The New York Times (Inadvertently) Demolishes Mann's Defence

If this doesn’t kill Mann’s attempts to avoid FOI, I don’t know what will. The New York Times reports about the latest example of (massive) scientific fraud:

Outright fraud may be rare, these experts say, but they contend that Dr. Stapel took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged. “The big problem is that the culture is such that researchers spin their work in a way that tells a prettier story than what they really found,” said Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s almost like everyone is on steroids, and to compete you have to take steroids as well.” […]

Dr. Stapel was able to operate for so long, the committee said, in large measure because he was “lord of the data,” the only person who saw the experimental evidence that had been gathered (or fabricated). This is a widespread problem in psychology, said Jelte M. Wicherts, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Dutch research psychologists said they did not make their raw data available for other researchers to see. “This is in violation of ethical rules established in the field,” Dr. Wicherts said.

For the reading-challenged amongst us, the point is that secrecy and refusing to share research material is the perfect environment for fraud. That’s why every sharing tool is important including FOI.

And before anybody asks I don’t believe Mann is a fraudster. His emails will likely be as interesting as Sarah Palin’s or even less. But the principle of FOI must be defended to protect ourselves from the fraudsters out there.

5 Replies to “The New York Times (Inadvertently) Demolishes Mann's Defence”

  1. No matter what the truth is NO ONE can justify defying FOI rules. If that is allowed to stand democracy is on the point of collapse. Democracy depends on publically paid officials observing rules – especially openness and accountability – it is crucial – and I know how easy it is to try to hide innocent mistakes when your emplyment could be threatened – as a retired Environmental Health Officer I have seen it many times.

    The other point about smear and slander – people like Phil Jones – who take personal satisfaction in the untimely death of a person who simply disagrees – deserve exposure and condemnation.

    His email exposed by “climategate” is contemptible. I had many fierce arguments over some enforcement issues but I never once wished my opponents would die !

  2. If Mann had nothing to hide, he’d not be trying to hide it. His work is supported by taxpayer money, and all the documentation about it, including emails, should be subject to public records laws and FOI demands.

  3. Since Mann has made all of his data available, from the very beginning with MBH 98/99 — (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz8Ve6KE-Us#t=4m23s) it’s clear that the intention here has nothing to do with data, and everything with delving into personal communications, and pulling things out of context – to smear and slander, as was demonstrably the case in the CRU situation.
    This approach to opening up private communications to political scrutiny is not unique to the Mann/UVA case – it is being applied across the country by the Tea party right as a means to intimidate opposition, and supress free thought and expression – especially in academia.
    To take a useful tool like FOI and turn it into a means of surveillance richly illustrates the Gestapo logic of the “American Tradition Institute” and it’s shadowy backers.

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