27

I am writing a report on Fusion energy as an assignment. It contributes to a sperate qualification in Physics which is simply a Pass/Fail. Further studies will often not accept students who do not pass this section.

In this report, I have briefly looked into the current state of electricity generation, including the emissions from coal power plants, and the mining of coal. I found some excellent sources, but also one that had been deleted from the state.gov website. It was available here. It is still available on archive.org here.

Archive.org shows it was removed sometime between 12:45 and 19:54 on the 20th of January 2017. This does not seem to be a coincidence as many news sites reported on Trump ordering the EPA to remove climate change data.

Personal politics aside, I feel attempting to remove/removing any data from the internet is disgraceful, and I want to express that in my report. Currently, at the end of my bibliography I have this text:

Note on Citation 30: UNITED STATES CLIMATE ACTION REPORT 2014. The Available URL provided is from archive.org’s WaybackMachine, a project which aims to archive public facing sites for the future, protecting them from removal. On the 20th of January 2017, this report was removed from the state.gov website. This appears to have been under the instruction of President Trump, as news sites reported data on the EPA website was removed. The provided archive.org link is the most recent version, from 23 December 2016.

Is this appropriate in the bibliography, or should I simply leave it at the first 2 sentences?

  • 6
    The only question is really the 3rd sentence. I'll say this: even if the consensus is to take it out, most people will be able to infer what happened. IMO it barely counts as a political statement. Good on you for catching it. – Daniel R. Collins Feb 20 '17 at 0:20
  • 36
    The entire State Dept website is archived on an administration change. The old State Dept website, including the document you are referring to, is still available - you just need to use the "2009-2017.state.gov" URL instead of "state.gov". – ff524 Feb 20 '17 at 0:27
  • 12
    Because every new administration decides what should be on their new State Dept. site. They can keep some of the old stuff or not. The old stuff is archived and is still available, just not at the same URL. – ff524 Feb 20 '17 at 0:30
  • 11
    It was available here. It is still available on archive.org here. And ...attempting to remove/removing any data from the internet.... Since you seem to have found it on the Internet, it's not clear what the actual problem is. Tried recently to retrieve early WinXP fixes and even a lot of docs from Microsoft? Stuff is 'removed from the Internet' all the time. Hard to find persistent sites that don't remove stuff. Not necessarily 'data' as such, though uncountable examples of it are possible. – user2338816 Feb 20 '17 at 7:29
  • 8
    Sometimes what's left unsaid says more than what is said. – Captain Emacs Feb 20 '17 at 8:37
98

This appears to have been under the instruction of President Trump, as news sites reported data on the EPA website was removed.

Speculation usually doesn't belong in a scientific paper. This is especially true when it does not further the scientific purpose of the paper.

The rest of the statement - about the document no longer being available at its original link, and a note regarding its availability on archive.org, is fine because it is not speculation and serves an academic purpose. However, you actually don't need to resort to archive.org, because the document is still available on the archived state.gov site.

Like whitehouse.gov, the entire State Department website is routinely archived at the end of each administration, and the new administration can put whatever they want on their new site. (For example, at the beginning of the Obama administration, they replaced the Bush-era State Department site on climate change with their own.) The state.gov material from the Obama administration is still available; you just have to replace "www.state.gov" in the URL with "2009-2017.state.gov".

(P.S. an archive of the EPA website immediately before the transition, created in response to numerous FOIA requests, is also available: https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/)

|improve this answer|||||
  • 34
    +1. It seems that the government is actually being more considerate about keeping their data available than most universities here. – darij grinberg Feb 20 '17 at 1:25
  • 2
    @darij.grinberg Although they are just as inconsiderate about keeping URLs available: cool URLs don't change. – lighthouse keeper Feb 20 '17 at 6:36
  • 7
    @lighthousekeeper: Then again, it would have been a bit presumptuous for Barack Obama to have claimed 2009-2017.state.gov when he entered office ;) – MSalters Feb 20 '17 at 15:05
  • 2
    @MSalters Yes, this sounds more like something Trump would do. But there are more neutral options, such as state.gov/44th-administration/. – lighthouse keeper Feb 20 '17 at 16:06
  • 4
    @KonradRudolph Presumably that would be the kind that does "further the scientific purpose of the paper." – ff524 Feb 20 '17 at 23:25
28

Personal politics aside, I feel attempting to remove/removing any data from the internet is disgraceful, and I want to express that in my report

Well, that isn't putting personal politics aside, is it? That is literally going out of your way to put personal politics into your report. It doesn't belong there. Don't do it!

Instead, use your blog or local pub to vent your frustration on the matter. Meanwhile, cite the source material as succinctly and as factually as you can, without veering into unnecessary speculation.

As a general rule, if you have to ask whether something's appropriate then the answer is usually "no".

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    My point was whichever side had done it, its bad. That feels a-political. – Tim Feb 20 '17 at 11:07
  • 14
    @Tim: It's your opinion on an action by a political body. "Good" vs "bad" is your opinion, not an absolute that everybody automatically agrees with you on. Your opinion has no place in a citation. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 20 '17 at 11:22
  • 2
    @Tim That just make it an honest/reasoned political opinion. But definitely not a-political. – Cruncher Feb 21 '17 at 22:08
6

It is Fact versus Speculation.

Fact: The report was available but it was taken down.
Speculation: The report was available and [Walter Plinge] had it taken down.

If you write scientific article about technology, stay apolitical and stick to the facts.

If you want to comment on the fact you are referring to archive.org instead of state.gov servers consider this way:

Note on Citation 30: UNITED STATES CLIMATE ACTION REPORT 2014. The Available URL provided is from archive.org’s WaybackMachine, a project which aims to archive public facing sites for the future, protecting them from removal. On the 20th of January 2017, this report was removed from the state.gov website. This appears to have been under the instruction of President Trump, as news sites reported data on the EPA website was removed. The provided archive.org link from 23 December 2016 is the most recent version.

|improve this answer|||||
1

As ff524 mentioned, speculation should not belong in scientific paper.

However, I do want to add that in this or similar kind of cases, mentioning that document availability (or its removal) is depending on political powers might be somewhat relevant. Papers, data or documents could be removed because huge error was found, or data was deemed outdated.

If the reader has no knowledge why the document has been removed, I believe most likely conclusion would be that the removed document is faulty and should not be used as source. Especially for those outside USA who might not know the practise of removing stuff when government changes.

I would not try to take political stance here though, and keep the statement of removal as neutral as possible. In this case it seems that you can link to the archived government site, so statement might not be necessary at all.

|improve this answer|||||
0

'appears' is subjective/argumentative. The 1st 2nd and 4th sentences are objective/factual.

I think the 3rd sentence is okay if you can concisely defend your claim.

Of course, 'concisely' may be subjective too :P

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.