Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sir Muir Russell's Enquiry: Crumbling

Sir Muir Russell
Last Friday I wrote to the Edinburgh Evening News alluding to the 'shambolic' enquiries which took place earlier this year into climate scientists.

Perhaps 'shambolic' is too generous a description of the Independent Climate Change Emails Review which reported in August. There are indications that the conduct of the enquiry was rather more ominous than shambolic.

After the release of the CRU emails Sir Muir Russell was brought in to investigate the CRU scientists and thus restore the credibility of the reliability of climate science generally.  After a bad start, the enquiry failed to improve. Perhaps restoring the credibility of the scientists was an impossible task.  The enquiry fell short on a number of fronts and at a variety of levels.

First, although it was called 'Independent', it was anything but.  For example, one of its key members, Professor Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh had been employed at the University of East Anglia between 1970 and 1986.  Rather than declaring this up front the details had to be winkled out of the enquiry.  Professor Boulton was a partisan advocate of the catastrophic climate change position; other selected members were far from independent.

Indeed, Philip Campbell, editor in chief of Nature, party to disputes at the heart of concerns, was forced to resign as a member of the enquiry at the outset. Transparency and thoroughness might have dissipated concerns for the Review but it was not to be.

Only CRU scientists were interviewed and  the enquiry took no oral evidence from critics.

The scientists were not asked if they had deleted emails despite the 'delete all emails' request.

The final report averred that it had no evidence that the notorious request to delete emails had been made in the context of any Freedom of Information request.  The email in question had FOI in the title.   Mmm.  

And so the failings continue.  This week there is a further cloud over the reliability of assertions made in the Russell Review. It was expected that the Review would investigate the email records held by the UEA and, indeed the Review records attempts to do so.  But Russell claimed that in the opinion of the UEA's legal advisers
 "unconstrained access to the contents of the e-mails on the (UEA) server by the Review would raise potential privacy and data protection issues". 
It now appears there is no evidence of such a legal opinion from UEA's legal advisers.   You can read the details of this further murky strand of the sorry saga of the Russell Review here.

And then there is the astonishing account of the treatment of David Holland's submission to the Review.  You could hardly make it up.

As Fred Pearce of the Guardian said a propos the above FOI error in the Review:
As every week passes, Fred Pearce's 'hope' seems more like wishful thinking.

Perhaps Sir Muir Russell or Professor Boulton would like to clear the air.

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