Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An honest mistake?

Until now my posts about CASARA have been quite technical in nature. Now I'm going to start on the management, governance and leadership of CASARA.

We have seen how three members,one the zone commander, used false data to develop and substantiate a new search technique. I call the data false because I have no other word for it. The equipment they used was, by design, not capable of producing the data they claimed and reported. A professional analysis of recordings they made and provided to me also demonstrate that the claims they made for the data were false. How could this happen? Well one explanation I think fits the circumstances is that many of the members of the unit involved are in thrall to Dr Muir's academic credentials. At one point Mike Casey said to me that "Langley is smarter than God, he has been everywhere and done everything". How does one counter that level of religious fervour? I have provided all the same technical data to them as I have published here, I have also kept the key figures informed each time I published a new post. Lately a court judge and a police officer accepted an argument based on physics and agreed a motorist was innocent of a traffic offense. But it seems listening to scientific arguments is beyond CASARA even though they are quite prepared to use Dr Muir's PhD as justification for believing just about anything he says, regardless of how unsubstantiated it is, or whether or not the data can be verified.

One example of this is that Dr Muir expressed concern that members without sufficiently acute hearing may not be able to perform the Cardinal Pass. As a result, anyone who correctly interpreted the audio as having no useful information and was not fooled by Dr Muir's assertions would be labeled, sadly, too hearing impaired to perform the technique. Is CASARA poised on the cusp of membership eugenics fueled by quasi religious mania? Perhaps, perhaps not; but I do know that if you disagree with your zone commander, even if you have science, engineering and professional qualifications on your side, you're on the short track to the rubbish tip.

Another example is that when an operator mishandled an iPhone when capturing a GPS fix, Dr Muir declared that there was an obvious unknown datum error and stated that he had gone to Google Earth to make up a replacement. More false data. It was certainly not a datum error, unknown or otherwise. It was the work of a few minutes discussing the issue with the iPhone operator to determine that she was simply in too much of a hurry to get a good fix.

Are these honest mistakes? Normally when someone makes an honest mistake, once it is pointed out they try to fix what they have broken with their mistake. Are these the results of someone trying to show off knowledge they don't have? Are they the result of ignorance feeding ignorance? Did each of the three think one of the other had the expertise and so the whole thing spiralled out of control? Search and rescue missions require the crews to honestly and accurately report the results of the search. Whether by mistake or design, that is not what happened in this instance. So many questions, but I have even more.

When you are the training officer, responsible to ensure the members are trained in the use of effective techniques, and you find out that some members (including the zone commander) have been carrying out private testing of their new completely ineffective invention; what do you do? When you then find out that they have been using it on evaluations, and on actual SAR missions when peoples' lives could hang in the balance; what do you do then? I'm interested in answers from anyone who would care to share, but I'm most interested in answers from CASARA members.

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