It’s News On Academia, Not Climate

Electronic files that were stolen from a prominent climate research center and made public last week provide a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes battle to shape the public perception of global warming.  …

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” Jones writes. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”  In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree.. … “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” …

Horner … [said] the e-mails have “the makings of a very big” scandal. “Imagine this sort of news coming in the field of AIDS research,” he added. … some likening the disclosure to the release of the Pentagon Papers during Vietnam.

More here.  Joel Achenbach comments:

This is not a scandal so much as a window on real scientists working on a politicized issue. … “Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person.” I agree. But isn’t it also true that Newtons antipathy towards Hooke and his use of his position in control of the Royal Society, ensured that the concept of an achromatic lens for a telescope … had to wait until after [Newton’s] death.

Yup, this behavior has long been typical when academics form competing groups, whether the public hears about such groups or not.  If you knew how academia worked, this news would not surprise you nor change your opinions on global warming.  I’ve never done this stuff, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but that is cheap talk since I haven’t had the opportunity.  This works as a “scandal” only because of academia’s overly idealistic public image.

It is a shame that academia works this way, and an academia where this stuff didn’t happen would probably be more accurate.  But even our flawed academic consensus is usually more accurate than its contrarians, and it is hard to find reliable cheap indicators saying when contrarians are more likely to be right.

If you don’t like this state of affairs join me in trying to develop a more reliable consensus mechanism on such topics: prediction markets. It just takes time or money.  Prefer instead to act shocked, just shocked, when the other side is shown to do this stuff, while reserving your side’s ability to do the same?  Then I have little respect for you.

Added 23Nov:  Tyler basically agrees.  Bryan too, mostly.  Nate Silver riffs.

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