Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Secrecy isn't safe

This chap is quite mild in his criticism of the "Climategate" fuckwads, considering that a) he's Greek and b) he was on the receiving end of some of the shenanigans outlined in the CRU emails. But he makes some interesting comments, which have interesting parallels with "Expensegate":

This brings me to the last point I wish to make: secrecy versus transparency. One interesting lesson from this story is that secrecy is corruptible—and corruptive. The CRU people and their collaborators who wrote all these documents felt, no doubt, safe behind their secrecy. They must have felt that this secrecy was their best weapon: to censor differing opinions, to develop “trick” procedures, to “balance” the needs of IPCC, and even to “redefine” peer review.

Unfortunately, current scientific ethics are based largely on the assumption of secrecy—as in the anonymity of reviews. Apparently, as the CRU story highlights, secrecy is not safe. By analogy, how can one be sure that the archive containing the reviews of a journal (with reviewer names) will never be hacked and its contents released on the internet? Of course, there are also lots of other ways that secrecy gets (self-)destroyed. For example, it is often easy to find out who the anonymous reviewers of a paper are.

So, I hope that, as this story continues to unfold, it gives us pause to consider how secrecy and anonymity are non-productive and destructive practices in science. Indeed, through such consideration, we may come to realize that transparency forces us to be more productive and progressive in pursuing the truth—particularly in science.

Yea, verily and forsooth -- the exact same things could really be said about the corruption of our political classes.

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