Tuesday, 4 February 2014

WUWT and Co. not interested in my slanted opinion, part II

The Hockey Schtick broke a story about homogenization, which was picked up by Watts Up With That? They found an article, which they claimed showed that homogenization makes the influence of an enhanced Urban Heat Island stronger. I disagreed with their conclusions, the homogenization method in the paper was designed to study the UHI more accurately and removed other effects that masked it. However, for the global data sets other homogenization methods are used that reduce the influence of urbanization.

There was one thing about this interaction with WUWT and Co, that I found interesting. Interesting in the way Judith Curry uses the word, suggestive and non-committal.

I wrote a comment (see below) on five blogs that had covered the story, quite neutral comments not to violate any comment policy. They had a link to my blog article for more information. One would expect skeptical people, in the original meaning of the word, to be interested in an alternative opinion, especially so if it comes from someone that is reasonably well informed. However, only one of the five comments was published. [UPDATE: now two comments, see below.]

The post was published on the 1st of February, at the time of writing 3 days ago.

Five blogs

The Hockey Schtick: New paper finds adjusted temperature data in China has significantly exaggerated warming
Below the post at The Hockey Schtick are two comments, but mine did not appear.
[UPDATE: After a twitter exchange, I have resubmitted my comment and it has appeared. Problem solved.]

Watts Up With That?: Important study on temperature adjustments: ‘homogenization…can lead to a significant overestimate of rising trends of surface air temperature.’
Anthony Watts thought the homogenization article was very important. My comment has not appeared yet. Last time I tried a similar comment, at least the text "[sorry, but we aren't interested in your slanted opinion - mod]" appeared.
I am on the WUWT black list and normally it takes a few hours before my comments appear, at which time the discussion has typically progressed for fresh posts and most people do not seem to notice the comment any more. Three days would be a new record.

Tips on How to Study: Important study on temperature adjustments: 'homogenization…can …
Then I wrote a comment for Tips On How To Study. Looking in more detail now, it does not seem to be an ostrich blog, but rather someone who copies articles from other blogs, mostly not about How To Study.

The Drinking Water Advisor: Beijing adjusted surface temperature data found to have exaggerated warming trends
The fourth comments was at The Drinking Water Advisor, a blog about water, fluoridation and climate change. My comment did not yet show up here.

Errors in IPCC climate science: How many times does a truth have to be told ? – UHI warming has been cemented into global temperature series by adjusting for steps outward from cities

There is one blog where my comment was posted: Errors in IPCC climate science. Chapeau. One of the bloggers, Warwick S. Hughes, has written some scientific articles and comments on station data quality. He should have been able to see the mistake in the WUWT article.


The last few month I have trouble with getting comments published, also on science blogs, but I would estimate this to affect a few percent of my comments. Getting only one [two] comment[s] out of four or five published is less than expected. Being a scientist, I will naturally assume good faith, the reason may well be some sort of spam filter. I hope my critical readers can make up their own mind.

The comment

At WUWT and Tips, I wrote the comment below. On the other blogs shorter ones with a similar tone.

The authors wanted to accurately study the influence of the urban heat island effect and thus removed the cooling effect of two relocations using a special homogenization method. Without this method the importance of urbanization would have been underestimated.

This special homogenization method is not used for global climate data, where the aim is to remove the effect of urbanization as well. Thus this WUWT post is unfortunately inaccurate. For details, please have a look at my blog.

I would personally say, that that is quite neutral. Certainly compared to the way scientists are described in the comments of WUWT.

Further reading

WUWT comes right out and says "We Aren't Interested" in facts
HotWhoppers take on the previous time WUWT was not interested in my slanted opinion.


Mike Haseler said...

I'm afraid that when you get a successful blog like WUWT, you attract all kinds of commenters and if my own blog is anything to go by, some are lucky that I don't have the money to take them to court.

So, I'm not surprised some bloggers have a very short temper.

I get particular irate with some idiots who comment. I'm not paid, and in no sense deny science, so when I get attacked for "being in the pay of big oil" or called a "denier" by those getting a lot of public money for doing a good job and not doing it, I rightly treat them as the hypocritical money-grabbing idiots they are.

Sometimes, however, I get it wrong and I dismiss a genuine commenter who I wrongly assume is making another silly comment. It's also happened to me on WUWT. You just have to accept that moderators who are not being paid, don't have much time to decide which comments to remove. So it can be a lottery.

It really would be easier if we were being paid. Because at least I would have a reason to "be nice". When someone makes an idiotic comment, I often have to stop myself really going for yet another twit.

Perhaps the best way to put it is this. If you are an academic you are almost certainly being paid through taxes paid by most sceptics. As such you have a duty to do a good job and not to attack your paymaster. So when we find scientists attacking those who fund them, then sceptics rightly feel their money is not being well spent.

In contrast, when sceptics blog they are providing something at their own expense which they are not required to do. But when academics go on line it is often to rebut proper criticism of their work - so it is not a public service but self-promotion.

I hope this helps explain why sceptic bloggers might feel they have a right to be respected and remove comments that do not treat them with respect.

Victor Venema said...

Dear Mike Haseler (aka Scotisch Sceptic), I fully agree that WUWT attracts a lot of idiots and that bloggers can moderate their comments in any way they wish.

You make a large number of negative claims about scientists that you do not substantiate. That would make your comment a perfect candidate for deletion. I will next time. It is somewhat ironic that you do so in a comment complaining about the negative comments of others.

Because a comment that is not posted is not visible, I thought it would be interesting for people to know that scientists do care when their science is misrepresented.

Except for some scientific posts directly related to my work, almost all posts here are also written in my free time. The scientific level of the so-called scientific "debate" around climate change is so low that there is no way I could justify counting this as working time.

I am fully aware how privileged I am and appreciate it enormously that society allows me to do science professionally. Not only now, but also in paying for my education and raising, for infrastructure, safety and so on. I hope to be worth this investment and trust.

Society pays me to understand the world as well as possible. They do not pay me to provide arguments for conservative ideologies, those people are paid by right-wing think tanks. I would not want to work there and society would rightly not pay me that.

I feel my comment on the homogenization posts was formulated respectfully. It would be hard to convey the idea that the WUWT post was wrong without using at least a term such as "inaccurate". Given that almost any post I have read at WUWT is "inaccurate", I would argue that that is a quite mild formulation. I would probably use a more honest formulation, were I not on the black list.

Mark Ryan said...

Hi Victor, I follow your blog with interest and find it terrifically valuable.

This post is extremely useful; I urge you always to publish such comments as Mike Haseler's. I suspect there are people out there who have no idea how intellectually distorted some of those who appoint themselves 'gatekeepers' of science are -especially when the 'gatekeepers' control the content of widely viewed blogs.

What an amazing remark: "If you are an academic you are almost certainly being paid through taxes paid by most sceptics. As such you have a duty to do a good job and not to attack your paymaster. So when we find scientists attacking those who fund them, then sceptics rightly feel their money is not being well spent."

Imagine what kind of world we would live in, if the job of the best educated, most expert people in our community was to simply mirror the existing prejudices and misunderstandings of those who 'think they think'.

You could barely improve on Mike Haseler's own comments, to show why science has to be conducted by a trained community, with their own cultures of method, rigour and self-criticism, far from the demands of people who think the world of facts should shrink to their size, rather than grow themselves to see more of the world.

And Then Theres Physics said...

I do find this quite fascinating and quite telling. You're the only person I know who is professionally involved in homogenization of temperature datasets. You engage publicly through blogs and twitter and yet have trouble posting on skeptic sites when they're discussing something directly relevant to your research. You'd think they'd be keen to have someone with your experience engaging directly with them. That you don't would seem to be telling us something about what they really want to hear.

And Then Theres Physics said...

The last sentence was meant to be "that they don't...", not "that you don't ...." :-)

Victor Venema said...

On the topic of payments by oil companies: if any of these firms thought there is a small chance of a problem with climate science, they would fund the research to show it. That they rather fund PR firms shows that they are very certain there are no problems with the science.

Mark Ryan, thank you very much. I published Mike Haseler's comment this time because it mainly puts a bad light on him. Still, I would prefer a more factual discussion at my blog.

Thinking like a scientist does not come naturally to man. The default is to have the opinion of the group or of some authority. Science is a quite recent invention and especially seeing the situation in the USA, I fear it could also go away again.

ATTP, "You'd think they'd be keen to have someone with your experience engaging directly with them." You'd think that if you would expect that they are interested in improving science.

Given that I am on moderation at WUWT and that my comments are relatively mild compared to what others are allowed to write there, I no longer expect WUWT to be interesting in improving our scientific understanding.

It seems no coincidence that the most hateful comments are from people that have the same bad relationship with science as the host.

John Samuel said...

If Mike wants to play the public service card I should probably remind him that I pay the wages for the private sector by purchasing their products. I expect to be treated with respect by them.

Yours, a retired private sector warmist

Anonymous said...

"I hope this helps explain why sceptic bloggers might feel they have a right to be respected and remove comments that do not treat them with respect."

I certainly agrees with what I have thought about fake sceptics - that it is money that commands their respect.

Daneel Olivaw said...

Victor, The Hockey Schtick has now posted your comment. So 2 out of 5 :D

Victor Venema said...

R. Daneel, I know, post already updated.

PL said...

Mark's comment -- "far from the demands of people who think the world of facts should shrink to their size, rather than grow themselves to see more of the world." -- is the best polite summation of the difference between science and WUWT-style blogs I have seen. Thanks Mark.

Victor, keep up the good work. I don't always read your posts (sorry!), but I always appreciate the tone of your comments elsewhere. Based on things like Haseler threatening to sue citizenschallenge, it seems like progress is being made, through engaged scientists like yourself. Silencing the "opposition" seems like the only tool these guys think they have left.


Victor Venema said...

PL, thank you very much.

Yes, I guess the comments are the best part of this post. :)