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FOI fighters

The Met Office has refused to release the Zero Order Drafts of the Fourth Assessment Report (yes, that's Fourth, not Fifth). This is quite interesting, because a the Information Commissioners have recently suggested that once the assessments have passed into history, the related drafts should be published.

Andrew Orlowski has the full story at El Reg.

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Reader Comments (57)

Imternational relations - tosh. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to hide. I wonder what nefarious deeds were going on that they don't want the taxpayers to see.

Nov 20, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Very foolish. I can't see this ending well for the Met Office.

Nov 20, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

A well placed question in The Commons might be a good idea.

Nov 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

This is an extraordinary decision. I suggest Mike
MacCracken (USA ) be notified. He sent me a large pile of drafts And comments and even email correspondence on SAR. There is a strong ethos of openness among the old school participants. As a pragmatic solution I recommend approaching participants. There are some remarkable private collections around.

Nov 20, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterBerniel

The Fear is palpable.

""Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.

Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say - more than a little unfairly - to any civil servant who would listen: Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him? We had legislated in the first throes of power. How could you, knowing what you know have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?"

Tony Blair, A Journey, Hutchinson, September 2010"

Nov 20, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Probably one of, if not the only, good thing Blair did - even if it was a mistake in his eyes.

Nov 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

This is similar to Mann and his supporters denying their publicly financed work to be be reviewed independently. It only confirms that they are hiding something.
The great thing in the internet age is that everything eventually leaks, as the American President is discovering.
The UK Met has been corrupted by the AGW dysfunction now for a number of years. I hope this can be used as a way to help start a recovery process. But then I am an optimist.

Nov 20, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Unless I've misread, the request was for the draft versions of two chapters from the Third Assessment Report, not AR4. Orlowski has it wrong.

Nov 20, 2013 at 2:07 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Harold, let me clarify.

I have two requests to the MO outstanding. The first, now refused by the MO was for the AR4 ZODs and was requested because the Tribunal was absolutely clear, in its ruling on the AR5 ZODs, that after AR5 is published that particular Tribunal's view was that they would have ordered the release of AR5 ZODs. This view is not binding on a new Tribunal, but if a new Tribunal agreed with the first, it might also take a dim view of the MO demanding a re-run on what appears to be exactly the same issues.

The other request to the MO is for all the drafts, reviewers comments and lead authors responses on the TAR Chapters 2 and 12. In its usual way the MO claimed this was manifestly unreasonable and involved some 780 documents. The MO suggested that I refine my request, which I have done. I think for each chapter their are three text drafts, three figures drafts and three Excel spreadsheets of annotated comments - 18 documents.

Frankly the second request is the more interesting one. For instance did no expert reviewer question the dodgy use of aerosols to make the Hadley Centre model hind cast the mid century cooling? Anderson et al 2003 did so after the event.

Nov 20, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Look, I know it's politically incorrect - here - to say so, but as I have said before, there are downsides to carrying FOI to its farthest limits.

There have been occasions where I have started out drafting a paper with one at least tentative point of view, and finished up with another, as a result of research and reflection. Admirable and uncontroversial in an academic environment, perhaps, but potential political dynamite, e.g.

I did not have a clue when I started (possibly true);

I changed my mind more than once over the exercise (uh-huh);

I accepted and/or rejected comments from others (well, duh!);

and, OMG,

my superiors accepted my work.

Look, I am not defending the suppression of the AR4, or whichever, comments that they may be. They are fair game, IMO. But we need to get away from this "anything that is produced on the public payroll, ever, is subject to FOI" mindset as well.

I repeat, it is political dynamite, used by the other side to demonstrate anything and everything.

IPCC processes should be transparent, since they claim to simply summarise current research on an international scale without fear or favour. Why not?

But, the trouble with taking this down to the micro level of nations is that their internal conflicts and decision processes become fodder for their opponents, not just in service of the public interest.

It's a fine balance, but hopefully its existence will be at least acknowledged by some of the mililitant FOI advocates.

Nov 20, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

David Holland,
Thanks for the clarification. I had followed the link at the Register, which led me to the TAR request.

Nov 20, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

>But we need to get away from this "anything that is produced on the public payroll, ever, is subject to FOI" mindset as well.

If you're that concerned about your embarrassment, do it with your own coin.

Nov 20, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

David Holland,
In your TAR request, you imply that draft versions and review comments for TAR were archived at Harvard University. Are you aware of anyone actually inspecting these?

I suspect review comments concerning the "hockey stick graph" would be intriguing.

Added: If they are indeed archived, would that not be justification for refusal on the grounds that the information is already in the public domain?

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:02 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Harold, you are right. I am waiting to be let into el reg to point out that error.

Johanna, no one bothers to to go through old papers and emails for the fun of it. But where £Trillions versus the end of life as we know it is at stake the standard of disclosure should be exceptional. So far each of the disclosures from the Met Office and Universities has revealed dishonesty in the IPCC process.

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland


In September 2009, I had a polite email conversation with Curator of the Harvard library who told me the IPCC "open archive" is in eight unindexed boxes of paper. He would be delighted if I were to go and look at them. However he did not reply when I asked how many times they had been looked through.

Is there any BH reader in Boston Mass who fancies a bit of sleuthing?

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland


I am in the Boston Area. How can I get hold of you?

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commentertarran

David Holland -
I am indeed in the Boston area. Would it be sufficient merely to ask at the desk for the "IPCC stuff", or is there a more precise description which the curator might have mentioned to you?

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

I've said before that I have some sympathy with johanna's argument on this. I also agree with David that once the IPCC report is published there is little or not reason to withhold the reports on the discussions held at an early stage. Certainly there should be nothing to stop the ZOD for AR4 reaching the public after AR5 is published.
The problem arises when we demand that every piece of paper, casual comment, scrap of discussion between ministers and civil servants or between scientists working on a hypothesis or any of 100 other things that go on day in and day out in public service be immediately made available just because we want it to be.
I'm afraid that is a recipe for paralysis in government because nobody would be prepared to advise or discuss anything that might even be remotely controversial for fear that their names were attached to some unpopular view on immigration or drug policy or the age of consent or possible changes to any of the numerous tax laws.
And it's nothing to do with embarrassment, AC1, it's to do with good and effective governance.
Correction: yes, some of it is probably to do with embarrassment but you don't solve that problem by opening up every last little thing to public gaze; you solve it by making sure that the law is clear, the limitations are understandable and acceptable and that there is a robust and genuinely independent appeals process whose word is final. It's the ability of the "requestees" to delay, obfuscate, and lodge ever more appeals that needs to be addressed.

Nov 20, 2013 at 3:56 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

>But we need to get away from this "anything that is produced on the public payroll, ever, is subject to FOI" mindset as well.

If you're that concerned about your embarrassment, do it with your own coin.
Nov 20, 2013 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1
It has nothing to do with my embarrassment. Unless you think that coming to a good decision does not mean evaluating evidence from all quarters, and perhaps inclining this way or that along the way, you have never worked on an important issue. And if you think that exposing every step of that process to one's political opponents somehow helps to form better public policy, you are a fool, and a political naif, at best.

Nov 20, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna -
I think you make a good point that not everything should be subject to FoI. With respect to the IPCC process, I don't think that discussions held at CLA get-togethers, for example, need be revealed. But surely the formal ARx drafts, and comments, which were provided to all the reviewers, do not need such protection.

Nov 20, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

I don't think that Johanna has properly grasped David Holland's point

"Johanna, no one bothers to to go through old papers and emails for the fun of it. But where £Trillions versus the end of life as we know it is at stake the standard of disclosure should be exceptional. So far each of the disclosures from the Met Office and Universities has revealed dishonesty in the IPCC process".

Quite simply, if there is "tampering" with facts to create "science" that is more like "advocacy" then it must be disclosed and the sooner the better. The people responsible must then be held to account. The stakes are high. We are talking about trillions of Dollars in potentially misplaced investments.

Nov 20, 2013 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

Harold, as the IPCC process is supposedly not about formulating policy, but merely collating and evaluating research, there is no reason why it should not be transparent. The UN is not a democracy.

But in our kind of democracy, the government has the right to have debates internally. That is the essence of Cabinet government, which we Aussies got from you Poms.

It means that you can (and should) fight like cats and dogs about an issue, but come out of the Cabinet room with an agreed position.

FOI is about process, not policy.

Nov 20, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Thanks for the additional commentary. Knowing your background, I give great weight to your opinions on the topic.

One small correction -- I am not one of "you Poms"; I am American. The Australians can't trace their political arrangements to the States, although perhaps one can place the spin/salesmanship slant of political discussion at our doorstep.

Nov 20, 2013 at 5:23 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Tarran and Harrold and any other volunteers,

If you use the contact form at the top of the page and ask your email address to be forwarded to me I will send you the correspondence that I had with the Curator. The archive was at the Lamont Library in 2009. It may be that one of you should make contact to check where they are now and the admission times etc. The chapters to go for are 2 and 12 and it is worth first reading the published ones at Eight boxes is a lot to look through so maybe those in or near Boston should collaborate.

Nov 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Johanna, I agree that there are a small number of publicly funded scientific studies, almost all of which would be related to national security, that nations should not automatically be required to disclose. Publicly funded climate science is not among them. Publicly funded science which is not exempted by specific procedural claims of national security, should be subjected to strict compliance regulations designed specifically to disclose results to the public.

To wit, regulations should demand that all papers, data and supplemental materials should be simultaneously hosted and available on public web sites at the time of publication. Included in this is the notion that no pay-walled journals may have exclusive access to these data or papers. That might mean a rapid shrinkage of professional, peer-review journals, and hence a dearth of peer reviewers under the old model. I'm okay with that. The peer-review process is highly corrupt under the current system and needs a good thrashing. Each scientific field could advance it's own members to perform peer-reviews, based on a cooperative and obligatory duty, akin to jury duty. A random selection of peer-reviewers would clean up a lot of sins. Scientists selected for peer-review who perform this task haphazardly would suffer remuneration penalties and face termination if they are public employees, their universities or departmental managers now having the obligation of reviewing their subordinate scientists' performance of their peer review duties..

As for professional journals going away because their profit motives are gone, so be it. University libraries all over the world are currently digitizing old thesis and dissertation documents, adding them to their library collections. Similar archives can be set up to maintain publicly funded science documents at each university that accepts such public grant money. A university could not get grant money without also committing to providing online archival space for the data and publications, and the services of their scientific researches as peer-reviewers.

Within such a system as this, exemptions could be sought for projects as a national security critical. Presumably, some governmental oversight body, accountable to elected officials, would be capable of denying or granting this national security exemption. Misuse or corruption within this body, protecting things wrongly, that should be public, would be a criminal violation.

Nov 20, 2013 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

Interesting to note that I would think both sides of the debate would wish to see those documents and would be equally disturbed at the Met Office refusal (or any UK taxpayer for that matter). Hard to find common ground sometimes but this seems to be it.

And yet, I'm not feeling that.

Nov 20, 2013 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

I'm with johanna on this one, for two reasons.

1) If the participants knew that every comment, doubt, joke, opinion or speculation in every brainstorming session was going to be made public, it would greatly inhibit the whole process of decision making.

2) As the leaks of Hadley Centre and Heartland Institute material showed, such documents immdiately become the ammunition in a propoganda war, with every word potentially spun to suit the agenda of the spinners.

Nov 20, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

1) This will show the process is being followed, that doubts are answered, opinions are voiced, jokes & speculations, all part of life.
2) The leaks from the CRU showed what poor science was being done & how politics & personalities were being imposed upon the process. The Heartland leaks also showed what lengths the "Warmists" would go to discredit opposing views, by forging documents.

Nov 20, 2013 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Its simply amazing how much 'smoke and mirrors' are need for this 'settled science whose case is claimed to be so strong . Surely if that was the case they simply not be needed for no one could find any evidenced worth a dam to challenge it..

However, by such actions you cannot help but feel that reality is very different to what 'the cause ' likes to claim it is.
The days of published and be damned , have been replaced by 'why should I give you the data you only want to find something wrong with it'

Nov 20, 2013 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

There is an important sub-theme to the FOI debate. If an author or institution sees fit to publish a graph, then they should also not be afraid to publish the file of numbers used to plot the same graph. Steve McIntyre, of course, is well known for his calls for better data-archiving, and his tussles with recalcitrant members of the 'hockey-team'.

In one of the most well publicised examples of scientific fraud in recent times, Jan Hendrik Schön was finally rumbled for his irreproducible results when it was observed that the background "noise" in one of his published graphs appeared to bear an uncanny resemblance to that in one or more of his other published graphs. He had already numerous prizes and awards for his work before that point.

I sometimes wonder what graphs get shown to politicians when the rest of us are not there to see.

Nov 20, 2013 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

It's very interesting how they sail around the "public interest" issue *for* disclosure.

From one of the responses
( -

"This level of transparency appears to meet the wider public interest, however, I acknowledge there is a further level of interest to those individuals with a keen interest in climate science. Regulation 12(1)b refers to the public interest, and disclosure sunder EIR are in effect to the world at large, not just to the individual requester. The requester's private interests are not in themselves the same as the public interest, and what may serve those private interests does not necessarily serve a wider public interest."

Nov 20, 2013 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterKatabasis

If a member of the public is interested in knowing something paid for by the wider public, that is in the public interest , isn't it? Therefore it should released, you cannot judge it by the person who is asking. I seem have a faint memory of a FOI Information Commissioner judgement saying so with regard to CC or environment appeal.. Does anyone remember what it was? (Steve McIntyre asking?)

The MO are equivocating, delay, delay, delay.....

Nov 20, 2013 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

2) The leaks from the CRU showed what poor science was being done & how politics & personalities were being imposed upon the process. The Heartland leaks also showed what lengths the "Warmists" would go to discredit opposing views, by forging documents.

Nov 20, 2013 at 7:42 PM | Adam Gallon

You rather make my point. You interpret the CRU documents in a negative manner and the Heartland Institute documents in a positive manner. This has nothing to do with the documents and a lot to do with your own biases.

Nov 20, 2013 at 11:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

The refusal is illogical, given that the info has already passed from the IPCC to the MO.
The decision implies that the MO has an ability to embarrass the IPCC that is not the same as a citizen's ability. So the decision requires exposition of a difference between the MO and a citizen, but this difference is not given.
I'd think that the cat came out of the bag when the IPCC gave the material to the MO.

Nov 21, 2013 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington


Attributing "The science is settled" to climate scientists in general is another sceptic straw man.

I enclose a short quote from RealClimate.

"Some may ask why we keep revisiting the question about cosmic rays and climate, after presenting all the evidence to the contrary.

One reason is that science is never settled, and there are still some lingering academic communities nourishing the idea that changes in the sun or cosmic rays play a role."

Nov 21, 2013 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"Attributing "The science is settled" to climate scientists in general is another sceptic straw man."

- It's easy to knock down then? Welcome to the sceptic's fold EM! :)

Nov 21, 2013 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterKatabasis

Mickey Reno, I agree with your points 100%. And with those who want data and code to be published along with papers.

My point is that people who are working together, especially in a high-pressure environment, make (sometimes black or politically incorrect) comments; change their minds; speculate; and so on. This is not legitimate fodder for FOI, but rather the opposite of good policymaking, because it is about personalia and gossip rather than data.

That is why Mann's whinge about FOI being used as an attack tool was so obnoxious. He pretended that it was about the personal, whereas all he was being asked to do was show his work. Nobody was going to publish the emails where he (hypothetically) made arrangements to meet his mistress, dominatrix, bookie, crack supplier or cockfight convener. That stuff is automatically exempt.

Nov 21, 2013 at 6:09 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

@ Messenger:

"If a member of the public is interested in knowing something paid for by the wider public, that is in the public interest , isn't it? "
No. "What the public is interested in" is not the same as the public interest. This is a long standing legal principle, and with good reason. The rights of individuals also apply, and usually supersede, what the public may be interested in..

For example, if a gossip mag was speculating about whether or not a female celebrity who also had a job was pregnant, would it be "in the public interest" to track her visits to the lavatory, just because some of their readers might be interested? Well, no. The law, rightly, says that prurient interest in other people's private lives has nothing to do with the public interest.

Nov 21, 2013 at 7:07 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I agree, Katabasis @ 9:47 PM. Who is to determine 'wider public interest'? This is so inimical to FOI as to be, well, I cannot come up with an adequate word. Not quickly, anyway.

Nov 21, 2013 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

entropic man is slipping in a new term, "Heartland Leaks" that is interesting.
Apparently em is deceptively trying to make an equivalence between the CRU leaks and the Heartland fraud.
What a sorry and pathetic effort.
CRU was an accurate release of data that has withstood the test of time and took multiple coverups to squash, yet still deeply crippled the AGW fanatic cause.
Heartland was a scam run by slimeball AGW fanatic that demonstrated nothing bad about Heartland and contained an obvious forgery.
Not even a good try my em.
Losers on the AGW side rely on deception and forgery.
Skeptics simply want all the facts on the table.
Implying an equivalence is a sorry bit deception by em.

Nov 21, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Johanna writes: My point is that people who are working together, especially in a high-pressure environment, make (sometimes black or politically incorrect) comments; change their minds; speculate; and so on. This is not legitimate fodder for FOI, but rather the opposite of good policymaking, because it is about personalia and gossip rather than data.
Sorry, you don't persuade me. That a few foibles may be exposed in the process of fulfilling good public policy is a small price to pay. Furthermore, there's the whole question of ownership. As public employees, scientists do not own their professional communications, the public that funds them does. When I worked for a Fortune 500 technology company, every one of it's employees understood that the e-mails they sent from their work accounts did NOT BELONG TO THEM, but to the company. There was no expectation that your e-mails could not be read by management, no expectation of privacy. EPA head Lisa Jackson fully understood this when she corruptly began to send her work e-mails through a personal and private (ie. unaccountable) e-mail address and server, specifically to avoid public accountability for her sometimes distasteful opinions and views. We as a republican body politic, are smart enough to separate wheat from chaff, and jokes and rants might be easily forgiven, if they don't become the rule. But the little snippets and whinges of the climategate e-mails are very telling as to the attitudes being inculcated by the "the team's" mental milieu. That milieu is also part of the public funded environment, and giving bureaucrats and experts and scientists a dodge to cover things up, makes it just too damn easy for the kinds of corruptions we see in climate science, to occur.

Nov 21, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

I was referring to the release of publicly funded documents, not to journalists invading other people's privacy.

Nov 21, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

To my pleasant surprise, the Met Office have released the drafts and comments on Chapters 2 and 12 of the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report with a covering letter at:

The ZODs have not been released and I have asked whether or not they are held by the Met Office. However, the interesting thing is that the Met Office say that the drafts and comments were sent to Harvard on a CD-ROM. Remarkably, in 2009, I had been told by the Curator at Harvard

“They are not available in electronic form”

It will be some time before I can go through the information in detail.

Nov 21, 2013 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Just for once, I support the Met Office in this.

Any scientist or engineer who has been involved in original research will always internally circulate an early draft of their work for comment - it is just common sense. Sometimes simple errors are picked up and can be corrected, on other occasions constructive citicism can improve the work and produce something of greater value.

In my personal opinion the Met Office and IPCC have not produced anything at all of scientific merit in the area of anthropogenic global warming, simply because their models have been falsified by nature and there is no empirical evidence to support their hypothesis. However, I make this judgement based upon their published work, and not on the early drafts of calculations and conclusions.

Nov 21, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff


Read my post. Straw man knocked down.


As with Adam Gallon, your bias is showing.

The blog here on "The nature of scientific advice" includes Steve McIntyre's ad hominen attack on Robert Way, based on previous internet comments. If ridiculous propoganda like this is the likely outcome of transparancy, I vote for opacity.

Nov 21, 2013 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

David Holland -
While the comments were included, I didn't see any responses. The MO reply letter mentions comments but no responses. However, your initial request clearly included these: "I request electronic copies of the zeroth, first and second order drafts (ZODs, FODs & FODs [sic]) of chapters 2 and 11 [sic, later amended to 12] of the 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) together with the government and expert reviewers’ comments upon the drafts and the authors’ responses."

Have I overlooked something, or the MO?

Nov 21, 2013 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW


That passage tells you all you really need to know about Blair. Possibly the best thing he accomplished in office and he hates himself for it!

Nov 21, 2013 at 7:34 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Entropic man sorry but the game of 'we never said that ' got very old indeed when its proved time and again they did .
Of course I understand given that AGW faithful regard sceptics as 'simpletons ', amongst many other insulting terms , why is used.
But being dead wrong about this means the 1984 style rewriting of history so popular at RS and SS , is a total fail here.

Settled science , that term will dog climate 'scientists' for the rest of their careers and they only themselves to blame for that.

Nov 21, 2013 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR


You are right. I had noticed. No ZODs, no authors' responses. I will press to see them after I have looked through what we have.

Nov 21, 2013 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

What is a 'Zero Order Draft'? Why don't they just start with the First? Could it be that a 'Zero Order Draft' is the kind of internal speculative deliberation johanna is talking about?

BTW, johanna, if there is a document out there that proves a Mann (hypothetically) made arrangements to meet "his mistress, dominatrix, bookie, crack supplier or cockfight convener", then the public would surely be interested to know. Crack and cockfight is against the law.

Nov 21, 2013 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

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