Climatic Research Unit
1. I am a UK subject, a software consultant and entrepreneur of thirty years standing. After graduating in Mathematics at Cambridge, in 1983 I co-founded and in 1986 became managing director of Objective Computer Systems Limited, the first consultancy in Europe to specialise in the application of object-oriented programming to commercial systems. I served on the committees of the British Computer Society’s Object-Oriented Programming and Systems group 1986-90, the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP) 1989, the European Java User Group 1997-99 and the first two Extreme Programming conferences in Sardinia, in 2000 and 2001. I served on the committee and was a speaker at the Charles Babbage Awards for UK IT innovation at the House of Commons in 1998. Having suggested Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web I was able to present the award and meet Tim at his office at MIT and a year later draw his attention to the Wiki idea invented by Ward Cunningham, which came to such prominence later in Wikipedia. Sir Tim’s role in open systems for government in the UK, reportedly at the initiative of the Prime Minister himself, which I highly applaud, is I believe highly relevant to the current issues with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and climate science generally.
2. In my commercial work I have consulted and helped manage projects for various companies, including work on mathematical modelling and forecasting of time series for TSB Hill Samuel and Sabre Fund Management and a large initiative on discrete event simulation for the Defence Research Agency in Malvern. Objective also worked for over four years on systems for the exploration geologists of Rio Tinto. This work has I believe given me some useful additional background with which to approach the current situation in climate science. Other than that, I have no personal axe to grind.
3. What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research? The first implication is that the integrity of scientific research is bound to increase. But it is starting from a very low base, which should be a concern to UK citizens and to those across the world wondering whether to put their trust in the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is hard not to agree with Douglas Keenan, as quoted in one of the leaked emails: “almost by itself, the withholding of their raw data by [climate] scientists tells us that they are not scientists”. [ http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=972&filename=1241415427.txt ] Reproducibility has been key to the scientific method since the pioneering work of the Iraqi scientist al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham a thousand years ago and was of course more recently emphasized in the western tradition by Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. The refusal of CRU to provide data and source code to Keenan, Steve McIntyre and others was enough to convince me some years ago that this area of science was in deep trouble. That is now bound to change.
4. To restore trust there is a great need for an Open Climate Initiative, in line with Tim Berners-Lee’s work on open government and the profound impact of the Internet in other areas of life. The Open Climate Initiative would comprise four principles and developing areas of praxis: open data, open source (program code), open preprints and open review. In opting to support these principles, for the public good and against all vested interests, you have a great opportunity to change the direction of history for the better.
5. Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate? Last week Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick informed me by email that they had not been contacted by Muir Russell. If that is still the case the scope of his review is inadequate. I also support Nigel Lawson’s call for a Public Inquiry. But the Open Climate Initiative is the most important solution to the problems of climate science, revealed only in part by the leak from CRU, and it is vital to stay focused on that point.