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posted by Fnord666 on Monday December 11 2017, @11:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the nothing-up-my-sleeve dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow8317

Private emails between scientists working on a controversial genetic technology called "gene drive" were released last week. Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, their publication has been criticized by some as an attempt to discredit the science community.

[...] The emails themselves, however, are news, and they were obtained in a lawful, straightforward way and were reported on by respected traditional news sources, such as The Guardian, which gave proper context to the files.

The release of these emails by [biosafety consultant Edward Hammond] who has a clear point-of-view on the issue, however, has led to yet another discussion of the proper way of publishing raw documents. Nature, one of the more respected and widely read science publishers, mentions the release of these emails in the same breath as emails that were obtained by illegal hacking in an editorial published this week:

The release of the e-mails echoes the way in which hackers released documents stolen from climate scientists before a major UN meeting in 2009. Much commentary on those documents suggested—wrongly—that scientists were up to no good. Still, damage was done and public trust in scientists declined. It would be unfortunate if the trick were repeated here, not least because it is scientists working on gene drives who have raised many of the concerns.

The 2009 hack that Nature mentions was terrible for scientists—climate scientists, in particular. When an email server at University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit was breached, as part of a climate change denier campaign, emails were dishonestly misrepresented to suggest a conspiracy was afoot.

It is reasonable and fair game for Nature to take issue with the way Hammond framed the documents, but juxtaposing the use of FOIA—a crucial process by which citizens hold their governments accountable—alongside a major incident of criminal hacking is bizarre, and was handled poorly.

If Nature meant to say that Hammond's FOIA trove was presented with malicious intent, then it failed to make that point clear.

"In our view, the editorial did not imply that FOIA—including the publishing of FOIA documents—is comparable to illegal hacking," Nature senior press manager Rebecca Walton told Motherboard.

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/d3x7z7/nature-editorial-juxtaposes-foia-email-release-with-illegal-hacking-gene-drive


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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @11:49AM (14 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @11:49AM (#608244)

    And sent with them were claims that gene-drive researchers and funders were working with a public-relations company to unduly influence how the UN biodiversity treaty tackles the technology.

    It should be obvious to anyone with basic backgound in bio that most of the crispr hype has been artificial. The real question has been where the money for this has been coming from. There could be quite a scandal here if the scientific papers are being treated as elements in a PR campaign, especially because molecular biologists often don't believe in blinding (they say its unneccesary).

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by bradley13 on Monday December 11 2017, @01:00PM (13 children)

      by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @01:00PM (#608259) Homepage Journal

      "The 2009 hack that Nature mentions was terrible for scientists—climate scientists, in particular. When an email server at University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit was breached, as part of a climate change denier campaign, emails were dishonestly misrepresented to suggest a conspiracy was afoot."

      FIFY:

      "The 2009 hack that Nature mentions was terrible for global-warming alarmists. When the email server was breached, it revealed a conspiracy by alarmists to hide data and methods from public scrutiny."

      FTFY. Seriously, that's pretty much exactly what it revealed. Whether or not their science really is flawed? I dunno, but the emails definitely showed that they were working to hide original data and actual methods. All of those climate models? The algorithms need to be published. All of the original data, as well as the modifications they make to it? All of that needs to be published. It isn't, and that's why many of us do not believe what their models predict. Anyone can model anything they damned well please, if they are allowed to play with the model parameters. Let the public examine all algorithms, see all data before/after modification, and use those models to make near-term falsifiable predictions. Anything else is politics, not science.

      Which brings us back to TFA. If scientists are working on a publicly funded project, their project work is public domain. Period. If they are saying things in their professional, project-related emails that discredit their work? That's on them.

      Genetic technology needs debate and public scrutiny. We have the capability of altering living organisms beyond all recognition - that's a huge and dangerous power. Scientists will lose themselves in the details, but the practical and ethical aspects of the work absolutely should be discussed outside of scientific circles.

      --
      Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
      • (Score: 5, Touché) by c0lo on Monday December 11 2017, @02:55PM (11 children)

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @02:55PM (#608275) Journal

        The algorithms need to be published... It isn't, and that's why many of us do not believe what their models predict

        Yeah, right. I reckon next bitching I'm gonna hear from you is: "But I can't run it them on my Win10 tablet!".

        Because I'm sure one group of scientists using one Top500 supercomputer to validate a model of another group will trigger "but it's a conspiracy" reaction from you.

        .

        But if you insist, have a couple of places with software and datasets; I trust you'll validate them over the holidays and come with a well founded answer early Jan next year?

        - CESM models [ucar.edu] - here's the "computer" [ucar.edu] they used
        - NASA's GISS [nasa.gov] - one of them have achievable requirements [nasa.gov] for something meaningful ("To do dynamic ocean simulations with full atmospheric chemistry one typically would need 88 cores with at least 1 GB of memory per core."). Go for it.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 2) by bradley13 on Monday December 11 2017, @04:04PM

          by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @04:04PM (#608295) Homepage Journal

          Yes, some are available. However, since TFA was talking about those hacked emails, I was also thinking back to that period. That data - an important global data set - has been lost forever. We only have the modified version, with no clear record as to how it was modified. [theregister.co.uk]

          GISS - since you mention them - does indeed provide better information. But GISS also plays the data modification game [wattsupwiththat.com]. Nice model, what a shame that we have to tweak the data going into it, to get the results we want. From the linked article: "If I had not kept a copy of the data taken off NASA’s web site two months ago, I would not have known it had changed. NASA does not make available previous versions of its temperature record (to my knowledge)."

          This is business as usual in the climate science world. They ought to publish the raw, unaltered sensor data along side their altered versions. Some of the alterations are necessary and make sense. Others - well, we just don't know, but there is at least some evidence of conspiracy. When urban stations see their past temperatures adjusted down (instead of the recent ones subject to UHI), adaptations to rural stations that have been in stable environments for decades - these may be individual errors (in which case they should be corrected), or they may be signs of systematic falsification. Which? Without full and transparent information, there's no way to tell.

          --
          Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday December 11 2017, @04:27PM (7 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @04:27PM (#608305) Journal

          Because I'm sure one group of scientists using one Top500 supercomputer to validate a model of another group will trigger "but it's a conspiracy" reaction from you.

          But if you insist, have a couple of places with software and datasets; I trust you'll validate them over the holidays and come with a well founded answer early Jan next year?

          Why exactly are you bragging about the lack of falsifiability of current computer models?

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:38AM (6 children)

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:38AM (#608570) Journal

            Why exactly are you bragging about the lack of falsifiability of current computer models?

            Bragging? I don't think that word means what you think it means.

            Letting aside the terminology... for your question on "why mentioning them"
            If these models are indeed un-falsifiable**, why bring them into discussion at all? Either you have faith in something or you don't. Bringing post-hoc justifications for one's belief makes one a hypocrite.

            ---

            Actually, they are falsifiable, but not by direct experimentation. At least not at the scale humans have at their discretion today.

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:00AM (5 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:00AM (#608610) Journal

              If these models are indeed un-falsifiable**, why bring them into discussion at all? Either you have faith in something or you don't. Bringing post-hoc justifications for one's belief makes one a hypocrite.

              Because they've a pretext for near future real world decisions that affect people on a global scale.

              Actually, they are falsifiable, but not by direct experimentation. At least not at the scale humans have at their discretion today.

              And conveniently not falsifiable on the time scales of the above real world decisions.

              • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:44AM (4 children)

                by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:44AM (#608629) Journal

                Because they've a pretext for near future real world decisions that affect people on a global scale.

                Those aren't going to lead humanity to extinction. Inaction on the other side might.

                (Yes, I know your belief and I know mine, so don't bother repeating them - waste of energy)

                --
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:48AM (3 children)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:48AM (#608653) Journal

                  Those aren't going to lead humanity to extinction. Inaction on the other side might.

                  Not much point to having opinions on a scientific matter, if you don't have the evidence to back it up. It's worth noting here that there is absolutely no scientific backing for your beliefs that humanity could go extinct from climate change - even by the weak standards you bring to the table. You don't have a basis for your beliefs, not even from these climate change models, not from thousands of pages of research, not from scientific consensus.

                  That makes you not quite as wrong as the person who doesn't think there is global warming in the first place. At least, you got that little bit right.

                  (Yes, I know your belief and I know mine, so don't bother repeating them - waste of energy)

                  As the saying goes, you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.

                  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:04AM (2 children)

                    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:04AM (#608657) Journal

                    Not much point to having opinions on a scientific matter, if you don't have the evidence to back it up.

                    The same goes for your position as well.

                    --
                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
                    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:11AM (1 child)

                      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:11AM (#608658) Journal

                      The same goes for your position as well.

                      Funny how nobody ever discusses that supposed tu quoque flaw except as a parting shot. What is a person to do?

                      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:28AM

                        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:28AM (#608662) Journal

                        No sense in repeating again and again same discussions we had in the past, I don't think it will change the results and I value my time.
                        I hear you value your as well, so it should be a mutual feeling (unless, of course, you are actually paid for the replies. Are you?)

                        --
                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @11:45PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @11:45PM (#608541)

          The very first model I looked up has a very detailed description [wiley.com] for one to dig into, but you better be comfortable with finite element models.

          I won't do an exhaustive search, but I would wager every one of those models are described in great detail in journal publications because that's what you do when you write a complex scientific model, you publish the hell out of it. It astounds me as to why people like Mr. bradley thinks otherwise, especially when it is so fucking simple to actually look these things up. It took me all of about 90 seconds to find that paper on the first model I went after. I don't know how we will get through this current phase when people will take as God's Truth what some fucking rich a-hole out of New York or LA tells them without putting in the 90 seconds it takes to find out that they are full of shit and pushing some rich-guy agenda.

          • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:52AM

            by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:52AM (#608583)

            >> I would wager every one of those models are described in great detail in journal publications because that's what you do when you write a complex scientific model

            Part of the climategate debacle was that they would not share the data to feed that model, first informally and later formally by denying FOIA requests.

      • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:45AM

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:45AM (#608578)

        >> I dunno, but the emails definitely showed that they were working to hide original data and actual methods.

        The exact quote you are looking for is "used Mike's trick to hide the decline"

        Which expands to, paraphrasing, "The tree ring data was weird, so we substituted in measured temperature data for the last twenty years instead of tree ring data and footnoted the change. There was a big discontinuity in the data, so we just connected the two with a made up straight line."

        The difference in the two data sets is pretty remarkable, and it warranted a lot more than a footnote. By deciding to do this they fed the conspiracy mill enough pulp to last a decade.

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