Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Peter Gleick is still a good scientist

(A raging climate-blogosphere story is a great excuse to start posting again!)

As I read many of the stories on Peter Gleick's pranking of the Heartland Institute (see this Guardian story for a pretty good summary), I find I mostly agree with Joe Romm who basically says that this is peanuts compared to what Heartland and their ilk are doing to our future planet with their obfuscation campaign.

Indeed I can't believe how many people are rushing to their fainting couch over this.

Peter Gleick is a trained scientist but amateur journalist.  His general-interest writing on water and climate issues is actually quite good.   Doing science and doing journalism are two different things.  If Dr. Gleick committed some kind of ethical lapse in his journalism exploits, that shouldn't have any impact on his standing as a scientist.

Scientists should not let themselves be boxed in as perfect beings who apply the ethical standards of science in every activity of their lives.  That's not a standard that human beings can meet and scientists are indeed human.


Michael Tobis said...

Yeah, but

Rob said...

I admit its a subtle distinction which is going to be totally lost in the next few weeks. But the AGU "....Scientific Ethics Task Force is responsible for reviewing and guiding the Union’s standards, principles, and code of conduct on ethics and integrity in scientific activities." Note "scientific activities" not journalistic activities. So why not let Peter Gleick continue on it? Can one not fight the good fight against the deniers and be an upstanding scientist at the same time?

Michael Tobis said...

Well, AGU itself seems to feel compelled to come down on the side of scientist as saint.

Do they actually believe this? No, presumably not, but scientific institutions are terrified of suggesting publicly that scientific conduct is anything short of perfection.

Rob said...

I guess Gleick brought the connecting of his science and his extracurricular activities on himself by resigning from the science ethics Task Force before posting his account/apology about his amateur investigative reporting exploits and before anyone asked him to.