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« Pincer attack? | Main | Weather is climate »
Friday
Jan222010

+++UK parliament to investigate Climategate+++

The Science and Technology Committee of the British parliament has announced that it is to investigate the Climategate affair:

The Science and Technology Committee today announces an inquiry into the unauthorised publication of data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The Committee has agreed to examine and invite written submissions on three questions:

  • What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
  • Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?
  • How independent are the other two international data sets?

The Committee intends to hold an oral evidence session in March 2010.

Background

On 1 December 2009 Phil Willis, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, wrote to Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of UEA following the considerable press coverage of the data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The coverage alleged that data may have been manipulated or deleted in order to produce evidence on global warming. On 3 December the UEA announced an Independent Review into the allegations to be headed by Sir Muir Russell.

The Independent Review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the 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 CRU'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 CRU's compliance or otherwise with the University'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 CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds .

Submissions

The Committee invites written submissions from interested parties on the three questions set out above by noon on Wednesday 10 February:

Each submission should:

a)be no more than 3,000 words in length
b)be in Word format (no later than 2003) with as little use of colour or logos as possible
c)have numbered paragraphs
d)include a declaration of interests.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to scitechcom@parliament.uk and marked "Climatic Research Unit". An additional paper copy should be sent to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at: www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm

Please also note that:

—Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.

—Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.

—Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

—Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

The full press announcement is here.

This is very exciting. This kind of intense scrutiny will be very uncomfortable for the scientists involved and should help to ensure that Muir Russell's independent review of the CRU scandal is not a whitewash.

 

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Reader Comments (22)

Send them a couple free copies of yer book, yer Grace.

Jan 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

That's a very positive development, certainly keeps the spotlight on the matter. The committee seems to be much more switched on to the real issues, rather than the 'process' that the Muir Russell enquiry is looking at.

Jan 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Unfortunately, the forthcoming general election is likely to disrupt this. Quite likely, parliament will be dissolved after the select committee hears the evidence, but before they come to an official conclusion.

Jan 22, 2010 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Is a whitewash not the most likely outcome?

Jan 22, 2010 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenS

How do you know that the Science and Technology Committee will be objective and not be muscled by some external organisations? I'm not familiar British investgative bodies.
You do seem awfully upbeat about it, and so I'll rely on your optimism in them getting to the botton of this criminal activity.

Jan 22, 2010 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterP Gosselin

That's a possibility I guess, but the hearings and evidence should be public so it will be much harder to sweep things under the carpet.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:07 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

It's very unlikely the committee will decide that AGW is a crock and that Al Gore and Phil Jones should be dumped in their beloved arctic with polar bears to keep them warm.

However anything that encourages people to think for themselves and question the "experts" is a good thing.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Words of the week:

1. The "Murray Gell-Mann effect" (Coined by Michael Crichton)

the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

This is happening big style in the whole AGW farrago - people just assuming that the other parts of the whole thing are kosher and the problems are just in their own section.

2. Climate Fatigue

This is where Joe Public has had a gutful of scare stories and nagging and instinctively feels that the opposite must be true. (See also Shami Chakrabati)

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I think, in general, if you want to see some independent thinking the select committees are the place for it. In the past there have been some notable independent thinkers come to the fore, such as Gwyneth Dunwoody on Transport, who took no prisoners, much to the embarrassment of some ill prepared ministers. A quick look at the list of members:(http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/science_technology/science_technology_members.cfm)
and their voting record: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/ (click on each MP for the voting record) shows that the committee is fairly well split in terms of votes for and against the recent Climate Change Bills. There's no telling what particular aspects of the Bills appealed/annoyed them obviously. Their speeches may give a better indication. The timing of the election will be important, as Robert notes above. Seems to me it's a very good thing for them to pick it up, particularly the check on the terms of reference of the Muir Russell enquiry.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

H/T to a commenter for the Gell Mann link.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Also this inquiry could bring David Cameron to his senses ?

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Something that I have not seen anyone commenting on concerning the Climategate affair is the observation that Mr/Ms FOIA (call them F) whether whistleblower or hacker had access to all the emails and presumably all the attachments to those emails.

However they then chose to only distribute a "random selection" of the content. What we dont know is the reason for that limited distribution. Were they constrained for some reason from physically copying all the content or did they get the lot and what they made available was what they were able to read iand check n the 3 to 4 days leading up to the 17th November.

We dont know and unless the Police have got a good idea or can apprehend F then the possibility that F may subsequently release a further batch will be leading to a considerable exercising of minds amongst those who form the enquiry as well as the scientists involved.

Personally I dont buy the preparation of a file for FOIA theory that has been doing the rounds. It is an unnecessary complication not supported by the declared facts. What we probably have is a direct extraction of content from a departmental backup server and the enquiry team will need to review the full content of that server. If they try to whitewash content that subsequently comes to light then the members of the enquiry will be wide open.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

The basic scientific observations of AGW underpin such a financially huge and ramified power structure that the vested interests can not possibly allow daylight in upon UEA CRU and fellow travelers. My money is on a complete whitewash without a significant role for independent scientists from numerate disciplines.
May I plug John Etherington's 'The Wind Farm Scam'? - its a real eye opener on the economic and environmental damage being done thanks to organisations such as CRU.

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan

Membership of the committee is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_Technology_Select_Committee#Membership

There are 14 total: LAB 8, CON 3, LIBDEM 2, INDEPENDENT1

Of course it is not unknown for Select Committee inquiries to come up with some very uncomfortable findings.

I think that the danger here is that the warmists are in a position, and have the resources, to swamp the committee with very persuasive submissions, and we poor sceptics are not.

Jan 22, 2010 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

This Climategate inquiry might be an unexpected benefit of Expensesgate. The head of the committee holding the inquiry was a particularly dastardly expenses-fiddler and is standing down at the next election, so he has nothing to lose and, perhaps, something to prove.

With so many other MPs stepping down, perhaps we'll see a surge in good governance in the next few months. Honestygate? [That's enough -gates -- Ed.] That would be nice.

Jan 22, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterVinny Burgoo

How about sending the Bishop's book to each member of the committee?
I'm sure it will tip the scales the right way.

Jan 22, 2010 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Yer Grace:

It would appear that you qualify as an "interested party", and certainly have bith the background and literary skill to make a cgent and compelling submission. Your country needs you.

Jan 22, 2010 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

I hope that all international contacts that have contributed original articles to the AGW debate on the blogosphere realise that they should provide their evidence for the committee. They will need to see the evidence of the Darwin and New Zealand temperature anomolies amongst many.

Jan 23, 2010 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord BeaverBrook

We need to make sure that the committee is not flooded with half-cocked submissions from unqualified commenters.

Jan 23, 2010 at 11:16 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

You and I presume others of knowledge obviously have this under control. I await with eager anticipation for the outcome. Hopefully we will have some tv time on the parliament channel.

Jan 23, 2010 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord BeaverBrook

"We need to make sure that the committee is not flooded with half-cocked submissions from unqualified commenters."

Yes, Yer Grace, there's the rub, innit? I've been thinking about sending a submission as I am, after all, smarter than the average bear, but in truth there are quite a few others with more detailed knowledge and who have actually had dealings with CRU or examined their work in detail that could present a more accurate and compelling submission. I'm not sure the committee would appreciate wading through numerous third-hand submissions of the same thing. For that reason, I will NOT be making a submission.

Skeptics need to exercise some restraint on the impulse to gather the torches and pitch-forks. We need to encourage those who DO have the relevant expertise to step forward and make themselves heard. Keep in mind that there are a lot of closet skeptics out there who have remained silent for a lot of reasons. It is time for them to come out and speak out... there is time to save science, but the public will recognize a white-wash and cowardice and it WILL be torch and pitch-fork time then.

Jan 23, 2010 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

"We need to make sure that the committee is not flooded with half-cocked submissions from unqualified commenters."

However, in some senses, this inquiry should be seen as a response to the public petition and as such the petitioners are interested parties to the inquiry. However, whilst a lot of submissions will give the press something to talk about, a few good submissions are what is really needed.

So, I am trying to get a cooperative submission going on:
Cooperative submission on ClimateMice.com

And I could do with as much help as possible!

Jan 23, 2010 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

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