any agency funding request that I can find, but there is a big effort to predict economic damages 300 years from now from today’s CO2 emissions (the so-called social cost of carbon). There is nothing on the economic benefits of increasing CO2 levels, even though CO2 is the global food supply. I can go on.

        The USGCRP is completely dominated by the CAGW paradigm. It is a classic Kuhnian situation.

      • David Wojick

        JCH, you are not doing your GS search correctly. Searching Google Scholar on the exact phrase “natural climate variability” gives just 10,900 hits, and just 4,000 or so journal articles since 2011. Search on “climate change” gives about 1,700,000 hits, with almost 400,000 hits since 2011.

        These outlandish ratios are a good indicator of the pro-CAGW bias in climate research. (GS hit numbers are pretty accurate.) They are similar to the semantic ratios I am finding in the research program descriptions. Natural variability is a distant outlier.

      • Digging deeper the USGCRP includes a huge interagency program on the carbon cycle, but no solar cycle program. NASA tried to launch a sun-climate research program several years ago but got shot down. The Danish are doing most of the work in this field.

        Right , David,I was under a misunderstanding there.. But after looking at the USGCRP site, I didn’t see anything about funding. There is a lot of research going on all over the world on these topics that doesn’t involve the USGCRP. I am not sure why you focus on this particular program and extrapolate to all climate related research..

      • natural climate variability

        I don’t know that this particular phrase iis used very often, David. Try climate and “natural variability”

      • Oh and 16,300 results since 2011 on that one. Too bad the relevant studies can’t get funding.

      • Joseph –

        You need to consider the interests of the funder, which in the case of climate science is the state (in the broad sense).

        Now the state’s interests obviously lie in a finding of CAGW, since this gives the state an apparently watertight excuse for expanding and rewarding itself – grabbing more power and more mpney – putting up taxes, adding more bureaucracies and regulations; in general, moving towards a more totalitarian (state-controlled) society.

        (This is in general uncritically accepted and celebrated by those with totalitarian leanings (the Left, more or less), but questioned by moderates and others who value a free society).

        It is therefore quite predictable that state-funded climate science will show little or no interest in dispassionate objectivity, but instead have a built-in bias to try and convince everyone of CAGW regardless. This it will achieve by means of the people and projects it selects to be funded, and those it declines to fund.

      • I don’t even know what funding CAGW means. You conduct a study and the result speak for themselves. And you haven’t provided any evidence that the state is somehow shaping the results of these studies. It’s true that governments funding research related to climate change because they want to know about the impacts, but doesn’t that mean they are predetermining the results of studies or excluding research that would prove AGW wrong.or lessen our certainty about it.

      • David Wojick

        Joseph, my understanding is that the USGCRP represents about 50% of all government funding for basic climate research in the world. And the government funding is almost all of the basic research. The US is by far the leader in this area, hence my focus. Tony has suggested that British funding is similarly skewed.

        As to your other point, I addressed this early on. Funding does not determine the outcome, it determines the question. RFP’s ask specific questions. For example the US is spending vast amounts studying the details of the carbon cycle, while ignoring the sun-climate link. This is a de facto assumption that climate change is driven by carbon not the sun. This is the core assumption of AGW. Nor is AGW being tested, rather it is being assumed. This is how a paradigm steers science, as Kuhn pointed out in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” over 50 years ago.

      • David Wojick

        Joseph, if you use “climate” and “natural variability” you will get a lot of studies that just happen to use both of those phrases, each somewhere in the document, but which are not about natural variability of climate. You could take a random sample and determine the estimated fraction that are actually abou natural variation in climate. Of course it would include the 4000 that use “natural climate variation.”

        Also, 16,000 articles is dwarfed by the 400,000 articles using the term “climate change.” 16,000 is still virtually nothing as these things go, just 4%. If 4% of the funding is going to study natural variability and 96% is going to study CAGW then that is a huge bias. In reality a lot of the natural variability studies are done to prove that we cannot explain the warming without AGW. That is a mainline IPCC argument.

    • Joseph –

      I don’t even know what funding CAGW means

      It means you bias your funding to select people and projects predisposed to ‘conclude’ CAGW, rather than those after the truth.

      This is done in pursuit of vested interest, since it justifies government giving itself more taxes and powers. Similar to say a drug company biasing its research into its own drugs, so as to enhance its prospects. Only order of magnitude bigger.

      He who pays the piper.

      • It means you bias your funding to select people and projects predisposed to ‘conclude’ CAGW

        That’s not how science works unless you are intentionally committing fraud. You can’t know how an experiment will turn out until you actually do it. And even if this were occurring where is the evidence?

      • It’s not how science is SUPPOSED to work, no. But only the deeply naive can think this actually happens in cases where the funder has a vested interest in the outcome though.

        And from Climategate and the official coverups of it run by the implicated universities themselves, to exonerate themselves, we have a pretty good idea of how corrupt climate science is.

  39. Judith: FWIW, let me express the opinion that society should be most concerned about funding from environmental groups. Unlike businesses, the only “product” environmental groups sell is FEAR, not a tangible good for which people typically pay for. Unlike other products, it is very difficult to assess the value of the products of the environmental industry. Furthermore, fear is somewhat like drug addiction – selling more fear creates greater demand (and donations) for the services of environmental advocacy groups.

    When I moved to Los Angeles for college in 1970, the air pollution was so bad that it literally hurt to take a deep breath for the first few days. Love Canal and the burning Cuyahoga river were in the news. In those days, I thought the environment advocacy industry was selling a valuable product in those days. Many of those problems are under control. Rather than going out of business when their products were no longer needed, today they are selling fear of GM-foods, fracking, and the absurd combination of CO2 emissions plus nuclear power.

    The environmental advocacy industry is at least a $1B/year industry, solely devoted to one purpose. Other industries have far greater revenue, but can only devote a tiny fraction of that to combatting the environmental lobby. So the environmental advocacy industry has the impact of industries with annual revenues of perhaps $0.1-1T/year.

    WWF $525M
    NRDC $119M
    Sierra Club $98M
    Greenpeace ca $80M

    • The scientific method includes running a internal control or null check against bias. I believe all the examples you cite and more make it clear a traditional control is not enough. It’s time to include at least one external competitive study as a new protocol. Nobody likes competition, so don’t look for it to spring up naturally. Crichton had a brilliant vision and its a shame so few are seeing it. Why not just try it once and see how it works? Make a reality show/documentary out of it.

    • Nice perspective. The natural course of things seems to be that at one time environmental advocacy was underfunded and inadequately effective. It has made much needed strides and became effective and obtained adequate funding. The success of environmental advocacy has been in some ways like a “cure” for a disease, but the organizational apparatus remains and has grown strong and powerful at the same time their marketing and advocacy skills have become extremely effective. They have become more driven by internal goals than external reality, with insufficient concerns for tradeoffs or the greater good. It’s a question of balance. If you don’t think that is the case now, you should see that organizational behavior will push it that way one day, and the question for you is how will you recognize that when it occurs?

      • This is the story of unions, especially public unions like teachers. Organizational success means growth, and more growth until the organization becomes such a hindrance to the common good. Then a new organization springs up (i.e. theTea Party) to attempt to reign things in. Judging by Trump’s uncanny popularity there is a broad sentiment against organized advocacy, (i.e. K Street).

  40. If it takes private sector funding to support research that reveals the truth, shouldn’t we welcome it?

    Most effort should be going into trying to replicate research results and to trying to falsify hypotheses. That’s clearly not what is happening. There’s no funding for that. The funding is for doing more research aimed at strengthening the case for the orthodox views,.

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