Memorandum submitted by the Royal Statistical
Society (CRU 47)
1. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) is
the UK's only professional and learned society devoted to the
interests of statistics and statisticians. Founded in 1834 it
is also one of the most influential and prestigious statistical
societies in the world. The Society has members in over 50 countries
worldwide and is active in a wide range of areas both directly
and indirectly pertaining to the study and application of statistics.
It aims to promote public understanding of statistics and provide
professional support to users of statistics and to statisticians.
2. The Society welcomes this opportunity
to submit evidence to the Science and Technology committee on
the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit
at the University of East Anglia inquiry.
3. The Society's response relates to the
first of the questions on which the committee invites submissions:
"What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity
of scientific research?"
4. The RSS believes that the debate on global
warming is best served by having the models used and the data
on which they are based in the public domain. Where such information
is publicly available it is possible independently to verify results.
The ability to verify models using publicly available data is
regarded as being of much greater importance than the specific
content of email exchanges between researchers.
5. The position of the RSS regarding public
dissemination of scientific data is that where the results of
scientific analyses have been published or are otherwise in the
public domain, the raw data, and associated meta-data, used for
these analyses should, within reason, also be made available.
6. The qualification, within reason,
is important because there are some cases where preservation of
confidentiality is required to protect the rights of individuals
to privacy. There are also occasions where the need to protect
sensitive areas means that publication of all details is inappropriate.
An example would be the exact locations of rare breeding species.
Similarly, there are other occasions where overriding commercial
interests may suggest that publication is inappropriate.
7. However, it is the view of the RSS that
such commercial interest will only justifiably be invoked infrequently.
An analogy with the common approach to patents is appropriate
here. Companies may choose to keep their research secret and not
patent it. However, if a patent is sought, the details of the
invention must be revealed. Analogously, in the field of drug
development, a pharmaceutical company is reimbursed not just because
of the molecules it has discovered but also because of the knowledge
it has acquired regarding the effects of those molecules. It cannot
justifiably seek reimbursement for that knowledge and not make
it available. Hence, by the point at which it seeks a commercial
return, the data on efficacy and safety should be in the public
8. It is also clearly unreasonable to require
that any given scientist having published some research is then
condemned to answer each and every question that might possibly
arise from it.. For example, requests under the Freedom of Information
act or the Environmental Information Regulations could overwhelm
small groups of scientists. To avoid this it is best if data are
stored in data centres that are professionally run and properly
9. More widely, the basic case for publication
of data includes that science progresses as an ongoing debate
and not by a series of authoritative and oracular pronouncements
and that the quality of that debate is best served by ensuring
that all parties have access to the facts. It is well understood,
for example, that peer review cannot guarantee that what is published
is "correct". The best guarantor of scientific quality
is that others are able to examine in detail the arguments that
have been used and not just their published conclusions. It is
important that experiments and calculations can be repeated to
verify their conclusions. If data, or the methods used, are withheld,
it is impossible to do this.
10. The RSS believes that a crucial step
in improving the quality of the debate on global warming will
be to place the data, the analysis methods and the models in the