The Reviews into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit's E-mails - Science and Technology Committee Contents

2 Setting up the independent reviews

The Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP)

20. In the UEA press release issued on 11 February 2010, Professor Davies said, in announcing the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP), that "there should be an additional assessment considering the science itself".[27] Professor Acton then explained to the former Committee in oral evidence on 1 March 2010 that the SAP was "to reassess the science and make sure there is nothing wrong".[28] A subsequent UEA press release on 22 March 2010, announced that Lord Oxburgh would "chair an independent Scientific Assessment Panel to examine important elements of the published science of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia".[29] Our predecessor Committee took the view that "reputation has to be built on the solid foundation of excellent, peer reviewed science" and that the review of the science to be carried out by the SAP, which was announced on 22 March, "should determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built and it would be premature for us to pre-judge that review".[30]

21. The subtle change in language between 11 February and 22 March has been interpreted by some as a change in the purpose of the SAP from being about the "quality of the science" to the "integrity of the science", i.e. from "was the science right?" to "was it carried out correctly?".[31] Lord Oxburgh explained to us that what Professor Acton had said on 1 March 2010 "was inaccurate", and that the scope of the panel was made clear in the press notice issued on 22 March 2010 when the panel was appointed.[32] The press notice Lord Oxburgh referred to stated that the panel would "examine important elements of the published science of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia".[33] Lord Oxburgh explained how he took on the task:

I was visited in Cambridge by the deputy vice-chancellor and another senior member of the University, who wanted to persuade me to take this on. This had to be done rapidly. This was their concern. They really wanted something within a month, and there is no way that our panel could [...] validate the science. In fact, if you wanted the science validated you'd actually appoint a different panel. You probably wouldn't appoint me as chairman, and you would actually need experts from the field, because it is a very different activity to see whether things are wrong from saying, "Yes, they're right," or "They have been done properly" or "improperly". It is very different. It really is quite different. So I was quite clear. What we took on was really to look at the integrity of the researchers, and we couldn't really have done anything different from that.[34]

22. Professor Acton acknowledged that the phrase, "Look at the science and see if there is anything wrong" was open to different interpretations.[35] He appeared to us to question whether such a review would serve any purpose. He pointed out that reassessments of the scientific literature on climate change had been carried out recently in the US by both the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering)[36] and the Environmental Protection Agency.[37] He also made the point that, "the science published by the CRU is constantly being considered by colleagues across the world. That is the nature of science—that people have a great interest to test, examine and see if they can advance and refine work currently commanding the field".[38]

23. It is our view that the most reasonable interpretation of the UEA press notice of 11 February 2010 and the Vice-Chancellor's statement on 1 March 2010 was that the Scientific Assessment Panel would examine the quality of the science as well as the integrity. In the event, Lord Oxburgh and his colleagues on the Panel carried out a narrower inquiry that focussed on the Climatic Research Unit's methodologies and the integrity of the research. Had the scope and purpose of the SAP been made clear from the beginning of February it would have avoided much confusion and the inevitable allegation of manipulation.

The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review (ICCER)

24. The former Science and Technology Committee asked the ICCER team to consider whether its terms of reference needed revision. The Committee recommended:

With regards to the terms of reference of the Review, we consider that as well as measuring CRU against current acceptable scientific practice, the Review should also make recommendations on best practice to be followed by CRU in the future. We invite Sir Muir Russell to respond formally to our Report to the extent that he sets out whether, on the basis of its contents, he finds the Terms of Reference of his inquiry need to be changed.[39]

25. In response, Sir Muir Russell stated: "The CCER has seen no need to amend its terms of reference. It notes in particular the Committee's wish to see the Review recommend future best practice. The Review has always understood its remit to include such recommendations, and therefore sees no need for any change in this respect."[40] In the event, the ICCER addressed issues of relevance to climate science in general and we deal with some of these issues in our Report. The general recommendations made by the ICCER to UEA about future best practice are outlined in paragraph 94 of this Report. The ICCER also makes specific recommendations about best practice in dealing with the storage of data (paragraph 55) and requests under the Freedom of Information Act (paragraph 87).

26. We accept that there was no need to amend the terms of reference of the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review, as recommendations on best practice were considered to be included within the remit of the review.

Coordination between the two reviews

27. Also of concern to our predecessor Committee was that there should be no unmanaged overlaps or gaps between the two reviews.[41] Sir Muir Russell assured us that, "while respecting the fact that the two reviews were completely independent, CCER contacted Lord Oxburgh, Chair of the Scientific Appraisal Panel, to ensure that he was aware of the approach being taken by CCER to issues that might bear on his work."[42] Lord Oxburgh also acknowledged the importance of the independence of the two reviews.[43]

27   "New scientific assessment of climatic research publications announced", UEA press notice, 11 February 2010 Back

28   HC (2009-10) 387-II, Q 129 Back

29   "CRU Scientific Assessment Panel announced", UEA press notice, 22 March 2010 Back

30   HC (2009-10) 387-II, para 131 Back

31   Roger Harrabin, BBC Environmental Analyst, Radio 4 Today Programme, 7 July 2010, Back

32   Q 5 Back

33   "CRU Scientific Assessment Panel announced", UEA press notice, 22 March 2010 Back

34   Q 8 Back

35   Q 51 Back

36   Q51; National Research Council, Advancing the Science of Climate Change, 19 May 2010 Back

37   Q51; Environmental Protection Agency, Notice of Denial of the Petitions to Reconsider the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases, 29 July 2010 Back

38   Q 55 Back

39   HC (2009-10) 387-I, para 114 Back

40   Ev 35, para 2; and Annex: The former Committee's recommendations and the ICCER response Back

41   HC (2009-10) 387-I, para 134 Back

42   Ev 36, para 6; and Annex: The former Committee's recommendations and the ICCER response Back

43   Q 20 Back

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