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« Has JG-C found an error in CRUTEM? | Main | Bob Watson sees the light »

Pulling the wool

The letter from Phil Willis, the chairman of the House of Commons select committee on science and technology to Sir Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of UEA, received a certain amount of publicity at the time the announcement of the parliamentary inquiry was announced. It is now possible to read the reply from Sir Edward on the website of the select committee. A PDF is available here.

Here are a few of the highlights and some thoughts thereon:

Hack or leak?

A significant amount of material including emails and documents appears to have been accessed illegally from a back-up server in CRU and downloaded in whole, or possibly in part, on to the Real Climate website . Whilst it was removed promptly from that website, it was not before it had been widely accessed and distributed across a number of other websites . The method by which the material was obtained from CRU is the subject of a police enquiry. Substantial resources from the Norfolk Constabulary are being brought to bear but clearly this is a complex and technical forensic investigation, and must be expected to take time.

As is plain from this, there is no mention of hacking. I still find the fact that the police are apparently unaware of whether CRU's systems were hacked or not completely incomprehensible.

CRU's commitment to transparency

CRU's research outcomes have been published in peer-reviewed journals of the highest standing. All adjustments to data where this has been necessary (for example to account for the move of a meteorological station), have been explained.

But the code hasn't been released has it?

CRU has undertaken, with the good offices of the Met Office, to seek permission from the various national meteorological services which have provided the original station data to publish it.

Why wasn't this done before? If you can hand the data over to your pals, why not to other researchers?

This is not a simple undertaking as some 150 meteorological services were involved in the collection of the original data, and some see the data as having economic value or are otherwise sensitive to its release.

You mean the three met services that said it could only be used for non-commercial purposes?

Restoring confidence in CRU

None of the adjusted station data referred to in the emails that have been published has been destroyed.

Ah, but the emails referred to the raw data, didn't they? I winced when I read this. It looks a bit like trying to pull the wool over the eyes of our elected representatives.

When we receive Sir Muir's findings we will understand which if any of the
allegations stand and which fall and we will act accordingly. We will publish
the findings and the University's response.

Can we take it then that we are going to hear none of the evidence? That the hearings are going to be held in private? No surprise there then. Can we also take it then that Sir Muir will not be considering Sir Edward's apparent role in breaches of FoI law either?

I guess it's down to Parliament then.



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Reader Comments (15)

These fools and their stupid answers. Really, economic value for yesterdays weather? Last century weather? These folks must think the sheeple brain dead. Another surprise awaits them...

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom

By not holding the hearings in public they will only reinforce the increasing belief that they have got something to hide. Prof John Mitchell has already added to that belief with his determined actions to withhold his IPCC working papers. Having these people saying 'trust us' isn't good enough.

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAutonomous Mind

I guess it's down to Parliament then.

Please do not hold your breath.

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennis

O/T but it's a bit of an epithany for me...

After decades of wondering where I stood politically, and thanks to Google, I now know.

I am a libertarian. That completely encapsulates my thoughts. I have arrived!

(It feels like a sparticus moment!)

[BH adds: I remember the same moment myself]

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennis

They have destroyed lots of their data, which they said they did for purposes of "space" - they said this after I contacted the CRU, and was told that the data was destroyed for copyright purposes. It also makes the Met Office sources, published shortly after the data was destroyed, next to impossible to verify or otherwise - without the leaked emails, that is.

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrugal Dougal

@Frugal Dougal

Just thinking out loud here, but surely much, if not all their data would be held on their main server[s] to allow access by others. Were their systems so faulty as to allow complete deletion from main servers by an individual? If not, then it follows that would probably have been systems in place to enable the admins of the server to delete data.
So, is there possibly a paper trail of documents requesting deletion of data that could be accessed by a FOI request?

Feb 7, 2010 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennis

My Lord I am not sure which hearings you are referring to, but the House of Commons Committee normally meets in public and its evidence and conclusions are then published on the web.

The Muir investigation, is of course a different matter and I never expected its hearings to be in public.

Feb 7, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

note that sir muir will present his review to the vice-chancellor of UEA. UEA will make a report, and a reply. It is the report and reply which will be made public.

poor sir muir will have a difficult time with remit point (3), given that the ICO has already opined unfavourably.

I don't see that the remit offers him much chance to opine upon the science. I may be wrong. For example, Doug Keenan did an excellent job on the nature paper on UHI on china; the one where "few, if any, moves" turned out to mean something other than you might imagine ! It would be very difficult to imagine him being able to address that.

What with also being asked to review security, sir muir has a fair amount to consider if he is to report for spring 2010 (err, that is a month away).

very interesting.

Feb 7, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterper

Frugal Dougal, Do you know for certain, that the hand entered reports from the people who logged these weather stations over the last 150 years world wide, has been... shredded?, dumped?, burned?, just what did they do with these historical archives? Do we truly know yet? If this does pan out to be the case, these folks have willfully destroyed something that is irretrievable to mankind & priceless? What a loss, what a body of work... this is 1984, the book. Maybe the movie Brazil. The worlds people need to recieve a public explanation of events. I thought this stuff was in limbo, disarray, boxed up or misplaced anything but

Feb 8, 2010 at 12:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

I would think that the original data is still held by the relevant weather stations and Met Offices and should be retrievable. I think their problem will arise when that data is collated. I will be willing to bet that they don't know what stations were used and what weren't.

If, infact, they are able to resurrect their source data they then have to produce the codes and algorithms that were applied to that data to come up with the temperature datasets which are the basis for all the conclusions that they have drawn. Good luck with that lol.

No wonder Phil Jones considered topping himself. When they get to the end of this exercise, we will find that they cannot replicate their dataset from the original raw station data. The ramifications of this outcome will be catastrophic for their case. It will be revealed that there is no scientific basis for their conclusions whatever. They will be left where they started - an untested hypothesis.

The sceptics have been asking for this data for 15 years and have been fobbed off by a determined coterie convinced of their own omnipotence and a supportive media and political environment.

If this data had been released when originally asked for we would not be in this disastrous position. The scientific community needs to distance itself from this monumental avoidance of the scientific discipline which has led to this failure.

Meanwhile, we still have politicians desparately clinging to this fable in the hope of saving their skins and enhancing their power. The taxpaying population has been severely burned by this episode and will not treat very kindly the political architects of it.

Feb 8, 2010 at 3:14 AM | Unregistered Commenteramortiser

This will be interesting as while intercepting mail when it is in transit is heinous and subject to all manner of law, prescription, and remedy, lifting files from a computer that were once emails in transit is not so carefully protected. I'd be more inclined to think that DRM and copyright law are more important here than laws controlling eves dropping on mail.

If so then every site that has republished without permission the contents of these emails is in violation of copyright law, no?

Doesn't put the genie back in the bottle, though.

Feb 8, 2010 at 3:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterdp

amortiser, I hope you are right, that the originals are safe somewhere. I don't really know how the hand written data was stored; scrap paper, journals, logs? Nothing has been reported on this library of stuff. If you ever have seen the Antiques Road Show... I think this body of world wide documentation would be priceless. It would be good for some MSM news source follow up with authorities and get to the bottom of this question. With all the dropped balls so far, for me it would be a wonderful change to find this situation; found to be A-OK.

Feb 8, 2010 at 3:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

Bishop Hill

Phil Willis' letter dated 1 December: Content & Context

1. Here's Phil Willis' letter dated 1 December 2009:

2. The context of the letter is also worth a reminder.

3. Up until Phil Willis wrote, the scope of the UEA investigation was as announced by the UEA on 29 November 2009: Essentially a limited review 'into the circumstances surrounding the theft and publication of this information and any issues emerging from it' :

4. But then on 3 December the UEA announced the expanded terms of Sir Muir Russell's investigation, now contemplating also an investigation of the validity of the CRU's analysis of the temperature data:

On 4 December Dr Rajendra Pachauri told the BBC that the IPCC would conduct an investigation of the validity of the CRU's analysis:

And on 5 December the Met Office said that it projected a complete reanalysis of the CRU's temperature data, to take three years:

5. Thereafter 'calm' was restored.

The Met Office later on 5 December denied the project of reanalysing the CRU's temperature data:

And on 8 December Dr Pachauri reversed position, and denied the need for an investigation of the validity of the data:

6. But certainly for the first few days of the week that followed the despatch of Phil Willis' letter to Sir Edward Acton on 1 December, one could say that for the University of East Anglia the week had been a heady week!

Stephen Prower


Monday 8 February 2010

Feb 8, 2010 at 4:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Prower

I'm still struggling with the moronic concept of top secret temperature data.

Feb 8, 2010 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

If you go to the GISS website, they have temp plots and actual readings fron stations around the world. Of course, I think it is the "value added data", but just the same, it shows where all the stations are (or were). The HADCRU can't have very many different form what GISS has in most countries. As you get into the lesser developed countries, the number of stations dwindles.

Feb 9, 2010 at 5:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTW in the USA

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