Dan Sarewitz on Saving Science

By Judith Curry

Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, scientists must come out of the lab and into the real world.Daniel Sarewitz

Daniel  Sarewitz has published an important essay entitled Saving Science, published in The New Atlantis.  The article is a tour de force, and I definitely recommend that you read the entire thing.  The article is lengthy (approaching 14,000 words), but it is very readable.

Not only does the article integrate many of the issues discussed previously at CE under the Sociology of Science tab, but it is chock full with new insights.

Below, I’ve excerpted about 1900 words from the essay — no easy task since all of it is important — to provide a sense of his arguments and main points.

Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

Much of the problem can be traced back to a bald-faced but beautiful lie upon which rests the political and cultural power of science:

Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.

So deeply embedded in our cultural psyche that it seems like an echo of common sense, this powerful vision of science comes from Vannevar Bush, the M.I.T. engineer who had been the architect of the nation’s World War II research enterprise. As the war drew to a close, Bush envisioned transitioning American science to a new era of peace, where top academic scientists would continue to receive the robust government funding they had grown accustomed to since Pearl Harbor but would no longer be shackled to the narrow dictates of military need and application.

The fruits of curiosity-driven scientific exploration into the unknown have often been magnificent. Scientists have discovered and probed phenomena that turned out to have enormously broad technological applications. But the (technological) miracles of modernity came not from “the free play of free intellects,” but from the leashing of scientific creativity to the technological needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The story of how DOD mobilized science to help create our world exposes the lie for what it is and provides three difficult lessons that have to be learned if science is to evade the calamity it now faces.

First, scientific knowledge advances most rapidly, and is of most value to society, not when its course is determined by the “free play of free intellects” but when it is steered to solve problems — especially those related to technological innovation.

Second, when science is not steered to solve such problems, it tends to go off half-cocked in ways that can be highly detrimental to science itself.

Third — and this is the hardest and scariest lesson — science will be made more reliable and more valuable for society today not by being protected from societal influences but instead by being brought, carefully and appropriately, into a direct, open, and intimate relationship with those influences.

How DOD Gave Science Its Mojo

Americans lionize the scientist as head-in-the-clouds genius (the Einstein hero) and the inventor as misfit-in-the-garage genius (the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates hero). The discomfiting reality, however, is that much of today’s technological world exists because of DOD’s role in catalyzing and steering science and technology. This was industrial policy, and it worked because it brought all of the players in the innovation game together, disciplined them by providing strategic, long-term focus for their activities, and shielded them from the market rationality that would have doomed almost every crazy, over-expensive idea that today makes the world go round. The great accomplishments of the military-industrial complex did not result from allowing scientists to pursue “subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity,” but by channeling that curiosity toward the solution of problems that DOD wanted to solve. 

War on Cancer

Ultimately, “all the money that was thrown at breast cancer created more problems than success,” Visco says. What seemed to drive many of the scientists was the desire to “get above the fold on the front page of the New York Times,” not to figure out how to end breast cancer. It seemed to her that creativity was being stifled as researchers displayed “a lemming effect,” chasing abundant research dollars as they rushed from one hot but ultimately fruitless topic to another. “At some point,” Visco says, “you really have to save a life.”

Einstein, We Have a Problem

Science isn’t self-correcting; it’s self-destructing.

Part of the problem surely has to do with the pathologies of the science system itself. Academic science, especially, has become an onanistic enterprise worthy of Swift or Kafka.

The professional incentives for academic scientists to assert their elite status are perverse and crazy, and promotion and tenure decisions focus above all on how many research dollars you bring in, how many articles you get published, and how often those articles are cited in other articles.

To bring in research grants, you need to show that your previous grants yielded “transformative” results and that your future work will do the same. To get papers published, you need to cite related publications that provide support for your hypotheses and findings. Meanwhile, the peers who review funding proposals and journal articles are playing in the same system, competing for the same funds, motivated by the same incentives. To get the research done you need graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to do most of the grunt work of running experiments and collecting data, which is how they get trained and acculturated to become the next generation of academic scientists behaving the same way.

Universities — competing desperately for top faculty, the best graduate students, and government research funds — hype for the news media the results coming out of their laboratories, encouraging a culture in which every scientist claims to be doing path-breaking work that will solve some urgent social problem. The scientific publishing industry exists not to disseminate valuable information but to allow the ever-increasing number of researchers to publish more papers — now on the order of a couple million peer-reviewed articles per year — so that they can advance professionally.

One cumulative result of these converging stresses is a well-recognized pervasive bias that infects every corner of the basic research enterprise — a bias toward the new result: come up with a positive result, show something new, different, eye-catching, transformational, something that announces you as part of the elite.

The reason that bias seems able to infect research so easily today is that so much of science is detached from the goals and agendas of the military-industrial innovation system, which long gave research its focus and discipline. Nothing is left to keep research honest save the internal norms of the professional, peer-review system itself. And how well are those norms holding up? A survey of more than 1,500 scientists published by Nature in May 2016 shows that 80 percent or more believe that scientific practice is being undermined by such factors as “selective reporting” of data, publication pressure, poor statistical analysis, insufficient attention to replication, and inadequate peer review.

Lemmings Studying Mice

Technology keeps science honest. But for subjects that are incredibly complex, such as Alzheimer’s disease and criminal behavior, the connection between scientific knowledge and technology is tenuous and mediated by many assumptions — assumptions about how science works; about how society works; or about how technology works. The assumptions become invisible parts of the way scientists design experiments, interpret data, and apply their findings. The result is ever more elaborate theories — theories that remain self-referential, and unequal to the task of finding solutions to human problems.

But Is It Science?

Problems of values, assumptions, and ideology are not limited to neuroscience but are pervasive across the scientific enterprise.

In his 1972 article “Science and Trans-Science,” Weinberg observed that society would increasingly be calling upon science to understand and address the complex problems of modernity. But he accompanied this recognition with a much deeper and more powerful insight: that such problems “hang on the answers to questions that can be asked of science and yet which cannot be answered by science.” He called research into such questions “trans-science.” This means that the objects and phenomena studied by trans-science are never absolute but instead are variable, imprecise, uncertain — and thus always potentially subject to interpretation and debate.

Weinberg’s pleas for “selfless honesty” in drawing the lines of expertise have gone largely unheeded, as scientists have, over the past forty years, generally sought not to distinguish trans-science from science but to try — through what amounts to a modern sort of alchemy — to transmute trans-science into science, without getting any closer to a final or useful answer.

Trans-scientific questions often reveal multiple truths, depending in part on what aspects of an issue scientists decide to do research on and how they go about doing that research. This is why science almost never provides a solution to politically controversial issues. Usually it does the opposite, providing peer-reviewed and thus culturally validated truths that can be selected and assembled in whatever ways are necessary to support the position and policy solution of your choice. What we have, instead, is trans-science that “weaves back and forth across the boundary between what is and what is not known and knowable.”

Even the vaunted scientific consensus around climate change — which largely rests on fundamental physics that has been well understood for more than a century — applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming. The minute you get into questions about the rate and severity of future impacts, or the costs of and best pathways for addressing them, no semblance of consensus among experts remains. Mathematical models of future rates and consequences of climate change are highly sensitive to assumptions about things that are totally unpredictable, and so the models spew out endless streams of trans-scientific facts that allow for claims and counterclaims, all apparently sanctioned by science, about how urgent the problem is and what needs to be done. If we were instead to exercise the “selfless honesty” advocated by Weinberg and own up to the assumptions that led us to the results of the climate models, then we would have to abandon any claim to an absolute, scientific truth that gives those results their legitimacy in society. 

Returning to Our World

In the future, scientists will link research agendas to the quest for improved solutions — often technological ones — rather than to understanding for its own sake. The science they produce will be of higher quality, because it will have to be. The current dominant paradigm will meanwhile continue to crumble under the weight of its own contradictions, but it will also continue to hog most of the resources and insist on its elevated social and political status.

Advancing according to its own logic, much of science has lost sight of the better world it is supposed to help create. Shielded from accountability to anything outside of itself, the “free play of free intellects” begins to seem like little more than a cover for indifference and irresponsibility. The tragic irony here is that the stunted imagination of mainstream science is a consequence of the very autonomy that scientists insist is the key to their success. Only through direct engagement with the real world can science free itself to rediscover the path toward truth.

JC Reflections

Re the ‘beautiful lie’.  Characterizing Vannevar Bush’s statement as a ‘lie’ doesn’t seem quite right to me — it was an idea and an experiment that didn’t provide a very big bang for the large bucks that were expended.  While use-inspired research should be the main target for government research funding, pure basic research remains important but should only receive substantial government funding when budgets are fat (which happens to be almost never, in the U.S. anyways)

A previous CE post Pastuer’s Quadrant discussed the tensions between pure, curiosity-driven research versus use-inspired research.  My main concern in context of climate science was too much emphasis on the lower half of the quadrant, notably the box I labeled as ‘taxonomy’.  ‘Trans-science’ seems to be the appropriate label for this box.  This is the first time I have come across the label of ‘trans-science,’  how can this be?  It seems to describe the same sort of thing as ‘post-normal science,’ but I vastly prefer the label ‘trans-science.’  Although the useful thing about post-normal is that it works to open up scientific discourse, to identify complex cultural and political situations, and to improve and extend the range of practices of an applied science [link] — in other words, it doesn’t oversell postnormal science and avoids the alchemy of trans-science into science.

Sarewitz’s analysis of the toxic and pointless environment of academic research is spot on.  With regards to Sayrewitz’s punchline — his concluding paragraph:

Advancing according to its own logic, much of science has lost sight of the better world it is supposed to help create. Shielded from accountability to anything outside of itself, the “free play of free intellects” begins to seem like little more than a cover for indifference and irresponsibility. The tragic irony here is that the stunted imagination of mainstream science is a consequence of the very autonomy that scientists insist is the key to their success. Only through direct engagement with the real world can science free itself to rediscover the path toward truth.

I think that he is spot on in terms of the analysis and cause of the problem.  However, ‘direct engagement with the real world,’ for science that is not directly associated with technology, leads us into the quagmire of trans-science. For problems that are delineated as ‘trans-science’ — and human caused climate change is one of them — the solution is not not direct engagement with the real world, which leads to politicization and the attendant biases.  Rather, for trans-science problems, the solution is to get back to the basic sciences, and attempt to improve the scientific underpinnings of the basic problem being addressed.

I’m trying to reflect on all this in the context of my own career trajectory in atmospheric/climate sciences, since the 1980’s.    Until the mid 1990’s, my research was fully in the basic research quadrant, motivated by understanding the climate processes in the Arctic.  It wasn’t until the 1990’s that it became apparent (to me, anyways) that the Arctic was potentially a bellwether for human caused climate change.  I began framing my research proposals in this context, arguably moving more into use-inspired research.  Circa 2000, I became disenchanted with global climate models and their bureaucracy (all this just didn’t seem useful for science), and I went back to basics (focusing on cloud microphysics).

In 2005, I entered the world of applied and trans-science with the publication of the Webster et al. hurricanes and global warming paper.  In 2006 we formed our company Climate Forecast Applications Network.  Over the past decade, my research has been squarely on the right-hand side of box (use-inspired research and applied research).  I’m actually making a difference in terms of providing useful information to clients (government and private sector), and their problems and challenges are leading to interesting and potentially publishable research (I rarely bother to publish any of this).  In 2010 I entered the blogosphere, mainly to call out and understand what I am now calling trans-science.  At this point, I have little interest in academic research and my intellectual activities are almost wholly driven by interactions with real world.  I feel that engaging with the real world has provided a more meaningful and ultimately more interesting path for my scientific research and applications.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of reactions and response Sarewitz’s essay will elicit.  Here’s to hoping that we will see some changes in academic scientific research.

 

154 responses to “Dan Sarewitz on Saving Science

  1. Pingback: Dan Sarewitz on Saving Science – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. “If we were instead to exercise the “selfless honesty” advocated by Weinberg and own up to the assumptions that led us to the results of the climate models, then we would have to abandon any claim to an absolute, scientific truth that gives those results their legitimacy in society.” … this is the sentence that seemed most relevant to me. Settled science does not exist in climate science. I look forward to reading the entire paper.

  3. Judith,

    Sayrewitz’s analysis of the toxic and pointless environment of academic research is spot on.

    How do you reconcile this with your arguments against advocacy? It would seem that you’re now suggesting that science must directly engage with the real world. At the same time, you appear to argue against anything that might be perceived as a form of advocacy. It seems that you’re trying to paint scientists into an ever narrow region of space; one where they have to solve real world problems, but they must be careful as to how they determine what real world problems are worth solving – and they certainly mustn’t express any views as to whether or not we really should solve them; that’s for others to decide.

    FWIW, my impression of Sarewitz’s article is that he’s not trying to save science, he’s trying to turn it into something different. If he wants more engineering and technology development, why doesn’t he just come out and say so, rather than pretending that he’s trying to save something that – from reading his essay – he doesn’t understand particularly well.

    • The engagement should be related to technology needs. In my comments I cautioned regarding trans-science issues, which is where advocacy comes in.

      • Judith,
        I don’t see how you can make a distinction. Who decides what problems should be solved? Do scientists become people who simply wait to be told what problems they should tackle, or can they actively argue to solve specific problems? If they find a solution to a problem are they allowed to actively argue that it should be implemented, or do they have to sit back and wait for someone suitable to notice? What about fundamental science? Do we just stop it altogether?

        It seems to me that not only does Sarewitz’s article draw overly strong conclusions from limited examples, he also seems to confuse science and engineering. Additionally, his premise almost seems to be that science should always be perfect, or else it has failed and needs to be saved. I don’t think this is possible, nor is it how science actually works. It’s not a linear process, each step of which is perfect; it’s a highly complex process with many false starts and dead ends.

      • ATP – I think there is a lot of confusion between science and engineering going around. While I don’t believe there are always pure dichotomies, much of what is touted as scientific agreement around climate – addresses issues that are more appropriately addressed by engineers. Clearly PROGRAMS to reduce CO2 are in the sphere of engineering.

        I remember way back a professor describing the differences between engineers and scientists. The gist was that scientists thought to discover abstract truths for their own value, while engineers weighed various tradeoffs between resources, costs and benefits. His punch line followed from the observation that scientists don’t worry about costs so that the difference between engineers and scientists was that engineers have at least a little common sense.

        Programs to combat climate change that have minimal climatic impacts and staggering costs suggest that maybe we should not let scientists do the engineering.

      • If they find a solution to a problem are they allowed to actively argue that it should be implemented, or do they have to sit back and wait for someone suitable to notice?

        [… H]e also seems to confuse science and engineering.

        Putting these two quotes together, we can see a blatant example of rhetorical dishonesty. Not to mention straw man.

        Using the distinction implied above between “science and engineering”, no scientist would everfind a solution to a problem”. At most, they might find something that, with a lot of engineering, might becomea solution to a problem”.

        A straw-man argument typical of the most dishonest type(s) of rhetoric used to justify “scientists” advocating for “solutions” that normally don’t even have anything to do with their field(s) of expertise.

      • Typical Ken Rice.

        You may not be capable of making a distinction or able to comprehend how the source of funding could be decide what problems get solved. That shows either how limited your world is or it is just you trying to score style points.

        Sarewitz provides examples. I guess you must be right when you call them limited. WWII after all was a limited affair. The Manhattan Project was a low budget side show. Putting nuclear power into submarines was child’s play and then adding ICBM’s to their load out was the sort of problem you solve every day. We won’t even discuss the Space Program or DarpaNet.

      • …and Then There’s Physics | August 22, 2016 at 1:34 pm |

        “Do scientists become people who simply wait to be told what problems they should tackle, or can they actively argue to solve specific problems?”

        Become? They can’t become what they already are. If their government sources of research funding told them to figure out where to find blue cheese on the moon they’d be submitting proposals for moon rovers with cheese detectors so fast it would make your head spin.

      • Who decides what problems should be solved?

        I decided to spend my time on this topic. Because of it’s importance to society.
        I figure I’ve used about a half million of my time, if I had a customer paying for it.
        It’s how science use to be done.

      • The article is challenging, but is flawed by too few historical examples. Quite often, fundamental research aimed at one ‘application’ is found useless in that area but is revolutionary in another. Charge coupled devices failed as memory units because of the light sensitivity, but won their inventors a Nobel prize as imaging elements. Rabi, Purcell, and Bloch could not possibly have foreseen that Nuclear Magnetic Resonance would eventually become the method of choice for tumor imaging and treatment. But here it is, and being used every day.

        There always will be lots of folks among us (perhaps even a majority) who publish simply to multiply citations and attract large amounts of research funding. But this masks the fact that lots of good, creative research is being done for all of the right reasons (whether or not it is aimed at a particular application or need).

        One thing we need to keep cognizant of is our own tendency toward information bias. Because we hear more about violent crime worldwide (via the internet and the 24 hour news cycle) we assume it is on the rise. It may or may not be — one has to look carefully at the data. We hear more about flaws and outright fraud in scientific work and in scientific publications, but we are also in an era where scientific results can be subject to almost immediate scrutiny. So it is natural that more flaws will be discovered and reported. How can we possibly compare, in a statistically meaningful way, the general accuracy of applied physics research today to that of the 1930’s? It is like stitching modern global satellite data to ground based temperature measurements of a hundred years ago.

        What we do know, is that companies are constantly testing out new science in products and in manufacturing processes. Unless the government biases the results by forcing certain solutions, the science that works will probably survive, and the science that doesn’t will be shelved. A miracle material advertised to protect against impact will be tested in the ballistics laboratory; all of us hope that those final, critical tests are being accurately reported before it is given to a soldier or police officer.

        This example is a good one, because it illustrates how science can accommodate all kinds of shenanigans as long as the Big Test is carried out impartially and honestly. A government that, in its science and industrial policy, focuses on the impartial and honest tests can handle a good deal of chaos underneath.

        However , when governments bias research outcomes by systematically excluding critical analysis, someone will eventually pay the price in reputation, in safety, and/or in harm to the environment. (It happened repeatedly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.) This is perhaps the most important (and relevant) aspect of this discussion as it relates to the Climate Etc. community.

    • ATTP shows up and turns his attention to questioning Judith’s “consistency.” Ken Rice, is there a replication crisis? Sarawetz’s cure is not to your liking. So what do you propose other than just complaining about what others say?

    • Superficial issues of consistency aside, there is a sense in which Sarawetz is exactly right. Applied engineering says all the time it needs theoretical advances that are perfect for scientists to work on.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4095895/

      is a perfect example. The problem is that science pursues often wrong research on superficial issues. Science needs strong reforms and not artificial and wrong compartmentalization of it from other human activities.

    • I know this has been discussed ad nauseam and you have expressed you opinion many times. I went back over the blogs to remind myself. to start:

      Advocacy

      Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief.

      Start with this:
      “activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions”

      Now JC went before Ted Cruz’s committee was her aim to influence the committee advocacy? Perhaps in the broader sense but her advocacy was strictly about science she was not recommending a specific policy. She did point out what I believe Tol published and that is a number (miniscule) that is the result of attempted reduction of human CO2 emissions. Is that advocacy? Well Tol is now recommending a Carbon tax so it obviously didn’t stop him. By stating that is that advocacy for no attempt at reducing emissions? In my opinion it is not.

      Then this:
      ADVOCACY CAN include
      activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research…

      Media campaigns. I don’t think she does media campaigns unless you consider this blog to be one.

      Public speaking. Guilty! Now was she (or has she ever) specifically advocated for any policy outside of scientific integrity? Did the Cruz committee exploit her testimony for their own design. Perhaps but it still is not with her stamp of approval for their policy recommendations if there were any.

      Commissioning and publishing research. Now we’re into the category of horror stories like big oil or big tobacco on an Al Gore video.. She is, as far as I know not in the employ of any of these types of players except perhaps as clients of her climate prediction company. She voted for Barack Obama so maybe she is a consensus tool? I know some here probably believe that.

      No I firmly believe, unless otherwise convinced, that her and her company are advocating science and she would go out of business if she didn’t put forth research of the highest integrity. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong but it would behoove her to do everything possible to try and get it right!

    • For problems that are delineated as ‘trans-science’ — and human caused climate change is one of them — the solution is not not direct engagement with the real world

      IMO, the real world isn’t society, it’s the physical world, and not fantasy world simulations.

      There are plenty of real world simulations, even weather models fall into that category, it’s just GCM projecting out even 10 years isn’t one of them.

  4. The nice thing about weather and hurricane forcasts is if one gets them wrong consistently the customers don’t keep sending money for predictions. Not so much climate projections for the year 2100.
    Scott

  5. ==> Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, scientists must come out of the lab and into the real world. – ==>

    Another day, more alarmism and binary thinking (there are problems, so it must be broken) at Climate Etc.

    Perhaps rather that expecting perfection, it would make sense to reject the culture of entitlement.

    –snip–
    Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense. But I’ve spent months investigating the problems hounding science, and I’ve learned that the headline-grabbing cases of misconduct and fraud are mere distractions. The state of our science is strong, but it’s plagued by a universal problem: Science is hard — really ***king hard
    –snip–

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

    • Joshua, do you believe that a science writer for 538 is qualified to say much here? Sarawetz has editorials in Nature to his credit. It’s a distraction because real scientists in private say a lot of what Sarewotz says anyway. They are not going to say it to you as an annoying outsider.

      • David –

        Qualified? People express opinions. Their qualifications are relevant, but so is, primarily, the quality if their augmentation. Saraeetz employs some very weak and alarmist rhetoric, IMO, and that’s not particularly useful. The 538 writer makes some good arguments. Perhaps you’d offer some specific critique?

        I don’t dismiss your arguments on this issue because you have no relevant expertise, although your lack of expertise is information. I criticize your arguments on this issue because I think they are alarmist, seemingly to me influenced by your partisan perspective along a number of axis (as a skeptic,” as a conservative). I also don’t reject your opinions because you are an activist, although I do think that the strength of your arguments is diluted because your partisanship weakens the quality of your activism. That isn’t a function of activism per se, although there is often a association.

      • Steven Mosher

        Joshua.

        She didnt even make an argument.

        “To make science more reliable, we need to adjust our expectations of it.”

        That was her argument.

        1. An Assertion that science is self correcting.
        2. A demand that we change our expectations, such that its no longer broken.

        Other than that she reconfirmed everything that people have been complaining about.

        but if you merely redefine your expectations…….

      • Steven –

        I just thought if another beautiful irony here.

        You used to think that climate science is broken and needed to be saved.

        Then you started doing climate science, and found out that it isn’t broken, but it is hard. So you started telling other people, who think that it is easy and that it is broken, that they should stop being so lazy and do the hard work themselves, Wth the implication that they would then see that it isn’t broken, although it is hard.

        Too funny

      • Joshua, The first step is to stop misrepresenting my views and my “partisan” stance. I have never talked about politics here except in passing, so you can’t know except by mind reading. Perhaps you mean Ive expressed opinions about subjects on which I have a lot of qualifications and you being completely ignorant didn’t like what I said.

        I repeat, I have first hand knowledge about the fact that science has a serious problem. Your posting a link to a silly article by a science writer is quite frankly silly.

      • Steven Mosher

        “You used to think that climate science is broken and needed to be saved.

        Then you started doing climate science, and found out that it isn’t broken, but it is hard. So you started telling other people, who think that it is easy and that it is broken, that they should stop being so lazy and do the hard work themselves, Wth the implication that they would then see that it isn’t broken, although it is hard.”

        wrong.

        All science is broken.

        Improving some broken things is easy.

        You improve them by practicing. ( note I dont say fix or save )

        In short, it does little good to just bemoan the brokeness of science.
        It does little good to stand there and tell others how to do things
        Showing beats telling.

      • Mosher: “It does little good to stand there and tell others how to do things”

        In climate science, it appears it does little good to tell others that they did anything wrong – ask Steve Mc.

      • Well said Mosh. I knew the real Mr. Mosher was still in there somewhere. All science is wrong, all models are wrong, true is only true for a given value of true and for a given period of time. It’s the practice of science, combined with curiosity and scepticism that’s important. Always liked the word Praxis myself.

      • Steven Mosher

        Blunder.
        Yup

      • mosher, “In short, it does little good to just bemoan the brokeness of science.
        It does little good to stand there and tell others how to do things
        Showing beats telling.”

        Well, when showing and telling both don’t work, the next step is firing. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but half any group of scientists is below average so when you fire the lower performers, the quality of work picks up. Make one mistake = to 100 attaboys and attention to detail improves. When you have a no scientist left behind policy, quality has to erode.

        Finding brokeness (sic) and eliminating it is just part of the process. It is a tough real world out there.

      • I just thought if another beautiful irony here.

        You used to think that climate science is broken and needed to be saved.

        Then you started doing climate science, and found out that it isn’t broken, but it is hard. So you started telling other people, who think that it is easy and that it is broken, that they should stop being so lazy and do the hard work themselves, Wth the implication that they would then see that it isn’t broken, although it is hard.

        Too funny

        Joshua, normally I don’t find your comments very compelling.

        This on the other hand is pure gold.
        Of course I have done the hard work Mosh requests only to find that if it’s not the hard work he approves of, it’s still not acceptable.

        It might be hard, but it’s very broken as well.

      • Well, when showing and telling both don’t work, the next step is firing. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but half any group of scientists is below average so when you fire the lower performers, the quality of work picks up. Make one mistake = to 100 attaboys and attention to detail improves. When you have a no scientist left behind policy, quality has to erode.

        Finding brokeness (sic) and eliminating it is just part of the process. It is a tough real world out there.

        I use to spend my time helping customers implement engineering tools (Arms Dealer for Corporations), and usually the conversation would get around to the adoption curve for people, where we’d talk about the laggards, and how if you can’t convert them, they can drag their feet, to actually sabotaging the systems success. I would then point out that engineers are smart, and that they should take the biggest problem out front of all the windows, and shoot him. And that it’ll only take doing that a couple times, and no one will be complaining they have to do something new at work.

        As I got older and mellowed a bit, I’d recommend just tazing them, far more humane, and you still get to watch them flop around on the ground for a while.

        Of course it was all in jest, but it was a real problem.

      • Micro, “As I got older and mellowed a bit, I’d recommend just tazing them, far more humane, and you still get to watch them flop around on the ground for a while.

        Of course it was all in jest, but it was a real problem.”

        I actually got pretty good at finding them new careers that better fit their inabilities. In stead of just firing I set them up with a job interview.

      • I actually got pretty good at finding them new careers that better fit their inabilities. In stead of just firing I set them up with a job interview.

        lol.
        I read a story, might be true, might not, but it rings true.

        Youngest VP for some huge company was interviewed about how he became so successful so young.
        He said, “when I’d get a new job, I’d work to become my bosses right hand man, then I’d start sending out his resume, he’d get a new job, and I’d get promoted”.

        Rinse and repeat…..

    • Joshua:

      The 538 article actually says that science isn’t broken but acknowledges that many scientists are. As a result, high numbers of (perhaps most) scientific studies are flawed.

      The author notes that humans are biased, flawed and saddled with a causality-seeking brain. That does not exactly dispel the notion that, sometimes, the “self-correcting” mechanisms of science fail us.

      • On that note…

        http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-mexico-nuclear-dump-20160819-snap-story.html

        remember that in the world of science today even an affair is just the normal back up plan for women. From floss to MOX…

      • AS:

        It’s unclear whether your link is critiquing the Sarewitz article, government bureaucrats, engineers, scientists, kitty litter or all of the above. Your appended comment is even more mysterious.

      • Steven Mosher

        her only argument was this.

        Science isn’t broken, here are some examples. but these examples, just show that science is hard, therefore, if we change our expectations, we can substitute the word “hard” for the word broken.

        really dumb argument.

      • Otdvic –

        ==> That does not exactly dispel the notion that, sometimes, the “self-correcting” mechanisms of science fail us. ==>

        Of course not.

        Who thinks that the mechanisms of science, let alone scientists, are infallible?

        The relevant question, IMO, is what is medium- to long-term trajectory? I would say that the contributions of science to our society are, on those scores, exponentially positive, practices such as p-hacking not withstanding. Pretty much the opposite of a “crises, ” or something self-destructing, or something that needs to be “saved.” What’s interesting is that the author is associated with the Breakthrough Institute, which I’d say is pretty cornucopian about the impact of technology.

        In the very least, it seems to me that a scientist trying to present a serious discussion on this topic has an obligation to provide quantified and controlled longitudinal data to justify an assertion of a need for “saving.” What does it even mean to say that “science”needs to be saved? What does “science” even mean, with reference to a singular and collective entity, in that context?

      • ioidis makes the case that most research results are wrong. This is careful scientific work. The editor of the Lancet says that the case against science is clear. Aside from Ken Rice, a politically motivated Junior member of the science establishment, who have you even talked to who supports your outsiders opinion. You need to apply your silly search for bias to those in your political camp before I give you any credibility.

        You have no 1st hand knowledge, but are confident in your opinions. That’s a sign of immaturity and motivated reasoning.

      • Looks like there be a whole lotta correlation going on here.

      • Joshua, I believe you meant to address opluso who stated: “That does not exactly dispel the notion that, sometimes, the “self-correcting” mechanisms of science fail us”. Not me.

      • > her only argument was this

        That’s one more than Daniel for his self-destructing claim.

        Unless it was meant as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • Steven Mosher

        Willard,

        Did Danial actually have an argument?

        I suppose I could sketch it out, but he lost me at “saving” science.

      • I got just one word.

        Just one word.

        Are you listening?

        Crappiness.

      • Steven Mosher

        “More on her arguments here:

        Dear cheeze whiz jesus what a load of crap

        on one hand we have… saving science….

        and on the other hand we have..

        then moving science “Forward,”

        and throw in getting “closer to the truth.”

        what does evolutionary science teach us about the adaptive value of veridicality?

        hmm

      • “really dumb argument.”

        Yeah – clearly asking people to change their opinion doesn’t work too well, as the consensus already knows. Still, it’s very different in this case – in this case, it’s about displaying facts and saying “you expect more than we can deliver” rather than displaying conjecture and saying “you’re too dumb to understand”.

      • Shorter Sarewitz: “Incentives matter.”

        Shorter 538: “Put enough pattern-seeking monkeys in a room and they will eventually figure it out.”

      • Since the creation by God, according to scientists, everything must continue to evolve except for the laws of physics, which is written in stone. Something that will free you in one brief moment and will move you in time into eternity, is, a wonderful incentive I would think. The only thing that is required of you is belief and scientists already know how to do it. Win, win, win.

      • SM, “I suppose I could sketch it out, but he lost me at “saving” science.”

        Yes, that should have read; ‘Saving Science from Steven Mosher’ the temperature heater.

      • Steven –

        I will agree that the “moving science forward” rhetoric has the same brand weaknesses as the “saving science” and “science is in crises rhetoric.”

        That said, arguments are presented that suggest the facile nature of the “science needs to be saved” alarmism.

      • opluso –

        ==> Shorter Sarewitz: “Incentives matter.”

        Shorter 538: “Put enough pattern-seeking monkeys in a room and they will eventually figure it out.” <==

        Do you think that the "538 argument" implies that incentives DON'T matter?

        If so, I disagree. I think the 538 argument is that problematic aspects of incentives exist, but it's facile to think that the problematic aspects of incentives justifies conclusions such as that "science is broken."

      • Steven Mosher

        yes. J*shua

        agreed

      • “science is broken.”

        Science as a thing, isn’t broken of course.
        Science as it is implemented by flawed humans, in some sectors is on thin ice. Pun intended.

      • Steven Mosher

        Science isnt a thing.
        It is a behavior.
        you should practice it.

        what does science weigh?

      • Science isnt a thing.

        Wrong
        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thing

        you should practice it

        I do, when did you stop?

      • catweazle666

        micro6500: “I do, when did you stop?”

        That assumes he ever started in the first place…

      • “you should practice it.”

        “it”, therefore a thing.

        Andrew

      • lol, Bad Andrew!!!

      • jos_u-, “That said, arguments are presented that suggest the facile nature of the “science needs to be saved” alarmism.”

        Fracktivism 2.0 is a group that uses linear no threshold modeling and the clean water act to stop among other things, fracking which happens to be one of the best things since sliced bread for CO2 emission reductions. Their whole purpose is to use environmental alarmism and questionable science to limit things like benzene to less than 1 part per trillion because benzene is found in fracking fluid, never mind orange soda, canned carrots and pristine mountain streams during wild fire season.

        Mercury in the environment due to US coal. About 70% of Mercury emissions are due to metals mining with “artisan” precious metals mining accounting for about 50%. US coal plants “might” produce 2 to 3% of global Mercury emissions.

        http://www.ran.org/coal-101-price-we-pay-coal

        How many of youse guys have the gonads to take on them thar activists?

    • catweazle666

      Joshie, go and ask your mummy to put you to bed.

      The grown-ups are having a serious discussion.

    • Perfection? I would settle for climate models which were on the cool side of reality more than 10% of the time.

      • Steven Mosher

        as long as you know they run warm… not an issue.

        just call it a safety margin

        every engineer understands that

      • catweazle666

        “every engineer understands that”

        Please refrain from taking the good name of engineers in vain.

      • “as long as you know they run warm… not an issue.”

        Shouldn’t be, not because we can adjust it away, but because the model should converge with reality over time… oh wait…

      • > oh, wait..

        Exactly.

        Wait.

      • “as long as you know they run warm… not an issue.

        just call it a safety margin

        every engineer understands that”

        But politicians don’t, unless they have engineers in their group of trusted advisors. That is probably why so many engineers are called skeptics when most are only say policy based on an inflated worst case isn’t bright.

      • Steven Mosher

        you frickin engineers all know about safety margins.

        Kid: jeez, whats the design load? 9gs..
        Grey beard: , build it to 12gs..

        kid: why?

        GB: cause you never know..

        Kid: ah.. ya I get that….but why 3 extra gs..

        GB: just do it kid.

        Kid: what would feyman say?

        GB: he’s dead.

      • “just call it a safety margin”

        I take this to mean it’s deliberately skewed.

        We know.

        Andrew

      • Here would be deliberate skewedness, Bad:

        The innovation risk implied a greater involvement by Boeing in the development and manufacture of the aircraft. Astonishingly, Boeing opted for lesser involvement, delegating much of the detailed engineering and procurement to sub-contractors. The result? Unexpected problems have kept occurring that have delayed the project and increased its cost.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/01/21/what-went-wrong-at-boeing

      • Here would be deliberate skewedness, Bad:

        The innovation risk implied a greater involvement by [The B Company] in the development and manufacture of the aircraft. Astonishingly, [The B Company] opted for lesser involvement, delegating much of the detailed engineering and procurement to sub-contractors. The result? Unexpected problems have kept occurring that have delayed the project and increased its cost.

      • Last test.

        Here would be deliberate skewedness, Bad:

        The innovation risk implied a greater involvement by [The B Company] in the development and manufacture of the aircraft. Astonishingly, [The B Company] opted for lesser involvement, delegating much of the detailed engineering and procurement to sub-contractors. The result? Unexpected problems have kept occurring that have delayed the project and increased its cost.

        Ah, the B word.

      • Mosher, “you frickin engineers all know about safety margins.”
        Right we use safety margins not the precautionary principle. For coal in the US for example, 50% of pollution was caused by the worst 10% of plants. The top 10% were about 10% more efficient than the worst 10% meaning they produced about 20% less co2 per kwh. Kill the worst, upgrade the middle and you have coal power plant efficiency you can sell as the minimum acceptable for third world countries. Without having China and India rushing to build out in order to be grandfathered in. Bigger bang for smaller buck, coal is going to be used somewhere anyway so lead the way. Natgas was an unexpected bonus, but you still have set an example with current technology without acting like a precautionary principle idjit.

        Instead of building stand alone biomass and biowaste plants, mixing feedstock in supercritical and better plants, further reduces effective emissions while reducing one of those other problems. Add coheating when you can can get overall efficiency to 60% or better. A good use for waste heat is heat treating waste to make things like Millorganite which is a solution instead of a problem.

        That is how frickin engineers think, there are no problems only opportunities.

      • stevefitzpatrick

        Steve Mosher,
        Looks like you may be feeling better.

        It is (of course) normal in most all engineering to build in a safety margin. How much depends on the confidence you have in expected conditions of use and in your estimates of performance, as well as down-side risk (suspension bridges versus wire insulation thickness, for example). But the safety margin is added after a best effort calculation of performance and use conditions, and is explicit: Here is what we calculate will happen, here is the safety margin we want to add. There are two important issues that the process relies on. First, the calculation needs to be as unbiased and as accurate as possible, with an honest evaluation of uncertainty. Second, the added safety margin needs to include consideration of both cost and risk. If uncertainty leads to very high costs (the consequence of a large safety margin), then engineers will normally try to reduce the uncertainty to better constrain the required margin. Seems to me climate science has not been at all effective in reducing the uncertainty, leading to potentially very high costs…. which likely would not be justified if the uncertainty were lower. The political disagreement is in part due to different people having different values/goals/priorities/morality, but also in part due to a failure to reduce uncertainty. Where uncertainty narrowed, I think political compromise would be easier to achieve.

  6. ‘direct engagement with the real world,’

    Science lost its track with the ‘real world’ almost immediately after its inception:

    “In classical thought [medieval and Greek], what the senses give us are perceptions of a macro world of forms and essences and purposes. Our senses place us into contact with a world of interacting wholes, and not the abstracted parts of experimental science…
    But science in the mode of Galileo is keen to point out that our senses are deceiving since they do not show us what is truly real: the fundamentally quantifiable aspects of the particles that make up everything and the quantifiable forces that guide their interactions.
    The irony of course is that science is often portrayed in the modern Enlightenment myth as the champion of common sense whereas religion is all about pie in the sky illusion. In point of fact, however, it was modern science that seemed to be the champion of the truly bizarre and the counter-intuitive, whereas religion was attempting to preserve the reality and truth-bearing content of our everyday experience of the world.
    Larry Chapp, God of Covenant and Creation, Scientific Naturalism and its Challenge to the Christian Faith

    • At least Galileo looked through the telescope. It is true that the real world is now the unseen world of strange beings like molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, and it gets worse as we go along. But science is still based on observation, just not on eyeballs.

      • True enough.

        I think Chapp’s point is just that the unnatural divorce between the micro-investigations of science and their context within a system that harnessed these results for some sort of societal/human good was a tragedy.

        In a sense that seems to be the guide that Sarawitz is lamented as lost.

    • I need a little help… what was the outcome/debate here?

    • In 1983, Professor Anders finally admitted he was wrong.
      This last question from Peter Toth (Hungary) was never answered:
      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v270/n5633/abs/270159a0.html

  7. There’s a lot to digest here. But an important takeaway, as Sarewitz tells us, is that the Department of Defense is “mission oriented” and can focus on the necessary goals with less distraction from competing research aims or personal egos.

    He’s right! We should declare a war on climate change! What could possibly go wrong?

    • We can finally really start the war by coming up with a scientific definition for climate, so we know what it is and what to do about it changing!

      Andrew

  8. Personally, I think this is the problem:

    “One cumulative result of these converging stresses is a well-recognized pervasive bias that infects every corner of the basic research enterprise — a bias toward the new result: come up with a positive result, show something new, different, eye-catching, transformational, something that announces you as part of the elite.”

    It’s not only a science problem. It’s an art problem. Art is not particularly pleasant to look at anymore, and I attribute this to trying to find new forms of expression. Classical music is another example. Much of the modern classical music is unpleasant to listen to. Same with the political movements. I think it was here I read a post trying to promote some new way of thinking of things with the hallmark that it showed some kind of progression from religious, to secular, to post secular (enslavement, or something).

    It seems “Transformative,” and “New” are thought to carry intrinsic value. It’s not so. WW II was “transformative” and “new,” but few would argue it was a good thing. The Zika virus is also transformative and new. And frankly, actually good transformative and new things are incredibly rare. The internet was transformative, as was computing. But what else in recent memory? Maybe Fracking? Government energy policy (subsidized solar, subsidized electric cars, and here in CA a ridiculous train)? I would say this has stifled transformation by consuming dollars that would go to in fact productive sectors.

  9. It’s the entire culture that is being corrupted.
    It’s a natural cycle like the climate.
    The road of history is littered with the wreckage of successful societies that became the victims of success.
    There are tours.

  10. You know, this essay does help put the DNC platform plank into context:

    [… A] national mobilization, and […] a global effort to mobilize nations […] on a scale not seen since World War II

    …Is pretty much fluffy boilerplate by itself.

    But in the context here, it offers some likely action items.

  11. I agree with Professor Sarewitz’s analysis of the problem with modern science. I also believed the beautiful until Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu and I were ambushed at AGU’s 1976 National Meeting in Washington, DC to present evidence finally published as an open debate in Science in 1977:

    “Strange xenon, extinct superheavy elements and the solar neutrino puzzle”

  12. I think science is undermined when scientists allow politicians to get away with broad terms like: “The science is settled.” When I read articles in Science or even National Geographic publications that should strongly emphasize uncertainty and the boundary of what we know vs what we don’t know I find nothing more than rigid political positions. Scientists across the spectrum should all stand up to improper use of their findings by politicians. In the long run allowing mis-use will undermine scientific reputations and the scientific process.

    • Too many well-known climate scientists (you know who I mean) aren’t shy at all about using the term “the science is settled.” But I don’t personally consider them real scientists.

  13. I read the Sarewitz paper with great interest.
    He had a simple sentence somewhere in the middle summing up a significant part of his thesis, “Technology keeps science honest”. There is no such thing in climate science, except perhaps for medium range forecasting and hurricane path predictions. Renewables have no technological link to climate per se. And keeping climate papers ‘honest’ is a BIG problem, as McIntyre newly illustrates again in his three recent posts on the resurrected Gergis hockey stick.
    Sarewitz takes on the overlapping Ionniades scientific quality issue as well, with a nice dissection of the several oberlapping root causes. Too much publish, too little perish. Positive Results motivation. Mainstreaming (aka consensus reinforcement stuff). Poor models (treemometers), poor statistics (Mann’s centered PCA), underpowered samples (Yamal larches), bad data (upsidedown Tiljander), all facilitating pal review. In this second area, skeptics have had some impact on uncovering poor quality climate science, which they could not do, say, in biomedical research. But they have had little to no impact on reforming the underlying climate science quality issues. Science did nothing about Marcott’s redating. Nature Geoscience did nothing about Oleary’s misrepresented Quobba Ridge. Nature Climate Change did nothing about Fabricius’ hydrogen sulfide contamination. The junk science papers just keep on coming.
    Academic science is indeed gravely damaging itself. That damage is probably a necessary precondition for basic reform. Meanwhile, in areas like cancer, basic materials, informatics, and energy storage it is mainly interest groups (breast cancer vaccine), corporate labs (immunotherapies) or private venture funded companies that are driving scientific progress.

    • Curious George

      Two central tenets of AGW, the “climate sensitivity”, and the “effective radiative level” have never been measured. It might be a coincidence, or a sophisticated design.

      • CG, with all deference, ERL and ECS are both quite clear comceptually. And they have been measured approximately.
        And we can still argue physical approximations to same given many uncertainties.
        Your apparent arguement to the contrary is the equivalent of saying the laws of thermodynamics do not exist, or that pre Pasteur, bacteria do not exist/ pre Lister do not cause disease. You want to help the cause, at least make rational arguments about uncertainty, not about existance/nonexistance.

      • Curious George

        Link, please.

        I have been always deeply unhappy with the way the “climate science” treats thermodynamics. Take the ERL – is it one value independent of a wavelength? How does a narrow CO2 radiation window influence a total Planck (blackbody) approximated balance? What is the uncertainty of the ECS “measurements”? (Even the IPCC calls it estimates, not measurements. Right now, anything between 1.2 and 3.5). I’m very uncomfortable with theories depending on quantities that can not be measured. Maybe it is my lack of imagination – I can’t even imagine how to measure ECS or ERL.

        I’ll clarify my position. On a waterless planet, an addition of CO2 to the atmosphere would almost certainly have a warming effect – my gut feeling; I did not do the calculations. Add water, the planet’s rotation, the eccentricity of orbit, clouds, thermal capacity of the ocean and other surfaces, radiative properties of deserts, fields, forests, jungles, and cities – no one knows what the final effect would be. I can’t even exclude the unlikely possibility that it would be negative. Some IPCC models have errors of 3% in energy transfer, and a 3% of an average surface temperature of around 300 K is 9 degrees K, or 16 degrees F. I am not saying that the models are wrong; I am saying that the effort should be expended to prove them right – if they are.

      • Curious George wrote:

        Add water, the planet’s rotation, the eccentricity of orbit, clouds, thermal capacity of the ocean and other surfaces, radiative properties of deserts, fields, forests, jungles, and cities – no one knows what the final effect would be. I can’t even exclude the unlikely possibility that it would be negative.

        It is going to be very hard to get a net negative effect: basically, the net negative effect would then feed back with the supposed net negative feedback and the negatives would cancel and give a positive result.

        Of course, non-linear systems are a nightmare… just maybe you kick the whole system into a qualitatively different sort of behavior and get a net negative result. Maybe. I doubt it.

        Of course, you are correct that untangling all of the feedbacks to get a quantitatively accurate prediction of the total result is currently impossible (as shown by the empirical failure of climate models thus far).

        Dave Miller in Sacramento

      • Two central tenets of AGW, the “climate sensitivity”, and the “effective radiative level” have never been measured.

        I calculated surface Climate Sensitivity from station data and measured changes in temp.
        https://micro6500blog.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/measuring-surface-climate-sensitivity/
        It isn’t the sensitivity to Co2, it’s the sensitivity to Solar, but if anything since solar is broadband, and Co2 is narrowband, it over estimates the sensitivity to Co2, it puts a limit on it.
        My method hasn’t been refined for the tropics, this is only for the extra-tropics for now.

      • I’ll clarify my position. On a waterless planet, an addition of CO2 to the atmosphere would almost certainly have a warming effect – my gut feeling; I did not do the calculations. Add water,

        It’s the water that creates a nonlinear cooling profile.
        Deserts cool quickly at night, with Co2 being dominate.
        The tropics don’t cool quickly at all, and the dominate ghg is water vapor.

        When you examine night time cooling rates, and the temp of the sky the surface radiatively cools to, it does not explain why cooling late at night (usually) slows down. But when you add dew points, it becomes obvious.

        Cooling is nonlinear, the two regimes are controlled by water vapor. This also explains why there’s no evidence of a change in night time cooling, the high cooling rate regime, the one regulated by co2 is present until any excess warming from the co2 has left the system, at which point water vapor slows cooling.

        But it will always bleed off any excess, prior to the slow down.

        This point where dew point take over, then strips water vapor out of the air, where it shows up as dew, some of which ends up in the water table.

  14. “From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.”

    The problem here is that the unrealistic expectation that we can gain the same kind of guarantees that can be found in the physical sciences to sciences that involve multi-causal relationships and statistical uncertainties

    His analysis of the DoD and the War on Cancer seems to reflect this problem. The accomplishments of the DoD – jet engines, high resolution imaging, transistors – are more like applied engineering using known physical science. The War on Cancer is still waiting on the breakthroughs in fundamental science and the reason that has been difficult is achieve is that the problem is biological and multi-causal.

    It may be that medicine, dietetics, economics, and climate science by their statistical and multi-causal nature have built into them structural problems that will not appear in the physical sciences. Every physicist will agree on the speed of light; not every economist will agree on tax policy. That means we can’t necessarily apply lessons from physical sciences and engineering to other sciences.

    • But that doesn’t stop fields like “medicine, dietetics, economics, and climate science” from appropriating (i.e. stealing) the legitimacy and respect earned by “physical sciences and engineering”.

      • I don’t think they are stealing or appropriating anything.

        If we want to insist on a standard of proof such as that used in particle physics for all science, then we might as well just shut down all of those other sciences now. No need to do any of them. We will never prove or learn anything. We can just spend our money on physics and technology.

        Might make the physicists and engineers happy. Maybe even the philosophers and English majors too since they don’t pretend to be science and might pull in some of the money “wasted” on medicine, dietetics, economics, and climate science.

      • I don’t think they are stealing or appropriating anything.

        Yes they are.

        What they are doing is expecting people to take their results as seriously as they would results from physics, backed by technology.

        A perfect example is the saturated fat fiasco. Those of us who really understood science never took that stuff seriously. (Well, I didn’t. YMMV.) But where were the disclaimers in all the government “recommendations” that the “research” wasn’t of the same quality as physics or rocket science?

        Same for “climate”. No worse. All Lots of that bogus pseudo-science came from NASA, so people who didn’t know better thought it was just as good as rocket science.

      • Okay, I might agree with some of that (and particularly the saturated fat fiasco).

        As I wrote:

        It may be that medicine, dietetics, economics, and climate science by their statistical and multi-causal nature have built into them structural problems that will not appear in the physical sciences.

        The problem, however, is not exclusively with the scientists but with the public servants, the communicators, business interests, and the uninformed public. Frequently results are publicized without the caveats of the original research. Even when the caveats are included or considered there is a strong tendency to accept or want to act on the general conclusion with a lack of awareness of its limitations and possible contrary results of other studies.

        It is a problem inherent in subject domain of the science. What is being studied has multiple causes; the relationships are statistical, sometimes (for example, in climate science or economics) there can be no control group or reproducibility. We can’t rerun 20th century climate for real (not models) with pre-industrial CO2 levels.

        Even with saturated fat, there still seems to be some controversy. Go to Wikipedia on saturated fat and you can see recent studies citing reduction of CHD by replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats along with other studies showing no reduction in mortality with reducing saturated fat.

      • Yes. All of these fields are finding statistical correlations and hypothesizing cause→effect. Such hypotheses are acceptable in a “pure” science. But when they go from there to recommending dietary restrictions (e.g. in schools or hospitals) or massive economic intervention, the science isn’t at the level of reliability of physics and rocket science.

        But plenty of people pretended it was, including scientists outed by Climategate.

      • James Cross | August 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm |

        “I don’t think they are stealing or appropriating anything.”

        Fixed that for ya!

    • Dietetics is not a science, as much as those practicing it want you to believe it is.

  15. I just wish United Nations bureaucrats like Patricia Espinosa would read this article.
    (“On 18 May 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Patricia Espinosa of Mexico as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Ms. Espinosa took office on 18 July 2016.”)

    A more realistic view on the limitations of science, might help to prevent United Nations from causing unprecedented global economic changes, and possibly unforeseen negative consequences for humans.

    At least – a more realistic view on science could prevent United Nations from playing a role in creating negatively biased perceptions about the environment:
    «A bias towards the possibility of increasing jellyfish blooms is further illustrated by three cases… Third, a United Nations Environment Report (Turley & Boot, 2010) and one of the most widely cited reviews on impacts of ocean acidification (Doney et al., 2009; cited 1602 times in GS, accessed January 2016), cited Attrill et al. (2007) to claim a link between ocean acidification and increased jellyfish numbers, but neither papers acknowledged the rebuttal of Attrill et al. (2007) by Haddock (2008), the erratum published by Attrill & Edwards (2008) or the expanded analysis of Attrill et al. (2007) by Richardson & Gibbons (2008) that showed no link between acidification and jellyfish populations. Indeed, the misconceptions resulting from mis-citation are even more dangerous when they are contained in papers published in highly influential journals, which provide a platform for those papers to be highly cited. Duarte et al. (2015) have argued that poor citation practices are one of the elements that have perpetuated perceptions on ocean calamities (including rising jellyfish populations) that are contributing to an overly negative perception on the state of the ocean. Our study confirms that that mis-citation facilitated the perception of rising jellyfish populations.»
    Flawed citation practices facilitate the unsubstantiated perception of a global trend toward increased jellyfish blooms

    According to it´s charter United Nations was supposed to help solving international problem of a cultural character – however United Nations seems to have become part of a such problem – by taking part in scientific malpractice.

  16. Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, scientists must come out of the lab university and into the real world. – Daniel Sarewitz

    Fixed that for him!

    Practical, applied science with real measurable benefits is doing just fine. Pie-in-the-sky ideological science that does nothing except employ unproductive scientists in universities is the only real problem.

  17. OF MICE AND MICROBES The zoo of bacteria and viruses each lab animal harbors may confound experiments

    An explosion of recent studies in both animals and people suggests that resident microbes can influence susceptibility to diseases from HIV to asthma, predispose to obesity across generations, and tinker with how the body responds to drugs. Tying such effects to experimental results is challenging, but some hints have cropped up.

    […]

    In a more recent example, last year scientists at the University of Missouri (MU), Columbia, working with a mouse model of multiple sclerosis accidentally reversed the symptoms by adding a common antibiotic to the animals’ water. They restored symptoms simply by cohousing their mice with a microbially richer strain, suggesting that the traits they had come to rely on in their research hinged on a delicate balance of mouse microbes.

    • Yes and backs up much of the points I was making above.

      I don’t know whether you ever read The Truth Wears Off.

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/12/13/the-truth-wears-off

      “The disturbing implication of the Crabbe study is that a lot of extraordinary scientific data are nothing but noise. The hyperactivity of those coked-up Edmonton mice wasn’t an interesting new fact—it was a meaningless outlier, a by-product of invisible variables we don’t understand.”

      In spite of this, we still need to eat, make economic policy, try to cure diseases, and decide if and what we should do about climate change. If we disregard what science there is, with all of its limitations, then what basis is there for societal decision-making other than individual bias.

  18. Doc, real world. Daniel Boorstin (librarian of congress, wrote some books, fun read) said that he walked through halls filled with truth and heard only silence. The facts do not speak for themselves, they need advocates.

  19. So he breezes through this “First, scientific knowledge advances most rapidly, and is of most value to society, not when its course is determined by the “free play of free intellects” but when it is steered to solve problems — especially those related to technological innovation.”
    He does not seem to realize that there is a lot of technology research aimed at getting us off fossil fuels. This is precisely what is happening, but he shields his readers from the realization that science led to this effort. Is this person in such complete denial of the need to replace fossil fuels, or that this major effort is already ongoing and has been for many years? His dismissal of the consensus is also inaccurate in its characterization of where scientists stand or disagree with each other.

    • He does not seem to realize that there is a lot of technology research aimed at getting us off fossil fuels.

      Straw man.

      Science focused on solving the problem of fossil carbon is not climate science.

      Most of “climate science” is focused on providing Chicken-Little pseudo-science in support of CAGW. Or fantasy projections in support of “adaptation” boondoggles.

      • Sure, pretend manmade climate change is not already happening, and also ignore that other professional scientific societies and industries ask for emissions reductions. You live in your own little world as does Sarewitz, if you don’t see this connection that gives the research more urgency.

      • That is exactly the big problem right there, people equating or even linking climate science with the need/wish to “get off of fossil fuels”.
        They have their need/wish and simply use climate science to get there.

      • You live in your own little world as does Sarewitz, if you don’t see this connection that gives the research more urgency.

        Which “research” is that? “Climate” research that isn’t really science, or R&D towards better solar power and storage?

        The latter does include real science, but it isn’t climate science.

    • JimD, “He does not seem to realize that there is a lot of technology research aimed at getting us off fossil fuels.”

      Right the Manhattan project intensive research into horizontal drilling and fracturing for natural gas. If you want to stimulate real research set a goal and get out of the way. Every climate scientist seems to have pet environmental peeve so they limit options and try to pick winners like that fantastic Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb campaign.

      One even decided that Anthropogenic Mercury emissions was a great reason to kill US coal. The majority of AHg is due to metals mining using “artisan” methods, i.e. third world zippo regulation. The US has outsourced most of that, because your average environmental science has no faith in technology so “artisan” methods are making the problem worse. A focus on efficiency and reducing emissions would have produced technology that would have been great leverage toward regulating “artisan” methods.

      • If you want to stimulate real research set a goal and get out of the way.

        Which is pretty much what’s happening with solar PV and storage. There’s all sorts of wonderful stuff coming off the lab bench to help Wright’s “Law” keep the price of PV dropping.

        Ditto storage, although it’s not nearly competitive with pumped hydro yet.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        AK,
        As we calculated decades ago, solar fails irrespective of cost of panels, because of low incoming “energy density.”
        Come back to crow when you solve that one.
        It is beaut example of how science need not prosper when a target is set and funding flows from the taxpayer via an authority.
        In the 80s we had white papers, pens ready for energy ideas and a lot of money.
        We rejected solar and wind then, for the very reasons that they are failing now. We chose to support nuclear. I still wonder why it has received such heavy, undeserved, ignorant, ,adverse publicity, which is against all common sense.

      • As we calculated decades ago, solar fails irrespective of cost of panels, because of low incoming “energy density.”

        Incorrect calculations. That “low incoming ‘energy density’” is just a problem to be solved.

        Come back to crow when you solve that one.

        Solution is in progress. Won’t be hard.

        We rejected solar and wind then, for the very reasons that they are failing now.

        They’re not failing, and if you think they are you’re blind. Or “will not see”.

  20. Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.

    That is not a lie, unless buried somewhere therein is a claim that every research idea will produce a useful new technique. I do not see that claim, or any other “lie”. That is about “scientific progress on a broad front”. Consider the case of Robert Gallo and his seemingly irrelevant research on retroviruses (he won the coveted “Golden Fleece” award given every year by Sen William Proxmire to mock the claims of scientists, such as that by Bush). When AIDS came along, that retrovirus research was the foundation of applied research toward understanding AIDS as an infection by retroviruses, and the production of useful medications against it.

    Thousands of examples like that see the light each year, in the patents and other innovations based on “results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown”, but we only see the last few steps in the chain from basic science to devices and techniques.

    I feel like I have read the “same” complaints, multiple times per year, ever since I first started subscribing to Science Magazine in 1972. The problems seem bigger now, perhaps, and the essays longer and more tedious than ever before, because there are so many people worldwide working in science. Science Magazine itself published the Romps et al study and the coccolithophore study as a part of its usual publication of normal science. I think each in a different way undercuts the more “alarmist” view of the CO2-globalwarming link. If my “lukewarmer” view of CO2 is the view eventually settled upon by most scientists, it will be because of normal science published mostly in the peer-reviewed journals.

  21. During 1959, I met with Dr. Paul Krynine, eminent professor of geology at Penn State at which time he said, “The best applied science is the best basic science because one has to do the basic science to solve problems of applied science.” In my experience, this turned out to be true. Why? Because the missions sets the boundary conditions concerning what one can and cannot do to solve the problem at hand and provided focus.

    During my career as a .university professor, I rarely had such constraints, although periodically, one is reminded there had to be a cost benefit to the work one does. After an “early retirement” from academe, I worked as a consultant in the petroleum field. The work was clearly defined by client needs (mission orientation) and although much basic geology had to be done, it was the applied results that determined effectiveness (and repeat business). Even so, it was possible to publish the “basic” geological work if one went through the process of obtaining permission to do so.

    George Devies Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

  22. I would appreciate Professor Sarewitz’s insight on possible social insanity induced by hiding from humans scientific evidence an immediate, powerful source of energy made and sustains every atom and life in the solar system.

  23. Very important, thought-provoking piece. I suspect all practicing scientists would find nits to pick with one or more of Sarewitz’ arguments. But the thrust is spot on: we’ve built an enterprise that is woefully inefficient and capable of sustaining research directions that consume resources that could be better applied. The system has grown in unfortunate directions due to perverse incentives, in part because of the way rather extravagant funding has been awarded.

    In biomedical research, there is always a tension between basic (general mechanisms) and applied (disease specific) research, with loads of overlap. The breast cancer example provided by Sarewitz is just one of many examples–most of my colleagues working on breast cancer (but not attempting to develop a [highly unlikely] vaccine) would say that they’re work is indeed applied rather than basic. In my world, basic research would have no obvious application to human health. But technical advances that come from studying basic characteristics of the world around us keep cropping up, justifying such efforts. You may have seen articles about “CRISPR”, a gene-editing technique–this came from what we’d consider basic research. It’s sort of like Marie Curie and radium–curiosity driven basic research that opens a large field. Examples aren’t many, but there are enough to keep validating Bush’s “lie”. On the other hand, applied goals, like the human genome project, have led to development of incredibly valuable technology and information that have revolutionized biomedicine.

    The trick is getting the balance right. I agree with Sarewitz that we have encouraged too much curiosity-driven research by too many scientists who are too unlikely to make significant discoveries. This has led to many smart people to find comfortable niches, largely in academic science, and to work to preserve their positions. A shakeup is coming, and it’s not at all clear to me what form future research should or will take, but the current structure will collapse.

    My colleagues (and scientific societies) simply argue that more funding will fix everything. It’s clearly not the answer, and I am grateful for Sarewitz’ effort to open a conversation. Most scientists are unwilling to offer any criticism of the current system. (Biting the hand the feeds you is never a bright idea)

  24. Pingback: Scienza distorta o distorsione della scienza? | Climatemonitor

  25. Judith,

    Based on my own experience, I would dispute Sarewitrz’s praise of military funding of research.

    My first job after getting my Ph.D. back in the early ’80s was working for a commercial division of a company that also had a military division working on similar technology. They had a lot more money for R&D than we did, yet they used to ask us why we were faster at getting results than they were.

    The answer seemed to be that they were in a “cost-plus” environment: to some degree, wasting money was a feature not a bug for them.

    On the other hand, we had limited funds taken from our division’s current revenues. And, we needed the R&D results to develop our commercial products.

    We did what we had to do. They did what their military funders would put up with.

    My next job was working for a company with multiple contracts to develop technology for the intelligence community (ultra-high-speed satellite links). We did some fascinating R&D work, but most of it just sat on the shelf unused — no profit incentive to develop and marketize our work. Cost-plus again.

    These are just my own experiences, but they do seem to match the results in areas such as government-funded space exploration (great engineering, but results that could not be pursued economically), controlled fusion, and many other fields.

    I am making no point about the nobility or villainy of the military per se, but just pointing our how military-induced R&D seems to work.

    Incidentally, anyone interested in pursuing this should read Leo Szilard’s wickedly funny satire “The Mark Gable Foundation” which criticized the whole idea of centrally-funded, peer-review-controlled research when it was just getting started after WW II in the wake of the Manhattan Project.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • Curious George

      There are three ways to do anything: the right way, the wrong way, and the military way. Example: Fighter aircraft have a pressurized oxygen bottle for the pilot. When refilling the bottle, an invisible smear of fat causes fire and probably an explosion. After losing too many fighter planes to oxygen fires, the soviet air force came with a solution: Oxygen technicians got white uniforms and orders to keep them white. Oxygen fires stopped.

  26. “Even the vaunted scientific consensus around climate change — which largely rests on fundamental physics that has been well understood for more than a century — applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming.”

    Without separating the natural components they can’t discern the human impact, and the natural components have the larger human impact. This isn’t trans-science, it’s trash-science.

  27. This is a useful and long-ongoing debate which for me boils down to this:

    Is your life purpose-driven or is it a random walk-about?
    What is the purpose of your purpose-driven life?

    You may substitute “your organization’s” for “your”.

    Lee Iacocca noted that in the heydays of Detroit, cocktail party bragging focused on claims of producing more product and sales with a smaller budget. Meanwhile, cocktail party bragging in DC focused primarily on annual increases in head count and budget.

  28. “It wasn’t until the 1990’s that it became apparent (to me, anyways) that the Arctic was potentially a bellwether for human caused climate change.”

    It has become apparent to me that Arctic warming since 1995 is a direct measure of how little we are causing the climate to change. Negative North Atlantic Oscillation drives AMO and Arctic warming, while rising apparently CO2 increases positive NAO. Look to Venus where levels of climate forcing are so high that the polar regions are hundreds of degrees colder than the rest of the planet.

  29. John Gall in _Systematics_ (ca. 1975), many following editions but earlier tends to be better, on Orwell’s Inversion, the confusion of input and output:

    “Example: A giant program is to Conquer Cancer is begun. At the end of five years, cancer has not been conquered, but one thousand research papers have been published. In addition, one million copies of a pamphlet entitled “You and the War Against Cancer” have been distributed. Those publications will absolutely be regarded as Output rather than Input.”

  30. Great article.

    Of cause (or indeed) technology performs the service of calibrating “scientific results” to the real physical world (the efficiency of the money spent is a different question).
    But this should be part of science as such as well. That technology has to be called to the rescue only shows that the cultural discipline of scientists has been on a slippery slope.

    What comes to my mind is the demand by the SEC of public companies to file an exhaustive list of their business risks and what might go wrong and why they might be bankrupt tomorrow.

    Perhaps it should be demanded from scientists to supplement their papers with an extensive list of issues that might invalidate their results, why their data might be unreliable or wrong, how their data might alternatively have been analyzed, what other interpretations might have been possible etc.

    And it should be culturally outlawed to oversell one’s point in press releases.

    Discoveries that rely on single experiments/work groups should’t be treated as discoveries before they have been replicated (when feasible, e.g. in case of “natural experiments”), just as reports of experiments that have been performed.

    • If the Climategate emails have been a subject of public discussion for the past six years, according to that model HRC’s email ‘server’ should be a hot topic for the next half century.

  31. “We don’t give a rats about theory, we need a bomb” can be its own kind of tyranny. This is essentially what the current administration has done in a vain attempt to document dangerous human warming.

    In this thread “science” means publicly funded institutional science. The entire theme and discussion would be characterized as “anti science” by the religious left.

    Methinks we need more privatization. Larger research tax credits. We need Bell Labs back.

  32. Thank you for pointing out this very important essay. I think it might be helpful to point out a few additional facts:
    • The value of technologists to science is that their success or failure can provide a validation of the underlying science. Of course their success also depends on their own efforts.
    • “Pure” science models can be validated by experience, but this has not been properly done, or even done at all. For example, if we know that there are natural cycles that may play important roles in our observations, we need to test our models against observations that span all of the combinations of these cycles. Unless the cycles are coincident, that may mean we have to have centuries of data.
    • Climate scientists have unnecessarily hurt themselves by not acknowledging the limitations and uncertainties of their work. We still don’t know how much of the changes in either CO2 or climate are attributable to fossil fuel usage.
    • I’m afraid many climate scientists got mentally mouse-trapped by the apparent correlation between the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere and the increasing temperatures from the seventies to ~Y2K. It’s easy to ignore “extraneous” information (e.g., uncertainties) when you see such a strong correlation. It’s pure hubris to ignore that when the correlation starts to break down as it has been doing.
    • By not acknowledging the limitations of their theories (and data!), climate scientists inadvertently allow misuse of both by those who have other motivations.
    • All citizens have a duty to advocate for or against those policies they feel are important. All citizens have a right to stupidity (I just wish some of the advocates wouldn’t do it so blatantly!).

    As an opinion, I don’t think scientists have a right to mislead the public about the certainty of the science. This leads to misuse of the science. I would wish that climate scientists would pay more attention to the real world experience (aka data) in – for example – alternative energy before they so vociferously advocated for it. As a country, we have been investing in solar for almost a half century and the costs still far outweigh conventional fossil and the reliability isn’t very good. The German Energiewende is already cracking under the stiff cost increases being suffered by both homeowners and manufacturers. The Danes – who use more “renewable” energy per capita than anyone else – also pay over twice as much as we do for the privilege. This doesn’t mean the alternatives are necessarily bad, but as a scientist it’s hard for me to see the advocates’ case.

  33. The biggest threat to science is the way in which it is being systematically subverted by interest groups such as the Environmental Movement. This not only dictates the way research is funded and published it carries with it a sort of inbuilt piety which makes certain highly relevant areas off-limits to researchers (The carbon-cycle implications of the bomb test curve is one example). Basically real scientist discover, understand and inform, environmentalists preach. Much of contemporary science seems to be about finding rhetorical arguments to support the politically correct. See http://blackjay.net/?p=237

  34. This is really worth watching (laugh/cry): John Oliver on Science

    • Of course, the object of derision by some denizens here, old white men (OWM), have long ago figured all this out. That is the benefit of astutely observing reality for several decades. That is why what appears as useless anecdotes by some are really an outgrowth of cumulative knowledge with a little bit of circumspection thrown in to boot.

      I note that many of the points made repeatedly over the years by OWM in their comments have been validated by the two most current posts, not by speculation or conjecture, but by surveys.

    • Warning:

      This clip turns from laugh to cry at precisely 15:20, when our host embraces the pseudoscience of consensuology. (Get ready to stop playback at the point where he takes Al Roker’s sarcastic advice at face value and says “No! No! No!”)

  35. In his 1999 book “Fuzzy Future,” Bart Kosko said that over-funding of research was allowing the not-so-fit to survive. So that’s the cure.

  36. Chemistry group throws out election results after fears of vote rigging

    Members of the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry (SBIC) are reacting with puzzlement and shock after learning that the results of a recent online leadership election have been thrown out because of voting irregularities—raising concerns over possible manipulation.

    Counting revealed far more votes than there are members of the organization, according to an internal newsletter sent to SBIC members last week. One candidate received four times the number of votes as there are members of the group, it noted. (SBIC’s total membership was not available as this item went to press.)

    I wonder how closely AAAS elections have been watched?

  37. Judy, you have been doing great work for many years, all without rancor. Thanks from a fellow activist. Steve

    Liam Clancy to Bob Dylan in early 1960’s: “Remember Bob, no fear, no envy, no mean-ness.”

  38. Judith,

    people CAN’T READ ITALICS.

    I can send you the science on this if you’re skeptical about it. But it’s an established fact, to the extent that science is capable of establishing facts: large blocks of slanted text are UNREADABLE. (Note that readability and legibility are distinct, even orthogonal, properties.)

    Your amazing blog would be so much more accessible to normal people if you changed your CSS, or did whatever else it takes, so as to make your block quotes stand out without turning them into migraine-inducing oblique-fests. For example, simple indentation works wonders!

    The worst part is, people who haven’t studied this (as I have) don’t know WHY they find certain websites so hard to read. They just avoid them.

    I do know why. And I’m begging you to fix it.

  39. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #238 | Watts Up With That?

  40. Pingback: Dan Sarewitz on Saving Science | Climate Etc. – An Outsider's Sojourn II

  41. “Even the vaunted scientific consensus around climate change — which largely rests on fundamental physics that has been well understood for more than a century —”

    No, not understood at all. In fact there is no greenhouse effect. The temperature of the warmest month has not increased in the southern hemisphere in the last seventy years as seen here: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries.pl?ntype=1&var=SST&level=2000&lat1=0&lat2=-90&lon1=0&lon2=360&iseas=0&mon1=0&mon2=11&iarea=1&typeout=2&Submit=Create+Timeseries

    Meteorologists have long known that surface temperature varies with geopotential height at 500 hPa. Geopotential height reflects the temperature of the air below the point of measurement.

    It’s characteristic of the atmosphere that most of the variation in its water content occurs close to the surface. As the air cools overnight it voids moisture. As it warms during the day clouds evaporate. The temperature of the air above the near surface layers tends to be driven by its ozone content rather than surface temperature and the more so in high pressure cells of descending air.

    The day to day variation in the temperature of the air aloft is much greater than at the surface. Because the water vapour content of the upper air is relatively invariable, as its temperature changes so does the volume of moisture that exists in the condensed, frozen form that we see as clouds. Clouds can reflect up to 90% of incident sunlight. This is why there is this relationship between surface temperature and geopotential height.

    Gordon Dobson was in the forefront of the investigation of modes of natural climate change in the first half of the nineteenth century. When Dobson used a spectrophotometer to measure the ozone content of the air he noticed that as total column ozone increases, surface pressure falls away and the tropopause is lower by as much as 2-3km. This situation results in Jet Streams.

    Secondly Dobson noticed that the ozone content of the air increases in high latitudes. But, in 1956, Dobson was amazed to observe the ozone hole at Halley Bay, Antarctica, reversing the patterns of ozone accumulation that he had seen in the northern hemisphere.

    In point of fact, the entire southern hemisphere is something of an ozone hole due to the very active descent of ozone deficient air from the mesosphere that occurs over the Antarctic continent. The rate of descent varies over time and with it the ozone content of the air globally. This is where the climate system is most open to external influences. Meteorologists understand very well that the ozone content of the air is related to weather and climate. ‘Climate scientists’ are blissfully ignorant of this dynamic.

    In Gordon Dobson who had been a Captain in the Royal Flying Corps and Director of the Experimental Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, we have an example of a man with an inquiring mind who wanted to know why wind strength increased with elevation, why surface pressure is driven by the ozone content of the air and curious to work out how the nature of the atmosphere changes with elevation. He lectured at Oxford but did most of his work in a garden shed at home with the assistance a couple of enthusiastic fellows.

    The military wanted to know the origin of contrails left by jet aircraft. Dobson worked out that there was very little water vapour in the stratosphere. Kites, planes, balloons……he used whatever he could get hold of.

    Dobson was succeeded at Oxford by the mathematician Sir John Houghton of IPCC fame and ‘climate science’ was born.

    After World War 2 the West became very wealthy, and in particular the US. The rest of the world wanted the US dollar or the British pound. So, the US obliged and spent freely. Soon, everyone had to go to university.

    More at https://reality348.wordpress.com/