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+++Acton's Eleven - the response+++

Over the course of the day I've made several telephone calls to the Royal Society, without being able to get a response to the simple question of who it was within their ranks who selected the eleven CRU papers for Lord Oxburgh's panel to examine. These papers, you will remember "were selected on the advice of the Royal Society".

Just after 4pm I finally got through to the person responsible and seconds later an emailed response arrived as well. This was fortuitous because I was able to ask some questions on the contents.

So, who was it? Here is the Royal Society's statement:

The Royal Society agreed to suggest to UEA possible members for the Scientific Assessment panel that would investigate the integrity of the research of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). 

Members of the panel were suggested on the basis of the excellence of their work and their breadth of expertise and experience (including statistical capability).   

The Royal Society recommended that the panel had access to any and all papers that it requested and suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale. 

Whoah! Get that! They told them only to look at lots of papers. Not which particular ones?

With the press officer still on the line, I asked the question: "So you didn't actually advise UEA which papers they should look at?" and the response was:

"This is the only statement we are willing to make at the moment."

And I said,

"So it's a bit sensitive, then?"

And the reply was,

"This is the only statement we are willing to make at the moment."

So, ladies and gentlemen. I think we can now say with considerable certainty that Lord Oxburgh's declaration that he took the advice of the Royal Society as to which papers to examine is not true.

So who did choose them then?

There's a clue back at the start of the story of Lord Oxburgh's panel. When the investigation was announced, the BBC had this to say:

UEA, in consultation with the Royal Society, has suggested that the panel looks in particular at key publications from the body of CRU's research which were referred to in the university's recent submission to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee.

We know, of course, that the bit about the Royal Society is not true. But if you look at the UEA select committee submission, you find in the appendix a list of papers which bears an extraordinary similarity to the list that was looked at by the Oxburgh panel. If you strike off the non-UEA papers, you seem to be left with only a single discrepancy - the appendix points to Jones et al 1997 (J Clim) while the Oxburgh panel looked at Briffa et al 2001 (JGR).

So we have an extraordinary coincidence - that both the UEA submission to the select comittee and Lord Oxburgh's panel independently came up with almost identical lists of papers to look at, and that they independently neglected key papers like Jones 1998 and Osborn and Briffa 2006.

I don't think so. Could it be, could it possibly be that Lord Oxburgh's panel were given a list of papers to look at by UEA? 

Acton's Eleven.


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Reader Comments (81)

It's a coincidence. You got to trust the ones placed above you. It's religion, you know?!

Apr 16, 2010 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterScarface

Pure coincidence surely. At least that's what Bob Ward will be assuring the masses via the usual outlets should they care to ask about this.

Stirling investigative work all the same.

Apr 16, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Excellent piece of investigative reporting. Could you characterize the tone of those you spoke to at the Royal Society? Open and candid? Guarded? Embarrassed? Reluctantly obtuse?

This has the makings of Climategate II!!

Have you alerted any of the big newspapers that are more open to seriously looking at these issues?

Apr 16, 2010 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

The fact that the RS suggested possible panel members to UEA is also significant. That sounds to me as though they agreed the panel between them, and so going on to agree which papers to read and which to leave out would be the logical next step for such an "independent" enquiry. It makes life so much easier if you know who your friends are and you can decide what they are going to say....

Apr 16, 2010 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

How naive of you to expect an objective review !

The wholepoint of the UEA setting up this "enquiry" was to get a clean bill of health with the RS imprint - looks like a set-up from the off. No invitation to submit evidence, everything done in secrecy.

The UEA Vice Chancellor may think he is looking smart so far. But all this will unravel, to his discredit and to the discredit of the University.

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnAnderson

Investigating UEA using material suggested by UEA, doesn't this sound totally fair to you ?

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin


The person I spoke to at the end was very professional. There was a lot of confusion and being put on hold before that.

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:18 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Considerable certainty seems more certain than inconsiderable certainty.

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

Benjamin, this opens up a whole new avenue. At my next annual reveiw at work I hope to be able to suggest my new salary. Hope it works!

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

Well that’s just a complete waste of five sheets of A4 not forgetting those two coffee mornings at UEA. What a shame! They had me fooled.

Nice work Bish. Now can we nuke ‘em?

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

You could read "...and suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale. " as indicating that the RS did supply a list, but won't tell you what it was, but that might be stretching it. Your interpretation looks more probable.

Apr 16, 2010 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

"The Royal Society recommended that the panel had access to any and all papers that it requested and suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale."

This could mean that the RS recommended a set of papers (perhaps the 11) and said that the panel should have access to other paper should they so request. Its hard to know.

And why all the secrecy?

I think the big problem is the lack of transparency regarding what exactly the panel did. They should have devoted more attention to archiving their results and methods and recording exactly what they did. I imagine that they have no idea that this investigation would assume the importance that it has and that the panel would have to answer detailed inquiries on their work. I'm sure that they now wish that they had adopted a much more rigorous approach to the archiving of their work.

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

Where else does one see this? The 'clean books' are happily handed over to the auditors meanwhile only Mr. Madoff knows about the contents of the real books.

Time to retract all the 'clean bill of health' articles...

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

so let me get this straight (despite what the RS is evading to say)

The Royal Society selected the panel of experts - the Royal Society selected the list of papers - and afterwards the Royal Society praised them for a job well done...
enough said.

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterjoespink

Nope, it is far, far worse. UEA picked the papers that their panel of experts were to look at!! They picked the one's that were largely not at issue.

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

That's right. They missed out things like Jones 98 ( which would have led to discussion of Polar Urals and the suppressed update, which would have led to Yamal. Also Tornetrask and the Briffa bodge.). Osborn and Briffa would have raised the spectre of proxy selection issues.

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:28 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I don't really understand how such a bad review can actually happen.
I mean you roughly have two sides : "skeptics" that say there is bad science going on and pointing to some very specific papers, and "warmists" saying all is fine.
Now wouldn't it be just obvious that the first action of an inquiry would be to take a look at the papers the skeptics are pointing at ?

I mean if someone tells you there is a dead body in the bedroom, do you only look in the kitchen then leave the house and say all is fine ? I'm not saying that looking in the kitchen won't be interesting, I'm just saying you maybe should not start by and limit yourself to the kitchen...

Apr 16, 2010 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

Bish, I'm not sure you can jump to conclusions.

The following ....

"and suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale. "

..suggests that the RS might have selected a few 'key publications' and presented them to the panel for review.

If the panel accepted these as representative they might have had the wool pulled over their eyes.


Apr 16, 2010 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

I am astounded and depressed that liars are so able to be so,without any sanction. From anyone in power. In fact, that those in power are so able to lie so often and without compunction, that I am inclined to disbelieve anything that anyone in public life, who purports to be a 'scientist' says. And I say that as a Chemical Engineer; ie. someone who might know something about what is being said.

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

Benjamin - I think your response would depend on whether or not you'd had a hand in the death!

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Accommodating of UEA to supply the whitewash for the whitewasher.

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterHankHenry

I'm with Scarface at the top - the new religion is being laid down, and (perceived) error has no rights.

Apr 16, 2010 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrugal Dougal

Let's consider a well-known case of alleged scientific fraud: the twin studies of Sir Cyril Burt. (I am not here taking any view of whether they were in fact fraudulent, and don't want to start a debate on that. Please.) In this case a small number of Burt's papers were alleged to contain invented data and other anomalies. Would anyone in their senses suggest that the right way to investigate these allegations would be to take a broad sample of Burt's works (which ran into hundreds of items), and then evaluate them for signs of fraud? This might be a useful exercise as a *supplement* to a more direct examination of the controversial papers, but no-one, surely, would suggest that it was a *sufficient* treatment of the allegations, without examining the controversial papers themselves. In the light of this analogy the approach apparently recommended by the Royal Society is simply bizarre.

Apr 16, 2010 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidB

This is really weird. The individuals concerned are not stupid people. They have been around. They tread the corridors of scientific power. One hopes that they can see the way the wind blows. And understand a little of the politics of the situation.

And they surely realised that there are some highly qualified smart and dedicated people who have put in a lot of work to come up with some serious and detailed objections to some parts of CRUs work, their methods and their processes. If they didn;t know already, an hour reading this blog would soon make it clear to them.

To simply ignore these and publish a skimpy 5 page report saying 'a few niggles around the edges but otherwise carry on chaps' is naive in the extreme. And for such experienced people one has almost to ask if they did it knowingly..and if so, why? It is such a crassly inadequate piece of work that one wonders at the motivation..,...

Baffled from Central Scotland

Apr 16, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Of course, it was a coincidence. What else can it be? Dont be silly. This is just a denialist talking point. Good science is the best revenge. Are you a conspiracy nutter? You are just interested in selling your book! The IPCC...

Apr 16, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

It's quite clear that an enquiry into the enquiry is needed, I can't beleive all of this is going on under the noses of the MSM, what happened to all the fearless investagative reporters of old?

Apr 16, 2010 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

My dear Bishop, once again, you demonstrate a most remarkable talent and relentless determination to set free the truth!
It was not that long ago that, after my daily visits to CA and WUWT, I would be at a loss as where to go next.
Now, after BH, CA and WUWT, I happily close down IE and get back to work!
Looking into my rather coffee and beer splattered crystal-ball I see an imminent, and lucrative career change in your stars Sir.
Thank you and KBO!

Apr 16, 2010 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterroyfomr

Dear Bishop,
I know you are well aware that if there was only 12 papers the probability of choosing the same 10 out of the 11 would be about 100%. So how many papers where there to choose from ? then do the maths and we will have new proof of how they are working.
Keep up the good job,
best wishes from Sweden.

Apr 16, 2010 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRolf

Yes, very well done Bishop. We await the answers to McIntyre from RS and UEA. But this isn't going to end well for establishment science. Thank God.

Apr 16, 2010 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

"Same old, same old." I know you al know it is trite. But what is new?

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I personally think that (1) the high ranking members of the panel simply do not understand that the Internet allows multitudes of qualified people to research and cross check items NOW rather than later, and (2) not being blog readers across the Real Climate - Climate Audit divide, cannot understand the issues involved and the implications from those issues. Most of these high ranking scientists are really administrators and only stay current in a very very narrow field.

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterKimW

This is an excellent demonstration for the proles of how to do peer review.

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul from Boston

This is simply astonishing - the ridiculous and appallinly convoluted lengths that the establishment goes to prop up the decomposing corpse of the IPCC-certified 'consensus' only serves to destroy the credibility of once hugely respected institutions. Nature, the RS - what's next? OK, never the UEA - Monty Python's Village Idiot sketch seemed harsh at the time, but displays amazing prescience in hindsight.

Thanks again to the Bish for his tenacity and investigative skills - you're a hero the many of us who seek the truth rather than mindlessly swallowing convenient lies - or should that read 'Inconvenient Lies'?

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimD


Hundreds !

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

Come on folks, the Royal Society has a history of this, all the way back to Newton, a mere 300 years. You should be asking yourselves how someone like Rees [Snip - Please don't make allegations like this without providing evidence] managed to get to be Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society and rewarded with a peerage by the establishment. As I commented on the other 'Acton's Eleven' post about Rees' bizarre comments that "We should all be grateful to Lord Oxburgh and his expert colleagues for a thorough report offering an authoritative assessment of the CRU's research and making clear recommendations.":

Oxburgh's report wasn't a 'thorough report', nothing like it. Neither was it an 'authoritative assessment'. As for the 'clear recommendations' - did anyone find a section on recommendations, or indeed ANY RECOMMENDATIONS AT ALL? Not in the copy I read - check yours! So Rees has either not read the report, or had a PR man spin a statement that is a lie. The word 'recommend' or its cognates is not found in the report. There are no recommendations. The closest you can get (and they are not proper recommendations, never mind 'clear recommendations') are the statements in the Conclusion: 'Indeed there would be mutual benefit if...'; 'This is unfortunate and seems inconsistent with...'; 'We agree with the CRU view that...', and two of those are opinions that relate to government policy and legislation. If Rees thinks that that amounts to 'clear recommendations' regarding the CRU then he needs his brains tested: he doesn't know the meaning of 'clear' or 'recommend'. But nothing surprises me with Rees or the Royal Society these days.

No, most of the public won't read the report but will take Rees' word for it, unlike the motto of the Royal Society which exhorts 'Nullius in verba', 'on nobody's word', or 'take nobody's word for it'.

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth


Run a query of the publications of Keith Briffa, Phil Jones, etc. Like what McIntyre noticed, really basic, fundamental articles are missing (Like ones cited in SAR, TAR, AR4 WITH Mann). I was curious about the "access for a twenty quid" articles were not touched. Most articles are in Wikipedia (well, until Connelly get a hold of it) yesterday.

Yes, sampling, but a "wiki-sample"

Apr 16, 2010 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterIntrepid_Wanders

If this interesting development in jurisprudence were to be extended to the criminal law, then we could expect to see trials conducted on the basis that the judge and jury would be selected by the accused, while only evidence by the defence would be proffered.


Apr 17, 2010 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllen Ford

Nothing saddens me more than the Royal Society's AGW advocacy, in particular their attempts to stifle sceptic funding and censor debate in the press. See the insightful essay by Robert M. Carter:

and the remarkable 2005 Telegraph comment:

Apr 17, 2010 at 12:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

The primary frustration with these investigations is that they are dancing around the principal issue that people care about: the IPCC and its implications for policy. Focusing only on CRU activities (which was the charge of the Oxbourgh panel) is of interest mainly to UEA and possibly the politics of UK research funding (it will be interesting to see if the U.S. DOE sends any more $$ to CRU). Given their selection of CRU research publications to investigate (see Bishop Hill), the Oxbourgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion. However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.

The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative. I don't see much hope for improving the IPCC process under its current leadership.

The historical temperature record and the paleoclimate record over the last millennium are important in many many aspects of climate research and in the communication of climate change to the public; both of these data sets are at the heart of the CRU email controversy. In my opinion, there needs to be a new independent effort to produce a global historical surface temperature dataset that is transparent and that includes expertise in statistics and computational science. Once "best" methods have been developed and assessed for assembling such a dataset including uncertainty estimates, a paleoclimate reconstruction should be attempted (regional, hemispheric, and possibly global) with the appropriate uncertainty estimates. The public (and some scientists) has lost confidence in the data sets produced by CRU, NASA, Penn State, etc. While such an independent effort may confirm the previous analyses, it is very likely that improvements will be made and more credible uncertainty estimates can be determined. And the possibility remains that there are significant problems with these datasets; this simply needs to be sorted out. Unfortunately, the who and how of actually sorting all this out is not obvious. Some efforts are underway in the blogosphere to examine the historical land surface data (e.g. such as available from GCHN), but the GCHN data set is apparently inadequate in terms of completeness.

Sorting out the issues surrounding the historical and paleo surface temperature records should be paramount, in addition to tightening up and improving the assessment processes (particularly the IPCC).

Apr 17, 2010 at 1:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

Well spoken, Judith Curry. In the couple of years since I started following the CAGW debate, a number of people have noted that the most likely loser in all this will be "SCIENCE". Lay people, like myself, have had their trust in the scientific process thoroughly ruined. This latest episode is continuing the mistakes that politicised scientists have made over the past few decades.

"Nose", "face", "cut", "spite", come to mind. At some stage (and it is coming rapidly), scientists are going to face an enormous backlash from the general public - they need to get their house in order now, and stop playing politics.

Apr 17, 2010 at 1:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Pond

Dr. Curry:

Thank you for engaging here. The positions you've espoused and the out-reach you've attempted have taken courage. I suspect that you've found yourself in the uncomfortable but morally enviable position of attracting scorn and threats from both extremes. The realization that science is not "TRUTH" and that empirical evidence trumps theory will win out. Just keep in mind that you are not a missionary, your best and noblest role is as a prophet. The missionary attempts to foist a belief system (I came to hate ALL missionaries in China), the prophet calls back her people to the principles and beliefs that made them great.

Apr 17, 2010 at 2:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

With the damage that had already been done to the public's perception of science and UEA/CRU research, a whitewash was the only option if they were to resurrect the ideology and placate the faithful.

I would have expected a more thorough and proficient whitewash though.

Apr 17, 2010 at 2:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

The foundations are trembling. Who, really, trusts the temperature record, a fundamental piece of the science?

Apr 17, 2010 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The use of the term "climategate" to describe the goings-on at CRU is a slur on Richard Nixon. Had he been able to appoint his own Inquiry into Watergate and provide it with just a few selected snippets from his tapes he would have been able to serve out his second term. The failure of the House of Commons, Royal Society, and UEA to follow due process says it all about the level to which public life has sunk in Little Britain since the heady days of the 1st Lord Acton, and perfectly embodies his own statement. Pursuit of money explains most if not all of the CRU's papers. Were any of the 11 NOT funded by research grants intended to further political causes? CRU staff were not faculty teaching staff, so perforce relied on marketing their "research" for their livelihoods - and there they succeeded beyond the dreams of avarice (to allude to another sage).

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Curtin

Yer Grace

The selection is a PPR (Peer Pal Review)!

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterE O'Connor


Thank you for the link to CRU publications. Did anyone else notice this publication?

Jones, P.D., 2008
“Benefits from undertaking data rescue activities.”
WMO-TD No. 1432 16-25

It is too good to be true!

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

re: "...suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale. "

Contrary to our Host's interpretation, it sounds to me like the Royal Society did indeed select the papers. "... key publications ... chosen ..."

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Norris

Can these “correspondences” be obtained through the FOIA?

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPoptech

Your Grace
You are on to something big.
Please do not MOVE ON to other topics.
Keep hammering on to this.

If it is as you (we) think
then it will in time crake open wide.
If not it will fizzle out.

You have found out enough already to suggest that it will not fizzle out.
There are so many things wrong with AGW, but they cover complex topics
and tend to disapear into clouds of maybees when investigated.

This is different.
It is simple and concrete.

Did the RS make the chouce or was it UEA?

Plead DO keep at it.
There is another book in this, I bet!

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAusieDan

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