'Time to move on': government committee on email hack enquiries reports
- 25 Jan 2011, 16:36
- The Carbon Brief
A new metadata repository is being created at the Climatic
Research Unit at the University of East Anglia to make global
temperature statistics available to the public in the wake of the
Members of staff are now being hired to place more than 20 years
of collected data available in one place to support UEA's drive to
better respond to freedom of information requests relating to its
work on climate change.
The repository was a key recommendation following the
"Climategate" controversy and has been supported by the House of
Commons Science and Technology which today published its report,
"The Reviews into the University of East Anglia's
Climatic Research Unit's E-mails."
Professor Trevor Davies, pro vice-chancellor of UEA, was a
witness before the committee in October along with Professor Edward
Acton, the vice chancellor, and Sir Muir Russell who headed one of
Professor Davis said the university "is investing in posts to
help CRU endure that its data archive is efficient - that all of
the previous versions of data series are in a readily accessible
form so that when requests do come through for data series or for
meta data as supporting data they will be more readily accessible
Professor Acton has also confirmed that the CRU will "draw more
closely on some of our professional statisticians and we may well
be investing in further posts in this area."
The Science and Technology Committee report concluded: "The
disclosure of data from the Climatic Research Unit has been a
traumatic and challenging experience… In our view it is time to
make the changes and improvements recommended and with greater
openness and transparency move on."
The report examined the robustness of two inquiries commissioned
by the university itself into the wider implications of the content
of emails written by CRU staff over a 13 year period which were
hacked and published online in 2009: the Independent Climate Change
E-mails Review (ICCER) headed by Sir Muir Russell and Lord
Assessment Panel (SAP).
The report said the new metadata archive now under construction
at the UEA and greater transparency would prevent allegations being
made against climate scientists.
This conclusion was reached with reference to the allegation
that Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of the University of Albany had
committed "scientific fraud" in relation to the 1990 paper on urban
heat islands in China. Today's report quoted Professor Davies who
repeated that the investigation by the State University of New York
"fully investigated this allegation and that Professor Wang had
been entirely exonerated".
Climate sceptics have repeatedly cited the CRU emails as
evidence that scientists have conspired to inflate the dangers of
global warming and marginalize "non-consensus" views. However, many
of the allegations made against the CRU scientists are dismissed by
the committee report.
It found there is no truth in an allegation by the blogger
Andrew Montford that the inquiry headed by Lord Oxburgh failed to
examine peer review papers concerning multi-proxy temperature
records, concluding "there is no doubt that the papers chosen were
central to CRU's work and went to the heart of criticisms directed
The parliamentary committee noted that the ICCER found that the
evidence "did not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to
subvert the peer review process" adding: "We … are satisfied with
the detailed analysis of the allegations by the ICCER."
The latest report did criticize the earlier inquiries for
failing to fully investigate potential breaches of the freedom of
information (FOI) act and environment information regulations (EIR)
following allegations staff deleted emails. Professor Acton said
the emails had not been deleted and could still be produced.
However, the report states: "We find it unsatisfactory that we
are left with a verbal reassurance from the vice-chancellor that
the emails still exist… On the allegation that emails were deleted
to frustrate requests for information, a firm conclusion has proved
The report confirms that representatives from higher education
and the Information Commissioners Office have agreed to meet to set
new standards on which data and research should be released by
universities under the freedom of information act. It states: "The
broader confusion about how FoI legislation should be applied to
scientific research must be resolved."
The science and technology committee criticised the fact the SAP
panel narrowed the terms of its inquiry and was unable to
reconstruct some of the scientific work of the CRU. It also said
working papers should be published and expressed a preference for
oral evidence to be held in public.