The Corruption Of Science
By Paul Homewood
h/t AC Osborn
Hot on the heels of the RSS pause busting adjustments, themselves repeating NOAA’s own ones, Melanie Phillips has a thoughtful piece in the Times, which picks up on a statement by Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet,
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”
According to a new study, scientists’ claims that coral reefs are doomed by ocean acidification are overplayed. An “inherent bias” in scientific journals, says the editor of ICES Journal of Marine Science, has excluded research showing marine creatures are not being damaged.
Instead, he says, many studies have used flawed methods by subjecting such creatures to sudden increases in carbon dioxide that would never happen in real life. No surprises there. The claim that CO2 emissions are acidifying the oceans is a favourite of climate-change alarmists.
Man-made global warming theory has been propped up by studies that many scientists have dismissed as methodologically flawed, ideologically bent or even fraudulent. The problem of scientific integrity, however, goes far wider. Psychology, neuroscience, physics and other scientific areas have been convulsed by revelations of dodgy research.
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, has written bleakly: “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”
One reason is that cash-strapped universities, competing for money and talent, exert huge pressure on academics to publish more and more to meet the box-ticking criteria set by grant-funding bodies. Corners are being cut and mistakes being made.
But whatever happened to peer-review, the supposed kitemark of scientific integrity produced by the collective judgment of other researchers? Well, that seems to have gone south too. In 1998 Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, sent an article containing eight deliberate mistakes to more than 200 of the BMJ’s regular reviewers. Not one picked out all the mistakes. On average, they reported fewer than two; some did not spot any.
The problem lies with research itself. The cornerstone of scientific authority rests on the notion that replicating an experiment will produce the same result. If replication fails, the research is deemed flawed. But failure to replicate is widespread. In 2012, the OECD spent $59 billion on biomedical research, nearly double the 2000 figure. Yet an official at America’s National Institutes of Health has said researchers would find it hard to reproduce at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings.
A 2005 study by John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University, said the majority of published research findings were probably false. At most, no more than about one in four findings from early-phase clinical trials would be true; epidemiological studies might have only a one in five chance of being true. “Empirical evidence on expert opinion”, he wrote, “shows that it is extremely unreliable”. […]
Underlying much of this disarray is surely the pressure to conform to an idea, whether political, commercial or ideological. Ideological fads produce financial and professional incentives to conform and punishment for dissent, whether loss of grant-funding or lack of advancement. As Professor Ioannidis observed: “For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.” […]
Underlying this loss of scientific bearings is a closed intellectual circle. Scientists pose as secular priests. They alone, they claim, hold the keys to the universe. Those who aren’t scientists merely express uneducated opinion. The resulting absence of openness and transparency is proving the scientists’ undoing. In the words of Richard Horton, “science has taken a turn towards darkness”. But science defines modernity. It is our gold standard of truth and reason. This is the darkness of the West too.
The day before, the Washington Times asked some pertinent questions about NOAA’s shady practices:
Pure science undertaken for science’s own sake is as rare as a rainbow. It’s certainly scarce in Washington, where the quest for knowledge is vulnerable to the bias of politics. Skeptics of President Obama’s climate change agenda say they see new evidence of fraud. If administration officials are colluding with scientists to cook the evidence, such as it might be, to demonstrate that the planet is warming, the skeptics deserve everyone’s thanks.
Whistleblowers within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) complained last year that a major study by agency researcher Thomas Karl, refuting evidence of a pause in global warming, had been rushed to publication. The implication was that the study was coordinated with Obama administration officials to add to the urgency of the president’s climate change agenda in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued a subpoena of records of NOAA communications dealing with the study.
The inquiry began afresh last month when Rep. Lamar Smith, wrote to NOAA expressing disappointment “with the slow pace and limited scope of the agency’s production [of such records],” which had yielded only 301 pages. Mr. Smith directed officials to broaden their search for relevant documents. He said the committee had received a letter signed by 325 scientists, engineers, economists and other scholars questioning whether the agency had properly peer-reviewed the “quality, objectivity, utility and integrity” of the data used in the Karl study.
Data consist of facts, and facts can be cherry-picked to yield a desired effect. In the NOAA study, researchers found that ocean temperatures measured by ships were warmer than those recorded by buoys anchored in place, and scientists “developed a method to correct the difference between ship and buoy measurements.” Ship’s engines, however, can heat nearby water and produce false readings. By including those values, critics contend, the agency may have effectively erased evidence of the global warming pause.
President Obama’s efforts to “re-engineer” the American energy industry is based on the argument that combustion of fossil fuels endangers the planet, and a rapid transition to renewable power sources is essential. The argument was the basis for the Paris climate change agreement, endorsed by nearly 200 nations. If documents were to emerge suggesting temperature data was doctored to reach an expedient conclusion in the NOAA study, and if White House officials were part of such a scheme, that would be proof that science had been recruited to serve politics. Trust in government would be further eroded.
This would not be the first instance of Obama-era back-channel scheming. Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee issued a report last summer accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of colluding with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other “green” organizations to develop the president’s landmark Clean Power Plan, which will saddle Americans with billions of dollars in higher energy bills for decades to come. EPA officials quietly schemed with environmentalists to write regulations reinforcing their shared climate change agenda. The agency has denied the accusations.
Science must be free from pressure to validate political goals. If findings and measurements are altered to serve a political agenda, the findings are flawed. It’s called fraud, and should be punished.