The Penn State inquiry
exonerating Michael Mann -- the paleoclimatologist who came up with
"the hockey stick" -- would be difficult to parody. Three of four
allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry
announces that, for "lack of credible evidence", it will not even
investigate them. (At this, MIT's Richard Lindzen tells the committee,
"It's thoroughly amazing. I mean these issues are explicitly stated in
the emails. I'm wondering what's going on?" The report continues: "The
Investigatory Committee did not respond to Dr Lindzen's statement.
Instead, [his] attention was directed to the fourth allegation.")
Moving on, the report then says, in effect, that Mann is a
distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man
admired by his peers -- so any allegation of academic impropriety must be
You think I exaggerate?
This level of
success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it,
clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his
field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or
exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing
Had Dr. Mann's conduct of his research been outside
the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him
to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve
intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his
Clearly, Dr. Mann's reporting of his
research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers.
This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his
work been outside of accepted practices in his field.
short, the case for the prosecution is never heard. Mann is asked if
the allegations (well, one of them) are true, and says no. His record
is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed, with apologies that Mann has
been put to such trouble.
Further "vindication" of the Climategate emailers was to follow, of course, in Muir Russell's equally probing investigation.
To be fair, Russell manages to issue a criticism or two. He says the
scientists were sometimes "misleading" -- but without meaning to be (a
plea which, in the case of the "trick to hide the decline", is an
insult to one's intelligence). On the apparent conspiracy to subvert
peer review, it found that the "allegations cannot be upheld" -- but, as
the impressively even-handed Fred Pearce
of the Guardian notes, this was partly on the grounds that "the roles
of CRU scientists and others could not be distinguished from those of
colleagues. There was 'team responsibility'." Edward Acton,
vice-chancellor of the university which houses CRU, calls this
I am glad to see The Economist, which I criticized for making light of the initial scandal, taking a balanced view of these unsatisfactory proceedings. My only quarrels with its report are quibbles. For instance, in the second paragraph it says:
The reports conclude that the science of climate is sound...
Actually, they don't, as the article's last paragraph makes clear:
earlier report on climategate from the House of Commons assumed that a
subsequent probe by a panel under Lord Oxburgh, a former academic and
chairman of Shell, would deal with the science. The Oxburgh report,
though, sought to show only that the science was not fraudulent or
systematically flawed, not that it was actually reliable. And nor did
Sir Muir, with this third report, think judging the science was his job.
Pearce, The Economist rightly draws attention to the failure of the
Russell inquiry to ask Phil Jones of the CRU whether he actually
deleted any emails to defeat FoI requests. It calls this omission
"rather remarkable". Pearce calls it "extraordinary". Myself, I would
prefer to call it "astonishing and indefensible". I don't see how,
having spotted this, the magazine can conclude that the report,
overall, was "thorough, but it will not satisfy all the critics."
(Well, the critics make such unreasonable demands! Look into the
charges, they say. Hear from the other side. Ask the obvious questions.
It never stops: you just can't satisfy these people.)