Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Serious lapse of ... judgement and ethics" by climate researcher

Dr. Peter Gleick, a renowned climate expert on water issues and President of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security posted a blog on the Huffington Post, confessing to obtaining internal information from the Heartland Institute under false pretenses and then distributing that information.
In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues.
As Dr. Gleick undoubtedly knows, the conduct of science depends on ethical behavior and above all on a reputation for honesty. No one observes us in our laboratories or pouring over survey results, and even with peer review of the final product, much of what scientists do comes down to a matter of trust.

Indeed, part of the strategy of the Heartland Institute and others is to erode that trust by whatever means necessary.

Sadly, Dr. Gleick's deceit has helped that effort far more than the Heartland Institute could have dreamed.

As frustrating as it can sometimes be, science isn't a discipline where you can fight fire with fire. Scientific ethics can't be a sometimes thing.

Update (11:40 a.m., 2/21/12):While Dr. Gleick's actions were shameful, it's hard to have much sympathy for the Heartland Institute, which repeatedly exulted in the release of private e-mails and documents from others.