'Climategate' scientists honest but should have been more open
The rigour and honesty of the scientists at the heart of the "climategate" row is not in doubt, according to the third and final inquiry into the release of around a thousand emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU).
But the same inquiry team came to the potentially damaging conclusion that a graph from the scientists, used prominently by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) was "misleading", though there had been no intent to mislead.
The vice chancellor of the University, Edward Acton, described the findings as "complete exoneration" of Phil Jones - the former head of the CRU, who stepped down during the furore.
He announced today that Dr Jones is to take up a new post as head of research at the university's school of environmental sciences, a move designed to remove some of the administrative burdens he's faced, such as dealing with Freedom of Information requests.
It's unlikely that the report will satisfy those sceptical of the motives of the climate scientists involved, and of climate science itself. The team, under Sir Muir Russell, noted that this has become an area of science with deeply entrenched views.
They stressed the need for greater openness and attempts to establish a new, constructive dialogue with the blogosphere.
The graph which drew the inquiry team's attention was the one the scientists were talking about in emails in which they spoke of a "trick" to "hide the decline". The inquiry team found this figure misleading because it combined separate sets of data, but did not make this sufficiently clear. The report does not find it wrong to "splice" data in this way per se, but given that the graph later gained iconic status, the scientists should have made clearer what they'd done.
The team said they did not find that the scientists intended to mislead in producing this graph, which was used to "paint a picture", and not aimed at submission to a scientific journal.
On the allegation that Dr Jones had deleted emails, the inquiry team did find evidence that emails "might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them". But neither the university nor the inquiry team asked the scientist specifically if he had deleted emails that were subject to a FoI request. Edward Acton said the law in the UK is in a state of flux on this issue, and that he had never met anyone who had not deleted emails in anticipation that they might be requested.
The inquiry team also said it had found it easy to download the data it needed to reconstruct global temperature graphs, writing computer source code to process that over just a couple of days. They said this suggests that those who repeatedly requested data were employing a neat "debating point".
The police inquiry into who actually released the emails is ongoing. Darrell Ince, professor of computing at the Open University who advises police on computing issues, told Newsnight that this appears to be taking an inordinately long time.
I'll have more tonight Newnsight at 10.30pm, BBC Two and Gavin will be discussing the implications of the report and the whole 'climategate' affair in the studio.