You are probably aware that someone has (apparently illegally) published email correspondence involving climate scientists at the University of East Anglia.  This prompts me to think of writing two posts.  Later on, if I get the courage, I will write a post about how we deal with messy data — the emails discussing the matter are generating quite a bit of fuss.  But right now I was fascinated by this description of ‘tribalism’ in global warming science.  I will let the researcher, Judy Curry, speak for herself.  But I will preface her quotation with some questions:  to what extent do we have tribalism in accounting research?  (See the definition below).  Is it only on policy issues, or are there other types of tribes?  If we don’t have them, why not?  Is it because results rarely determine our funding?  Because financial reporting issues are not as important?  Because are data sets are more likely to be common (e.g., Compustat, CRSP)?

“Tribalism is defined here as a strong identity that separates one’s group from members of another group, characterized by strong in-group loyalty and regarding other groups differing from the tribe’s defining characteristics as inferior. In the context of scientific research, tribes differ from groups of colleagues that collaborate and otherwise associate with each other professionally. As a result of the politicization of climate science, climate tribes (consisting of a small number of climate researchers) were established in response to the politically motivated climate disinformation machine that was associated with e.g. ExxonMobil, CEI, Inhofe/Morano etc. The reaction of the climate tribes to the political assault has been to circle the wagons and point the guns outward in an attempt to discredit misinformation from politicized advocacy groups. The motivation of scientists in the pro AGW tribes appears to be less about politics and more about professional ego and scientific integrity as their research was under assault for nonscientific reasons (I’m sure there are individual exceptions, but this is my overall perception). I became adopted into a “tribe” during Autumn 2005 after publication of the Webster et al. hurricane and global warming paper. I and my colleagues were totally bewildered and overwhelmed by the assault we found ourselves under, and associating with a tribe where others were more experienced and savvy about how to deal with this was a relief and very helpful at the time.

After becoming more knowledgeable about the politics of climate change (both the external politics and the internal politics within the climate field), I became concerned about some of the tribes pointing their guns inward at other climate researchers who question their research or don’t pass various loyalty tests. I even started spending time at climateaudit, and my public congratulations to Steve McIntyre when climateaudit won the “best science blog award” was greeted with a rather unpleasant email from one of the tribal members. While the “hurricane wars” fizzled out in less than a year as the scientists recovered from the external assault and got back to business as usual in terms of arguing science with their colleagues, the “hockey wars” have continued apparently unabated. With the publication of the IPCC 4th Assessment report, the Nobel Peace Prize, and energy legislation near the top of the national legislative agenda, the “denialists” were becoming increasingly irrelevant (the Heartland Conference and NIPCC are not exactly household words). Hence it is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by some climate researchers with guns pointed at skeptical researchers by apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance to published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers out of assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most, and it seems difficult to spin many of the emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the assessment process. I sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality reflect what they appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to continue explaining the individual emails and the broader issues of concern.”