The long-awaited Muir Russell report on various controversies concerning the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia was released today.
The report thoroughly examined various accusations of improper conduct, and in the main exonerated CRU scientists Phil Jones, Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn of wrongdoing in such areas as scientific research, peer review and the IPCC process, finding that “their rigour and honesty is not in doubt”. The report does criticize CRU, and indeed the University, for a lack of openness, particularly in the handling of freedom of information requests.
There is plenty to digest here, and the report will no doubt generate much commentary in the days to come. For now, though, I’ll present the report’s summary of findings, along with pointers to previous Deep Climate discussion of some of the issues.
The findings cover the following topics (shown here along with pointers to a selection of relevant previous posts):
- Land Station Temperatures
- Temperature Reconstructions from Tree Ring Analysis
- Peer Review and Editorial Policy
- Misuse of IPCC Process
- Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act
- Other Findings on Governance
A few planned posts will return to these topics and incorporate discussion of some of the the report’s findings. These will likely include:
- Examination of the allegations of IPCC process misuse related to correspondence between Keith Briffa and Eugene Wahl, with key email passages omitted from the narrative at ClimateAudit.
- The definitive timeline and sources of the draft versions of the TAR “spaghetti graph”, along with a comparison with the AR4 equivalent.
Here is the summary of the findings of The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review (p. 11-16).
13. Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.
14. In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.
15. But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA, who failed to recognise not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science.
1.3.1 Land Station Temperatures
16. On the allegation of withholding temperature data, we find that CRU was not in a position to withhold access to such data or tamper with it. We demonstrated that any independent researcher can download station data directly from primary sources and undertake their own temperature trend analysis.
17. On the allegation of biased station selection and analysis, we find no evidence of bias. Our work indicates that analysis of global land temperature trends is robust to a range of station selections and to the use of adjusted or unadjusted data. The level of agreement between independent analyses is such that it is highly unlikely that CRU could have acted improperly to reach a predetermined outcome. Such action would have required collusion with multiple scientists in various independent organisations which we consider highly improbable.
18. On the allegation of withholding station identifiers we find that CRU should have made available an unambiguous list of the stations used in each of the versions of the Climatic Research Unit Land Temperature Record (CRUTEM) at the time of publication. We find that CRU‟s responses to reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive.
19. The overall implication of the allegations was to cast doubt on the extent to which CRU‟s work in this area could be trusted and should be relied upon and we find no evidence to support that implication.
1.3.2 Temperature Reconstructions from Tree Ring Analysis
The central implication of the allegations here is that in carrying out their work, both in the choices they made of data and the way in which it was handled, CRU scientists intended to bias the scientific conclusions towards a specific result and to set aside inconvenient evidence. More specifically, it was implied in the allegations that this should reduce the confidence ascribed to the conclusions in Chapter 6 of the IPCC 4th Report, Working Group 1 (WG1).
21. We do not find that the way that data derived from tree rings is described and presented in IPCC AR4 and shown in its Figure 6.10 is misleading. In particular, on the question of the composition of temperature reconstructions, we found no evidence of exclusion of other published temperature reconstructions that would show a very different picture. The general discussion of sources of uncertainty in the text is extensive, including reference to divergence. In this respect it represented a significant advance on the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR).
22. On the allegation that the phenomenon of “divergence” may not have been properly taken into account when expressing the uncertainty associated with reconstructions, we are satisfied that it is not hidden and that the subject is openly and extensively discussed in the literature, including CRU papers.
23. On the allegation that the references in a specific e-mail to a “trick‟ and to “hide the decline‟” in respect of a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.
24. On the allegations in relation to withholding data, in particular concerning the small sample size of the tree ring data from the Yamal peninsula, CRU did not withhold the underlying raw data (having correctly directed the single request to the owners). But it is evidently true that access to the raw data was not simple until it was archived in 2009 and that this delay can rightly be criticized on general principles. In the interests of transparency, we believe that CRU should have ensured that the data they did not own, but on which their publications relied, was archived in a more timely way.
1.3.3 Peer Review and Editorial Policy
25. On the allegations that there was subversion of the peer review or editorial process we find no evidence to substantiate this in the three instances examined in detail. On the basis of the independent work we commissioned (see Appendix 5) on the nature of peer review, we conclude that it is not uncommon for strongly opposed and robustly expressed positions to be taken up in heavily contested areas of science. We take the view that such behaviour does not in general threaten the integrity of peer review or publication.
1.3.4 Misuse of IPCC Process
26. On the allegations that in two specific cases there had been a misuse by CRU scientists of the IPCC process, in presenting AR4 to the public and policy makers, we find that the allegations cannot be upheld. In addition to taking evidence from them and checking the relevant records of the IPCC process, we have consulted the relevant IPCC review Editors. Both the CRU scientists were part of large groups of scientists taking joint responsibility for the relevant IPCC Working Group texts, and were not in a position to determine individually the final wording and content.
1.3.5 Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act
(FoIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)
7. On the allegation that CRU does not appear to have acted in a way
consistent with the spirit and intent of the FoIA or EIR, we find that there was unhelpfulness in responding to requests and evidence that e-mails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them. University senior management should have accepted more responsibility for implementing the required processes for FoIA and EIR compliance.
1.3.6 Other Findings on Governance
28. Given the significance of the work of CRU, UEA management failed to recognise in their risk management the potential for damage to the University‟s reputation fuelled by the controversy over data access.