Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
1 MARCH 2010
Q120 Dr Harris: You would not object
to sending peer reviewers or editors that data?
Professor Jones: No, but they
have never asked.
Q121 Dr Harris: Okay. Moving on to
something else, there is this whole "hide the decline"
business I want to talk to you about. There was a concession from
at least one set of critics that the "trick" is probably
not an issue because they recognise that it is a term used.
Professor Jones: It is the best
way of doing it.
Q122 Dr Harris: It may not be the
view of all of your critics but at least you have some on the
record saying that that is now not the issue. But then you will
recall there was an exchange I had, if you were listening, with
them about this question of hiding the decline and I just wanted
you to respond to their assertion that when you did that it was
not set out in the publicationsI must say I have not gone
back to the publications to read them so I am relying on your
view on this but I am sure it can be doneand that in fact
it was never shown that this was going on. Whereas your evidence
from the UEA says very clearly that this is part of the published
scientific record that you were doing it and the reasons you were
doing that, and that can be criticised or agreed with by other
scientists. Can you just talk about that?
Professor Jones: That particular
email relates to this document that I produced for the World Meteorological
Organisation at the end of the last millennium in 1999. One of
the curves was based on tree ring data which showed a very good
relationship between the tree rings and the temperature from the
latter part of the nineteenth century through to 1960, and after
that there was a divergence where the trees did not go up as much
as the real temperatures had. We knew that because we had written
a paper the year before in 1998 in the journal Nature which
discussed this divergence between tree growth and temperatures
in recent times. Not all tree ring series show that but this particular
one we knew did, so we knew that putting the tree ring series
in from 1960 onwards would be wrong because it does not agree
with the instrumental temperature. What we did for this simplified
diagram was to put the instrumental data on the end from 1960,
so that only applies to one of these curves on this cover. We
had written about it the year before, in one of the first papers
on the divergence problemI think other groups had actually
called it the divergence problemand, since then, we have
been working with other tree ring data trying to improve the way
we process the data to try and make sure we keep as much of the
low frequency information on longer timescales in the trees because
you have to standardise trees in a certain way to produce temperature
Q123 Dr Harris: My question is: in
subsequent papers when that was done was it always explicit, albeit
only by reference to the Nature paper to which you were
Professor Jones: It was always
explicit in the subsequent papers because some of the subsequent
papers have improved the processing techniques.
Q124 Dr Harris: Did you understand
what those witnesses (if you heard them) meant when they said
that they could not see, they thought the hiding of the decline
approachwhich is a label from an emailthe identifying
and dealing with the divergence problem, was itself hidden. You
do not accept that?
Professor Jones: We do not accept
it was hidden because it was discussed in a paper the year before
and we have discussed it in every paper we have written on tree
rings and climate.
Q125 Dr Harris: While I have you
on trees, if I may, an assertion was made by the first panel that
all the data on trees before a previous date relates to one pine
tree. I would like to call this "the case of the lonesome
pine"; is that a problem from your perspective?
Professor Jones: No, it is not
a problem at all. That particular reconstruction went back to
1400, or just after 1400, and that is because there are insufficient
trees to go back before that, there are more than just one. We
have criteria to determine how far you can go back in terms of
the number of trees you have at a certain number of sites.
Q126 Dr Harris: It is not lonesome.
Professor Jones: No.
Q127 Graham Stringer: Professor Actonyou
have probably read about itthe Speaker in this place lost
his job partly because he seemed to think it was more important
to pursue people who had leaked MPs' expenses rather than deal
with the issue which seemed to show some problems in the way members
had claimed the expenses. Do you not think that your assertions
and your submission to this Committee are going along the same
line as being very concerned with the leaks and then prejudging
the outcome of the inquiry in what you say?
Professor Acton: I hope not. The
point of setting up the independent inquiry is to hear it and
allow it to look absolutely fully into all the matters before
it. I want to know the full truth; I am surprised you find a prejudging
here and I am concerned.
Q128 Graham Stringer: The reason
I say that is there is a statement from your Pro-Vice-Chancellor,
Trevor Davies, who argues exactly the case that Professor Jones
has been arguing, that Professor Jones has no case to answer and
the only way you can read your submission to this Committee is
to say that you agree with Professor Jones.
Professor Acton: Do you mean about
the climate science?
Q129 Graham Stringer: Yes.
Professor Acton: Ah. Muir Russell's
independent review is not looking at the science, it is looking
at allegations about malpractice. As for the science itself, I
have not actually seen any evidence of any flaw in the science
but I am hoping, later this week, to announce the chair of a panel
to reassess the science and make sure there is nothing wrong.
It is amongst the most thoroughly endorsed and co-witnessed science
there is. Professor Jones has 450 co-authors from 100 universitiesfrom
Princeton, from Yale, from Columbia, from Imperial, from Oxfordthere
could be scarcely more prestigious and completely autonomous scientists
endorsing it. I am a historian, it would be extraordinary for
me to cast doubt on it.
Q130 Graham Stringer: I meant both
actually, both the science and the procedures that had been followed,
because one of the things you have said in your memorandum is
that the Information Commissioner said that no "breach of
the law has been established", but the letter from the Commissioner
states "the prima facie evidence from the published emails
indicates an attempt to defeat disclosure by deleting information".
It is hard to imagine a more clear-cut or cogent prima facie piece
of evidence, is it not, and yet you have taken the opposite view?
You have supported the scienceI accept the fact that you
are not a scientistbut you have also supported the administrative
process and that is rather prejudging it.
Professor Acton: May I comment
because I am rather puzzled about the statement from the ICO because,
as I understand it, our principle is that prima facie evidence
is evidence which on the face of it and without investigation
suggests that there is a case to answer. To my mind there is prima
facie evidence; why else did I set up the Muir Russell independent
review? Prima facie evidence is not the same as, "you have
been found to breach". You explain it to me if you would;
I am very puzzled. If it is sub judice, if, as we had in a letter
10 days ago from the ICO, the investigation has not even begun,
I am puzzled how we could have been found to breach if there has
been no investigation.
Q131 Graham Stringer: That is not
what you said actually, you did not say that this is yet to be
judged, what you said is: this statement "indicated that
no breach of the law has been established". That is you prejudging
Professor Acton: It has not been
establishedunless there has been an investigation.
Q132 Graham Stringer: Would it not
have been better to say that?
Professor Acton: I have tried
to, rather succinctly. To establish is to have done an investigation.
Q133 Graham Stringer: Can I ask you
a more general question on your attitude? I was trying, perhaps
not very successfully, to draw an analogy with our problems in
this place with the Speaker. Should you not actually have been
delighted that all these emails have been released? On one of
the most important scientific issues of our age, is it not really
important that we have as much information out there as possible?
Professor Acton: It is, and I
would think that one should go well beyond the Freedom of Information
Act, the issue is so important. Once it is in the minds of some
people, once they imagine there is a conspiracy to distort, then
any refusal of information, even if it is nothing to do with data
but private emails or commercial agreements, will feed that. I
am longing for it to be completely open but whether it is a good
thing that the emails are thrown open like that, I wait to judge.
That there be much more public debate, I delight in and I thoroughly
agree with. I am anxious if the effect of the way in which it
is reported is disinformation, a sort of hint about something
where there is absolutely nothing hidden. It is in a way the most
deeply confirmed and affirmed, the major issue of a temperature
graph from about 1850. The early medieval periodwe should
be spending more money on that research, but the latter is so
overly endorsed by scientists I am puzzled that we should welcome
a savouring of doubt where scientists say "but there is no
Q134 Graham Stringer: Can you tell
us how you came to choose Sir Muir Russell to run this inquiry?
Professor Acton: I took counsel
from very senior figures, including those in higher education,
about somebody who would have knowledge of university life, real
experience of public life and command enormous respect for their
integrity, preferably whom I had never met. Muir Russell was the
top name that came to mind and I was delighted when he agreed
to do it.
Q135 Graham Stringer: Thank you.
Can I go back to Professor Jones? I do not want to repeat the
previous exchange we had but I just would like to be clear in
terms of the answers to the questions from Doug and Evan about
the repeatability of the works you put out. You are saying very
clearly that on a lot of the papers you have put out other scientists,
not that they need your working books, cannot repeat that work
when those papers are published because they do not have the programs
and the codes?
Professor Jones: They have not
got the programs or the data.
Q136 Graham Stringer: So they cannot
Professor Jones: That is just
a fact of life in climate sciences.
Q137 Graham Stringer: That is very
plain. Dr Graham-Cumming has made a number of points: that it
appeared that your organisation, writing the different codes that
it did, did not adhere to the standards one might find in professional
software engineering and that the code had easily identified bugshe
himself claims to have identified bugs in the programs even after
the BBC2 programmethat no visible test method was apparently
used and they were poorly documented. Is that true, is Dr Graham-Cumming
Professor Jones: Those codes are
from a much earlier time, they are from the period about 2000
to 2004. The codes that were stolen were earlier and we have people
working on these at the moment, trying to do some other work,
but they do not relate to the production of the global and hemispheric
temperature series. They are nothing to do with that, they are
to do with a different project.
Q138 Graham Stringer: Which project
are they to do with, so that it is clear to us?
Professor Jones: They are to do
with a project that was funded by the British Atmospheric Data
Centre, which is run by NERC, and that was to produce more gridded
temperature data and precipitation data and other variables. A
lot of that has been released on a Dutch website and also the
Q139 Graham Stringer: Have you now
released the actual code used for CRUTEM3?
Professor Jones: The Met Office
have, they have released their version.
5 Note by witness: For clarification see Ev 39 Back