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« Another HSI review | Main | 14th July 2010 »

More on Oxburgh's eleven

When my FoI request to Imperial led to the disclosure of the Hand and Hoskins emails, there were many redactions of names, which I found rather frustrating. From the language of many of the emails, it appeared that many of the names were of senior people and should thus have been disclosed. I queried this with Imperial who have now disclosed almost all of the relevant detail.

One interesting snippet has emerged from this. When the original emails were released I reported on an inquiry made to Lord Oxburgh by Oliver Morton of the Economist about how Oxburgh's Eleven papers were chosen. When he replied, Oxburgh said in essence that he didn't know.

What I received was a list from the university which I understand was chosen by the Royal Society The contact with the RS was I believe through [name redacted] but I don't know who he consulted. [Name redacted], when I asked him, agreed that the original sample was fair.

Well, now we know who the redactions were. The contact through with the Royal Society was through Martin Rees - we knew that already. The other redaction, the other person consulted about whether the sample of papers was reasonable, was...Phil Jones.

Now, whichever way you look at it, this is a funny question to put to the accused if one's objective is a fair trial. I mean, what could Jones say? "You've picked all my bad papers"? And of course Jones must have known that the sample was not representative.

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Reader Comments (72)

This is simply a statistical variation of Mike's trick to "Hide the Decline"; it is called Phil's trick to "Hide the Evidence".

Jul 18, 2010 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

Well done!! You have to wonder. I just bought the complete Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister series. Seems that the UEA, RS, etc., principals here are intent on reprising most of episodes - I could have saved my money!

Jul 18, 2010 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Dear, O dear, O dear, don't they just keep digging. I'm sure this is just the normal way things have been done in politics for many centuries; but isn't it fascinating to see the workings of our leaders in the open.

Jul 18, 2010 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

I thought it was already established that UEA supplied the original list to the RS? In that case Phil Jones both produced the list and confirmed it as a fair sample.

Jul 18, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJC

BH -
Thanks for probing further. Taking Lord Oxburgh's point that the panelists read beyond the fateful eleven, it's passing strange that he should have asked for confirmation from Dr Jones rather than someone -- anyone! -- outside of CRU.

Jul 18, 2010 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

What would Ron have done if Phil had said they were 'not' a fair representation?

Jul 19, 2010 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterTony Hansen

Is there some way to understand what you've disclosed of Oxburgh's approach to this assignment as anything other than whitewash or incompetence? What could he have thought he was about?

Jul 19, 2010 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

This Oxburgh inquiry reeks of corrupt insiders colluding to falsify the record, deceitfully attempting to avoid all FOI disclosure while continuing to mouth discredited hypotheses as scientific fact. Oxburgh condones extremist propaganda pure and simple, broadcast without a grain of integrity, objectivity, even rationality. The more institutions such as GISS/NASA, NOAA, Penn State, the Royal Society under Martin Rees and UEA besotted by Phil Jones foster such assaults on fundamental scientific method and practice, so much the less do they deserve respect.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Blake

At what point do the people behind these travesties either explain or resign? Jones, Acton, Rees appear to have conspired to prevent the Oxburgh inquiry from achieving anything. Oxburgh should either explain, resign, or plead stupidity.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I feel for Prof. Jones, I really do, he's between the proverbial rock and boulder.
First, some of his work was questioned by suspicious, statistical bloodhounds whose olefactory organs kicked in. Then, because of Climategate, when he perceived the chasm that yawed before him, he tried to regain his self-respect.
And now, what does he find from his once-supportive friends.
"for gods sake Phil, don't rock the boat now"
"FFS man, don't go soft on us now. We're all in the same boat and we sink or swim. Do you want to drown mate. You want us to drown with you?
OK, I'm only stabbing in the dark about what his mates have said but given what they've got to lose, I'm guessing that I may be erring somewhat conservatively.
I hypothesise that Reese drew up a provisional list of benign publications, presented them to Phil, applied a sufficiency of pressure to transfer the responsibility of guilt towards the pressured. Thus keeping himself squeaky-clean, in his mind, and thus creating the script that pulled the strings for the illustrious, unquestioning and less-than-probing sinecured chairman!
Professor Jones, maybe and for noble reasons you allowed yourself to be overtaken by a sincerity that temporarily suspended your judgement to the common cause.
Jeesh mate, you may well have been right, time will tell, but get these freebooters off your back.
To err is normal, to knowingly err is human but, to persist, is despicable. To admit errors is to be accepted as Honest. Forgiveness follows.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterroyfomr

Reports from the guardian debate mentioed a journalist from the Times who seemed to be latching to what really happened in these circus inquiries. Perhaps this information should be handed on to him so it can be pushed through the MSM.

These inquiries are now appearing to be so bad it looks like those involved need some lessons in how to white wash properly !!!!

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

Any reasonable skeptic's head should probably explode at this point

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

One of the most important lessons conspirators must learn early on is "when in a deep hole, stop digging." Richard Nixon learn that, and I suspect a large number of people in power who believe they are "doing the right thing" will learn that as well.

Soon enough the press will turn on them. I really believe that will happen in the next six months as more and more journalists realized that they had been lied too.

If there is any global warming this winter, it will be the press roasting those like Acton who lied and lied to them.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Whitewashes do not need to actually worry about anything but the paint's ability to cover and hide.

Jul 19, 2010 at 3:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

1. "Ah President Nixon, would this be a good sample of your tape recorded conversations? We certainly don't want to take the time to listen to them all."

2. "Yes Minister, that is the list of your expense reports that we intend to audit. Would that be a good sample? No need for us to look at them all."

3. "Yes Coach, these are the athletes we plan to test for performance enhancing drugs. No sense wasting time testing everyone."

Jul 19, 2010 at 3:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Norris

Did Oliver Morton of the Economist report this at the time?

[BH adds: He left a note on the last piece saying that he got sidetracked into reporting on the Icelandic volcano]

Jul 19, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

*Soon enough the press will turn on them.*

As an earlier post by the Bish noted, this is already happening -- New Scientist, of all people, wrote a editorial highly critical of 'The Three Reviews'.

The Warmist rags are trying to get as far away from the oncoming train wreck and present themselves as neutral observers.

Jul 19, 2010 at 4:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

The Royal Society did not pick the papers, both Rees and Hoskins nodded through the papers at the request of Trevor Davies. Trevor Davies asked for the RS to approve them at the request of Scouse Oxburgh, at least that's what he said in the email to Rees, to give the RS' imprimatur to the choice of papers, presumably to make it look as though a reasonably neutral attempt had been made to select the papers. So when Oxburgh says:

"What I received was a list from the university which I understand was chosen by the Royal Society The contact with the RS was I believe through [name redacted] but I don't know who he consulted. [Name redacted], when I asked him, agreed that the original sample was fair."

he is being "economical with the truth".

Jul 19, 2010 at 6:30 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


I've gone back to Imperial to ask them to remove the redaction from one extra email. This may show that Oxburgh was copied into the email where Rees questioned Hoskins on the suitability of the papers.

Jul 19, 2010 at 7:25 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I've been sayng since November that the proper locus for an investigation was Parliament and was sorely disappointed the Parliamentary investigation that did take place was so superficial and shoddy (although in all fairness there was something or other about an election that truncated the whole thing).... I still think that a Parliamentary inquiry is the right way to go and the realization of what a train-wreck the investigations so far have been might make a substantive and transparent inquiry much more likely. If his Grace, the Bishop's recent revelations on these pages are anything to go by, then Andrew Montford's GWPF report should be something of a bombshell. I hope Steven Chu's DoE begins refunding CRU with a splashy announcement about the exoneration of the CRU scientists... just days before the GWPF report comes out. A parliamentary inquiry repudiating Oxburgh and Russell would be just too delicious for words.... uhhh, scrupulously, transparently and fairly, of course.

Jul 19, 2010 at 7:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Here's an interesting definition of whitewash from Wikipedia:

"Whitewash is a very low cost type of paint made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and chalk (whiting).

Whitewash cures through a reaction with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form calcium carbonate in the form of calcite, a reaction known as carbonatation.

When the paint initially dries it is uncured, and has almost no strength. It takes up to a few days, depending on climate, to harden.

It is usually applied to exteriors - however it is traditionally used internally in food preparation areas - particularly rural dairies - for its mildly anti-bacterial properties. Occasionally it is coloured and used on structures such as the hallways of apartment buildings, but it is not popular for this as it can rub off onto clothing to a small degree. In Britain and Ireland whitewash was used historically - both externally and internally - in workers' cottages and still retains something of this association with rural poverty."

We can see that, very appropriately, there is a link between whitewash, carbon dioxide and the climate.

However we can also see that whitewash is not a good substance to use in a cover-up job as it comes off easily and needs regular re-coating. It is cheap though, which explains why it is ineffective.

Andrew, I can't wait to see your report for the GWPF into the three Climategate inquiries. You have all the ingredients to pull the narrative together in the way you did so excellently in The Hockey Stick Illusion.

Jul 19, 2010 at 7:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

My ideal time-frame would have a DoE staement about August 5, release of the Montford Report about August 10, convening of a Parliamentary Inquiry September 10, Parliamentary Report about October 15, U.S. Congressional Election November 2. Well, it would be nice, anyway.

Jul 19, 2010 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Robert: We can but dream. The GWPF can choose which is the best moment to release Andrew's report.

Jul 19, 2010 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


Jul 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Different review but same bull

Independent Review Team – UEA/CRU
Formal Record

Number: 0149
Author: Notes of Prof Peter Clarke & Prof. Jim Norton's interviews with Prof Philip Jones, Dr. Tim Osborn and Ian Harris

Suggestions that e-mails should be deleted?

17. Prof Jones, in response to questioning, noted that he had not received any
specific training on DPA/FoIA/EIR issues from the UEA.

I suppose with no training we can do whatever we like!

Jul 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

I may be a bit dense...

But is there anyway of showing explicitly, easily, the exact letter/email and the bit wehre Phil Jones is mentioned..

I have had a look and it is really not obvious... and of course then send it to the times, Telegraph, Wall street Journal, New Scientists and all the other media

Presumably, 'someone' is sending this little bit of information to, the parlimentary science group.

Professor Kelly, Hand, Stringer, Willis, etc...

Today, or tomorrow, no need to wait for a GWPF report, get it out now, let them all write about it themselves, a GWPF report will just be ignored because it is those 'sceptics' again.

Please tell me this is so?

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods


Please ASK for the emails again,in the original form without redactions...

It is impossible (TO ME ) to get a sense of it, from just a list of corrections..
Doing it this way, is clearly a way of making it harder to see what is going on?

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

'17. Prof Jones, in response to questioning, noted that he had not received any
specific training on DPA/FoIA/EIR issues from the UEA.'

He's a f....g professor isn't he? Or so he claims. You;d expect a f...g professor to be capable of looking things up for himself. He is not an E grade Junior Clerical staff member...nor paid like one.

He probably hasn't received any specific training in statistics either (none appears in his resume that I can see), but that hasn't stopped him pontificating in supposedly world-changing scientific papers...nor in unfavourably reviewing work from others who may have greater mathematical and statistical expertise.

I am heartily sick of supposed grown-up professionals hiding behind lame and thin excuses for their unprofessional behaviour. I am even more pissed off with the inadequate 'authorities' for being prepared to tolerate such patent bollocks.

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

We know that the Royal Society just rubber stamped the papers submitted to them be UEA.

So who actually picked the papers?

Was it Phil Jones?

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Phillip Bratby

Re whitewash. Its usually now called limewash, supplied in tubs by traditional conservation suppliers for heritage listed building work, such as this one I use

You need a very porous base such as lime plaster clay daub brick or wood that soaks it in and plenty of coats, try it on modern plaster or anything impervious and its rubbish, just shows through forever. Like it has in the 'independent' inquiries.

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Tony Hansen: "What would Ron have done if Phil had said they were 'not' a fair representation?"

His monocle would have fallen out because he already knew that the papers were selected by the UEA without any input from any other parties, so he'd be shocked to find Jones disagreeing.

Scouse Oxburgh: Do you agree that these papers are a fair reflection of your work?

Jones: "No, there are a fair number of disputed papers that should be included."

Scouse Oxburgh: "Are these papers disputed because of the science?"

Jones: "Well yes."

Scouse Oxburgh: "Do you think that the grammar and spelling in the disputed papers are up to scratch?"

Jones: "Yes."

Scouse Oxburgh: "No need to include them then, we're focussing on the grammar and spelling, we're not addressing the science. We haven't got a lot time. If I clear you before the end of the month Beddington will have to buy the drinks."

Jul 19, 2010 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

This is what I wrote on CA:

It is all simple really: Sir Muir Russell’s and Lord Oxburgh reviews were typical examples of the age old process of “Peer” review, in multiple ways. The UEA’s vice-chancellor Hon. Edward Acton asked his ex-collegue the ex-Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow (Muir Russell) to feel the pulse of his institution. For Oxburgh the UEA in consultation with the Royal Society, had “suggested that the panel looks in particular at key publications”. The usage of peerage rank holders as investigation leaders was meant to divert the attention from subject or legal expertise to artificial pomp – a classic technique. One has to help an old friend in need, right?

As for truth finding these investigations have all gone pear-shaped. Call them “pear reviews”.

Jul 19, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterantonyindia


How much did these white washes cost? I demand a refund!

Jul 19, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Andrew, nice persistence through their attempt to obstruct by redaction. A question (and dig-here):

In Oxburgh's attempt to justify the Eleven, he argued that they had the right to look at others and did look at others. So why would he ask Jones whether the Acton Eleven (actuually Davies Eleven) were fair if they planned to discuss other papers?

Jul 19, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre


This contradiction jumped out at me, too. The other obvious questions are: If Oxburgh really didn't know where the list of papers came from, why didn't he just ask? If Oxburgh really didn't know where the list of papers came from, why explicitly state in the report that they were selected by the RS? The stench lingering around his report gets more pungent by the day.

Jul 19, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Am I being hopelessly optimistic when I read Jessica's correspondence if I see signs of an actual willingness to help in there? The general tone seems quite cooperative. Generated in part no doubt by The Bishop's pleasant and courteous manner of request. Not exactly a love-in, but certainly not a stand-off.

Or have I put on my rose-tinted specs by mistake?

Jul 19, 2010 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

When this sorry whitewash finishes fading, I think we will not be surprised to see that Jones helped write the Oxburgh stunt.

Jul 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

From what I have begin to see in the press, it would appear to me that the blatant whitewashing is backfiring, not only with this congregation, but the more intelligent members of the press and public. This thing will snowball, just like Watergate snowballed on Nixon.

Already many of the fanboi like Moonbat are running away, and with that goes their support.

What needs to happen is to get MPs to start demanding a better accounting of what happened. There seems to be at least a few already and if they speak up, the press will follow.

Then open season on Climategate.

Phillip Bratby

I think you should go ahead and release the second tranche of emails on the anniversary of the release of the first. The timing will be just about perfect.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

One eventually comes to the realization that the blokes who conducted the Inquiries were either:

A) Total incompetents who were lost in the wilderness and knew not what they were doing; i.e., knew nothing about the subject science, scientific methods and controversies, and were therefore incapable of conducting appropriate investigations.
B) Actively conspired to cover up an embarrassing political mess.

The correct answer is likely B), with the conspiracy plan including a scheme designed to make people think that A) was the actual situation.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum


I rather prefer :

C: Total incompetents who were lost in the wilderness and knew not what they were doing as they actively conspired to cover up an embarrassing political mess.

Jul 19, 2010 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra


"Scouse Oxburgh..."

Yes the (not so) good Lord is indeed a scouser!

and an alumni of the Liverpool Institute

along with 'Beatles' members Paul McCartney (, and George Harrison ( and broadcaster Peter Sissons ( and musical impresario Bill Kenwright (

In teh first link I posted note this extract from that link

"Until recently he was Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee "

Jul 19, 2010 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevinUK

Although i think that their strategy has failed, i think that the reasoning behind it was as follows:
1) Need to reasure and confirm to the converted that all is well.
2)Need to reasure and confirm to msm that all is well and the science is solid.
3)Need to provoke the skeptics into rejecting the enquiries findings. This part is essential in order that we can use the skeptic reaction to our advantage.
This would have been a good strategy, had it been persued competently. However, the appointed fixers ,( although selected for their relatively low level of competance and significant bias in favour of the accused,) have proved to be more incompetent than predicted, leaving loose ends everywhere which are now be picked up and tugged to great effect.

Jul 19, 2010 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

If, in academic circles, Jones can sufficiently excuse himself from his legal obligations by claiming he wasn't trained, it strikes me that academia owes me several O' levels and A' levels that I only didn't pass because I didn't take them.

Jul 19, 2010 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

... are they serious? Phil Jones is assisting with the impartial investigation?

This is not remotely understandable to me.

Jul 19, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRalphieGM


Yes, I think you have it about right. They were too incompetent. That will only piss off the journalists when they see what a sham it was. The press are the ones that matter as they influence the punters, not us.

Now what we have to do is feed the journalists a solid story, which as several others have suggested, should NOT attack environmentalism per se, but break AGW off as an aberration driven by a cabal of greedy people who tried to usurp environmental concerns for their own ends.

I, for one, consider myself an environmentalist, but I believe in realistic and sensible goals. Ones that do not do more harm than good, such as mini florescent lamps that poison the environment with mercury, or ethanol fuel made from corn.

Thanks to the mistakes of the Great White Wash (GWW) they have lost the momentum in this battle. Now it is time for us to push. For one thing the Bishop's rebuttal to the GWW could really sway the journalist community. Andrew has the skill, talent, and position. Go for it, Lad!

Jul 19, 2010 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

This was a thoroughly legitimate request and I am relieved that IC is teaching UEA a lesson on what FOI is supposed to be for.

O/T An interesting article on solar energy variation on pp 22-23 of 'Imperial Matters'-
the IC in-house mag:

Jul 19, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

@Bishop Hill
Keep up the good work.

Jul 19, 2010 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol


A SCANDAL! they asked the author, whether this list was fine! it is a conspiracy! they come from MARS!

Jul 19, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentersod


I have never heard anyone suggest that they came from Mars. And very few have alleged a fullblown conspiracy

But would you not think it a trifle odd to ask an accountant which of the several book she kept they should look in for evidence of his guilt or otherwise. And then fail to even notice the other ones?

And I personally have never believed in a great conspiracy. Just a collective arrogance that they can do anything they like because they are intellectually superior to 'normal' people. And therefore any of their actions are ipso facto beyond reproach or question.

The real failure has been the consequent disconnection between the lax norms of integrity and proof achieved in academic life and the far higher standards pertaining everywhere else.

An 'independent inquiry' staffed with non-academics would have judged the whole affair far more critically

Jul 19, 2010 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Simply amazing. What were they thinking?

Jul 19, 2010 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob R

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