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« Dangerous climate change? | Main | Darien II »
Wednesday
Nov092011

Nature: no scrutiny of the academy

Nature once again takes up the cause of its favourite son, Michael Mann, arguing that taxpayers should  stump up the cash for academics and should not be able to see what they are doing.

To protect academic freedom is a foundation for intellectual property and copyright laws, while in court, both Mann and the university warned of the chilling effect of such demands on communication between scientists. Certainly, many researchers are more wary of e-mail today, and given Mann's experiences, who can blame them?

The intellectual property and copyright should belong to the taxpayers who stumped up the cash - probably unwillingly - in the first place. If academics don't like the scrutiny they should get themselves out of the public sector.

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Reader Comments (26)

Pretty simple, isn't it. But I guess there is a strong sense of entitlement which is not unique to climate scientists.

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

"the university warned of the chilling effect of such demands on communication between scientists"

Boo Hoo Hoo :.(

Andrew

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

In the private sector, intellectual property which the employee generates belongs to the employer. The principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune must apply in the public sector too.

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterIsis

Once again its worth noting that when it was Greenpeace that came calling for someones e-mails at the same university , there for no demands for them to be blocked on the grounds of academic freedom from the usual suspects, guess that was 'different'

Meanwhile like CRU , Manns' troubles are all self created to avoid them all he needed to do was follow the law and act like a real scientists and he would not have needed the 'big boys made me do it ' defense.

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

If they have nothing to hide, then surely they have nothing to worry about? Anyway, maybe the "chilling effect" will help combat CAGW!

Nov 9, 2011 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSerge

Philip Campbell is supporting subversion of the law?

Nature has as much face to lose as Mann,...

A cool million dollars has been spent keeping these emails secret. Can you believe that?

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Penn State (et al) turn another blind eye...why should honesty and morality be applied to 'friends'?

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Climate scientists have tricks to hide so it is little wonder that choose to break actual as well as the spirit of FOI laws.

As for Mann he will forever be seen as a cheat.

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Some academics are living in a parallel universe, where they expect money to just fall on them like Autumn leaves.

Before they even dream of spending penny No 1, they should be obliged to recite:

'All public money is taken as tax on the productive private sector - under threat of imprisonment'.

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

I've never liked the "if you've nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear" argument.
Every one of us has things we want to "hide" in the sense that there things about us which we don't want everyone to know partly because it's none of their business and partly because there are those who will immediately jump to all sorts of prejudiced conclusions about us.
In a way I'm not overly worried about scientists not releasing all their data just because we would like them to. What I am very worried about is scientists who do not know where science ends and advocacy begins or who make pronouncements for which they have not adequate evidence or who determine the result and then cherry-pick the data to match (not always deliberately). And those who use highly questionable tactics to prevent others in their field from making public alternative hypotheses.
And if the only way to stop all these from happening is to demand oversight which government is reluctant to apply because it "likes" the results or the people or is just too bloody lazy or cowardly to call them out then we must demand that oversight some other way and while the scientific community may not like it they have only themselves to blame.

Nov 9, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

According to the Nature website, editorials seem to be in the bailiwick of:

Quote:
News and Comment
Editorials and World View
David Adam
Op-Ed Editor
Following a degree in chemical engineering at Leeds University, David joined Nature as a reporter in 2000, and moved to the Guardian newspaper in 2003. He rejoined Nature in August 2010.
Unquote


And in fact the Guardian still have his articles listed, including a particularly strong showing in articles pronouncing the exhoneration of Climategate scientists in the 'reviews' !!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/davidadam

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

A little off topic, but Penn State President Graham Spanier will quit or be fired today.
This is in the wake of a child abuse scandal involving a member of staff. It appears that Penn State did not follow procedures and there appears to have been a cover up.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2011/11/penn_state_president_graham_sp.html

President Graham Spanier has been involved in the response of Penn State towards FOI requests for emails from employees, w.r.t. 'Climategate'.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocMartyn

It's ironic to think that while we instruct our children on the risks of the information age, we ignore those risks in our own lives. My mother often reminded me, if you put it in writing it is permanent. I tell my children, if you make it electronic it is permanently, publicly available.

The assumption of privacy for digital information was naïve long before November 2009. That Nature claims the world's scientists are only now wary of the risks of email is rather troubling. Are their ivory towers so isolated from the real world that they hadn't heard of Governer Spitzer's text messages? OK what about Pamela's home videos? They might have learned a few things from those.

As for Nature's question, "who can blame them?" I ask, who can forgive them for being so dumb? I mean, they discussed the deletion of FOAI’d emails via email!

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDGH

This bogus representation of "academic freedom" is not enshrined in any law in the Commonwealth of Virginia or anywhere else in America.

In fact by every measure Mann has no protective right to even a single sentence written while using his University of Virginia email account, his University of Virginia computer, and while receiving his University of Virginia paycheck. No other public employee would dare to make this kind of claim.

What bizarre and inflated sense of hubris impels academics such as Mann to believe that the laws affecting all other public and commercial employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia do not apply to them?

He really should be tossed out of court on his ear.

Nov 9, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

I was head of R&D in a multinational company and am personally responsible for the inventions of over 40 granted patents, plus registered designs, and a huge amount of intellectual property that I have produced over the years. Every bit of it was assigned to and owned by my employers, and I helped them defend their IPR in the High Court. I was never paid for producing this IPR separate from my salary. Anything discovered, invented and designed was always expected to belong to my employer, or, if customer paid for development, to the customer. This never had a chilling effect on my R&D and innovation. So why should those paid out of the public purse think any differently?

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

"If You take the King's Shilling, You do the King's Bidding."

Nov 9, 2011 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

"The intellectual property and copyright should belong to the taxpayers.. ": actually this is complete bollocks. The IPR belongs to whomever it was assigned to by research contracts, contracts of employment and so forth. Using "should" to justify theft of IPR is a poor show. Of course, if "scientists" are claiming to own IPR when the contracts say they don't, that too is attempted theft. This is not a topic suitable for moralising fits of the vapours - read the bloody contracts.

Nov 10, 2011 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

University employment contracts pretty much always assign any IPR to the institution - I can't imagine this case to be any different, else we would have heard about it by now and the relevant assignment documents would have been produced.
FYI, I'm IP Manager at a UK university and this is pretty standard.

A bit of digging brings this up:

"University personnel are enjoined by their terms of employment to disclose to the University intellectual property developed within the scope of their employment and/or the field of expertise for which they are retained by the University. Such developments should be promptly disclosed to the Intellectual Property Office. In the case of copyrightable materials, circumstances in which the University retains rights are discussed in "Intellectual Property Policies and Procedures." Upon receipt of a faculty invention disclosure, the Intellectual Property Office will, in concert with inventors and the cognizant University administrators, attempt to find a licensee willing to underwrite both the cost of patent prosecution and any further research required to bring a concept to the commercialization stage. The University may, at its discretion, execute patent and copyright licensing agreements with Faculty Companies, including those being formed on the basis of the technology in question. In the latter case, licensing will be considered when Faculty Company "start-ups" have a) proper clearance from cognizant University administrators, and b) an acceptable business plan including product development and marketing strategies, a viable management plan, and access to adequate capital. Licensing decisions must ultimately be dictated by the University's obligation to transfer technology in a way which benefits society. This necessitates that Faculty Company licensees have the aforementioned resources to successfully commercialize the technologies in question. Where these conditions are met, the University may agree to accept an equity position in a Faculty Company in lieu of a licensing fee and/or sales-based royalty arrangement."

From http://www.research.psu.edu/osp/manage-awards/tech-transfer-policies unfortunately the policy itself is behind their password protected front wall - but the tone of this bit and a few other pages suggest the same applies at Penn State as one would have expected re:ownership of IPR.

Nov 10, 2011 at 2:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

The split at my institute is 50% to inventors, 25% to the institute and 25% to inventors labs as long as the inventors are at the institute; should you leave they keep the cash.

Nov 10, 2011 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocmartyn

"To protect academic freedom is a foundation for intellectual property and copyright laws"
I think I'd go with Wiki's definition:
"Academic freedom is the belief that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment."
Not so much there about IP.

Nov 10, 2011 at 6:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

As dearime says there are IP issues. But the way in which they are taken into account is set out in the FOI regimes by providing exceptions. .

Read the bloody contracts. Well yes, and no. FOI interferes with those IP rights. That is what legislators have decided. In fact the FOI regimes themselves start from a presumption of interference with those rights. So, contract with a public authority and you know that the authority might be subject to an FOI request that relates to the object or product of that contract. That has been the position for years now.

I can't see why this exercises so many people. Legislation of all types interferes in all sorts of property rights and contractual agreements. It is by no means unique to academia.

None of the handwringing from academia so far has had any impact on what the law actually is. They are not deploying legal arguments based on what the law is. They are repeatedly stating what they think the law should be and that, naturally, invloves them being granted special status.

Nov 10, 2011 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterRB

If "scientists" get protection from FOI, expect every government employee to become a "scientist" overnight.

Nov 10, 2011 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

academic freedom?
What from ? the duty to the wider world or from being questioned and having to prove your work is sound ?

Nov 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered Commentermat

Academic freedom should not, in a reasonable world, be license to act as one wishes or immunity from review and accountability.
The Catholic Church is still earning that, and Academia seems to be avoiding even the start of learning this.

Nov 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Nature has just admitted what we all knew, that Climate Change Science has nothing to do with the practice of the kind of real science it alleges to be doing. But to its credit, at least it finally got its primary "method" right, if not any of its relevant "predictions".

Nov 10, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJPeden

And, finally, a more postmodern definition of "Academic Freedom", meaning the right of "Academics" to act like they've never heard of anything they don't want to have ever heard of. Thanks, Nature!

Nov 10, 2011 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJPeden

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