The implication of "Professionalism" in Climate Change discussions.

 I had a fascinating discussion today with an anonymous academic who reports himself (my bias? the commentor may be female but for the purposes of this discussion I will use male pronouns) as being “a professional and active scientist who teaches and carries out research at a university“. During the course of the discussion I was reminded about a very important difference between members of the academic community and those of us referred to as “professionals” in the private sector (ignoring tenure which is another kettle of wax). In the private sector, the use of the word “Professional” includes a requirement for a revocable professional designation.

For those of you not familiar with the topic let me provide some detail. I attended university, completed and successfully defended my thesis and was awarded a PhD. Once awarded a PhD, it is mine for life and can only be removed through processes that take the word “onerous” to another level. In essence a PhD is an irrevocable designation, and mine, regardless of any further achievements or infamies. The essentially irrevocable nature of a PhD makes it a pretty useless degree for compliance and regulatory purposes.

As described elsewhere, I have an Interdisciplinary PhD in Chemistry and Environmental Studies and an undergraduate degree in Biology and Chemistry. If, I meet someone on the street and they ask me what I do, based on my degrees I can reasonably refer to myself as a “chemist”, a “biologist” or an “environmental scientist” and not be too far off-side. However, in British Columbia (where I live and work) the College of Applied Biology Act reserves the right to award the titles “Professional Biologist” and “Registered Professional Biologist” to the College of Applied Biology (CAB). Similarly, the “right to title” for a “Professional Chemist” has been awarded to the Association of the Chemical Profession of British Columbia (ACPBC). If I were to try and sell my services as a Professional Biologist (R.P.Bio) or a Professional Chemist (P.Chem) without having been authorized by the CAB or ACPBC, respectively I could be prosecuted and risk serious legal and financial consequences. Under the Act, the CAB is a self-regulating body. As described by the College:

(s)elf-regulation requires the establishment of an organization, governed by elected members and supported by a professional staff complement, who set standards for entrance into the profession and for the conduct of members and their practice. Membership confers title and the status that the title affords. It is also an assurance of accountability to their peers and the public for their actions.

In order to become an R.P.Bio., I was required to demonstrate my professional qualifications via a process that examined my academic training, work experience and professional reporting. In order to maintain my status, I am required to meet a requirement to take ongoing ethics training and to read and understand the Code of Ethics for the College. On a yearly basis, I am required to demonstrate that I have met the College’s continued professional development requirements and attest that I have read, and agree to be governed by, our Code of Ethics. One component of the Code of Ethics is a proactive requirement to protect the reputation of the College. Of particular interest to my discussion is item 9 of the Code, which states that as an R.P.Bio, I:

(r)ecognize the duty to address poor conduct and/or practice of another member in order to protect the public interest, the profession, and the reputation of the College.

This proactive requirement means that not only am I accountable for my actions as an R.P.Bio (and as a P.Chem), I am also accountable for those of my peers. This positive obligation recognizes the fact that as an organization our reputation is only as good as the reputation of our ethically weakest members. A failure to maintain the highest ethical standards of the organization hurts not only the individual involved but every individual certified by the organization. As such a single ethical lapse can be enough to cause the loss of one’s professional designation and often one’s ability to earn a living. This is consistent with the expression: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

So how does this relate to my discussion? Well when I questioned the Physicist about hypothetical ethical lapses in his field, his responses were very telling:

Me: hypothetical question: How would you, in your peer community, address failings like those identified during “climategate”?

Me: because in my peer community we are governed by an enforceable code of ethics. To fail to meet the code results in expulsion

He… I’m not responsible for the behaviour of someone at a different university or from a different country.

Me: you are responsible for the behaviour of the members of your peer community. That is how Professional organizations work!

He: I don’t belong to a formal professional organization. That’s kind of the point I was getting at. So, no, I’m not responsible!

Me: That is where you are so wrong. You are part of a bigger more important organization. That of academic science.

Me: you are responsible for molding the minds of our next gen. and you appear to not understand the basic ethics of your calling

He: I’m neither a priest nor a politician.

Apparently, I had made two mistakes. My first mistake was to assume that when a scientist describes himself as a “professional” in his “About Me” that he/she might not actually be a “Professional” but simply someone who is paid to carry out a job. My second mistake was that until this discussion I had completely forgotten that academics can choose, if they wish, to live in an ethical void. Historically, academics considered themselves bound by the nature of the collegial endeavour. After all the etymology of the word “collegial” pretty much describes the behaviours one would expect from academics. Unfortunately, in recent years the bonds of collegiality have disappeared. There is no group capable of controlling the bad actors. I recognize that the limitations of the tenure system precludes enforcing ethical behaviours, but I am horrified to realize that for some modern academics what was once considered typical ethical behavior is now considered a thing reserved for a “priest or politician”. On a lighter note, I can’t help but notice that in a battle of ethics this academic views politicians as more ethical than academics?

Once again, I have written a long discussion and it appears to be hanging there, waiting for a conclusion. Well in this case the conclusion is simple. In a field where there is no mechanism (nor apparently desire) to enforce ethical behavior, no enforceable codes of ethics and no revocable professional designations it is contingent on outsiders to not blindly trust what you are told. In the wake of “Climategate” that chain I talked about earlier, appears to be mighty weak for some groups.

Please note, as, I have written elsewhere, two of the most ethical academics I have had the pleasure to work/study under are considered “climate scientists”. I also recognize that the vast majority of the community are highly ethical. I remain amazed, however, that bad actors in their midst can continue to behave like they have with so few repercussions.

As an addendum to my last post, I would like to remind readers to read what I write not what you want to believe I wrote. In my previous posting I was careful to not use the word sceptic (or skeptic) nor do I discuss any “skepticism” in the post. There is a good reason for that, it is simply because that is not what the posting was about. I deliberately chose the term “trust” in my discussion. I indicate that following “Climategate” I ceased to “trust” the actors involved. I no longer trusted that they had the best interests of the scientific endeavour in their minds. I am careful not to conflate “trust” and “skepticism”. Like all trained scientists, I try to maintain a healthy level of skepticism typical of scientific norms. Following “Climategate” I did not suddenly become “skeptical”, I specifically indicated that I became “less trusting”. I no longer “trust” that the actors involved are behaving in a manner consistent with the ideals of the scientific endeavour. This is not about skepticism, this is about trust.

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43 Responses to The implication of "Professionalism" in Climate Change discussions.

  1. Brian H says:

    ” I specifically indicted ” = indicated?

    It is indeed the practice of rewarding the worst actors the most that suggests the foxes are in charge of guarding the henhouse. Very plump foxes.

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  2. Blair says:

    Fixed, thanks

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  3. Jeff Norman says:

    Blair,

    If what you are saying is true then it might be possible that a non-professional scientist, who meets the needs of their peer group through less than ethical means, would get away with it without any significant impacts to their career.

    Just to hypothesis, let's say a non-professional scientist allegedly commits some sort of white collar crime like mail fraud to cast aspersions at a critic of a field of study of special interest to the non-professional scientist. If what you are saying is true then there would be minimal impacts to this non-professional scientist's career because there were no codes of ethics that would deter this kind of behaviour.

    To extend this example, the non-professional scientist's peer group could even reward the behaviour (that others might find disturbing and alarming) by appointing the non-professional scientist (just to be silly) to chair a task force on scientific ethics or something.

    I can't see it happening.

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  4. I really shouldn't comment as you've clearly aimed to cast me as some kind of unethical and unprofessional individual (at which point I should simply ignore what the person says).

    Apparently, I had made two mistakes. My first mistake was to assume that when a scientist describes himself as a “professional” in his “About Me” that he/she might not actually be a “Professional” but simply someone who is paid to carry out a job.
    There isn't really a professional body that I can join. I could join the Institute of Physics, but that isn't required to be an academic physicist. I use the work professional to mean “paid to do”, rather than “belonging to a professional body”. Hence, there is no easy way to address issues within the general scientific community. There are, however, rules about fraud, plagiarism, ethics, and research misconduct, but these are typically handled at a university level. Therefore, as I said on Twitter, I am only responsible for my own behaviour, not the behaviour of others. I'd rather hoped that you would get that basic point. Even if someone behaves poorly in your field, you're still not personally responsible.

    I am horrified to realize that for some modern academics what was once considered typical ethical behavior is now considered a thing reserved for a “priest or politician”.
    Your rhetorical devices are truly irritating. We were talking about research ethics and then you started throwing in molding the minds of the next generation. Well, I'm not really trying to mold the minds of the next generation. I teach physics to undergraduate students and I have PhD students and PostDocs with whom I do research. Yes, we do discuss research conduct and what we should publish and what others have published. Yes, of course I express views about this to them but they're already adults with degrees, I don't really try to mold them, as I see them as colleagues with whom I work. In fact, I often learn as much from my students and Postdocs than they learn from me (sometimes more).

    Unfortunately, in recent years the bonds of collegiality have disappeared.
    Yes, there has been a reduction in the bonds of collegiality in recent years, and this isn't something that I applaud. However, I don't really see this as all that relevant to what you're getting at.

    On a lighter note, I can’t help but notice that in a battle of ethics this academic views politicians as more ethical than academics?
    You might find that funny, I find it irritating as it isn't what I said. I was responding to your point about “molding the minds of the next generation” which, to me, sounds like something a priest might do, than an academic.

    Anyway, that's all I've got to say. You could try thinking about this a bit more, or you could just keep on banging your drum about the ethics and behaviour of others, while ignoring your own.

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  5. Jeff Norman says:

    ” I teach physics to undergraduate students and I have PhD students and PostDocs with whom I do research. Yes, we do discuss research conduct and what we should publish and what others have published. Yes, of course I express views about this to them but they're already adults with degrees, I don't really try to mold them, as I see them as colleagues with whom I work. In fact, I often learn as much from my students and Postdocs than they learn from me (sometimes more).”

    It is a relief to learn that in real life you are different from what your on-line persona would suggest. On-line you appear to be intolerant to anyone with an opinion contrary to your closely held beliefs. It is nice to know that in today's schools of higher learning there are professors/teachers who will entertain nonconformism from their students and not squash them like a bug (metaphorically of course) limiting their future career options.

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  6. It is a relief to learn that in real life you are different from what your on-line persona would suggest. On-line you appear to be intolerant to anyone with an opinion contrary to your closely held beliefs.
    Do you really mean beliefs? I rarely discuss politics/religion and the discussion mentioned here is probably about as close as I get to discussing my beliefs (and that's about the scientific method, rather than anything else). Given that our host has chosen to cast me as unprofessional and unethical, I'm not sure why I should be tolerant.

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  7. Blair, this is an excellent post. My engineering background allows me to understand quite clearly the thrust of what you wrote. And some of the responses tell me there are some who are unable to grasp the concept behind the creation and use of professional societies. The problem I see is the complexity of the climate science and the vagueness of the outputs, which make it so difficult to judge clearly the quality of work and to highlight ethical problems.

    I would like to add I have a sister with a PHD who found serious ethical lapses at a very high level institution. Unfortunately when she blew the whistle she wasn't fully prepared and there was a very fast coverup by the department head. Her husband, who also has a PHD and worked in the same institution managed to avoid the shell fragments as she was attacked for being honest, but she had to leave because the work atmosphere was very hostile.

    What I observed and measured myself tells me that indeed there's a need to have structured professional and administrative agencies to serve as “ethics and professional quality” certifying bodies. But I also KNOW from experience it's also important to educate young professionals, and for reward systems to be designed so as not to reward media prima donnas and self aggrandizing careerists. It's a never ending problem, and we can see large scale blunders when things go wrong, from the Macondo explosion to the Iraq invasion to Germany's poorly conceived renewables energy policies.

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  8. David Stern says:

    The academic community is organized differently than say the legal or medical community just as different countries have different forms of government. There are accepted ethical rules and they are policed by universities, journals, funding agencies probably first and foremost and only then by the academic societies. Many academic societies do have codes of conduct but even if they expelled a member for violating them it doesn't stop a university from employing that person if they want to… really academic societies are not THAT important. But academics are professional scientists in the sense that they are paid to do science, while someone can do science as an amateur too.

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  9. And some of the responses tell me there are some who are unable to grasp the concept behind the creation and use of professional societies. The problem I see is the complexity of the climate science and the vagueness of the outputs, which make it so difficult to judge clearly the quality of work and to highlight ethical problems.
    And a comment like this makes me think that you don't understand the concept of basic research (and by “basic” I don't mean easy, I mean research that is relatively fundamental). Professional societies typically exist so the clients can be confident that those who they contract to do work for them have the necessary expertise. Auditors who sign off on a company's books understand the relevant laws and auditing codes. Civil engineers have the knowledge/expertise to design a bridge that won't fall down. Etc. Universities already have rules about ethics and research misconduct. They might not be perfect, but we don't need professional societies to improve them. So, what would a professional society of fundamental researchers do? I don't guarantee that my research will be right. I simply aim to follow the best scientific practice. I don't even guarantee not to make a mistake – it is a complex and unexplored topic. What I'm aiming to do is to improve our understanding of some scientific topic. I'm not promising anything else. The same is true of most climate scientists. They're not promising to deliver a product to some client, they're aiming to improve our understanding of our planet's climate.

    So, given that we already have rules about ethics and research misconduct, what role would a professional society actually play and how would it help to improve the quality of research? I don't see a positive role, but maybe you can convince me otherwise. If, however, it's just to punish those with whom you disagree, your case is going to be pretty weak.

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  10. CNY Roger says:

    I disagree with andthentherespysics on some level relative to these statements: “Universities already have rules about ethics and research misconduct. They might not be perfect, but we don't need professional societies to improve them.” Especially when it comes to research meant to inform policy decisions I think that it is entirely appropriate that professional societies that include academics and the private sector have an ethics policy that directly addresses the implications of member research and reporting because that specific situation is something that academic ethics policies may not address.

    For example, I am a strong admirer of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society code of ethics (http://orafs.org/code-of-ethics/) and especially this statement: “I recognize that my deeply held, professional convictions may conflict with the interests and convictions of others. I am obligated to be clear and honest in distinguishing between reports of results from rigorous study and my professional opinions based on observations or intuition. My professional opinions clearly so identified have value, but must not be put forward as fact. In addition, the temporal, spatial, and contextual limits of my facts and their confidence limits must be clearly acknowledged.”

    Another good statement: “I will speak and write honestly and openly about the results of my work, neither hiding nor exaggerating their implications. I will explicitly acknowledge my own biases, assumptions, and values that are the foundation of my understanding and interpretation of scientific theories and knowledge. I will be open to the ideas of others and evaluate those ideas with clear recognition of the influence of my own values.”

    Member of this society are embroiled in controversial policy decisions and they have confronted the ramifications of member biases and ethics head on to their credit.

    In my opinion, in climate science, there is too little acknowledgement that personal biases are an issue and far too many examples where the limits of the climate science facts have not been clearly acknowledged. I guess what I wish for most is the IPCC participants would be held to a code of ethics with these components. Realistically that is not going to happen so I believe that other professional societies should have ethics policies along these lines and ended up quitting the American Meteorological Society for not incorporating these concepts in their own code of ethics. If more professional societies were as cognizant as the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society of the impact of member research on policy and members were held accountable at least of the Climategate people would have had to respond to the emails the whistle blower released.

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  11. I disagree with andthentherespysics on some level relative to these statements: “Universities already have rules about ethics and research misconduct. They might not be perfect, but we don't need professional societies to improve them.” Especially when it comes to research meant to inform policy decisions I think that it is entirely appropriate that professional societies that include academics and the private sector have an ethics policy that directly addresses the implications of member research and reporting because that specific situation is something that academic ethics policies may not address.

    I'm not entirely sure what you disagree with. If you think I was suggesting that professional societies shouldn't have ethics policies, then I don't. If you think I disagree with the ethics statements you present, then I don't; they seem quite sensible. In fact, I would have no issue with universities adapting some of those for their own ethics statements (some may already have). Some of what I'm saying is purely factual: you, typically, don't need to belong to a professional society in order to do scientific research in a university (well, this is true in most areas in which I have experience).

    Maybe where we disagree is in whether or not this should become a requirement. I don't think it should, not for those who are simply undertaking fundamental research. Why? Because I can't really see what that would add that universities couldn't do themselves. Plus, researchers are meant to take risks. We want them to probe the things we don't yet understand. They're going to make lots of mistakes and get things wrong. This is how it works and it should be encouraged. On the other hand, if you're suggesting that those who are directly involved in influencing policy should belong to professional societies and have a formal ethics statement, sure maybe, but those aren't who I'm talking about (and I'm not quite sure how this would even work).

    However, just because someone's research might be policy relevant doesn't mean that this influences how they do their research. It might, but that's why we have a scientific method. We trust something when it has been tested by many people in different universities and in different countries, not because the researchers have agreed with some kind of formal ethics statement. Thinking that we could trust scientists more if they belonged to a professional body with an formal ethics statement just seems naive to me. We trust the method, not the people.

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  12. CNY Roger says:

    Thank you. I think I understand your point.

    We do have one point of disagreement. I think your interpretation is ethic s issue is more about the methodology and my concern is more about how the results are portrayed to the political decision makers. Of course if the research does not address alternative hypotheses but claims to completely answer the question there is an ethical issue but as you point out that should shake out later. So, I agree with your point that ethics policies for fundamental research are not as necessary.

    My concern is about the reporting. The Climategate emails suggest that some folks were actively trying to block publication of results or aspects of their work that did not fit their biased agenda. To my mind, that is unethical and a proper point of emphasis for professional societies. Logistically I have no clue whether professional societes could respond effectively.

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  13. If I were in your line I would create a society with a set of ethical guidelines. It should have a society journal or journals (that is, cut out nature and the monopoly publishing houses). The ability to publish in the journal would be subject to the creation of back up documentation to allow results to be reproduced. In some cases this may not be possible, but the intent would be to have the data and the procedures documented.

    The standards are different if you want your results to be used for investment decisions and legislation by governments. In such cases the senior personnel signing off on work products would have to be properly educated and certified not to have criminal records.

    In my case the punishment for signing off on mistakes, when this is done negligently, can lead to a jail sentence. But I don't think a climate study has such immediacy. So the “punishment” would presumably be the society's refusal to publish what you do. And if the society is signing off and publishing shoddy work then it will be recognized as a society of charlatans. The idea is to bind you together to make you more clearly responsible for your colleagues' work.

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  14. The fact that an IPCC lead author was a Greenpeace employee and was caught defacing the Nazca lines in Peru tells me the IPCC has very poor judgement. It puts a cloud on that effort.

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  15. There certainly was lack of ethics. What's pretty funny is the idea that's being presented, that somehow scientists have some kind of super ethical nature. Those of us who have had to deal with very smart and educated people and police their work realize they are just like every else when it comes to personal ethics. And some are worse, because they think they are so smart they can figure out how to get away with it. The key is to understand human nature. And from what I have seen some of these climate personalities are very human.

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  16. Blair says:

    Physics,

    So in your mind you teach undergrads and don't influence them in any significant way, shape or form. You also write that you “have PhD students and PostDocs with whom I do research”. So under this construction you don't teach your grad students nor mentor your post-docs? They are just people who happen to work with you and you provide no influences on their learning environment?

    You talk of my rhetorical devices? they are not rhetorical devices, I just read what is written and presume that, except in cases of obvious irony, that the author means what he/she has written. That may make me something of a literalist, but in a written environment with no visual cues taking people for what they have written seems a reasonable approach.

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  17. Is that a fact? Who?

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  18. Jeff Norman says:

    “Do you really mean beliefs?”

    Yes.

    It is odd that you think “belief” is limited to politics and religion.

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  19. Sven Teske is a “reviewer” of WG III, not an author and not a lead author. According to naysayer Donna LaFramboise, that is.

    http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2010/01/28/greenpeace-and-the-nobel-winning-climate-report/

    Hardly more responsible a role than Lord Monckton's.

    https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/press-releases/ipcc-wg3-ar5-authors.pdf

    What are the ethics of claiming that a “lead author” was involved in the vandalism when this is not the case?

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  20. Climatology arguably needs to make a formal transition form pure science to applied science. But again, it makes no sense to apply these standards retroactively.

    One could argue that “changing the definition of peer review” is about an attempt to formalize an ethical standard for publication that had been implicit. That is, far from a violation of ethics, one could see it as an attempt to create an ethical standard, whereby substandard papers are not forced into WG I's purview by short-circuiting normal peer review processes.

    That is, far from being a violation of the sorts of principles you are espousing, it was an attempt to move toward them.

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  21. Climatology arguably needs to make a formal transition form pure science to applied science. But again, it makes no sense to apply these standards retroactively.

    One could argue that “changing the definition of peer review” is about an attempt to formalize an ethical standard for publication that had been implicit. That is, far from a violation of ethics, one could see it as an attempt to create an ethical standard, whereby substandard papers are not forced into WG I's purview by short-circuiting normal peer review processes.

    That is, far from being a violation of the sorts of principles you are espousing, it was an attempt to move toward them.

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  22. Sorry, not meant as a reply in this sequence. Reposted.

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  23. Blair,
    Okay, your response is enough to convince me that you're not really interested in a decent or honest discussion. “Mold the minds” has a very specific, and not necessarily positive, connotation in my view. I shall leave you to this and chalk this down to another example of a situation where I should have been guided by my first impressions. I'm neither obliged, nor interested in, being involved in my own character assassination.

    That may make me something of a literalist, but in a written environment with no visual cues taking people for what they have written seems a reasonable approach.
    This is not how I would describe it. Not only are you basing your views on a discussion in a forum limited to 140 characters, but writing the “shock/horror, how can he believe that/behave like that” post that you have is, in my view, a rather despicable thing to do, given that I had been engaging as honestly and openly as I could. I certainly no longer trust you and have no interest in encountering you ever again. In fact, I rather regret having encountered you in the first place.

    JN,
    It is odd that you think “belief” is limited to politics and religion.
    True, but when one can back up ones views with actual evidence, then it's not – strictly speaking – belief.

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  24. Blair says:

    I'm pretty sure it is a matter of our different backgrounds, but in this part of the world, molding of minds is considered one of the highest privileges of teaching. Helping young minds grow and develop is a joy and something teachers (and professors) relish. When I taught, the opportunity to help students learn how to learn, teaching them critical thought and then setting them on paths to success was a task I relished.

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  25. Blair,
    I didn't say it wasn't important. I wouldn't be doing the job I'm doing if I thought it wasn't important and I didn't enjoy it. I was simply responding to your “mold the minds” phrasology. If you meant “teach”, then you could have said so. Personally, I teach my students physics and, hopefully, teach them to think for themselves. I'm not trying to “mold their minds”, I'm giving them (ideally) the opportunity to do that for themselves. Anyway, I've done what I usually do, which is not stay away when I said I would. It's a failing, but at least I recognise it. I shall now endeavour to do so, and will leave you to whatever it is that you're trying to do here.

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  26. Teske was an author of an IPCC report on renewable energy in 2011.

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  27. Maybe. Link please?

    Regardless, nothing to do with WG I, never mind physical climatology itself.

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  28. Yep, I stand corrected. There he is, one of approximately 250 “contributors” to a minor report by WG III.

    http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/IPCC_SRREN_Annex_IV.pdf

    Pretty much proves that there's nothing to this greenhouse business, doesn't it?

    But isn't calling him a “lead author” perhaps, a bit, um, over-egging the custard?

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  29. I guess I should check that he was involved in the Peru fiasco. Evidence for that? Or just that he's connected to Greenpeace?

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  30. No, it's more than that, but again perhaps less than implied. See 1:50 here in this CFACT video.

    CFACT is deliberately conflating the Nazca episode with a nondamaging projection onto Machu Picchu. Admittedly that is in dubious taste but it is relatively benign. I'll also admit that it does seem like the same great minds were at work, so Teske may well have been involved. But the case is not proved.

    It's a long way from someone responsible for about 1/250th of a secondary WG III report doing something stupid to discounting IPCC, never mind discounting climate science. It's not proven, but there's definitely grounds for suspicion that this in fact happened.

    Eppur si scioglie, like I said, paraphrasing Galileo. Nevertheless, it does melt.

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  31. The twitter conversation between you two on Jan 10th was quite jawdropping. For example:

    You: did not the quote go “redefine peer review”? If that is not a thumb on the scale I don't know what is?

    He: You don't really get the scientific method thing, do you?

    You: that the remaining, ethical members of the community fail to chastise the small group is what continues to amaze me.

    He: Or you just don't have a clue?

    At ATTP's blog he starts by referring to “a couple of recent blog posts” on climate skepticism, without making it clear who or what he is referring to. I think it's generally a good idea, if you are commenting on or criticising something, to say what or who – in the interests of clarity and transparency.
    (Blair is following my guidelines here – anyone who didnt know who was being discussed could easily check by looking at his tweets or googling the quoted phrase).

    When you, quite reasonably, commented “Since I am the topic of the discussion…”, he responded that “you're not really the topic.” So presumably my blog post converts to scepticism is. It seems that he is too scared that someone might actually go and read my post to say what he is referring to or provide the link.

    I cannot comment on his blog, because he has banned me, for the crime of pointing out that he – supposedly a physicist – wrote a post with a lot of remarks about boundary conditions, from which it was apparent that he did not seem to understand what a boundary condition is.

    Of course, his attempts to control the narrative are doomed to failure and counterproductive, since I can comment at more, err, professional blogs.

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  32. Hi Michael

    Minimizing Teske's role is not really helping, here is some more information, from a different perspective..

    Even Mark Lyans, green activist and environmentalist (author of 6 Degrees ! and the God Species) – someone who labelled Lindzen a denier a decade ago) thought Teske and Greenpeace and the IPCC had a problem…

    Mark:

    So just when Steve and I had asked the IPCC Renewables report’s lead author Ottmar Edenhofer to confirm what role, if any, Greenpeace’s Sven Teske had in selecting his own study as one of the four ‘illustrative’ scenarios in Chapter 10, Teske himself makes things worse by boasting about his study’s headline influence. That Teske – and by implication Greenpeace – see their own “revolutionary vision” as having been given the stamp of scientific authority by the IPCC is quite clear. Teske continues:

    “Before any ink even had a chance to dry, however, the report was already under attack from some desperate commentators who appear to have a strange, fundamental disbelief in the possibility of a clean energy future.” – Teske

    – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/the-ipcc-renewables-controversy-where-have-we-got-to/#sthash.LW8ymGc5.dpuf

    Mark Lynas started his criticism here:

    New IPCC error: renewables report conclusion was dictated by Greenpeace http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/new-ipcc-error-renewables-report-conclusion-was-dictated-by-greenpeace/#sthash.qke9EplS.dpuf

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  33. Mark says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. Mark says:

    Some people above seem to think that because Universities have ethics codes, then the ethics questions are settled. Anyone who has spent any time watching Universities in action know this is not true.

    The point of an ethics code for a university is to protect the university. It can say firstly that it did not condone the behaviour, and then it has the power to punish the miscreant.

    If someone's behaviour is an ethical lapse, but has no effect on the university as a university, then any ethics punishment is only a cause of stress and difficulty to it. To actively punish a member of their staff for reasons outside their interest is a non-starter because it makes them look as if they contain unethical individuals. Anyone starting such a prosecution would be a social leper. So it doesn't happen. It pretty much never happens.

    University ethics punishments are for social offences, like sleeping with your students. Only massive errors of judgement like making up data wholesale get covered otherwise. And then the behaviour pretty much has to be brought to their attention by some party that cannot be bludgeoned into submission.

    So academics can pretty much say what they want about anyone exterior to the university, publish shoddy research provided it is not actually made up, and generally behave execrably. They could, for example, get themselves caught in the polar ice because they were reckless, without a worry what the university will do. They can seek for academics are other universities to be fired (though doing so at their own would be playing with fire).

    To most people who have been through universities and have contact with them still and see what happens, but are not themselves on the inside, the ethical behaviour of the staff is a matter of amazement. They are, by the standards of the general world, an ethics wild West. (Admittedly mostly done politely, via accepted forms like journals, but the spite and evil isn't any nicer for being well framed.)

    Generally I don't subscribe too much to the idea that academics are isolated for the real world. But only those that have always been inside them and who haven't had to face the tight ethical rules of a professional organisation (or school, or hospital, etc) would think that having an ethics policy gives even the slightest protection against unethical behaviour

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  35. Lets not inflate the Greenpeace dude's role or Greenpeace tendency to behave in a piratical fashion. I emphasized the fact that a Greenpeace employee was allowed to participate. And let's be clear : I stand in judgement. I judge you. I'm a self appointed decision maker. And I decide the IPCC has serious problems. It has ethical problems, organizational problems, leadership problems, and just about any problem one can imagine. I would trash it, and start all over. And try to come up with something with some sort of explicit professional ethics rules.

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  36. Mark says:

    But having rules Fernando doesn't mean they get followed. The IPCC is a UN organisation, so it lives in a politicized environment. Expecting ethical behaviour is pretty much like hoping for unicorns.

    No-one would expect good economics to be done by such an organisation. No-one would expect good political theory to be studied by such an organisation (and the Nobel Peace Prize is an example of how badly wrong even a much less politicized group can get). Why anyone would expect good science to be done that way is beyond me.

    Except they aren't expecting good science to be done, they are expecting the “correct” answer to be achieved, which is of course a political decision. Ethics won't come into it.

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  37. Just for the record – and Michael Tobis' edification – re Teske's contribution to the IPCC's SRREN …

    Greenpeace's Teske was a Lead Author for Chapter 10 “Mitigation Potential and Costs”. And the 2010 “paper” – for which Teske was given top billing – was cited no less than 36 times.

    But perhaps someone should let Co-Chair, Edenhoffer, know that Tobis has determined that the SRREN was merely “a minor report by WG III”.

    And see https://nigguraths.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/the-greenpeace-nazca-lines-selfiegate-and-greg-laden/ for evidence of Teske's Nazkca involvement.

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  38. I am not defending Teske. I am not sure the quote calling him a “lead author” is definitive (it may be translated) but I see it was not injected by Leanme and withdraw that suggestion with apologies.

    Nevertheless, “Lead author” is a specific title in the main IPCC reports and T was not one.

    That said, I am not in the habit of defending or attacking WG II or WG III.

    I do not think they are of the same quality as WG I, which is the actual climate science report as I construe the term. If we're discussing climate science meaning physical climatology, then WG I is relevant and WG II and III are not.

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  39. Do yourself – and your credibility – a favour, Michael: Take some time to review the material on which you are making pronouncements. That way you will not appear to be quite as foolish, pompous and ignorant as you do!

    I am quite familiar with the term “Lead Author” – and its usage. Teske is listed by the IPCC as a “Lead Author” in the chapter I had cited above.

    Then again your pronouncements and pontifications rarely provide anything more than amusing diversions from the actual matter at hand.

    I did your homework for you – and provided you with the Chapter, Title and number of Verses of Teske's “contributions” to the latest edition of the Climate Bible (which constitute his obvious 36 conflicts of interest – cf the 2010 InterAcademy Council's review of the IPCC, on the heels of the fallout from Climategate).

    Your coinage of “physical climatology” is interesting. Particularly since the conclusions are so dependent on the output of the (considerably less than reliable) “virtual models”. But, that aside …

    Not sure quite why it should be the case, but it seems to me that whenever I encounter a Tobis post, the aphorism that invariably comes to mind is: 'You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him think'!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Pingback: More on "Professionalism" in the Climate Change debate | A Chemist in Langley

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