Adventures in Ethics and Science

Remember “ClimateGate”, that well-publicized storm of controversy that erupted when numerous email messages from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) webserver at the University of East Anglia were stolen by hackers and widely distributed? One of the events set in motion by ClimateGate was a formal inquiry concerning allegations of research conduct against Dr. Michael E. Mann, a professor in the Department of Meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University.

The report (PDF) from that inquiry has been released, so we’re going to have a look at it here.

This report contains a lot of discussion of how the committee pursuing the inquiry was constituted, and of which university policies govern how the committee is constituted, and of how membership of the committee was updated when members left the university for other positions, etc. I’m going to gloss over those details, but they’re all there in the ten page report if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

My focus here will be on what set the inquiry in motion to begin with, on the specific allegations they considered against Dr. Mann, on how the committee gathered information relevant to the allegations, and on the findings and decisions at which they arrived. Let me state up front that committee decided that one allegation merited further consideration in an “investigation” (which is the stage of the process that follows upon an “inquiry”), and that to my eye, that investigation may end up having broader implications for the practice of science in academia.

But let’s start at the beginning. From the inquiry report:

Beginning on and about November 22, 2009, The Pennsylvania State University began to receive numerous communications (emails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E. Mann of having engaged in acts that included manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming from approximately 1998. These accusations were based on perceptions of the content of the widely reported theft of emails from a server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.

It sounds an awful lot like these “numerous communications” came not from other climate scientists but from members of the general public. (The report notes that the sources of the communications included federal and state politicians, University alumni, and people with no connection to Penn State.)

There is nothing prima facie wrong with members of the general public communicating their concerns. There may be questions about how well grounded these concerns are in facts, but that’s the sort of thing an inquiry committee can investigate. And, to the extent that a university like Penn State places importance on the public’s trust, responding to these complaints was clearly something the university saw as being in its best interests.

The complaints raised in these communications, if true, could potentially amount to research misconduct, so the wheels were put in motion to mount an inquiry:

Under The Pennsylvania State University’s policy, Research Administration Policy No. 10, (hereafter referred to as RA-10), Research Misconduct is defined as:

  1. fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other practices that seriously deviate from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities;
  2. callous disregard for requirements that ensure the protection of researchers, human participants, or the public; or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals;
  3. failure to disclose significant financial and business interest as defined by Penn State Policy RA20, Individual Conflict of Interest;
  4. failure to comply with other applicable legal requirements governing research or other scholarly activities.

RA-10 further provides that “research misconduct does not include disputes regarding honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data, and is not intended to resolve bona fide scientific disagreement or debate.”

However, from the sounds of things, most of the complaints the university received about Dr. Mann in the wake of ClimateGate were not couched in the official language of the policy on research misconduct. (This is no surprise. Not too many people from outside academia wallow in official policy language.) Thus, to address the substance of the complaints in the context of academic research and the relevant university policies governing it, the members of the inquiry committee had to do some work to extract the allegations the numerous communications, taken together, were making against Dr. Mann:

At the time of initiation of the inquiry, and in the ensuing days during the inquiry, no formal allegations accusing Dr. Mann of research misconduct were submitted to any University official. As a result, the emails and other communications were reviewed by Dr. Pell and from these she synthesized the following four formal allegations. To be clear, these were not allegations that Dr. Pell put forth, or leveled against Dr. Mann, but rather were her best effort to reduce to allegation form the many different accusations that were received from parties outside of the University. The four synthesized allegations were as follows:

  1. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?
  2. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?
  3. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?
  4. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities?

If I were on the inquiry committee, I’d be inclined to point out that these are actually questions rather than allegations — allegations, I’d think, would be the statements that assume an affirmative answer corresponding to each of these questions. As I was not on the inquiry committee, its members were spared my nit-pick.

You’ll note that each of these allegations falls squarely under point (1) of RA-10 (quoted above). Also, you’ll note that allegation #4, the question about deviating “from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” is a broader question than the other three.

What sort of information did the inquiry committee consider as they examined these allegations? They started with a set of more than 1000 emails “purloined from a server at the University of East Anglia”. (Side note: I love the inquiry report’s consistent use of the term “purloined” to describe these emails.) From these, they identified all the messages of which Dr. Mann was a sender or a recipient (or even a participant at some point in the “chain” of the email discussion), plus all the messages that mentioned Dr Mann or his research or publications (even the ones that he neither sent nor received).

From among these 377 emails, the inquiry committee focused on 47 emails that were deemed relevant. On December 17, 2009, the inquiry committee (Pell, Scaroni, Yekel), Dr. Brune [Head of the Department of Meteorology, whose role was to provide consultation to the rest of the members of the inquiry, but not to make decisions at the inquiry phase] and Dr. Foley [Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School] met to review the emails, discuss the RA-10 inquiry process and go over what their respective activities would be. It was agreed that these individuals would meet again in early January and that they would use the time until that meeting to review the relevant information, including the above mentioned e-mails, journal articles, OP-ED columns, newspaper and magazine articles, the National Academy of Sciences report entitled “Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years,” ISBN: 0-309-66144-7 and various blogs on the internet.

Please take a moment here to absorb the description of the sources of relevant information (in addition to the ClimateGate emails) the inquiry committee decided to dig into over the December break: journal articles, magazine and newspaper articles, op-ed pieces, and various blogs on the internet.

I think this has to be empirical data in support of the claim that even people who do not blog are now paying attention to blogs. I suppose this also means that bloggers may want to write with the understanding that what they post may be used in a university inquiry at some future date.

Anyway, the members of the inquiry committee drew on these sources to compile a document that included specific questions in addition to the four formal allegations. They used this document to interview Dr. Mann, asking follow up questions in response to his answers to the questions in the document:

On January 12, 2010, the inquiry committee (Foley, Yekel, Scaroni) and Dr. Brune met with Dr. Mann to interview him. Dr. Mann was asked to address the four allegations leveled against him and to provide answers to the fifteen additional questions that the committee had compiled. In an interview lasting nearly two hours, Dr. Mann addressed each of the questions and follow up questions. A recording was made of the meeting, and this recording was transcribed. The committee members asked occasional follow-up questions. Throughout the interview, Dr. Mann answered each question carefully:

  • He explained the content and meaning of the emails about which we inquired;
  • He explained that he had never falsified any data, nor had he had ever manipulated data to serve a given predetermined outcome;
  • He explained that he never used inappropriate influence in reviewing papers by other scientists who disagreed with the conclusions of his science;
  • He explained that he never deleted emails at the behest of any other scientist, specifically including Dr. Phil Jones, and that he never withheld data with the intention of obstructing science; and
  • He explained that he never engaged in activities or behaviors that were inconsistent with accepted academic practices.

I imagine at this point that someone might raise the objection that it doesn’t matter what Dr. Mann says, since clearly a scientist who has falsified or suppressed data, or destroyed data or communications, or misused privileged information is going to lie about having done so. Remember, however, that the inquiry committee was not only relying on Dr. Mann’s testimony. They were also drawing on the purloined CRU emails. This means that if Dr. Mann’s claims seemed to be in conflict with the evidence of the email messages, it would undermine his testimony.

Indeed, on the second formal allegation, the inquiry committee sought more than Dr. Mann’s testimony:

On January 15, 2010, and on behalf of the inquiry committee, Dr. Foley conveyed via email an additional request of Dr. Mann, who was asked to produce all emails related to the fourth IPCC report (“AR4″), the same emails that Dr. Phil Jones had suggested that he delete.

On January 18, 2010, Dr. Mann provided a zip-archive of these emails and an explanation of their content. In addition, Dr. Mann provided a ten page supplemental written response to the matters discussed during his interview.

The fact that Dr. Mann produced the emails that it was alleged he had improperly deleted looks like convincing proof that he did not delete them.

With the testimony from Dr. Mann (both from his interview with the inquiry committee and from the supplementary written response he provide) and the information from other sources (including the purloined emails) in hand, the inquiry committee sat down to deliberate. After their deliberation, they issued a finding and a decision for each of the four formal allegations against Dr. Mann:

Allegation 1: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?

Finding 1. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State. In fact to the contrary, in instances that have been focused upon by some as indicating falsification of data, for example in the use of a “trick” to manipulate the data, this is explained as a discussion among Dr. Jones and others including Dr. Mann about how best to put together a graph for a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report. They were not falsifying data; they were trying to construct an understandable graph for those who were not experts in the field. The so-called “trick” was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.

Decision 1. As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

None of the evidence the inquiry committee considered was anything like a smoking gun to support the charge or suppression or falsification of data.

Allegation 2: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?

Finding 2. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data related to AR4, as suggested by Dr. Phil Jones. Dr. Mann has stated that he did not delete emails in response to Dr. Jones’ request. Further, Dr. Mann produced upon request a full archive of his emails in and around the time of the preparation of AR4. The archive contained e-mails related to AR4.

Decision 2. As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

Dr. Mann produced the allegedly deleted emails, strongly suggesting (by their existence) that they had not been deleted, either properly or improperly.

Allegation 3: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?

Finding 3. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to him in his capacity as an academic scholar. In media reports and blogs about Dr. Mann and other paleoclimatologists, those who are named in the CRU email files are purported to have been engaged in conspiratorial discussions indicative of a misuse of privileged or confidential information. Although it is not clear where the exact accusation lies in this with respect to Dr. Mann, it is inferred that the emails prove the case. Those who have formed this view feel that, in their capacity as reviewers, Dr. Mann and his colleagues had early access to manuscripts from other authors with whom they disagreed, and that they could somehow act on those to reject them for publication. Actually, when one does due diligence on this matter, and asks about what papers were involved, one finds that enormous confusion has been caused by interpretations of the emails and their content. In some cases, the discussion and related debate centered on papers that were about to emerge which members of the purported conspiracy had written, but which were simply under embargo. In other cases, the discussion and related debate centered on papers that have emerged in otherwise notable scientific journals, which they deemed to have been published with a lower standard of scholarly and scientific scrutiny. The committee found no research misconduct in this. Science often involves different groups who have very different points of view, arguing for the intellectual dominance of their viewpoint, so that that viewpoint becomes the canonical one. We point to Kuhn as an authority on how science is done, before it is accepted as “settled.”

Decision 3. As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

The findings on the third allegation are interesting, as they point to the fact that scientists in a field may have access to information well before that information is public (say, because it is in a paper which is under embargo but has been distributed to them). Discussing these papers does not mean that the scientists discussing them have any control at all over whether the papers are accepted for publication by reputable journals. (Indeed, “under embargo” suggests that the papers have already been accepted for publication but have not yet been published.)

Others of the papers involved in the complaints the university received were apparently already published. This means that even if the purloined CRU emails included discussions about how these papers should not have been accepted for publication (because the people discussing them in these emails didn’t think the quality of the data they reported, or the scientific argumentation they presented, was high enough), the discussants could not have suppressed the publication of these papers without being in possession of a time machine.

In other words, the content of the emails revealed disagreements (about results and standards for evaluating reports of scientific findings) within the scientific community, but they did not reveal that Dr. Mann acted to suppress results or reports of scientific findings with which he disagreed.

For those keeping score, that’s three allegations which the inquiry committee determined to be without substance.

Finally, we get to the fourth allegation:

Allegation 4. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities?

Finding 4. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee could not make a definitive finding whether there exists any evidence to substantiate that Dr. Mann did engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities. It is the case that there has been a public outcry from some quarters that Dr. Mann and his colleagues did deviate from what some observers claim to be standard academic practice. All disciplines and scientific fields work within broad bounds of “accepted scientific” practice that apply to all researchers. However, within different disciplines of science there are additional elements of accepted practice that may be specific to those disciplines and therefore are different from those of other disciplines and fields. …

Policy RA-10 speaks not just of research misconduct but also of research conduct and is explicit regarding the responsibility that we have as scientists to maintain the public trust. The preamble is as follows:

“Public trust in the integrity and ethical behavior of scholars is essential if research and other scholarly activities are to play their proper role in the University and in society. The maintenance of high ethical standards is a central and critical responsibility of faculty and administrators of academic institutions. Policy AD-47 sets forth statements of general standards of professional ethics within the academic community.”

Furthermore, the preamble speaks to the high ethical expectations that Penn State has for its faculty and administrators. These expectations are embodied in another document, Policy AD-47 General Standards of Professional Ethics. The purpose of AD-47 is stated as follows:

“To set forth statements of general standards of professional ethics to serve as a reminder of the variety of obligations assumed by all members of the academic community.”

Here, the inquiry committee is pointing out that researchers at the university has a duty not to commit fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, but also a positive duty to behave in such a way that they maintain the public’s trust. The inquiry committee goes on to highlight specific sections of policy AD-47 that speak to cultivating intellectual honesty, being scrupulous in presentation of one’s data (and careful not to read those data as being more robust than they really are), showing due respect for their colleagues in the community of scholars even when they disagree with their findings or judgments, and being clear in their communications with the public about when they are speaking in their capacity as researchers and when they are speaking as private citizens.

The inquiry report continues:

It is clear to those who have followed the media and blogs over the last two months that there are two distinct and deeply polarized points of view that have emerged on this matter. One side views the emails as evidence of a clear cut violation of the public trust and seeks severe penalties for Dr. Mann and his colleagues. The other side sees these as nothing more than the private discussions of scientists engaged in a hotly debated topic of enormous social impact.

In other words, we’re not just looking at scientific conduct here. Rather, we’re looking at scientific conduct in an area about which the public cares a lot.

What this means is that the public here is paying rather more attention to how climate scientists are interacting with each other, and to the question of whether these interactions are compatible with the objective, knowledge-building project science is supposed to be.

This public interest is not a completely new development:

The allegation inquires about whether Dr. Mann seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities. In 2006, similar questions were asked about Dr. Mann and these questions motivated the National Academy of Sciences to undertake an in depth investigation of his research. The committee that wrote the report on surface temperature reconstructions found that Dr. Mann’s science did fall well within the bounds of accepted practice. What has changed since that time is that private emails have come to our attention and that of the public at large, and these give us a glimpse into the behind the scenes workings of Dr. Mann and many of his colleagues in the conduct of their science.

In other words, the purloined emails introduce new data relevant to the question of whether Dr. Mann’s research activities and interactions with other scientists — both those with whose conclusions he agrees and those with whose conclusions he does not agree — are consistent with or deviate from accepted scientific practices.

Evaluating the data gleaned from the emails, in turns, raises the question of what the community of scholars and the community of research scientists agree counts as accepted scientific practices.

Decision 4. Given that information emerged in the form of the emails purloined from CRU in November 2009, which have raised questions in the public’s mind about Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically, the inquiry committee believes an investigatory committee of faculty peers from diverse fields should be constituted under RA-10 to further consider this allegation.

In sum, the overriding sentiment of this committee, which is composed of University administrators, is that allegation #4 revolves around the question of accepted faculty conduct surrounding scientific discourse and thus merits a review by a committee of faculty scientists. Only with such a review will the academic community and other interested parties likely feel that Penn State has discharged it responsibility on this matter.

What this means is that the investigation of allegation #4 that will follow upon this inquiry will necessarily take up the broad issue of what counts as accepted scientific practices. This discussion, and the findings of the investigation committee that may flow from it, may have far reaching consequences for how the public understands what good scientific work looks like, and for how scientists themselves understand what good scientific work looks like.

Regardless of the specific findings of that investigation committee with respect to the fourth allegation against Dr. Mann, this could be big.

* * * * *

For the record, here’s Dr. Mann’s statement about the inquiry report:

“I am very pleased that, after a thorough review, the independent Penn State committee found no evidence to support any of the allegations against me.

Three of the four allegations have been dismissed completely. Even though no evidence to substantiate the fourth allegation was found, the University administrators thought it best to convene a separate committee of distinguished scientists to resolve any remaining questions about academic procedures.

This is very much the vindication I expected since I am confident I have done nothing wrong.

I fully support the additional inquiry which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts. I intend to cooperate fully in this matter – as I have since the beginning of the process.”

Comments

  1. #1 Tony James
    February 4, 2010

    They’ve been ccoking it…everyone knows it. End of.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    February 4, 2010

    Here, the inquiry committee is pointing out that researchers at the university has a duty not to commit fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, but also a positive duty to behave in such a way that they maintain the public’s trust.

    I wonder just how you do that, when there’s an entire denialist industry at work to make you look like a scoundrel. I mean, if “the public’s trust” gets damaged not because of anything you said, but because of lies somebody else made up about you, well, that can’t be pleasant. Be thou as chaste as melting polar ice, as pure as vanishing snow, thou shalt not ‘scape calumny . . .

  3. #3 John Timmer
    February 4, 2010

    The thing that intrigues me about this is that Mann is a regular contributor to the Real Climate blog, which attempts to explain climate science to the public. Will that be considered part of his “scientific discourse” and/or relevant to the maintenance of public trust? If it winds up being part of the deliberations, this may have a major impact on how blogging from within academia is evaluated.

  4. #4 David Marjanović
    February 4, 2010

    They’ve been ccoking it…everyone knows it. End of.

    In case you’re serious (and I doubt that), I submit you just want to believe.

  5. #5 hank
    February 4, 2010

    What the “climategate” e-mails (and some of the other things that are just now coming to light—like glaciergate) demonstrate to the world is that the scientists who are propagating the global warming myth had something to hide…they have no real data, no real proof to back up their ridiculous claims. And the data they do have,…is fabricated!! So I’m not surprised that a group of the good Dr. Mann’s peers from Penn State would try to vindicate one of their own. Giving the 4th allegation to other “scientists” to cover-up (…err..um..investigate), I’m sure will put all at ease.

  6. #6 Karl_from_Wylie
    February 4, 2010

    “….Regardless of the specific findings of that investigation committee with respect to the fourth allegation against Dr. Mann, this could be big.”

    You said a mouthful sister!!

    .

  7. #7 Tex
    February 4, 2010

    At the time of initiation of the inquiry, and in the ensuing days during the inquiry, no formal allegations accusing Dr. Mann of research misconduct were submitted to any University official.

    Why was no one forced to file a formal complaint? Why did the university undertake a witch hunt in the absence of any specific allegation?

    It seems to me that there was a severe denial of due proccess here. A bunch of people didn’t like someone else and they ganged up on him. The university should not have done anything until there was a specific, formal complaint to address.

    Their craven behavior sets a precedent and could encourage angry mobs to target other professors they don’t like. Who’s next? Liberal professors in political science classes? Biology professors who refute religious creation stories? History professors who point out inconvenient facts? Cranky professors who comment on blog postings instead of working on their lecture for tomorrow?

  8. #8 Jason A.
    February 4, 2010

    hank, if the fact that the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated increases your belief in your conspiracy theory, what would convince you you’re wrong?
    Essentially, your belief is unfalsifiable. What you have isn’t a reasoned rejection of climate change, what you have is faith.

  9. #9 Dave McK
    February 4, 2010

    It certainly does take a lot of work to sort out signal from noise. One lesson is that data will be homogenised to support any conclusion desired by ‘science a la carte’.
    It’s not even unprecedented that the shamans should wear white coats. I’m surprised that form of mimicry isn’t quite a bit more prevalent than it seems to be.

    Statistical prestidigitations such as Mann et al. perform have been a source of entertainment since politicians discovered arithmetic.

    -=Mann Handled=-
    Wherefore it is no surprise
    to learn of the discovery
    that the average person is of average size
    with one testicle and one ovary.
    But I’d like to keep those cherry pickers
    Well the hell out of my knickers!

    Background music for this piece comes from Jethro Tull:
    Summoned by name – I am the overseer over you.
    Given this command to watch o’er our miserable sphere.
    Fallen from grace, called on to bring sun or rain.
    Occasional corn from my oversight grew.
    Fell with mine angels from a far better place,
    offering services for the saving of face.
    Now you’re here, you may as well admire
    all whom living has retired from the benign reconciliation.

  10. #10 Jim Ramsey
    February 4, 2010

    Nobody seems to want to ask this question, but who do you think financed the “purloining”?

    My first choice is Exxon.

  11. #11 hank
    February 4, 2010

    “…What you have isn’t a reasoned rejection of climate change, what you have is faith.”

    Yes, thats right Jason, I forgot. We have to call it “climate change” now, since “global warming” is obviously not what is happening in the real world.

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…I think that would describe the global warming alarmists more so then those who doubt these doomsday scenarios.

  12. #12 david
    February 4, 2010

    Wow category. After careful consideration, I am convinced you did a good job of reporting and commenting on the procedure. : ) And the commenters to the blog are very useful in showing how pugnacious and gross some persons can be, and the poem shows that we have sunk once into stupid satire as with English poetasters of the seventeenth century. I will be waiting to see how things go and not worrying a bit about the stupid ant-intellectual twits who are yelling for their team, for we are onto them, their frauds, and their gross failings with truth, ever since Bush-Cheney and Iraq, and I expect the scientists at Penn State to identify and do the right thing whatever it may be.

  13. #13 Mystyk
    February 4, 2010

    Hank: “Yes, thats right Jason, I forgot. We have to call it “climate change” now, since “global warming” is obviously not what is happening in the real world.

    I’m sure it matters not the slightest to you that the switch to “climate change” in the public sphere was entirely motivated by Republican spinsters trying to re-frame the issue as something less scary. If you don’t believe me, spend a few minutes “googling” the 2003 Frank Luntz memo to then-President G.W. Bush. It was a tactical decision for political reasons, but unlike the hype it originated not from liberals but conservatives.

    For the record, hank, the proper scientific terms are (1) “climate change” (with or without “global”) to discuss long-term natural temperature variations as observed in Earth’s history through Paleoclimate Reconstructions and (2) “Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)” to discuss the distinct accelerated warming trend observed entirely in the last two centuries and attributed to human industrial activities and their effects on atmospheric levels of long-wave absorbing gases.

    As for what is and is not happening in the real world, I encourage you to look back through the direct temperature records we have since the 1880s, and see if you can spot any times where the temperature appeared to stabilize (or even drop) for as long as twenty years. See if that changed the overall direction of the long-term trend by any meaningful amount. Now go back and look at the last few years of stability since 2005 (the actual record-holder for warmest year, not 1998), and ask yourself what history would imply about whether one can confidently say with even the most minute honesty that AGW has stopped or reversed.

  14. #14 Jcra
    February 5, 2010

    I think more significant at some point will be a review of the actual methods used by Mann and his partners. Misconduct relating to suppression or falsifying data is a hard thing to prove, especially if you are just looking at emails and not the actual work. In short, Penn State investigated the emails, NOT THE SCIENCE.

    There is significant, wholly scientific evidence that the methods used to create the so called hockey stick graph produced a completely misleading result. Many years of climate science which through completely separate methodologies, and worldwide geographic diversity, corroborate the existence of the medieval warming period. By selecting the only tree ring study (which the IPCC itself said was unreliable previously) which did not demonstrate the mwp, making data corrections, and adjusting the weighting of date in the software code Mann and the others involved made a graph to fit an agenda of global warming.

  15. #15 Bisky
    February 5, 2010

    I don’t know what all this blather is about in this article. I got through part of it and got sea sick. Does the establishment not realize the emails are readily available and millions have read them. We don’t need your interpretation. Do they not realize how detailed the fraud is outlined? The “trick to hide the decline” describes a 2 part process of mixing data sets and cherry picking data points. They even describe falsifying software code. They describe bullying scientists, manipulating data. They call it a “travesty” that their computer models are all wrong and want to hide it. They discuss techniques of manipulating the peer review process. Corruption is so arrogant, does media trying to support these criminals not know they will go down with them? People to media-
    It’s over! I know it happened fast and it hasn’t sunk in yet. The game changed over night. But don’t go down with these criminals, jump ship while you can.

  16. #16 Brian X
    February 5, 2010

    Bisky:

    There is one great, whopping problem with such a line of argument from you deniers. You have chosen to convict without making an effort to understand the field and without allowing the scientists to defend themselves. There’s a massive pile of other problems with Climate”gate”, but the blatantly politically motivated rush to judgement is by far the most incriminating for denialists. On top of that, since the lot of you have bought into the conspiracy theory hook, line, and sinker, even Mann getting what to all intents and purposes is his day in court will not satisfy you.

    It is not enough to simply have evidence. It’s also necessary to understand it, which everyone claiming scandal has blatantly and willfully failed to do. But then the majority of global warming deniers are just useful idiots for lazy industrial and energy interests anyway — you claim to be grassroots but you’re not paying attention to the glue holding the Astroturf to the ground.

  17. #17 llewelly
    February 5, 2010

    Here, the inquiry committee is pointing out that researchers at the university has a duty not to commit fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, but also a positive duty to behave in such a way that they maintain the public’s trust.

    There is a serious problem here. Due to the manipulative propaganda of the fossil fuel industry, a large swathe of the public automatically distrusts any scientist whose findings support the conclusion that modern global warming is real, dangerous, and caused by humans. That is to say, Mann is distrusted by much of the public because he accepts reality, and much of the public has been deliberately deceived.

  18. #18 llewelly
    February 5, 2010

    I think more significant at some point will be a review of the actual methods used by Mann and his partners. Misconduct relating to suppression or falsifying data is a hard thing to prove, especially if you are just looking at emails and not the actual work. In short, Penn State investigated the emails, NOT THE SCIENCE.

    The NAS report, Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years already investigated the science behind Mann’s work – and the science behind similar work done by other scientists. The NAS report found the science was good, and well supported by other work, like this.

    Since then, many other scientists, using different methods, have to come to the same or similar conclusions as Mann. For example, see the NCAR study by Darell Kaufman and others. (Explained for the non-scientist here or here.)

    It’s important to understand that surface temperature reconstructions like these are only one of many lines of evidence which show that modern global warming is highly unusual. Also, it is not temperature reconstructions, but the optical properties of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gasses which show these gases are the cause of global warming. Likewise, the records of how much and what sort of fossil fuels have been burned, and Keeling’s life-long measurements of atmospheric CO2 show that these gases are increasing due to human activity

  19. #19 James Gray
    February 5, 2010

    hank,

    Which global warming scientists are alarmists and speak of doomsday? Scientists agree that we are causing global warming and they argue that we are in a “crisis” but this isn’t yet worth “alarmism.” Doomsday is not the point. You might want to see this debate on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6t2D74UcrY&feature=PlayList&p=B005C36F59F2E1DF&index=0

  20. #20 BF
    February 5, 2010

    Wow, they’re sure coming out of the woodwork. Seriously guys, what do you think is more likely, that a few groups with vested interests are trying to create doubt, or that almost every single climate scientist is involved in a massive conspiracy?

  21. #21 toby
    February 5, 2010

    Bisky,

    Having gone through the same emails, your cherry-picking of a few phrases used colloquially proves nothing.

    You are clearly a convinced denialist and since the climate science evidence contradicts your belief, you are irrationally rejecting it by proclaiming that it is fabricated. That is in spite of the fact that many of the data sources exist independently of CRU.

    Problem’s in your own head.

  22. #22 Stephen Bain
    February 5, 2010

    @15 “We don’t need your interpretation.”

    Of course you don’t. You’d made up your mind about this before the committee even sat.

    Have you ever considered that this approach to “interpretation” – ie. accepting the words of right-wing pundits at face value whilst determinedly accepting the opposite of what any scientist says – might be a little dishonest?

    All of this bluster about an invented scandal with “bullying scientists” who are “criminals” only serves to obscure the genuinely interesting and relevant points raised by the emails, the subsequent debacle and this article.

    1. How do scientists and institutions deal with a general public that has increasing access to information – both reliable and unreliable – in terms of both communicaation and how they are percieved?

    2. How should scientists communicate with one another? Is there enough transparency and can there be such a thing as too much transparency – to the point that progress might be hindered?

  23. #23 MikeB
    February 5, 2010

    Bisky – have you actually read the emails, or are you just frothing at the mouth because of what you’ve read on some blog? The real bullying of scientists and manipulating data still seems to be with the deniers. Read everything, and then get back to us.

  24. #24 FTM
    February 5, 2010

    Looks to me like Penn State is trying to limit their exposure/liability in regards to this mess. I would think that this is a natural enough reaction on the part of the faculty involved, one can never tell who may be the target of tomorrow’s witch hunt.

    With all that said however the “Harry_Read_Me.txt” file pretty much proves the skeptics case. This “Harry” guy says “he made it up.”

    Now, it would seem to me that if one were to attempt to conduct a legitimate investigation into the question at hand first one would seek to determine if the allegations had merit. Please refrence the Harry_Read_Me.txt file, OK the allegations have merit.

    Now you start at the head of the snake, Dr. Phil Jones and start the interrogations. “Dr. Jones, your science seems to be based upon a fraud, here’s our evidence (the Harry_Read_Me.txt file) how do you explain this?”

    Dr. Jones should be given the floor and every assistance in order to make his case. This is serious. Dr. Jones should and needs to be heard. Hopefully Dr. Jones can provide an explanation that is creditable and verifiable and the whole mess goes away. If not then you start moving down the chain to other implicated parties and repeat the interrogation process.

    The e-mails released as a part of this package can be shaded a lot of differrent ways. The Fortran model code and the .txt files released can not be as conveniently shaded, they are what they are. The Pennsylvania State University “investigation” as best as I can tell is hardly creditable.

    This “Climategate” mess is a global mess. The “Climategate” mess involves a lot of people, governments and governmental agencies all over the world. Why did the investigation start with Dr. Mann? Dr. Jones is at the apex of the pyramid, Dr. Jones is the eye of the storm. I want to hear what Dr. Jones has to say.

  25. #25 Steve
    February 5, 2010

    So the evaluation committee used as evidence the purloined e-mails, testimony from Dr. Mann himself, copies of e-mails provided by Dr. Mann himself, and comments from his colleagues. It’s not surprising that they didn’t find evidence of misconduct from these sources. They did not solicit input from IT systems administrators who might have access to backup copies of e-mail archives, grad students who worked closely with Dr. Mann, associate editors of journals in question, anyone at all from the institution where Dr. Mann worked during much of the time period in question (UVA), etc. Can you imagine if we conducted ethical inquiries into politicians or corporate executives with the same “diligence”? Ask the CEO of Enron “Did you conspire to cook the books? No? Okay, case dismissed! Anyone for doughnuts?”

  26. #26 Craig Heinke
    February 5, 2010

    @Steve: Dr. Mann is accused of deleting all emails regarding AR4 in a nefarious conspiracy. Committee asks Dr. Mann, did you delete these emails? Dr. Mann says, No; here are the emails.

    Case closed.

  27. #27 hank
    February 5, 2010

    Is the climate changing? Sure it is…hot in summer…cold in winter. There are also warming and cooling trends that can last many decades. (anyone remember the 1970s when a great many scientists were warning of a coming ice age??!?

    What is in dispute is whether the current normal ice age cycle warming is being accelerated by man-made CO2 emissions (AGW). So far it looks like ‘business as usual’.

    As the dominoes have progressively toppled in the past few months, it has become clear to the public that yet again we have been lied to, this time not by paid politicians but by other supposed pillars of the establishment, who have been behaving more like politicians than scientists.

    Perhaps, as the long-suffering targets of political spin, we should not be surprised by the hyperbole that has been remorselessly used by those with a green agenda to frighten the kiddies and raise funds. The melting glaciers and icecaps about to turn up in our back yards; those cute, fluffy polar bears dying out, along with thousands of other species; Super hurricanes, etc.

    That these supposedly imminent events are actually based on fancy – or on computer models, which, by their failure to predict anything at all thus far have proven themselves to be the scientific, high speed version of fanciful – should be a great relief to all concerned. But if this is put down to simply a “communications problem”, all we can expect is more spin to convince us we’re still all doomed.

    Despite their assurances that “the science is settled”, it is not. Their confidence masks some fundamental gaps in scientific understanding, including the precise nature of carbon dioxide’s effect in such small concentrations, or even clouds for that matter.

    Now that the current warming trend is coming to an end, the experts will again be warning us about a coming ice age…mark my words.

  28. #28 MarkusR
    February 5, 2010

    The denialists here appear to be pretty certain about the absolute total proof that Dr Mann has done something wrong. Except that they simply cannot show it.

    Faith much?

  29. #29 Eamon
    February 5, 2010

    Hank@11

    Yes, thats right Jason, I forgot. We have to call it “climate change” now, since “global warming” is obviously not what is happening in the real world.

    Never occurred to you what the “CC” in the IPCC stood for Hank?

    @Dr Free-Ride.

    Excellent piece, especially the observation on embargoed papers.

  30. #30 anon
    February 5, 2010

    I’m really confused. The allegation/question is:

    Dr. Mann, Did you delete emails?
    Dr. Man: No I did not. Here are some emails to prove it.

    Someone please help me – you all seem pretty clever. How does producing emails prove he did not delete any?

    Since this whole debate seems to fall neatly into political views, I encourage the defenders of Dr. Mann to substitute ClimateGate for ‘Justification for the Iraq War’ and Dr. Mann with ‘George Bush.’ Would you be satisfied with this investigation? Try to answer that question honestly.

  31. #31 Richard Simons
    February 5, 2010

    Hank said

    (anyone remember the 1970s when a great many scientists were warning of a coming ice age??!?

    No, I don’t, because it never happened. Some scientists said that, in the absence of other factors, changes in Earth’s orbit will result in an ice age in 15,000 (or possibly 120,000) years.

    I am sure that this has been pointed out to you many times before. I am equally certain that you will still be repeating the same nonsense 5 years from now.

  32. #32 brian X
    February 5, 2010

    Despite their assurances that “the science is settled”, it is not. Their confidence masks some fundamental gaps in scientific understanding, including the precise nature of carbon dioxide’s effect in such small concentrations, or even clouds for that matter.

    Funny, there are gaps in the fossil record too. Doesn’t stop paleontologists and evolutionary biologists from having a pretty good grasp of the overall history of life on earth.

  33. #33 Evan Harper
    February 5, 2010

    It is clear that there are two discussions in parallel here; one is serious, thoughtful, and focused on the very real and very difficult questions at hand. The other is utterly inane, comprising vague ideological broadsides against nebulous AGW conspirators, many of which evince elementary misunderstandings about the underlying science.

    If I wanted to read the second kind of conversation, there are a million blogs out there with which I could torture myself. But I want to read – and perhaps participate in – the first kind of conversation. Here and now, I cannot do that, because the second conversation is drowning out the first.

    Were that comment moderators could crack down on these poisonous nonsense-peddlers. Their right to swing their (ham)fists ends where our noses begin.

  34. #34 Janet D. Stemwedel
    February 5, 2010

    Evan @33, here’s a place for the serious and thoughtful discussion of the difficult questions at hand, where my moderation will hew ruthlessly to the boundaries stated in the post.

  35. #35 llewelly
    February 5, 2010

    hank | February 5, 2010 11:01 AM:

    (anyone remember the 1970s when a great many scientists were warning of a coming ice age??!?

    Myth.

  36. #36 llewelly
    February 5, 2010

    Why did the investigation start with Dr. Mann? Dr. Jones is at the apex of the pyramid, Dr. Jones is the eye of the storm. I want to hear what Dr. Jones has to say.

    The investigation under discussion was conducted by a Penn State committee which only has authority to investigate the doings of Penn State employees. It has no authority to investigate people like Phil Jones, who lives in a different nation and works for a different institution. If you had read the findings linked to by the article you are commenting on, you would know that. The UEA, where Phil Jones works, and also the British government, are investigating Dr. Jones’ work. Those investigations began on or before December 1st, but they are not yet complete.

  37. #37 Mojo
    February 5, 2010

    Mystyk—— “I’m sure it matters not the slightest to you that the switch to “climate change” in the public sphere was entirely motivated by Republican spinsters trying to re-frame the issue as something less scary”

    Incorrect. It comes from those who write the playbook of Global Warming, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. It is in their working papers, along with the rest of the Global Warming script:

    http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/working_papers/working_papers.shtml

    They decided the public wasn’t buying Global Warming scare, and decided to change the script to Climate Change. Look at 2007, I think you will find the paper there. You will also find the rest of the scam set out in detail. The Tyndall Centre is a Partner Institution of the University of East Anglia (Climategate).

    I also recommend reading what the plans are for Los Angelis, New York, and Saudi Arabia. Also of interest is their funding. Big Oil, Big Nuke, Greenpeace, WWF, they all want a piece of the scam.

    Read all of the papers. See what they have in store for you.

  38. #38 llewelly
    February 6, 2010

    Mojo leverages the complexity of the situation to confuse the story. Were the matter up to climate scientists alone, “climate change” would be a generic term, including warming, cooling, drying, moistening, or other variations in climate. It would also include regional as well global climate change. Global warming is more specific it two important ways. First, it specifies warming, and it specifies global. Climate scientists originated both terms, and set about using them for different yet related purposes. Later, Luntz discovered that “climate change” was more amenable to his efforts to deceive and mislead the public. (See here for more.)

  39. #39 Bijan Parsia
    February 6, 2010

    Thanks for the sorting, summary, and commentary!

    I’m glad for Mann. It is rather unbelievable that he had to go through this (and that it’s still going on).

  40. #40 Ed Darrell
    February 6, 2010

    I wonder just how you do that, when there’s an entire denialist industry at work to make you look like a scoundrel.

    That is why journalism outlets, bound by codes of ethics and libel and slander laws, are more reliable sources than bloggers. It is why bloggers, such as those who profess to be adding professionalism, like “Climate Audit,” have a duty to try to get the facts straight and not make false accusations.

    Certainly that is not likely to happen, unless and until people like Michael Mann hire attorneys and sue for libel and slander, and collect.

    It’s a civil suit, and were I the attorney representing Mann I think I’d go for nominal and consequential damages — Mann certainly incurred some costs from his defense, and perhaps lost some work — but I’d also ask for punitive damages to discourage the offending agencies from being so irresponsible in the future. How to calculate that might be difficult, but the costs of delay from not getting any agreement at COP-15 might be a start. Punitives will run into the billions, I figure. Any small percentage of actual award should help.

    As a defense against a charge of libel or slander, in the U.S., truth is always a defense. “Believed I was right” is not a defense, however.

    This could be groundshaking to some bloggers.

  41. #41 Katkinkate
    February 9, 2010

    Then we’ll have to find a way to stop the lies, exaggerations and misinfo coming from the media reporting on science.

  42. #42 Luna_the_cat
    February 9, 2010

    Discussion of the first uses of the terms “global warming” and “climate change”, and what each refers to:

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/climate_by_any_other_name.html

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