Warmists are not the only secretive scientists

Obama: "The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide"

Warmists have always been rock-solid in refusing to follow the general scientific practice of making their raw data available to others for analysis. And on the big occasion when Warmist data did leak out we saw why. In constructing his hockeystick Michael Mann simply left out proxy data that did not suit him: Totally crooked. Tom Karl's controversial "adjustments" to sea-surface temperatures are also now under attack -- even requests from Congressional committees have not been sucessful in getting the data released.

So a failure to release data shouts loudly that the secretive scientists have something to hide.  It shows that they have no confidence in their own conclusions.  They fear that a re-analysis will arrive at conclusions different from theirs.

But these days Warmists are not the only unscientific ones.  There is a lot at stake in today's "publish or perish" academic  climate and it seems that people in lots of disciplines have been taking "shortcuts" to get their stuff published.  The example below concerns a controversial medical study.  Because of the great disbelief in the study's conclusions, it was a prime candidate for data release -- so that doubts could be set at rest for once and for all.

The authors have however dug their heels in so that really tells you all you need to know.  There will now be no-one who trusts their conclusions.

What I find most pathetic is the shallow reasons given for refusing to release the data.  Requests for the data are described as "harassment".  Michael Mann does that too.  A request for normal scientific courtesy is harassment?  It may indeed be harassment if people keep asking for the data and the authors keep resisting but if they had released the data straight away there would have been no reason for multiple requests

The integrity of science as a whole now seems uncertain and faith in it is probably badly damaged.

Data sharing is all over academic news now. We had Research Parasites, a noxious species of scientists who want to analyse others’ published data without granting its “owners” co-authorships and a certain control over the interpretations. Then there is a major battle between patients and clinicians about the release of the original data from the so-called PACE trial, originally published in The Lancet, which analysed medical efficiency and economic costs of different therapies for chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). Since the PACE study came out in 2011, the patients, but also a number of academic scientists, remained unconvinced of the published therapy recommendations and suspected a misinterpretation of data. The authors felt harassed and even threatened by the patients’ incessant demands. The relevant research institutions, the Queen Mary University London and the King’s College London, took the side of their clinicians and refused the release of data, using as argument the allegedly inappropriate nature of such requests and the privacy rights of trial participants.

Importantly, the data sharing requests always concerned anonymised patient data, where names and any other personal information of the trial participants was specifically deleted, to avoid any even approximate identification and breach of privacy. Yet even then, several attempts of patients as well as academics, to obtain the anonymised PACE trial data were converted by the universities from academic inquiries into the bureaucratic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which were then repeatedly rejected. At the same time, some of the original PACE authors have been apparently somewhat critical of their original interpretations.

In 2012, a cost-effectiveness analysis of the PACE trial therapies was published in the open access journal PLOS One, where the authors by default had to agree “to make freely available any materials and information described in their publication that may be reasonably requested by others for the purpose of academic, non-commercial research”. James Coyne, professor of Health Psychology at the Dutch University Medical Center in Groningen, has since used this clause to demand the release of the published PACE data (Coyne is also an academic editor at PLOS One and writes a PLOS blog). His request was once again converted into a FOIA and turned down by King’s College London as being “vexatious” (just as Queen Mary University did before). The official letter to Coyne read:

“The university considers that there is a lack of value or serious purpose to your request. The university also considers that there is improper motive behind the request. The university considers that this request has caused and could further cause harassment and distress to staff”.

Nevertheless, PLOS One has issued an editorial notification saying:

“we are seeking further expert advice on the analyses reported in the article, and we will evaluate how the request for the data from this study relates to the policy that applies to the publication”.

Coyne, it seems, brings it in his blog post to the point:

“No one forced Peter White [lead author of PACE study,- LS] and colleagues to publish in an open access journal committed to data sharing, but by doing so they incurred an obligation. So, they should simply turn over the data”.


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