The Scholarly Poor: The Climate Code Foundation

In my (currently daily) review of the scholarly poor I am highlighting groups of people who have an important role in the world who need but do not have access to the scientific technical medical literature (STM). So far I have highlighted dentists and industrialist. Now I highlight a group which is typical of many – people outside academia who spend much or all of their time in studying science but cannot read most of the literature. It’s true of every discipline (ecology, astronomy, number theory, …), but here I am highlighting climate science because I know a little background.

In response to my post /pmr/2011/10/05/pay-per-view-science-for-the-scholarly-poor-is-unacceptable-immoral-unethical-and-encourages-bad-science/

Nick Barnes says: October 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm  

Welcome to my world.

PMR: i.e. the world of the Scholarly Poor.

Now Nick is the co-founder (with David Jones) of the Climate Code Foundation ( ). I am on the Advisory Board:

The Climate Code Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in August 2010, to promote the public understanding of climate science. We work with climate scientists, science communicators, open knowledge experts, funding bodies, institutions, and governmental and inter-governmental agencies to improve software practices in climate science and to encourage the publication of climate science software.

We want to remove any question that poor or unpublished software in climate science invalidates the results. We also want to use software to make climate science more accessible to the public, for instance through better visualization tools.

Before the creation of the Foundation, the founders had been working for several years on the Clear Climate Code project, improving the clarity of the source code of climate science software. They have also started work on the Open Climate Code project, to encourage the publication of more source code in climate science. The Foundation has been created to build on the success of these projects, and to broaden the range and scope of our activities.

The Foundation has established an independent advisory committee of experts in relevant fields, to guide our work. All the activities of the Foundation–from board meeting minutes to detailed accounts–are open and public. We are seeking corporate sponsors, institutional partners, and other contributions of time, energy, and interest.

Nick and David essentially gave up their day jobs as they care passionately about the objectiveness of climate data and the computer code that creates it [Please think about contributing – ]. They’ve taken code which was disputed and rewritten it as Open Source so anyone on the planet can verify for themselves what the answers are.

But they, like 99.99+% of the world, do not have access to the primary scientific literature.

If you think climate matters (and I do) then it matters that we have informed debate. That debate should include everyone – not just privileged academics. It’s narrow-minded (and plain wrong) to think that academics can give us the answer. We need objective analysis of the literature and informed debate.

As an example of the problem the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) publish their influential report, and include references (citations) – several thousand. But can YOU read these – unless you are employed by a university, the answer is NO for most of them.

YOU are capable of understanding the science of climate change. Not necessarily as a single person, but as informed groups of interested citizens. You are also capable of demanding that it’s OPEN.

Otherwise, as the sea levels rise [1] and start to engulf the offices of everyone, including the rich publishers, we shall be able to hear them saying

“Our closed access publishing made record profits last year”


[1] I have no idea whether this will happen this century. Because I can’t get the objective information.

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9 Responses to The Scholarly Poor: The Climate Code Foundation

  1. Nick Barnes says:

    Thanks for the post, Peter. A trivial example: next week I’m attending a climate science meeting at the Royal Society, on ‘Warm Climates of the Past’ ( By happy coincidence there is a recent special issue of Phil Trans A, on the Anthropocene ( including an article on exactly this subject – previous warm periods as analogues for anthropogenic warming. The article is co-authored by the professor chairing the meeting’s second day.
    Reading that article would cost me £24 (although this does at least give me 30 days, not 24 hours). Not reading it leaves me ill-prepared for the meeting. What to do?
    By coincidence, that same professor co-author was at college with me, back when the world was young. A polite email might persuade him to breach the terms of his contract with the publishers, and send me a PDF. What to do?

    • pm286 says:

      Unfortunately for you I am behaving in a formally correct manner, because if or when I am brought to book I want to be able to show that I have never breached the terms of an agreement knowingly. I would not, however, criticize someone who sent you an illegal copy of a manuscript.
      However manuscript sharing is very inefficient, doesn’t scale. And we should not have to live on charity. I shall deal with this in Egon’s mail

  2. Nick Barnes says:

    (Or I can get 30 days’ access to the whole special issue for only £108).

  3. Good post. This is THE issue.
    We must not be surprised if people are ignorant, if the system is designed to keep them in ignorance. Your focus on the science of climate change is particularly appropriate given the collective importance of the issue, but there are many other fields where it is also vital. I think particularly of the medical sciences, fundamentally based on the act of informed consent of subjects, whose impulsion to consent was almost certainly “to help medical science” and by extension others who are ill.
    In my opinion, locking up this information is nothing short of criminal.
    Doctors and scientists who continue to publish their work with the dinosaur publishing houses need a firm steer that this is no longer acceptable behaviour for any one who is serious about science.
    One suggestion that it be delivered would be for Google to offer a “hide paywalled results” option in its search. As most search users just want to get the article, download it, and read it, this will have the effect of hiding the hard to access paywalled information, where it will atrophy into irrelevance, unless the author has already taken care to provide Green OA.
    We’re at 10-15% OA at the moment: it’s time to take on the enemies of science–the vain and the usurious–and flip it to 80-85%.
    If Google won’t do it, then a competitor to Google scholar will have to be built. Google’s monopoly is creepy anyway.

    • Nick Barnes says:

      Microsoft Academic Search is something of a competitor to Google Scholar, and seem to be populating their database pretty quickly. They have some very smart technology in there, and are quite pro-open (I was surprised by this). I specifically suggested to Alex Wade, at Science Online London, that they should show payment information on the search results page, and allow filtering on it. Who knows whether they will?

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