Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Muir Russel Inquiry report published

The full report can be downloaded here, it is 160 pages long. The BBC reports as main findings that the integrity of the scientists is not in question but that openness about data was a problem. Little suprise here. The BBC says:

"Sir Muir commented: "So we conclude that the argument that CRU has something to hide does not stand up".



Asked whether it would be reasonable to conclude that anyone claiming instrumental records were unavailable or vital code missing was incompetent, another panel member, Professor Peter Clarke from Edinburgh University, said: "It's very clear that anyone who'd be competent enough to analyse the data would know where to find it.

"It's also clear that anyone competent could perform their own analysis without let or hindrance."

The university also did not withhold temperature data derived from tree rings, the inquiry concluded.

But access to the data "was not simple until it was archived in 2009".

On one occasion, when presenting a graph combining tree-ring and instrumental data to the World Meteorological Organization, it should have made clearer the way in which the data was combined.

The inquiry found no evidence that CRU researchers distorted the peer review process employed by scientific journals, or unduly influenced IPCC reports by ignoring research papers that contradicted their own findings."

22 comments:

Richard Tol said...

Blogs are a good thing, as you can look up what you said way back when.

I called some people at the CRU "venal" and "sloppy". The three reviews say roughly the same thing, but in a more polite manner.

Venality and sloppiness are not crimes, of course, and this too has been confirmed by the reviews.

Word on street has that some Americans are beginning to get upset with the perceived British whitewash, so expect more inquiries.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

The MR Report has a very odd characterization of the IPCC process:

http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/muir-russel-review.html

Reiner Grundmann said...

There are comments on the Guardian website from Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Mike Hulme, Myles Allen, and Ross McKitrick. George Monbiot also has a comment in which he rescinds his call for Phil Jones to resign from the CRU directorship.

The line taken by Bradley, Mann and Schmidt is that this was an artificial scandal created by the media. Bradley (indirectly) calls for the media to apologize and to be investigated.
What we see in the aftermath of this report is a fight for domination of the writing of climate research history. The email evidence has been available to everyone, and interested people have formed an opinion. This was done through blogs as well as traditional media. Of course, climategate was a story too good to be missed. It provided the element of human drama that media a keen to cover. What do scientists expect the media would do?
And now there is the hope that a "proper" inquiry by people who have more authority than the media will put the record straight and exonerate the scientists whose reputation has become tarnished. Is this hope naive? I think it is. The media, for better or worse, will continue their business while inquiries are rare events. They have limited power and are not in a position to command public opinion.
The exoneration of CRU scientists by the MR report may be an elusive victory, in that it leads to further complacency and a circling of wagons.

ghost said...

interesting, all reports have the same result: some improvements are necessary, but all extreme accusations (cheating, misconduct, breaking the law, data manipulation) were all wrong. I've never expected anything else. The accusations were politically motivated exaggerations to discredit science.

So, let's improve the science openly now. Or better: you have to improve it.

eduardo said...

@ 4
dear ghost,

I remember Phil Jones saying publicly in one conference in Galway in 1995 that 95% of the IPCC Report (probably the second) was right, implying that rest 5% was perhaps arguable or not right. Nobody found this to be particularly exciting or contentious at that time- and I dont recall anyone arguing about it in the evenings.

The atmosphere changed markedly during and after the 3rd Report. Any criticism of the IPCC Reports started to look suspect. Please, recall the year 2007 that saw the presentation in the media of the three parts of the report plus the synthesis report as if they were block blusters, sentences like 'the science is settled' were coined , etc. In such atmosphere it is impossible to reform, even if one is well intentioned.
If the last months have seen some positive developments, it is that now the climate is less inquisitorial, and opinions flow more freely. This entails downsides and exaggerations as well. Now it is the time of constructive improvement, you are right.
We will see how IPCC5 plays out

ghost said...

@eduardo

I agree with you. You are right... still my mistake. Before the CRU email affair, there was a discussion deniers vs science consensus in the media and in the blogospere, in particular. Now, the discussion is much more open, more complicated, and more interesting. At least, I think so. I hope consensus will be less important as well as deniers junk will be less important, too. At least, something like that I feel. I hope it will continue. Actually, I think, without "consensus" the science will be less vulnerable against deniers and co.

MikeR said...

Maybe some of the experienced here can comment on my question: Surely Steve McIntyre is heavily involved in the CRU controversy, both as the accuser in the Hockey Stick Controversy and as regards "the trick", and as the sender of a number of the FOI requests. Is it true that (1) he has not been interviewed in even one of the inquiries thus far, and (2) if that is so, how can the inquiries be expected to do their job?

Zajko said...

MikeR: No McIntyre was not interviewed (the CBC National tv story on the report last night edited down their interview with him to that single point, after announcing CRU to have been vindicated). That might seem like a problem, and I would agree that it is, but it also depends what you consider the job of the inquiries to be.
My read of the inquiries is that their main purpose was to put to rest charges of fraud and gross scientific misconduct. That is something they have all claimed to have done, and I don't think McIntyre's words would have changed that outcome (he's been rather cool about such accusations). However Muir Russell went beyond this simple goal and actually went deeper into some of the more specific and more nuanced allegations. In this regard they did a better job than the previous reports, but certainly missed some areas of concern and could have benefited from better consultation.
Leaving McIntyre out of the process does hurt its legitimacy, but even McIntyre doesn't consider it a whitewash, and had he been included many people would still be crying foul, and I'm sure McIntyre would still be able to find plenty in the report he disagreed with.

MikeR said...

"their main purpose was to put to rest charges of fraud and gross scientific misconduct." I'm having trouble following this. Aside from various loony super-skeptics, I don't see the sense in calling this a fraud, or "gross scientific misconduct", whatever that is - making up data? Was that really all that the inquiries were for? I would have thought that the realistic charges were incompetence in handling and analyzing the data, plus malfeasance in trying to "control the narrative".

Anonymous said...

We've had three so called "inquiries" where all that has been heard is the case for the defense.

Zajko said...

Well, if the criticisms you're addressing come from the "loony super-skeptics" that makes exoneration a lot easier to accomplish. And while claims of fraud are not ones I agree with here, they have been thrown around a fair bit and are certainly worth countering.
However, this does sort of miss the more important points, as I think both of us agree. Muir does go deeper than previous reports, but ultimately seems to be mainly an effort to reestablish trust in climate science by reassuring everyone that despite some problems, the temperature record and IPCC findings are fundamentally sound, and that climate scientists have generally been behaving as one might expect.

MikeR said...

Well, I don't know if the inquiries will reassure anyone who believed before that the science was a fraud: I think anyone who believed that just isn't really listening.

On the other hand, if you want to reassure people like me that "despite some problems, the temperature record and IPCC findings are fundamentally sound, and that climate scientists have generally been behaving as one might expect" - well, then you have to do an honest inquiry, including hearing contrary evidence and witnesses.

MikeR said...

I'm talking too much, but I guess I'd add that if you don't do that, if your inquiry (or all three of your inquiries) are just an echo of the side you're on - then you are pushing those of us who don't know all about the details in the wrong direction. You are reinforcing the narrative that the establishment in this issue doesn't care about openness or about the truth, and that they just didn't learn anything from the whole incident.

ghost said...

My personal opinion is, McIntyre and others misused the FOI laws. For example: McIntyre, as every normal thinking person, knows, one can reconstruct the CRUtem or other products with the available data, at least to an amount to conclude if CRUtem is basically okay and not fraud. Many bloggers showed this with their own reconstructions. Instead of doing such a reconstruction, McIntyre chose to harass scientists with FOI requests. He provided a template and his dull followers thinking the do something good made the requests. One even sent the template ;). To be frank: this behavior perverts the idea of FOI laws.

Most of requests against!, yes I says against, were about personal communications. That is pretty insulting, I think. I find it insulting. Another example, McIntyre and his followers still send requests about GISTEMP to the GISS. Hello? GISTEMP is one of the most open science product that I know. EVERYTHING IS FREE. Still, McIntyre encourage people to say or "find out" that GISTEMP is fraud. McIntyre is not a fool, he does not say it himself. Still, there are TV shows claiming NOAA or GISS are frauds. Still, people like Watts or D'Aleo say NOAA or GISS are frauds. I hope these people will be seen as political members of the discussion, not as scientific now.

However, back to the report. While the McIntyre submission was important in the report, I think, McIntyre should have been interviewed. I do not think it would have changed anything or would silence whitewash screechers. However, as McIntyre was one of the initiators of the FOI requests and an important player at least in the political Internet discussions, an interview would have been more than necessary.

MikeR said...

"My personal opinion is, McIntyre and others misused the FOI laws." Well, hard for an outsider to judge. It seems clear from the ClimateGate emails that the CRU people were actively involved in trying to resist the FOI requests, not just because they were too onerous, but because they didn't want the data available to their opponents. I don't like that. But aside from my preferences, that makes this a war between two sides, a struggle over that information. As with any war, it can be hard to discuss what's the "right" level of combat, and what is overkill. Did they need to shoot so many bullets today?
Probably most of us observers would think that this is an insane thing for the CRU people to be fighting about. Put the relevant information on a web page already and you can take care of all ten thousand FOI requests at once.
If McIntyre isn't satisfied with your "basically okay reconstructions", you are going to say that that's too bad, he has no right to ask that CRU demonstrate exactly how they got their results? Because they seem just fine to you, he should stop worrying? I don't get it.

ghost said...

hmpf, do you publish your emails on a public server? Well, makes 1000s of FOIs unnecessary. UEA/CRU did this ;).

hm, I have the example GISTEMP. GISS published everything... everything. What did McIntyre do with this information, code, data? He did nothing, but publishing some snarky blog posts about the FORTRAN code. McIntyre even claimed: GISS is not interested in his code, but only in Fortran. He did some R snippets. Nothing spectacular. Well, his snarky claim looks a bit foolish now, because GIStemp team said, they would like to use the clearclimatecode.org Python re-implementation in the future, if there is time to transfer all additional tools, too. Hm, but the time is restricted because they have to answer a lot FOI requests...

I do not expect any different behavior of McIntyre in the CRU case.

Openness is great, McIntyre is not.

So, where can I find your emails?

Hans Erren said...

Ghost, Let me explain the background of Stepen McIntyre so so may understand his motives for his actions.
In mineral exploration share prices of mining companies are strongly influenced by mineral discoveries. If a companie issues a press release " we have discovered the motherload" then share preces rocket. In order to steer this into proper channels every mineral company is required to make their full mineral reserve calculations public. Recent Shell share prices dropped considerably when was discovered that their reverves were overestimated.

It is therefore high time that all information that influences the CO2 stock price must have a similar accountability and traceability.

PolyisTCOandbanned said...

eduardo: You are the man. Steve McI has jumped the shark. All he does now is nitpick and self-publish disorganized isolated half-baked nitpicks, controlling the commentary and getting strokes from forum trolls. I still remember when McI was blathering abbout "bad apples" and you told him "you haven't mathematically defined "bad apple"". He had no response.

The guy hasn't published in over 5 years and expects to get payed to come to conferences. And we all know there are enough journals, you can get in somewhere if you have real analysis). Doesn't have quallity white papers...just doesn't really put his own criticisms on the record...just "lab notebook" posts full of yuckyuck snark, pompous Latin snippets, and sealawyer amateru legalisms.

The guy waxes on about business ethics, despite Canadian mining stocks being pretty much the standard bearers of bad ethics and shady crap. None of his companies have done anything other than be shells and waste a few grannie's money.

Now, he's just whining about the MR report and not looking at the totality of it.

Think he needs to exercise. Serious...something about lifting weights that stops whining.

Hans Erren said...

Hi TCO,

Are you somewhat frustrated?
Muir Russell wrote:
On the allegation of withholding station identifiers we find that CRU should
have made available an unambiguous list of the stations used in each of the
versions of the Climatic Research Unit Land Temperature Record
(CRUTEM) at the time of publication. We find that CRU‟s responses to
reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive.

Peter D. Tillman said...

The WSJ Europe finds the Muir Russell report to be "a 160-page evasion of the real issues."
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703394204575367483847033948.html

And Clive Crook of The Atlantic believes that "The climate-science establishment ... seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause."
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/07/climategate-and-the-big-green-lie/59709

Both seem reasonable judgments to me.

Peter D. Tillman
Consulting Geologist, Arizona and New Mexico (USA)

PolyisTCOandbanned said...

1. Maybe. Why?

2. Yeah, I saw that and I agree with their comment. What's your point, Herr Donalder.

Hans Erren said...

The point, TCO, is that climate science is completely different from astrophysics. Both sciences study atmospheres. I couldn't care less if an astrophysicist was sloppy how he derived his conclusions. The conclusions of climate science, however, have far reaching implications for tax payers. Therefore complete transparancy for every step of climate science is mandatory.