Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Energy secretary admits Yucca Mountain data fabricated

Some really embarassing emails from the people at the USGS... Apparently trying to demonstrate Yucca Mtn would be safe, regardless of whether the evidence supported their claims. When projects have significant political implications and have very big safety concerns, is it wise to trust the humans (even if they call themselves "scientists") doing the safety analysis? Or should we not even attempt to do such projects?

ICT [2005/04/05]��Energy secretary admits Yucca Mountain data fabricated

3 Comments:

Blogger Justin said...

Actually, I'm less concerned about this after reading the article than hearing about it on NPR. It sounds like they forged documentation that a (possibly stupid) software development process required that did not and could not exist. It does not sound like they forged actual data that was used to run the simulations.

I doubt it's all that uncommon, if you were to look closely, to find that most software development projects have missing/ incorrect/ backfilled documentation. Software development methodologies often require documentation about things that shouldn't need to be documented (i.e. how an operating system was installed on a machine that shipped with a new server) which forces people to guess at things when they file the paperwork. It sounds like that may be all this is.

4/07/2005 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Well, regardless of what was actually forged, I thought the expressed willingness to forge whatever records were necessary to satisfy the higherups was particularly disturbing. The obvious conclusion is that all the safety studies conducted by these people (not sure exactly who to include here) are worthless, because the people doing them are not committed to doing the best possible science, finding the truth, making the best possible compromise between several unattractive options. Instead, at least some people seem willing to say whatever they felt would accomplish their preconceived goals.

One problem is that irresponsible people like this only encourage extra micromanagement. So then honest people like me have to waste time with all sorts of ridiculous beaurocracy. Ridicouls computer use privacey policies are relevant examples here at UC Berkeley. The biggest danger I post to others is while biking to and from work. The most sensitive data I deal with is my own.

4/07/2005 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

The context of these comments, though, is important and not obvious from this (and other) articles. It isn't clear to me whether we have scientists that are forging scientific data that would truly influence the outcome of the simulation.

There is a huge difference between saying that you forged or made up important variables that are input to a computer simulation than in saying that you have no idea who installed the supercomputer's operating system and when the RAM was last replaced so if some higher up requires that documentation you'll have to make something up. The former is fraud. The latter is what happens when you make unreasonable demands and doesn't compromise the quality of the final product.

4/09/2005 06:00:00 PM  

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