Back in December I wrote a post highlighting a rather extraordinary email by the head of the National Association of Scholars, Peter Wood, opposing the election of Martha McNutt to head the National Academy of Sciences. McNutt has most recently been Editor in Chief of Science magazine, one of the premier peer-reviewed journals that give voice to budding scientists by publishing their work. But, as Wood documented in his email, McNutt has repeatedly used her perch at the helm of Science, not to advance scientific knowledge through the scientific method as generally understood, but rather repeatedly to squelch challenges to entrenched orthodoxy in multiple areas, all in the service of careers, funding, and regulatory regimes that had come under threat from evidence adverse to the prevailing favored scientific hypotheses. Wood gave three examples of areas where McNutt has made it her business to be sure that adverse evidence and counter-hypotheses cannot get a hearing: (1) the so-called linear no-threshhold dose-response model, which is the basis for much of the regulation of radiation and nuclear energy, and which is subject to substantial research that would appear to invalidate it; (2) the epidemiology of fine particulate air pollution, which is the basis of many costly EPA regulations (including the so-called Clean Power Plan, currently in the works), and where there have been credible allegations of misconduct by researchers on whom EPA relies; and, of course, (3) the so-called consensus model of climate change, where McNutt assures that Science will not publish anything questioning it in any way.
To get an idea just how far McNutt has moved from science to policy advocacy, take a look at the op-ed she published in Science back in July 2015. Hey, if you're Editor in Chief, you have no problem getting your stuff published -- even if it is completely out of your own field, and even if the subject is explicitly political rather than scientific. Excerpt:
The time for debate has ended. Action is urgently needed. The Paris-based International Energy Agency recently announced that current commitments to cut CO2 emissions [known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)] from the world’s nations are insufficient to avoid warming the entire planet by an average of more than 2°C above the preindustrial level. To set more aggressive targets, developed nations need to reduce their per-capita fossil fuel emissions even further, and by doing so, create roadmaps for developing nations to leapfrog technologies by installing low-CO2–emitting energy infrastructure rather than coal-fired power plants as they expand their energy capacity.
There is no other candidate challenging McNutt to head the NAS. So come July, barring some huge unforeseen events, she'll have the position.
But there's another premier science journal, called Nature. How about them? The answer is that they have sunk just as low. The most recent issue has an article by Stephan Lewandowsky and Dorothy Bishop, titled "Research Integrity: Don't Let Transparency Damage Science." L&B explicitly advocate that it's OK for people calling themselves scientists to refuse to share data and methods with people they don't like or trust. Indeed, according to L&B, lots of people seeking access to scientists' data and methods are not acting in good faith, but rather are engaged in "harassment." And by the way, of course the people that "scientists" don't like or trust are inevitably the ones who challenge the orthodox hypotheses. A few excerpts from L&B:
Many organized attacks call for more data, often with the aim of finding an analysis method that makes undesirable results go away. . . . Even when data availability is described in papers, tension may still arise if researchers do not trust the good faith of those requesting data, and if they suspect that requestors will cherry-pick data to discredit reasonable conclusions. . . . [S]ocial media and online comments also offer an easy way to inject biased, incorrect or misleading information.
There's plenty more. The basic idea is to give cover to any researcher to restrict the sharing of data and methods to only friends who can be trusted not to undermine favored policy prescriptions and the ongoing flow of government money. In case it's not obvious, by the way, Lewandowsky is principally known as an orthodoxy-enforcer in the climate change area.
The blogosphere over the past several days has plenty of appropriate reaction to this drivel from Lewandowsky and Nature. Judith Curry has a long post at her Climate, Etc. blog, titled "Violating the norms and ethos of science." Her thoughts on how so-called scientists could go so far astray as to think it's OK to refuse to share data and methods:
Careerism leads a scientist not to want to have their research be challenged or audited, for fear of damage to their reputation that is shallowly based on such things as publication numbers, funding, memberships on prestigious boards, press releases and citation numbers (rather than an interest in learning and making meaningful contributions that advance science). Policy advocates/activists do not want to see their science challenged (or the science of their political allies), for fear that the challenge will diminish their policy and political objectives. Challenges from someone on the ‘other side’ of the policy/political debate are regarded as especially objectionable, since their motives are ‘different’. As a result, we are seeing an epidemic of ‘activism that abuses science as a weapon.’
Perhaps the most interesting part of Curry's post is a link she provides to another guy named Paul Mathews, who has managed to make a record of a number of comments that appeared on the Nature site and then were deleted, supposedly for violating Nature's policies in some respect. For example, there was this comment from a guy named Brad Keyes:
The above article is a heinously antiscientific attempt to make excuses
for obscurantism, deletionism and Phil Jonesism (“Why should I make my
data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong
with it?”) Dear Lewandowsky and collaborator (whose name I’ve forgotten),
do yourselves a favor and wake up to the fact that THE MIDDLE AGES ARE
OVER. You can either be priests or scientists. Not both.
Plenty more such deleted comments can be found at Curry's post, or by following her links.
The unbelievably sad truth is that the leading science journals and government science agencies (like NAS) today are far more in the business of orthodoxy enforcement than science. The journals have literally no excuse why they do not require on-line archiving of all data as a condition to publication. But they don't. We are left to rely on the internet and interested volunteers to continue the lonely search for truth. Surprisingly, they're doing a remarkably good job.