The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in November 2009 generated immense media interest as the story broke in the run up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference. It was alleged that the leaked material showed a deliberate and systematic attempt by leading climate scientists to manipulate climate data, to support their global warming claims. It was also alleged that CRU may have attempted to abuse the process of peer review to prevent the publication of research papers with conflicting opinions about climate change and that UEA may not have complied with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
UEA set up two inquiries: the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review (ICCER) into the allegations against CRU, which was headed by Sir Muir Russell, and an independent external Scientific Appraisal Panel (SAP), headed by Lord Oxburgh.
In addition, our predecessors in the last Parliament carried out an inquiry but were constrained by the time available before the end of the Parliament. Neither the ICCER nor the SAP had produced their reports before our predecessors reported to the House. Our report focuses on how the ICCER and SAP did their job and addressed the issues raised.
We have some reservations about both inquiries. The scope and purpose of the SAP review appeared to change from an examination of the integrity of the science to the integrity of the scientists and as result there has been some confusion. The disparity in length between the SAP report and ICCER could foster the impression that it was not as thorough as the ICCER. We were also concerned that the SAP should have been more open and transparent. The process by which it selected the documents for review could have been more open and it should have published its working papers.
In contrast the ICCER was more comprehensive and transparent, although, we believe, that it should have taken its evidence in public. We are concerned that it did not fully investigate the serious allegation relating to the deletion of e-mails. We find it unsatisfactory that we are left with a verbal reassurance from the Vice-Chancellor that the e-mails still exist.
The disclosure of data from CRU has been traumatic and challenging for all involved. While we have some reservations about the reviews which UEA commissioned, the key point is that they have made a number of constructive recommendations. In our view it is time to make the changes and improvements recommended and with greater openness and transparency move on.