Climategate and Anonymity in Science
In 2009 the environmental groups lobbying for action against climate change had a bit of a set back. It happened prior to a big convention in Copenhagen and eventually got dubbed with the title of ’Climategate’. You may not remember but it focused on the world renowned Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia. This little team of researchers were world renowned in creating the global impetus for people to do something positive about global warming.
What happened was the usual story of ‘hackers’ stealing and releasing online a huge amount of confidential data onto the internet. Most damaging have turned out to the many emails that were exchanged within the group. Lots of these expressed doubts about findings, casual comments about the death of an opposition scientist and generally all the sort of doubtful, confusing stuff that people generally engage in.
It’s still not clear about how much long term damage was caused by Climate Gate – but it could be crucial. There are so many vested interests in whether we should reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for example that any snippets of information can be spun to suit one these groups.
I think this is why researchers and scientists should take their privacy a little bit more seriously. If you are speaking in confidence with colleagues regularly online – make sure you get advice from experts like these on anonymity. You want your findings to be released properly not half truths to the press or gossip through the internet!
There are steps you can take and procedures to implement that can make most communication almost 100% secure. It’s essential that place like the Climatic Research Unit take these precautions seriously – what they say could have a huge effect on the future of this planet.