NS_U6A6.1 Animation of case
NS_U6A6.1 Animation of case
Should scientists share data in climate science?
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In recent years, critics of climate science have persistently sought access to raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Their efforts, often invoking the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000, aimed to uncover evidence contradicting the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists, viewing these requests as a campaign to waste their time and undermine their research unfairly, became increasingly sceptical. Once the correspondence between scientists was made public, critics cited selected messages in order to support their claims of a conspiracy among climate scientists to hinder data access and prevent external scrutiny of their work.
Subsequent inquiries devoted considerable attention to the issue of raw data access. Several reports highlighted climate scientists reluctance to release data into the public domain and emphasized the importance of sharing scientific data with fellow researchers and the general public. For instance, the report by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee quoted a response from Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit to Warwick Hughes, who had requested access to the raw data held by the unit: Even if the World Meteorological Organization agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?
The report critically remarked that this response appeared unreasonable and stated that transparency and full disclosure of data and methods are fundamental to scientific integrity. Further arguments put forth by Jones and his colleagues included assertions that releasing all the data was unnecessary and impractical: parts were already accessible through other sources such as the Global Historical Climatology Network in the United States, commercial agreements restricted the publication of certain data, most scientists preferred working with adjusted data rather than raw data, and the Climatic Research Unit did not have a specific obligation to provide raw data to the general public. While the committee appeared to acknowledge some of these points and sympathized with Jones frustration in handling data requests driven by motives to undermine his work, the report concluded that the Climatic Research Unit should have been more transparent with the raw data and followed a more open approach to data availability.