Tuesday, March 30, 2010

UK Climategate Parliamentary Inquiry: Science Was Solid, Jones Was Scapegoated

Quotes from the UK parliamentary Science and Technology committee presser, and brief comments:

MPs today strongly criticised the University of East Anglia for not tackling a "culture of withholding information" among the climate change scientists whose private emails caused a furore after being leaked online in November.


But the committee did not condemn the actions of Prof Phil Jones, the head of UEA's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) because it said he should have been better supported by the university in dealing with requests for data under the Freedom of Information Act. It added that the scientific reputation of Jones and the CRU was untarnished.

The committee's report entitled The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said the focus on Jones and CRU in the row about the hacked emails had been "largely misplaced" and that, "on accusations relating to freedom of information, we consider that much of the responsibility should lie with UEA, not CRU". In evidence to the enquiry, Jones admitted that he had sent some "awful emails".

"He probably wishes that emails were never invented," said Willis at a press conference. "But apart from that we do believe that Prof Jones has in many ways been scapegoated as a result of what really was a frustration on his part that people were asking for information purely to undermine his research."

Now, Denialists will almost certainly say that science is all about "undermining research", and bring out tired nostrums from Karl Popper. But it isn't. That's sometimes a by-product, but in science it is never the point. For Deniers like McIntyre it is the one and only point.

The MPs also take a well-deserved shot at the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office):

The MPs expressed "regret" that the UK's deputy information commissioner had made a statement saying, in their words, that "at least some of the requested information should have been disclosed" without his office having conducted a formal investigation. However, they agreed that there was a prima facie case for the university to answer and that the Information Commissioner's Office should conduct an investigation.

Oh I hope so! Because, as I have written previously, they will likely wind up investigating themselves.

An interesting comment from doctor Myles Allen:

Professor Myles Allen, a leading climate scientist at Oxford University, said that free exchange of data with fellow scientists was a fundamental requirement of academic research. But he added: "There was an assumption within the climate science community that we could use our professional judgment to distinguish between professional scientists and activists or members of the public."

"The big implication in all this for science is that the [FOI Act] is taking away our liberty to use our own judgment to decide who we spend time responding to. And that has a cost," he said.

...and so we circle back around to the notion of being supported by your institution. That support is going to have to be financial. Hopefully, the UK government will be kicking in a few lbs.

Overall judgement: BOOYAH!!! Its okay to call them deniers again!


Ti-Guy said...

Hopefully, the UK government will be kicking in a few lbs.

Arg! You never refer to the currency as "lbs."

Imagine if as many of our public institutions had to respond to FOI requests as in the UK? The whole country would be smoking ruin.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact".

Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Fred: shut up or say something substantial.

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