Matt Ridley looks at pharmaceutical research and finds problems of confirmation bias, lack of access to data, and lack of replication of results. He compares it to the hockey stick debacle which is rising in notoriety to become the new benchmark of bad science. Articles like this are especially useful, because people concerned about Tamiflu might not know anything about the HockeyStick, and might not have read an article about the climate.
In Pharmaceutical research companies may do many studies on a drug but only choose to publish the ones with results they feel better about.
PERHAPS it should be called Tamiflugate. Yet the doubts reported by Britain’s House of Commons public accounts committee last week go well beyond the possible waste of nearly half a billion pounds ($913 million) on a flu drug that might not be much better than paracetamol. All sorts of science are contaminated with the problem of cherry-picked data.
Science at a breaking point:
The problem seems widespread. A paper in the BMJ in 2012 reported that only one fifth of clinical trials financed by the US National Institutes of Health released summaries of their results within the required one year [...]
The message to the world is unequivocal:
“We are heading for somewhere that is far off from anything we have seen in the past 10,000 years – it’s through the roof. In my mind, we are heading for a different planet to the one that we have been used to,” said Jeremy Shakun of Harvard University, a co-author of the study.
There are two factors in the new Marcott paper that are major red flags. For one, there is hardly any data in the modern end of the graph. Ponder how researchers can find 5,000 year old Foraminifera deposits, but not ones from 1940? Two: they’ve smoothed the heck out of longer periods. Marcott et al clearly say there is “…essentially no variability preserved at periods shorter than 300 years…” So if there were, say, occurrences of a warming rise exactly like the last century, this graph won’t show them.
Some of the data has a resolution as poor as “500 years” and the median is 120 years. If current temperatures were averaged over 120 years (that would be 1890 to now), the last alarming spike would blend right in with the other data. Where would the average [...]
The paper might have been scientifically invalid, but it was a box-office success.
The headlines were everywhere
“1000 years of climate data confirms Australia’s warming” said the press release from University of Melbourne. It was picked up by The Guardian: “Australasia has hottest 60 years in a millennium, scientists find”; The Age and The Australian led with “Warming since 1950 ‘unprecedented’. The story was on ABC 24 and ABC news where Gergis proclaimed:” there are no other warm periods in the last 1000 years that match the warming experienced in Australasia since 1950.” It was all over the ABC including ABC Radio National, and they were “95% certain“! On ABC AM, “the last five decades years in Australia have been the warmest. ” Plus there were pages in Science Alert, Campus Daily Eco news, The Conversation, Real Climate* and Think Progress.
Blog review is where the real science gets tested
Skeptics have been looking through the paper, and three weeks after it was published a team at Climate Audit (kudos to Jean S and Nick Stokes) uncovered a problem so significant that the authors announced that this paper is “on hold”. It has been withdrawn from the American Meteorological [...]
I know the Hockey Stick is old news to most blog readers here, but it’s easy to forget that the people reading the mainstream news (ie: most of the West) have no idea of the scale of the audacity involved. Up until the 1998 MBH paper came out, it was widely understood that there was a Medieval Warm Period, indeed there were hundreds of papers available at the time. The Hockey Stick Graph completely rewrote everything, yet was accepted and widely promoted without anyone so much as asking for the data… until, of course, McIntyre and McKitrick tried. It will do down in the annuals of science as one of the most egregious examples of “the not-so-scientific” method. — JoNova
The public might not understand the science, but they do understand cheating
Dr. David Evans
6 October 2010
[A series of articles reviewing the western climate establishment and the media. The first and second discussed air temperatures, the third discussed ocean temperatures, the fourth discussed past temperatures, [...]
Just when you think it’s too dead to kill: along comes a new paper in a top ranking statistics journal by McShane and Wyner. It’s worth taking stock. It’s a damning paper:
…we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a ”long-handled” hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data.
But in the big scheme of things the Hockey Stick Graph was already dead.
Each one of these points is enough to cast grave doubts on the Hockey Stick. The Hockey Stick uses the wrong type of proxy – tree rings. Trees grow faster when it’s warmer, and when it’s wetter, or when the tree next-door falls down and a herd of manure-making cows move in. Almost all other types of proxies disagree (like ice cores, ocean sediments, corals, and stalagmites). Over 6000 boreholes, hundreds of studies, as well as recorded history show the world was warmer 1,000 years ago. (See here for the refs.) Even among tree rings, the Hockey Stick uses the wrong type of tree – Bristlecone pines – which appear to grow faster as CO2 [...]
UPDATED Part IV: Andrew Glikson replies below.
I am impressed that Glikson replied politely, rose above any ad hominem or authority based arguments, and focused on the science and the evidence. This kind of exchange is exceedingly rare, and it made it well worth continuing. Links to Part I and II are at the end. Round 4 was copied from comments up to the post.
Depending on flawed models
by Joanne Nova
May 11, 2010
For a sentence, I almost think Dr Glikson gets it. Yes, it’s a quantitative question: Will we warm by half a measly degree or 3.5 degrees? It’s not about the direct CO2 effect (all of one paltry degree by itself), it’s the feedbacks—the humidity, clouds, lapse rates and other factors that amplify (or not) the initial minor effect of carbon.
Decades ago, the catastrophe-crowd made guesses about the feedbacks—but they were wrong. Instead of amplifying carbon’s effect two-fold (or more!) the feedbacks dampen it.
Dr Glikson has no reply. He makes no comment at all about Lindzen , Spencer or Douglass and their three peer reviewed, independent, empirical papers showing that the climate models are exaggerating the warming by [...]
A big news day. It appears Steve McIntyre (volunteer unpaid auditor of Big-Government-Science) has killed the Hockey Stick a second time…
The details are on the last three days of Steve McIntyre’s site Climate Audit, and summed up beautifully on Watts Up.
The sheer effrontery and gall appears to be breathtaking.
The Briffa temperature graphs have been widely cited as evidence by the IPCC, yet it appears they were based on a very carefully selected set of data, so select, that the shape of the graph would have been totally transformed if the rest of the data had been included.
Kieth Briffa used 12 samples to arrive at his version of the hockey stick and refused to provide his data for years. When McIntyre finally got hold of it, and looked at the 34 samples that Briffa left out of his graphs, a stark message was displayed. McIntyre describes it today as one of the most disquieting images he’s ever presented.
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