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.