More sounds of silence from InterAcademy Council

On August 30, 2010, the InterAcademy Council (IAC) – a prestigious scientific body upon which was conferred the remit of the evaluation the policies, practices and procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – released its report.

Page 11 of the pre-publication copy of the downloaded report indicated:

More than 400 individuals, listed in Appendix C, provided input. The prevailing views of the questionnaire respondents about the various steps in the IPCC assessment process are summarized in this report and a compilation of all of the responses, with identifiers removed, is available from the IAC6 [emphasis added -hro]

And sure enough Footnote6 was duly hyperlinked and read:

6 See http://www.interacademycouncil.net/.

Details of the sorry saga regarding the availability of this compilation (August 31 through December 17 with my correspondence and the replies, such as they were) are available here.

For the record, nothing from anyone at the IAC has arrived in my Inbox since October 12; however, on December 20, three days after my last missive – which I had sent to Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, the Chair of the Review Committee – miracle of miracles (as noted here), the compilation was very, very quietly posted on the IAC’s IPCC review site. It’s not exactly prominently placed, nor was it even announced on the main page, but the 678-page pdf is available via this page.

There is just one problem with this compilation: there appears to be some data missing. As noted above, the report indicates that “more than 400 individuals provided input [and the] compilation of all of the responses … is available”. Yet the compilation contains only 232 responses.

Now, I’m not an unreasonable person. Perhaps another batch of responses would be posted … soon. So, I waited … and waited … and waited. By February 10, there was still no sign of any additional compilation(s), so rather than go through the non-responsive bureaucracy (and five “media” contacts – now reduced to three, evidently) I decided to send a letter to Dr. Shapiro, because even though my Dec. 17 missive to him did not generate a reply, at least it seemed to get results:

From: Hilary Ostrov [mailto:hostrov@xxxxx.xxx]
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:25 AM
To: ‘Dr. Harold T. Shapiro’
Subject: Follow-up re IAC review of IPCC – Questionnaire Responses

Dear Dr. Shapiro,

You may recall that I wrote to you on Dec. 17 regarding the posting of the de-identified questionnaire responses. As you may be aware (notwithstanding my many inquiries, no one from the IAC advised me, so they may not have advised you either), a pdf of 232 responses was posted on the IAC site circa Dec.20.

Your report indicates (pp. 5-6):

The questionnaire was also posted on the Committee’s website so the general public could comment. More than 400 individuals, listed in Appendix C, provided input. The prevailing views of the questionnaire respondents about the various steps in the IPCC assessment process are summarized in this report and a compilation of all of the responses, with identifiers removed, is available from the IAC. [emphasis added -hro]

This suggested to me (and many others) that a second batch, containing the remaining responses was still being compiled and would be posted at a later date. Could you confirm that my inference is correct and advise when this second batch will be posted. Alternatively, if the remaining 168+ individuals provided input in a different format (i.e. not as direct responses to the questionnaire) could you advise where and when one might find these alternate submissions.

Thank you,

Hilary

Hilary Ostrov
E-mail: hostrov@xxxxx.xxx
Blog: The View From Here https://hro001.wordpress.com
AccessIPCC’s FAR_OUT (Fourth Assessment Report – Objectively Uniformly Tagged)

By Feb. 28, I had received no reply, so I appended the above to the following:

From: Hilary Ostrov [mailto:Hilary0001@xxxxx.xxx]
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 2:32 PM
To: ‘Dr. Harold T. Shapiro’
Subject: FW: Follow-up re IAC review of IPCC – Questionnaire Responses
Importance: High

Dear Dr. Shapiro,

As you can see from the message below, I wrote to you on February 10, and as yet have received no reply or acknowledgment. I have recently experienced some problems with my primary E-mail address in that some recipients have not received E-mails I’ve sent. Perhaps you did not receive my first missive – so, I’m now using an alternate E-mail account.

In the meantime, I have posted an entry on my blog regarding the remaining 168+ responses to the questionnaire [ https://hro001.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/of-peers-reviews-missing-data-and-communication/ ], and have subsequently received a number of E-mail enquiries wondering whether I’ve received any response.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate, the discrepancy (400 vs 232) is one of concern – and the unanswered question(s) it raises could undermine the credibility of your report. No doubt there is a perfectly logical explanation for this discrepancy, and I would like to pass it on to my readers and other interested parties.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Hilary Ostrov

It is now March 15; there’s no indication (that I could find) on the IAC site of any additional compilation and the original compilation remains unaltered with 232 responses in 678 pages. I’m very sorry to report that Dr. Shapiro seems to be singing that all too familiar tune: Sounds of Silence.

Ironically, the IAC report has a “transparent/transparency” count of 26, two of which are included in the following (p. iii):

The Review Committee makes recommendations in several key areas. The committee urges that the IPCC management structure be fortified and that the IPCC communications strategy emphasizes transparency, including a plan for rapid but thoughtful response to crises. It also stresses that because intense scrutiny from policymakers and the public is likely to continue, IPCC needs to be as transparent as possible in detailing its processes, particularly its criteria for selecting participants and the type of scientific and technical information to be assessed. [emphasis added -hro]

I’ll be the first to admit that my E-mail requests do not constitute a “crisis”. Nonetheless, in the interest of “transparency”, surely they deserve an acknowledgement and a more timely response, otherwise one might be inclined to conclude that the IAC (and/or the Review Committee) is setting a very bad example for the IPCC by not practising what it preaches.

4 thoughts on “More sounds of silence from InterAcademy Council

    • Of all the “inquiries”, to my mind, this was the only one deserving of any credibility. Although couched in much diplomatic bureaucratese – and setting aside the obligatory “nothing undermines the science” [of course it doesn’t, because they didn’t examine “the science”] – the Review Committee’s report is quite damning in terms of the inferences one might draw vis a vis AR4. But it would certainly be helpful to see the other 168+ responses so that one could determine for oneself:

      a) whether or not they covered all the ground and
      b) if they gave sufficient weight to the criticisms.

      Some may well have been in essay form rather than direct responses to the questionnaire and maybe they just haven’t figured out how to deal with these … I mean look how long it took them to redact the names and affiliations of the 232 (a task which should have taken no longer than the time to create, test and run a fairly simple macro in Word!)

      As for the cc list … hey, by posting this correspondence, I just cc’d the virtual world ;-)

  1. Pingback: The Missing Questionnaires « NoFrakkingConsensus

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