The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Dr Michael Simons (CRU 20)


  This submission relates to the implications of the CRU e-mail disclosures for the integrity of scientific research. The author submits that the evidence shows that accepted scientific standards were breached by the refusal publicly to disclose important scientific data, and also by bringing improper influence to bear on the peer review and publication processes so as to suppress contrary views. These failures of proper scientific practice were generally unchallenged, and hence tacitly condoned, by much of the scientific establishment. If the integrity of the scientific process itself is not maintained, there are profound adverse implications for the future integrity of scientific research. It is further suggested that the perception that research grants were selectively directed to units and individuals whose findings supported one particular narrative might encourage the scientifically flawed behaviour suggested by the e-mails in order to get the "correct" results.


  I write as a (retired) professional scientist who is dismayed at the apparent perversion of the scientific process revealed in the CRU e-mails and by supporting evidence, and by the apparent complicity of the scientific establishment in this. I welcome the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee's examination of these matters, and trust that the committee will be able to play a part in restoring integrity to the scientific process.

  I studied chemistry at Oxford and Reading Universities, qualifications PhD, MRSC, CChem. Worked for 40 years as an experimental research scientist in a major international company, collaborating with international colleagues, (USA, France, Germany) and am inventor or co-inventor of some 60 granted patents, and author or co-author of 4 peer reviewed papers (patents were main publication route, for commercial reasons).


  (i)  The scientific process is widely understood to comprise three main steps:

    (a) A study is carried out.

    (b) The study is published with sufficient data and procedural detail to allow independent workers to replicate the work and confirm or challenge the findings. Normally a peer review process occurs before publication, to ensure that the work as published complies with accepted professional standards in the discipline.

    (c) Other scientists can then repeat the work, and test, challenge, or develop and build on the published findings.

  (ii)  The key point is that everything must be independently verifiable, by making sufficient data available to do so. It is a tough but very effective process. If the information is not made available, it is not properly verified science.

  (iii)  In the case of industrial research, a similar process is carried out within the organisation. If something is patented, it must be described in the openly published patent in sufficient detail that a skilled person can independently replicate the invention.

  (iv)  The CRU e-mails show concerted efforts to avoid publishing CRU data requested under Freedom of Information (FOI), these data being relevant to published papers by CRU staff. The reasons are not clear, but what is clear is that it was not for legal reasons, it was because they really did not want their data made public. E-mail 1107454306 mentioned deleting data rather than letting it go public. E-mails 1106338806, 1219239172 and 1228330629 were about ways of avoiding FOI disclosure, and e-mail 1237496573, astoundingly, discussed boycotting Royal Meteorological Society journals if the RMS continued to insist on full publication of data for papers published in their journals. (Many climate journals apparently allowed publication of papers without full publication of data).

  (v)  The intent of the e-mails is verified by actual refusals by CRU, for various reasons, of FOI requests, by CRU removing previously available data from its website, and by CRU claiming to have lost its original raw data (Booker, The Real Global Warming Disaster, Continuum International publishing Group, London, 2009, pp 347, 348. Further supporting information on Climate Audit (Steve McIntyre) and Watts Up With That? (Anthony Watts) Websites). The Deputy Information Commissioner recently announced that CRU had acted in breach of the FOI Act.

  (vi)  These efforts effectively to conceal data are directly contrary to the principles of science. Rather than pursuing the scientific goal of revealing the truth, they seem more directed at concealing the truth.

  (vii)  The e-mails also reveal efforts to control and manipulate publication of papers in the climate science journals and beyond. In e-mail 1047388489, Mann to Jones, Mann suggests boycotting the journal Climate Research which published a paper contrary to his views, and/or leaning on the editorial board, and Jones replies "I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor". E-mail 1051190249 also discusses bringing pressure to bear on Climate Research editors. In e-mail 1106322460 Mann and Wigley discuss getting rid of Saiers, an editor of Geophysical Research Letters, which had published a paper contrary to their views. In e-mail 1255352257 Mann discusses putting pressure on the BBC who had broadcast an item not fully conforming with their "consensus".

  (viii)  Such attempts to influence the editorial policy of a journal to favour one point of view and deny publication to contrary points of view is a perversion of the principles of science.

  (ix)  The effects of these clearly unscientific actions and intentions are to undermine the integrity of the research work in question, work which was paid for by public funds and which has been very influential in forming policy which has enormous implications on the global economy and on mankind in general. They have also shamed British science.

  (x)  On the wider question of the integrity of scientific research in general, it is imperative that the principles of the scientific method are re-established, and that Parliament and the scientific establishment at large roundly and publicly condemn the malpractices as revealed by the e-mails. It is significant that non-publication of data, and also non-publication of the details of climate computer models, were implicitly condoned by sections of the scientific establishment who did not insist on publication, and this was happening well before the e-mails came to light, A few journals did insist on publication, others did not, but there was no significant objection to non-publication, nor about the secretive nature of climate science which was being used to inform very important areas of public policy. Unless openness, honest dealing and transparency are restored to science it risks becoming the tool of politicians and special interest groups, and entirely losing its credibility.

  (xi)  Finally, there is the question why might a scientist behave in the unprofessional ways indicated by the e-mails. There is at least anecdotal evidence (see Booker, loc.cit.) that climate research funding was preferentially directed to units whose findings supported one particular narrative (that there was dangerous climate warming and it was caused by man's release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere). Such a political influence would tend to steer ambitious unit directors in that direction to maintain their research grants, which is clearly detrimental to the integrity of scientific research.

February 2010

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