Scientists themselves are warning that the scientific community has lost a great deal of public trust, and for good reasons.

Stefan Pfenninger let loose with both barrels in a “world view” column in Nature this week. Titled “Energy scientists must show their workings,” he excoriates his colleagues in the climate science community for lack of transparency. They must open up their research if they expect the public to trust them when that research is used to set policy. He gives one example of an inscrutable modeling tool called NEMS, but launches off that into deeper issues:

At least NEMS (National Energy Modelling System) is publicly available. Most assumptions, systems, models and data used to set energy policy are not. These black-box simulations cannot be verified, discussed or challenged. This is bad for science, bad for the public and spreads distrust. Energy research needs to catch up with the open-software and open-data movements. We energy researchers should make our computer programs and data freely accessible, and academic publishing should shun us until we do.

Pfenninger dismisses the typical excuses for secrecy (business confidentiality, etc.). He thinks the public has a right to know what modelers are telling the government, and what it’s based on. How can anyone trust secretive wizards behind curtains?

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