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I would like to make a constructive proposal in this regard.

What about if all software that models climate prediction would be made available in a source fashion?

I don't even mean like open or free software. Just available so that all people could read it and inspect it (its ok that people could not resell or repackage it)?

I think that many of this software has been, at least partially, publicly funded. So asking for it to be made available to the public for general inspection would be more than fair.

Would it be that bad to make the code that does all these predictions open for everybody to inspect and criticize?

What about it YOU could have a peek on the inner workings of the models?

Completely open, transparent science.

by t-------------- on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 05:03:25 PM EST
Good lord.

Not intending to disparage you in any way shape or form: your proposal remind me of me 30 years ago.  Before I developed my hard crust of cynicism.  

On to the subject ...

I vehemently agree this should be done and even needs to be done.

But.

The proposal, to have some hope of success, requires the backing of a thumping lot of the Shakers and Movers in the scientific community.  I'm talking Nobel Prizes winners and others of that rank.  Without such backing it's hopeless.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 05:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep I am fully aware of that. Cynicism was the biggest asset that I've gained from my PhD, BTW.

I raised this issue mainly so that people are aware of the closeness of the whole enterprise.

Many companies are more open than many research centres.

If science is so "open" and  "transparent", why isn't this an obvious default?

Ok, at least I would like to see documented the QA procedures... What do they do to assure quality? Software has bugs. Even math formulas have bugs sometimes...

To be fully honest maybe there is some "poison" in the proposal. Maybe I know the state of some implementations (of top universities), and would really love to see them in the open. I doubt, they would like to have there work exposed, though...

by t-------------- on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 05:49:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If everyone is turning cynical by finishing a PhD that practically cheers me for walking out on one...
by Nomad on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 07:50:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not going to cheer if you quit.

My father-in-law, the SO, and twelve or so friends have a Ph.d.  I was working towards a Ph.d., had to have one to work in the field I was interested in, when I got waylaid by circumstances, discovered over-riding fascination with computers, and never went back.  Big Mistake.  My life would have been a damn sight easier, I'd avoided a lot of pointless hassles and conflicts, if I'd had a "union card."

So my advice is: finish.  Slog on through and get it.  It won't hurt and it WILL help.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 10:57:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately the decision has already been made. It's almost nine months ago that I left South Africa and abandoned the PhD there. And in honesty, this still feels as the right decision.

The one thing regrettable of the entire PhD period is actually not having finished one. There may be some developments still, there may be not. It's too early to say anything.

by Nomad on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 06:24:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is what I am trying to do, finish the damn thing (and then be a high school teacher ;) )

I actually have published quite a bit - have quite q few citations and such - and would easily (I think) get a postdoc or something like that, but I cant take this for much longer.

The ability to manage my time is good. The traveling is very good (conferences). I cannot complain about the workload ;)

But I simply cant stand the closeness, the loneliness (I and do have loads of contacts), the confidentiality, the discussions about intelectual ownership, the lack of technical competence, the egos and the shear lack of moral behaviour.

Having worked in IT in the past (including very big banks), I can easily say that even commercial IT is much more open in terms of idea exchange and good, old sharing of ideas, problems and solutions.

I spend part of my time doing open source, just to be able to work in something that involves a community that, with all its problems, still deserves to be labeled as a community.

by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 06:51:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Might consider burn-out.  This goes a bit over the top but it might put at least some of what you're experiencing in perspective.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 02:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, been there. Still there, but every day much better.

Apart from family and friends, from an intellectual perspective found salvation in art and programming. The PhD is something I do after coding (sometimes I even code for the PhD ;) ) and learning music and drawing. Also doing a nice course in epistemology in order to be able to synthesize these ideas.

But have no doubt, this was a personal reaction to what I describe above.

by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 03:39:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, actually finishing the PhD diminishes the personal impact of the inevitably developed cynicism. Because you have something to show for your time spent in academia.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:30:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some people might decide to do their research in the open... Once you get tenure, why not?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:29:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would recommend you a lecture by William Black (the Savings and Loans guy) regarding the competition between good and bad behavior in an environment which is permissive to bad behavior. Bad behavior outcompetes and exterminates good behavior.

Let me give an example:
Imagine that you are a serious researcher in epidemiology. You will find it unacceptable to publish a paper on "eradicating disease X in Y years", as it will be unrealistic and BS. You will maybe work in more realistic control measures. Something a bit more obscure than "total eradication".
The other gal/guy that competes with you, will do a paper on "eradicating the disease".
Which one will be published in a better journal, attract more funding, get you in with the people who have decision power?
In a serious environment the second person would be ridiculed. But in an environment as it is today, the second person will progress and the first (with their "irrelevant" topics) will perish.

Another example:
If I find a problem in the work of a colleague, and tell the colleague, what will be his/her answer? In a serious environment the colleague will rush to the publication where the wrong work was published and issue a correction or a retraction. In today's environment it will probably ignore your comment and will become your ENEMY if you make it public.

This being said I can find many cases where people still behave in a moral way, but it is not clear that it is the rule.

Be serious and perish.
[Not fair to all areas]

by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:45:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gresham's law...

Oh, I am aware of the two examples you cite. I tend not to associate with people who don't consider both unconscionable. We may not get far (I have actually quit academia) but at least we still have fun talking about science.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:49:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The extensions of Gresham's law into analysis of public behavior is completely appropos, IMO. The real finds are areas where it DOESN'T apply. I have been seeing this phenomenon in my checkered career since the late '70s and the counterfeit always seems to become "the coin of the realm" right up to the point of massive fail. Then the response is to look away, to say "who could have known?" or both.

The Peter Principle is an enabling corollary of the social application of Gresham's Law and the combined effect of these two principles largely accounts for what I have called "institutional incompetence", which is where we have many, even a considerable majority, of able people with good intentions yet the structure and function of the institution itself reliably leads to failed results.

I do not know if "workplace democracy" and "social justice" can mitigate this phenomena, but it wouldn't hurt to try. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that organizations that adopt open and collaborative approaches and encourage creativity can be more productive. My own sense is that social hierarchy is the real poison. And that is my inner anarchist speaking.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 12:18:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once you get tenure, why not?

Aside from the ever fewer genuinely tenured positions, it doesn't quite stop with tenure. You still have to secure funding for postdocs, ph.d.s, etc.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 23rd, 2009 at 03:34:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I made a similar comment above, and was making an almost identical suggestion about source code, but the comment disappeared before I finished it and I got distracted.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 11:05:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Theoretically speaking, you can file for aktindsigt (approx. "freedom of information request") with any publicly Swedish institution for any kind of documents that do not contain sensitive personal information (unless it's about yourself) or (reasonably narrowly defined) state secrets. That includes universities. And that includes source code and raw experimental data.

In practise, if there's a paper in the pipeline your request will be "unavoidably delayed" until the paper is published, or files will "go missing."

But after they've wrung the last publication out of a project, you should in principle be able to get to their code and data.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are a few more cases, though they rarely apply here:

A swedish kind of death:

In the 18th century there were two parties - the Hats and the Caps - fighting for control over government. They did not trust each other with power so to make sure neither side abuse governmental power all governmentally produced documents were made public, except those classified by proper authority for the proper reason and that list of reasons is pretty short, here it is:

Offentlighetsprincipen The principle of publicity
Vilka handlingar får hållas hemliga? Which documents can be kept secret
Allmänna handlingar får i vissa fall hållas hemliga, nämligen då de skyddar följande intressen:
  • rikets säkerhet eller dess förhållande till annan stat eller mellanfolklig organisation
  • rikets centrala finanspolitik, penningpolitik eller valutapolitik
  • myndigheters verksamhet för inspektion, kontroll eller annan tillsyn
  • intresset att förebygga eller beivra brott
  • det allmännas ekonomiska intresse
  • skyddet för enskilds personliga eller ekonomiska förhållanden
  • intresset att bevara djur- eller växtart
Public records can in some cases be kept secret, if they protect the following interests:
  • the security of the realm or its relation to other state or intragovernmental organisation
  • the centrala finance-, monetary- or currency-politics of the realm
  • governmental agencies inspection, control or other similar activities (to enforce laws and regulations)
  • the interest of preventing or investigating crimes
  • the economic interest of the public
  • the protection of the individuals personal or economic situation
  • the interest of keeping animal or plant species

Naturally exactly what is covered by which bulletpoint has been extensively tried in courts (as is often the case with really old laws).

Email has not been tried afaik, but should be public as mail is (unless contents are covered by any of the bullet points). So the emails of swedish researchers (climate or otherwise) should be available by request.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 24th, 2009 at 09:19:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as long as other research institutions in other countries aren't complying with similar regulations, there is arguably an economic interest to the public in not giving up the data for free. See discussion of free-rider issues downthread.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 24th, 2009 at 09:28:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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