As the stolen emails non-scandal from November retreats slowly in the rear-view mirror, it’s worth a quick re-cap of why it was so exciting in the first place. Emails without context can be made to fit any story that someone wants to tell, which is one of the reasons we don’t like to release email correspondence that is inherently out of context. Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues gives us an elegant run-through of how the stolen CRU emails are taken hopelessly out of context and cannot, in and of themselves, contribute to our understanding of climate science.
Given the demonstrated unreliability of electronic records that have been sorted or analyzed using automated tools, it’s unreasonable to make firm claims either of scientific misconduct, ethical lapses, or illegality based on only the published CRU emails. It takes full inquiries and investigations where the investigators talk with the involved parties to truly understand the details and the context surrounding claims like those made against the climate scientists mentioned in the published CRU emails. To date, three such inquires have been completed, and while there may be some areas where the inquiries can be fairly criticized, the fact that the results of all three agree with each other strongly suggests that Tim Osborn’s claim, rather than Geoff Sherrington’s, is closer to correct in this case – “It is impossible to draw firm conclusions from the hacked documents and emails.”
There is little that can dissuade someone who is convinced of a certain narrative, but fresh angles and a fresh perspective, such as Angliss offers, are an excellent part of the solution. Check out the full article for interviews with both skeptics and scientists, and a fascinating look at how a study of computer bug fixes can be used to illustrate the incompleteness of the electronic trail. See the full post at Scholars and Rogues.