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'Climategate' scientists honest but should have been more open

Susan Watts | 13:18 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

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.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    sorry NN but last nights fare was so droll and uninteresting I watched Mockingbird hope you forgive me...

  • Comment number 2.

    Is it possible for there to be a critical analysis of the composition of this latest inquiry team in terms of the balance between proponents and deniers of global warming?

    In view of the huge vested interests, governmental and corporate, this could be the program's most significant contribution.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Corporate Nazi POWER MATRIX will do everything they can to protect the future of their favourite climate change investment scams. The foolish politicians believe that they can save the global economy wasting investment in wind farms, and it would appear that our silly old worn out Queen has jumped onto the bandwagon perhaps in an attempt to protect the royal family's theoretical personal wealth.

  • Comment number 4.

    I hope this will be as well publicised as the original story, here and in the US. Hardline climate change denial people will ignore it anyway, or won't accept it, but it needs to be well aired.

  • Comment number 5.

    Still trying to get my head around the concept of something rigourously and honestly misleading. Seems worth it as it does, apparently, lead to 'a complete exoneration' in some quarters.

    Came here via twitter after a blizzard of reaction to this, pretty much unsurprised, if depressed, at the predictability of the responses, depending on the tribal affiliation of the author or their bosses.

    Hence, as far as the MSM is concerned, it is either a total vindication, or whitewash.

    Few seem measured, in the least bit.

    Even the BBC seems to be a bit torn on emphasis, depending on whether one follows science or politics.

    bbcpolitics Climate e-mails review condemns lack of openness http://bit.ly/cVNVYW

    bbcscitech Climate scientists emerge from third inquiry with their reputations for honesty intact but with a lack of op.. http://bit.ly/bPjeHJ

    But at least one senses an attempt at objectivity. Bravo.

    As does the tonality inherent in the para containing this: ' 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", which suggests the author might share the views of those whose definitions of honesty and rigour might differ from that of the inquiry.

    I must see if I can deploy 'state of flux' in future should the need arise for a robust defence to satisfy the establishment.. if it is so minded.

    Must also take Mr. Acton's lead and buy a shredder should the need arise beyond sensible personal privacy. I am sure plod will be sympathetic. Even if I work on publicly funded endeavours that such information may pertain to.

  • Comment number 6.

    PROPER SCIENCE HAS NO TRUTH ONLY RELATIVE PROBABILITIES

    Meanwhile news media do not seek truth - only sensation. In this 'climate' reality is lost to the mass, and only those outside the world of funded science, yet possessed of scientific reasoning, have any chance of drawing valid conclusions.

    The email argument is froth.

  • Comment number 7.

    CAN ONE GET A PhD IN OBFUSCATION?

    Not if you are rubbish at it, as Susan's ramble implies.

  • Comment number 8.

    ps: Another seems to have cranked an eyebrow in light of:

    'But neither the university nor the inquiry team asked the scientist specifically if he had deleted emails that were subject to a FoI request.

    http://dailybayonet.com/?p=4647

    Does seem a tad... 'loose', really. Any blind horses around?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT3_UCm1A5I

  • Comment number 9.

    "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." (Susan Watts)

    Sounds a bit like Edward Acton has spent too much of his career
    writing about the Tsarist legacy in Russia and not enough time
    reading his notes on Alexander Herzen, who wrote on this theme:

    'Surely it is not right that only in natural science the phases and degrees of development, the declinations and deviations, even the avortements, should be studied, accepted, considered sine ira et studio, but as soon as one approaches history the physiological method is abandoned at once, and in its place methods of the criminal court and the police are adopted.'

    I read that as an argument for full disclosure - and back-up tapes?!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Acton_(academic)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Herzen

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Acton_(academic)



  • Comment number 10.

    Wow. Looooooong moderation lag.

    I dare not visit Richard Black's blog lest 'watertight oversight' swings into action.

    Here's another noting a certain factual 'one-sidedness', rigour wise to to inquiry scope:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/07/the-muir-cru-apologia-is-out/

    Perhaps a little unfair and, dare I say it, cherry-pickingly selective on what represents the variety of representation of views across the BBC, but this does seem the game played by many 'sides', and that is the view shared in this instance as a 'top story' summary as opposed to more niche fare elsewhere. So one presumes that is what the mainstream public audience will 'hear'?

    I merely observe what folk share on what other folk say and, in turn, share. Or, choose not to.

    In time, it can be... informative. And not just about the subject at hand.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    I seen the old boys network is well and truly still alive.

    Frightfully clever outcome without even interviewing the people who put forward the grievances about the manipulated data in the first place.

    Clever stuff indeed interviewing the accused but not the accuser.

    The British stalwart 'deny everything', at its best.

    Oh by the way were the emails hacked, leaked or what? I'm glad the report was so indepth it didn't even figure that out.

  • Comment number 13.

    Before this UEA fiasco, the media happily published and broadcast scare stories on man-made global warming without question - including the good old BBC.

    Why? Because it made great dramatic stories to boost ratings, careers and sales. Don't ever believe the media when they trumpet 'experts say' without asking yourself the question, which experts and where is their proof?

    What makes me think obtaining funding for research and vain-glorious publicity has more to do with 'results' than reality.

  • Comment number 14.

    8. At 4:43pm on 07 Jul 2010, you wrote:
    This comment has been referred for further consideration.


    It's a link to the Monty Python 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' sketch guys... from the BBC. Hardly a candidate for watertight oversight!

    Here's another to crash the system:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FRVvjGL2C0

    It's a 'Yes, Minister' clip... on public inquiries. From... the BBC.

    Knock yourselves out.

    Looking forward to getting restored soon, if perhaps once things have blown over. Or a decent... Explain

  • Comment number 15.

    Finding the reporting of this to be a fair reflection of the inquiry in many ways, at least in terms of only looking for, and hence getting, what one wants out of it. No more and, it seems, preferably less.

    Taking just two (being editorially selective to be sure, but hardly cherry picking opposite extremes with these two media):

    Climategate: No whitewash, but CRU scientists are far from squeaky clean
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/jul/07/climategate-scientists

    Leading article: Climate change science is vindicated
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-climate-change-science-is-vindicated-2020929.html

    Funny old media estate we live with, eh?

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh, lor luv us... this is gettting daft.

    Postings to BBC blogs will be removed if they appear to be potentially defamatory.

    You can find out more about Defamation at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/hub/HouseRules-Defamation

    If you can rewrite your contribution to remove the problem, we'd be happy for you to post it again.


    Okey-dokey. But I have to say 'appears to be potentially...' is a masterpiece of catch-all vagueness upon which to try to comply with such an invitation.

    Anyhoo, I had thought that as the only thing that isn't a direct quote or link to BBC sources was another site querying the same things I am, it was the 'culprit'. So... let's have another try:

    ------

    ps: Another seems to have cranked an eyebrow in light of: [surely not defamatory?]

    'But neither the university nor the inquiry team asked the scientist specifically if he had deleted emails that were subject to a FoI request. [merely quoting above, so must be OK?]

    [3rd party link removed as control in an experiment by poster] [now know it's not that, but just to be safe]

    [Inquisitive allusion to sight-impaired equines, as used in the following, removed by author]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT3_UCm1A5I [it's a link to a BBC satiric show. To make a light-hearted point. Can you accuse your own outfit of defamation and stay sane, and/or credible?]

    -----

    If that doesn't 'solve' things, then one can only presume you can now get modded for citing the BBC as a source. Which would indeed be... unique. [sadly, now proven]

    The experiment continues...

  • Comment number 18.

    the [still unknown?] people who leaked the emails did the world a favour and burst the bubble of this religion. People were name called as 'flat earthers' and 'climate deniers'

    The bbc was among the worst of the happy clappers in ramming this carbon marxist babble nonsense down people's throat.

    carbon trading is being used as a trojan horse by marxists to promote their hallucinations of class as the highest idea of the mind and the polices based upon those hallucinations.

  • Comment number 19.

    Susan,

    'Honest but should have been more open''

    C'mon

    You may as well say 'honest but should have been more honest'

    What is the difference between honesty and openess?

    They are either honest or they are not, being rather partial it would seem to a bit of data presentation 'tweeking' to promote a particular point of view of view in the reader.

    As far as I am concerned the headline reads 'they were dishonest'.

  • Comment number 20.

    Should one choose to believe all one hears about Climate Science it is clear that it is a marxist plot orchestrated by big business as ordered by Bildebergers.

    Climate Science is not a science in that there are simply too many variables to measure. What is very real however is the war that has broken out for the "ownership" of co2.

    This is why every political spectrum under the sun has jumped on the bandwagon and a lot of people are going to become very seriously rich,make their careers or have nice little extra earners out of this.

    Nobody wants the truth they just want to know what they can sell. It's a cash cow for both the pro and anti lobbies, the science is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 21.


    Dear Susan,

    Here is proof that some scientists are not above packing a jurying in order to promote themselves. The following is a recent official message on a well known climate change blog. I guess the joke at the end is a redeeming feature.

    "Click here to unsubscribe
    Vote for SkS in the physics.org web awards

    Skeptical Science is honoured to be included in the short list of the Institute of Physics Web Awards 2010. Each year, the Institute of Physics select 35 websites in 7 different categories, including Best Blog, Best News Site, Best Podcast, etc. Skeptical Science is listed in the President's Prize category (which seems to be the miscellaneous websites that can't be categorised elsewhere).

    Voting ends November 7 and on November 15, they announce a People's Choice plus the judge's choice. So be sure to register with physics.org (as only registered users can take part) and vote for Skeptical Science. Actually, you can vote/rate all the websites so have a look at some of the other websites - Sixty Symbols is pretty cool (what's that, I'm not supposed to mention the competition?)
    Post Comment 23 October 2010

    Click here to unsubscribe"

 

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