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« Making science public | Main | An olive branch »

Boulton on scientific practice and malpractice

Geoffrey Boulton is giving a speech to JISC, the goverment body which "inspires UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies, helping to maintain the UK's position as a global leader in education". (Austerity, what austerity?). His comments are being widely tweeted under the hashtag #jiscmrd. Here are a few interesting ones:

Bolton from Royal Society saying that its "malpractice" to not publish underlying data to research at same time as paper published

: Boulton says publishing of data should be concurrent with the paper. ” <- very much agreed.

Boulton: cures for scientific fraud: open data for replication, transparent peer review, personal and system integrity

Geoffrey Boulton: open data is our responsibility to citizen science.

It's funny to see Boulton calling for transparent peer review after failing to investigate allegations of journal nobbling - probably the single most important issue to have emerged from Climategate - during the Russell inquiry.

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Reader Comments (31)

Changing peer review is not a magic bullet for anything: see the current discussion at Klimazwiebel. But the requirement to publish underlying data is important. A lot depends on exactly what he means by "replication".

Mar 26, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

There’s an interesting development in Medicine; the requirement that Management tells the truth, ‘Legal duty of candour’. We need to introduce this ASAP into Climate Science so the likes of Jones can’t tell porkies in public and those who deliberately alter primary data so it’s irrecoverable can go to jail for fraud.

Mar 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

He probably means 'Open' in the post-normal science way: If your friends ask for the data, they can have it. Your enemies can't have it, because they may try to prove there's something wrong with it.

Mar 26, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I have never been much impressed with words and nebulous promises, however - deeds and actions do.

Geoffrey Boulton, another sweetness and light artist of cant and misdirection, on any day - even Al Gore can sound sane and reasonable - till you read between the lines and realise there's nothing going on up topside except man made emissions of pure fantastical guff.

Mar 26, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

"The UK's position as a global leader in education"

your avin a larf...

Mar 26, 2013 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

dave w - probable slip of the tongue, while intending to say "global leader in indoctrination"

Mar 26, 2013 at 11:41 AM | Registered CommentermikemUK

What a hypocrite.

Mar 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

He has zero credibility. Needs to shut up and go away for the sake of everyone.

Mar 26, 2013 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

On the subject of naughty science - I've seen an assortment of references to it over the years but only just went and actually looked...

The Schön Scandal

One can see why it's downplayed .... I did a quick search on BH and it doesn't seem to have been mentioned (with the umlaut anyway)

It strikes me that Nurse et al infer that their chosen "scientists" are above human frailties and foibles and are wholly honest - a state of being that is conferred by attaching the label "scientist" and that omniscience is enhanced beyond challenge by the title and status of those pronouncing on the matters that bring us here to dispute "the science is settled".

I wonder that they have not introduced a ceremonial form of attire for all these pronouncements - my personal choice would be 750mm tall conical white cardboard headgear adorned with a large red Roman D.


Mar 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I quite like this tweet:

Simon Hodson ‏@simonhodson99 44m

Fletcher: Why don't researchers publish their data? They're not all immoral scumbags, so maybe there are some good reasons?

Mar 26, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Registered Commentersteveta

I wonder if anyone in the audience will ask him if he agrees that given the absolutely enormous sums of money that governments around the world are spending as a result of scientific advice on climate change, he would agree that it is absolutely imperative that climate scientists should make all their data freely and easily available to everyone without anyone having to use the Freedom of Information Act or its equivalent in the laws of other countries?

Mar 26, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

The amazing thing about the Schön Scandal is not just that it shows peer-review is almost pointless, but that the co-authors of the papers, and the supervisor of the work, were equally clueless about what was going on.

It's quite amazing - in an production environment nobody could pretent to invent a new product that didn't actually work; nobody could claim to have written programs that simply didn't exist, so why is this allowed in academic and research circles?

Mar 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Registered Commentersteveta


"[Schon] admitted to having falsified some data and stated he did so to show more convincing evidence for behaviour that he observed."

Sounds familiar.

Mar 26, 2013 at 1:27 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Being cast into the scientific wilderness is not unique to Climate Change. In a striking parallel, who's seen these stories on censorship by TED?

The TED organisation's decision to take down two videos by radical thinkers Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock raises genuine questions about the way knowledge is now created and distributed. There are striking parallels to the climate change "consensus" and what happens to dissenters.

See (e.g.)

As Marcus Anthony points out:
The great irony in this saga is that it only adds weight to the argument put forward by Sheldrake that establishment science has become the new Church, ready to silence those with new ideas that challenge the entrenched scientific materialism of so many public, educational and scientific institutions.

Mar 26, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Another familiar aspect from the Schom scandal:

"His raw-data files had been erased from his computer. According to Schön the files were erased because his computer had limited hard drive space. In addition, all of his experimental samples had been discarded, or damaged beyond repair."

Mar 26, 2013 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames

'I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don't know what she think's she's doing, but its
not helping the cause, or her professional credibility,

'The Cause' is the big clue.This has always been the root problem for climate science- the attachment to the CO2 paradigm and emissions. Ipso facto, all effects of increased CO2 must be seen to be negative, the worse the better.

Lets face it Climate Science only became popular after AGW was conceived by the Environmental Movement. Were the majority of recruits to this discipline motivated in the first place by green sympathies or by pure intellectual curiosity? If the former, the confirmation bias is hard-wired and subconsciously sanctions the tweaking of results in the name of the greater good. It also explains the reluctance to be open with the data and the aggressively defensive and hostile behaviour to challenges.

Mar 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Although its true Boulton does not ream with BS , it should do given his actual performance over CRU.

Mar 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR


The Schon scandal is interesting, thanks for bringing it up.

"Even before the allegations had become public, several research groups had tried to reproduce most of his spectacular results in the field of the physics of organic molecular materials without success."

Replication was the killer, as it should have been.

It isn't surprising that this work was published. It is surprising that he was awarded prizes on the basis of something which was not replicated..

What I don't see in climate science is an honest attempt to replicate significant work and a dishonest attempt at frustrating that.

“Mike Mann refuses to talk to these people and I can understand why. They are just trying to find if we’ve done anything wrong.” – Phil Jones

Mar 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Its worse than that cosmic because the only people who are trying to honestly replicate the work of climate scientists are skeptics...and as you quoted, they arent getting their hands on the data that underpins the works of the likes of Jones and Mann et al exactly because when people like McIntyre (the anti-christ) audits their work he finds more questions than answers.



Mar 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Perhaps he meant a "global leader" in "austerity education", Bish.

Mar 26, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

"I wonder that they have not introduced a ceremonial form of attire for all these pronouncements - my personal choice would be 750mm tall conical white cardboard headgear adorned with a large red Roman D."

Tomo, I think this headgear is more appropriate:

Mar 26, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


It helps if you haven't lost the original data and only have an homegenised and quality controlled version with no records of the transformations used along the way.

Mar 26, 2013 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Boulton is an international expert on ethics. Here, for example:
…where Boulton discusses the importance of acting with “honesty and care, not committing plagiarism and declaring conflicts of interest” (much like when Boulton was presented as an IPCC author in his resume, as the UK Government’s Chief Advisor on Climate Change ( (which he was not), and when he neglected to mention his time at the UEA when serving as a lead in the Muir Russell ‘independent’ inquiry into the CRU. Who better to comment on matters relating to honest peer review? (ho ho).

Mar 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Boulton had an opportunity to show some calibre and backbone as a member of the Russell Inquiry Team, but he did not. Would Russell have chosen him if he thought any other outcome was likely? After all, why was someone like Russell chosen in the first place?

The Bish had their number:

The Climate Change Emails Review headed by Sir Muir Russell included several vocal supporters of the manmade global warming hypothesis. One member had worked at UEA for 18 years. Only CRU scientists were interviewed and no oral evidence was taken from critics. The panel failed
even to ask witnesses whether emails had been deleted. The panel simply said they had not seen any evidence that information subject to FOI had been deleted, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
Advice from an external advisor to the Russell Review to consider breaches of peer-review confidentiality was ignored. CRU staff were exonerated of attempts to undermine the peer review process without any credible evidence on which to base such a finding.

[source: ]

Boulton either has some brass neck, or lives in a very sheltered environment, to be talking as if he merited a leadership role on the integrity of science!

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

@michael hart
I'm quite vindictive about it ... I think we should see their faces so that they can be recognized later.

I suppose a modified KuKluxKlan / Spanish Catholic hat - the sort of oversize dunce cap with eye holes might also be appropriate - but on balance - we really do need to know who they are.... and even then, like Paul Erlich they keep coming back to haunt us. Perhaps we're using the wrong tactics and garlic, sharpened fenceposts and holy water might be more appropriate ( joke, honest.....).

I did think that when describing UEA/CRU a catch phrase (h/t Private Eye) of "Schön mishtake shurely" might drop into popular usage - but I have my doubts on that.

The Schön affair is still quite toxic it seems - I doubt that the list of withdrawn papers, awards and associations in the Wikipedia article is exhaustive. The reason I never went and looked properly (if that's a fair description of 5 mins on Wikipedia) is that when I'd seen it before it was always portrayed as of little consequence - move along, nothing to see here.

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commentertomo

With Schoen, the various mouse colourers, and dog cloners that crop up somewhat regularly, after a short interval of embarrassed silence and foot shuffling, their erstwhile collaborators and colleagues eject them from their community.

In climatology (and perhaps other non-science subjects such as whatever it is that Lewsandowsky purportedly 'researches') when dishonesty and falsehoods become apparent, colleagues and collaborators (Boulton, Betts, etc.) fall over themselves to defend the crooks.

Climatology should be called 'brass-neckology'. Merit in the field is judged by energetic defense of falsehoods.

Mar 26, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT


'In climatology (and perhaps other non-science subjects such as whatever it is that Lewsandowsky purportedly 'researches') when dishonesty and falsehoods become apparent, colleagues and collaborators fall over themselves to defend the crooks'.

And note that they shelter behind ludicrous 'academic conventions'. That debate can only take place in the peer-reviewed litearture. That you cannot criticise somebody else's theory by presenting a better one. That all papers are open to replication (but you can't have our data). That articles must be only 500 words and have only two pictures...or whatever the heck they invent each time.

Seems to me that the vast majority of academic conventions have no practical purpose other than to protect the job security of academics. And that though we, the public, pay for teh vast majority o these shenanigans, there is absolutely no heed paid to our interests.

Self-defining, self 'policing' (or not), we let them get away with far too much.

Full and open disclosure of all data, methods and code - in a replicable format is surely the absolute bare minimum for reputable publication nowadays. No data and methods and code = no publish.

Mar 26, 2013 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Good call, John Shade.
Boulton is despicable. He has condemned himself by his own behaviour during the Russell enquiry and no amount of pontificating and pretending to be an honest broker now can rescue his reputation.

Mar 27, 2013 at 3:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

After having a brief chat with Geoffrey last weekend (after he gave a talk on the "Anthropocene" to a local society), I was a little taken aback by his overt "we are all going to die by teatime" theme 5C is on the cards etc alarmism. His graphs included an inverted hickey stick (ocean pH from 1870 to the present day with not an error bar in sight despite the pH values for the 19th century being accurate to 2 decimal places). He finished with yet more hockey sticks. He did accept that there not has not been any warming for 15 years, but was still very confident that 5C was on the cards, and was oblivious to the recent papers suggesting 1.6C or 2C at the most. He also argued that CO2 does not lead temperature as suggested by the Antarctic ice core data, he said global and polar was like comparing apples with oranges. He seemed unable to comprehend that a warming of 1 or 2C had net benefits for 80% of the world population who live in the cold NH. He did grudgingly accept that more CO2 would increase plant growth rates and help global food production, (but he had made no mention of this in his talk). Lastly I pointed out to him that as there had now been stasis for 15-17 years that was as long as the warming from 1980 to 1997, and also meant there was now a generation of school leavers who have not experienced any global warming. On this note I suggested he and his alarmist chums had a growing problem and that he would be wise to start thinking up an exit strategy. I think he was a bit taken a back at my candor.

Mar 27, 2013 at 8:43 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Well done, lapogus!

I think you must have seemed like a creature from another world to poor old Goeffrey, such has been the peculiarly-sheltered-from-our-reality planet he has been living on. There, when a chap ventures outside to speak to the hoi-polloi, he expects a bit of awe and questions like Oh no, tell me how long we have got', or 'Oh thank you, oh wise one, are we not blessed to have far-sighted men such as you?'.

Being told that an exit strategy is in order, while being a remarkable kindness to him, does not fit in there at all.

Mar 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Hi John,

Yes it was an interesting experience. I think he had been pre-warned that I would be there and may ask some questions from the sceptic perspective, but he was still rattled by my questioning, as I don't think he was used to it at all. What was sad was that rather than address sceptic points, he generally dismissed them, saying they were not based on real science. For example, when I pointed out that CS is much more likely to be about 1 or 2C and mentioned Lindzen, he said "oh he made a fool of himself years ago and when he comes to London he speaks at these things organised by Lord Lawson". His objectivity is clearly lacking, and I feel sorry for his students who probably don't have the wherewithall to ask such obvious questions of their professor's adherence to junk climate models and science.

Note the error above - "He also argued that CO2 does not lead temperature as suggested by the Antarctic ice core data..." should be "He also argued that CO2 does not lag temperature as suggested by the Antarctic ice core data...". (when I questioned him on this afterwards he cited what I assume was Shakun 2012 as evidence for this, (he couldn't remember the lead author's name and said the paper was in Science rather than Nature).

Mar 27, 2013 at 9:42 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

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