The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia - Science and Technology Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 140-159)

PROFESSOR EDWARD ACTON AND PROFESSOR PHIL JONES

1 MARCH 2010

  Q140  Graham Stringer: Have you released your version?

  Professor Jones: We have not released our version but it produces exactly the same result.

  Q141  Graham Stringer: You have not released your version.

  Professor Jones: We have not released our version but I can assure you—

  Q142  Graham Stringer: But it is different.

  Professor Jones: It is different because the Met Office version is written in a computer language called Perl and they wrote it independently of us, and ours is written in Fortran.

  Q143  Graham Stringer: How do you respond to the suggestion that you mingled confidential data with open data and, consequently, that is the reason you refused a lot of the requests for information?

  Professor Jones: That is how it is, because we have got data coming in routinely and we have added in this extra data where we tried to get extra data for certain regions of the world.

  Q144  Graham Stringer: According to Mosher and Fuller when you were asked to name—and Professor Acton has named a number of other ones—countries that you had confidential agreements with now, you could only produce the names of three countries. Is that right, when you were asked?

  Professor Jones: I think it was about five.

  Q145  Graham Stringer: Since the data has been released has there been any legal action taken against you?

  Professor Jones: No.

  Q146  Graham Stringer: Did you try to get round the agreements you had made with these different countries in the interests of scientific objectivity?

  Professor Jones: Not in that way. We did, with the help of the Met Office, approach all the countries of the world and asked them whether we could release their data. We have had 59 replies of which 52 have been positive, so that has led to the release of 80% of the data, but we have had these seven negative responses which we talked about earlier, including Canada.

  Q147  Graham Stringer: Just the final question which I think, like Ian, is the nub of the issue. I do not think you can read the emails or the responses to the freedom of information requests without coming to the view that you did not want people to have this information. Does that not firstly breed distrust and, secondly, does it not exclude newcomers? Why were you not keen for people to have this information?

  Professor Jones: We were not excluding anybody. We were making the derived product available and the series, so those data were available on our website. What was not there was the raw station data.

  Q148  Graham Stringer: I will repeat it one more time and then I will shut up, Chairman. That does exclude checking and it does rather put you as a scientist above interested scientists who want to check up. It is the United States Department of Energy that funds you, is it not?

  Professor Jones: Yes.

  Q149  Graham Stringer: It puts you above people who have paid their tax dollars to fund you because they cannot check the work you are doing.

  Professor Jones: But they can get access to all the data on these other websites.

  Graham Stringer: Thank you.

  Q150  Chairman: Could I ask you briefly, before I pass on to Dr Harris for the last of these questions—and we are over-running slightly on this but it is an important session—in terms of the two datasets in the United States, particularly the NOAA dataset and the NASA dataset, and other climate scientists around the world who have principally used those datasets, have there been any similar questions as the ones that have arisen at the University of East Anglia about scientists elsewhere in the world suppressing data or changing data as has been accused of the CRU at East Anglia?

  Professor Jones: Not that I am aware of. The NASA group have made their data available and their programs.

  Professor Acton: There have been very closely analogous cases before the last IPCC.

  Q151  Chairman: What I am trying to get at is whether in fact, in terms of the furore that has occurred over the Emailgate scandal or whatever you want to call it, there have been similar problems arising out of the NOAA and other datasets in the States?

  Professor Jones: Their data is freely available so there should not be a problem.

  Q152  Chairman: Can I very briefly come to you, Professor Acton? What staggered me, if I might be so bold, is that what mattered most to you was, as you said, "The reputation and integrity of UEA is of the utmost importance to us all." Surely scientific integrity on the world's leading global question should be of the greatest importance, but it seems that to you it is defending the reputation of the University of East Anglia. Have you not miserably failed? A small unit, three people, working against the odds, at the leading edge of climatology, you have let them down and now you are trying to protect their reputation.

  Professor Acton: I hope we have not let them down. I am immensely proud of what they have done; without them humanity would be vastly less able to understand climate change. I consider the integrity of science at UEA an unbreakable part of science per se so I do not see those as alternatives. In my current post it is a matter of enormous importance that I think very, very hard about the reputation of UEA. I feel very confident about the long run, the science is robust and for a university still in its first 50 years to have made this seminal contribution is an enormous achievement, and my colleague to the left is a key contributor to that.

  Q153  Dr Harris: It occurred to me that one of the reasons that you might not want to make data available when you publish, or the raw data available, is this, and this may apply in other areas of science as well, because there must be a reason why it is not done other than inconvenience. If you collect all this data and you publish a paper on it, but you have got more work to do, is there an issue about you not wanting to give another group of scientists your data to publish their own conclusions from that data that you have carefully collected as a basis for you to publish work from it? Do you see the point, that you have got a publication record to develop on data you have meticulously accrued?

  Professor Jones: We do put a lot of the data from the papers up on our website; where we can we put data up and a lot of data is related to projects we are doing. There are a lot of people who access our website for climate data and climate-derived products, so we do the best we can from the resources we have.

  Q154  Dr Harris: I was going to ask you about the US data sets from the first panel but your late submission that we got recently deals with all the points that they made there, so we will deal with that in writing. The point that the first panel made was that transparency and openness were more important than peer review to the integrity of science, and one could get into a philosophical question about this which I am not inviting you to do. There is this question about peer review and the allegations coming from the emails that you somehow were trying to manipulate the peer review process in some way—not you or just you but colleagues collectively by preventing some people getting published, either in journals or included in the IPCC reports. Do you have a response to those allegations?

  Professor Jones: They relate to two papers which were already in the public domain because they had been published. In some of the emails I was just commenting that I did not think those papers were very good and probably any scientist who reads a paper would think that some papers are good and some papers are poor, and I was just commenting on that.

  Q155  Dr Harris: I was not just talking about that because those are two papers in the IPCC report; I was talking about people who complain that these emails suggest that you tried to stop some papers, for example on alleged research fraud, from being published and the editor of Energy & Environment complained that the emails revealed that complaints were made against her university department, expressing anger about the way that journal had treated—in publication presumably or maybe an editorial—some other data. Do you think those are fair criticisms, even with the retrospective scope of private emails being revealed?

  Professor Jones: On the second one, with the editor of Climate Research I was just writing to her head of department.

  Q156  Dr Harris: Sorry, I had got the editor of Energy & Environment.

  Professor Jones: Yes, the editor of Energy & Environment who works at the University of Hull.

  Q157  Dr Harris: Yes.

  Professor Jones: I was sending an email to the head of department about a complaint that she had made about me to the UK Climate Impacts Programme, so I was just responding there. The other point you made was about Dr Benny Peiser who was editing a series of papers in Energy & Environment. He asked me to comment on a particular paper and I sent him some views back that I did not think the paper was very good. It was not a formal review, he was just asking me for my views.

  Q158  Dr Harris: The Institute of Physics say—and this is quite strong—"The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima face evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law." That is partly, I suppose, coming back to transparency, but what is your view on that? Do you think the emails reveal anything that you may be vulnerable on or are you confident that the emails, if looked at as a whole, will clear you as it were in the review? I am not asking you to forecast the result of the review, I just want to ask your state of mind in respect of this.

  Professor Jones: You have to realise that you have only seen a tenth of 1% of my emails in this respect.

  Q159  Graham Stringer: We do not want to read the rest.

  Professor Jones: But I do not think there is anything in those emails that really supports any view that I or CRU have been trying to pervert the peer review process in any way. I have just been giving my views on specific papers.

  Chairman: On that note we do have to finish this session. Professor Edward Acton, can we thank you very much indeed, and Professor Phil Jones, thank you very much indeed for coming before the Committee this afternoon. We are heading for our fourth panel.




 
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