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back to article Climategate ruling: FOIA requests cover backup servers too

A landmark FOIA ruling last week will have far-reaching consequences for how public servants interpret their Freedom of Information obligations. Specifically, public servants cannot delete local copies of a file on their PC and then use its absence as an excuse not to disclose the file - if a backup copy exists on the …

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shhhhhhhh

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Anonymous Coward

and I've got some data that says you're a buffoon

Just cos you challenge it doesn't mean it doesn't still stand. Rightly or wrongly.

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"Adjusting historical temperature records simply isn't on. Either you rely on the historical data or you don't, if you start adjusting it you may as well make it up. And discarding inconvenient data or being selective which data you choose is even worse."

So if a 100 year temperature record contains a sudden jump in 1950 that is clearly an error, according to you we do what?

If we could fix the error somehow you would say "Adjusting historical temperature records simply isn't on".

If we decide to remove the erroneous year you would say "discarding inconvenient data or being selective which data you choose is even worse"

Presumably we can't even chuck out the entire record because that also falls under "discarding inconvenient data".

So what would you have us do? Use the data we know is wrong anyway?

Wow well that's GREAT science. Hey guys in 1950 the temperature reached 90 degrees C in winter.

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There is far more at issue than the data series made available / not made available by the CRU.

Certain versions of the *processed* data were made available, but it is the *unprocessed* data, and the methods used to process that data that has generally been a point of contention. Even a shallow examination of the ClmateGate 1 tranche of email shows that the record keeping that accompanies different versions of various series was something of a shamble, and the source control for various processing methods is practically non-existent.

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"Clearly an error" data

The trouble is your "clearly wrong" data is telling you some very important things. Until you do a lot of work its unclear what.

It might, for instance, tell you that your whole method of estimating or calculating historic temperature readings is flawed, which actually means that *none* of the data is reliable and you need to throw the whole lot out.

It might tell you that your sampling technique is unreliable, which again may throw doubt on other data.

You've got to consider that other data you have, which may not be "clearly" an error may be equally erroneous. Just because a random value happens to fall on the line on your graph doesn't mean it belongs there.

And it may be that the temperature really did do something weird like that, and just because it doesn't fit in with your preconceived notions doesn't mean it didn't happen.

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"The trouble is your "clearly wrong" data is telling you some very important things"

I am not saying it isn't. But Grease Monkey's proclamations on science don't give us any recourse to doing anything about it.

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I'm not necessarily agaisnt adjusting the data.

If say, you discover that after 53 years, somebody put an exhaust vent such that your thermometer is now reading 2 degrees high and it is consistently 2 degrees high compared to several sites around the thermometer which are unaffected by the vent, that may be a reasonable adjustment to make. What I am against is not disclosing WHY and HOW you are adjusting the data, and proving the adjusted data are now consistent with the historical data before the advent of the vent. And having adjusted the data, you still need to keep the original, just in case somebody else discovers a new adjustment that needs to be made based on the original data. Granted I'd still rather remove the event and throw out the outliers, but I actually AM a reasonable person when it comes to these things.

That CRU bolloxed that is what ought to worry any rational person.

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Making adjustments based on assumptions invalidates the raw data. You need to find better raw data. The whole climate 'science' thing is a huge load of assumptions constructed into a computer model which can then be tweaked by more assumptions into producing whatever result you want, which is then presented as fact. The CRU are in deep trouble, not just because of their behaviour towards others interested in the topic, but with their sloppy methods and record keeping. The suspicion is that their scientific rigour was so poor not even they could replicate their results.

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Megaphone

Re:shhhhhhhh - omnomnom

That hissing noise is your O2 tank leaking- you probably need more CO2 in your room as you are certainly showing signs of hyperoxygenating,..

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FAIL

Global Warming's Low-hanging Fruit

Soot, methane, and ozone.

The CBC 'Quirks and Quarks' podcast on the subject mentioned that these contribute nearly as much to AGW as does CO2. But reducing their emission would actually pay for itself in the direct health benefits of clean air. So curing about 40% of Global Warming gas emissions would actually pay for itself, and yet we do nothing to deal with these 'low-hanging fruit".

The Environmentals decry commerical aircraft, and yet remain inexplicably silent on commercial ships that, through their burning of dirty Bunker-C, contribute for more to the problem.

The Environmentals, with their inability to prioritize in a rational manner, are a major part of the problem.

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"The Environmentals decry commerical aircraft, and yet remain inexplicably silent on commercial ships"

On what logic does that explain why we are doing nothing on both?

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g e
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That's cos they like to FLY to summits/conferences

</nuff>

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Anonymous Coward

And yet 'The Environmentals' don't seem to be able to push governments into putting tax on aircraft fuel which leaves us poor suckers who heat their homes, drive their (already low emission) cars to pick up the tax burden that's designed to stop us using fuel that could better be used to make profit for multinationals.

Never forget, the environmentalists and governments will always aim for the *lowest* of the hanging fruit, the man in the street instead of those who can exercise their influence.

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oh yes that makes sense they want to tax the aircraft so they can take ships to conferences

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Of course there are other arguments that many climate scientists don't like. For example the much postulated idea that cleaning the filth out of our emissions has helped global warming along. If you've never heard it it goes that in the mid twentieth century governments started to insist that emissions were cleaned of many of the bits that make up smog. Various clean air acts were passed. Most cities of the world don't suffer choking smogs anymore, urban buildings don't turn black anymore and cities don't sit under a permanent pall of smoke.

The argument goes that this permanent cloud was, while reflecting heat back at the planet also blocking heat from reaching the planet. Which would obviate the greenhouse effect. Were this true then it still wouldn't argue that we should start pumping out loads of smoke again. It does however make a very clear point that we can do things that seem to be for the good of the planet and the population and instead do something that causes unforeseen problems.

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@Grease Monkey

"It does however make a very clear point that we can do things that seem to be for the good of the planet and the population and instead do something that causes unforeseen problems."

It's usually called the "law of unforeseen consequences."

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Happy

Actually, the AGW mongers

have reclassified soot as a cooling agent.

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"It's usually called the "law of unforeseen consequences.""

Indeed and it tells us that we shouldn't just blindly forge ahead with a plan without thinking it through. However that is exactly what a certain bunch of climate scientists want us to do.

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FAIL

Previous government were panicked

CO2 levels are rising, and that will have some effect on climate. However the long-term effects can only be estimated by climate models. They are currently not very accurate and new climatic processes that change the models are regularly discovered. Unfortunately the IPCC produced predictions that panicked the previous government into committing the UK to drastic reductions in CO2 production, at vast expense. These will be lost in the noise of CO2 increases from developing economies so at best the legislation was a quixotic gesture intended to make some kind of 'we're greener than you - get with the programme!' statement to the world. At worst it drags us down inexorably as the money wasted is not available for more useful contributions to the economy. Our best plan as a country would be to devote resources to coping with climate change rather than trying to stop it, and based on the best models available, not necessarily just blindly following the IPCC.

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Mushroom

Sorry slightly OT, but something that keeps popping into my head (you triggered it by mentioning vast expense);

Think about your power supplier, most will now claim "15% from renewables" or similar. I'd love to at least have the option of a supplier who said "0% from renewables, with reduction in price as a result". OK it's not eco-friendly, but the reality is there are families who just can't afford to pay the high prices that go with taking your high horse when it comes to power generation.

Of course, things like the Kyoto agreement knock this idea on it's ass because we'd all end up paying the price through our taxes when the deadlines are missed. Still, it'd be nice to think there was some aspect of competition open.

Nuke cos I live near one and have yet to have cause for alarm.

</tangent>

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Joke

maybe we can find an even cheaper power supplier who can generate electricity from the blood of our grandchildren

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0% from renewables, with reduction in price as a result

I'd settle for a 100% nuclear tariff.

(Living in the prefect place to site a new reactor - 70m above sea level with no fault lines).

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All Nuclear

That'd suit me well!

As for blood of grandchildren, probably not going to work and is almost definitely a little too extreme. Of course, if the country goes bust as a result of building windfarms that don't generate enough power then we may well be paying with the lives of our grandchildren who'll get to live in abject poverty.

See think of the children works both ways!

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Flame

My parent's generation already screwed mine over so they might as well take my blood, too.

Still don't see why thorium power is the devil to the greens.....

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Stop

"...at best the legislation was a quixotic gesture intended to make some kind of 'we're greener than you - get with the programme!' statement to the world..."

It's much more serious and depressing than that. Governments across the Western world have used the complete fiction of AGW to enact huge swathes of legislation, to divert vast sums of public money and to raise wholly indefensible taxes in the name of being 'green'. Itt's the Big Lie, the ultimate global deception and it will be exposed even as it begins to fall apart. Tyranny always fails, always ends badly, and the AGW scam will be no exception.

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The obviously you haven't watched the scientifically accurate documentary

staring Jane Fonda called "The China Syndrome" often enough citizen...

Now where's that sarc tag?

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@NomNomNom

The blood of unborn grandchildren is too viscous.

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Damn you!

This set me wondering about how the energy density of blood actually stacks up against other things. Couldn't find a reliable source so have relied on a forum (I won't link to it as it's potentially NSFW).

Unit of blood if 450 mL, typical glucose level is 100 mg/dL, so a unit would contain around 450mg.

Energy densite of carbs is 4 kcal/gram so that gives 1.8 calories per unit

Normal hemoglobin concentration would be 15 g/dL or 67.5g in a unit. At 4kcal/g a unit would have 270 calories from hemoglobin.

Plasma is approx 55%, with Total serum protein at 60-80g per litre (of plasma) so that's 17.325g ir 69.3 calories.

Fat levels are under 150mb/dL, so 371.25mg of fat per unit. Energy density is 9kcal/gram, contributing 3.34 calories

So that's around 344.44 calories per unit of blood (others quote 600 calories)

Average Adult contains 10-12 units of blood. Reckon Nuclear might be the better way, before ethics are even considered

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I'm getting royally pissed off with successive governments over energy prices. Ministers continually bang on about the way power companies are ripping us off and yet it is these same ministers who support ridiculous feed in tariffs and try to force engergy companies to use more "renewables" all of which adds to the cost of our energy. And I'm not just talking about the current lot, Labour were just as bad and twice as sanctimonious.

Yes, sure the energy companies are trying to make more profit than they should (look at the way retail prices go up immediately when wholesale prices go up, but take months to fall when wholesale prices fall) but ministers must take part of the blame.

If a company did come along touting "100% nuclear and lower prices" the government would be down on them like a ton of bricks for not supporting renewables. This would be the same government that wants more nuclear power. Why? Because the government were signed up to stupid targets to meet on renewables and therefore have to be seen to be trying to achieve these targets. How to do this? Make the customer pay through the nose. All the while quietly admitting that nuclear is the best option.

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Twerps!

Correct me if I am wrong, but are a bunch of scientists trying to play at being publicly accountable information managers? If so, they are well out of their depth and should give the job to someone else who is actually qualified for this work! They can go back to their fixing their dodgy models too...

This ruling is not landmark, it is actually quite straightforward and easily recognised by experienced FOI practicioners. ALL information held in recorded form can be judged as within the scope of the request if that is what the requestor is asking for. Whether in backup, CD, memory stick or email is irrelevant, if it exists it must be considered. The ruling simply emphasises this well known rule.

Information is exempt if: commercial sensitive (Section 43 exemption) and you need to have a audit trail to prove this is the case (document signed with X saying information is commercially sensitive) plus an email from the originator confirming it remains the case. Information is also exempt if it costs too much to retrieve (Section 12). In this case you have to prove that it would take one person more than 3.5 days of effort to retrieve the data because they have to search X cabinets of paper archives, for example. It being stored on a memory stick shoots down that argument pretty quickly!

Just to clarify for people as well - "We no longer hold this information" is a legitimate response where it can be shown that it is likely that the information has been destroyed. For central government, it is not a conspiracy to hide stuff, just that they have a standard policy that all archived information not judged to be relevant/important gets destroyed after 10 years. It is a simple matter of housekeeping. Deleting information which you know is subject to an FOI request is against the law though...

I think some professors are due some serious FOI training...

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

They had to play at being the information officers, because there is no-one else to do that work. There is also no funding to cover their work for FOI requests and certainly no training on how to deal with it.

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@Desk Jockey

"In this case you have to prove that it would take one person more than 3.5 days of effort to retrieve the data "

Thanks DJ. I've always wondered what the *definition* of that particular item was. it always looked like the all purpose bureaucratic get out of work card. The actual definitino sounds quite generous *provided* you're dealing with computerized searchable data and not paper based.

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Facepalm

Umm...

They wouldn't have had to play at being information officers if they had behaved like scientists in the first place and released the data to back up their conclusions - allowing it to be put through the scientific method. This IS their work and supposedly their training.

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Even then

some of the stuff they got wrong failed the common sense test.

Don't want to give out data that could lead to criticism? I'll delete it or move it to a separate media and claim it's unavailable!

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@John Smith 19

No probs, happy to help. Be warned that the 3.5 days figure is for central government and based on a generic working calculation. The accurate figure is £600 for central government and £400 for local. I have to confess to not knowing which one the universities fall under, I suspect local.

Sadly, government departments don't exactly use an equivalent to Google as a central search engine! Even if the data is stored electronically, it can still take ages to find. Imagine I want to find a document titled "climate data" because someone wants data for climate change in India. Now imagine I enter Climate data query into a database (can do more than that because it is crap!) and get 500 returns. I might have to scan every single one of those records to find if one relates to India. According to FOI guidance, I can calculate that I should estimate 2 minutes to examine each record. That is 1000 minutes of effort or 16.6 hours of man effort. Let's say two days of work for one person. Now imagine I have to do that for two more databases and suddenly you are way over the limit. That is how that works which is why phrasing an FOI request properly is very important. For example, "I want documents showing climate change data for India produced in the last two months" may yield a result rather than something more open ended.

For anyone that says these professors did not have the training or resources to handle FOI requests, you have just made my point for me. Complying with FOI is a legal requirement for all public bodies covered by it. It is not optional. Don't like it? Blame Labour for bringing it in, blame the coalition for not getting rid of it or reforming it! Blame those unreasonable requestors if you want! Some things have to be put up with if you want 'open government'.

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@Desk Jockey

"I can calculate that I should estimate 2 minutes to examine each record. That is 1000 minutes of effort or 16.6 hours of man effort. Let's say two days of work for one person. Now imagine I have to do that for two more databases and suddenly you are way over the limit. That is how that works which is why phrasing an FOI request properly is very important."

Very handy to know and *possibly* the difference between getting some useful information back and nothing at all. I've always preferred the well bracketed search to the general fishing expedition.

I suspect you're right that Universities will come under the local government rate. It also suggests *any* publicly funded body generating (or managing) large (or complex) data sets should factor in FOI compliance from day 1.

It's not as if this law just came into effect either.

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This isn't a climate issue, its a morality issue.

Once upon a time, the better universities used to teach a course for those intending to make a career out of academia that covered such issues as ethical use of data, is this now optional?

The vice chancellor's famous and often misquoted ancestor, Lord Acton finished his observation on the influence of power with "........There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."

Are we to assume that the vice chancellor was misinformed as to the existence, or otherwise, of the "missing" emails or that he was not sufficiently aware of the technology involved?

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I was taught the ethical use of data in two of my chemistry classes, physical chemistry being one of them, oddly enough. It is equally disturbing when a scientist breaks their guiding principals as compared to doctors violating the Hippocratic Oath.

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Mushroom

can some tell me

How someone can deliberately conspire to undermine a law in this country and firstly, still have a job, and secondly not be in prison?

As someone else said, any scientish who refuses to share data with people who may criticise it is a fraud and not a scientist.

This smacks of the same rubbish that the Jill Dando institute for made up research did on the infamous DNA paper. It seems if your flavour

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bloody phone

It seems if your flavour is acceptable to the government then you can get away with this kind of behaviour with impunity.

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Not a scientist, a scientish!

Best typo all week. Thumbs up.

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Facepalm

Its been one of those days....

But it means if I get an FOI request for stuff about scientists I can deny it exists....

Either that or I am turning Dutch, yesch that must be it.

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Anonymous Coward

This is the one time that that old canard is actually true....

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

You Professor Dr Evil er Jones are a ultimately paid by the public ie us taxpayers.

Therefore you have ZERO right to withold such data from your employers ie us.

So publish everything...good or bad and let the chips fall where they may.

Or forever shut up about MMGW.

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Vic
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> Lord Acton, The University of East Anglia's Vice Chancellor, testified

> that no emails had been deleted.

If he really did testify that, then he lied. He should be punished appropriately.

A move from one storage device to another involves a copy-and-delete.

That's the trouble with playing silly games, you see - such ruses are rarely consistent even within their own frame of definitions...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

"If he really did testify that, then he lied. "

More importantly, why should we accept anything this liar has to offer and that includes his so called research and conclusions.

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Coat

Re: ...involves a copy-and-delete

Only in versions up to DOS 5.0, after that MS finally introduced the MOVE command for handling data.

Sorry, had to bring it back to an IT angle.

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Vic
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> that MS finally introduced the MOVE command for handling data.

It doesn't matter who introduced what - if you move data between two physically separate mass storage devices, you necessarily delete it from the first.

Vic.

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WTF?

moving constitutes deletion...

from the original hard disk... the file is marked as having been deleted...

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Anonymous Coward

Mayhaps Jones et al need something called ethical behaviour

Or not, well, that's if they want to remain bitter, paranoid and vindictive little men (and who knows, maybe there's a woman or few too).

Ah well, it's not as though they have the moral fibre to acknowledge their bad acts and stand accountable to them. I await the shedding of a few graduate students who will be offered the chance to take the fall.

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from the Faculty of Missing the Point

"Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?"

Last time I checked the way science works was by A making a claim, publishing it with support data and then B, C, D ... trying to find something wrong with it. If the CRU isn't willing to play the game nicely they shouldn't claim to be scientists.

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