Anthony Watts is a climate change skeptic and member of what I would call the "Climate Audit" movement, in which citizens with some small grounding in the relevant fields attempt to bring mainstream scientists in the debate over Global Warming "to account". For example, Mr. Watts has launched Surface Stations, a website created to document deficiencies in the sites used by the United States Historical Climatological Network (USHCN) and Global Historical Climatological Network (GHCN), which record changes in surface temperatures around the U.S. His goal is to call into question "the whole surface temperature record ", a project which would, if successful, put a good part of the foundation behind contemporary AGW science into question. To contribute to this project, you surf over Surface Stations, download the appropriate reporting forms, and traipse off to visit your local station, where you are expected to provide a photographic and written report.
Except that the NOAA/NCDC (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and National Climatic Data Center) have been "throwing up road-blocks"-- essentially banning Watts' volunteers from their stations, and pulling information on these stations from their website:
It sounds as though you’ve used the system enough that once you’ve located a station using the search, you’re clicking on the station name hyperlink and opening a separate station details window. The managing party for a station has always been visible by clicking on the “Other Parties” tab. In the case of NWS Coop stations (the USHCN research network relies upon a subset of stations in the NWS Coop program), this is usually the NWS office that administers the site. This information was previously included at the bottom of the Identity tab’s “form view,” but was removed from that view early this week because in some cases it also revealed the name of the Cooperative observer.
Cooperative observers are volunteers who donate their time in the interests of the public good with a reasonable expectation that their personal information will remain private. It is the NCDC’s policy to protect observer details, based upon Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Update, Vol.X, No. 2, 1989, which exempts the application of FOIA in certain cases and establishes privacy protection decisions in accordance with the Privacy Actof 1974 (2004 edition). This exemption applies when the personal privacy interest is greater than any qualifying public interest for disclosure.
Naturally Mr. Watts is "shocked, shocked" by this, and suspects a conspiracy.
However, if you look at past actions by the various participants in the Climate Audit movement, they have often crossed the line into the downright assholish. For instance, there's Steve Mcintyre's now famous inadvertant DOS attack on NASA, which was launched in an attempt to access GISS information that (it turns out) he could have just asked for, and which got him booted from NASA computers. Furthermore, both McIntyre and Pielke sling the term "cover-up" at pretty much any piece of research they don't like, and the wilder among their readers seem to think that Al Gore is ferried around in a black helicopter, and that the weather stations under investigation are likely to harbour a basement full of U.N. soldiers.
It is from this pool of readers that Mr. Watt's is drawing his volunteers.
So I for one take the NOAA/NCDC comments noted above at face value: they are simply attempting to protect their volunteers from harassment by the kind of fruit-loops that might come out of the woodwork to join Mr. Watt's project.
And I would make the following suggestion that might help Mr. Watts weed possible kooks from his pool of volunteers. Sir, while there is data on the various surface stations at your site, there is no information at all on your volunteers. It therefore does not seem possible for the operator of one of these stations to check names and contact information against a master list to determine (perhaps by a return call) whether or not the voice at the other end of the phone line is a member of your team or not. There also seems to be no process by which station operators can lodge complaints against your volunteers.
I don't know that making such changes will get your people onto the sites they wish to investigate. I do, however, think that will remove some of the stench of wingnuttery from your project, and will increase its credibility in the eyes of legitimate media sources (ie folks beyond Rush Limbaugh and Fox)