As a result, many scientists are trying to reach out to the public in order to restore that trust. An example is Dr. Judith Curry's essay that was posted on several skeptics blogs. Here's an excerpt:
Rebuilding trust with the public on the subject of climate research starts with Ralph Cicerone’s statement “Two aspects need urgent attention: the general practice of science and the personal behaviors of scientists.” Much has been written about the need for greater transparency, reforms to peer review, etc. and I am hopeful that the relevant institutions will respond appropriately. Investigations of misconduct are being conducted at the University of East Anglia and at Penn State. Here I would like to bring up some broader issues that will require substantial reflection by the institutions and also by individual scientists.
Climate research and its institutions have not yet adapted to its high policy relevance. How scientists can most effectively and appropriately engage with the policy process is a topic that has not been adequately discussed ... The interface between science and policy is a muddy issue, but it is very important that scientists have guidance in navigating the potential pitfalls. Improving this situation could help defuse the hostile environment that scientists involved in the public debate have to deal with, and would also help restore the public trust of climate scientists.
The problem is not so much that the scientists are untrustworthy (some are, some aren't just like all other humans), but rather that the system itself is untrustworthy. The interface between science and policy is not "muddy" at all. It's crystal clear that interfaces like that are ripe for corruption and distortion, and not at all amenable to seeking and finding truth.
I decided to write Dr. Curry an email to point that out:
Dear Dr. Curry,She actually responded:
I read your excellent post regarding "Rebuilding Trust" with the public. You are certainly to be commended for being one of the first (and bravest) to attempt to begin a dialogue between an at least somewhat disillusioned public and the Climate Science Community.
However, I believe you've overlooked a critically important question:
Can the overall political-social-scientific system itself be trustworthy when it comes to Climate Science?
If that overall system is untrustworthy, it makes no sense to trust the output of anybody that's part of that system.
From my days of studying Economics and Political Choice Theory, any time you have a mix of big-government, big-advocacy, government funded science, and the possibility of using the output of that science to further big-government and big-advocacy ends, ClimateGate is exactly what you’ll get.
It’s not the fault of anybody or even any group. It’s inherent in the system.
I believe that we cannot trust climate scientists because they are part of an utrustworthy system. And there is no way to make the system trustworthy.
Where there is money and power, there is corruption.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. (Lord Acton).
You (and many other scientists) may be saints, but unfortunately, we can't trust the system.
Bret, thanks for your email. You may be right, but somewhere in there science needs to be science, and the institutions that support science need to do much better job. Not sure how all this will play out, but hopefully reason will play a role somewhere in all this!If reason plays a role, I suspect she won't like the result.