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« More signs of the times | Main | A bit sensitive - Josh 216 »
Tuesday
Apr232013

Advisers advise politicians to look in the peer-reviewed literature

Lord Donoughue is still trying to get the government to respond on the subject of global temperature series:

Lord Donoughue:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Verma on 14 January (WA 110), 5 February (WA 31-2) and 21 March (WA 170-1), whether they will ensure that their assessment of the probability in relation to global temperatures of a linear trend with first-order autoregressive noise compared with a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model is published in the Official Report; and, if not, why not. [HL6620]

Lord Newby:

As indicated in a previous Written Answer given by my noble friend Baroness Verma to the noble Lord on 14 January 2013 (Official Report, col. WA110), it is the role of the scientific community to assess and decide between various methods for studying global temperature time series. It is also for the scientific community to publish the findings of such work, in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

This is quite interesting. The government calls on the Met Office to provide it with advice on climatological matters and there is a raft of chief scientific advisers on board too. The advice seems to be that the temperature rise witnessed in the last century is statistically significant. But no backing for that view seems to be forthcoming apart from "it's in the peer-reviewed literature".

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    Response: payday uk
    - Bishop Hill blog - Advisers advise politicians to look in the peer-reviewed literature

Reader Comments (27)

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the first appearance of "driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model" in Hansard.

Apr 23, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

What happens when the peer-reviewed literature contains contradictory results? Or is this never supposed to happen?

Apr 23, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Rah'Rah'!!

(Waves order papers)

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterTallbloke

Since Climategate we know that Peer review is suspect where climate research in concerned so this government relies on advice based on dodgy research from a dodgy agency.
Is it not time that some of our MPs knew a bit of basic science instead of law or media studies.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

HaroldW: Ha. About time.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:07 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I don't think the noble Lord Newby (appropriate name?) understood the question.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

Is Lord Newby saying that the answer to Lord Donoughue's question can be found in the peer reviewed literature? If so, that is what I would call good forcasting.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

@ HaroldW

This has been discussed in previous Parliamentary Questions. For links, see the prior post “Questions to ministers”.


@ David Chappell

The minister who would normally answer is Baroness Verma (see prior post). Verma is apparently away, and Lord Newby, who is the Deputy Government Chief Whip, presumably just signed blind.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

The Canadian government was recently accused of gagging it's scientists, insisting that they did not give interviews contradicting the government's own official line on various issues.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16861468

The discussion in the House of Lords may have a subtext that in the UK the scientists are free to publish their research independant of government control.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

One example from the abstract of the first paper published by the Berkeley BEST team.

"The land temperature rise from the 1950s decade to the 2000s decade is 0.90 ± 0.05°C (95% confidence)."

You'll find the details of the research and the statistical analysis here.

http://www.scitechnol.com/GIGS/GIGS-1-101.php

http://www.scitechnol.com/GIGS/GIGS-1-103.php

It is normal to include statistical analysis in published work on temperature data trends. Since advice to governments is based on the literature, the literature is the place to go to find the statistical backup.

A clear division is being made here. The government is signalling that

a) It is the scientist's role to do and publish the research.

b) It is the science adviser's role to brief the politicians on the implications of the research for the UK.

c) It is the elected politician's role to decide policy.

Apr 23, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Isn’t it the case that even after passing peer review, the correctness or otherwise of the work is usually the sole responsibility of the authors? Surely the journal is much more concerned to ensure that the paper conforms to the house style in language and appearance.

Obviously the approving editor might well feel rather embarrassed if an erroneous article does slip through the superficial checks, but a published paper should never be regarded as an absolute authority which cannot be challenged. There is no such thing in science.

Apr 23, 2013 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

a published paper should never be regarded as an absolute authority which cannot be challenged. There is no such thing in science.

Apr 23, 2013 at 12:15 PM | Mark Well

Indeed. Peer review is a quality check. It is designed to weed out papers which are substandard due to inadequacies in methodology, analysis or interpretation.

The scientific comclusions are not the subject of peer review, though an editor would not be keen to publish something obviously wrong.

Conclusions are judged after publication by other scientists.

Can the work be replicated? If not, is it because the original method cannot be replicated? Are there factors not considered in the paper? Are the results fraudulent?

Does the conclusion match other work in the same field? Is the paper mistaken, or does it show that earlier work is mistaken?

For a little light reading on peer review-

http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/16/IDontKnowWhatToBelieve_web2011.pdf

You might also like to research "polywater" and "cold fusion". Both were examples of scientific work published in good faith which turned out to be mistaken.

Apr 23, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

I do not blame politicians for not knowing much about the science, if anything at all.

I would however expect them to be bright enough to twig why such questions were being asked and why they might need to pay a little more attention to them.

Apr 23, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Quote "it is the role of the scientific community to assess and decide between various methods for studying global temperature time series"

Here is an extract from the conclusions of 4 members of that community in Belgium this year:

The so-called “abnormally rapid” increase in global temperatures between 1980 and 2000 is not unusual at all. There have in fact been several such periods in the past, during which temperatures rose in a similar manner and at comparable rates, even though fossil fuels were not yet in use;

....

Moreover the measurement of temperatures is subject to numerous large errors. When the magnitude and plurality of these measurement errors are taken into account, the reported increase in temperatures is no longer statistically significant;

More here: http://www.thegwpf.org/belgian-scientists-double-standards-climate-change/

Apr 23, 2013 at 1:54 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

That was from Belgium. Meanwhile, up the road in Norway, more dissent from the simple-minded views about climate which have proven to be so compelling to so many politicians and their advisors:

http://www.sintef.no/upload/Teknologi_og_samfunn/Teknologiledelse/SINTEF%20Report%20A24071,%20Consensus%20and%20Controversy.pdf

(hat-tip GWPF)

It notes, amongst many good observations, that that corner-stone of Alarmist Faith that the 'science is settled' is 'over-stated'.

Extract:

To illustrate the way that scientific, political and ethical concerns are mixed in the debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming this report used the by now famous quote from Gro Harlem Brundtland, that ”doubt has been eliminated”, and that it is ”irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation” as a point of departure.

The goal of the report was to enter this debate and “battlefield” of arguments and take stock of the debate about anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. Based on the present review of this debate there are several conclusions to be drawn. The first and simplest one is that considered as an empirical statement, the assertion that “doubt has been eliminated” on AGW is plainly false.

Now Brundtland was a big player in the world of 'climate diplomacy'. Her basic premise was wrong. Will other 'climate diplomats' see that? Like the Mr Ashton who recently saw fit to try to boost the morale of the Met Office by means of a quite remarkable pep-talk (http://tomnelson.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/warmist-john-ashton-lack-of-global.html, and see Unthreaded on April 21st and 22nd, and http://hro001.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/the-unsustainability-of-all-climate-all-the-time/)

I think there will be many more basic questions to be asked in the Houses of Parliament for some time to come for which they will not have satisfactory answers. In due course, they will begin to think less than highly of the advisors who got them into this mess, and who are unable to get them out of it.

Apr 23, 2013 at 2:11 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

It has been peer review that has brought climate science to its present worthlessness, and will continue to keep it there, for yet another miseducated generation. The bottom line is, the inmates are in charge of the asylum now, in both climate science and politics (and they won't be cured so long as they are allowed to wander the halls, and dictate policy).

Apr 23, 2013 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Lord Newby is giving a masterclass in evasion.

Apr 23, 2013 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Nice work if you can get it being a Government chief scientific advisor. £100k+ and all you have to do is say it's in the peer-reviewed literature. I thought the Met Office had someone the chief scientific advisor could call on to answer difficult questions involving statistics, but perhaps he wouldn't like the answer.

Apr 23, 2013 at 4:44 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"Lord Newby is giving a masterclass in evasion"

I think if it were a "Masterclass" it should be alot less obvious than the claptrap he writes. I wouldn't qualify it as a class at all and makes me wonder what he did to be given such a title.

Apr 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

The discussion in the House of Lords may have a subtext that in the UK the scientists are free to publish their research independant of government control.

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Entropic man

And independent of government money? Remember Eisenhowers prediction.

Apr 23, 2013 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schofield

Bish I had a small exchange with Doug McNeall, there is no statistical significance in the rise of 0.8C, Doug doesn't believe this particular time series can be tested for statistical significance. I don't understand why, but Doug said that the rise was "scientifically significant". I've had two, or three goes at trying to get Doug to explain what that meant, but without success so far.

Apr 23, 2013 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Something must be done about this outbreak of contagious proctocraniosis before it spreads. Oops, too late.

Apr 23, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model"?

Does that come with fries?

Apr 23, 2013 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterCatweazle

Mark Well

Isn’t it the case that even after passing peer review, the correctness or otherwise of the work is usually the sole responsibility of the authors? Surely the journal is much more concerned to ensure that the paper conforms to the house style in language and appearance.

Obviously the approving editor might well feel rather embarrassed if an erroneous article does slip through the superficial checks, but a published paper should never be regarded as an absolute authority which cannot be challenged. There is no such thing in science.

Yes, this is exactly the problem with 'peer review'. The 'peers' can only suggest that a particular paper is 'well outside the ball park' and shouldn't go any further. 3x2's paper on harvesting blue cheese from the lunar surface for example - fail. They (peers) have no time or inclination to check the minutiae of the latest 'hockey stick' nonsense, hence the value of 'Climate Audit'.

It gets worse where we head into the light entertainment end of 'science' and someone like Lew can publish something that, although nonsense scientifically, conforms to the outlook of his peers. 3x2's paper on the hidden (homo)sexuality of Mickey Mouse gets the go ahead and becomes 'peer reviewed fact'.

To my mind 'peer review' is only as solid as the area it is dealing with. I would consider PR in Physics as being fairly reliable. PR in Enviro Doom not so much. Psychology and we are heading into 'what's the latest fad?'. Enviro Psychology and we are heading into ....

Apr 23, 2013 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Baroness Verma has gone to ground due to the remorseless pressure of questions? How apt. In Italian, her name translates as 'worm'.

Apr 23, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuther Bl't

I'm not sure if this has surfaced before, but it's illuminating that not only the Climate Science "Peer Review Process" is riddled with unscientific and suspect practices.

Please do read How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 123 Easy Steps"
By Prof. Rick Trebino,
Georgia Institute of Technology
School of Physics
Atlanta, GA 30332
rick.trebino@physics.gatech.edu

"The essence of science is reasoned debate. So, if you disagree with something reported in a scientific paper, you can write a “Comment” on it. Yet you don’t see many Comments. Some believe that this is because journal editors are reluctant to publish Comments because Comments reveal their mistakes, papers they shouldn’t have allowed to be published in the first place. Indeed, scientists often complain that it can be very difficult to publish one. Fortunately, in this article, I’ll share with you my recent experience publishing a Comment, so you can too. There are just a few simple steps:
1. Read a paper that has a mistake in it.
2. Write and submit a Comment, politely correcting the mistake.
3. Enjoy your Comment in print along with the authors’ equally polite Reply, basking in the joy of having participated in the glorious scientific process and of the new friends you’ve made - the authors whose research you’ve greatly assisted.

Ha ha! You didn’t really believe that, did you? Here’s the actual sequence of events:... "

The rest is here.

Which chronicles months and years of wasted effort, damage limitation and frustration.

Apr 23, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith MacDonald

If it is the Newby I am thining of he would do well to be able to find his own arse in a bright light

Apr 23, 2013 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterombzhch

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