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On politeness

A reader advises me of some correspondence he has had with Prof Nick Hewitt, the author of the "review" of the Hockey Stick Illusion in Chemistry World. Prof Hewitt notes in passing that he has received abusive emails as a result of his article.

If anyone has been doing this, please stop. It doesn't help.  There is a fine line to be trodden between being rude about what someone says and being abusive. Don't cross it.


Oxburgh reactions

I'm not sure which members of the press corps were watching the Oxburgh hearing, either in person or over the web. The only reaction I've found so far is this from the Guardian Eco twitter page:

Interesting that Lord Oxburgh said he was not looking at the #climategate science. Looks like that fell through the cracks between him + MR


The Guardian's full reaction is now up and picks up many of the major points - Keenan, Kelly and the misleading of Parliament.

Oxburgh: UEA vice-chancellor was wrong to tell MPs he would investigate climate research


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Oxburgh live blog

I'll try to live blog Lord Oxburgh's performance, which should be starting shortly.

11:28 Oxburgh talks about FoI act and its interface with scientific research. Says anyone can cause scientist to spend great deal of time answering responses.

11:27 Waffle. I notice the press gallery is virtually empty.

11:24 What damage could sceptics do to climate change? Oxburgh says commercial lobbies have had an influence. Says academics have been patronising. Some interesting doubts over computer models.

11:20 Why were sceptics criticised. What evidence was used? Says some sceptics are extremely able. Doesn't read blogs. Discusses links to commercial interests. Link to tobacco lobbying.

11:17 Metcalfe asks about raw data. Oxburgh says raw data was useful. Discussing availability of data. Says data normally available for journal peer review!!

11:14 Miller asks about the Nature trick. Did the panel look at this question. Oxburgh says they did not look at the emails, since this was for Russell's inquiry. Oxburgh says he was aware. Refers to dictionary definition of "trick" as "way of doing something". Oxburgh says it was not an attempt to deceive. Says presentation of data is difficult - how much should you simplify? Says users of CRU data have not shown uncertainty.

11:11 Asked if primary focus was on integrity. Oxburgh says yes. Asked about levels of statistical skills. Are they out of their depth statistically? Oxburgh talking about use of inappropriate statistical methods per Hand. Says more appropriate methods would not have made a difference. How does he know?

11:08 Asks if Jones said that it was impossible to recreate temperatures over the last 1000 years. Oxburgh says he thinks he didn't. Oxburgh says concept of global temp is a subtle one. Lots of waffle about how temp records are created. Mentions massive uncertainties.

11:06 Could CRU staff recreate studies from raw data? Oxburgh says "not always". Stringer expresses surprise. Oxburgh says culture different in industry to academia. Industry always documents and records everything. Says not so in academia.

11:03 Oxburgh says the 11 papers were not chosen by his panel. Says came via the university and "I believe" the Royal Society. They were just a start.  Stringer asks about Jones choosing the paper. Oxburgh says Peter Liss was involved but notes he was an oceanographer. Oxburgh dries when pressed on who provided the list.

11:02 Asking about Keenan's accusations. Oxburgh doesn't recall looking at them.

10:59 Stringer talking about Kelly's notes and failure to publish working documents. Oxburgh says nothing would have been added. Oxburgh says he hasn't seen the notes recently. Stringer quoting from the notes. Oxburgh repeats that it would not have added anything.

10:57 Stringer asks about independence. Asked about being based in the UEA registrars office (missed the point here!). Oxburgh says no. Oxburgh says university did not want a cover-up.

10:56 Oxburgh says no coordination with the Russell panel.

10:54 Asked about standards of honesty and whether the panel chose their work programme. Talking about getting key staff to relax.

10:53 Oxburgh still being pressed on amount of time. Says they didn't need more time given limited remit.

10:52 Oxburgh asked how much time each committee member spent on the report. He said they put in a lot of work beforehand. Mentions the 15 person days figure.

10:51 Oxburgh asked about superficiality of the report. Oxburgh says they worked hard and efficiently.

10:50 Oxburgh asked who sets terms of reference. Oxburgh says the terms emerged from discussions at his house with the university. Says they are set out in the first paragraph of the report.

10:48 Another member asks about the discrepancy between UEA press release and what Oxburgh did. Oxburgh says assessment of the science would not have been possible. Oxburgh says he was very clear.

10:46 Stringer asks about Acton's statement that the panel was reassessing the science. Oxburgh says that "was innaccurate". Said the UEA press release was clear. Said Acton only in post for a month at the time.

10:45 Miller says no sceptics. Oxburgh says it is not for him to discuss private views of panellists but there was one person who had been active as a sceptic. Says panel selected to have no point of view.

10:42 Oxburgh says asked to conduct brief inquiry into honesty. Reluctant to take it on. Put together panel in consultation with various people. Panel were people outside the field. Wanted people with no formal position on the field but understood the methods. Choice of panel members was Oxburgh's but in consultation. Three people with no connection to climate. Others were closer.

10:40 Miller says Oxburgh has been poorly. Asks how the panel was chosen. Oxburgh  explains background - Russell panel appointment and the subsequent split into two panels.

10:38 Miller just announcing a 30second intermission


Quote of the day

Budiansky again:

My three years at Nature left me painfully aware that scientists are about the worst people on earth when it comes to confusing their political inclinations with objective fact — and absolutely the worst in the concomitant certainty that one's opponents must be liars, frauds, or corruptly motivated, since (obviously) no honest person could possibly have reached a contrary conclusion through objective reasoning. 


Oxburgh today

I've just been browsing the BBC and Parliament websites. As far as I can see, the questioning of Lord Oxburgh is going to be shown only on the Parliament website and not on the BBC. The link is here.

It looks as if Oxburgh has been tacked onto the end of a meeting about the UK's space capabilities. This starts at 9:30, so I'm guessing Oxburgh will not be on for at least an hour thereafter.


FOI and universities

Updated on Sep 8, 2010 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Tony Blair's recent expressions of regret over his introduction of the Freedom of Information Act has been much chewed over in the news recently.

If I sense things correctly this is just one symptom of something rather bigger. If I discern things correctly, there are moves afoot to start reining back on the scope of the Act. I can't quite recall what prompted me to do so, but a few weeks back I sent an FoI request to the Justice Ministry, the Whitehall department responsible for the FoI Act.

Click to read more ...


Call for new UK research integrity org

Nature's Great Beyond blog notes calls for a new body to be set up to oversee UK research integrity. According to a report from the Research Integrity Futures Working Group there's a problem at the moment:

Current UK arrangements are sometimes portrayed as less than transparent, with examples of bad practice ‘swept under the carpet’,” warns the group’s newly released report. “And there is limited evidence to contradict that view.”

You don't say.


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Uncertain climate part 2

The second part of Roger Harrabin's history of climate change is now available.


UEA response to the inquiries

UEA has issued a response to the various inquiries. The timing is odd, to say the least. Perhaps they've all been on holiday.

See it here.


More on locavores

Matt Ridley picks up on Stephen Budiansky's posting on locavores - those who would have us buy our food from farmers' markets and local producers. In particular, he notes Budiansky's comment:

The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far...

If this is right, then could it be that microwave meals are actually the green option? Wouldn't that represent a dilemma for the chattering classes?


What's up with Amazon?

This is odd. The Hockey Stick Illusion no longer appears in the Amazon Global Warming category. Looking more closely, this seems to be a problem with many sceptic titles, particularly the newer ones: Booker, Bob Carter, Roy Spencer, and Christian Gerondeau. Older sceptic titles, by the likes of Plimer, Lawson, Peter Taylor and Lomborg are still there.

Very odd indeed.


Nice work if you can get it...

From the Glasgow Herald:

A former civil servant criticised for his role in the Holyrood Parliament building fiasco has pocketed £40,000 for chairing an inquiry into the recent climate change row.

Sir Muir Russell walked away with nearly £6000 a month for leading a probe which cleared scientists at the University of East Anglia of data manipulation.

And he didn't even attend the interview with Phil Jones.