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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Potential impact on public's integreity of science

Q: Given the furor surrounding the pirated e-mails coming out of the University of East Anglia, what's the real takeaway lesson? Does it say more about the way renowned climate scientists work, or how climate skeptics have operated in shaping the public debate over global warming?

It would be a mistake in my opinion to address this issue along the lines of the question. It is larger and more important than so called "renowned scientists" and skeptics.

While it would be tempting to assert that these e-mails prove that so called "skeptics" have been right about efforts to suppress their work and the weak scientific basis for claims that humans are mainly responsible for warming, that would be a rush to judgment. Having said that, some of the released e-mails, if they are accurate, are very damning. It is it one thing to blow off steam with a comment about wanting to beat the crap out of someone. It is something else to discuss destroying e-mails and data, influencing the peer review process, and non compliance with the UK's freedom of information act.

Whether this was the work of a hacker or whistle blower is secondary to the over riding issue of whether there was an organized campaign to promote an ideology and discredit any one who challenged it. Science is supposed to be about challenge; not suppression.

The release of these e-mails makes it essential that a thorough and transparent investigation be conducted by an independent group whose integrity is beyond question. All of the files from the parties involved and the CRU should be examined so that it can be determined whether the released e-mails are being taken out of context or whether they reveal a campaign to mislead and discredit. Billions of dollars have been spent on climate research. If some of that research was structured and conducted to support an ideology and not advance our state of knowledge, those involved have done great damage to the institution of science as well as having taken funds under false pretext. It is now up to the scientific establishment to act promptly to correct any wrong and to censure any who have damaged it.

Science has brought society enormous benefits and people in general hold it in high regard. If the public losses faith in the integrity of science and the honesty of scientists we will all be worse off.

By William O'Keefe  |  November 24, 2009; 1:24 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Mr. O'Keefe, I'm glad the WP decided to include a heretic to response to climategate, admidst a chorus of Kool Aid drinkers covering their behinds. I hope you will join with Senator James Inhofe in urging a criminal investigation of those who have misused taxpayer money,and testified for legislation that will destroy our economy and end our sovereignty.

Posted by: ccwatson-CraigSmith | November 25, 2009 3:35 PM
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Nice measured response from one of the gang who have been funding numerous disinformation websites and "think tanks" over the past decade designed to confuse the public and stall action on this issue.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 25, 2009 3:15 PM
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Well said...
"Science has brought society enormous benefits and people in general hold it in high regard. If the public losses faith in the integrity of science and the honesty of scientists we will all be worse off."
The temptation to distort realities and parade falsehoods and personal opinions (or even strong personal beliefs) under the guise of science harms us all... now and into the future.
The power of authentic scientific principles will in time prove greater and more enduring than the purported power of the mob... even when the mob includes men and women of science ... acting with a different, and lesser set of principles than the great scientists on who's shoulders they stand, and who's gifts and legacies they've trampled.

Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | November 25, 2009 3:13 PM
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