Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog moved to Wordpress

After much frustration over Blogger I've moved this entire blog over to Wordpress.

My new blog can be found at 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Northover Traverse with Mike

Mike has an excellent account of our trip to Northover at his blog here
Pictured above in the clouds is Northover, part of the continental divide east of Kananaskis Lake.  It was one of two objectives for what I hope has become an annual trip with Mike.  

Day One
Picked Mike up in Calgary and got dropped off at the end of the highway.  After organizing our packs a bit we were off circumscribing the north shore of Upper Kananaskis lake.  I was determined to pack as light as possible as our route involved going up a substantial headwall.  For this reason I had only the clothes on my back plus rain gear in addition to a very lightweight sleeping bag and tent. This weight plus stove, food, water, first aid, etc still makes for a pretty substantial load.  This obsessing over weight came to get me later!

After several kms through trees, we gradually gained elevation and made progress up the valley till the headwall came into view.  I love it when from a distance, you can't tell how to get up something!  As imposing as it was, when we were right in it, a weakness in the cliff appeared and we had no difficulty other than hauling a big pack up a steep trail.  Off and on rain harassed us in that in between amount where putting a raincoat on is not much better than leaving it off owing to the sweat generated.  I chose to leave my gear on as we were gaining elevation late in the day so getting wet and cold was worse than wet and warm.  

By supper we gained our destination, Three Isle Lake.  Upon getting the tent out, the rain opened up with pelting hail.  I managed to not have my rain gear on when it hit so I scrambled to get rain pants and coat on while trying to get our tent up in the hail.  We had it set up when we realized that the water was rising quite fast around the tent. "Should we move it?" we asked ourselves?  After much pondering in the hail, we chose to move it several feet over.  

We cooked our food  next to a small grove of scrubby trees. It was the best shelter we could find which was more psychological than physical as it was still quite wet.  While waiting for the water to boil I realized just how wet and cold I'd got.  We ate our slop as it got darker out as I pondered how cold I was going to get tonight.

We ate and got into the tent and I was very aware how much I was shivering.  I began  a horrible process of accessing whether the night was going to be extremely miserable or dangerous. And if it was dangerous, what actions could be taken?  We were a long, long  way from nowhere. I stewed these thoughts over for an hour as I periodically blast heated myself with the stove.  I could tell Mike was not keen to have the stove on in such a small tent.  To tell the truth I only had it on out of desperation but quickly turned it off.  After much thought, I ended up deciding that I was not hypothermic.

I don't know how much sleep I got but perhaps 2 hours spread out over the next ten hours.  Many times over the course of that night I pictured myself at home weighing my pack and throwing out unnecessary items like extra long underwear and my heavier warmer sleeping bag!  At least I was too cold to feel disappointment that the clouds were going to obscure the Perseid meteor shower we had both been looking forward to.

Day Two

Mike awoke feeling much better than me having brought extra dry clothes.  I can't describe how energizing it was when while still balled up in the h.e.l.p position, a bowl of warm coffee and oatmeal was passed into the tent!  My pants were colder and wetter owing to the moist air so I donned my Heli-Hanson rain pants over my bare legs and ventured out into the fog and drizzle.

We decided to go for an exploration up Mt Worthington and get our blood moving.  The flowers really were tremendous as we bushwacked our way up the valley.  With no trail, we stopped frequently to confer on the best route up the hanging valley to the Worthington Col.  

above: Mike at the Worthington Col.

I ventured up the summit ridge by myself for a while while Mike stayed at the col.  I was making good progress feeling invigorated from my newfound body heat generated from climbing.  But the snow was falling quite steadily and the fog started to envelope everything.  When the fog became so thick that I couldn't see more than a couple feet in front of me, I became very concerned and turned around instantly.  I even had to stop briefly as I couldn't see where to go at all.  Very uncomfortable feeling being pinned by fog.  Strangely I've been stopped like this in winter while on skis but it never feels scary like this did.  

The fog broke and I met Mike at the col and we made our way back down to our base camp making attempts to photograph some flowers as we went.  My hands were so cold I had to get Mike to open my granola bar wrapper for me! We got back to camp and made supper in the drizzle and then the sun started to shine through the clouds.  It didn't stop raining though so we looked rather foolish facing the sun with raincoats off holding wet things out as the rain gently fell on us.  At long last though, at sunset the rain stopped and we dried ourselves out.  
above: Mike on the scary part of the summit ridge.  The ridge is just inches wide.

above: Dave is a tiny black dot on Northover with the massive Royal Group behind

Day 3

Woke feeling good so we ate, broke camp and set out for Northover.  Great weather and great terrain.  We gained the top around noonish and soaked in the truly amazing views.  From the 360 degree vantage, the view is more spectacular than the mind can take in.  The precarious ledge overpowers you with a sense of space. It reminds me of the Total Perspective Vortex from Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.  When selecting a trip for Mike's visit, I need to find something that is the right level of challenge.  When he told me that the summit ridge was quite scary, I felt relief! On our way down we found all sorts of fun rock formations to scramble down.  A difficult place to leave as we spied many other good objectives from here.  

Back at camp we shouldered our big packs we had left here  and started back.  Returning home from a trip is always slightly somber. The mind processes the accomplishments and the legs begin to fatigue.  The goal is finished and the next thing has yet to form in your mind other than getting home.  Warmth, food, comfort all take on increased value from the everyday.   

We arrived at evening back at the highway and put on one last pot of coffee on the cook stove as we watched the sun set on the Opal range.  Suzanne arrived at 8:30 just as we finished the last of the coffee -perfect timing.  

Another great trip!  

To see on GOOGLE EARTH our route, follow the link to my SPOT page in my links section and click on Northover.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mankind: a success story.

I thought a separate post on this would end a lengthy exchange in the comment section of an earlier post.  The media and others are trying to convince me that I have much to fear over an increase in temperature.  Lets see what the facts say.

As you can see, fewer people in the post 80's (assumed) warming period are dying of weather related events.  Even if one assumes that the earth's temperature has risen .6 degrees, the mortality statistics clearly show a decreasing relevance of weather on mortality.  The scare stories will not pan out because history shows us they didn't pan out in the last generation.  As a species, we adapted to our environment through a higher standard of living.  Our newfound ability to insulate ourselves from nature's wrath is truly remarkable!  But wait, hasn't extreme weather deaths gone from .03 deaths per million to .82 deaths per million?  True, but lets see how that compares to other death causes.  In the following table you'll find it at the bottom.

When placed in context of actual problems, the scare stories fade into obscurity as the following mortality table indicates.  Just a cursory look reveals some interesting imbalances in the attention they receive from the media. More people died in car accidents than extreme weather events by a factor of 40. Perhaps you are thinking "Oh but in the future when temperatures rise even more, then you'll see the effects!"  As I showed, the world has become more immune to temperature swings not less.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Back from the Bush part nth...

Another summer contract came and went this year. Very early on, I dropped my camera in a river and so I only have a few pictures.

above: me in the Crowsnest Pass Area.

The Weather

Weather dominates life outside and this year was no exception. Snowstorms fell on May 21, which isn't that unusual. But the snowstorms on June 10th to June 17th were fairly exceptional! Much of June was spent between Kananaskis and the Crowsnest pass area of the Rockies where record rainfall flooded rivers and made access very challenging. Our planters had to wade across waist deep rivers before climbing up to many cutblocks. On one particular morning I had to convince the other foremen that it was actually unsafe to send the crew to work. It was the
first time we ever called a day off for weather. Weather has grounded the helicopter and washed out roads causing unexpected days off, but it was the first time I can remember not even going out. But 1 degree above zero in a rainstorm with 50km/hr winds was a situation that I thought would lead to disaster. Having dealt with a hypothermic worker in the past, I really didn't want 40 cases! The day before I completely burned off my eyelashes by getting too close to an emergency warm-up fire I built under a tarp to warm up some people before they made the long trek back to the road. Even in July we had below zero temps that froze the water hoses in our camp kitchen.

Odd Things

I was hauling a large trailer down the highway moving ATVs from Slave Lake to Kananaskis when suddenly one of the trailer tires fell off! After getting control of my truck and trailer and getting safely to the side of the road, I looked to my left to discover a sign in front of a farm road. Highway44 Trailer Sales and Service! They helped me rebuild the bearing and hub (which were badly damaged) and sold me a tire and lifted my rig up with a tractor while I replaced everything! They charged me a pittance and I was on my way. I arrived at our Kananaskis camp at 4:30 am and the ATVs were used to get trees into the new blocks and we didn't lose a day of planting!

above: fixing my trailer while Rose-Mary runs the tractor with surgical precision.

I've seen plenty of odd weather related events and this year was no exception but I really regretted not having my camera during a circular rainbow that lingered for almost fifteen minutes. I pulled this picture off the net but it was pretty similar.

Another odd event involved a jet ranger helicopter we were using to fly the crew. I was
auditing a cutblock I had got into by ATV. The
pilot was flying over me when a warning light came on so he made a landing beside me. Upon discovering that the usual tools with the helicopter were missing, we managed to troubleshoot the engine with the very basic ATV tools I had. He managed to get airborne and made a sketchy flight back to Slave Lake sending another helicopter back out to pull the crew.


There's always a few amazing wildlife encounters among the hundreds of encounters during the summer. This summer I had a close look at a white grizzly bear. It walked right past me with caution but not fear. I flanked it for a little while making noise as I didn't want it to walk into the next block which had our crew working in it. Very stunning creature and quite rare. I really regretted losing my camera the week before! All together I saw a dozen different Grizzlies this summer which seems like quite a few. I was chatting with someone in town about seeing so many grizzlies, they asked how I knew they were different bears? I said they all looked as
different as you and I but I don't think they believed me!

A baby moose charged me while I was waiting to get picked up by the helicopter. I saw it running towards me and when I realized it wasn't go to stop, I scrambled up a pile of fallen trees. It looked at me for a split second then turned around and ran away. Weird.

I had amusing encounter one day waiting for the helicopter. I had to wait a while for a lift as the chopper was busy for at least 40 minutes so I lay down and draped my raincoat over me to be able to nap without getting eaten alive by bugs. I sort of drifted off for a while but awoke to the sound of footsteps beside me. Usually in the bush, if you can hear it, it's not scary. The scary things don't make any noise at all! But as I listened to these footsteps getting closer there was then a loud crash of a tree being pushed over. I thought very quickly that whatever it was, it was big and I should get up! In the second I jumped up and pulled off my raincoat, a black blur wheeled up. A moose was right over me and was doing a 360 turn to escape as I was doing the same! We both ran with equal heartbeats!

Of the many birds I see in the summer, there were two species that I don't often see. One pictured here is the mountain bluebird. The blue has to be seen to be believed. I also saw a scarlet tanager up north which was pretty odd.

The other surprise this summer worth noting was my thoughts on northern Alberta. I was working in the Crowsnest Pass area which I love as it's mountainous and bug free. Due to problems with the nursery, we had to take early delivery of trees up north. This meant starting a couple crews back in northern Alberta so I had to leave this bug free paradise and go back up north in the bugs and swamp to supervise. I really was very disappointed I had to leave.

The first day back I was bashing through understory up to my neck with ten million bugs trying to eat me. My head totally covered but for two eye holes to protect myself from the savage bugs. The humid air choking me, beating me down. But as I breathed in, I realized how good the air smelled. In the mountains, the air is so fresh because the environment is so harsh for life. In the mountains, the air is clean but kind of sterile. Up north in the swamps, life is teeming and you can smell it; flowers, shrubs, berries, trees, grasses, and decay. As the sweat dripped down my back and my foot plunged into some swampy ooze, a smile was hidden beneath my bug-proof face mask. I realized that for how much this place hates me, I've spent so much time in it, it feels like home. Even against my better judgement!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I can barely keep this blog up it seems but better late than never I guess! This spring I got the opportunity to work for Terra Erosion Control up in Syncrude's oil sands operations. After listening to so many talking heads discuss the pros and cons of the oil sands, it was pretty cool to not just see the whole place, but to be part of the operations. As usual with the work I tend to do, it's satisfying to be part of the "mending" end of things.

The project I was working on involved stabilizing reclaimed oil sand and preparing it for vegetation colonization. My job was to drive a quad and trailer through the bush selecting and cutting suckering species. I harvested these while still in winter hibernation, and bundled them together with all branches cut off. These bundles can then be placed horizontally throughout the tailings. This prevents runoff gullying, allowing vegetation to take root. When the bundles warm up, they will sucker out from the old branches, root, and form a living wall like a hedge.

The team I worked with was an interesting lot. One guy was a Sherpa from Nepal who worked as a high level porter for 6 years. Another guy was a whitewater raft guide in the summer. Another was a former Canadian Telemark Skiing champion, another was a sculptor from the Kootneys, another guy runs a music festival every summer. Good people always makes a job interesting. Good weather helps too, in the month I was there only a week of -20. Quading in -20 makes for some bad wind chills so I was glad that most of the month hovered around zero.

The scale of the oil sands is pretty impressive. It feels very much as though you are taking part in some sci-fi planetary terraforming. I had to undertake two days of certification to just be allowed site access. The trucks are incredible, the scale of the processing is massive and the active mine areas are huge. The security is pretty amazing as well with checkpoints and special id scans frequent. But quite apart from how spectacular it all is, it was great to see the reclaimed land. I poked around some of it and found it hard to tell the difference between it and the original land. I encountered deer, rabbits, mice and a mink in the reclaim which is a pretty good sign.

I found the oil workers up there unlike the rig-pig stereotype I was half expecting. Perhaps it's all the time I've spent in Slave Lake working on the periphery of the oil patch. There's plenty of rough and tumble up there, and plenty of people I have nothing in common with, but the city is no different. Up there at least everyone shares a few things in common. Everyone respects hard work and results.

All in all, a great experience that I hope paid the way for more contracts in the future.

day 30
5 am half asleep leaving my hotel in Ft Mac

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Soil Harvest

In Canmore, owing to the bears, it is verboten to have outdoor composters. So our indoor vermiculture worms have been busy converting our vegetable waste into topsoil. I wasn't big on the idea at first as there is an occasional odor from the worm box. You might say they bring odor out of chaos. But after our first big harvest of soil, I'm definitely a convert. I no longer need to buy topsoil which I badly needed for my indoor plant pursuits.

These piles are just the worm castings. What was once table scraps is now very productive (and odorless) topsoil. We even had enough to share with some gardening friends from Calgary.

After scooping into piles, the worms scurry to the bottom of each pile where they can be easily collected and returned to their box.

As I'm off to the woods this weekend for a few months, I'll have to wait till I return to put the soil to use but I'm anxious to see how productive it is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Snowstorms kill hundreds of cattle

from the Calgary Herald today
May 12 2010

Ranchers in southern Alberta's Cardston County are in emergency mode after a barrage of spring snowstorms killed hundreds of cattle.

Losses are mounting as melting snow reveals calves that succumbed to the winter-like weather of the past couple of weeks, said Reeve Cam Francis.

The county declared itself a "disaster area" earlier this week, Francis said, noting that some ranchers lost more than 100 calves

Read more:

I realize that weather anomalies happen all the time. But we are told all the time that we must act now to stop global warming yet you would think that if cold weather in the middle of May is killing cattle, perhaps the rush isn't so great. I realize that AGW theories never precluded having cold weather, but it seems we are being told of catastrophic warmth when the only real catastrophes seem to be cold. There's something Orwellian about that no mater how anecdotal this story is.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Housing, Wages, Illusions.

When I first started to unlearn the Keyensian nonsense I learned in the economics classes I took in University, I found the concept of malinvestment strange. For example, Austrians warn that when interest rates are too low, money flows to malinvestments. I thought this didn't mater in the larger sense because the money "flowed and multiplied through the economy" regardless. After a few simple thought experiments from good authors such as Henry Hazlitt, I now understand the implications.
To see recent malinvestment on a grand scale one only needs to look at the US housing market. Low interest rates for a decade caused a speculative housing boom. Currently there are 20 million empty units in the US! Thats enough vacancy to house Canada! That is the face of malinvestment! It's true that people produced those houses and got paid for their work but now, that capital is just locked up, unavailable and useless. It should be obvious that with that kind of surplus, housing prices must go down. Unfortunately, the government is trying to not let this happen by giving huge tax incentives and reduced interest rates to buy houses. This keeps prices artificially high. It's like a boat filling with water and the government is paying people to get more water in the boat! Given that the vacancy rate is still increasing, that several million houses will be foreclosed on this year, and Fannie will be closing the trough of free money, house prices can be assured to plummet. Anyone who used to build houses will have to find employment doing something else.

The jobs picture in the US is quite funny also. It was reported that some 200,000 jobs were recently created but unemployment rose to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent. This number bears so little resemblance to actual unemployment it's hard to fathom why it is ever mentioned at all. It's as though temperatures were reported always half their true value! The real number is closer to 22 percent if you bother to include people who don't have a job. For economic stats without the statist political spin see shadowstats. It was started by a finance guy who needed real data for pricing models he built for corporations.

It's ironic that during the recession, minimum wage has risen nearly 40% over the last 3 years. So at a time when wage adjustment is absolutely necessary for economic recovery, the lowest wages are being artificially pushed in the opposite direction. It's difficult to find ways for Main Street to lower prices when wages are rising! Most people who work minimum wage are the young, usually in their first job. It should not surprise anyone then that this is the group with the highest unemployment currently. Disincentives to introductory-type jobs would seem under the circumstances to be exactly the opposite of what is needed.

Government mandates low interest rates and fuels bubbles and then place every obstacle to possible recovery in the way of the economic engine. Then it tries to convince people they are fixing the economy. Terrible.

It occurred to me this week how gullible most stock traders seem to be these days. Today it was announced that the Eurozone had put together nearly a trillion dollars to stabilize the Euro. Of this, 570 billion "comes from" the member nations, 75 billion from the European Central Bank and 300 billion from the IMF. Translation: a trillion dollars got made up.
This is a Ponzi scheme in it's simplest form. Borrowed money must come from savings which are derived from production. Without this saved production, one is forced to print more money if one wishes to spend it. Thats exactly where this money comes from. One fiat currency bails out another. Eventually the music stops and everyone scrambles for a chair. If I were American, I would be in disbelief that my own country, which is totally insolvent, is in any position to prop up a currency with no value. And yet, this news was enough to rally markets? I'm not sure how much of Canadian tax money ended up in this package, but if it's anything, it's too much.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hexette of Notions part ii

Some observations lately:

Will Greece, Spain and Portugal prove to the world that "Austrian economics" explains economic crashes and that Keynesian policies causes them? Greece, rather than merely levy taxes on its citizens, issued bonds which are bought by European banks and then used as collateral to secure loans at the EU central bank. In this way, Greece gets to distribute currency dilution throughout Europe. It also gets to live beyond its means. No one seems to notice that the same mechanics are working within the US. Curiously, measures to control such practices were in place but ignored. All member countries agreed on deficit to GDP restrictions but these were then summarily ignored by everyone. Sadly, these problems can be soon expected with other fiat currencies controlled by clueless Keynesian central banks. I suspect this will be blamed on someone's "greed" and then Keynesianism can go on it's merry way destroying capital and currency. In the short term, the US dollar gets a lift as capital flies out of Europe. It's hard to know how much Euro panic is already priced in, but I would expect gold to do well this year as markets lose this year's gains.

I heard on the radio the other day someone lamenting that if we leave Afghanistan before "the job is done" our soldiers will have died for nothing. I wondered why giving Canadians a meaningful death was one of our mission parameters. Talk about mission creep!

SEC is investigating Goldman Sachs. Seems like early campaign hi jinx. If you bought a car without looking at it and then complained that it was a dud, you wouldn't get much sympathy let alone a court date. The fact that the seller was going to sell it to the scrapyard hardly relieves you of due diligence. As always, if you don't see that the market is a series of voluntary actions, you are doomed to never understand anything.

Arizona passes new law that formalizes how every poor Latino living near the border already gets treated. I'm not a fan of armed men demanding to see my identification, but outrage seems late to the party. Only a few citizens actually enjoyed the rights that are now being trampled. Frankly, I can don't see much difference in the erosion of liberty after this bill.

Glad to see the Canadian government resisting the urge to appear to be doing something lately. Flaherty seems deaf to the cries of the populist bank regulation cries. As unbelievable as it may seem, there have been calls to tax banking products to create a future bailout fund. It's hard for me to put into words how backwards a plan like this is. Many people research MP3 players more thoroughly than their banks and certainly more than their RRSPs. Why the apathy? Because their money is safe because the government insures it. What incentive is there to pull your money from your bank because they have risky practices? The availability of bailout money eventually makes it necessary to bailout a bank! It's kind of a moot point anyway since interest rates are so low that saving is non existent. Since there is no incentive to save, savings are replaced by speculations like the stock market and real estate. Which get over inflated and adjust sharply causing huge losses and the cycle goes on and on. Unfortunately, suppressed interest rates are popular with voters and thus we have institutionalized economic instability.

"Hide the Decline" climate alarmist Mann is being investigated by the Virginia attorney general. Since Mann's work was paid for by the state, the AG is looking at whether any of his actions violate those contracts. It should be an interesting test case that will at least shine a light on the level of professionalism applied to tax payer money. The Va University investigation was a joke, as was the UK parliament inquiry on the climategate emails. Unlike the other investigations to date, this investigation promises to have some testimony by experts with opinions different from the accused.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Climategate goes before Parliamentary Inquiry

Royal Society of Chemistry backs sharing of data in contrast to Jones “standard practice” statement

1 03 2010

While Dr. Phil Jones prattles on about withholding code and data being “standard practice” The Royal Society of Chemistry has made a statement to the Parliamentary inquiry saying they as an organization support open data sharing. They now join the Institute of Physics in making a strong statement on the practices of UEA/CRU.

They write:

“…the benefits of scientific data being made available and thus open to scrutiny outweigh the perceived risks. To this end, scientific information should be made available on request as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act.”

Dr. Jones position of “standard practice” isn’t looking good. Not good at all.

Here’s the statement published on the UK parliament website:

Memorandum submitted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (CRU 42)



· It is essential that the public and all non-specialists remain truly confident in the scientific method to provide a sound scientific evidence-base on which strong decisions can be made. Correspondingly, it is in the interest of scientists and the public that society as a whole has an understanding and an appreciation of science.

· Access to reliable, up-to-date information is vital to advancing research and enabling the discovery or development of solutions to global issues. Sharing information is especially important in multi-disciplinary research, where progress is very much dependent on willing and effective communication between different speciality areas.

· The RSC firmly believes that the benefits of scientific data being made available and thus open to scrutiny outweigh the perceived risks. To this end, scientific information should be made available on request as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act.


1. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) welcomes the opportunity to submit formal written evidence to the consultation on the disclosure of climate change data from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia.

2. The RSC is the UK Professional Body for chemical scientists and an international Learned Society for advancing the chemical sciences. Supported by a network of over 46,000 members worldwide and an internationally acclaimed publishing business, our activities span education and training, conferences and science policy, and the promotion of the chemical sciences to the public.

3. The document has been written from the perspective of the Royal Society of Chemistry. It is noteworthy that the University of East Anglia is a member of the RSC Partnership Scheme, however this in no way constitutes a conflict of interest. The RSC’s Royal Charter obliges it “to serve the public interest” by acting in an independent advisory capacity, and we would therefore be very happy for this submission to be put into the public domain.

· What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?

4. The apparent resistance of researchers from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) to disclose research data has been widely portrayed as an indication of a lack of integrity in scientific research. The true nature of science dictates that research is transparent and robust enough to survive scrutiny. A lack of willingness to disseminate scientific information may infer that the scientific results or methods used are not robust enough to face scrutiny, even if this conjecture is not well-founded. This has far-reaching consequences for the reputation of science as a whole, with the ability to undermine the public’s confidence in science.

5. It is essential that the public and all non-specialists remain truly confident in the scientific method to provide a sound scientific evidence-base on which strong decisions can be made. Correspondingly, it is in the interest of scientists and the public that society as a whole has an understanding and an appreciation of science. The RSC strongly supports the dissemination of chemical knowledge to foster and encourage the growth and application of the chemical sciences, as stated in its Royal Charter. This includes the dissemination of scientific knowledge as a means to advance public understanding and the learning of science.

6. The dissemination of scientific information is central to progressing scientific developments, as it is based on a sound knowledge of preceding research.[1] Access to reliable, up-to-date information is vital to advancing research and enabling the discovery or development of solutions to global issues. Sharing information is especially important in multi-disciplinary research, where progress is very much dependent on willing and effective communication between different speciality areas.

7. It is also imperative that scientific information is made available to the wider community for scrutiny: the validity and essence of research relies upon its ability to stand up to review. In fact, advances in science frequently occur when the prevailing view is challenged by informed scepticism, this is fundamental to the scientific method and should be encouraged, even if controversial. The RSC firmly believes that the benefits of scientific data being made available and thus open to scrutiny outweigh the perceived risks. To this end, scientific information should be made available on request as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act. Furthermore, research needs to be presented in an accurate and reliable manner in the correct context in order to optimise this process. It may also be necessary to incorporate an independent auditing system into peer review with the ability to demand access to raw data sets to ensure best practices are being adhered to.

8. With the increased use of electronic media, access to information is widespread for scientists and the public alike. While this is a great benefit to society, the quality and validity of information available raises complex problems as valid scientific information and general opinion are presented side by side. The inability to decipher which information is legitimate, results in confusion, misinterpretation and may lead to mistrust of ’science’. There needs to be a clearer understanding in the public domain of what constitutes a reliable source, including an appreciation for the process that is used for disseminating research and the advantages of peer review.

9. The peer review system is central to the credibility of science: its purpose to prevent the dissemination of unwarranted claims and unacceptable interpretations. Formally published scientific research is subject to this authoritative process whereby a community of qualified, impartial experts examine the information and possess the ability to prevent publication. Authors generally protect their data until it has been peer-reviewed and published in a formal publication due to the competitive nature of research.

10. The issue of misinformation in the public domain must also be tackled. Just as the scientific community must be open with regard to their evidence base, those who disagree must also provide a clear and verifiable backing for their argument, if they wish their opinions to be given weight. When disagreements occur, the validity of the analysis must be established before credence can be given to any opinion. Increased understanding of the process of scientific research, firstly in the government, but also within the media and general public, is vital in order to foster a more open sharing of information.

11. Support from the scientific community is needed to provide context and to explain the process by which conclusions are reached. Encouraging scientists to openly engage with the public can only be achieved if researchers are given the necessary backing in the face of any unfounded arguments against their work. This support must come from the highest levels, sending out a strong message on the importance of scientific methodology and research and promoting open sharing of information between scientists and the wider community.

· Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?

12. The terms of reference and scope of the independent review are adequate, although some wider reaching aspects must also be examined. The effect on other researchers working in this area such as independent researchers, as well as those collaborating with CRU, should be explored. The impact of this incident on the public perception of the CRU and UEA as a whole should also be considered as a measuring stick for the implications of such actions in the public domain. The manner in which the findings from the items set out are interpreted and applied will determine their value.

13. As has been set out in the review, it is necessary to investigate the email exchanges which were discovered along with other relevant CRU information to establish whether data have been manipulated or suppressed. This is, not only needed in order to identify any unacceptable behaviour, but also to verify the results which have been published. This is vital in clarifying the severity of the acts carried out by those scientists at the CRU involved, i.e. whether it was a misguided protection of their work or a malicious misrepresentation of data.

14. The review of practices surrounding CRU’s use of peer review and dissemination of data should be used to shed light on how these comply with established best scientific practice. Any failings in this area should be examined in the context of the research methods used and any deviations should be assigned either to the individual researchers or to inadequate updating of the best practice to suit research in the digital age.[2] This will beget more valuable information on the motivation and the reasoning behind the conduct of researchers at CRU.

15. Research institutions should review established protocols regarding the management of, and access to, research data to ensure that they remain up to date and clear. This process must be developed in collaboration with researchers so that its importance can be understood. The current practices in CRU and UEA must be examined to ensure the unit and the institution fulfil public regulations and that they offer support to researchers to ensure compliance.

16. The review of the security issues surrounding the release of information is an important internal issue for CRU and UEA. Furthermore, the RSC supports investigations into the highly irregular manner in which information was obtained from the researchers.

· How independent are the other two international data sets?

17. From the information available, the RSC cannot comment on this issue.

Royal Society of Chemistry

February 2010