440 FOI requests in one day! From one person!

The Australian Age has highlighted the practice by climate change deniers/contrarians/skeptics of using freedom of information requests to harrass scientists ansd insitutions invovled in climate change research (see Think tank warned over climate information requests).

“RIGHT-WING think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has received a warning from the Department of Climate Change after it submitted more than 750 freedom-of-information requests in four months.

The institute, which strongly opposes carbon pricing, has made more than 95 per cent of FOI requests lodged with the department since April.

The department last week wrote to the institute’s director of climate change policy, Tim Wilson, and asked that he stop submitting requests so it could deal with the backlog.”

The shear numbers of  these FOI requests show that they are uses as harassment and are politcally motivated.

“It is believed Mr Wilson submitted about 440 information requests on one day in late July and more than 140 on one day last week.

A government source said it took about 39 hours of staff time to process each application.

”He is conducting a political campaign against the government’s policy on climate change and this is coming at significant cost to taxpayers,” the source said.”

The local, New Zealand, equivalent of The Institute of Public Affairs is The NZ Centre for Political Research. They are closely aligned with the NZ ACT Party and local climate change denier/contrarian groups like The Climate Conversation Group and the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. These last groups have been doing a little FOI harrassment of their own. Of course, they also hope this sort of activity will create an illusion that the scientists or their insitutions are guilty of something. A sort of “When are you going to stop beatin g your wife?” type tactic.

With thanks to Graham Readfearn (@readfearn)

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56 responses to “440 FOI requests in one day! From one person!

  1. Why do they use the term “Right Wing Think Tank”?
    Are there no “Left Wing Think Tanks”?

    What do these mean anyway?
    Just a thought.

    Like

  2. Why do they use the term “Right Wing”?
    How is that different from “Left Wing”?
    What do political terms mean? Is this something people can learn at school?
    What is a “think tank”? If I google the term, can I find out what it means by myself?
    Why is the sky blue?
    How do people use English in everyday speech?
    Life is so very hard to understand.
    Just a thought.

    Like

  3. Because the right wing actually establishes “think tanks” to defend their ideology against reality.

    Like

  4. So, Cedric, what does the term “Right Wing” mean to you?

    Like

  5. So, Cedric, what does the term “Right Wing” mean to you?

    I’m still trying to figure out why they use the term.
    It’s a real puzzler.
    It would be nice if there was a way to use the Internet somehow and find out about it. What does it mean anyway? It’s all so hard.

    Like

  6. In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist are generally used to describe support for the legitimacy of social hierarchy and the preservation or promotion of social order in society that is often advocated in the name of tradition

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_politics

    So what is a libertarian then? Right or left?

    Like

  7. Would you agree that the NZ Maori parties are “right wing”, using this definition?

    Like

  8. Mick – enough of this attempt at a diverting smokescreen.

    What does 440 FOI requests in one day by one person mean to you? Could it be honest? Is it vexatious?

    Like

  9. What does 440 FOI requests in one day by one person mean to you? Could it be honest? Is it vexatious?

    If this person did this over 8 hours, then this is 55 FOI’s per hour, or one per minute.

    Seems a little far fetched, don’t you think.?
    Can I ask you a question every minute of an entire 8 hour working day? Can I?

    Did you check your sources Ken? Maybe they are making it up?
    Just a thought.

    Like

  10. So you would rather not believe the authorities then?

    Or Tim Wilson’s own admissions?

    I see no problem with submitting that many in one day – there are obviously ways and means. It would be pathetic to deny these facts now they are admitted.

    And being aware of the time involved in processing (39 hr/application) one can see why Wilson would do this – simply harassment.

    Like

  11. 39 hours per application,
    So that’s 17160 hours for 440 applications in one day
    2145 8 hour days
    429 working weeks
    = 8.25 years

    So one day of FOI applications created over 8 years of work for government employees.

    Is this correct?

    Like

  12. And the beauty II this harassment tactic is that you can then complain that you aren’t getting replies.

    Your calculators show why you shouldn’t expect replies – but you can fool some of the public some of the time.

    Like

  13. Why does it take 39 hours to process one FOI request?
    If the request is for some data, then this should be readily accessible. To suggest it takes one week on average to retrieve some data is ridiculous, even for a government department.

    Why don’t they just release all the data on a public website and be done with it?

    Like

  14. Mick, more and more often exactly that is being done. There is a tremendous amount of data on line now. But you can imagine there are always legal issues that must be checked. For example most of the data held by the University of East Ealing which was the centre of the “climategate” fiasco, is now on line. But some data, eg from the Poles, could not be released because the Polish owners did not allow it.

    On the other hand you try getting information from climate denier groups! I have tried and they won’t even release the names of the “scientific staff.” Or provide information on techniques.

    Surely, too, you can understand how institutes work. Individual scientists ate usually banned from directly releasing information – especially when the issue us political. My own group was banned from publishing or releasing it’s data on pain of sacking for several years because a commercial firm was threatening legal action.

    Beauracrats must always get involved – and they are highly paid usually Also commercial and legal experts have to check each release.

    Many of these vexatious FOI requests are not actually about data. Often people want documents, email, records and histories. Often their tactic is aimed at discrediting the data that is on line. That certainly happened in NZ with the attacks on our NIWA scientists.

    Just imagine trying to get from the organisation in this report copies of all their hundred of FOI requests, together with associated notes, emails and phone records! And their costs and income!

    I am all for data and methodologies being available online and we are certainly moving in that direction. But these denier groups should hang their heads in shame with the disgusting attitude they have towards their own data and techniques. Let alone more general information. One cannot even find out how they are financed.

    Unfortunately they are not covered by the law. They just laugh at such FOI requests of them.

    It would be nice to see a level playing field here.

    Like

  15. For example most of the data held by the University of East Ealing which was the centre of the “climategate” fiasco

    I think you mean “East Anglia”, but I take your point

    Like

  16. So you would rather not believe the authorities then?

    Correct.

    Like

  17. Charge a nominal $20 – $50 fee per record request and those 750 requests costs $15,000 – $37,500 in this example. I think bogus requests would be submitted far less often.

    Like

  18. He is conducting a political campaign against the government’s policy on climate change and this is coming at significant cost to taxpayers,” the source said.”

    This “policy on climate change” will not also come at a significant cost to the taxpayer?

    Just a thought?

    Like

  19. No Mick – not just a thought. People always expose their bias in doing this sort of thing. It’s just a tactic for avoiding provision of evidence or logic and diverting attention.

    Seems close to spaming to me.

    Like

  20. If they don’t like it then repeal the FOI law, or make it harder to spam as Peter suggests above. It’s their own stupid fault. What did they expect?

    Like

  21. Or just expose the vexatious nature of denier FOI requests. Give them enough rope . . .

    Like

  22. Is everyone who issues an FOI request a “denier”?
    Should we automatically accept everything the guvmint says as true, especially if they are after our money? Just a thought

    Like

  23. No and No.

    Should you automatically assume scientists are into fraud?

    Should you believe outsiders who are not researching the subject before researchers?

    Just some thougthts.

    Like

  24. Is using FOI applications as a harrassment ethical?

    Is resorting to harrassment a sign of weakness?

    Is resorting to FOI harassment a sign of dishonestY?

    Is ignoring the science and claiming scientists are committing fraud a pack of lies?

    Just some thoughts.

    Like

  25. Ken,
    to answer your questions, yes I agree it is harassment to issue multiple FOIs that are presumably designed to annoy the department.
    It is of the same league as spam, or a “denial of service” attack on a website.

    The thing is, we know how to deal with DOS and spam. Why does the guvmint complain when they create a system open to abuse?

    Like

  26. Should you automatically assume scientists are into fraud?

    Yes.

    Like

  27. Bit of a give away, Mick, isn’t it.

    Just a thought!

    Like

  28. Richard Christie

    Thread will consist of 440 JAQ-ass comments from Mick.

    Like

  29. Yes, and he will putting about the same thought into these as Tim Wildon did with his FOI requests.

    Just a thought!

    Like

  30. I can put a lot of thought into it.
    Where do you want to start?
    Just a question.

    Like

  31. Mick clearly doesn’t get enough attention in the real world.

    Like

  32. Mick clearly doesn’t get enough attention in the real world.

    What is your definition of the “real world”?
    Is it smelling roses on a rainy Sunday, sitting in front of your PC, or jogging along the path listening to your iPod?

    Just a question.

    Like

  33. The Australian Age has highlighted the practice by climate change deniers/contrarians/skeptics of using freedom of information requests to harrass scientists ansd insitutions invovled in climate change research (see Think tank warned over climate information requests ). “RIGHT-WING think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has received a warning from the Department of Climate Change after it submitted more than 750 freedom-of-information requests in four months. The institute, which strongly opposes carbon pricing, has made more than 95 per cent of FOI requests lodged with the department since April. The department last week wrote to the institute’s director of climate change policy, Tim Wilson, and asked that he stop submitting requests so it could deal with the backlog.” The shear numbers of these FOI requests show that they are uses as harassment and are politcally motivated. “It is believed Mr Wilson submitted about 440 information requests on one day in late July and more than 140 on one day last week. A government source said it took about 39 hours of staff time to process each application. ”He is conducting a political campaign against the government’s policy on climate change and this is coming at significant cost to taxpayers,” the source said.” The local, New Zealand, equivalent of The Institute of Public Affairs is The NZ Centre for Political Research . They are closely aligned with the NZ ACT Party and local climate change denier/contrarian groups like The Climate Conversation Group and the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition . These last groups have been doing a little FOI harrassment of their own. Of course, they also hope this sort of activity will create an illusion that the scientists or their insitutions are guilty of something. A sort of “When are you goiung to stop beatin g your wife?” type tactic. With thanks to Graham Readfearn ( @readfearn ) Similar articles

    http://ingodwelust.com/2011/08/140-foi-requests-in-one-day-from-one-person/

    Like

  34. What is your spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam…

    (yawn)

    Like

  35. What is your spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam…

    (yawn)

    See above
    Just a question.

    Like

  36. Graham Redfearn.
    Wasn’t he the guy who quit his job at the Courier Mail after his losing debate in Brisbane against Monckton , the man that no credible person in NZ will debate with?

    Just a thought…

    Like

  37. “”Usually JAQing off (aka a type of Playing Devil’s Advocate) is a form of Trollism where rather than make declarative statements that you might then have to defend, you disguise the statement as a question and coyly claim that “I’m Just Asking a Question.” For example, in climate Denial you can JAQ off the false statement “CO2 is insignificant as a greenhouse gas” by simply prefixing it with “but isn’t it true that … ?”

    JAQing off has several advantages:

    1.you get to make the claim without having to defend it beyond the initial statement;
    2.it can make Trolls indistinguishable from people who are legitimately curious or confused and hence are less likely to be simply dismissed as a Troll;
    3.If the Troll is dismissed without an answer it will look as if the science proponent is intolerant and/or unable to answer the question;
    4.if the science proponent cannot answer the question, the point goes to the Troll;
    5.it will pull the science proponent into a long explanation of the facts if they are able to do so, at the very least wasting their time if nothing else.
    The disadvantage of JAQing off is that the questioner cannot pretend innocence and then suddenly start responding to the answer, at least not without exposing themselves as a Troll. To engage in any depth it is necessary to pretend a series of linked “yeah, but…” questions, and those can only be carried so far without exposing the deceit.

    For the Troll another problem is that “the question” is necessarily limited in the amount of alleged information that it contains, at least if it is to remain plausible as an innocent question. However, it creates a context where the science proponent get’s to lay out as many facts as they are able in order to answer “the question”. As a form of public theatre this can backfire badly. As such JAQing off is not that effective a technique when engaging informed science proponents.

    In print form JAQing off obviously does not suffer from the disadvantages associated with a back and forth exchange. However, it is not credible to JAQ off an issue in depth without revealing that you are being duplicitous, so it is not useful to approaching the main subject this way. Instead the way to do it is to JAQ off a number of associated issues with only one or two questions each such that they cast doubt on the actual facts.”
    Link

    Like

  38. Does Cedric pass the Turing Test?

    Like

  39. That’s a thought. Would Mick pass the Turing test? He is pretty predictable for a human.

    Like

  40. Haven’t been here in a while, Ken, but I’ve just begun looking into CERN’s “CLOUD” study and wonder what your take on it is.

    Like

  41. Curiosity killed the cat. So I checked out your book and found myself drawn to the “notes for parents”.

    Chapter 6 draws teens into a discussion of the difficulties of magic in entertainment, and zeroes in a key truth — that God didn’t forbid magic because He doesn’t want people to have fun. He did it for our good, because He loves us.

    Magic exists? And your god forbade it?
    Wow.
    Magic.
    You actually believe in magic. In the 21st century.
    That’s a true jaw dropper and instantly reminds me of the one and only Christine O’Donnell.
    I have to ask you a question. What on earth makes you think that magic is (gulp) real?

    Christine O’Donnell: “I Dabbled Into Witchcraft”

    Like

  42. Soomerschool – sounds like you have a “take’ on that work. Why not let us know what you think?

    Like

  43. Richard Christie

    Kirkby on Cosmic Rays

    This video is to provide a check against rampant distortions of this research – by hearing the scientist speak for himself. Please use and link to this video as a response to uninformed or dishonest discussion of this much-distorted topic.

    Like

  44. What distortions of this research?

    Like

  45. The role of clouds (and other aerosols) is recognized as an area of uncertain knowledge in climate science. Just consult the IPCC reports to see that.

    Its recognized that clouds can play both an enhancing and a decreasing role in global warming. There have been two attempts to put a satellite into orbit to research these effects in more detail. Both attempts failed unfortunately. (And some of the conspiracy theory deniers claims this was intentional – which says more about them than anything else).

    Some causes of global warming such as anthropogenic greenhouse gases are understood much more precisely so that cloud effects (currently incorporated as a range) won’t change the overall conclusions. However a greater precision will enable them to be incorporated more exactly into climate models. That’s why we are investing in this research.

    All this is well understood by the climate science community. But of course there will be deniers who latch on to anything in isolation to “prove” a contrary assumption.

    Or worse to claim scientists are making things up.

    Bloody desperate!

    Like

  46. Svensmark, who is no longer involved with the CERN experiment, says he believes the solar-cosmic ray factor is just one of four factors in climate. The other three are: volcanoes, a “regime shift” that took place in 1977, and residual anthropogenic components.

    CERN: ‘Climate models will need to be substantially revised’

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/25/cern_cloud_cosmic_ray_first_results/

    Like

  47. Primary sources of information.
    Mick does not have any. He is forced to rely on middle-men. He can’t go to the scientists themselves directly.
    Take away the middlemen and the denier talking points evaporate instantly.

    Like

  48. Its recognized that clouds can play both an enhancing and a decreasing role in global warming. There have been two attempts to put a satellite into orbit to research these effects in more detail. Both attempts failed unfortunately. (And some of the conspiracy theory deniers claims this was intentional – which says more about them than anything else).

    I (heart) climate change conspiracy theories. The deniers know there’s one out there but the actual details are never forthcoming.

    Like

  49. Interesting angle Cedric.
    The CERN experment looks interesting to me, and as GCMs are non-heuristic they will have to be re-programmed to account for the cosmic ray influence.
    Any parameter wrong in the input completely skews the output.

    Like

  50. Press Release from CERN

    http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2011/PR15.11E.html

    CERN’s CLOUD experiment provides unprecedented insight into cloud formation

    Geneva, 25 August 2011. In a paper published in the journal Nature today, the CLOUD1 experiment at CERN2 has reported its first results. The CLOUD experiment has been designed to study the effect of cosmic rays on the formation of atmospheric aerosols – tiny liquid or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere – under controlled laboratory conditions. Atmospheric aerosols are thought to be responsible for a large fraction of the seeds that form cloud droplets. Understanding the process of aerosol formation is therefore important for understanding the climate.

    The CLOUD results show that trace vapours assumed until now to account for aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can explain only a tiny fraction of the observed atmospheric aerosol production. The results also show that ionisation from cosmic rays significantly enhances aerosol formation. Precise measurements such as these are important in achieving a quantitative understanding of cloud formation, and will contribute to a better assessment of the effects of clouds in climate models.

    “These new results from CLOUD are important because we’ve made a number of first observations of some very important atmospheric processes,” said the experiment’s spokesperson, Jasper Kirkby. “We’ve found that cosmic rays significantly enhance the formation of aerosol particles in the mid troposphere and above. These aerosols can eventually grow into the seeds for clouds. However, we’ve found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays.”

    Atmospheric aerosols play an important role in the climate. Aerosols reflect sunlight and produce cloud droplets. Additional aerosols would therefore brighten clouds and extend their lifetime. By current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets begin with the clustering of molecules that are present in the atmosphere only in minute amounts. Some of these embryonic clusters eventually grow large enough to become the seeds for cloud droplets. Trace sulphuric acid and ammonia vapours are thought to be important, and are used in all atmospheric models, but the mechanism and rate by which they form clusters together with water molecules have remained poorly understood until now.

    The CLOUD results show that a few kilometres up in the atmosphere sulphuric acid and water vapour can rapidly form clusters, and that cosmic rays enhance the formation rate by up to ten-fold or more. However, in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, within about a kilometre of Earth’s surface, the CLOUD results show that additional vapours such as ammonia are required. Crucially, however, the CLOUD results show that sulphuric acid, water and ammonia alone – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays – are not sufficient to explain atmospheric observations of aerosol formation. Additional vapours must therefore be involved, and finding out their identity will be the next step for CLOUD.

    “It was a big surprise to find that aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere isn’t due to sulphuric acid, water and ammonia alone,” said Kirkby. “Now it’s vitally important to discover which additional vapours are involved, whether they are largely natural or of human origin, and how they influence clouds. This will be our next job.”

    The CLOUD experiment consists of a state-of-the-art chamber in which atmospheric conditions can be simulated with high control and precision, including the concentrations of trace vapours that drive aerosol formation. A beam of particles from CERN’s Proton Synchrotron accelerator provides an artificial and adjustable source of cosmic radiation.

    Like

  51. Careful Mick! Once you start using primary sources of information, you will discover things that certain blogs don’t want you to know. The CERN press release in it’s unvarnished form is not a problem for the scientific community. The work that CERN does is well regarded.
    The CERN scientists themselves are doing good work. I have no problem with anything they do. More power to them.

    Don’t let someone tell you what CERN is doing or what their work means.
    Let CERN do that themselves in their own words.
    Same thing goes for NASA.
    You don’t need to wait for middlemen to “help” you understand NASA’s position on AGW. Go to NASA directly. They are perfectly capable for speaking for themselves.

    When someone tries to take some scientist’s (or scientific communities) work and lay it out for you, tell them to go stuff themselves. Don’t take my word for anything nor any of your friends’ word for anything.

    Only use primary sources of information. That’s not a sneaky commie trick. It’s good scholarship. Cut out the middlemen and you will short-circuit any possibility of spin. Go directly to the people that do the work themselves. Leave the armchair specialists to babble uselessly in their nursing homes.

    For example: Did NASA really say anything about aliens invading Earth over AGW?
    Really?
    If you do a quick search and use only primary sources of information, that talking point very quickly implodes. All of them implode if you only use primary sources. Go direct to the horse’s mouth. Always.

    Like

  52. Intriguing. On checking the Guardian article re: the aliens, I see the following amendment at the end.
    • This article was amended on 19 August 2011. The subhead said the report was “for Nasa”. This has been corrected.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/aug/18/aliens-destroy-humanity-protect-civilisations

    The Guardian not telling us the truth? Surely not!

    Like

  53. Newspapers very frequently suck at reporting science. I don’t play favourites. As a safety precaution, I treat them as being all equally worthless.
    Yet the real story of the aliens-thingy is actually quite interesting. Go to the most direct primary source you can find-a newspaper article is still only a secondary source at best. A primary source is freely available. Go straight to the horse’s mouth. You might gain a fresher and more honest perspective than what the middlemen have been feeding you.

    In all seriousness, I am not trying to trick you.
    Every single climate denier talking point out there does NOT hold up under the scrutiny of primary sources of information. Without the middlemen spin, there is nothing to sustain any of them.

    Let me offer another modest suggestion from the vast pile of disinformation: “The scientific community said back in the 70’s that the planet was cooling. Now they are trying to tell us the planet is warming. Har har, those kwazy scientists. They just can’t make up their minds.”

    This is an oldie but a goodie. A climate denier talking point that will never, ever die. Yet if you go to primary sources of information, it goes belly-up straight away. Again, don’t believe a single word I’m telling you. Test it fully for yourself if you really want to do a little independent digging for the truth. Ignore the crap and zero in on primary sources.

    Like

  54. Richard Christie

    @ Mick, (or John Wakelin or Andy Scrase or “Hank Wangford” or Dr Evil)

    What distortions of this research?

    Like

  55. Potholer54 does it again.
    All his vidoes are brilliant.
    His research methods are simple and effective in cutting out the spin. Imagine if everybody did what he does when some story pops up on the internet? Denialism and general hearsay would have a lifespan measured in minutes!

    Primary sources: They are not a vast left-wing plot. Honest!

    Primary vs. Secondary Sources

    Like

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