Climatic Research Unit scientists cleared (again)

Another day, another exoneration for climate scientists.  Here’s the Guardian‘s headline on the findings of the inquiry panel, which was led by Lord Oxburgh, the former chair of the House of Lords science and technology select committee:

Scientists cleared of malpractice in UEA’s hacked emails inquiry

Researchers ‘dedicated if slightly disorganised’, but basic science was fair, finds inquiry commissioned by university

Scientists who are “slightly disorganised”?  Off with their heads!  (see “Sen. Inhofe inquisition seeking ways to criminalize and prosecute 17 leading climate scientists“)

Last month, the House of Commons exonerated Phil Jones:  Based on their inquiry and evidence, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact. We have found no reason … to challenge the scientific consensus … that ‘global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity’.”

This is a busy day for me, so I’ll just repost BigCityLib on the latest exoneration:

Story about Lord Oxburgh’s inquiry into CRU practices here. Some excerpts:

The scientists at the centre of the row over the hacked climate emails have been cleared of any deliberate malpractice by the second of three inquiries into their conduct.

The report concluded: “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.”

… The panel was not tasked specifically with looking at the way CRU handled access to its data and Freedom of Information requests from members of the public but it commented that there were “a host of important unresolved questions” arising from the application of FoI to academic research. “We agree with the CRU view that the authority for releasing unpublished raw data to third parties should stay with those who collected it,” the report said. It did criticised the government’s policy of charging for access to data. “This is unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government.”

So, this puts Oxburgh’s panel at odds with the Parliamentary Inquiry, which seems to want the data handed out willy-nilly. Furthermore, a number of climate scientists have noted and expanded upon the issue raised in this last couple of (bolded) sentences, including James Annan:

Let me introduce you to the NERC policy on Intellectual Property. Short version: “Who owns the intellectual property? We do.” The UK Ministry of Defence (who run UK Met Office and therefore the Hadley Centre) is orders of magnitude worse in its defensive and bean-counting approach to the supply of, well, just about anything that they have and anyone else wants. The bottom line is (or certainly was, when I worked there) that NERC employees are under pressure to sell anything that can be sold. And if someone asks for something, that means it must surely be worth something, right? Of course this is an attitude that the scientists – who know that they can’t really get any significant price for their work – have always implacably opposed, but we don’t really count for much when the politicians are demanding budget cuts and percentage returns on investment.

There were some complaints about CRU’s statistical practices:

The panel did raise doubts about the statistical input into scientific papers authored by researchers at CRU. “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,” it concluded.

…which the University of East Anglia responds to as follows:

The Report points out where things might have been done better. One is to engage more with professional statisticians in the analysis of data. Another, related, point is that more efficacious statistical techniques might have been employed in some instances (although it was pointed out that different methods may not have produced different results). Specialists in many areas of research acquire and develop the statistical skills pertinent to their own particular data analysis requirements. However, we do see the sense in engaging more fully with the wider statistics community to ensure that the most effective and up-to-date statistical techniques are adopted and will now consider further how best to achieve this.

But otherwise, a clean bill of health….  [T]he usual suspects … are, at this very moment (taking into account the Penn State investigation of Mann), batting 0-for-3.

The entire report can be read here.

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23 Responses to Climatic Research Unit scientists cleared (again)

  1. Heraclitus says:

    Great news (again).

    Once again though the BBC focus, on the lunchtime radio news at least, was on any tiny element of criticism in the panel’s findings. Why aren’t they questioning those ‘sceptics’ who leapt to unjustifiable conclusions and milked these for all, and far more than, they were worth?

    And again, as I write this the 2 o’clock summary reports ONLY on the minor criticisms, and they really are minor.

    I hope the media take stock and respond to this appropriately in time – my expectations aren’t high.

  2. dhogaza says:

    Scientists who are “slightly disorganised”? Off with their heads!

    To be fair, the report points out that small research groups like CRU typically have informal internal procedures, so their comment about them being “slightly disorganized” isn’t put forth as a criticism, but rather as being typical of small research groups lacking the bureaucracy typically associated with large-scale efforts.

    People like McIntyre have tried to paint things as though there’s a massive bureaucratic conspiracy underway. The report is saying naw, CRU is just a small group (three principal researchers and grad students and support staff, IIRC) and like all such small groups, work informally, and this leads them to appear to be slightly disorganized (by bureaucratic standards). The reality is that they don’t have the staff, support structure, etc that would be necessary to react with the so-called “professionalism” the likes of McIntyre demand.

    (and the report says the group was “ill-prepared” to deal with such demands, again, implying that the small, informal, unbureaucratic nature of the group is the reason why).

    Not surprising given that the panel consists of real scientists who undoubtably work similarly in their own institutions.

  3. dhogaza says:

    Also …

    The panel did raise doubts about the statistical input into scientific papers authored by researchers at CRU. “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,” it concluded.

    I think the panel just gave the CRU a great argument for improved funding, as I imagine lack of funding has a lot to do with why Jones et al roll their own stats rather than bring in a professional statistician as a collaborator.

    Anyone who’s dealt with folks in the UK know such things tend to be done on a shoestring there. Perhaps this report will help highlight just how impressive the work of CRU has been, given their extremely limited funding and small size.

  4. wag says:

    The problem with the Guardian headline is that it actually makes it seem like there was wrongdoing going on. When your eye sees “Climate scientists cleared of malpractice,” you mentally associate “climate scientists” and “malpractice.” It’s sort of like saying “don’t think of an elephant”: when a headline says that climate scientists have been cleared of crimes, the mental image it brings up is, ironically one of climate scientists committing crimes.

  5. John says:

    Great news, although the deniers won’t be happy until all climate scientists are tarred and feathered in the town square.

    I vivdly remember one blog commenter demanding Jones be imprisoned in the Tower Of London.

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    I’m sure that the paid climate change denier astroturf propaganda network will be able to heavily weight the small amount of criticism in the report, to make it sound as negative as possible.

    It’s their job.

    And they are good at it.

  7. Wit's End says:

    I just heard a BBC report on WNYC, which said that the panel claims that Mann’s hockey stick exaggerates the rise in temperatures – and then they interviewed a skeptic who claimed the panel was ignoring substantive criticisms. The overall impression is that the panel wasn’t doing their job and that the IPCC was distorting the science. It was surreal.

  8. Steve H says:

    In a more perfect world, PhD’s would be getting instruction in ISO methods. Preferably they’d get this after their formal instruction on communication skills.

  9. DavidCOG says:

    No surprise to any of us who are capable of separating sensationalist MSM bullshit from credible analysis, such as Joe’s.

    I wonder if *this* will be enough for Monbiot to retract and apologise for his calls for Professor Jones’ head?

  10. Doug Bostrom says:

    “Slightly disorganized…”

    I love that. My dad was a research geophysicist and while he could tell you all about tidal influences on convection in the mantle, he was also known for leaving his car running unattended all day at the bus stop parking lot as well as walking around all day with his shirt collar unbuttoned, turned up, waiting for the tie that was never put on.

    The term “absent minded professor” is one of those rare stereotypes that really works.

  11. Seth Masia says:

    My dad was a professor and statistician. The first time he tried to run a snowblower it burst into flame.

  12. ecrte says:

    Don’t forget that this is not about the leaked emails! This is about the published research. The posting rather seems to miss out this important point.

  13. Dana says:

    Considering how much coverage ‘Climategate’ got in the mainstream media, it would be nice if these exonerations which essentially debunk ‘Climategate’ got a lot of press coverage as well. But I’m not holding my breath. Conspiracy theories get a lot better ratings than conspiracy theory debunkings.

  14. Jeff Gazzard says:

    Another nail in the deniers coffin(s) although an additional series of garlic-encrusted stakes through their collective ignorant hearts still wouldn’t silence their febrile rantings!

    Meantime, whilst waiting for Buffy, here’s a really good quote from the UK Daily Telegraph’s current online reporting of this great news:

    “Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, called for an apology from the sceptics.

    “I think those so-called sceptics who have attempted to undermine the credibility of climate change science on the basis of the hacked emails now need to apologise for misleading the public about their significance.”

    Hear hear – but they won’t. Anybody have Buffy’s office number?

    Jeff Gazzard

  15. Chris Winter says:

    Three principal researchers, plus some grad students and support staff. This is CRU.

    Apparently, that small group commands all the resources necessary to fabricate a comprehensive deception that, for a time, hoodwinked the entire world. For, if the Denialists are to be believed, it was internal CRU e-mails which, when stolen and published, revealed pervasive invention of bogus data to suit a preconceived notion, along with massive suppression of contradictory claims.

    I’m not discounting the fact that the CRU scientists have been exonerated by both the House of Lords and now by Lord Oxburgh’s panel. The point I want to make (again) is that if such a small group can accomplish so much, where is the small group of Denialists who can prove that climate change is the hoax they so steadfastly claim it is?

  16. Doug Bostrom says:

    ecrte says: April 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Don’t forget that this is not about the leaked emails!

    Actually the entire pointless exercise was inspired by the pilfered and illegally distributed emails.

    How can anybody be so divorced from reality?

    But in any case I think what you meant to say was “Don’t forget the spin the PR flacks would like you to believe!”

  17. another joe says:

    Chris: Maybe I’m misinterpeting your post, but I think its important to remember that the work of CRU represents one of thousands of lines of evidence that contribute to our understanding of AGW (others would include ocean heat content, satellite temperature data, C02 concentrations, sea levels, glaciers, etc.). They are also not the sole distributor of global temperature records. In fact, Jeff Id, to his credit, recently put his own global mean temperature analyses up on the Air Vent – his methods showed an even greater temperature trend than CRU…

    To prove that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, Denialists are going to need to refute basic physics, and that ain’t gonna happen.

  18. mike roddy says:

    Don’t worry, the intrepid bloggers at Climate Audit and Wattsupwiththat are on the case. For McIntyre, the Oxburgh Report is a “Trick to Hide the Trick”, and for Watts, it gets a “Failing Grade”.

    These are not emotionally balanced men that we are dealing with, and the commenters are worse. Essentially, their scientific approach consists of taking graphs produced by major scientific research organizations and turning them upside down. In the case of Watts, when he once admitted to warmer oceans, a discussion ensued as to whether this was caused by currents or winds.

    These guys are all the same, really. If Monckton turned into a 90 year old man ranting atop a cardboard box in Hyde Park, with salt water lapping at the edges, he would claim that it is getting cooler.

    It’s not completely their fault. They have been given a financial opportunity and exploited it. It’s as if escapees from mental institutions were miraculously granted a way to make a living. It’s the fault of the media for taking notes while they talk, and for keeping a straight face.

  19. caerbannog says:

    This excerpt from,0,4480601.story pretty much sums it up:

    “The fact is we found them absolutely squeaky clean,” the head of the panel, Ron Oxburgh, a geologist and former government advisor, told the BBC. He added that some of the criticism by skeptics, who pointed to the hacked e-mails as proof of a massive scientific cover-up, was “just plain nasty and ill-informed.”

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    “The fact is we found them absolutely squeaky clean,” the head of the panel, Ron Oxburgh, a geologist and former government advisor, told the BBC.

    Suspiciously clean, and no wonder because all the original CRU scientists were abducted by Greys, found to be suppressives and by judicious application of auditing rehabilitated and returned to society.

    At least that’s what we’re going with, failing having anything else to work with. Greywashing is the new whitewash.

  21. Chris Winter says:

    Another Joe wrote “Chris: Maybe I’m misinterpreting your post…”

    Yes, you are. But I see I might have been more direct in writing it. I was coming at it from the Denialist POV, which is that the efforts of that small group at CRU, once (allegedly) debunked by the contents of their internal e-mails, brought down the whole edifice of climate-change research.

    So then, if a small group could (as the Denialists claim) hoodwink the world with a false theory, the “climate change skeptics” should have no trouble putting together a group that convincingly demonstrates that theory is false. They claim to have the facts on their side.

    Yet they haven’t managed that demonstration, because the facts aren’t on their side.

  22. The Wonderer says:

    Unfortunately another lame article today from WaPo. This time it took two reporters to form their 300 word “he said she said” report in the A section on the 2nd exoneration of CRU. Apparently, they needed the extra reporter to walk over to CEI to meet some joker over lunch and get a couple of paragraphs on the “other side.” Pathetic. The only good news is that I think WaPo can fire one more reporter and have absolutely no degredation in quality of their reporting.

  23. ecrte says:

    Doug Bostrom says:
    April 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    “Actually the entire pointless exercise was inspired by the pilfered and illegally distributed emails.

    How can anybody be so divorced from reality?”

    Well, Oxburgh said that their remit was *not* to look into the emails. Try to get your facts straight. As I said, the report was looking into the way CRC carried out their science.