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Thread: Funding for research - does it bias the science?

  1. #1 Funding for research - does it bias the science? 
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    These quotes are pulled from the attached paper by Daniel F. Stone:

    William M. Gray, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, is a leading proponent of this argument. He has said, in reference to the idea that humans are causing global warming, “It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they’d never get any grants if they spoke out,”.
    Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT has expressed similar views on the subject, writing, “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear,”
    I heard this argument again today while talking to a client (who is in the oil refining industry). Paraphrasing my client, any climate scientist wanting to receive government funding has to be a proven supporter of the consensus. Skeptics need not apply. I’ve heard this claim often, and have even heard that in fields not directly related to climate that the best way to get funding is to include the words “climate” or ”climate change” in the proposal. I wondered if there was any real evidence supporting this belief. All that I’ve come up with so far on the web are two items: an old BBC report and a recent (Oct 2008) paper by an economist at Oregon State.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7092614.stm

    http://people.oregonstate.edu/~stonedan/climate.pdf

    The BBC reporter made a direct request to climate skeptics for evidence of grants refused due to their disagreement with the scientific consensus. No convincing evidence resulted. The Oregon State economist made a valiant attempt to correlate signers and non-signers of the Oregon Petition with discrimination, and came up with no discernible trend.

    So I’m wondering if the scientists who post here can point to any evidence of bias in government funding for climate research. As a non-scientist I’m not familiar with how the grant application process works. I’m interested in whether or not the perception among skeptics that the research money flow is biasing the science is based on fact.


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  3. #2 Re: Funding for research - does it bias the science? 
    Forum Professor Wild Cobra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    These quotes are pulled from the attached paper by Daniel F. Stone:

    William M. Gray, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, is a leading proponent of this argument. He has said, in reference to the idea that humans are causing global warming, “It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they’d never get any grants if they spoke out,”.
    Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT has expressed similar views on the subject, writing, “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear,”
    I heard this argument again today while talking to a client (who is in the oil refining industry). Paraphrasing my client, any climate scientist wanting to receive government funding has to be a proven supporter of the consensus. Skeptics need not apply. I’ve heard this claim often, and have even heard that in fields not directly related to climate that the best way to get funding is to include the words “climate” or ”climate change” in the proposal. I wondered if there was any real evidence supporting this belief. All that I’ve come up with so far on the web are two items: an old BBC report and a recent (Oct 2008) paper by an economist at Oregon State.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7092614.stm

    http://people.oregonstate.edu/~stonedan/climate.pdf

    The BBC reporter made a direct request to climate skeptics for evidence of grants refused due to their disagreement with the scientific consensus. No convincing evidence resulted. The Oregon State economist made a valiant attempt to correlate signers and non-signers of the Oregon Petition with discrimination, and came up with no discernible trend.

    So I’m wondering if the scientists who post here can point to any evidence of bias in government funding for climate research. As a non-scientist I’m not familiar with how the grant application process works. I’m interested in whether or not the perception among skeptics that the research money flow is biasing the science is based on fact.
    I cannot offer you much here. I like the part of you article that says:
    Other correspondents referred to two well-known cases involving the top-line journals Science and Nature.

    Nature's refusal to publish a re-analysis by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick of the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) "hockey stick" graph has been so well documented elsewhere, not least in hearings instigated by US congressmen, that there is really nothing new to say.

    The Science issue involved its decision not to publish a response by UK academic Benny Peiser to a paper by Stanford University's Naomi Oreskes, in which she had claimed to find more or less unanimous support for man-made climate change among published scientific papers.
    Now here on Oregon, there was a big issue with the State Climatologist, George Taylor. He was under threat of being fired, just because he is a "denier." After a long confrontation, the governor finally got his way. Taylor retired. I think he would have been fired, but a couple talk radio programs had the media informed of the situation.


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    As for how it works, here's what I think you'll find in insightful article though

    http://www.marshall.org/pdf/materials/289.pdf


    It's rather short of the mechanics and role of the National Science Foundation and other agencies that vet and direct moneys to the Universities.

    You'll find more about that here, which should provide some perspective on the NSF grant process.
    http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=11699

    Neither of these address the specific question of bias, but given the system is set up to be unbiased with NSF acting as the honest broker so to speak and funded lots of climate research even under the guidance of a administration and at times hostile Congress to AGW message (even altering reports etc) --it appears the process has been pretty good so far.
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    Surely someone out there must know of a case of research funding being denied because the researcher disagrees with the consensus on climate change. The evidence for such seems sparse to non-existent making Gray’s and Lindzen’s complaints, as well as my client’s, seem spurious.

    I did find this about Gray in wikipedia:
    Peter Webster, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor, has been part of the anonymous peer review on several of Gray's National Science Foundation proposals. In every case he has turned down the global warming research component because he believed it was not up to standards, but recommended that Gray's hurricane research be funded.[9]
    Webster, who has co-authored other scientific papers with Gray, is also critical of Gray for his personal attacks on the scientists with whom he disagrees.
    Perhaps Gray is interpreting his personal rejections as evidence of a general bias. On the other hand, Lindzen, a prominent AGW skeptic, says that all his research money comes from the government, which appears to contradict his complaint about grant money disappearing for skeptics.
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  6. #5  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Isn't it comparable to asking why research dollars are not spent on people who think the sun orbits the earth?
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Isn't it comparable to asking why research dollars are not spent on people who think the sun orbits the earth?
    Not exactly. A scientist skeptical of the consensus position could presumably still prepare a proposal to conduct research on a particular aspect of climate science. Gray, for example is respected for his work on hurricanes and the hurricane issue in relation to climate change is, I think, still in need of research and could have value, whereas a proposal to demonstrate that anthropogenic CO2 is not connected with warming would be justifiably rejected.

    What concerns me is that people who are otherwise smart, like my refinery engineer, believe the Gray/Lindzen mythology. Why? In talking with him it turned out that he was conflating the science with the economics: Climate change legislation is too expensive, it will send all our industry to China, therefore the science must be wrong. He is of course wrong on both counts, but in any case the two issues are separate and should be considered separately on their merits.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Isn't it comparable to asking why research dollars are not spent on people who think the sun orbits the earth?
    Not exactly. A scientist skeptical of the consensus position could presumably still prepare a proposal to conduct research on a particular aspect of climate science. Gray, for example is respected for his work on hurricanes and the hurricane issue in relation to climate change is, I think, still in need of research and could have value, whereas a proposal to demonstrate that anthropogenic CO2 is not connected with warming would be justifiably rejected.

    What concerns me is that people who are otherwise smart, like my refinery engineer, believe the Gray/Lindzen mythology. Why?
    I don't see where you have sufficiently demonstrated that myth is the appropriate descriptor. Grey himself has been denied funding and is therefore an example of a case you requested, so the evidence is against your descriptor. The claim that Grey is unqualified to receive a grant in climate study seems a laughable excuse that only sells to the committed.

    Equally important is to recognize that these situations can and do affect people's livelihoods and so the perception of research bias is more than sufficient to prevent all but the most secure to even attempt to go on record by applying for research grants in the first place. The articles looked for people willing to go on record as having been denied research funding, so most will be reluctant to even respond.

    On the other hand many of these people are more than willing to anonymously discuss experience and perceptions about the process which quickly becomes common knowledge and public perception, regardless if it is accurate. Perception is everything in these situations.

    In talking with him it turned out that he was conflating the science with the economics: Climate change legislation is too expensive, it will send all our industry to China, therefore the science must be wrong.
    Perhaps he is conflating issues, but that does not account for his perception. Do you know that he is self deluded or is this your opinion?

    He is of course wrong on both counts, but in any case the two issues are separate and should be considered separately on their merits.
    They are indeed separate issues that should be considered separately, but it is far from certain that he is wrong on either count.
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    Grey himself has been denied funding and is therefore an example of a case you requested, so the evidence is against your descriptor.
    If you read what I posted you would know that in the example Gray was denied because peer review of his proposal showed it to be "not up to standard". I am requesting examples of denial based on prejudice. Get it?

    The claim that Grey is unqualified to receive a grant in climate study seems a laughable excuse that only sells to the committed.
    That's not a claim that I have made. If his proposal has merit it should be considered. I repeat, I am looking for examples where good proposals have been rejected because they might produce results that challenge the consensus science. What are you referring to?

    Equally important is to recognize that these situations can and do affect people's livelihoods and so the perception of research bias is more than sufficient to prevent all but the most secure to even attempt to go on record by applying for research grants in the first place. The articles looked for people willing to go on record as having been denied research funding, so most will be reluctant to even respond.
    This is your belief, which is shared by my refinery guy. I am looking for supporting eveidence. You got anything other than empty opinionating?

    On the other hand many of these people are more than willing to anonymously discuss experience and perceptions about the process which quickly becomes common knowledge and public perception, regardless if it is accurate. Perception is everything in these situations.
    Which people? Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about.

    "In talking with him it turned out that he was conflating the science with the economics: Climate change legislation is too expensive, it will send all our industry to China, therefore the science must be wrong."

    Perhaps he is conflating issues, but that does not account for his perception. Do you know that he is self deluded or is this your opinion?
    I know he is ignorant of the facts. I shall ignore your puerile taunt. I will also point out that he is a person I work closely with and whom I consider a friend. We have friendly disagreements. Apparently that's a concept you are not familiar with.
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  10. #9 Re: Funding for research - does it bias the science? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT has expressed similar views on the subject, writing, “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear,”
    .
    aaahhh Mr Lindzen notorious for receiving funds frokm Exxon Mobil and basically working for a lot of bodies that do - has the gall to accuse the academic world of exactly the pseudo scientific charlatanery that he himslef is commiting.

    http://globalwarmingwatch.blogspot.c...d-lindzen.html

    It turns out he has a dossier on ExxonSecrets.org which documents foundations he works for that receive funding from ExxonMobil. Ten years ago the guy was getting paid $2,500 a day to consult to the oil and coal industry.
    Truly shameless.
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  11. #10  
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    I defense of Lindzen, his research has always, as far as I know, been government funded. His Exxon and tobacco dollars have been spent on propaganda, and lobbying trips to Washington, not so much on research. I am not setting out to demonize him or anyone. Just trying to clarify the issue of supposed bias among the government funders of research, which so far seems to be yet another false claim. But still open for any evidence...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Grey himself has been denied funding and is therefore an example of a case you requested, so the evidence is against your descriptor.
    If you read what I posted you would know that in the example Gray was denied because peer review of his proposal showed it to be "not up to standard". I am requesting examples of denial based on prejudice. Get it?
    Do you think that the reviewer would actually admit that the proposal was denied because of prejudice?

    The claim that Grey is unqualified to receive a grant in climate study seems a laughable excuse that only sells to the committed.
    That's not a claim that I have made. If his proposal has merit it should be considered. I repeat, I am looking for examples where good proposals have been rejected because they might produce results that challenge the consensus science. What are you referring to?
    No that was the claim of the reviewer and you seem to accept the claim. Grey believes his proposal had merit and was rejected due to prejudice. Who are you to say he is wrong and the reviewer is correct? How would you be able to tell if a proposal "has merit"?

    Equally important is to recognize that these situations can and do affect people's livelihoods and so the perception of research bias is more than sufficient to prevent all but the most secure to even attempt to go on record by applying for research grants in the first place. The articles looked for people willing to go on record as having been denied research funding, so most will be reluctant to even respond.
    This is your belief, which is shared by my refinery guy. I am looking for supporting eveidence. You got anything other than empty opinionating?
    I did not see any indication that your acquaintance held these beliefs. You indicated his belief was due to conflating falsehoods. I note with interest you have no problem opining of myths and falsehoods but ridicule others for offering opinions. Surely you don't deny that people hold their experiences to protect their livelihood.

    In any case I think you are missing the point, this is a question of perception, what difference does it make that you and these article writers can or cannot find people who are willing to go on record to say they were victims of prejudice? If they did, the reviewers will simply say the proposal were not up to standards and we would be as deadlocked on the issue as with Grey. What self purpose would be served for these people to come forward? Very little and therefore only the most secure like Grey come forward on record.

    On the other hand many of these people are more than willing to anonymously discuss experience and perceptions about the process which quickly becomes common knowledge and public perception, regardless if it is accurate. Perception is everything in these situations.
    Which people? Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about.
    Was I unclear?

    "In talking with him it turned out that he was conflating the science with the economics: Climate change legislation is too expensive, it will send all our industry to China, therefore the science must be wrong."

    Perhaps he is conflating issues, but that does not account for his perception. Do you know that he is self deluded or is this your opinion?
    I know he is ignorant of the facts.
    And you know that his ignorance is the cause of his perceptions, and that his perceptions are in fact false?
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Grey himself has been denied funding and is therefore an example of a case you requested, so the evidence is against your descriptor.
    If you read what I posted you would know that in the example Gray was denied because peer review of his proposal showed it to be "not up to standard". I am requesting examples of denial based on prejudice. Get it?
    Do you think that the reviewer would actually admit that the proposal was denied because of prejudice?
    In the absence of evidence to the contrary I have no reason to believe the peer reviewer was lying. You seem to think he is a liar. Evidence please.

    The claim that Grey is unqualified to receive a grant in climate study seems a laughable excuse that only sells to the committed.
    That's not a claim that I have made. If his proposal has merit it should be considered. I repeat, I am looking for examples where good proposals have been rejected because they might produce results that challenge the consensus science. What are you referring to?
    No that was the claim of the reviewer and you seem to accept the claim. Grey believes his proposal had merit and was rejected due to prejudice. Who are you to say he is wrong and the reviewer is correct? How would you be able to tell if a proposal "has merit"?[/quote]

    Once again, if you have reason to think the reviewer was lying please expound on the matter. I'm waiting with bated breath. No, I take it back. I know you know nothing about the matter so I'll just say, enough of this sideshow and please read my original question and answer it if you can. Otherwise we're done here.

    Equally important is to recognize that these situations can and do affect people's livelihoods and so the perception of research bias is more than sufficient to prevent all but the most secure to even attempt to go on record by applying for research grants in the first place. The articles looked for people willing to go on record as having been denied research funding, so most will be reluctant to even respond.
    This is your belief, which is shared by my refinery guy. I am looking for supporting eveidence. You got anything other than empty opinionating?
    I did not see any indication that your acquaintance held these beliefs. You indicated his belief was due to conflating falsehoods. I note with interest you have no problem opining of myths and falsehoods but ridicule others for offering opinions. Surely you don't deny that people hold their experiences to protect their livelihood.

    In any case I think you are missing the point, this is a question of perception, what difference does it make that you and these article writers can or cannot find people who are willing to go on record to say they were victims of prejudice? If they did, the reviewers will simply say the proposal were not up to standards and we would be as deadlocked on the issue as with Grey. What self purpose would be served for these people to come forward? Very little and therefore only the most secure like Grey come forward on record.

    On the other hand many of these people are more than willing to anonymously discuss experience and perceptions about the process which quickly becomes common knowledge and public perception, regardless if it is accurate. Perception is everything in these situations.
    Which people? Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about.
    Was I unclear?

    "In talking with him it turned out that he was conflating the science with the economics: Climate change legislation is too expensive, it will send all our industry to China, therefore the science must be wrong."

    Perhaps he is conflating issues, but that does not account for his perception. Do you know that he is self deluded or is this your opinion?
    I know he is ignorant of the facts.
    And you know that his ignorance is the cause of his perceptions, and that his perceptions are in fact false?[/quote]

    Sorry, I haven't read the rest of your post. I have to go shovel snow.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Do you think that the reviewer would actually admit that the proposal was denied because of prejudice?
    In the absence of evidence to the contrary I have no reason to believe the peer reviewer was lying. You seem to think he is a liar. Evidence please.
    But there is, we have an informed eyewitness, Grey, who claims he is lying. You have offered no reason to disbelieve Grey other than the opinion of the defendant who has motive to lie. We are at an impasse unless you can produce the proposal and demonstrate how Grey is wrong and the reviewer is correct. Unlike Grey, I do not believe or even think the reviewer is a liar because I am very aware that I have not been presented with confirming evidence. I am pointing out that we don't know who is correct and it is prejudicial to chose one over the other.

    No that was the claim of the reviewer and you seem to accept the claim. Grey believes his proposal had merit and was rejected due to prejudice. Who are you to say he is wrong and the reviewer is correct? How would you be able to tell if a proposal "has merit"?
    Once again, if you have reason to think the reviewer was lying please expound on the matter. I'm waiting with bated breath. No, I take it back. I know you know nothing about the matter
    We do have an informed eyewitness claiming the reviewer has lied yet, you have quite clearly prejudicially chosen against this evidence.

    so I'll just say, enough of this sideshow and please read my original question and answer it if you can. Otherwise we're done here.
    Again you miss the point. You are approaching this as one would a self fulfilling prophesy by failing to account for the reasons why these authors have had difficulty finding researchers willing to come forward.
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  15. #14  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    It happens that the reason the topic came up in discussions at work is that there is a book by Steven Sondergard (Google books link attached), who is a retired oil company manager and used to be my friend's boss. He has a copy of the book and is reading it, and I've briefly browsed the parts that Google allows. It seems to be a compilation of standard arguments as to why the sun, and/or cosmic rays or other things are to blame more than humans, althoguh some human contribution is acknowledged, and why it's too expensive to do much about it. The idea that scientists who hold these views are discriminated against to the extent of career suicide apparently came from Sondergard, not in this book but in direct conversation with my friend. Sondergard is currently working on wind farm development.

    Anyway, I thought some here may (or may not) care to review and comment on the book, as far as is possible on an incomplete Google offering. I note that there are several positive reviews on Amazon.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=KTV...age&q=&f=false
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