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« David Holland clip | Main | German sceptic conference »

Jones in Nature

David Adam is a name that may well be familiar to readers here - we have come across him before in pursuit of the Institute of Physics regarding their submission to the SciTech committee inquiry, and also at one of those "how do we persuade people now they know what we're up to" meetings that were held in the wake of Climategate.

Adam has now left his position at the Guardian and has moved on to Nature, where I'm sure he will fit right in. Today he has written an in-depth interview with Phil Jones himself, which can be seen here. I found this a very frustrating experience. Take this for example:

So why did he urge colleagues to delete messages in which they discussed, among other things, the preparation of a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? An attempt to thwart critics, perhaps? “That was probably just bravado at the time,” he says. “We just thought if they’re going to ask for more, we might as well not have them.”

The question we have to ask is whether David Adam was aware that the email in question had as its subject line David Holland's FOI request number the words "IPCC & FOI" - clearly relating to the request in which David Holland asked for emails relating to the IPCC assessment report.  Either way, the reader comes away from from Adam's article completely misled.

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Reader Comments (40)

This interview suggests that Phil Jones may still be more comfortable in a closed rather than an open professional environment. I think that's something most of us can understand however much we disapprove. He seems to want his cosy world back and doesn't come across as the kind of guy who might eventually face up to the damage that some climate scientists (not all) have done and are still doing.

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTufty

With that level of none investigative journalism he will as you say he will fit right in.

Still to be fair its not easy to ask difficult questions when your own your knees bowing to one of your ‘faiths' prophets.

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Dear Bish,
Which email has Holland's request number? Please help.

[BH adds. I got that wrong. The header read "IPCC and FOI". I've fixed the header post.]

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Oh dear, it must be awful working in academia. All those pressures on ones time; that evening and weekend work; all those thousands of emails to write; all those conferences in Tahiti to attend. None of these guys have worked in the real world where real pressures exist.

Although the police and the university say only that the investigation is continuing, Nature understands that evidence has emerged effectively ruling out a leak from inside the CRU, as some have claimed.

There's nothing like evidence that nobody else has seen but that Nature understands.

It sounds like Jones is worried that there are more incriminating emails that have been "stolen". He will know what other things they have said in emails that have not yet been released. Let's hope for an anniversary present.

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

In the medium term, this could lead to a shift towards common sense by the Guardian, and suggests that Nature is now circling the wagons, before all the wheels fall off, all of the wagons.

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

So, if it wasn't an "inside job" (as the criminal parlance puts it), it must have been somebody cracking the comp systems, yes? Nasssty, evil hackerz!

So where's the evidence for THAT? They must have some, if they've really ruled out the only alternative.

Nov 15, 2010 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

Having read the article properley, what a total waste of time, money and paper (should anyone bother to print it). It adds nothing to what is already known, and further defends the 1990 Nature paper confirming UHI effect as not being the cause of rising recorded temperatures.

Defending a controversial paper by repeating the fact that the data is lost and can't be challenged or audited? That is a bit like tinpot dictators losing an election, declaring their own victory, burning all the ballot papers to prevent a recount, and boasting that they are unassailable.

Has a gauntlet just been thrown?

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Sorry, can't let this one go. Are they saying that if Jones 1990 is challenged, they won't be able to defend it, but that will be because the dog ate the homework, not because it was wrong, and therefore no loss of face for Mann and Nature?

Given long term work by Douglas Keenan, and recent threads at Climate Audit, is this an invitation?

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

IT would seem that the AGW community applies the same standard of reasoning to any problematical challenge:
"We have decided against the alternatives, therefor it must be what we claim."
The transparent wet tissue of rationalization that they were just playing na-na with the FOIA is no less credible than sugar plum fairies and rabbits delivering eggs.

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Quote - Nature: "A source close to the CRU says it is almost impossible to determine who deleted what
and when — much less why. More certain is the conclusion that the hack of the server was a sophisticated attack. Although the police and the university say only that the investigation is continuing, Nature understands that evidence has emerged effectively ruling out a leak from inside the CRU, as some have claimed. And other climate-research organizations are believed to have told police that their systems survived hack attempts at the same time."

So UEA and the local police don't have a clue what CRU scientists did with their emails, but are certain that the CRU scientists' emails were hacked.

Oh, really!

The Russell review failed to examine the emails. The analyst employed by the university to carry out such an examination was never given the authority to do so.

What we have here is an attempt to mislead and misinform on the deletion and leaking of emails.

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

This amounts to saying "you don't know in anticipation of which FOI request, I deleted which email".

Could the argument have really gotten this childish, and this low?

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

From: Phil Jones <>
To:,"Palmer Dave Mr (LIB)" <>
Subject: Re: FW: Your Ref: FOI_08-23 - IPCC, 2007 WGI Chapter 6 Assessment Process [FOI_08-23]
Date: Wed, 28 May 2008 17:13:35 +0100
Cc: "Briffa Keith Prof " <>, "Mcgarvie Michael Mr " <>

Although requests (1) and (2) are for the IPCC, so irrelevant to UEA, Keith (or you Dave) could say that for (1) Keith didn't get any additional comments in the drafts other than those supplied by IPCC. On (2) Keith should say that he didn't get any papers through the IPCC process either. I was doing a different chapter from Keith and I didn't get any. What we did get were papers sent to us directly - so not through IPCC, asking us to refer to them in the IPCC chapters. If only Holland knew how the process really worked!! Every faculty member in ENV and all the post docs and most PhDs do, but seemingly not Holland. So the answers to both (1) and (2) should be directed to IPCC, but Keith should say that he didn't get anything extra that wasn't in the IPCC comments. As for (3) Tim has asked Caspar, but Caspar is one of the worse responders to emails known. I doubt either he emailed Keith or Keith emailed him related to IPCC. I think this will be quite easy to respond to once Keith is back.

From looking at these questions and the Climate Audit web site, this all relates to two papers in the journal Climatic Change. I know how Keith and Tim got access to these papers and it was nothing to do with IPCC.

Nov 15, 2010 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

No evidence of conspiracy there then.

I wonder how Muir Russel missed it?

Nov 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Quite straightforward.

Jones tells David Palmer (!) and Kieth Briffa to respond to Holland's request for emails/documents related to IPCC work by saying there is nothing else coming in via IPCC channels,

and tries to get Briffa, Mann, Ammann and Wahl to delete IPCC-related emails in their respective accounts, the very next day.

"If only Holland knew how the process worked". Heh.

You know- the climate scientists did what they did. It is the Nature article that is making me a bit sick.

Nov 15, 2010 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

OT, but maybe not so much...

Most applicable bit starts at 2:40.

Nov 15, 2010 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

Bravado my ass:


From: Phil Jones
To:, Tom Wigley
Subject: Re: Schles suggestion
Date: Wed Dec 3 13:57:09 2008
Cc: mann , Gavin Schmidt , Karl Taylor , peter gleckler

When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide
by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince
them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive. I’ve got to know the FOI person quite well and the Chief Librarian – who deals with appeals. The VC is also aware of what is going on – at least for one of the requests, but probably doesn’t know the number we’re dealing with. We are in double figures"

The only bravado I can see is PJ playing a (perhaps) unwitting game of chicken over who will ultimately get thrown under the oncoming bus...

Nov 16, 2010 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

not banned yet,
it must come as a real disappointment to Jones and the CRU that under the FOI there is no exemptions to provide data on the grounds of ‘we don’t like the people who asked ‘
That is something that really going to have to get used too.

Nov 16, 2010 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Nice angle on the emails:

"Although the police and the university say only that the investigation is continuing, Nature understands that evidence has emerged effectively ruling out a leak from inside the CRU, as some have claimed. And other climate-research organizations are believed to have told police that their systems survived hack attempts at the same time."

Marvel at the weakness of it.

Watch that last sentence. It's true, I'm sure. Anybody who runs a publicly available server - or even a PC on broadband and watches their firewall logs - will know that every IP on the net survives hack attempts every hour. Automated, random bots probe huge ranges of addresses randomly all the time. I can tell you with absolute certainty, even without checking my firewall logs, that all of my servers survived hack attempts at the same time that the mails were released. Spooky. Maybe the Russians were coming for me, too?

Nov 16, 2010 at 3:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterjim

"Nature understands..."

Translation: 'Someone at UEA or the police told us'.

Forgive me for being dense, but there are only three people who potentially know the truth, 1. The leaker/hacker, 2. The Police. 3. UEA.

Are we supposed to believe Nature spoke to the leaker/hacker? If not, then either 2 or 3 has leaked confidentiall info.

Is this legal? We've been told this is a live criminal investigation. Should UEA or police be leaking to friendly news outlets? Anyone know if I can FOI this, or make a complaint?

The 4th option is that UEA or Phil Jones lied to Nature. But that can't be true, surely?

Nov 16, 2010 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

"Nature understands that evidence has emerged effectively ruling out a leak from inside the CRU, as some have claimed.
And other climate-research organizations are believed to have told police that their systems survived hack attempts at the same time. "

Love that "understands" and "believed to" just the sort of robust investigative stuff you'd expect from a distinguished science journal, not meally mouthed heresay, designed to bolster a weak PR puff piece, at all.</sarc>

Nov 16, 2010 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

I would have thought that it would be OK for the police to tell UEA, as the complainant, about the progress of the investigation.

Nov 16, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Thanks Bishop

Which presumably means that, if the UEA are reporting what they have been told accurately, then the police have ruled out an inside job.

Of course, if the police haven't ruled out an inside job, the UEA are embellishing the truth.

I wonder how we can find out?

I've been concerned for some time that this case will be kicked into the administrative long grass; neither proved or disproved. Thereby allowing the UEA to save face.

If the police really have ruled out the possibility of it being an inside job then somebody, at some point, is going to have to prove that. To show (in effect) how they arrived at that conclusion.

This I would like to see.

Also, it occurs to me, that the wording used doesn't rule out incompetence. It may not have been an ‘inside job’, but the careful wording leaves open the possibility that one of the barely computer literate climate scientists accidentally stuck it on a publicly accessible folder.

As anyone who's followed this from the beginning knows, this has happened before at the UEA (see Steve McIntyre)

Nov 16, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

"The question we have to ask is whether David Adam was aware that the email in question had as its subject line David Holland's FOI request number the words "IPCC & FOI" - clearly relating to the request in which David Holland asked for emails relating to the IPCC assessment report. Either way, the reader comes away from from Adam's article completely misled."

is there a reason why you didn't cut and paste this previous sentence from the article?

"One issue critics continue to badger Jones about is whether he deleted e-mails that had been requested through the freedom of information process. Jones insists he never did."

I asked Jones if he deleted emails specifically requested and he said no. Who is being misled about what?

On the 'nature understands' thing about the CRU hack -- I understand that is annoying, but I was told something that has been discovered and clearly indicates an outside hack from a very reliable source, but to say what it was would almost certainly give them away. Is there still a public interest in reporting it? I think so


Nov 16, 2010 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterdavid adam


Keep up! Jones was not copied in on the Wahl and Ammann correspondence, so he didn't need to delete it. Briffa meanwhile took his copy home "for safekeeping". But safe from what? We have had four inquiries and none of them have answered the simple question of why it was that David Holland didn't get the information he requested. It was just a bit disappointing that you didn't use your opportunity to get to the truth of the matter.

Nov 16, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"I was told something that has been discovered and clearly indicates an outside hack from a very reliable source,"

Could you please clarify that sentence? It can be read two ways.
Were you told by "a very reliable source"?, or was the outside hack from "a very reliable source"?

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Andrew: I'm happy to send Jones a follow-up email. Do you want me to ask him whether others deleted emails that were requested under FOI?

stuck-record: i was told by a reliable source. as far as i know, the identity of the hacker(s) is still unknown


Nov 16, 2010 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterdavid adam

Mr. Adam

I was told by a reliable sources that Mr. Jones lied on several occasions but I can't give them away.

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterLDLAS


Jones says:

“Not necessarily, if you’ve deleted them ahead of time,”
“You can’t second guess what’s going to be requested.”
“I deleted them based on their dates. It was to keep the e-mails under control,”

With respect to the Holland IPCC FOI request, none of these things apply - he did not have to delete emails, nor did he ask his colleagues to do so, ahead of time. He did not have to second-guess what was being requested - he had the request in front of him. Nor did he try to get people to delete stuff, based on some dates.

His email to David Palmer and Briffa, posted above, with the specific FOI request number makes things abundantly clear - he is seen laying out, so to speak, with the information officer himself and Briffa the line of reasoning to be employed in denying Holland's IPCC FOI request. The next day, he writes to Mann asking him to delete emails about the IPCC and FOI.

Here we have, apparently a bout of induced email deletions, happening after the FOI request, with a clear reference to delete specific correspondence. How much more clearer can it get?

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Since the police must know about this reliable source too, we should hear some more from official channels soon I guess.

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

I understand an announcement will be made shortly.

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:46 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


I will email you a couple of questions. Can you drop me a line with your new contact details.


Nov 16, 2010 at 11:48 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Andrew: happy to, but i can't find your email address on here. can you remind me?

Nov 16, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterdavid adam

Use this:

Nov 16, 2010 at 12:17 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"I understand an announcement will be made shortly."

Soon? You mean around about the anniversary, just as loads of stories appear in friendly media exonerating the principals. Jones and Hulme this week; Mann last week.

Hmmmm. Not at all like any kind of organised media campaign, is it?

Nov 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

David Adam.

Thank you for your comments and queries on this thread. Does this mean you will be doing some investigative journalism? If so, there are some good leads available here!

Could you establish what level of confidence/certainty the editorial board of Nature now have with Mann's 1990 Nature paper, concerning the lack of UHI effect in the temperature record. I am sure that in the late 70's at school I knew that London was 2-3 degrees warmer than the surrounding area, not 0.01 degree.

Nov 16, 2010 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

So Nature has become Vanity Fair for scientists.

Nov 16, 2010 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTyphoon

Sine the (very short) time limit for the FOI email requests has apparently expired, is there a problem with someone else submitting a similar request? Or does a time-out on one FOI request automatically cancel all future requests? Just wondering.

Nov 16, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRocky Horror

We're greatly looking forward to the announcement.

Eric, in comments at WUWT, suggested the following plausible explanation for the 'hack'. It will be interesting to see if the announcement and this suggestion have any commonality.

From Eric:

“Gee, what would it take to hack into a network, somehow knowing, of course, that there is a central email archive? I’m guessing it might not too easy.

What seems a lot more likely to me is this:
1) Pesky requests for emails
2) Desire to delete emails, but
3) Fear of losing something important, so
4) Gather emails into archive then delete local copies and
5) Claim the emails have been deleted, which is half true, but
6) Shocking to some decent staff member, who
7) Leaks the email archive”

Nov 16, 2010 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

@Rocky Horror,

There is a simple solution: file an FOI every 4 months asking for the same type of e-mails, other correspondence. You can do this automatically in e.g. Outlook. They will hate you, but will have to answer and comply.

Nov 16, 2010 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered Commenteriskandar

Like all good, innocent, public servants, the CRU are all happily using gmail now. So Eric Schmidt and his sysadmins know what is going on.

Nov 16, 2010 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

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