Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Climategate refusal to release computer codes nullifies results, demands reversal of EPA and Supreme Court rulings

"So, if you are publishing research articles that use computer programs, if you want to claim that you are engaging in science, the programs are in your possession and
  • not regard you as a scientist;
I would also regard any papers based on the software as null and void."...Ince, UK Guardian
  • No one has checked UN/East Anglia data in spite of the cabal's claim to the contrary. Their trillion dollar conclusions cannot be checked without the computer codes.
  • Scientific software on its own is known to be error-prone.
The 'climate' industry and its thousands of lobbyists will have to go. This is not 'populism,' contrary to the prejudicial pronouncements of the NY Times. You lose when you act on unverified information. Too late now to switch the argument and say 'it would be a good idea to believe it even if' it weren't true.
There is a particularly revealing set of "README" documents that were produced by a programmer at UEA apparently known as "Harry". The documents indicate someone struggling with undocumented, baroque code
  • and missing data –
  • this, in something which forms part of one of the three major climate databases used by researchers throughout the world.

Many climate scientists have refused to publish their computer programs. I suggest is that this is both unscientific behaviour and, equally importantly, ignores a major problem: that

There is enough evidence for us to regard a lot of scientific software with worry. For example Professor Les Hatton, an international expert in software testing resident in the Universities of Kent and Kingston, carried out an extensive analysis of several million lines of scientific code. He showed that the software had an unacceptably high level of detectable inconsistencies.

For example, interface inconsistencies between software modules which pass data from one part of a program to another occurred at the rate of one in every seven interfaces on average in the programming language Fortran, and one in every 37 interfaces in the language C. This is hugely worrying when you realise that just one error — just one — will usually invalidate a computer program. What he also discovered, even more worryingly, is that the accuracy of results declined from six significant figures to one significant figure during the running of programs.

Hatton and other researchers' work indicates that scientific software is often of poor quality. What is staggering about the research that has been done is that it examines

  • commercial scientific software – produced by software engineers who have to undergo a regime of thorough testing, quality assurance and a change control discipline known as configuration management.

By contrast scientific software developed in our universities and research institutes is often produced by scientists with

  • no training in software engineering and with no quality mechanisms in place and so,
  • no doubt, the occurrence of errors will be even higher.

The Climate Research Unit's "Harry ReadMe" files are a graphic indication of such working conditions, containing as they do the outpouring of a programmer's frustrations in trying to get sets of data to conform to a specification.

One of the key features of science is deniability: if you erect a theory and someone produces evidence that it is wrong, then it falls. This is how science works: by openness, by publishing minute details of an experiment, some mathematical equations or a simulation; by doing this you embrace deniability.

Many researchers have refused to release their computer programs — even though they are still in existence and not subject to commercial agreements. An example is Professor Mann's initial refusal to give up the code that was used to construct the 1999 "hockey stick" model that demonstrated that human-made global warming is a unique artefact of the last few decades. (He did finally release it in 2005.)...

So, if you are publishing research articles that use computer programs,

  • if you want to claim that you are engaging in science,

the programs are in your possession and you will not release them

  • I would also regard any papers based on the software as
  • null and void.

I find it sobering to realise that a slip of a keyboard could create an error in programs that will be used to make financial decisions which involve billions of pounds and, moreover, that the probability of such errors is quite high. But of course the algorithms (known as Gaussian copula functions) that the

  • banks used to assume that they could create risk-free bonds from sub-prime loans has now been published (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-03/wp_quant?currentPage=all).

That was pretty expensive. Climate change is expensive too. We really do need to be sure that we're not getting any of our sums wrong - whether too big or small - there as well."

from UK Guardian, "If you're going to do good science, release the computer code, too," by Darrel Ince, 2/5/10. via Tom Nelson

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