A suggested new start for climate and academia in general

After a twitter exchange with Lonny Eachus, in which I made some suggestions, I am writing them up in more detail. Feel free to add comments.

(Academic free) Institutes for monitoring climate

The single biggest issue we face on climate is that almost none of the data can be relied on for two reasons:

  • Those involved are almost invariably pushing a point of view and as a result (like NOAA and NASA) they are constantly trying to push the evidence to fit their politics.
  • Those involved (almost invariably) have no background in quality assured systems or instrumentation.

Therefore, the prime objective must be to address these two issues. The first requires a separation between “data gathering” and “interpretation” (and speculation). And by setting up a number of “Engineering institutes” we could then focus on quality assurance (a thing unknown to most academics who don’t e.g. have ISO9000). These new institutions (because we need at least two for each to validate the work of the other) would have as their sole objective the production of the most reliable and accurate measurements of key climate data from around the world.
So, no more “shoe-string” operations by incompetent academics (like Phil Jones who could not use excel). In short, an end to the appalling quality , mess and shambles we have at the moment. But mind you, it won’t be cheap!
We cannot permit the current academic “make do and mend” attitude to continue. It is just inherently going to produce bad quality and that allows it to be open to meddling – “upjustments” and all the other corruptions we now see. Instead it has to be first class measurements – and that means using the very best equipment spread across the globe. And not this time relying on the (non-calibration) by others, but instead a systematic calibration and maintenance of sites to ensure consistency of measurements across decades if not centuries. So none of this “Fred offers to put up a screen next to his boiler in his garden” nonsense. Instead, large sites will need to be purchased and governments agree to exclude any building or farming in a buffer zone around them.
Also, and unlike NOAA or NASA, these institutes would need very clear and limited scopes of work. None of this “mission creep” and raising/fabricating problems to grow their “empires”. We decide what they measure when they are set up, we have at least two, so we can compare and contrast, and we don’t change what they do.
And finally – the institutions (unlike those currently doing it like the UEA) would be required to comply with international quality standards for instrumentation and metrics like ISO 9000 (and unlike UEA they would be properly trained – so no more allowing people without even the competence to use basic tools like Excel or write code using recongised standard getting to these jobs just because they did a PhD in the distant past and know some chum in the department.)

A Change in Academia

The next issue that needs addressing, once academia is removed from primary data gathering (for which it is entirely unsuited), is to address the areas of funding research, peer review and the related issue of “promotion through number of papers”.

Funding Research

The big problem for society, is that academia is overwhelmingly “Guardian” or as the US would say “Liberal” in their outlook. As a result, it obsessively focusses on “Liberal” issues and that means “Liberal” issues and research likely to support their liberal views gets all the funding.This is not acceptable in any reasonable society. And the result has been a vicious cycle of anti-industry research growing a culture of anti-industry hostility which for example uses the proxy of CO2 to attack “capitalist industry”.

{and no for the trolls – this is NOT SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY –  because if you put a lot of people with the same (minority) Guardian viewpoint in a committee, it is inevitable the viewpoint of the committee will be Guardian/Liberal}

Therefore, a majority of these funding committees should come from outside academia. As the internet activities of sceptics show, there are many many retired engineers and (commercial) scientists with time on their hands who are extremely knowledgeable about science and the needs of industry and who could be very well employed helping to decide funding for science.

Peer Review (and promotion through writing useless papers)

Unfortunately, whilst there are just a few funding bodies, and it would be very easy to find people with knowledge from outside academia to help restore balance in them, the same is not true in peer review of papers because of the more detailed knowledge, the number of papers and the problem getting academic-controlled journals to improve their standards and bring in non-academics to do reviews.
However, the aim should be to have at least one person from outside academia review all papers. Alternatively, there should be some form of open review of papers – but whilst some subjects may attract a lot of interest (like climate) – realistically it may be very difficult to get outside interest in some areas – and even more difficult to judge whether people are competent when coming from outside academia.
But a bigger problem is that unfortunately, as journals are independent, they are largely run by academics, so enforcing a rule that downplays the importance of academia by forcing outside review would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.
However, the same is not true of government funding. So there should be a distinction between papers that have “external review” and those that do not.
A very simple approach to encourage external review, would be to discount all papers without external review for the purposes of promotions & grant funding (unless there were none). There may still be areas which find it difficult to gain external reviewers – but at least everyone in the same subject will be at the same disadvantage!

Humility in Climate studies

As I said to Eachus: “In Climate someone can make a prediction in their PhD that cannot be tested until near their retirement” …” And as a result have a whole career as a ‘scientist’ based on something that was never scientific.
That first generation of climate “scientists” led us into what is arguably the biggest and most costly scandal in world history. It has certainly damaged the reputation of science and may well have cost many many lives through misguided and reckless policies.
And it all happened because of reckless belief by academics in their own ability to understand the climate. Something that has turned out to be completely wrong.
If we are to prevent future generations of climate academics from ever being so damned arrogant, we have to really make sure that an example is made of those responsible to ensure that none of them dare to be so utterly arrogantly stupid  ever again.
Whereas we needed the highest possible standards on this world-wide “issue”, we ended up with the lowest possible standards and a subject run and controlled by a bunch of outright scoundrels. The only way to send a very clear message that that kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated, is to bring the full weight of the law against them.

Auditing of Academia

At present academia is self-policing – which as we have seen in the area of climate has meant no policing at all. The closest we have had is the climategate inquiries (which did not investigate the science and failed to follow up ever a fraction of the issues). And the US congressional inquiry, which again is at a political level.
Self-regulation has clearly failed. We now need a system of reviewing the research activity of academia, in a similar way to that OFFSTED reviews schools in the UK. The main focus would be on standards of integrity and honesty of research. Regular and systematic checks to ensure the researchers are actually working on the area for which the grants are given, to ensure that the research is backed up by data, that the analysis is drawn from the data (and not the fertile imagination of the researcher) and that ethical and other standards are met.

Chief Engineers

Finally, whilst engineers have to understand science to use it in their engineering, the same is not true of scientists who are usually clueless about anything outside academia in the real world of commerce and society.
As such, it is ridiculous that the UK government takes advice from “Chief Scientists” who are entirely public-sector biased in their outlook. In contrast (whilst it may not seem like it at times) engineers understand the importance of science, but also the importance of engineering.
So, please, lets scrap the role of “Chief Scientist” and replace them with the far more appropriate role of “Chief Engineer”.

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3 Responses to A suggested new start for climate and academia in general

  1. Counter Revolutionary says:

    Like the concept. Don’t think it is possible because politics and mission creep are human nature.
    BTW, 1st reference to ISO is to wrong number.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      The problem is that I don’t really see an alternative. It’s not like they willingly accepted defeat and graciously accepted the need to change. The evidence is now unequivocal – yet we are still having to drag them kicking and screaming “doomsday warming” toward the exit door of this scam.
      As a result, NASA, NOAA and those like the UK Met Office are no longer credible (we can see that, soon everyone will see it because the climate just will not behave as they said it would).
      We are going to have to have some new organisation(s) – we should take the opportunity to try to get it right this time so that we don’t see another repeat (at least not in my lifetime).

  2. catweazle666 says:

    “At present academia is self-policing – which as we have seen in the area of climate has meant no policing at all.”
    In the area of policing also, unfortunately.
    Self-regulation is another of those nice ideas that fail to acknowledge human nature.
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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