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Cook’s Trick

In today’s post, I’m going to present a narrative of Richard Tol’s efforts to obtain rater ID and timestamps from the University of Queensland. See pdf here. While there have been a number of references to these efforts, few readers and commenters will (or can reasonably) spend the time to pull the threads together.

Tol requested data including rater IDs. In his initial responses to Tol, Cook undertook to provide the requested data, but asked for a delay due to his busy conference schedule. Cook initially promised to provide the data quite soon, but failed to deliver. Tol then moved his requests upstairs at both the University of Queensland and the journal Environmental Research Letters: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and then DVC Max Lu at U of Queenslandl and Dan Kammen and then Paul Hardaker at ERL. In all cases, Tol was assured that Cook would provide the requested data, but needed time to properly anonymize the data, with the parties requesting an allowance for Cook’s busy conference schedule.

In mid-August, Cook delivered a file to Tol, which, instead of “meticulous anonymizing” of rater names, Cook withheld rater ID and timestamp/datestamp information by simply deleting the columns, something that could have been done in less than a minute. One can’t tell from the present record whether this was Cook’s plan all along, or whether he embarked on this course only after Hoegh-Guldberg “realized” who Tol was and fostered or condoned an environment in which hostility to Tol was sanctioned.

DVC Max Lu appears to have particularly misunderstood the situation. After Cook’s delivery of data withheld rater IDs, Lu “explained” to Tol that Cook could not deliver this data without breaking conditions of his ethics approval. Lu even told Tol that providing him with rater IDs would be a violation of Australian law. We now know that there was no ethics approval for the SKS ratings program and that the native datafiles were already anonymized to rater IDs.

Although University officials repeatedly provided false information to Tol, there’s no reason to believe that they did so intentionally. However, their communications to Tol were copied to Cook, who had an opportunity to correct the record on many occasions, but failed to do so. Nor did the University officials apologize to Tol, upon learning that they had misrepresented the situation. Instead, they made rude remarks about him and condoned such attitudes on Cook’s part.

But rather than try to summarize or editorialize further, here’s a narrative pdf. I’m not sure why I bothered, other than I had collated some of the correspondence to get an idea without planning to spend much time on it. Then I figured that I’d finish pulling it together for other readers and wasted too much time on it. Andrew Gelman has an apt description for this sort of situation, that he used to describe his attitude towards Structural Equations Models (Lewandowsky’s technique). He recalled an assignment at primary school where a classmate was invited to write an essay. The classmate wrote: “I got locked in a pay toilet and couldn’t get out.” At first, Gelman thought that his classmate ought to have written more, but on reflection, he realized that there was nothing more to say.

Source: 
Climate Audit

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