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Head of climate-gate inquiry defends independence

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.


  1. Report this comment

    Stephen Prower said:

    [Comment upon above thread also cross-posted from ’The Great Beyond]

    Head of climate-gate inquiry defends independence –

    February 11, 2010

    You mention the five British investigations of the Climategate

    E-mails, but don’t mention the UN Intergovernmental Panel on

    Climate Change’s investigation.

    The investigation was announced by Dr Rajendra Pachauri,

    chairman of the IPCC, on 4 December 2009:

    denied by him on 8 December 2009:

    and more recently passed over in silence by him on

    29 January 2010:

    [Ie when listing investigations to an interviewer he

    only listed an ’investigation at the behest of the British

    government’—Presumably the House of Commons Science Technology

    Select Committee’s Inquiry—, and the University of East Anglia’s

    independent investigation].

    The investigation is presumably now finally abandoned.

    Stephen Prower


    Thursday 11 February 2010

  2. Report this comment

    Stephen Prower said:

    Head of climate-gate inquiry defends independence –

    February 11, 2010

    Update to my posting dated 11 February 2010

    Dr Rajendra Pachauri has apparently confusingly changed

    position again.

    As reported by the Times of India on 21 February 2010,

    Dr Pachauri replied as annexed to a question by interviewer

    Nitin Sethi.

    Ie Dr Pachauri now says that he or the IPCC did conduct a

    ‘pretty thorough internal check’ or ‘fairly detailed enquiry’

    into whether there was tampering with or modification of the

    CRU temperature data

    Dr Pachauri or the IPCC found that: ’nothing [in the way of

    “tampering or modification to the data used to make the

    temperature hockey stick"] was really done’.

    So call it ‘investigation’, ‘check’ or ‘enquiry’, the

    investigation that Dr Pachauri promised on 4 December 2009;

    denied on 8 December 2009; and failed to mention

    on 29 January 2010 did according to what he now about

    21 February 2010 says take place.

    Stephen Prower


    Thursday 26 February 2010

    Document location:

    Document title: ‘Value PM’s support the most’ – India

    – The Times of India

    ‘’Value PM’s support the most’

    Nitin Sethi, TNN, Feb 21, 2010, 01.30am IST

    In the Unviesrity [sic] of East Anglia case are you and IPCC

    sure that there has been no tampering or modification to the

    data used to make the temperature hocky [sic] stick?

    We did a pretty thorough internal check and we have not found

    any evidence of that. But we shall wait for the report of the

    University of East Anglia. We shall await that report which is

    due in April I think. And that is a detailed enquiry and how

    these things came about and whether the things mentioned in the

    email were carried out by the scientists. What we have done is

    fairly detailed enquiry and found nothing was really done.



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