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March 02, 2010

Phil Jones at Parliamentary Inquiry into ClimateGate: Peer-"Reviewed" Journals "Never Asked" for My Data and Methods

Two different accounts of the hearings. The first, in the Guardian, suggests that MPs were too gentle with Jones.

Jones did his best to persuade the Commons science and technology committee that all was well in the house of climate science. If they didn't quite believe him, they didn't have the heart to press the point. The man has had three months of hell, after all.

Jones's general defence was that anything people didn't like – the strong-arm tactics to silence critics, the cold-shouldering of freedom of information requests, the economy with data sharing – were all "standard practice" among climate scientists. "Maybe it should be, but it's not."

And he seemed to be right. The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. "They've never asked," he said.

He gave a little ground, and it was the only time the smile left the face of the vice-chancellor, Edward Acton: "I've written some awful emails," Jones admitted. Nobody asked if, as claimed by British climate sceptic Doug Keenan, he had for two decades suppressed evidence of the unreliability of key temperature data from China.

But for the first time he did concede publicly that when he tried to repeat the 1990 study in 2008, he came up with radically different findings. Or, as he put it, "a slightly different conclusion". Fully 40% of warming there in the past 60 years was due to urban influences. "It's something we need to consider," he said.

Nor did the MPs probe how conflicts of interest have become routine in Jones's world of analysing and reconstructing past temperatures. How, as the emails reveal, Jones found himself intemperately reviewing papers that sought to criticise his own work. And then, should the papers somehow get into print, judging what place they should have in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where he and his fellow emails held senior positions.

Maybe some tougher sledding for Jones ahead, though:

But the committee will be hard pressed to ignore the issue after the intervention of no less a body than the Institute of Physics. In 13 coruscating paragraphs of written evidence to MPs, it spoke of "prima facie evidence of determined and coordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law", "manipulation of the publication and peer review system", and "intolerance to challenge ... which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process." Ouch.

Another account, this time in the Register, suggests the questioning was tougher than that -- or, at least, that friendly warmista MPs began the hearings supporting Jones but by the end were increasingly skeptical and even exasperated.

Climategate hits Westminster: MPs spring a surprise

'Don't panic, carry on' isn't working

By Andrew Orlowski

Parliament isn’t the place where climate sceptics go to make friends. Just over a year ago, just three MPs voted against the Climate Act, with 463 supporting it. But events took a surprising turn at Parliament’s first Climategate hearing yesterday.

MPs who began by roasting sceptics in a bath of warm sarcasm for half an hour were, a mere two hours later, asking why the University of East Anglia’s enquiry into the climate scandal wasn’t broader, and wasn’t questioning “the science” of climate change. That’s further than any sceptic witness had gone.

In between, they’d wrought an admission from CRU director Phil Jones that he’d written some awful emails, and that during peer review nobody had ever asked to see his raw data or methods.

Perhaps the Honourable Members had noticed an incongruity. The Vice Chancellor of East Anglia, with Jones seated next to him, had said CRU had made a significant contribution to the human scientific understanding of climate change. Yet the practices of CRU looked more tatty and indefensible as the hearing went on. How could CRU be crucial to the science, but the science could not be discussed? Something was not quite right.

The final report, expected before the election, may not reflect the events of the day. But it’s worth recording. The shift was down to Graham Stringer BSc, an analytical chemist and the only scientist on the MPs' committee.

Lugubrious might be a word invented especially for Stringer, who had run Manchester for 12 years before becoming an MP in 1997. He’d shunned the glamour of high office, and become a local hero back home by campaigning against the Manchester congestion charge.

But Stringer had done his homework, and through patience and dogged persistence, he began to swing the chairman behind him. Mirroring the collapse in public sympathy for climate science since the scandal broke, the stalwarts so vocal at 3pm were silent by the close.

The last half hour, in which three of the biggest global warming advocates assured the Committee to keep calm, don’t panic, and carry on - had a slightly surreal air to it.

Jones initially stated that the methods were published in the scientific papers, “there’s no rocket science in them”. He can’t have thanked his boss Acton for butting in to say that CRU was “not a national archive” and had no obligation to preserve the raw temperature data.

Willis, who’d earlier given Lord Lawson and Benny Piesar of the [global-warming skeptic organization] Global Warming Policy Foundation a withering roasting, wasn’t impressed. “We can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to,” he complained.

“We are longing to publish it,” claimed Acton, a bit too unctuously.

“Why can’t independent people check your scientific papers?” asked Stringer.

“It isn’t traditionally done,” replied Jones. Stringer continued, quoting Jones' email to Warwick Hughes, famous before Climategate broke, refusing to give data. Jones had said, "Why should I make the data available when your aim is to find something wrong with it?"

Stringer said scientists make their reputations by proving or disproving what other scientists have done. He forced Jones to admit that contrary to his initial statement, the code wasn’t available for independent scientists to test the work. So how can science progress, Stringer wondered.

Jones admitted he had “obviously written some very awful emails”. Stringer said science “shouldn’t have to rely on an individual request for other scientists to get the data”.

Previously sympathetic MPs were beginning to be more hostile. One asked why it was so unusual for somebody to replicate Jones' work from scratch. Jones said that during the peer review process, nobody had ever asked for raw data or methodology.

...

Stringer felt the taxpayer was being cheated. The attitude seemed to put the scientists above ordinary scrutiny, and beyond questioning by the people who paid their wages. He mentioned that the US DoE part paid for CRU’s work. Jones replied they can go get the raw data elsewhere.

Acton didn’t help when he said UEA was “longing” to release the raw data. If that was true now, everyone knew it wasn’t true for years.

By this point Jones and Acton appear to have lost the sympathy of the Committee’s Chair, Willis.

What staggered him, he said, was Acton’s statement that the integrity of the UEA was the most important question. “Surely scientific integrity on the world's leading global question should be the question. Have you not miserably failed?” he asked.

It was a sign how differently the middle ground views climate scientists since the Climategate Affair broke.

A guy named Russel was picked by the University to investigate ClimateGate-- but he looked only at the hacking angle, and not at the underlying issue of whether the withholding of data was itself wrongful. He got some grilling, and provided an astonishing quote:

Russell said it was a process enquiry not a substance enquiry – one for the great book of bureaucrats’ quotes. He looked alarmed at the prospect of an enquiry looking at climate science. “Where would it end? What kind of questions would people ask?”


We can't have people asking questions of scientists!

That's as much as I can quote, but both articles are worth reading in full.

Thanks to ArthurK.


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posted by Ace at 04:07 PM

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