Memorandum submitted by Andrew Montford
1. The author, Andrew W Montford, BSc, CA,
works in scientific publishing and is the author of The Hockey
Stick Illusion, a book about some of the events leading up
to the Climategate affair.1 He is the author of Bishop Hill,
one of the main websites for global warming sceptics in the UK.2
He has no financial or other vested interest in the outcome of
2. Many apparent problems with the conduct
of climate science have arisen from the CRU emailswithholding
of data and code, unethical pressuring of journals, gatekeeping
by journal editors and on one occasion the misrepresentation of
the reliability of scientific data.
3. These revelations have implications both
for our assessment of climate science as a whole and for the way
science policy operates in the future. The main purpose of this
note is to state the key lessons that should learned from this
matterlessons that are necessary if the reputation of science
is to be restored and such incidents are not to happen again.
What are the implications of the disclosures for
the integrity of scientific research?
Scientific data and code must be publicly available
4. The scientific method demands that findings
be subject to testing and verification by others. The refusal
of CRU scientists to release information to those who they felt
might question or threaten their findings have led many to conclude
that the CRU's work is not trustworthy. While the some responsibility
for ensuring the availability of researchers' data and code rests
with the scientific journals, government, as a major funder of
research activity in the UK can help ensure the integrity of the
scientific record by making disclosure of these materials mandatory
and taking action against those who fail to do so.
5. Research materials, in this context,
should include raw data and fully functional computer code where
6. Research materials should be made available
to outsiders as a requirement of the scientific method. That scientists
have failed to do so is reprehensible, but the fact that they
have apparently also resorted to breaches of the Freedom of Information
Act in order to do so requires urgent attention from policymakers.
As has been widely publicized, no prosecutions under the Freedom
of Information Act have been possible because of a six month statute
of limitations for prosecutions in magistrates' courts. Parliament
will no doubt wish to amend the act accordingly, to ensure that
it is no longer possible for civil servants to flout the law with
7. It has been asserted by CRU staff that
they were overwhelmed by Freedom of Information requests. This
is not the case. Most of these requests were prompted by the refusal
of CRU to release its data for verification. CRU were unable to
take advantage of the clause in the FOI Act permitting them to
charge for burdensome requests, because in fact there was virtually
no information to disclose.
Peer review is inadequate to the task of assessing
scientific findings for policymakers
8. Academic studies on peer review to identify
fraud and error have not painted a good picture of its ability
to detect fraud and error. In the words of Richard Smith, the
former editor of the British Medical Journal:
"We have little evidence on the effectiveness
of peer review, but we have considerable evidence of its defects.
In addition to being poor at detecting gross defects and almost
useless for detecting fraud, it is slow, expensive, profligate
of academic time, highly subjective, something of a lottery, prone
to bias and easily abused".
9. The CRU disclosures demonstrate that
the peer review process can be subverted by a small but influential
group of scientists. In the emails we see that there were at least
four attempts to subvert journals
by putting pressure on editors to reject or delay submissions
that were critical of mainstream climatology or to otherwise hinder
sceptics. Editors who stood in the way of this group appear to
have been forced from their posts. Articles by activist scientists
were sent to sympathetic reviewers. Articles by sceptics were
sent to hostile reviewers.
10. Policymakers need to be clear that peer
review does not normally involve obtaining the scientific data
and code used in a study and reproducing the findings. It is normally
simply a read-through of a paper. This is adequate for finding
glaring errors or non-original work. It is an absurdly inadequate
process for justifying multi-billion pound decisions. As McCullough
and McKitrick put it, "some government staff are surprised
to find out that peer review does not involve checking data and
calculations, while some academics are surprised that anyone thought
11. With scientists assessed on their productivity,
in terms of numbers of papers published and citations achieved,
there is little time for replication of the work of others. However,
with peer review being such a weak check on scientific correctness,
replication is the only way to ensure that decisions are taken
on a sound scientific basis. Policymakers need to consider how
they will ensure that scientific findings on which they base their
decisions have been adequately replicated.
Climate scientists are too close to environmental
12. The disclosures reveal several instances
of government funded scientists working with environmental pressure
groups. In one case, Greenpeace activists are seen helping CRU
scientists to draft a letter to the Times and in another working
closely with the World Wildlife Fund to put pressure on governments
regarding climate change.
13. Since the CRU disclosures, it has become
clear that some of the findings of the IPCC reports have been
based on publications of green groups like WWF and Greenpeace
rather than peer-reviewed journals. The use of publications by
advocacy groups occurred during both the Fourth Assessment Report,
under Rajendra Pachauri, and the Third Assessment Report, under
Professor Bob Watson.
14. The head of the Met Office board, Robert
Napier, is a environmental activist.
Scientists advising government have conflicting interests
15. It is likely that, if global warming
were determined to be a minor problem, most of the scientists
who appear in the emails would either be unemployed or at least
much less generously funded from the public purse. This inevitably
creates huge pressure to "bid up" the importance of
findings that support the global warming hypothesis and to play
down those that question it. The failure of policymakers to ensure
that those assessing the state of climatology and providing advice
accordingly represents a significant failure.
16. Scientists closely involved in the promotion
of the global warming movement are also in key positions in the
National Environmental Research Council (NERC). This gives them
the ability to direct funding towards research that supports their
case and to starve skeptical scientists of money. For example,
NERC council member Professor Bob Watson has toured the country
promoting the existence of manmade global warming and regularly
appears on television in support of the scientists implicated
in the Climategate emails. This kind of advocacy role is incompatible
with responsibility for directing funding. Another NERC council
member and Chief Scientist at the Met Office, Prof Julia Slingo,
circulated a letter seeking scientists who would publicly support
the claims of the IPCC in the wake of the revelations in the Climategate
emails. It would have been hard for many scientists to resist
such a request from someone with the power to shut off their funding.
Several other members of the NERC council are similarly involved
in advocacy roles.
17. The state near-monopoly on research
into the atmospheric sciences means that conflicts of interest
and gatekeeping by scientists are hard to avoid. The so-called
funding effect in science, whereby the results of scientific research
seem to align with the financial incentives of the researchers,
is normally associated with research funded by commercial businesses,
but the same incentive structures exist for state-funded researchers
and government advisers. Public choice theorythe idea that
bureaucracies react to financial incentives in the same way as
anyone elsemay well explain much of the overheated tone
in the utterances of climatologists in recent years. Policymakers
should recognise this incentive and guard against it.
Climatology has lost its objectivity
18. The interests of the scientists appears
to have revealed itself in the way science is conducted. The prominent
climatologist Hans von Storch (who is not a sceptic) has spoken
of a "spiral of exaggeration" in his specialism, with
scientists seeking to make each new announcement more dramatic
than the last one, in order to further what they see as their
19. The IPCC reports appear to be in large
measure a political project. The CRU's Keith Briffa is seen in
the emails saying that "I tried hard to balance the needs
of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same".4
In another, he speaks of pressure to report that twentieth century
temperatures are unprecedented.5 One climatologist has spoken
of IPCC authors openly discussing writing their report so that
the USA would be convinced to sign the Kyoto protocol.6
20. Von Storch also notes scientists "succumbing
to a form of fanaticism almost reminiscent of the McCarthy era.
In their minds, criticism of methodology is nothing but the monstrous
product of `conservative think-tanks and misinformation campaigns
by the oil and coal lobby', which they believe is their duty to
expose. In contrast, dramatization of climate shift is defended
as being useful from the standpoint of educating the public".
21. Climatologists apparently felt under
pressure to produce particular results. In one email, the UEA's
Keith Briffa says "I know there is pressure to present a
nice tidy story as regards `apparent unprecedented warming in
a thousand years or more in the proxy data' but in reality the
situation is not quite so simple". It is not clear who is
putting pressure on these scientists, but it is clearly inappropriate
to do so.
Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent
Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?
The independence of the review is not assured
22. Sir Muir Russell was appointed to head
the review by the vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia,
Sir Edward Acton. However, the emails disclosed implicate Sir
Edward's predecessor in an apparent breach of the Freedom of Information
Act and there is therefore a prime-facie case that the review
is not sufficiently independent.
The review must be held in public
23. Sir Muir Russell has stated that he
wants to retain the confidence of global warming sceptics. However,
in his letter to Mr Willis of 10 December 2009, Sir Edward Acton,
the vice-chancellor of UEA, states that Sir Muir will present
his findings to Sir Edward, who will in turn present a report
to the council of the university. We are asked to believe that
Sir Muir will properly investigate Sir Edward's role in the alleged
FoI breaches, and that Sir Edward will pass on the findings that
Sir Muir makes on this subject to the university council.
The review must take evidence from sceptics
24. At time of writing it appears that no
prominent sceptic has been contacted by Sir Muir with a view to
providing evidence. Without complainants being able to make their
case to the review, it is unlikely that the findings will be sound
or accepted by the sceptic community.
How independent are the other two international
The datasets are not independent
25. The three major international surface
temperature datasets are not independent all relying heavily on
the Global Historic Climate Network of temperature measuring stations.
AW. The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the corruption
of science. London: Stacey International 2010.
3 McCullough B and McKitrick R. Follow the numbers:
the case for due diligence in policy formation. The Fraser Institute
4 See http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=794&filename=1177890796.txt
5 See http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=136&filename=938018124.txt
6 John Christy of the University of Alabama.
54 Climatic Research, Geophysical Research Letters,
and on two separate occasions, International Journal of Climatology. Back