7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Sociology of science,
This review is from: The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth About Global Warming (Paperback)
Academic scientists work very hard for a long time to understand a field and find out things, and their main achievement is their scientific reputation. If someone successfully challenges papers they've written this damages the reputation they've worked so hard to build. And there are few incentives to do very probing work as a peer reviewer; one gets little credit for it, at best the journal editor thinks better of them, and at worst a colleague blames them for preventing their work being published. Also, scientists have worked very hard to get data, either by collecting the data themselves or by building relationships with other scientists from whom they get it. Scientists use this data to write their papers, and they have some of the same incentives to keep their data private as a drug company has to patent the drugs they make.
In fields like medicine and climatology that have strong effects on what people in society decide to do (get certain screenings done, spend money on expensive treatments, reduce carbon output), aside from doing research and convincing other trained scientists that their results are correct, scientists have some role in communicating these results to the public. I think there's a popularly held belief that science consists of unambiguously true statements, and thus if there is uncertainty in a scientific field some people think the field must be bunk. It seems like the scientists involved in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy didn't want conflicting views confusing a scientifically uneducated public, and thus badmouthed people who criticized them. If the CRU scientists worked more openly and were more free with their data they wouldn't have even had to deal with the pests.
The problems that people see in the CRU email controversy exist in the rest of science. People are sensitive to criticism of their work. And because the first to find something is rewarded so much more than one who verifies it, there is a strong incentive to work quickly and do poor quality work. There are hardly any rewards for reproducing scientific studies, whereas this double checking is, I think, more valuable to the scientific project than much of the original research that is done. John Ioannidis has shown that this sloppiness is prevalent in medical research, so don't think that climate science is worse than other fields. This doesn't mean that climate science ought to be excused, but that incentives need to be changed so scientists do better work.
There are dishonest sceptics whose criticisms are just propaganda and scientists shouldn't bother with them (Ross McKitrick appears this way in the book), but scientists should indeed put out work that is robust enough to survive nitpicky questioning by gadflies like Stephen McIntyre.