Appendix: Government response |
Following the unauthorised release of data and emails
from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climatic Research Unit
(CRU) in November 2009, and allegations made against CRU scientists
of manipulation and deletion of data and emails in order to provide
support for warming temperature trends, UEA set up two independent
inquiries: the Independent Climate Change Email Review (ICCER),
chaired by Sir Muir Russell; and the Scientific Appraisal Panel
(SAP), chaired by Lord Oxburgh.
The previous Science and Technology Committee also
conducted an inquiry into the release of the CRU emails but time
constraints at the end of the last Parliament meant it was completed
before the SAP and ICCER had reported. In its first report of
session 2010-11 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
has focussed on how these two independent reviews fulfilled their
The Government is grateful for the time the Committee
has devoted to considering these reviews.
It is a primary concern to the Government that the
evidence base for policies is robust. Where this evidence base
is questioned, it is right that allegations are properly assessed
and scrutinised. After two independent reviews, and two reviews
by the Science and Technology Committee, we find no evidence to
question the scientific basis of human influence on the climate.
We note that this report from the Committee makes
recommendations aimed at strengthening the transparency of scientific
research, and that the principle of transparency is one to which
the Government is fundamentally committed.
This response has been prepared by the Government
Office for Science (GO-Science), with input from the Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Ministry of Justice
(MOJ), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and
the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The Committee's recommendations are shown in bold and the paragraph
references at the end of each recommendation correspond with those
in the Committee's report. The Government's response is given
beneath each recommendation, or group of recommendations.
The Scientific Appraisal Panel (SAP)
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.
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
The disparity in length between the SAP and ICCER
reports is striking. When compared to the ICCER, the SAP reporta
mere five pagesreads 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)
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 commentswhich have been published in
isolation onlinecan 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".
The ICCER and SAP were carried out independently
of Government and Government had no role in informing how these
reviews were carried out. However, as one of a number of Parties
with an interest in the findings of the reviews, we welcome the
interest that the Science and Technology Committee has taken in
establishing whether the reviews were carried out in a robust
way. The findings of the Committee give us confidence in our judgement
that the conclusions are well thought through and that no events
at CRU undermine the scientific consensus on human-induced climate
change. The recommendations of the reviews are also useful for
advising future research policies and practices.
The Government notes the recommendations of the Committee
in relation to the SAP, noting that it has not questioned the
validity of its findings, but rather suggested that the manner
in which the Panel made information available, including in relation
to the scope of its work, had allowed some to question its approach.
We consider that this highlights the importance of transparency
in communicationboth to avoid misinterpretation and to
guard against deliberate misrepresentation.
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.
The Government recognises that a more public approach
to evidence gathering may have given greater confidence to some
in the transparency of the process, but notes that the Committee
accepted Sir Muir Russell's reasons for adopting a different approach.
Selection of publications
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.
We note the Committee's conclusion that the selection
of papers examined by the SAP was representative of the work of
CRU in all areas in which allegations had been made. We note that
once again the primary concern of the Committee related to transparency
and communicationin this case with regard to the process
for selecting the sample of papers considered by the SAPrather
than any conscious decision to purposely overlook certain areas
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.
The Government notes that providing advance copies
of reports to stakeholders is common practice in public and parliamentary
Disclosure of data and methodologies
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.
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 conducthad it been less concerned about rushing
to publish its reportduring its inquiry into methodologies
and the integrity of research at CRU.
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
The Government agrees that research findings should
be fully replicable and that publicly-funded research data should
be readily available to others, to both allow them to replicate
analysis and to develop their own ideas. The archiving of data
and metadata with long-term value is of fundamental importance
in this regard.
There are however ethical, legal and commercial constraints
which may preclude data-sharing which must be considered, to which
the Government is giving attention to in its broader work on transparency.
A set of common data access principles is being developed across
the Research Councils: these principles start with a presumption
in favour of openness and transparency, whilst ensuring appropriate
protection and safeguards are in place to protect commercially
sensitive and personal data.
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
The Government notes the Committee's conclusion that
there was no evidence of attempts to subvert the peer review process,
and agrees that academics should not be criticised for commenting
informally on academic papers, noting that constructive criticism
and challenge is fundamental to ensuring a robust scientific approach.
Freedom of Information
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)
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.
Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI
Act) and Regulation 19 of the Environmental Information Regulations
(EIR) make it an offence intentionally to prevent the disclosure
of requested information. Under the current legislative provisions
prosecutions for such offences must be brought within six months
of the offence occurring.
The Government will continue to work with the Information
Commissioner's Office (ICO) to determine the extent that alleged
offences, under section 77 of the FOI Act and Regulation 19 of
the EIR, have not been prosecuted as a result of the current provisions.
The ICO are also working with the Higher Education
sector, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Royal
Society to consider what further guidance should be developed
on scientific research and FOI. The ICO aims to produce new guidance
by September as recommended by the Committee, and will report
back to the Committee on progress.
We note and welcome that since the Committee took
evidence UEA have signed an ICO Undertaking to improve certain
aspects of practice related to FOI/EIR compliance.
Moving forward at UEA
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.
As the Committee notes, much rests on the accuracy
and integrity of climate science. It is vital that the wider public
and Government can take confidence in the evidence that underpins
Evidence from multiple disciplines and sources strongly
indicates that climate change, driven by human activities, poses
real risks for our future. This evidence is comprehensively captured
in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC), and in more recent analyses including
from the US National Research Council of the National Academies.
It is also clear from an almost continuous body of publications
in the academic literature that the evidence for human induced
climate change continues to grow and that the perceptions of future
climate risk are not diminishing.
The Government welcomes the scrutiny that has been
provided by two independent reviews, plus two sessions of the
Science and Technology Committee, to investigate the allegations
arising from the unauthorised release of data at the University
of East Anglia.
As well as establishing that events at the University
do not undermine the scientific basis of human-driven climate
change, the reviews have made a number of useful recommendations
to improve transparency in climate science.
Such recommendations will continue to strengthen
climate science. Important work remains better to understand the
risks of climate change, and how to manage them. We welcomeand
agree withthe finding of the Committee that it is time
'with greater openness and transparency, to move on'.