CRU cleared of scientific malpractice – so much for “climategate”

Phil Jones and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have been cleared of any scientific malpractice by the investigation chaired by Lord Ron Oxburgh, a former chairman of Shell. From the Guardian news report:

At a press conference earlier today Lord Oxburgh said, “Whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly,” although his panel did criticise the scientists for not using the best statistical techniques at times.

The report concluded: “We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.”

See also: BBC, UEA official response. I look forward to the fulsome apologies for unfounded allegations of fraud from the usual suspects — especially Christopher, Viscount Monckton, who dubbed Jones et al as criminals, fraudsters and profiteers. I won’t be holding my breath, but I will checking my understanding of the laws of libel as they apply in Britain.

51 thoughts on “CRU cleared of scientific malpractice – so much for “climategate””

  1. Actually Gareth, the BBC item looks like it's giving Jones and company a few short jabs in the puku before helping them to their feet. Given the choice of words in some passages it can "easily" be spun by the deniosaur propagandists. Couldn't they have chosen a different turn of phrase?, "Very surprising" makes it sound like something dodgey was going on, or that they didn't know what they were doing.

    You and I know the facts, but the article looks a bit equivocal from how I'd imagine the man or woman in the street to view it.

      1. "Interesting. I look forward to hearing them, and how they differ from the report" – A. Brown.

        They don't (no surprise) but they do include the background of harassment by the deniosaurs such as McIntyre, which lead to the website at UEA being hacked into & the subsequent brouha over nothing.

  2. Those people on the panel are some pretty heavyweight academics. A very thoughtful and considered report – unlike the howls of protest that are shortly going to erupt from certain quarters.

    The only quibble I have is around the suggestion that they needed to use professional statisticians. This is not a new issue. I did my PhD at UEA in the 90s, and I met Phil Jones – lovely man. We talked about the usage of advanced maths and stats in environmental and biological studies (I was doing mathematical modelling on my project). We discussed setting up a joint group between the ENV and BIO schools for promoting mathematical techniques, and taking a more professional attitude towards that. Don't think anything ever came of it, though. But we were certainly aware that it was important to improve the knowledge and use of stats in our disciplines.

    1. "We discussed setting up a joint group between the ENV and BIO schools for promoting mathematical techniques, and taking a more professional attitude towards that. Don't think anything ever came of it, though"


      YOU DON'T SAY!!!

      1. Alex

        this is one of the findings in the oxburgh report. as you can see, while they might have been better techniques, it would not have made much difference

        Like the work on tree rings this work is strongly dependent on statistical
        analysis and our comments are essentially the same. Although there are
        certainly different ways of handling the data, some of which might be
        superior, as far as we can judge the methods which CRU has employed are fair and satisfactory. Particular attention was given to records that seemed
        anomalous and to establishing whether the anomaly was an artefact or the
        result of some natural process. There was also the challenge of dealing with
        gaps in otherwise high quality data series. In detailed discussion with the
        researchers we found them to be objective and dispassionate in their view of
        the data and their results, and there was no hint of tailoring results to a
        particular agenda. Their sole aim was to establish as robust a record of
        temperatures in recent centuries as possible. All of the published work was
        accompanied by detailed descriptions of uncertainties and accompanied by
        appropriate caveats. The same was true in face to face discussions.

        1. Yes, I do know the background to this. It is interesting that they didn't even go near the 1000 year contstructions.

          Richard North of EURef has a reasonable take on it

          As he quotes of a Telegraph commenter, this is more a case of "systemic political corruption".

          Sadly, this is the Britain of today, and most of the UK are aware of this sad state of affairs

          1. Yeah, right. So when people were making specific accusations of fraud and conspiracies against UEA, they weren't really meant to be taken literally? When they said "fraud" they meant "not consulting professional statisticians? When they said UEA, they really meant the IPCC?

            What's that sound? Frantic backpedalling, I believe.

          2. They were not tasked with looking at Mann, et. al. once again. They were to look only at the work of the CRU. That is why they didn't look at Mann, et. al., that work had nothing to do with CRU. They did look at the Briffa, et. al. 1998 papers which uncovered and discussed the divergence problem.

        1. One has to cut and paste the appropriate text from EURef, in order to get this point across:

          "The Panel, we are reminded, was not concerned with "the question of whether the conclusions of the published research were correct." Rather "it was asked to come to a view on the integrity of the Unit's research and whether as far as could be determined the conclusions represented an honest and scientifically justified interpretation of the data."
          How Thus, we can put together a picture of the selection of data requiring "a great deal of judgement" which is extremely prone to selection bias, which was then subject to statistical techniques without the input from professional statisticians. And on top of that, there is an acknowledgement that judgemental decisions made had not been properly recorded, so that the work could be replicated by others.

          1. A desperate effort to create some suitable spin by North, who — given his earlier pronouncements — is hardly a disinterested observer. I expect we'll see a great deal more of this sort of parsing of the report in an attempt to defend the indefensible. No doubt the US PR men are working out the official sceptic line as a matter of urgency. I expect we'll see it emerging through µWatts/CA/TBR before too long.

            1. This is hardly a glowing report card: (seems like a remarkably similar conclusion that the Wegman report came to vis a vis statistics)

              From Page 3

              6. With very noisy data sets a great deal of judgement has to be used. Decisions have to be made on whether to omit pieces of data that appear to be aberrant.
              These are all matters of experience and judgement. The potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area. It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been involved in this work because it is fundamentally statistical. Under such circumstances there must be an obligation on researchers to document the judgemental decisions they have made so that the work can in principle be replicated by others "

              It hardly needs spin does it?

            2. It doesn't say that they actually did get misleading results, just that there is potential for that to happen, which makes it more important for the decisions to be documented.

              Try and spin it all you like, the report still says: No fraud.

  3. Who is dealing with the appallingly unscientific manner in which the members of the CRU dealt with FOI requests and their attitude to any views perceived as differing to their own?

    1. Who is dealing with the appallingly unscientific manner in which the FOI requests were generated, and McIntyre's attitude that climate scientists are crack addicts?

      It's about time you stopped being so one-sided. Gosman.

      1. I'm not being one sided here. I have stated that if ANYBODY engages in behaviour which is unscientific they should be pulled up on it. I welcome the criticism directed at people like McIntyre over how they carry out their Science.

        However just because people think the pure Science behind something is likely to be correct should not make them safe from claims of unscientific behaviour.

        Gareth, amongst others, was very big on stating that before we can criticise their behaviour as set out in the e-mails we should wait for the investigations to rule on what happened. So far I haven't seen anything actually discuss this beyond a vague mention in the Parliamentary report.

        1. Hmm. I couldn't recall any instance of you actually criticising McIntyre, so I did a quick search, and found this. Again, you had been loudly declaiming against CRU, but when asked to apply the same criticism to sceptics you replied

          This frankly adds nothing to the discussion and just seeks to divert attention from the bad practices carried out by the CRU.

          So much for even handedness.

          Likewise, when shown evidence of potential fraud by McLean et al, you didn't seem particularly bothered by that – not bothered enough to complain about it, at least.

          And in any case, the emails are the remit of the third inquiry, the Muir Russell committee. Strangely enough, they seem content to wait until their inquiry is complete before they announce its findings. Odd, I know, and totally contrary to accepted scientific practice, which as Anthony Watts will tell you, is to announce the results of your study before you have done it (and then when the results turn out differently, just pretend it never happened).

          1. Ummmm…. why are you engaging in cheery picking my replies to questions? I have no idea what quote you are using and what it is in relation to. That is extremely bad form for an discussion. Are you a child or young person because you certainly debate like one?

            As for whether I am complaining about something, I haven't complained about the CRU either, just expressed my opinion about it when someone raised it here on this site.

            This is a comments page on a Blog not a complaint process you Muppet.

            1. um, he provided the link. and it seems he has a point…

              as for the muppet comment, it isn't really called for when you're accusing someone else of debating like a child. u sux.

  4. Instead of relying on the spin of others, you could look at the report itself:

    We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely
    that we would have detected it.

  5. Since the wheels have now fallen off the AGW bandwagon and no one believes it anymore (unless you’re a moron), I figure we need a replacement “scare”.

    Therefore I propose the following “scare” story to frighten the masses:

    The mining of iron-ore will alter the planet’s magnetic field and result in an increased incidence of cancers due to increased penetration of cosmic rays, mainly of solar origin. The unbridled 'mass-shifting' of iron from Nature’s uniform distribution within the Earth’s crust toward concentrated ‘lumpy’ distribution where it is used to construct buildings, bridges and other structures and
    products of mankind’s evil inventiveness will cause the planet’s magnetic field to decrease in strength and become unbalanced. It will ultimately reach a “tipping point” whereby a total magnetic field collapse will occur, lest we desist from mining and halt the spread of civilization. The Earth will become uninhabitable and all life forms will expire.

    It doesn’t matter that it’s a bunch of crap like AGW was because the point is to frighten the masses and then tax them.

    But the beauty of this particular hobgoblin is that it has all the necessary ingredients of a latter-day Apocalypse that can be blamed on mankind. It is the result of so-called "Western greed" and thus can be put down to the spread of capitalism and Western technology. It has the required “tipping point” that can be used to frighten the ignorant masses with unavoidable doom unless they "stop raping the planet of iron" and look to the distant past as a guide for how they should live, being closer to Nature in joy and happiness. Furthermore, it is tailor-made for anti-capitalist socialist zealots who despise industrial progress and large corporations. It also has the promise of generating “research” grants for compliant rent-seeking scientists to “prove” the problem is serious, requiring wide-spread governmental intervention (overseen by the UN of course) by way of taxing any and all citizens who own, use or have access to iron in all its alloyed forms including all alloys of steel.

    Now how can we get this message out there?

    1. I read it. It's just Judith Curry playing her new "honest broker" role. "The public (and some scientists) has lost confidence in the data sets produced by CRU, NASA, Penn State, etc." she says. What scientists? She carefully shields herself I notice: "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." What does she find so lacking credibility? Doesn't say, actually. But she still manages a pretty damning statement: "…we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative." What evidence have we seen?

      1. Maybe you should read some of the public submissions into the CRU investigations. The investigations hardly scratched the surface of the allegations made in these submissions, and they didn't talk to any of the key players, in particular Steve McIntyre

        1. Thanks, but I have no interest. It was quite enough to read the Judith Curry comment. Allegations abound. Evidence is another matter. In any case the important evidence is in what we can see happening – rising temperatures, melting ice, rising sea level, and much more. We should be thankful that science has alerted us as to how it has come about and be taking the appropriate actions. Denial is mere bluster, but unfortunately influential nevertheless.

            1. The accusations of dishonesty all come from people associated with denialist organisations: Monckton, for instance. See links in the post.

  6. One of the submisisions was from computer scientist John Graham-Cumming. I don't believe he is associated with "denialist organisations".
    His submission was merely concerned with the quality of the computer code.
    In fact, the Met Office have acknowledged bugs that he found.

    Other submissions are concerned with peer-review gatekeeping. Others with respect to the CRUTemp record.Some with the validity of statistical techniques.

    These are all genuine concerns and need to be addressed. If the establishment and their claquers keep whitewashing us then it is hardly surprising that a large part of the public have no faith in climate science.

    You don't have to be a "denialist" to see wrong here.

    1. Read the report. They have been addressed, and found insubstantial. All you are now doing is desperately trying to keep the issue alive. Par for the course, it would seem from your earlier comments.

  7. "These are all genuine concerns and need to be addressed. If the establishment and their claquers keep whitewashing us then it is hardly surprising that a large part of the public have no faith in climate science. "

    Now there you go, Alex B. Those are NOT genuine concerns, and there could never be any kind of inquiry, apart from the traditional witchhunt, that would satisfy the denialati. If the findings don't suit, keep repeating the accusations, or shift the goalposts.

    ""The fact is we found them absolutely squeaky clean," the head of the panel, Ron Oxburgh, a geologist and former government advisor, told the BBC. He said some of the criticism by skeptics, who pointed to the e-mails as proof of a massive scientific coverup, was "just plain nasty and ill-informed.""

    "Plain nasty and ill-informed" is restrained, but precise. I'd say vicious and intellectually dishonest myself.

  8. LOL! I'm not really surpised that you have difficulty recognising science, Alex.

    The places you take your information from are certainly not scientific, and your own approach reflects that.

    "Talk to the hand" indeed. Risible.

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