The NSF Inspector General closed out the investigation of Michael Mann, central focus of the ClimateGate manufactroversy, after finding no malfeasance. This brings the total “vindications” up to at least seven. From the report:
As part of our investigation, we attempted to determine if data fabrication or falsification may have occurred and interviewed the subject, critics, and disciplinary experts in coming to our conclusions. As a result of our interviews we concluded:
1. The subject did not directly receive NSF research funding as a Principal Investigator until late 2001 or 2002.
2. The Subject’s data is documented and available to researchers.
3. There are several concerns raised about the quality of the statistical analysis techniques that were used in the Subject’s research.
4. There is no specific evidence that the Subject falsified or fabricated any data and no evidence that his actions amounted to research misconduct.
5. There was concern about how extensively the Subject’s research had influenced the debate in the overall research field.
To recommend a finding of research misconduct, the preponderance of the evidence must show that with culpable intent the Subject committed an act that meets the definition of research misconduct (in this case, data fabrication or data falsification).
The research in question was originally completed over 10 years ago. Although the Subject’s data is still available and still the focus of significant critical examination, no direct evidence has been presented that indicates the Subject fabricated the raw data he used for his research or falsified his results.
Climate denialists will, completely within their character parameters, not give a shit. They’re not in the business of “facts”, they’re selling a fully antiscientific conspiracy theory that only grows stronger in the face of facts to the contrary. The next sentence of the report goes on to suggest that the only debate in the matter is whether the statistical methods used were appropriate, which is a wildly different conversation from the one we were having up until now. But the denialists are, frankly, famous for latching onto a single, easily misunderstood sentence.
From The Backfire Effect:
The backfire effect is constantly shaping your beliefs and memory, keeping you consistently leaning one way or the other through a process psychologists call biased assimilation. Decades of research into a variety of cognitive biases shows you tend to see the world through thick, horn-rimmed glasses forged of belief and smudged with attitudes and ideologies.
That about sums it up.
The most horrible part about this is, while we do have facts to back up our claims, we are vulnerable to the same “you’re just experiencing the Backfire Effect” accusation — in much the same way as people who understand that the Earth is round might be vulnerable to such accusations from a flat-Earther. I mean, we’re also vulnerable to accusations of being polka-dotted unicorns with a penchant for human flesh, while we’re itemizing things that people could accuse us of if facts are thrown right out the window. But we’re vulnerable all the same, and I expect the first antiscience troll (who will no doubt show up first over at Greg Laden’s) will accuse us of being mired in our ideologies and accusations of malfeasance by some ever-widening conspiracy.
Only, it’s far more galling when, despite the lack of evidence for these accusations of malfeasance, they just keep on coming, repeated ad nauseam, because “malfeasance” is almost transparently the modus operandi of the folks who’d rather destroy the planet to make a buck. Attack your opponents’ strength, and all that. Explains why when we point out denialists’ weakness in whom they’re supporting (the oil industry), they counter by questioning the money-making intentions of people who write books about this stuff. They attack our strength in our lacking money as a motivating factor, by claiming we’re just trying to make a quick buck. Somehow. As though the pay scales between book authorship or scientific study grants, and owning a fucking oil company, are even remotely competitive.
This is the vector that this fight will take. We must expect that we are no longer able to simply sway people with mere facts; not when the lies are shouted from the rooftops and the truth merely whispered apologetically under the din of the denialists. We need to change our tactic — to not allow them to shout us down, to refuse to allow the media to bury the “corrections” to their anti-science hitpieces in the middle of their obits page. We need to hold the information gatekeepers responsible for the misinformation and the lies that are propagated. Our species’ future is at stake.