Access to Data

December 16, 2009

NewScientist offers what I consider a completely plausible explanation as to why CRU has not been more forthcoming with some of the data. I’ve mentioned this before, in earlier threads, speaking only hypothetically, but here it is, straight from the horse’s pie hole. (What the hell is a pie hole, after all? And if it is what I think it is, it seems strange to consider a pie hole working in reverse, as when talking. Pies go into holes, they don’t come out of them.)

Much data remains under lock and key. It is tied up in confidentiality agreements with the governments that provided it. The Met Office and the UK government say they are now seeking permission to publish it. What they have not yet publicly revealed is that under a confidentiality agreement between the Met Office and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, a portion of the UK’s own temperature measurements is only made available to “bona fide academic researchers working on agreed NERC-endorsed scientific programmes”. Why? So that the data can be sold privately. “We have to offset our costs for the benefit of the taxpayer, so we balance that against freedom of access,” says David Britton, a spokesman for the Met Office.

Yes. Exactly.


  1. Oh, so it’s an ECONOMIC issue! Right! Ben, this is lame. And if it’s not a NERC-endorsed project then the economics be damned? Very circular. To me this makes no sense. Total red-herring.

    Or are you making fun of the NewScientist explanation? That would make more sense……

    • I think the point is that it you think that the policy makes no sense, take it up with the people who make the policy. And that ain’t CRU.

  2. It’s not that it’s an economic issue, it’s that are legally-binding agreements about how data is to be shared among scientists. Data is hard to come by. It costs money. Governments and labs put a lot of effort into trying to get data. Once they have the data, it doesn’t automatically become public domain.

  3. If the CRU page on the issue were still up it would be possible to see that the only agreements the CRU has relate to commercial reuse (and there are only two or three of these). They have been able to distribute the data to others in the past.

  4. I agree the confidential argument could be an issue. McIntyre received an email from a CRU bureaucrat containing:
    “Some of the information was provided to Professor Jones on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released and it cannot be determined which countries or stations data were given in confidence as records were not kept.”
    Stonewalling or an admittance of incompetence?

  5. It was my understanding that this argument only applied to about 2% of the data. What is the reason for not releasing the other 98%?

    • RickA,

      As many know, CRU’s raw data often comes from meteorological services in different countries and sometimes they cannot release the data for legal reasons. Likewise, in the 80s, some of the raw data was dumped due to storage and funding issues. However, lots and lots of data is publicly available.


      cheers, jay

      • Good grief, surely you can do better than this.

        i)the legal agreements thing is not true. At best it covers 2% of the data as Rick pointed out. The agreements covering the 2% haven’t prevented release in the past.
        ii)”lots of data” has nothing to do with the actual data that people want to see – the raw data.

  6. Bishop Hill,

    i) “The legal agreements thing is not true.” That is an assertion. What evidence do you have?

    ii) Why are the raw data so absolutely important NASA’s GISStemp, the Hadley Center’s HadCRU, Remote Sensing Systems’ RSS, and the University of Alabama, Huntsville’s UAH temperature data concordant?


    The former use ocean and land measurement stations and the later use satellite measurements. When multiple lines of evidence suggest a common conclusion that is good reason to believe the conclusion. And, that is why your worries about CRU are not terribly important in the larger context.

    iii)What are you thoughts on this post:



  7. Ah yes, another point that is missed, if you have data on a confidential basis and release it you ain’t gonna get any more, which is rather a shot in the jaw if your business is to produce an ongoing record

  8. Bishop Hill is another needy soul. The raw data is available. Neither GISS nor the Hadley Center create the raw data, but they collect and process it. NOAA itself, only operates a small number of stations, but they do collect and make available to everyone the data from the US Historical Climatology Network as well as various other sources. Hill, and friends are perfectly capable of getting the raw data they lust after from the various national met services as well as other open sources. They may have to pay for some of it, or sign data sharing agreements but that is the system.

    They are very needy souls.

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