The Holland redaction
Nov 22, 2010
Bishop Hill in Climate: Briffa, Climate: CRU

This is a guest post by David Holland.

Late last Friday afternoon, the University of East Anglia released some further information that should be of interest to anyone who has followed the minutiae of Climategate.

There is, for instance, a breakdown of the costs of the Russell Review at the end of the response letter. However, of most interest to me, and bearing directly upon the “rigour and honesty” of the Russell Review and UEA’s scientists, is Professor Boulton’s email of 6 May to Professor Briffa. This email (in the zip file here) concerned Briffa's work on the IPCC AR4 Report and the assistance he had received from Eugene Wahl. In his email, Boulton asks Briffa to reply to my allegation that the deadline for cited papers to be “in press” was changed to allow the citation of the Wahl and Ammann 2007 paper, which had missed the original deadline. Without it, IPCC WGI would have had to record the fact that the last word in the peer-reviewed literature was that the Mann et al “hockey stick” studies were invalidated by McIntyre and McKitrick.

Boulton states that, “A detailed account on which this allegation is based has been presented to us and is given in the annex to this letter”. He does not, however, mention who presented the allegation.

You can compare Boulton’s annex to my original submission to the Russell Review, a link to which is now provided at the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee website. Clearly Boulton’s annex is a heavily redacted edit of my submission although it contains no hint that it is.

First of all, the paragraphs 1–39 and 94–131 had been removed entirely. Then, the remainder was further edited, with both full paragraphs and part paragraphs removed. Next, the paragraph numbers were removed from my document, and the remaining text was run together. These changes made it impossible for the reader to know that they were not seeing the original submission and also made it very difficult to cite the text. Finally, to further change the meaning of my submission, all 30 of the footnotes were removed. I should say at this point that I have no idea who did the editing – perhaps it was one of the two firms of lawyers they engaged.

So long as they could honestly claim that they never saw my original submission, this anonymised and drastically edited submission would have excused Briffa and Osborn if, in their joint reply, they stated things that were untrue and contrary to the clear evidence in my full submission. Certainly, UEA seem to give the impression that this edited version of my submission was all that they had seen. In reply to my information request to know who at UEA had access to my submission to the Russell Review, UEA’s David Palmer wrote:

“The University never received directly a copy of your submission to the Russell Review. We only had access to the information included with Prof. Boulton’s letter to Keith Briffa.”

I do not doubt that Mr Palmer has been told this and believes it to be true, but as we shall see, it is unlikely that this is true an; electronic copies of my submission were almost certainly held at least by Briffa and/or Osborn.

First of all, in their reply to Boulton, Osborn and Briffa state:

“Given that virtually every statement in this Annex requires correction of some error of fact, interpretation or implication we believe it to be essential that our responses to these specific allegations as contained in the Annex are formally recorded. Our detailed responses are provided in the form of annotations, added where appropriate, in the accompanying version of the Annex. These are a fundamental part of our response and we ask that the Review Team consider them carefully in conjunction with the more general remarks given below.”

Note that Briffa/Osborn refer to a “version of the Annex”. This indicates that the two men knew that there were different versions of my submission. In addition, in Osborn and Briffa's version of Boulton’s annex, my original paragraph breaks have been reinserted and the paragraph numbers (with 52 incorrectly stated as 54) have also reappeared. How could Osborn and Briffa, or whoever produced this version, know that Boulton’s Annex started only at my paragraph 40? How did they know where all the correct paragraph ends were if they did not have my original submission in front of them? As if this were not enough, eight of the footnotes that had been removed from the Boulton version had magically been reinserted in the Osborn and Briffa version. How could this happen?

The only credible conclusion I can think of is that Briffa and/or Osborn – and the whole “Hockey Team” – had my submission soon after I submitted it and probably someone made covert legal threats of action if it were to be published as is. Possibly Boulton’s Annex was the negotiated redacted version, but Briffa/Osborn had already started answering my full submission.

Either way, UEA's claim that they only had access to the information in Boulton's letter to Briffa appears to directly contradict the evidence.

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