Independent Inquiry Into Climate Emails — News

Here’s a bit of a news roundup concerning the Independent Review.

According to an article in The Guardian, the ICCER will not “audit” the scienific conclusions of the CRU scientists and their work. It will instead focus on issues relating to the alleged abuses of power made against them based on the CRU emails.

Here’s an excerpt:

The inquiry set up by the University of East Anglia into thousands of emails from its climate scientists published online will ignore the question of whether or not global warming is caused by human activity, the chair of the inquiry team said today.

Sir Muir Russell said it was not the review panel’s job to “audit the Climate Research Unit’s [CRU] scientific conclusions”. Instead the inquiry, which will report in the spring, would limit itself to questions about how the scientists behaved, and whether they properly followed procedures.

Russell said the inquiry would focus on specific issues raised by the emails, such as the way a distinctive “hockey stick” graph of historical temperatures was prepared, and suggestions that CRU scientists had abused the peer review system to keep sceptical papers from academic journals. It would also look at the high profile statement that climate scientists used a “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures inferred from tree ring data.

Here’s some news about the Inquiry: Apparently inquiry member Philip Campbell has resigned from the inquiry.

Within hours of the launch of an independent panel to investigate claims that climate scientists covered up flawed data on temperature rises, one member has been forced to resign after sceptics questioned his impartiality.

The article quotes Steve McIntyre:

“Who is actually carrying out this review?” leading climate sceptic Steve McIntyre toldChannel 4 News.

“I think you need to have some truly independent statisticians or even people who are from unrelated fields.”

“Some of the habits in the field are quite deeply rooted, and people have lost perspective on the type of assumptions and statistical bodges that are being done in this particular field,” he said.

Here’s a post on Nature blog, The Great Beyond titled “Head of Climate-gate inquiry defends independence”

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.

Here’s CA’s The Team That Can’t Shoot Straight:

Minutes after the Team announced its members, with Team captain Muir Russell emphasizing their impartiality, a commenter at Bishop Hill posted up an interview between Team member Philip Campbell, editor of Nature, in which he told Chinese radio that there was nothing to see here and people should just move along.

Campbell immediately resigned. Channel Four has video and commentary. BBC

Update: Nature blog reports that the Team defended their “independence”, even though Philip Campbell’s presence on the Team was already in question. I guess Nature didn’t get the memo yet.

Here’s Bishop Hill:

Channel Four news here in the UK has just reported the Philip Campbell has stepped down from Sir Muir Russell’s review because of the statements to Chinese radio that were reported here. This was undoubtedly the correct thing for him to do.

There was some discussion on the Channel Four report of sceptics seeing his departure as “taking a scalp” – I don’t see this as being the case. The panel needs to be unbiased, without predetermined positions on the issue of climate change or climate science – these are, in essence, Sir Muir’s words. Campbell clearly didn’t meet this requirement and his resignation therefore became inevitable.

A replacement will obviously have to be found, and I am going to make some suggestions to Sir Muir as to where such a person might be found. In the meantime we still have the issue of Geoffrey Boulton, the ex-UEA man who has spoken out strongly in the past in favour of the global warming position. Although he’s not as wildly inappropriate as Philip Campbell his position on the panel still makes it look somewhat unbalanced. I would suggest that either he needs to go too or he needs to be balanced with somebody of sceptical views.

Here’s the Financial Times:

UEA said it would reassess the scientific output of the unit – one of the world’s leading climate centres – with the assistance of the Royal Society, Britain’s national science academy.

Sir Muir Russell, the inquiry chairman, who recently retired as vice-chancellor of Glasgow University, will also investigate the way the unit handled data, including allegations UEA scientists manipulated and suppressed evidence.

Bringing in the expertise of the Royal Societyis seen as an authoritative way in which to judge whether the unit’s research was reliable. The society will identify scientists who can carry out an independent assessment.

I’ll post more responses and commentary from blogs and media as I find them.

Here is a link to the website outlining the Independent Climate Change Email Review.

Here are the terms of reference.

The review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at the Climate Research Unit to determine whether there is any evidence of manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review the Climate Research Unit’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review the Climate Research Unit’s compliance or otherwise with the University of East Anglia’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for the Climate Research Unit and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

Here is a link to the review panel’s biographies:

Here is a link to the workplan:

The remit of the review is as follows:

  1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at the Climate Research Unit to determine whether there is any evidence of manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.
  2. Review the Climate Research Unit’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.
  3. Review the Climate Research Unit’s compliance or otherwise with the University of East Anglia’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.
  4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for the Climate Research Unit and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

Approach
The remit requires the Review to address the specific allegations about the way in which CRU has handled its data, reflecting comments in the e-mail exchanges that have been made public.

To do this, it will seek written submissions from CRU and other appropriate parts of UEA.  It will also invite interested parties to comment on what the Issues paper covers, and to propose any further matters that clearly fall within the Remit and should also be examined.
The Team wishes to focus on the honesty, rigour and openness with which CRU handled its data.  It wishes to gain a proper understanding of:

  • The range of data involved, and how it has been indexed and archived.
  • The procedures, processes and relevant protocols used to handle the data, recognizing that these may have changed over time as data-handling capacity has developed.
  • The associated metadata, algorithms and codes used for analysis.
  • The extent to which other independent analysis produces the same conclusions.
  • The peer review process, examining how much was in common between the work of the reviewers and the reviewed.

The Review’s remit does not invite it to re-do the scientific work of CRU.  An audit or assessment of that type would be a different exercise, requiring different skills and resources. However, the Review’s conclusions will be useful to any such audit by pointing to any steps that need to be taken in relation to data, its availability and its handling.

In making its analysis and conclusions, the Team will test the relevant work against pertinent standards at the time it was done, recognizing that such standards will have changed.   It will also test them against current best practice, particularly statements of the ethics and norms such as those produced by the UK Government Office for Science and by the US National Academy of Sciences.  These identify principles relating to rigour, respect and responsibility in scientific ethics and to integrity, accessibility and stewardship in relation to research data. This overall approach will allow the Team to establish a conceptual framework within which it can make judgements and comment about key issues such as the level of uncertainty inherent in all science, and the particular confidence limits associated with the CRU work.

Transparency
The Team will operate as openly and transparently as possible.  It is establishing a website which will eventually display all of the submissions received, correspondence, analyses and conclusions.  The aim will be to publish all received submissions quickly, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons to delay, for example legal issues.

Issues
The Review team have set out the specific allegations it intends to investigate in the Issues for Examination Document:

Here is a link to the Issues for Examination Document:

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6 Responses to “Independent Inquiry Into Climate Emails — News”

  1. Ironic that McIntyre (top witch hunter) is calling for “independence” in this endeavor.

    DeepClimate has a good breakdown of McIntyre’s dubious ascent and the notorious Wegman Report.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/02/08/steve-mcintyre-and-ross-mckitrick-part-2-barton-wegman/

  2. MarkB,

    Notorious Wegman Report? Get real. I read DC’s criticisms of the Wegman and there was nothing there. Even Gerry North testified that the NAS panel agreed with the Wegman Report. It is part of the Congressional Record. Look it up. Criticism of Wegman is ridiculous grasping at straws. It shows real desperation. Wegman is past chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.

    • Wegman was carefully chosen by Barton, plagiarized material, and distored the work of serious scientists. His report wasn’t independently peer-reviewed, and is not taken seriously beyond political circles.

      The NAS panel largely confirmed the original reconstruction, as you know.

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7097/full/4411032a.html

      The key contention (a soft one) was the level of confidence to apply to periods beyond 400 years. In this, they used the word “plausible”, defined as:

      ““Our working definition of ‘plausible’ was that the assertion is reasonable, or in other words there is not a convincing argument to refute the assertion. We used this term to describe our assessment of the statement that ‘the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period over the last millennium’ because none of the available evidence to date contradicts this assertion. In our view it is not currently possible to perform a quantitative evaluation of recent warmth relative to the past 1,000 years that includes all of the inherent uncertainties associated with reconstructing surface temperatures from proxy data. This precludes stronger statements of confidence, but it does not mean that the assertion is false. In fact, all of the large-scale surface temperature reconstructions that we examined support the assertion that global-mean temperatures during the last few decades of the 20th century were unprecedented over at least the past 1,000 years, and a larger fraction of geographically diverse proxy records experienced exceptional warmth during
      the late 20th century than during any other extended period from 900 A.D. onward.”

      Quotes from Gerald North:

      “I was also somewhat taken aback by the tone of the Wegman Report, which seems overly accusatory towards Dr. Mann and his colleagues, rather than being a neutral, impartial assessment of the techniques used in his research. In my opinion, while the techniques used in the original Mann et al papers may have been slightly flawed, the work was the first of its kind and deserves considerable credit for moving the field of paleoclimate research forward. It is also important to note that the main conclusions of the Mann et al studies have been supported by subsequent research.”

      Gerald North on McIntyre:

      “But I am not sure he [McIntyre] has ever uncovered anything that has turned out to be significant.”

      Agreed.

      Mann and colleagues have published a recent study, that reduces uncertainty bars, extends confidence back further, uses multiple proxy types, and begins to piece together the southern hemisphere. It was published in an NAS journal.

      http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/mann2008/mann2008.html

      Science moves on. You should to.

      • Great post. North saw how non-objective the Wegman panel was — it was a joke compared to the NAS panel. No expert peer review, and the smearing of Mann was ridiculous, if canny.

        Wegman was nothing more than a political ploty, lightweight, that plays to the choir. How anyone in good conscience can support it after DC’s revelations is beyond understanding, except of course, those with an obvious agenda…

        • Susann,
          I realize this blog is just a political exercise for you, but you still need to get the facts straight.

          CHAIRMAN BARTON. I understand that. It looks like my time is expired, so I want to ask one more question. Dr. North, do you dispute the conclusions or the methodology of Dr. Wegman’s report?
          DR. NORTH. No, we don’t. We don’t disagree with their criticism. In fact, pretty much the same thing is said in our report. But again, just because the claims are made, doesn’t mean they are false.

          http://climateaudit.org/2007/11/06/the-wegman-and-north-reports-for-newbies/

  3. I agree with McIntyre that the panel should have a statistician on it. It seems more than a slight oversight, it looks intentional.

    If Muir Russell wants a good panel, he should replace Philip Campbell with the editor of a statistical journal – someone who knows both the peer-review process and statistics.

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