Memorandum submitted by Research Councils UK (CRU 44)

 

 

1. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is a strategic partnership set up to champion the research supported by the seven UK Research Councils. RCUK was established in 2002 to enable the Councils to work together more effectively to enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their research, training and innovation activities, contributing to the delivery of the Government's objectives for science and innovation. Further details are available at www.rcuk.ac.uk.

 

2. This evidence is submitted by RCUK on behalf of the Research Councils and represents their independent views. It does not include or necessarily reflect the views of the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills.

 

Introductory comments

 

3. Research Councils fund climate change research at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Though some grants are currently held by scientists within the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) the Research Councils are not major funders of the CRU. All Research Council funding is approved through a rigorous peer review system in which applications are examined by a number of reviewers, including some international reviewers.

 

4. In addition to these grants, a contract using funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) was issued in November 2005 by the then Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (now incorporated within the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)) for the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC)[1] to procure an updated version of the CRU high-resolution climate dataset, and software to allow BADC to carry out ongoing updates to the dataset. The desire of all parties in this contract was to make both the dataset and the methodology used in its construction more easily available and transparent. Approximately 500 registered BADC users have accessed the data to date.

 

5. RCUK is fully supportive of access to data to validate research, and issued its policy on good research conduct in July 2009[2]. This policy makes clear:

 

misrepresentation of data, for example suppression of relevant findings, and/or data, or knowingly, recklessly or by gross negligence, presenting a flawed interpretation of data is unacceptable;

relevant primary data and research evidence should be accessible to others for reasonable periods after the completion of the research: data should normally be preserved and accessible for ten years, but for projects of clinical or major social, environmental or heritage importance, for 20 years or longer.

6. The evidence for climate change comes not only from the temperature records but also from, for example, long term changes in: sea level rise, ecosystem degradation, intensity of rainfall changes, incidence of droughts etc. The joint Met Office, NERC and Royal Society "Climate Science Statement" highlights the weight of evidence for human-induced climate change[3].

Q1. What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?

7. Discussion of this question should await the outcome of Independent Review of the allegations, to be headed by Sir Muir Russell.

 

Q2. Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?

 

8. In circumstances where there is a question of research integrity we would expect the employing organisation to undertake an investigation in the first instance. Research Councils require an award holding organisation to have a robust policy/process for undertaking such a review, and where appropiate for reporting the outcome to the relevant councils. 

 

9. It is not our position to intervene on individual cases where investigations are still in process, so it would be inappropriate to make any comment on the terms of reference of this review.

 

Q3. How independent are the other two international data sets?

 

10. At this stage, this issue is most appropriately assessed through the evidence of the research community and independent leading individual scientists rather than research funding bodies. As such, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.

 

 

 

Research Councils UK
February 2010



[1] The British Atmospheric data centre is a NERC funded data centre run under contract for NERC by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council. See: http://badc.nerc.ac.uk/home/index.html

[2] http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/cmsweb/downloads/rcuk/reviews/grc/goodresearchconductcode.pdf

[3] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2009/29-climate.asp