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Who wants to be a climate scientist?

August 1, 2011

Unfortunately slightly less fun than the chance to be a millionaire, this week everyone has been offered the chance to be a climate scientist.

Following the “climate gate” scandal, the University of East Anglia and its collaborators have been forced to release their global temperature data set to the world.

You can read more about this from New Scientist.

Obviously as scientists, a lot of my colleagues have been talking about this development. So, what do I think? Well firstly I’d like to address the idea that scientists keep their data hidden away. This is not at all the way science works. Whilst we need a little bit of time to work up and publish results from the data we collect – a scientist can only get funding if they publish, so yes “your data” should be “your data” for a while – after this time most scientists will freely disseminate their data if asked for it. So what UEA have done is not abnormal, I currently have access to optical data from all around the world, not to mention the daily ocean colour access I get for free!

The data UEA have now “given up”, wasn’t really their data it seems, hence the UK Met office having to negotiate for release. UEA would need one hell of a research budget to obtain that sort of data set in house, so clearly the data in question is the result of collaboration. The New Scientist article highlights that this may discourage future collaboration between scientists and organisations who may have other reasons for keeping data to themselves. I really hope this is not the case.

As any good scientist would, UEA have invited others to see what they make of the data. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this and if any of the people who were all too happy to criticise and complain can get anything through the process of peer review required for scientific publications.

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