Saturday, September 4, 2010

Harvard vs. University of Virginia…not even close!

By Charles Battig, M.D.

Has Global Warming Made Scientific Integrity an Oxymoron?

I  first discovered this at Greenie Watch and have since learned that his comments also appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of the Wall Street Journal on Friday, September 3, 2010.  I would like to thank Dr. Battig for allowing me to reproduce his comments.  He originally posted this on his site, Climate Reality on August 31st, 2010.  Dr. Bettig has strong views regarding the need for scientific integrity and has posted other comments regarding this particular issue in an article titled, Why is UVa Hiding M.Mann Behind a Legal Smoke Screen? (published in the Charlottesville “THE HOOK” on June 24, 2010.)  RK

An insight into the apparent difference in how "scientific misconduct" at Harvard University is handled, and how it has been handled at Penn State and the University of Virginia in the matter of climatologist Michael Mann is now available.

Harvard professor of psychology Marc Hauser was found "solely responsible for eight instances of scientific misconduct" involving the "data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results" according to the August 20, 2010 statement by Harvard dean Michael D. Smith. This finding was issued based on a faculty investigating committee study. The report noted that it began with an "inquiry phase" in response to "allegations of scientific misconduct." It seems that there were allegations of "monkey business" in his research on monkey cognition. Three papers by Hauser, presumably peer reviewed, will need to be corrected or retracted according to Dean Smith. The academic fate of the professor is yet to be decided.

In contrast, the two reviews of the behavior of climatologist M. Mann at Penn State seemed primarily focused on his data housekeeping habits and openness to sharing his data and analysis methodology. He was found to have acted within the "accepted practices within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research." The issues of data acquisition and analysis validity were not pursued; the number of awards and publications Mann received was cited as evidence of the validity of his work.

At the University of Virginia an "inquiry phase", such as noted in the Harvard protocol, was initiated by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli into the possible misuse of public funds by Mann in his pursuit of employment by the University and his use of such funds in his research activities there. Virginia state law gives wide discretion to the AG in the initiation of investigations into suspected misuse of state funds. This request was met with claims of impingement on sacred academic freedom, and chilling the environment for academic research in general by the university and its various supporters. Rather than welcome the chance to dispel the suspicion of scientific misconduct and protect its academic reputation, the university enlisted a high powered D.C. legal team to fight the AG request in court.

While this legal process plays out, the court of public opinion must wonder why the openness and direct dealing with such allegations exhibited by Harvard is not the model for the University of Virginia. Harvard is shown to be a scientifically open and self policing university; UVa is hiding behind its self -righteous claims of academic freedom and legal barricades. Whose research will the public more likely trust?

Dr.  Charles Battig is President, Piedmont Chapter of Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, Charlottesville, VA

Comments will not be accepted that are rude, crude, stupid or smarmy. Nor will I allow ad hominem attacks or comments from anyone who is "Anonymous”, even if they are positive!


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