A Few Things Ill Considered

For most of us, the F in FOI stands for “freedom”. It seems for Steve McIntyre, it stands for “form letter”.

Via Eli Rabett we learn that the Freedom of Information requests (FOI) that are central to the only potentially damnng aspect of the CRU “swifthacking” incident have been released. They can be found here[PDF].

I have not looked at them yet, but Eli points out a very interesting one that begins thus (and we are quoting):

I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements)restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involing the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested 1]

“the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested]

Can you say “form letter”?

Okay, I just looked at the document…notice the mispelled word “involing”? That (non)word appears no less than 14 times. Can you say “copy/paste error”? And the same phrase with the mispelling corrected appears 22 times. Makes me want to say “harrassment”. Seems like all that effort, if sincere, would have been better spent obtaining the data from the actual sources.

Kinda makes the whole CRU’s “conspiracy to deceive” thing seem more like an effort to get an obnoxious jerk off their back.

Comments

  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    February 11, 2010

    Always did hate spelling. Nicely noted

  2. #2 Richard Hawkins
    February 13, 2010

    There is a FOI exception for ‘Vexatious or repeated requests’, do you think that counts?!

    Context is king.

  3. #3 mandas
    February 14, 2010

    I am sure the denialist community will read all sorts of conspiracy theories and cover-ups into the refusal to grant these requests. But then, they could actually read up on the FOI legislation and discover the circumstances and reasons for granting and refusing requests. Here is some information, for those who are interested:
    http://www.foi.gov.uk/practitioner/feesguidance.htm

    Perhaps if the UK Government started charging a fee for every FOI application (like they do here in Australia), it would eliminate a lot of these vexatious requests.

  4. #4 Jack Savage
    February 15, 2010

    Would it not have been easier for all concerned if the data could have been made available without the need for FOI requests? Isn’t that the point?
    As for obtaining the data “from the original sources”, that would surely make it impossible to replicate any adjustments made to the data by the CRU.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8511701.stm
    You will see from the above that it would appear that one of the reasons that requests for the data were not replied to is that the good Prof may not have been able to find it in the mess! Hardly a good advertisement.

  5. #5 mandas
    February 15, 2010

    Sorry Jack. You obviously don’t work in a Government department otherwise you would understand the difficulties in ‘making data available without FOI requests’. You would understand further if you knew the extent of the vexatious requests which had been made to CRU.

    Responding to any FOI request take a LOT of time and resources, and costs a LOT of money. The reason we don’t like them is not because it reveals secrets we don’t want others to know, but because it takes up a lot of time which we would rather spend doing our real job.

    And it would appear that Phil Jones is not the greatest bureaucrat in the world, and is not scrupulous in keeping his paperwork in perfect order. That’s hardly the crime of the century, and is probably pretty in keeping with a lot of other scientists around the world. My records probably wouldn’t stand up under a microscope either without revealing some flaws, as would (I suggest) yours.

  6. #6 trrll
    March 18, 2010

    Would it not have been easier for all concerned if the data could have been made available without the need for FOI requests? Isn’t that the point?

    Actually, these FoI requests were not for data. They were for confidentiality agreements of no scientific value to anybody, so this is pure harassment. Rather than request the data from the organizations that obtained it (as common decency and scientific etiquette demands), they chose to demand the details of confidentiality agreements, presumably in hopes of finding loopholes that could be used to force CRU to betray its obligations to the national weather services that so generously supplied the data, and thereby impair the ability of CRU to carry out such research in the future.

    As for obtaining the data “from the original sources”, that would surely make it impossible to replicate any adjustments made to the data by the CRU.

    Actually, to “replicate adjustments,” you would have to start with the original data. Any scientist would want to go to the original source to avoid propagating any errors in transmission or transcription of the data by CRU. There is no legitimate scientific reason to demand data from a secondary source. The methods for making the adjustments are published, and in any case the major conclusions, if robust, should not be critically dependent upon the details of the adjustments made. My suspicion is that the true agenda was to find some error, no matter how inconsequential (and if you look hard enough, you can always find some sort of mistake, or at least something that is disputable) in the calculations by CRU that could be used to mount a public relations attack: “If they could make this mistake, how can we trust anything they say?”

  7. #7 Stan
    July 12, 2010

    Doesn’t sound like they wanted to share the data:

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=490&filename=1107454306.txt

    “Mike,
    I presume congratulations are in order – so congrats etc !
    Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better
    this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is
    trawling
    them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear
    there
    is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than
    send
    to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within
    20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.”

  8. #8 Dappledwater
    July 13, 2010

    Yeah Stan, maybe all e-mails should have smilies so that hackers can determine if the comments are serious, sarcastic or simply venting. Of course if you don’t steal someone’s e-mails in the first place you won’t misconstrue their intent.

    If that is too opaque for you Stan, note that the authors of the Muir-Russell report were able to reconstruct the CRU datasets in two days, from information that was freely available.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/07/findings-muir-russell-review