Mann exonerated by PSU inquiry: “No substance to the allegation”

The second and final phase of Penn State University’s investigation of   allegations of research misconduct against paleoclimatologist Michael Mann has just been completed. In a report issued today, the inquiry exonerated Mann of a remaining general charge of scientific misconduct, namely deviation from “accepted practices” within the academic community. Mann had previously been cleared of specific charges such as inappropriate manipulation of data and suppression or deletion of emails and other IPCC related material.

The final report concludes:

The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University. More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.

The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.

I’ll look at some of the highlights, as well as some no doubt controversial passages concerning self-described climate science “auditor” Steve McIntyre and MIT climate “skeptic” Richard Lindzen. The latter, somewhat surprisingly, was interviewed by the investigating committee as part of investigation into normal practices for sharing data and computer code. But he apparently had other things he wanted to get off his chest.

First though, here are the other highlights (quite literally, as these were highlighted in yellow within the report).  The investigation committee was charged with answering the following question:

“Did Dr. Michael Mann engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities?”

The committee answered for each of the separate phases of research activity. After a detailed discussion of the “stringent requirements” of  NOAA,  NSF and other funding agencies, the committee concluded:

This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research.

The report analyzed in detail Mann’s practices in sharing data and code, and concluded (much as previous reports in the U.K.) :

Thus, the Investigatory Committee concluded that the manner in which Dr. Mann used and shared source codes has been well within the range of accepted practices in his field.

In terms of conduct of research, the report points to the “checks and balances” engendered by wide collaboration with other scientists, as well as independent replication and confirmation of Mann’s research and findings over the years (much as the NAS report did back in 2006). Similarly, the committee found that Mann’s reporting of research has been “successful and judged outstanding by his peers”, an impossible feat if his reporting activities had been outside the accepted norms.

The only criticism was of Mann’s practice of sharing unpublished manuscripts  “without first having received express consent from the
authors of such manuscripts”. The committee found that “to be careless and inappropriate”, but falling well short of the level required for misconduct.

Mann had “assumed implied consent” in the case of sharing manuscripts among close colleagues. Indeed, the committee was careful to place the following caveat on the record:

The Investigatory Committee would like to note that Dr. Mann, after being questioned by the Investigatory Committee about this issue, requested and received confirmation that his assumption of implied consent was correct from the author of one of the papers in question. This “after the fact” communication was not considered by the Investigatory Committee in reaching its decision.

The committe considered allegations of Steve McIntyre, apparently relayed via email to PSU:

The next question for Dr. Mann was posed as follows: “What is your reply to the email statements of Dr. McIntyre (a) that he had been referred to an incorrect version of your data at your FTP site (b) that this incorrect version was posted prior to his request and was not formulated expressly for him and (c) that to date, no source code or other evidence has been provided to fully demonstrate that the incorrect version, now deleted, did not infect some of Mann’s and Rutherford’s other work?” Dr. Mann responded by stating that neither he, nor many of his colleagues, put much reliability in the various accusations that Dr. McIntyre has made, and that, moreover, there is “no merit whatsoever to Mr. McIntyre’s claims here.” Specifically, Dr. Mann repeated that all data, as well as the source codes requested by Dr. McIntyre, were in fact made available to him. All data were listed on Dr. Mann’s FTP site in 2000, and the source codes were made available to Dr. McIntyre about a year after his request was made, in spite of the fact that the National Science Foundation had ruled that scientists were not required to do so. The issue of an “incorrect version” of the data came about because Dr. McIntyre had requested the data (which were already available on the FTP site) in spreadsheet format, and Dr. Rutherford, early on, had unintentionally sent an incorrectly formatted spreadsheet.

Regular readers know all about the “reliability in the various accusations” made by McIntyre. But no doubt we’ll be hearing McIntyre’s side of that particular  story soon.

Perhaps the most surprising passage is the reporting of the palpable contempt expressed by Richard Lindzen. That came at the beginning of an interview concerning standard practices in sharing of data and computer code:

Before the Investigatory Committee’s questioning began, Dr. Lindzen was given some general background information regarding the process of inquiry and investigation into allegations concerning Dr. Mann, with a focus on the particular allegation that is the subject of the current review by the Investigatory Committee. Dr. Lindzen then requested, and was provided with, a brief summary of the three allegations previously reviewed. When told that the first three allegations against Dr. Mann were dismissed at the inquiry stage of the RA-lO process, Dr. Lindzen’s response was: “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these are issues that he explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?”

The Investigatory Committee members did not respond to Dr. Lindzen’s statement.

I’ll bet they didn’t. I would have been speechless too. After all, it’s pretty shocking that an academic would presume out-of-context email excerpts by themselves would demonstrate proof of academic misconduct. That might be an interesting subject for a future post – the ill-informed rush to judgment by the likes of “skeptic” scientists like Lindzen and Patrick Michaels.

Speaking of “skeptic” sour grapes, a key passage of the report dealt with supposed interference in the peer review process, referring indirectly to the debacle at the journal Climate Research:

The next question was “Do you believe that the perceived hostility and perceived ulterior motives of some critics of global climate science influenced your actions with regard to the peer review process, particularly in relation to the papers discussed in the stolen emails?” Dr. Mann responded by affirming his belief in the importance of the peer review process as a means of ensuring that scientifically sound papers are published, and not as a means of preventing the publication of papers that are contrary to one’s views. He elaborated by stating that some of the emails regarding this issue dealt with his concern (shared by other scientists, the publisher, and some members of the editorial board of the journal in question) that the legitimacy of the peer review process had been subverted.

Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the situation at Climate Research was not as described in the “Climategate” emails; it was  much worse. The editor at the centre of the controversy, Chris de Freitas, has long-standing ties to anti-science lobby groups such as Friends of Science and the International Climate Science Coalition.  And a preliminary look at the papers by Patrick Michaels and others greenlighted by de Freitas appears to show several with broad conclusions not supported by the analysis (my recent piece on Michaels and Paul Knappenberger describes one egregious example). That’s an ongoing problem with de Freitas in his own work, as well, as seen in the wretched 2009 McLean et al paper and associated press releases attributing global warming to ENSO.

Despite the sour note introduced by Lindzen, this report marks a welcome milestone in the defence of climate scientists, and indeed of science itself.

And apparently the final “climategate” investigation, that of the  Muir-Russell panel in the U.K., is due to report very soon.

Could the bogus “Climategate” scandal finally be in its death throes? Or will the narrative get new impetus with charges of whitewash? Stay tuned.

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28 responses to “Mann exonerated by PSU inquiry: “No substance to the allegation”

  1. Pingback: “Climategate” smears found false – Mann cleared « Open Parachute

  2. John Mashey

    Speaking as (BS’68, MS’69, PhD’74, @ PSU), a past industrial advisory board member, an occasional speaker there, who still exchanges emails and/or sees a few PSU Deans/Department Heads, other faculty and others who come visiting…

    I’m not the *slightest* bit surprised they included Lindzen on the list…

  3. I find it funny that this exoneration of Mann was announced on Canada Day. Happy Canada day Stephen McIntyre ;)

    Lindzen is losing credibility fast– I am most unimpressed by his remarks.

    DC, “And apparently the final “climategate” investigation, that of the Muir-Russell panel in the U.K., is due to report very soon.”

    Good to hear, thanks DC.

    [DC: The publication is set for July 7. ]

  4. State-funded lackies ‘investigate’ an0ther state-funded lackie and clear him of all charges. Goodness what a surprise.

  5. Wonderful news, however not unexpected by thinking people. There was actually nothing to the entire matter in the first place. The denier’s scored more points with the uninformed, obtained lots of print ink, which will never stop, and the public, as usual, the loser. What a sorry state we find our selves in today. There is certainly hope that the tide will turn in the direction of science. Of course I’m speaking about the public arena as those who care about ‘real’ science are already informed.

  6. TrueSceptic

    (Thanks to chek at Deltoid.)

    Who is “Dr.” McIntyre? How can a report of this kind be so careless? Does no one check these things?

    Do they not realise how sloppy it makes them look?

  7. carrot eater

    Dr. N-G makes a fair point at Eli’s, that the logic about the grant-applications is a bit circular. Meaning, if he kept getting grants, that must be a sign that he was doing good work and writing good proposals. That’s basically just saying, “the system works”, which is fine so far as it goes, but in the eyes of some it may not go very far.

    I don’t see the point of asking Lindzen about practices within paleoclimatology. Maybe von Storch and Zorita would have made more sense there.

  8. “After all, it’s pretty shocking that an academic would presume out-of-context email excerpts by themselves would demonstrate proof of academic misconduct. ”

    Very true.

    Shouldn’t they have requested and looked at all the emails from that period?

  9. So why keep calling for the state funded lackeys to be investigated by the state, punk?

    You obviously consider it a waste of time, so why ask it? Do you LIKE paying money to the investigators?

  10. I don’t. I want outsiders to be allowed investigate, with full access to any emails etc.

  11. Gavin's Pussycat

    > Shouldn’t they have requested and looked at all the emails from that period?

    They did. Page 4. The complete correspondence related to AR4.

  12. “Shub said: “Shouldn’t they have requested and looked at all the emails from that period?”

    Uh oh, looks like the Bishop is winding up more of his flock of ill-informed non-literates who prefer to osmose his spin rather than read anything for themselves.

    • Hold it in chek, dear chek,…Understand the question before launching.

      Why wouldn’t Penn not look all related emails related to the entire period as the self-framed allegations would have required?

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Shub,

      If you had bothered to read the report, they did look at the emails which in any way involved Mann. They also looked at Mann’s archived emails, including any emails which might have had concerning the preparation of AR4. Ooops, he had hundreds didn’t he?

      Besides, this wouldn’t have been a problem in the US because the US archives were not under a FOI request, only the records in the UK.

      I think we all know how to say “epic FAIL”.

    • Hi Rat! I see that you have become quite excited. Do you use words like ‘fail’ often?

      If you think that they looked all of Mann archived emails, you have a problem with Deepclimate’s original post (see above by scrolling up), not my question.

      They looked at ‘all’ of Mann’s AR4 emails at the inquiry stage, not at the stage of investigation.

      Mann is publicly on the record stating that he did not delete any AR4 emails. You dont think I am implying he ‘lied’, are you? The inquiry reported in February. Why are you bringing it up now?

      The bulk of the current report is of the investigation.

      The investigation is solely of academic misconduct. I am as surprised as DeepClimate that they decided that there was no ‘academic misconduct’ or even attempted to look at this question just by reading some excerpts.

      They are the official committee – they have more powers than any lay citizen. But they read only the emails that anyone with access to the Climategate emails can read. Shouldn’t they have gone the extra step and obtained more information?

      Almost all documents and files available to the committee are available publicly – except the Mann-provided zip file.

      I mean, you can celebrate, but it doesnt look like they did a thorough job. The report could have gone either way with these limitations.

      [DC: There you go again, misrepresenting my views. It’s Lindzen who decided there was academic misconduct, based on a few email excerpts. Unlike Lindzen (and apparently McIntyre) the investigation committee reviewed all the “climategate” emails involving Mann.

      Moreover, Lindzen doesn’t even seem clear on whether it was the instrumental or paleo records (or both?) that were supposedly fudged. It’s just a vague smear with absolutely no evidence.

      You are also mistaken as to the scope of the inquiry and investigation. There are four categories of academic misconduct described in the PSU code of conduct. The first three are more specific and were dismissed at the inquiry stage, precisely because the evidence abjectly failed to rise anywhere close to that needed for further investigation of these possible grounds for a misconduct finding (e.g. falsification or suppression of data).

      The fourth “catchall” category was sufficiently vague that it was thought prudent to convene an investigation committee of academics. Once again, though, there is no evidence of academic misconduct.

      You also need to read up on internet conventions. RN got it right. ]

    • DeepClimate,
      Thanks for your comment

      [DC: I’ll have to correct your coments inline – never a good sign. Please don’t take my patience for granted as you are fast wearing out your welcome once again. ]

      I agree that Lindzen was the one who felt there were grounds in the emails for investigation. You expressed your understanding that the committee did not respond to his question from their shock that any academic should come to that conclusion just by reading just some emails.

      [DC: Lindzen didn’t just think there was “grounds for investigation”. He thought that Mann’s guilt on academic misconduct was obvious from the few email excerpts he had read. He said “I mean these are issues that he explicitly stated in the emails”. And he clearly implied that “violations of scientific standards of behavior” were established on that flimsy evidence. This is all very plain. ]

      That is why I asked – shouldn’t the committee have gone the next step and read all of Mann’s emails from this period to put together a clear picture?

      Look at the report – the committee read 376 emails from the ‘Climategate file’, blogs, op-eds, newspaper reports, journal and magazine articles at the inquiry stage and the same things and a few more official documents at the investigation stage.

      But that’s what the whole world’s been reading since Nov 17.

      [DC: No that's not what Lindzen and the "whole world" read. They've only been reading the carefully edited ClimateGate excerpts from Morano and McIntyre. Reading the whole of those emails, plus a few others, gives enough context to see that Lindzen's and McIntyre's accusations are completely and utterly bogus. Nevertheless, the committee went further and read all 376 emails that even mention Mann. ]

      Shouldn’t they have said to Mann, something like: “Could you please provide all your correspondence from your archives with X, Y, Z (as identified from the emails) for the period of 1999 onwards?” You know – to provide and flesh out the context better.

      [DC: No. The PSU committee went well beyond what was needed to show that the accusations were completely unfounded.

      What should PSU should do now? They should stand up for their unjustly harrassed scientist, and get McIntyre and others to withdraw their false and utterly contemptible claims. The real scandal here is that so many – including academics who should know better – have long made false and baseless accusations with impunity. ]

      Thanks

  13. Rattus Norvegicus

    This is the best rant so far. I especially like the second paragraph where he discusses gravity!

    Poe or no? You read, you decide!

  14. But they won’t be independent either. Look at all those partisan greenies out there. Or the Communistic Left Taking Over Our Country. Or the One World Order that Copenhagen was arranged to produce.

    So how will you find people to investigate when

    1) the police are government (ergo you consider dependent)
    2) the politicians are government (ditto)
    3) the judges are political lapdogs
    4) there are billions out there in carbon trading (and therefore illuminatus power sources and untraceable)

    If anyone “independent” is found and doesn’t find any wrongdoing, you will merely assert they are part of the conspiracy.

    Inhofe is still calling for government to take climate scientists to task. Government stooges are not independent as far as you’re concerned.

    Do you have anyone independent in mind, punk?

  15. @Rattus Norvegicus

    “This is the best rant so far. … Poe or no? You read, you decide!

    Why, O why did you make me go over there?

    Now I am ill.

  16. @Mark:

    “Do you have anyone independent in mind, punk?”

    They turn, already,
    their sad, weary eyes
    to the shining light of Ken Cuccinelli.

  17. rumleyfips

    Dear Mr. Watts:
    Here are the emails. Please upchuck arsewise.
    Mike

  18. “to the shining light of Ken Cuccinelli.”

    But he’s a government stooge too. So punk can’t put him forward.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Yeah, but he’s a conservative (wingnut actually), so that’s OK.

      It also seems to me that McIntyre just can’t accept the findings of a committee, the Oxburgh one in this case, which included a dyed in the wool skeptic. In this case Michael Kelly repeatedly cited charges from “blog science” sites like icecap.us and climateaudit.org in his concerns. Yet it remains that in the end he signed off on the findings of the committee. Oops. We see the same thing here, where Lindzen did not seem to understand that the original committee had looked at the emails and found nothing wrong — in fact they found all of the synthesized charges w/o merit. Really nothing to answer there, they were looking at a very specific set of charges against Dr. Mann, which did not include the broader array of baseless charges leveled against climate scientists by the likes of McI. Those had already been looked at and found to be w/o merit.

  19. Rattus Norvegicus

    Repeating myself there, I broke the TCO rule and posted after having a few drinks.

  20. Ratty’s Rant.

    That was unkind. I am now trying to get the science teacher member of the household off the ceiling.

  21. Repeating myself there, I broke the TCO rule and posted after having a few drinks.

    To fully break the TCO rule you must also remember to tell us that you’re smarter than everyone else other than Feynman.

    [DC: Now, now. Keep that up and TCO will withdraw his offer to me of a beer. He’s not so bad … ]

  22. Now, now. Keep that up and TCO will withdraw his offer to me of a beer. He’s not so bad …

    Remember, he’s smarter than you … he’ll buy you the first beer and you’ll end up buying him a dozen :)