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

Conclusions and recommendations

The Scientific Appraisal Panel (SAP)

1.  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. (Paragraph 23)

2.  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. (Paragraph 26)

3.  The disparity in length between the SAP and ICCER reports is striking. When compared to the ICCER, the SAP report—a mere five pages—reads like an executive summary, with none of the detail of the ICCER. From Lord Oxburgh's evidence to us, the report does not appear to explain the detailed work carried out by the SAP. That in itself does not invalidate the SAP report but it does foster an impression that it was not as thorough as the ICCER and was produced quickly in an attempt to be helpful to UEA. (Paragraph 33)

4.  In the interest of openness and transparency, supporting documents including the working documents of Professor Kelly and others on the Panel should have been made publicly available alongside the report and should now be made available. Unfortunately, Professor Kelly's comments—which have been published in isolation online—can now be read out of context. Had these been published alongside the comments of the other Panel members with an outline of roundtable discussions we consider that this would not have been a problem. The importance of Professor Kelly's work is that it clears CRU of deliberately falsifying their figures but, as the SAP report put it, "the potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area". (Paragraph 39)

Oral hearings

5.  Our preference would have been, like our predecessors, for evidence to have been taken in public. We accept, however, that Sir Muir's reasons for not doing this were reasonable. He chose to make detailed references of the scientific information relevant to what CRU scientists had actually done, in order to ensure that there was a robust written record. We do not consider, however, that this process would have been hampered by conducting the interviews in public. (Paragraph 42)

Selection of publications

6.  In our view, the debate about the 11 publications examined by the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP) is frustrating. While there is no doubt that the papers chosen were central to CRU's work and went to the heart of the criticisms directed at CRU, the allegations that certain areas of climate science such as key multiproxy temperature reconstructions were purposely overlooked could have been disregarded if the SAP had set out its process of selection in a more transparent manner. (Paragraph 49)

Publication arrangements

7.  While we accept that it was not unreasonable for ICCER to inform UEA of the contents of its report in advance of publication, the fact is that this was open to misinterpretation. (Paragraph 51)

Disclosure of data and methodologies

8.  The disclosure of raw data and sufficient details of the computer programmes is paramount in encouraging people to question science in the conventional way, challenging existing work, enabling validation of it and coming forward with new hypotheses. We welcome the ICCER's recommendation to UEA on the provision of a formal metadata repository, and are pleased that CRU is investing in posts to archive their data efficiently. We hope that no obstacles, financial or otherwise, will get in the way of CRU pursuing this. (Paragraph 58)

9.  Lord Oxburgh said that CRU was not able to make accurate reconstructions in every case, particularly of old material. Professor Davies from UEA confirmed this but said CRU scientists would be able to do this given a number of weeks. This is precisely the sort of work we would have expected the Scientific Assessment Panel to conduct—had it been less concerned about rushing to publish its report—during its inquiry into methodologies and the integrity of research at CRU. (Paragraph 61)

10.  We consider that data disclosed in publications should be accompanied by sufficient detail of computer programmes, specific methodology or techniques used to analyse the data, such that another expert could repeat the work. Providing the means for others to question science in this way will help guard against not only scientific fraud but also the spread of misinformation and unsustainable allegations. (Paragraph 66)

Peer review

11.  The conclusions reached by the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review (ICCER) are in line with our predecessor Committee's findings that "the evidence they saw did not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process and that academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers". We stand by this conclusion and are satisfied with the detailed analysis of the allegations by the ICCER. (Paragraph 77)

Freedom of Information

12.  We are concerned that the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review 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. On the basis of the ICO's announcement made on 7 July 2010, it is reasonable to conclude that there was a breach of EIR by a failure to provide a response within 20 working days. On the allegation that e-mails were deleted to frustrate requests for information, a firm conclusion has proved elusive. UEA have accepted that there were weaknesses in their system, and in pockets of their culture, for dealing with requests for information. We are pleased that they are working towards rectifying this. (Paragraph 89)

13.  The broader confusion about how FoI legislation should be applied to scientific research must be resolved. The Information Commissioner's Office has made some progress, but this should now be pursued as a matter of urgency. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser will also be looking at this issue. We regard this matter as sufficiently serious that we want to see it resolved. We hope the Information Commissioner's Office will provide clear guidance on the application of FoI to scientific research by the start of the new academic year in September 2011. (Paragraph 93)

Moving forward at UEA

14.  The disclosure of data from the Climatic Research Unit has been a traumatic and challenging experience for all involved and to the wider world of science. Much rests on the accuracy and integrity of climate science. This is an area where strong and opposing views are held. It is, however, important to bear in mind the considered view of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, that "the general issues on overall global temperature, on sea level and so on, are all pretty unequivocal". While we do have some reservations about the way in which UEA operated, the SAP review and the ICCER set out clear and sensible recommendations. In our view it is time to make the changes and improvements recommended and with greater openness and transparency move on. (Paragraph 98)

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