18 May 2010

Steve McIntyre on Hot Fudge

It looks like Steve McIntyre and I share similar views in the fudge vs. fraud debate:
The person who was most instrumental in debunking Climategate scientist Michael Mann's hockey stick chart, Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit, said last night that he did not believe his scientific misrepresentations rose to the level of fraud. . . McIntyre said he believed expressing emotions and anger over the episode was counterproductive and even self-indulgent, and that simply proving Mann and others wrong was sufficient.
McIntyre also spoke out against the Virgina Attorney general's fishing expedition:
“Regardless of what one may think of the quality of Mann’s work,” McIntyre said, “he has published diligently. ... [The Virginia AG’s actions] are an abuse of administrative prerogative that ... is unfair to Mann.”


  1. Whether you call it fudge or fraud, would you at least agree the practice of cherrypicking is still wrong and unethical for scientists?

  2. That's right, Roger. Like you, McIntyre wants to stay in the big game. Wants to appear on television, wants to be interviewed by newspapers. Needs credibility. Needs to look grown up and responsible. Needs to be dispassionate. Anger is seditious.

    Noam Chomsky absolutely does not believe in what are referred to in the corporate media as conspiracy theories. He says they are all irrelevant. They are to him. He wants to play the big game. That's his prerogative.

    My old friend from the '80s, Booker Prize winning novelist James Kelman from Glasgow wrote "if you say anything they don't like, they call it a conspiracy theory" *.

    * "And the Judges Said" 2004

  3. -1-Bradley J. Fikes

    Of course there are circumstances where cherrypicking goes over the line. In fact, I've documented many such cases on this blog over several years. I've testified before Congress on the subject and written a book on it. But context of particular cases matters a good deal.

  4. Having been proven wrong should be sufficient and the end of it. Agreed.

    As JeffID so accurately put it, "the process is the punishment." And the choice of Mann an the UofV as targets of "process" seems opportunistic at best. But maybe it's inevitable that any investigation of a single member of some larger class will seem that way.

  5. Er, Roger: McIntyre certainly didn't excuse the "fudging" as something that is just a trivial matter. He's just a very careful person. I would not use the term "fraud," either, since it is so hard to prove. I prefer to think about integrity and the scientific method.

  6. -5-jae

    Um, right. I didn't say that McIntyre excused it as a trivial matter. Nor did I.

  7. Hi Roger,
    I've testified before Congress on the subject and written a book on it.

    Is that book "The Honest Broker"? Whichever one it is, I'm going to read it.

  8. -7-Bradley J. Fikes

    Yes, just to the left.

  9. Roger, can I suggest that the use of the word "fudge" is incredibly unhelpful? For large parts of your audience "fudging" will be interpreted as implying that you consider it "a trivial matter", whatever your intended meaning.

  10. -9-Jonathan

    Thanks for the comment, a quick response ...

    In -3- above I noted that the interpretation of evidence depends upon context. My use of the term "fudge" has a particular context (follow the link) ... please don't read more into it things that I have not said, or worse things that are the opposite of what I have said.

    More generally, I have commented publicly on many occasions over many years on issues associated with climate science. To say that I think such issues are "trivial" is just wrong.

  11. Roger, I'm well aware of the context - I was one of the people giving you a hard time on the original thread. I know "fudge" was a word you were given to work with by Der Spiegel, but that doesn't mean it was a word you had to accept. I suspect that many of your detractors are more perturbed by your use of "fudge" than by your refusal to use "fraud".

    You say that 'To say that I think such issues are "trivial" is just wrong'. I've been reading this site since its inception and its predecessor well before that, and in all that time I have NEVER been clear on your position. You are well aware that the global warming literature is full of inaccurate and misleading statements, and yet you seem blithely unconcerned, except when these touch on your own research into disasters. I'm afraid you give a remarkably good impression of thinking that this dishonesty is trivial for someone who so publicly claims not to think that.

  12. McIntyre did not call it fraud, but he did not call it a fudge either.

    Mann's trick is still somewhere between a fudge and a fraud.

    That fact that Jones, et al, so it for what it was - a trick - highlights that modern scientists have set themselves lower standards of professional behaviour.

  13. -11-Jonathan

    Thanks for the feedback ... I get criticized for lots of things, but I do have to say being "blithely unconcerned" about climate science is a new one ;-)

  14. Pity Mann and colleagues were not so magnanimous. shall we ruminate on some of the nasty things that have been said about S. McI in the emails? Perhaps he wished just to lead by example.

  15. Well there's a first time for everything - but note that I only said "seem blithely unconcerned" rather than "are blithely unconcerned".

  16. It's a masterpiece of spin to claim that Steve Mc agrees with you. This may be the case regarding the use of the exact word 'fraud' but what got people worked up on the previous threads was your claim that the Spiegel article was about right on hide the decline. Steve Mc has said again and again that deleting the inconvenient data is not acceptable.

    Even your own dad disagrees with you on this:
    "I (and others) disagree with their statement that..."
    If you won't take on board what your commenters said (many of them academic scientists) perhaps you will listen to him!

    Back to that doghouse!

  17. -16-PaulM

    Please have a second read, I said that Steve Mc and I "share similar views" on this -- which is obvious from his statements.

    As far as my father is concerned, his post is not about fraud in the slightest, it is about scientific issues associated with the divergence. He doesn't think it is fraud either ;-)

  18. I don’t know whether SM holds similar views to you or not. He referred to different particulars of misconduct and his bottom line appeared to be that assigning blame is unproductive and distracting.

    There are a number of issues here which have become tangled. Der Speigel does not refer to cherry picking of data as a fudge, it refers to “tweaking” data as a fudge rather than fraud. The author attributes the use of the term “fraud” to a political leaning – Republicanism. I’m not sure what a Republican is, but I’m sure I’m not one. I can also use the word “fraud” and when I do so it has no party political connotations.

    Your father has pointed out that the author completely misunderstood the context in which he,the author, believed prima facie fraud could be construed as mere fudge.

    You brought up cherry picking in this context, which steers the explanation towards innocent confirmation bias, though I’m not aware that anyone else has before. Conceivably truncating data could be described as cherry picking, but “tweaking” cannot. “Tweaking” is a euphemism for fabrication. That is the context of the Der Spiegel article. The suggestion was that Republicans seized on the fabrication of data and called it fraud whereas less party politically motivated people would see it as fudge.

    SM is troubled by Mann’s failure to declare insignificance in R2. Me, less so, he chose another metric which he argues is better. I believe he believes that. I see SM’s point, but I don’t even feel the omission of R2 amounts to misjudgement. There is plenty of room for legitimate disagreement over methodology and presentation and there is some degree of discretion in what to include in a published paper. We have yet to hear Mann’s account of how he arrived at the slope for the shaft of MHB99, a stunning emergent property of the hockey stick, which convincingly validated it - that seems murky, but otherwise I would agree that he, and all the other scientist involved have not, as far as is known, committed any misconduct in relation to papers published in peer reviewed journals.

    The “tweaking” der Spiegel refers to is in the WMO graphic. The data is over an anomaly range of -0.6 to +0.3 and the “tweaked” data is all the data above 0.0 anomaly – that's the blade of the hockey stick. It wasn’t the Republicans who discredited the scientists, it was the “tweaking”.

    I respect you position on wishing to characterise conduct as fudge rather than fraud, but it’s not clear to me whether you respect the position of the people who were deceived and who wish to characterise it as fraud rather than fudge. Do you say they are wrong to do so?

  19. -18-Bob Denton

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

    Lest this get into a discussion about semantic or appropriate levels of outrage, let me say that I am perfectly happy for people to characterize events as they see fit. I certainly understand that many people commenting on this site use the term "fraud" in an imprecise, colloquial sort of way -- fine. But that is not how I use it, as it has a well-defined meaning in academia, and my several posts on this topic have sought to make that point clear.

    Ultimately, it is OK with me for people to agree to disagree on this subject. One purpose of this blog is to allow people to air a diversity of views, and to the extent that it succeeds, disagreements are healthy and inevitable.


  20. Hmmm... Is "a MERE FUDGE" trivial or not? Semantics.

  21. Dr Pielke:

    I would like to bring to your kind attention that the Chocolate and Almonds photograph you have up in this post is...fake.

    It is a Photoshopped picture.

    ;-) Oh the irony.

  22. Well, we may have the inscrutable Dr. Roger boxed in here. We understand that he agrees with Der Spiegel's concept that the tricksters were guilty of only "mere fudges." And we now know that he does not consider these mere fudges as "trivial." And we certainly know that he sees no fraud, hears no fraud, speaks no fraud. So, I would guess that we must place Dr. Pielke in a place between "mere fudges" and "trivial." Does anyone have a word/phrase for this place? Could it be "lack of honesty and integrity?" Could it be "pseudoscience?" What?

  23. From my hockey stick article back in early 2005, available at http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/Climate_H.pdf :
    The conclusion of McKitrick and McIntyre, after being engaged in nearly two years of heated discussions with Mann and other scientists, is alarming: there is something amiss in climate research.Have Mann and his fellow researchers committed fraud? McIntyre:“That is too strong a legal term.What we can say is that the IPCC and many paleoclimatologists have not provided their readers with ‘full, true and plain disclosure’ (to use another legal term), especially if it involves reporting results adverse to their claims.There is no excuse for anything less than complete disclosure of all data and methods and it is shocking that the authors of the major studies refuse to do so.We have found that peer review of paleoclimate journals is a very limited form of due diligence. If scientific studies are going to be used to justify policy decisions costing billions of dollars, a much more rigorous form of review is needed.”

    As you can see, McIntyre's opinion has changed little during the last five years; however his criticism about IPCC and hockey stick reconstruction is also as valid as it was five years ago;

    Marcel Crok

  24. @#12 "Mann's trick is still somewhere between a fudge and a fraud. "

    Look, from a layman's pov, you academic types can get all caught up in the semantics of fudge or fraud, but I'm sorry - my faith in scientists has been horribly undermined by Mann's hockey stick manipulations (and the resulting collaboration amongst his peers). I thought there was an inbuilt process of dispassionate, objective , blind (or even double-blind) observing and careful brick-by-brick building of robust hypotheses. Turns out if you don't have such ethics but are more persuaded to follow the money or the power or the prestige then you can make the data do whatever back-flips and through-the-flaming-hoop acts you desire.
    You can call it a fudge. You can call it a fraud. I call it a sad day for science. Because that sort of lack of integrity poisons the water in the well of learning. It destroys something essential. I can't even name it - it has a lot to do with trust. At the stratospheric level of learning in which Mann operates it has inter-generational repercussions.

  25. From Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit:

    "Some blog characterization of my comments e.g. at Keith Kloor and Pielk Jr- somewhat mischaracterize my comments"

  26. -25-PaulM

    Thanks! I have emailed SM and asked him to clarify. When he does I'll update this post.

  27. Steve Mc responded to my inquiry with the following excerpt from his Heartland presentation, and, after reading it, I still think it fair for me to say that we have similar views on this (noting that he invokves me twice).

    "Unfortunately, it isn’t just the trick that the inquiries have failed to investigate. To an astonishing degree, they’ve totally avoided dealing with actual issues. This was recently recognized by the fourteen authors of the Hartwell Paper, including Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia, who stated:” Hitherto, none of the specific critiques of this work by those auditing it have been adjudicated by reviews of the matter, and indeed were explicitly not investigated by the Oxburgh review”.

    The seeming obtuseness of these inquiries is obviously very frustrating, as there doesn’t seem to be any accountability anywhere in the system;.

    For the public, non-disclosure of adverse data, like the trick, seems like misconduct, but Pielke Junior, for example, has observed that there is little point in trying to fit non-disclosure of adverse data into academic misconduct, because the practice is widespread in the academic community – not just climate science. Academics seem unoffended by the trick.

    But there’s a price for not being offended, because the public expects more. If climate scientists are unoffended by the failure to disclose adverse data, unoffended by the trick and not committed to the principles of full, true and plain disclosure, the public will react, as it has, by placing less reliance on pronouncements from the entire field – thus diminishing the coin of scientists who were never involved as well as those who were. This is obviously not a happy situation at a time when climate scientists are trying to influence the public and many have lashed out by blaming everyone but themselves, using the supposed exonerations by these ineffectual inquiries as an additional pretext.

    To the extent that things like the trick were sharp practice, the practices needed to be disavowed. The scientists do not need to be drummed out, but there has to be some commitment to avoiding these sorts of sharp practice in the future. George Monbiot suggested early on perceived that apologies were necessary on the part of the climate scientists involved both to the targets and to the wider community – something that, in my opinion, would go a long way to achieving some sort of truth and reconciliation in a difficult situation. Right now, this seems less likely to happen than ever.

    Despite the failures of the inquiries to do their job, I strongly disagree with Cuccinelli’s recent investigation of potential financial abuse. Regardless of what one may think of the quality of Mann’s work, he has published diligently. In my opinion, Cuccinelli’s actions are an abuse of administrative prerogative that on the one hand is unfair to Mann and on the other provides an easy out for people to avoid dealing with the real issues."

    Thanks to Steve for the quick reply.

  28. Roger, by quoting your statement that the conduct would not necessarily be construed within the academic as academic misconduct, I'm illustrating for the audience the sort of barrier that would be faced in this sort of action. If you look at definitions of falsification - actually read the definitions and their precedents in case law in other fields, instead of assuming that one knows the legal meaning of the term by osmosis, you may re-consider your view that deletion of adverse data is not falsification.

    HOwever as long as this sort of conduct - conduct that would be severely sanctioned in a securities offering - is within academic "community standards", the audience has to realize that there is a good chance that they won't like the result of an actual investigation.

    Having said that, it would be instructive to have an actual investigation so that this "community standard" is clearly on the record and not merely latent.

    The point which all parties seem to have missed in my comment is the connection between the "community standard" and the devaluation of the coin of climate scientists, that the community is complaining about. It's not really possible to have it both ways.

    If climate scientists are not obliged to disclose adverse results - as you say - then they cannot complain about third parties trying to verify their results.

    My guess is that the rules are not quite as relaxed as you make out. However as long as inquiries don't do their job, no one will ever know.

  29. -28-stevemcintyre

    Thanks for your follow-up. Now it seems that it is you who wants things both ways.

    I have not invoked any legal (or other) definitions of "falsification," nor have I suggested that the definitions used in academia apply elsewhere.

    Whether these other definitions of "fraud" should be established as a new norm within science is a separate issue.

    However, to expect investigations from within the academy to employ criteria from without is unrealistic ... why would they?

    I find your complaint odd given that the only investigation that seeks to employ external (to academia) criteria of fraud (the VA AG investigation) you have criticized as improper.

    So which is it? Do you want the community to invoke its standards? Or do you want those standards changed? If the latter, then someone will need to break some eggs. The community will not spontaneously evolve in the direction that you suggest.

    Finally, on the loss of credibility of the climate science community, I agree, and in fact, you can find me expressing concerns about this for quite some time, even from the pre-blog era;-)

  30. "If climate scientists are not obliged to disclose adverse results - as you say - then they cannot complain about third parties trying to verify their results."

    If scientists of any flavor are not obliged to disclose adverse results, then scientists have only themselves to blame if their advice is treated with the same respect as that of an average used-car salesperson.

  31. Hopefully the AG's investigation will help highlight for more of the public the cancer, called postmodernism, that is destroying our academic institutions (as well as our society).

  32. A relevant article, perhaps?


  33. "Hopefully the AG's investigation will help highlight for more of the public the cancer,..."

    Hopefully, the AG will be voted out of office or fired at the earliest possible time.