Monday, June 27, 2016

Can We Rely on Mainstream Science?

Increasingly, the answer is, "not without further examination."

I know too many people who believe data and reports simply because they come from "the government" and believe its output to be unbiased. Two recent reports indicate that is not the case.

The first:
The inspector general found biased and simply wrong results at the U.S. Geological Survey's lab in Lakewood, Colorado. Verbatim from the report:

USGS accused the chemist of data manipulation by intentionally changing the results produced by the mass spectrometer. The chemist also failed to preserve the data. Further, the Bureau accused the chemist of failing to operate the mass spectrometer according to established practices, which constituted scientific misconduct.

These two actions created the larger issue of loss of scientific integrity, a concern referenced in USGS’ inquiry. Scientific integrity is at the core of the mission of USGS. Also, given the widespread use of USGS data and publications by its many customers, scientific misconduct at the Inorganic Section has serious implications for energy and environmental decisions driven by information developed at the laboratory. 

Further, the report reads:

We did identify the following ultimate impacts—
  • unreliable scientific publications generated from research and assessment projects that relied on the laboratory; projects often take five or more years to complete and may result in multiple publications;
  • delayed completion of ERP’s research and assessment projects, including, for example, coal assessments in the Appalachian Basin in the eastern United States;
  • permanent loss of unique rock and water samples collected in the field— because of access restrictions to some areas and the sometimes short-lived nature of substances, USGS researchers may be unable to obtain replacement samples (e.g., a scientist who acquired samples from Jackson Dome, Mississippi, said she cannot return to the area because of landowner access issues);
  • diminished public trust in Federally-led scientific endeavors;
  • lost time and effort of scientists who worked on the affected projects;
  • wasted time and expense associated with reprocessing salvaged samples,
    reassessing the results, and reissuing publications;
  • damaged personal reputation of scientists; and
  • possible weakened or lost collaborations with Federal and state agencies,
    universities, and foreign nations. 
The entire report is here. It is well known in atmospheric science that historic temperature data is manipulated. There is at least one court case on this topic going on right now.

Isolated examples? Hardly.
Report here.

Of course, whenever critics of catastrophic global warming write something that disagrees with their activism disguised as science, the first response is, "is it peer-reviewed?!" Of course, climate science has "redefined" peer review so it massively favors pro-catastrophic global warming papers. Never mind that it takes critical papers as much as three years to be published, if they get published at all.

Still that is not enough. "Scientists" now rush out a press release about a new "study" long before it is peer reviewed. Reporters, who love disaster stories print the story and never report the revisions. It isn't just me that views this as advocacy disguised as science.

The question for Cullen and her colleagues, then, is whether this sort of scientific activism is truly effective. After all, other research has suggested that lingering skepticism and indifference toward climate science has little to do with a lack of scientific understanding among the general public, and is rather a product of social tribalism, where competing worldviews and value systems shape public attitudes far more than scientific literacy.

The fact is, it isn't "tribalism," it is the fact the case for catastrophic global warming has simply crumbled. The recent distortion of sea level data and temperature data previously covered on this blog are just two examples.

Remember the highly reported Virginia Commonwealth study in 2012 that liberals were more compassionate than conservatives and that conservatives were more authoritarian than liberals? Turns out, the authors entered the data into their computers backward and the results were the opposite
More on the correction:
The authors regret that there is an error in the published version of “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1), 34–51. The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items in the descriptive and preliminary analyses portion of the manuscript was exactly reversed. Thus, where we indicated that higher scores in Table 1 (page 40) reflect a more conservative response, they actually reflect a more liberal response. Specifically, in the original manuscript, the descriptive analyses report that those higher in Eysenck’s psychoticism are more conservative, but they are actually more liberal; and where the original manuscript reports those higher in neuroticism and social desirability are more liberal, they are, in fact, more conservative.

So, what were the real results?

Conservatives are more compassionate. Liberals more authoritarian.

Since I read about the correction, I have watched our local paper to report on the correction. Nope! Nada! That would be a, shall we say, an "inconvenient truth."

My point is not the get into a political discussion. My point is that the news media needs to be much, much more questioning of these politically charged "scientific studies." Those are the ones most likely to be biased or incorrect.

And, scientists need to understand that distortion and manipulation of data are not tools of science.

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