Cross-posted from Daniel Cressey on The Great Beyond
The team reviewing allegations of poor scientific practice at the University of East Anglia set out its stall today, and immediately faced questions about its own independence.
The review was triggered by emails purloined from the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), which trigged the so-called climate-gate brouhaha.
Review head Muir Russell staunchly defended the independent nature of the review when questioned about the fact that it is funded by the university itself. Russell, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, also faced questions about the inclusion of Nature’s editor in chief Philip Campbell on the review team, as some of the questions to be answered concern research and researchers published in the journal.
“We are completely independent,” Russell told reporters. “We’re free to reach any conclusions that we wish. We are free to follow questions wherever they take us.”
Campbell added that he would be happy to excuse himself from any discussions that concern Nature. “Either you accept that the process is being as open as it can be, or you accuse us of covering up,” he added.
Russell’s ‘Independent Climate Change Email Review’ is now one of five separate inquiries into the climate-gate emails.
The Russell inquiry was commissioned by the university and specifically concerns allegations that the emails show poor scientific practice at CRU, the suppression of data, and non-compliance with the UK’s laws on Freedom of Information.
A separate review – also commissioned by UEA and to be assisted by the Royal Society – is looking at the broader issue of the assessment of the CRU’s scientific work. Separately, Parliament’s cross-party science and technology committee has announced its own CRU inquiry. Also ongoing is a police investigation into the original email theft.
Finally an inquiry by the Information Commission was established to address possible breaches of the Freedom of Information Act. Last month the Information Commissioner’s Office announced that requests “were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation” but too much time had passed for any charges to be considered.
Russell’s review today announced the key questions it thinks should be addressed. These include questions about the use of climate data from tree rings and whether proxy temperature data and instrumental data have been improperly combined.
The latter allegation centres on the now notorious email from Philip Jones, the CRU head, who wrote, “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series … to hide the decline.”
Full disclosure: Daniel Cressey is an employee of Nature and is ultimately answerable to Philip Campbell.