The email and documents recently netjacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia raise serious questions about the quality of the research being used to underpin major public-policy decisions.
In the open-source software community, we understand about human error and sloppiness and the tendency to get too caught up in a pet theory. We know that the most effective way way to combat these tendencies is transparency of process — letting the code speak for itself, and opening the sources to skeptical peer review by anyone.
There is only one way to cut through all of the conflicting claims and agendas about the CRU’s research: open-source it all. Publish the primary data sets, publish the programs used to interpret them and create graphs like the well-known global-temperature “hockey stick”, publish everything. Let the code and the data speak for itself; let the facts trump speculation and interpretation.
We know, from experience with software, that secrecy is the enemy of quality — that software bugs, like cockroaches, shun light and flourish in darkness. So, too. with mistakes in the interpretation of scientific data; neither deliberate fraud nor inadvertent error can long survive the skeptical scrutiny of millions. The same remedy we have found in the open-source community applies – unsurprisingly, since we learned it from science in the first place. Abolish the secrecy, let in the sunlight.
AGW true believers and “denialists” should be able to agree on this: the data get the last word, because without them theory is groundless. The only way for the CRU researchers to clear themselves of the imputation of serious error or fraud is full disclosure of the measurement techniques, the raw primary data sets, the code used to reduce them, and of their decisions during the process of interpretation. They should have nothing to hide; let them so demonstrate by hiding nothing.
The open-source community has many project-hosting sites that are well adapted for this sort of disclosure. If they require assistance in choosing one and learning how to create and manage an open-source project, I and many others in the open-source community will be happy to provide it.
For the future, we need to restore the basic standards of science. No secrecy: no secrecy of data, no secrecy of experimental methods, no secrecy of data-reduction or modeling code. Such transparency and accountability are especially vital when the public-policy stakes are large. This is among the excellent reasons that both the US and UK have Freedom of Information Acts, and the logic of those acts has perhaps never applied more pressingly than it does here.