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Nursery cryme

Six months ago, Paul Nurse was taken to task by Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, for misrepresenting the scope of the Act. Nurse claimed that

I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it's intimidating.

Frankel's response was that he was talking nonsense:

Deliberate attempts to "intimidate" scientists, if that is what they are, can be refused under the Freedom of Information Act's safeguards against vexatious requests. Unreasonable requests for all pre-publication drafts of scientific papers can be refused under an exemption for information due for future publication. Explanations of why changes to successive drafts were made do not have to be provided unless they exist in writing. Multiple related requests from different people, if they are co-ordinated, can be refused if the combined cost of answering exceeds the act's cost limit.

Believe it or not, Nurse is at it again! (Emphasis added)

The country's top scientist has told The Independent that he wants to review the way the FOI Act is being used by a well-organised and "zealous" minority to intimidate scientists engaged in contentious research, such as studies into tobacco use and climate change.

Sir Paul said he and many other leading scientists did not anticipate the extent to which raw scientific data and unpublished scientific manuscripts would be subject to FOI requests.

Why does somebody in such a prominent position do something so...transparent?

After Nurse's previous outburst, McIntyre wrote to ask if he could give some examples (in the comments here). I wonder if he got a reply?


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Reader Comments (43)

Thanks Sara. I've added it to the main post.

Nov 16, 2011 at 9:48 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I am pretty sick of this whining. It boils down to "We didn't understand the law. We still don't, even though it has applied to us for years now. We don't like it. We think we are being targeted and intimidated by people using the laws that apply to us as public authorities. Boo Hoo."

This is the cry of scientists throughout the western world and its been going on for a good couple of years now. It is getting very boring.

My advice? Please shut up and comply with the law. Claim exemptions under the elevant FOI regimes if you think they apply, but other than that, drag yourselves and your institutions up to date and comply. The citizen should not have to take you to task and to court just because you don't like a law that requires you to provide information to those who pay the bills. The obfuscation and special status pleading of academia is sickening.

Nov 16, 2011 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

If the work is done properly, there should be an audirable trail between all versions of a manuscript, with all comments and responses between versions being documented. It takes no effort these days to produce an auditable trail, with electronic document management systems being widely available. In my industry we have been doing it for well over 10years. It is then a just a keystroke to release all the information. Why does academia seem to be so out of touch with modern ways of quality control? Perhaps, as seemed to be the case with Phil Jones, they were more happy to spend money on going to conferences in exotic locations than spending money on quality systems.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

as far as I know, no beleaguered scientist ever got back to McIntyre - but you should raise it with him. This is Nurse seeking to protect his domain, without realising that he has forgotten to put his trousers on....yet again.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Hold on a sec. David Holland has had dozens of requests in for intermediate versions of the IPCC AR4 Chp 6 related to obsession with Ammann and Wahl, and McIntyre himself has made requests of UEA for unpublished data collations related to the Polar Urals. You can argue whether these requests should or should not be responded to, but you can't argue that they aren't happening.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

The figure head is beginning to sound a little repetitive. Maybe he just did not convince himself the first time he said it?

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

The intimidation spin is getting a bit old isn't it?

Nurse seems to realise that it is easy to wheel it out and it will always get a lot of press coverage in the usual friendly places, (this tobacco FOI story did the rounds a while back didn't it, it all seems opportunistic and stale), but surely if he eventually expects anything to happen i.e. a re-writing of the whole FOI legislation to exempt scientists, he has to eventually to pony up some actual evidence of real intimidation?

He's beginning to sound like a broken record. A bit desperate?

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Frank...those guys could have provided the data....or else shown a good reason why they could not provide it. Endless stupid obstruction will get caught even Nurse might accept. But probably not, given his basic IQ.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

...wonders whether Frank has heard of that marvellous modern invention....the internet. Put your data on that strange, modern machine ...the internet...and people will access it. For Frank, the sheer idea must seem very strange and unsettling.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

The reason why scientists feel intimidated is because they are being held responsible for their actions.

It is fine to leave a scientist to explore his research in isolation and without interference until the scientist becomes an activist and tries to influence policy and legislation. From then on there can be no claim whatsoever of “intimidation”. It is quite frankly in the modern vernacular “put up or shut up” and that means every single note, annotation, thought process, data, code, etc.

The process has a more polite and correct description – “due diligence”.

If a scientist thinks that his paymasters should accept his conclusions without carrying out the necessary and appropriate due diligence then it is obvious that wrong scientist has been hired.

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

I guess this is mandated, given the title of the post:

Play me old King Climate
That I may splice the lot
All my proxies now seem so far from temps
It hardly seems to matter now

And Sir Paul will tell you lies
Of a FOI request beyond the skies
But I am lost within this non-warming world
It hardly seems to matter now

Cool the old temps
Here they come again
Warm the new temps
Here they come again

Just a little bit
Just a little bit more high
Temps ought to go up in my life

Cool the old temps
Here they come again
Warm the new temps
Here they come again

Old King Climate was a merry warming climate
And a merry warming climate was he
So he called for his hockey stick
And he called for his bristlecones
And he called for his fudgers three

The clock, tick-tock
On the way to Durban
And I want and I feel
And I know and I touch the warmth

CO2's the enemy, CO2's stays up all the time
Brush back your chimneys
And let me get to make you poor

CO2's the enemy, CO2's won't be emitted
Brush back your chimneys
And let me get to make you suffer

I've been waiting here for so long
And all this time that passed me by
It doesn't seem to matter now

Deniers stand there with their fixed questions
Casting doubt on all I have to say
Why don't you trust me, trust me?
Why don't you trust me, trust me?
Socialism now,
Now, now, now

Nov 16, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Nurse does not like the current RS moto of take no bodies word for it , he really wants it to be 'trust me I am scientist' When you look at the pattern of FOI's with CRU they in no way match the 'story' Nurse is trying to tell, while he ignores Jones plans to avoid FOI BEFORE he even got one and the active way he short to undermine the process of when he did .

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

and finally...whenever I have been asked to supply data, I supply much of it as I possibly can, simply because I know that most people cannot handle more than 1meg - and that is the size of an average novel?

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Frank points out that David Holland has had dozens of requests in for intermediate versions of the IPCC AR4 Chp 6

Indeed true, but irrelevant to what Nurse is implying. AR4 is not a scientific paper but an overview of the science designed to provide via the SPM a guide to policy implementation. I am not aware of anyone asking for drafts of scientific papers but maybe you know better...

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

If someone had asked for access to early drafts of my papers I'd have considered them mad, but if the Powers That Be had assured me that I was legally obliged to hand them over, and if there were no complications with IPR and Data Protection, I suppose I'd have emailed back any surviving drafts that I found on my computer. It would, though, have been tedious to go through and ensure that all discussion points were no stronger than "Shall we include yesterday's new plot, Edward?": would we be in trouble if a draft carried the remark "If dimwit referee #3 needs this point explained at length, then explained it had better be" or "Let's not cite Fred's results, I've never trusted the bugger"? I suppose people will just bin all early drafts as soon as a paper is accepted for publication? Is that legit?

Come to think of it, why am I writing in the past tense? I'm still publishing: should I get on and bin all the drafts still cluttering up my laptop's memory? On the other hand, my work has never resulted in impassioned pleas that the world spend trillions of dollars on my unverified say so.

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme


Hold on a sec. David Holland has had dozens of requests in for intermediate versions of the IPCC AR4 Chp 6 related to obsession with Ammann and Wahl

What are you on? You are talking nonsense. I made one request in 2007 to Defra for the AR4 drafts, comments and Review Editors' Reports. I never got them because Defra never bothered to get them. I asked the Met Office in 2009 for the TAR drafts of WGI Chapter 2 but got nothing.

What you may be thinking about is that I have a number of EIR requests out for the Zero Order Drafts of AR5 WGI because the 14 chapters are spread over about 13 public authorities. I will tell you why I want them.

After trumpeting the "hockey stick" for more than a year Sir John Houghton, a FRS, published a paper in a Book of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He had run Working Group One of the IPCC since it started. His old firm, the Met Office, had run the Technical Support Unit of the IPCC WGI from the start. He wrote:

The work of the IPCC illustrates the following five important features which I believe should characterize the scientific assessments that form an input to policy making.

You can read the other four and make your own mind up but on the third how he said the IPCC should be is absolutely correct but how he said it actually is was provably untrue when he wrote his paper and is still provably untrue. He wrote:

Thirdly, all parts of the assessment process need to be completely open and transparent. IPCC documents including early drafts and review comments have been freely and widely available - adding much to the credibility of the process and its conclusions.

John Christy's evidence to the House Committee on Science Space and Technology was the final piece in the puzzle of how the "hockey stick" was passed off as valid science and changed the paradigm. That was why the Met Office would not release the TAR WGI Chapter 2 drafts and comments in 2009. Only by bias and concealment has the IPCC advanced its hypothesis from the SAR onward.

We taxpayers pay for all the drafts. The final report has consequences for for us all and I do not see why the IPCC should not enforce the agreed Principles Governing IPCC Work, which say the process is open and transparent. More to the point, in law, I should not have to ask for these drafts. Under the EIR they should be available to the public on the Internet. If the job is done right they have nothing to fear.

Forget tobacco and other red herrings. Most science is not subject to the EIR. What Sir Paul was on about, and what Geoffrey Boulton will be pontificating about next week in Edinburgh, is climate change and the fact that British public authorities may well be forced to to disclose the drafts and comments before the final report is published. If the assessment process is open and transparent as it should be the IPCC Report will either be balanced, or laughed out of court. But if AR5 is not more scary than AR4 they will all be looking for jobs.

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Re: Maurizio

As a Genesis fan, that was great! I could hear Phil singing it on Second's Out...

Nov 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Phil? It was 100% Peter Gabriel. They were never the same after he left.

Nov 17, 2011 at 12:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Thank you, David Holland, for your tireless pursuit of these drafts.

I have no doubt that as the tide against CAGW slowly rises and overwhelms everything in its path - politicians, green activists, investors, science correspondents, programme makers, university vice chancellors, broasdcasters, bloggists - your efforts will be recognised and rewarded.

Nov 17, 2011 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

David S: I like both Phil and Peter's singing in Genesis, but I think Phil's live perfomance on Second's Out is incredible. And when I read Mauricio's last lines:

Why don't you trust me, trust me?
Why don't you trust me, trust me?
Socialism now,
Now, now, now

it was that awesome echoing of Phil's voice on Second's Out that came back to me, not Peter's original and slightly stolid version on Nursery Cryme.

You can't beat Peter for the Lamb, though.

Nov 17, 2011 at 1:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

The London-based television company being investigated by Ofcom over a global news fixing row tried to “cultivate” a world-famous environmental economist and other leading opinion formers in the green movement for the documentaries it made for the BBC and other news broadcasters.

The Independent continues it's exposure of the BBC.

It's almost as if The Independent has acquired a brand new school of journalism that actually does some investigation of it's own. Can this be?

Significantly, we don't see any of the old science correspondents on the BBC and in the other media leaping to the defence of the BBC. Are they really all in Durban already and not reading the national news? If so, this has been the ideal time to stage a coup. Well-planned, Sir!

With luck, by the time they all return from Durban, nicely tanned no doubt, Osborne will have delivered his autumn statement (29 November) and many of these greenies will find their previously secure jobs have all but evaporated.

Nov 17, 2011 at 1:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

The fate of this Government is now in George Osborne's hands

A series of stunning options – for example, ending the minimum wage for under-21s, removing the usual employment protections from young people hired during the economic crisis, perhaps in open defiance of euro-directives – are under active consideration in Downing Street.

But the Liberal Democrats cannot stomach this. In private, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has been trashing Tory proposals for employment reform. Meanwhile, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, remains a champion of extra government spending.

To sum up: the Tories want less regulation and less spending. The Liberal Democrats want more regulation, and more spending. The Coalition, which only last year seemed to offer an answer to all our problems, is now paralysed.

Peter Oborne tells it like it is.

In two weeks's time all could be revealed. No, not when Osborne delivers his autumn statement, but when the market reacts. If he gets it wrong, it's curtains for us all. Don't tell me that scrapping many more green initiatives are not also amongst the stunning options on the table.

I sense Chris Huhne might learn his fate at roughly the same time - best to get him out of the way.

Nov 17, 2011 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Sorry - the above two messages had been intended for the BBC: Surprisae, Surprise thread.

Nov 17, 2011 at 2:16 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Matthu, really, it should be quite obvious from the title of this post that its about the relative merits of Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins as the singers for Genesis, so please avoid posting off topic in future...:-)

Nov 17, 2011 at 2:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

I wonder if Paul Nurse is taking advice from Penn State's Graham Spanier, who also lobbied to be exempted from FOI legislation?

Nov 17, 2011 at 4:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Needless to say, I didn't get a reply.

I am unaware of any FOI requests to scientists for "all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions" as Nurse claimed. He didn't answer my question.

My conclusion is that Nurse didn't know what he was talking about.

Nov 17, 2011 at 5:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre


Yes the Independent seems to have woken on this. Two words spring to mind with regards the BBC...

Green cancer

Nov 17, 2011 at 6:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Maurizio: Thanks for that ..great memories.

As one who had the privilege to regularly see Genesis live in both their early incarnations, I cast my vote 100% for the Gabster.

Judged purely as a singer and taken only from recordings, perhaps Phil is technically better, but as live performer Peter could create an eerie and memorable atmosphere that PC could never match. For samples listen to the album Genesis Live which gives a pretty fair reproduction of the excitement he generated.

But like good sceptics we must all be Watchers of the Skies. Try this:

Still tingles my spine....nearly 40 years later. Wonderful stuff

Nov 17, 2011 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

@Latimer and Maurizio

I have a very verious complaint to make.

It is bad enough to be thought of as old, with a beard and who wears bad jumpers. None of these things apply to me. But as a climate skeptic I will accept these burdens.

BUT... I draw the line at being stereotyped as a Genesis fan...

Nov 17, 2011 at 7:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

"dozens of requests in"

Which would not have been necessary if the first one had been answered. Climatologists still seem to share to Phil Jones's reluctance to provide data in case someone finds "something wrong with it". Heaven forfend!

Nov 17, 2011 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Don't worry guys. If you don't like Genesis, that's ok. It's your choice.


Nov 17, 2011 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

We have a real problem with UK science. It has been infiltrated to the very top by Marxists like Nurse who are now bleating that the totally justified focus on bad, sometimes fraudulent climate science is unfair.

I've met a lot of these people who got to the top by being narrow specialists rather than ability.

Nov 17, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I like a bit of James Blunt myself ............................. only kidding.

Nov 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

"It has been infiltrated to the very top by Marxists like Nurse who are now bleating that the totally justified focus on bad, sometimes fraudulent climate science is unfair."
Nov 17, 2011 at 10:33 AM | mydogsgotnonose

Hmm - Paul Nurse is a Marxist and Climate scientists sometimes commit Fraud. I don't suppose you've bothered yourself with evidence for either of those quite extreme claims?

Nov 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

@mac. How about the super group Bed Zeddelin? Not many hits, or anything in the way of new material, but still plugs away gamely...

Nov 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

I wonder if Nurse has been under the influence of the Gang of Nine who felt it incumbent upon themselves to tell Muir Russell who should not be listened to, along with other suggestions, such as:

In formulating recommendations to ensure that scientific data are appropriately disclosed (while at the same time protecting scientists and enabling them to carry out their research), it may be useful to take account of experience in the U.S., and to seek international consistency in this area.


In developing recommendations on how CRU should release data, you might find it helpful to consider some experience from across the Atlantic.


Under the guidelines, when federally funded, published research is used in developing agency action that has the force and effect of law, “research data” relating to the published findings are available under FOIA. “Research data” is defined as “the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings …”. Expressly excluded from the definition of “research data”, however – and therefore protected from disclosure – are “preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, or communications with colleagues”. (Emphasis added.)


Nov 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

The conflation of tobacco with climate change is becoming tedious. It shows a marked lack of original thought which in a Nobel laureate is a bit worrying, leaving aside the substantive difference between the two.
However, as a means of misinforming the public it obviously still has traction or at least the residents of Ivory Towers think it does.
As we have seen before Nurse relies heavily on debating skills that would shame a properly educated sixth former and it's good to see Maurice Frankel challenging him. The more people that take him up on some of his less-than-reliable (oh, I am being polite today) utterances the sooner he might learn to engage the brain instead of replaying the same PR tape-loop.

Nov 17, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Bed Zeddelin ? Love it!!!

Nov 17, 2011 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commentermeltemian

"The conflation of tobacco with climate change is becoming tedious."
Nov 17, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Mike Jackson

Easy to see why this constantly smoking gun bugs you. The tactics are the same, many of the companies used are the same, the ethics are the same and even some of the people used are the same.

Misinform to protect the profits. It worked for a bit then, and it's working for a bit now. And you're all trying to help.

Nov 17, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed


If you want to draw comparisons, the the correct one is to compare the hugely funded climate change scientists with the tobacco companies who had mountains of research data that they would not disclose. Both were protecting their living. Few if any researchers worked for either group for long unless they were fully paid up believers.

The opposition in both cases was under-resourced for years and had little support in the mainstream media or from politicians until the battle was almost over..

Nov 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Thankyou, David. Saves me having to say it.
And the reason why Nurse, and others, use this example is that means they don't have to think up a proper defence of their position. A bit like the stand-up comic who thinks he only has to say "Thatcher" and he'll get a laugh.
He's right and for the same reason that Nurse is right; because he only ever shows his face in places where he can guarantee to get the "right" reaction. What neither of them realise is the trick is rapidly becoming out-of-date and the audience is starting to drift away.

Nov 17, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Dear Sir,
I cannot help noticing the resemblence between Paul Nurse and Harry Enfield. I wonder if they might be related?

Nov 17, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

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