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Willetts transcript

The transcripts for the questioning of Science minister David Willetts by the Science and Technology Select Committee are now available here. The extract relating to Climategate is as follows:

Q46 Graham Stringer: What lessons can be learned from the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia from the Climatic Research Unit there? Has that damaged the image of British science?

Mr Willetts: We have now had three inquiries into that episode and on many of the allegations I think the UEA and the research community there have come out essentially cleared of any of the allegations that were made of them but, equally, there are some lessons. Not everything was right, including proper data-keeping. The Government attaches a lot of importance to transparency, making sure that research data are accessible to the wider public as easily and quickly as possible. The latest investigation suggests, as I understand it, that most of their raw data could be accessed, I think the phrase is, within two minutes, but it is very important and people think that it is absolutely clear that that kind of data should be accessible and perhaps a certain defensiveness got hold amongst some scientists at the UEA precisely because of the criticism and attacks they were under from sceptics on the blogosphere. Instead of advancing forward and wanting to engage, it made them think, "What is this mischief maker doing and why the hell should we correspond with that?" I think there is a lesson for all of us in that.

Q47 Graham Stringer: Finally, is the image of British science damaged by this episode?

Mr Willetts: I hope not. Clearly the initial reporting of the original concerns went round the world, but we have now had three investigations covering different aspects of this, and although there are lessons to be learned I think they show that when it comes to the conduct of the science the work that was done at UEA, as I understand it, has passed muster when assessed by independent experts to check whether anything went wrong. My view is that their scientific work stands. There are lessons about how they engage with members of the public and others coming to them asking for data and information about what they are doing.



I have guests at the moment, so no time to blog. Here's some interesting links though:

Phil Jones interviewed in New Scientist

Kerry Emanuel op-ed.


They're all a comin'!

Pielke Jnr takes aim at an absurd article in PNAS (the journal that famously published the upside-down Mann paper and Anderegg's blacklist paper too).

Oppenheimer: "They're all a comin' !"Princeton' professor Michael Oppenheimer predicts that climate change will cause between 1.4 and 6.7 million Mexicans to move to the US, a finding that Pielke lucidly describes as "guesswork piled on top of "what ifs" built on a foundation of tenuous assumptions".

Even more damningly, one of Pielke's commenters points out that there are only 6.3m agricultural workers in Mexico. For Oppenheimer to predict that they will all move north seems preposterous.



Weasel words

The University of East Anglia has just announced that it is to become involved in a major new initiative in data openness - I kid you not.

Climate scientists at the University of East Anglia will soon be demonstrating new methods of providing open access to research data - thanks to a major new investment from JISC to improve the way UK university researchers manage their data.

JISC, for those of you who don't know, is the Joint Information Systems Committee, a government body that pays for IT projects. But look out for the weasel words in this next bit...

The UEA team, led by Dr Tim Osborn, is one of eight departments around the country who will be working towards models of better data management practice and making data more openly available for reuse in universities across the UK.

Surely they are not going to try to get away with that...?


Geoscientist magazine on HSI

The reviews are coming thick and fast - here's the latest one, from Geoscientist, the magazine of the Geological Society.

Andrew Montford tells this detective story in exhilarating style. He has assembled an impressive case that the consensus view on recent climate history started as poor science and was corrupted when climate scientists became embroiled in IPCC politics. His portrayal of the palaeoclimatology community is devastating; they are revealed as amateurish, secretive, evasive and belligerent. But the most serious charge is that they have simply failed to demonstrate any scientific integrity in confronting McIntyre. The University of East Anglia emails, which appeared just as Montford was completing his book, suggest that the Hockey Team were more interested in knobbling McIntyre than in addressing his arguments.

Read the whole thing.


Stringer grills Willetts

In the video in the last post, there was reference to the evidence given by Science Minister, David Willetts some days ago, which apparently again touched on the Climategate affair, and once again at the prompting of questions from Graham Stringer.

The video is here, with Stringer's questions beginning at 41:55. He starts by asking about the reputation of British science, with discussion covering subjects like the BSE scare, MMR vaccines and the like. At around 46:00 conversation turns to Climategate, with Stringer asking about the impact on the reputation of British science.

Willetts' responses suggest:

  • that scientists have been cleared of many of the allegations
  • that there are lessons to be learned - data should be available to the wider public
  • the conduct of the scientists passes muster on the basis of three independent inquiries and that the science therefore stands.

Good to see no caveats about the availability of the data and also interesting to note that he says that the scientists have been cleared of "many" of the allegations. Perhaps I'm reading too much into that, given his later responses though.

However, it's very hard to credit that a minister of the crown would be persuaded that the panels were independent and that the science stands - how would we know when it hasn't been examined? My impression is that the civil service are playing Willetts like a fiddle.


Stringer grills Rees

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee questioned Martin Rees today, and Graham Stringer chose to use his time to ask about the effect of Climategate on confidence in climate science. Some highlights of Rees' responses:

  • CRU scientists exonerated
  • IPCC procedures need to be modified to restore confidence
  • Need to have protocols to ensure that data is made available to anyone who is able to analyse it. [Check that wording carefully]
  • Lessons have been learned and Rees expects that scientists will share their data with genuine inquirers.
  • Stringer asks if the science should be looked at. Rees disagrees that science not looked at.

There are two things to take away from this. Firstly, it is quite clear that Oxburgh did not look at the science, because he said so. It is extraordinary to see Rees telling the panel otherwise. Secondly, if one reads between the lines it seems clear that Rees is going to put the Royal Society's weight behind a shift away from the scientific method, so that data becomes available only to those who will not rock the boat.

Video is here and Stringer's questions start at 37:25.



I've also uncovered a review of The Hockey Stick Illusion in Natuurwetenschap & Techniek, the Dutch popular science magazine that played such an important part in bring McIntyre and McKitrick's work to prominence. I'm grateful to Marcel Crok for arranging this translation:

Assuming that the climate is changing due to human activities and that quick and substantial global policies are necessary to counter what many scientists characterize as a catastrophically changing climate, one might think that the transparency in climate science has the highest priority. Nothing is further from the truth.

Click to read more ...


David Holland in Quadrant

Also from Quadrant, John Abbott discusses David Holland's quest to release IPCC-related information from British government bodies.



HSI in Quadrant magazine

John Dawson reviews The Hockey Stick Illusion in Australia's Quadrant magazine.

The Hockey Stick Illusion is the shocking story of a graph called the Hockey Stick. It is also a textbook of tree ring analysis, a code-breaking adventure, an intriguing detective story, an exposé of a scientific and political travesty, and the tale of a herculean struggle between a self-funded sceptic and a publicly funded hydra, all presented in the measured style of an analytical treatise.

Read the whole thing.


McIntyre on RC on BH

Steve M weighs in on Tamino's review of the Hockey Stick Illusion.


A brick wall

Scott Ott from the Daily Caller tries and fails to get meaningful comment out of Michael Mann.


Hoskins: climate models are lousy

The quote is at 4:30.


Zorita on Smerdon

Eduardo Zorita has a must-read post up at Klimazwiebel, discussing a new paper by Smerdon et al. Michael Mann fans will be amused to read of geographical problems uncovered in some of Mann's papers, which will instantly bring to mind favourite episodes from the Hockey Stick story, like the Rain in Maine (falls mainly in the Seine) and the documentary records of East African climate from the medieval period (Mann et al 2008). Here's a sample:

In one case, when interpolating the climate model data onto a different grid, the data were rotated around the Earth 180 degrees, so that model data that should be located on the Greenwich Meridian were erroneously placed at 180 degrees longitude; in another case the data in the Western Hemisphere were spatially smoothed, while the data in the Eastern Hemisphere were not.


As Eduardo points out the implications are rather interesting, since Smerdon's findings imply that Mann's stress-testing must have been too weak to actually demonstrate what they purported to do. Fascinating stuff.


Booker namechecks man of cloth

Christopher Booker's latest article namechecks your humble host while discussing the selection of papers for the Oxburgh report.