Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Auditing Climate “Science”

It is a long story why, but I was recently appointed to manage all the quality auditing within the company I work for, and of our suppliers. This is considered a vital role, for which I require training, and although I have been auditing for a while after an introductory course this week I am on a full Quality Manager’s course.

Learning to audit is eye-opening stuff, and very interesting that auditing is a general skill, not specific to the activity of the company; in fact the practice audit we completed was of the only part of our type of operation about which I know little, and it was no more difficult for me than it was for the guy who works in that area.

Also surprising is how vital auditing is to all activity if it is to be done well, how easily any organisation, even with the most competent and professional staff slips in quality. Any company of any size really should have a quality department, and typically companies involved in safety-related work are required to do so, either by a regulating authority or by their insurers (for the record, I believe insurance companies make the best regulators; that is the free-market libertarian in me).

The final surprise was that a good external audit will find about what is going wrong even the best-run organisation. The hosts for our audit were great, a very good company with an excellent auditing system of their own and frequent outside audits. Yet I still made findings.

So what does that have to do with climate research?

Publically-funded science is way behind commercial enterprise and even many government organisations in quality auditing. There is very little and what exists is done badly. Very badly. As in almost always breaking fundamental principles of auditing. Some of the requirements are listed here.

  1. Auditing should be to objective questions which query whether stated, objective aims are being achieved.
  2. Auditing should be carried out by independent people with training in quality auditing.
  3. The auditor should be able to present objective evidence of compliance or non-compliance for which:
    • the auditor should be able to state that any processes are suitable and are followed;
    • the auditor must have access to samples of all information used or produced, selected by the auditor.

The only external auditing carried out in government-funded science, certainly in British universities, is in the peer review of the resulting papers and the post-publication study by interested parties. This is an audit because it is an examination and verification of the paper, and the science behind the paper.

So I will consider that in respect to climate “science”.

  1. I am suspicious about the actual aims of climate science; I think they aim to prove that human activity causes climate change. A few of them start talking about “post-normal science”, which is by definition subjective. For those who still recognise science, an objective aim can be assumed, however if they are not honest about that aim, then they should fail every audit.
  2. The “scientists” complain vociferously when independent scientists are used for peer review. After publication their papers are studied by independent minds, although they have not been conspicuously grateful when gaping flaws are found.
  3. Objective evidence is where peer review falls down as an audit process within climate “science”:
    • the processes are not available in full to the reviewer. The authors of the papers refuse to allow their computer code to be provided to reviewers, let alone to interested readers post-publication;
    • the climate scientists conspire to break the UK Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations in order to keep the data they use secret.

So peer-review and study of papers post-publication is not sound auditing.

Without auditing no-one (not even the researchers themselves, I must stress) knows whether the results have any merit whatever.

It is certain that they don’t know if the data sources are reliable. They don’t know if the initial data are sound. They don’t know if the processes are correct. They don’t know if the processes have been followed. They don’t know if the published results bear any relation to the output of the process.

I will go out on a limb here, from my experience with being audited and with auditing. For every paper written by climate “scientists” some, and often all, of those aspects behind a new paper will be flawed. Some of those flaws will be serious.

So what is the quality of those papers?

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