Daily Archives: October 24, 2014

Environmental Ethics: I’m Right. Everyone Else is Wrong. No, You Can’t Have My Data. After all, it’s MY data.

This paper has almost got it right. The title really should be; “Ethics of Environmental (Climate) Scientists? What’s That?”.


As mentioned in a prior post here, I suspect the reason data is not made available is two fold: (1) An insecure scientist or agency does not want to be embarrassed by having others find their mistakes [there are many opportunities in science and engineering to learn humility] and (2) scientists or agencies do not want their ideas stolen.

In research and academia in general ideas and data are a commodity (like buying milk and eggs). To many in the academic community to do something radical like make raw data available to anyone is like them putting their wallet on the sidewalk, making it available to anyone.

Stealing of research ideas does happen. Along with arbitrary adjustments of data, such as here. But even so only independent analysis and/or competing independent research can discover errors and intentional data manipulation in the underlying data of a study. Data fraud does happen. Making raw data available for independent review in order to support assertions being made is an important part of the self-correcting process of science.  I believe this should also apply to computer model code. Especially now when “peer-review” is not able to discover such errors or manipulation embedded in the statistics and modeling.

Lastly, the assertion that sharing data is “good” itself presumes that there is a uniform invariant universal standard of goodness that everyone “should” agree with. I’d like to know what standard these authors are using to make this statement. You see, if there is no such standard then why should anyone share anything at all? Why not manipulate data? Perception is reality so they can make up their own reality? What’s wrong with that? Maybe the environmental (climate) scientists and others who won’t make data available and change their data can just do what they want? Who are you to say they are “wrong”? Now I have an answer to such questions but I’d like to hear what others have to say.

Soranno, PA., Kendra S. Cheruvelil, Kevin C. Elliott, and Georgina M. Montgomery. It’s Good to Share: Why Environmental Scientists’ Ethics Are Out of Date. Bioscience, October 2014 DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biu169

Although there have been many recent calls for increased data sharing, the majority of environmental scientists do not make their individual data sets publicly available in online repositories. Current data-sharing conversations are focused on overcoming the technological challenges associated with data sharing and the lack of rewards and incentives for individuals to share data. We argue that the most important conversation has yet to take place: There has not been a strong ethical impetus for sharing data within the current culture, behaviors, and practices of environmental scientists. In this article, we describe a critical shift that is happening in both society and the environmental science community that makes data sharing not just good but ethically obligatory. This is a shift toward the ethical value of promoting inclusivity within and beyond science. An essential element of a truly inclusionary and democratic approach to science is to share data through publicly accessible data sets.

Click here for full paper (Open Access).

Climate Reconstruction Study Limitations Insurmountable : Proceed With Caution

The assumptions inherent in performing climate reconstruction are such that limitations of the interpretation of the data are insurmountable. In other words, the same data with a different starting point in basic assumptions will lead to very different interpretive results. As a result, the interpretation of the data provided here should be examined carefully and applied cautiously, not just here, but in all such research work. Having said that, such historical studies should be done and are the focus of many people in the research community.

Wang, L.-C., Behling, H., Lee, T.-Q., Li, H.-C., Huh, C.-A., Shiau, L.-J., and Chang, Y.-P.: Late Holocene environmental reconstructions and their implications on flood events, typhoon, and agricultural activities in NE Taiwan, Clim. Past, 10, 1857-1869, doi:10.5194/cp-10-1857-2014, 2014.

We reconstructed paleoenvironmental changes from a sediment archive of a lake in the floodplain of the Ilan Plain of NE Taiwan on multi-decadal resolution for the last ca. 1900 years. On the basis of pollen and diatom records, we evaluated past floods, typhoons, and agricultural activities in this area which are sensitive to the hydrological conditions in the western Pacific. Considering the high sedimentation rates with low microfossil preservations in our sedimentary record, multiple flood events were. identified during the period AD 100–1400. During the Little Ice Age phase 1 (LIA 1 – AD 1400–1620), the abundant occurrences of wetland plant (Cyperaceae) and diatom frustules imply less flood events under stable climate conditions in this period. Between AD 500 and 700 and the Little Ice Age phase 2 (LIA 2 – AD 1630–1850), the frequent typhoons were inferred by coarse sediments and planktonic diatoms, which represented more dynamical climate conditions than in the LIA 1. By comparing our results with the reconstructed changes in tropical hydrological conditions, we suggested that the local hydrology in NE Taiwan is strongly influenced by typhoon-triggered heavy rainfalls, which could be influenced by the variation of global temperature, the expansion of the Pacific warm pool, and the intensification of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events.

Click here for full paper (Open Access).