Professional Discourtesy By The National Climate Data Center On The Menne Et Al 2010 paper

The professional courtesy when researchers collect data is to permit them first opportunity to publish.  The National Institute of Health (NIH) has written up this policy. The NIH writes in their section on timeliness of data sharing

“Recognizing that the value of data often depends on their timeliness, data sharing should occur in a timely fashion. NIH expects the timely release and sharing of data to be no later than the acceptance for publication of the main findings from the final dataset.”

The NIH writes with respect to their grantees

“In general, grantees own the rights in data resulting from a grant-supported project.”

NIH has just written down what is the professional courtesy with respect to data.

In the case of the site data that Anthony Watts has collected at considerable effort on his part and that of his outstanding volunteers (see), the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) is not recognizing this professional courtesy. They already earlier have posted a (flawed) analysis of a subset of Anthony’s data (see). Simply recognizing Anthony’s pivotal role in identifying the current site characteristics of the USHCN sites, as listed in the Acknowledgements of the Menne et al (2009) paper (and the new JGR paper), is hardly  adequate.

Despite the proper collegial approach to scientific interaction, and in contrast to the NIH policy, they have  prematurely published a paper using a subset of the site classifications that Anthony has completed  (and, moreover, the site classification data they used has not even gone through final quality assurance checks!) .  They used only ~40% of the USHCN sites yet over 87% have actually been surveyed by Anthony’s volunteers. 

The Editor who oversaw this paper is also to blame for the early appearance of this article. I was quite surprised to learn that despite the central role of Anthony Watt’s analysis in the paper, he was not asked to be a referee of the paper.  This is inappropriate and suggests the Editor did not provide a balanced review process.

The new paper which analyzes a subset of the available site data  is

Menne, M. J., C. N. Williams, and M. A. Palecki (2010): On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2009JD013094, in press. (accepted 7 January 2010)

with the abstract

Recent photographic documentation of poor siting conditions at stations in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has led to questions regarding the reliability of surface temperature trends over the conterminous U.S. (CONUS). To evaluate the potential impact of poor siting/instrument exposure on CONUS temperatures, trends derived from poor and well-sited USHCN stations were compared. Results indicate that there is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites; however, this bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years. Moreover, the sign of the bias is counterintuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative (“cool”) bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive (“warm”) bias in minimum temperatures. These results underscore the need to consider all changes in observation practice when determining the impacts of siting irregularities.
Further, the influence of non-standard siting on temperature trends can only be quantified through an analysis of the data. Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes, although a small overall residual negative (“cool”) bias appears to remain in the adjusted maximum temperature series. Nevertheless, the
adjusted USHCN temperatures are extremely well aligned with recent measurements from instruments whose exposure characteristics meet the highest standards for climate monitoring. In summary, we find no evidence that the CONUS temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.”

We will discuss the science of the analysis in a subsequent post and a paper which is being prepared for submission. However, this post is about the process of compromising the standard scientific method, similar to what was revealed in several of the CRU e-mails. This same culture exists at NCDC under the direction of Tom Karl.

The publication of the Menne et al 2010 paper violates the professional courtesy that is standard practice by other scientific groups. We had even offered them co-authorship on our papers, so that we can benefit from their scientific expertise and they can benefit from ours. They refused.

This failure by NCDC to honor professional standards is just another example of the lack of accepted professional standards at this federal climate laboratory.  They should have joined us in a paper, or, as an appropriate alternative, waited until we published and then complete their analysis.

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