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By Doug Cook

The Home Page of the American Physical Society. (Click to access)
The Home Page of the American Physical Society. (Click to access)

(Dec. 10, 2009) — In a bold act of ethics and leadership, a group of leading physicists have expressed the need for greater scientific integrity in climatological studies, in a letter submitted to their fellows at the American Physical Society (APS).

In their letter they call for a change in their society’s stance on global warming, making quite clear that nothing short of complete accountability and honesty are the guiding tenets of science, and that these must be unquestionably of the  highest order.

The American Physical Society is the world’s second largest professional organization for scientists dedicated to the study of the physical sciences.

In their response to a politically motivated statement published by the APS regarding ClimateGate, they call upon the Society to rescind its previous statement concerning global warming. The occasion for their protest are the recent public revelations of corrupted data, and cheating in the peer-review process of published papers, associated with scientists and administrators at the Climate Research United (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, England. The main point of their letter is not so much to respond to the public outcry over what has transpired, but  to remind their peers that the very integrity and guiding principles of science and scientific research is at stake.

Their letter reads as follows:

Dear fellow member of the American Physical Society:

This is a matter of great importance to the integrity of the Society. It is being sent to a random fraction of the membership, so we hope you will pass it on.

By now everyone has heard of what has come to be known as ClimateGate, which was and is an international scientific fraud, the worst any of us have seen in our cumulative 223 years of APS membership. For those who have missed the news we recommend the excellent summary article by Richard Lindzen in the November 30 edition of the Wall Street journal, entitled “The Climate Science isn’t Settled,” for a balanced account of the situation. It was written by a scientist of unquestioned authority and integrity. A copy can be found among the items at http://tinyurl.com/lg266u, and a visit to http://www.ClimateDepot.com can fill in the details of the scandal, while adding spice.

What has this to do with APS? In 2007 the APS Council adopted a Statement on global warming (also reproduced at the tinyurl site mentioned above) that was based largely on the scientific work that is now revealed to have been corrupted. (The principals in this escapade have not denied what they did, but have sought to dismiss it by saying that it is normal practice among scientists. You know and we know that that is simply untrue. Physicists are not expected to cheat.)

We have asked the APS management to put the 2007 Statement on ice until the extent to which it is tainted can be determined, but that has not been done. We have also asked that the membership be consulted on this point, but that too has not been done.

None of us would use corrupted science in our own work, nor would we sign off on a thesis by a student who did so. This is not only a matter of science, it is a matter of integrity, and the integrity of the APS is now at stake. That is why we are taking the unusual step of communicating directly with at least a fraction of the membership.

If you believe that the APS should withdraw a Policy Statement that is based on admittedly corrupted science, and should then undertake to clarify the real state of the art in the best tradition of a learned society, please send a note to the incoming President of the APS ccallan@princeton.edu, with the single word YES in the subject line. That will make it easier for him to count.

Bob Austin, Professor of Physics, Princeton
Hal Lewis, emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara
Will Happer, Professor of Physics, Princeton
Larry Gould, Professor of Physics, Hartford
Roger Cohen, former Manager, Strategic Planning, ExxonMobil

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  1. I saw the following bulletin on the main page of the APS website (in reference to this letter I presume).


    Unsolicited Climate Change Email

    To APS Members

    On Thursday and Friday, December 3 and 4, a number of APS members received email messages from Bob Austin, Hal Lewis, Will Happer, Larry Gould, and Roger Cohen regarding Climate Change. Please be assured that these were not official APS messages, nor were they sent with APS knowledge or approval.

    A number of our members have complained about this intrusion. We are continuing to investigate how the senders obtained APS member email addresses.

    …I am in no way affiliated with APS, but I am curious about this bulletin they released. APS seems a bit vague about what wrongdoing was committed, yet they intend to “investigate” how these people obtained APS members’ email addresses.

    1.) APS included the names of the senders in the online bulletin. They are not asserting that these people are not members, are they?
    2). Why shouldn’t APS members have each others’ email address?
    3.) Why wouldn’t APS members communicate with each other?
    4.) What kind of investigation might be needed concerning an email who’s senders signed their full names and titles?

    I love science, and so I love scientific integrity. I share the general sentiments of this letter in regard to the far-reaching scientific method on climate change. I would be interested to learn more about this story.