Openness and honesty

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite senses temperature using infrared wavelengths. The image shows temperature of the Earth’s surface or clouds covering it for the month of April 2003. The scale ranges from -81 degrees Celsius (-114° Fahrenheit) in black/blue to 47° C (116° F) in red. The Intertropical Convergence Zone, an equatorial region of persistent thunderstorms and high, cold clouds is depicted in yellow. Higher latitudes are increasingly obscured by clouds, though some features like the Great Lakes are apparent. Northernmost Europe and Eurasia are completely obscured by clouds, while Antarctica stands out cold and clear at the bottom of the image

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite senses temperature using infrared wavelengths. The image shows temperature of the Earth’s surface or clouds covering it for the month of April 2003. The scale ranges from -81 degrees Celsius in black/blue to 47° C in red.

Openness and honesty should be the bywords of scientists paid to measure things by the public. And generally they are. But the reason these qualities are so important is that it only takes one or two failures to be open and/or honest for the public to lose trust. I was put in mind of this an attempt to restore trust after the disastrous Climate-gate fiasco at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.

In my assessment of the affair I just felt sad. Sad at the tribal disposition that led to the behaviour at the heart of the affair, and sad at the tribal reactions to it. But as a consequence of this, the Met Office are hosting a conference on how to make the entire dataset of surface temperature record open for all to see. In an effort to reach out beyond the specialist scientists who normally look at this, they have invited scientists from many countries who are not specialists – that’s how I got my invitation. So this is a great idea – and I have nothing but praise for the people organising this.

Hopefully the outcome will be data available for anyone to examine. It needs to be available at a range of levels from the simplified summary to the raw data – with all the stages in data manipulations specified and justified. I expect to have a busy and mind-stretching week and I will let you know how it goes.

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2 Responses to “Openness and honesty”

  1. brucetheeconomist Says:

    Those in the scandel haven’t done themselves proud, but I never could see how they were doing much that isn’t common in working with data. All kinds of massaging in needed and the process often isn’t pretty. It like the stories about not wanting to actually see sausage being made.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      I like the sausage analogy. I am just off to this international workshop at the Met Office and having read through the agenda and the white papers, I feel that I am entering the sausage factory! It looks like it will be messy, but I hope there will be something tasty at the end.

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