Posting opinions, letters and correspondence from far and wide. Even some to/from my elected representatives.

Friday, May 18, 2012

One Reason this Layman Doubts some Climate Sciencists Work

For background on this post read Steve McIntyre's post here

 I was thinking of posting this on Steve's blog but it's too long and probably too self indulgent and off topic. But for what it's worth, I post it here.

Here's why this layman (me) suspects the work of some climate scientists such as Schmidt. Many years ago while working as a biomedical technician in a neonatal intensive care unit, the Professor of the unit asked me to test the performance of syringe infusion pumps in delivering a continuously smooth dose of cardioactive drugs to premature babies. Cardioactive drugs are used to control patient heart rate and blood pressure. We set up an experiment using a digital measuring scale with a computer attached. I then tested flow rates over time with a selection of different manufacturers pumps (eg: and a selection of different syringes (eg: The Professor's theory was that "stiction" (a combination of the stickiness and friction of the plunger inside the barrel of syringes) accompanied by the physical properties of the pump mechanisms themselves was combining to cause very uneven flow rates. Thus the drug delivery was not smooth and continuous but varied and potentially could be delivering a "bolus" - that is, large drug "hits" were being delivered followed by periods of low does and then another large "hit" and so on.

Since the drug being delivered is cardioactive, the result was suspected to be wild swings in the blood pressure and heart rates of these tiny infants. This placed them at risk of brain haemorrhage due to their young and weak blood vessels being overwhelmed by high blood pressure. Remember, these are premature babies up to 24 weeks gestation, making them incredibly small and fragile. Thus, they are at risk of severe injury and potentially very poor outcomes. The Prof. provided evidence of this occurring in the form of HR and BP graphs over time that showed very cyclic and wide ranging behavior for his neonatal patients. My job was to correlate the pumps and syringes with the HR and BP.

When I showed the results of my lab testing to the Prof he was impressed. However, he also impressed upon me the importance of the difference between showing a physical behavior versus correlation to a clinical outcome. It took us a further two years of work before the Prof. was able to publish anything at all. All data, good and bad, was made publicly available. And protocols within our State hospitals took many additional years before they were changed.

I have not worked in an academic unit since those many years ago, but the lessons learned give this one layman reason to question the work of people like Schmidt et al. Because it appears that lessons I learned through that arduous research and publication process seem to have been partially, if not sometimes, entirely lost on these climatologists. For the extremely important scientific pursuits, scientists must publish all results including raw data. Analysis must include all data collected. Excluding data must be explained in detail and often in the published work itself. Anything less than this level of dedication to explanation makes published and reviewed works suspect and open to ongoing and relentless questioning. In medicine, protocols cannot be changed until the data, methods, conclusions and *exceptions* are thoroughly and entirely scrutinized and satisfactorily accounted for. Anyone who fails to cooperate under ongoing and relentless questioning is considered suspect and publishing generally just won't and doesn't happen. The same Prof. fired one researcher who repeatedly attempted to avoid scrutiny of his work. At the time, I thought that the Prof. was heavy handed. Once I had gone through my own research process with him, I understood his actions. Steve McIntyre and others ongoing questioning and criticisms should be answered by scientists like Schmidt et al until he/they are blue in the face. Keep at it Steve!