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Well, the latest report from inquiries into the “climategate” affair confirm that the scientific conclusions of climate scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), University of East Anglia stand on “solid ground.”

The report is clear – relatively short and well worth reading. (Download Report of the International Panel set up by the University of East Anglia to
examine the research of the Climatic Research Unit
).
Here are the conclusions:

  1. ” We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
  2. We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians. Indeed there would be mutual benefit if there were closer collaboration and interaction between CRU and a much wider scientific group outside the relatively small international circle of temperature specialists.
  3. It was not the immediate concern of the Panel, but we observed that there were important and unresolved questions that related to the availability of environmental data sets. It was pointed out that since UK government adopted a policy that resulted in charging for access to data sets collected by government agencies, other countries have followed suit impeding the flow of processed and raw data to and between researchers. This is  unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government.
  4. A host of important unresolved questions also arises from the application of Freedom of Information legislation in an academic context. We agree with the CRU view that the authority for releasing unpublished raw data to third parties should stay with those who collected it.”

On the CRU’s tree-ring work the report says:

“we are satisfied that the CRU tree-ring work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation and unjustified selection of data are not valid.”

And on the criticisms made of the CRU:

“From our perspective it seems that the CRU sins were of omission rather than commission. Although we deplore the tone of much of the criticism that has been directed at CRU, we believe that this questioning of the methods and data used in dendroclimatology will ultimately have a beneficial effect and improve working practices”

Points for action

Reviews like this can be very useful for science groups. After all, cases of scientific fraud are very rare but there are always procedures and habits that can be exposed and therefore corerected. After all, scientists are human, aren’t they.

In this case archival and record keeping procedures may have been understandably rather informal and this has probably been largely attended to. The comment on use of professional statisticians is, I think, worthwhile. In my career I was lucky to have statisticians on hand and always found their uinput valuable. But I often reviewed papers where authors handled statistical analyses themselves and sometimes the papers suffered for it.

The UEA, in their response to the panels criticisms, welcomed the report and undertook to consider how they could improve the use of professional statisticians. This could well involve some financial investment and should be welcomed by CRU staff.

Two other inquiries, by British members of parliament and Pennsylvania State University, have also cleared the scientists of misconduct. Two further inquiries, one led by former British civil servant Muir Russell and the other conducted by British police, are still under way.

The Russell inquiry (reports next month) is basically into issues around how the UEA carried out their responsibilities under freedom of information (FoI) legislation.  I suspect their report will be the most critical of  the CRU and UEA. It may even recommend, or result in, disciplinary actions. Hopefully though it’s recommendations will enable development of policies to improve compliance and even make a step towards demanding some responsibility on the part of those making FoI applications.

The police inquiry is ongoing. I really hope this one has a success. If they do this could be even more damning for denier organisaytions and could well lead to legal actions.

So – as any objective observer would have already concluded, the scientific integrity of climate scientists remains intact. There may yet be findings indicating inappropriate atitusded towards FoI requests. BGut there is still the criminal activity behind the hacking and release of the climategate emails.

I think that the real story lies there. And if it is finally exposed it could be big.

See also:
CRU cleared of scientific malpractice — so much for ’climategate’
Jones cleared of charges of scientific malpractice: there goes deniers claims of fraud
Scientists cleared of malpractice in UEA’s hacked emails inquiry | Environment | guardian.co.uk.
Lord Oxburgh panel clears CRU of malpractice but calls for better data practices
Climategate’ inquiry clears scientists of malpractice
Panel rules out malpractice by climate scientists
Lord Oxburgh Inquiry Clears UEA Scientists of Malpractice
Response by the University of East Anglia to the Report by Lord Oxburgh’s Science Assessment Panel
Climategate: Officially a Fake Scandal
Climategate scientists chastised over statistics
Experts respond: Climate researchers were ’dedicated if slightly disorganised’

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