Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pro-Nuclear Bloggers Stands for Open Science

The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review July 2010 is one of the growing library of reports on the so-called Climate gate scandal. Like every other report on climate gate it exonerates the climate scientists involved from the charge of fraudulently manipulating data. The scientists were however advised of a need to change their information handling practices toward greater openness and transparency. Muir Russell the report's lead author included among the reports important findings:
First, how is science to be conducted in a new world of openness, accountability and indeed what I might term citizen involvement in public interest science? There need to be new ways of making results and data available, and we mention some aspects of current thought. There need to be ways of handling criticism and challenge, of responding to a range of different sorts of criticism and getting into a more productive relationship with critics than we have sometimes seen in this case.
The science community – and I include university managers in this – need to have in the forefront of their minds the importance of the credibility of the knowledge base they are generating and of not losing public trust in it. Their risk management in the widest sense needs to recognize this.
At the same time, science needs to find ways of expressing the uncertainties that inevitably attend its findings, and mean that so much of what it does is in a sense “work in progress”. More needs to be done to allow policy makers and the public to understand and work within this uncertainty.
We identify the need for some sort of “public space” where these issues can be aired, in an atmosphere that is at the same time unthreatening and properly challenging. If the Review has contributed to advancing discussion of these issues it will be a useful contribution in addition to addressing the questions in our remit.
I endorse these findings, especially as they apply to energy issues. Pro-nuclear bloggers are in the forefront of the movement towards openness and transparency in science. Two blogs, Kirk Sorensen's Energy from Thorium, and Barry Brook's Brave New Climate provide outstanding examples of the new culture of scientific openness and transparency.

Kirk blog is divided into three parts:
* A document archive in which documents which contain research "data" are collected via links.

* A traditional blog with posts, many of which offer histories of, reviews of, and interpretations of the background and contents of the documents.

* A discussion section, that is in large measure depended on the documents.
The Energy from Thorium discussion covers hundreds of topics, and includes nearly 30,000 comments.

In Brave New Climate, Barry Brook, and other participants, post professional quality papers on energy and climate related issues. The papers are then open for discussion by anyone. In some cases discussions on Brave New Climate have extended to 700 comments. Some times papers are rewritten in response to criticisms offered during the discussion.

I view my works on Nuclear Green as being closely aligned to both material and discussions found on Brave New Climate and Energy from Thorium. I have posted numerous comments on both blogs, and in the past Nuclear Green posts were cross posted to Energy From Thorium.

Both EfT, and BNC view Generation IV nuclear technology as an important component of post-carbon energy. BNC has also offered frequent critiques of renewable energy schemes. Because nuclear power is subject to repeated and vociferous criticisms, the open and transparent approach is highly appropriate in obtaining public trust for new nuclear technology. Indeed, EfT

In addition Barry Brook is associated with a second open science site, focuses on an attempt to model a wind energy scheme for Southeaster Australia. It is roughly based on Kirk Sorensen's Energy from Thorium design, The data, analyzed is posted and both analysis and interpretive narratives are open for discussion.

The "Independent Review" states:
Handling the blogosphere and non traditional scientific dialogue. One of the most obvious features of the climate change debate is the influence of the blogosphere. This provides an opportunity for unmoderated comment to stand alongside peer reviewed publications; for presentations or lectures at learned conferences to be challenged without inhibition; and for highly personalized critiques of individuals and their work to be promulgated without hindrance. This is a fact of life, and it would be foolish to challenge its existence. The Review team would simply urge all scientists to learn to communicate their work in ways that the public can access and understand. That said, a key issue is how scientists should be supported to explain their position, and how a public space can be created where these debates can be conducted on appropriate terms, where what is and is not uncertain can be recognised.
The models provided by Energy from Thoirium, and Brave New Climate fully meet these requirements. Numerous other energy related Internet sites fail to do so, however. Indeed, There appear to be numerous openness gaps in the renewable energy research standards offered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and in various plans and reports offered by supporters of Renewable Energy. Nuclear Green has to a limited extent attempted to address some of these renewable energy openness gaps, and Brave New Climate, and have attempted to do so in a far more detailed and professional fashion.

If there is a lesson from the so called Climate Gate scandal, it is that 21st science needs to be open and to the extent humanly possible transparent. Scientific communications, discussions and debate should be viewed as public, rather than private. People who are involved in knowledge production and assessment need to be fully aware of the implication of the new world of knowledge we live in and not transgress its structures.

1 comment:

Kirk Sorensen said...

Thanks for your kind words Charles!


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