February 11, 2010

Expert Panel To Review “˜Climategate’ Case

Just months after a series of leaked e-mails from university researchers started the affair known as "Climategate," a panel of independent experts have now begun investigating the case, BBC News reported.

Sir Muir Russell and a team of experts will investigate how e-mails from the UK's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) appeared on the web and will consider if the e-mail exchanges between researchers show an attempt to manipulate or suppress data "at odds" with scientific practice.

Preliminary conclusions will likely be presented by Spring 2010, the panel said.

Muir, chairman of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, said his team was free to pursue and follow any line of inquiry they wish.

He told reporters their job is to investigate the scientific rigor, honesty, openness and due process of what CRU's approach has been.

"We will be calling for evidence, for submissions and comments on the issues that we will be putting to the members of CRU and others. We are also launching a website, and that will be the primary way in which people will be able to follow our progress," he said.

Over 1,000 messages between scientists at the CRU, based at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and their peers around the world were posted on the web in November, along with other documents.

Some of the world's most important datasets on how global temperatures have changed are housed at CRU. The unit's director Professor Phil Jones has since stepped down pending the review, and has said he stands by his data.

Muir was appointed by UEA in December to head an inquiry into a series of allegations that arose from the 1,000 stolen e-mails, as well as the hack that took 3,000 documents and 160MB of data.

The panel of experts must also determine whether the unit failed to observe Freedom of Information requests properly. Many critics said that the e-mail exchanges reveal an attempt by the researchers involved to manipulate data.

Many skeptics of climate change suggest that the affair shows that either human activities are not affecting the planet's climate system, or that the impacts are not as bad as many climate scientists would have us believe.

The investigation will look into the following:

- "Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice."

- "Review CRU's policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings."

- "Review CRU's compliance or otherwise with the university's policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act."

- "Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds."

Meanwhile, Muir said the panel would not review the past scientific work of the CRU, which will be re-appraised by a UEA-commissioned study that will involve the Royal Society in an advisory role.

Professor Trevor Davies, UEA's pro-vice-chancellor for research, enterprise and engagement, said in a statement that colleagues in CRU have strenuously defended their conduct and the published work.

"We believe it is in the interest of all concerned that there should be an additional assessment considering the science itself," he said.

It is important that the public had the utmost confidence in the science of climate change, according to Royal Society President Lord Rees.

"Where legitimate doubts are raised about any piece of science they must be fully investigated - that is how science works. The Royal Society will provide advice to the University of East Anglia in identifying independent assessors to conduct this reappraisal," he explained.

The panel has set a March 1, 2010 deadline for submissions to the review.


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