The big problem is that the UEA is still reluctant to provide independent researchers with information and datasets. It would appear that the expectation of transparency and openness is not really being applied.
The scientists at the heart of the Climategate email scandal were too secretive but their research was sound, MPs said last night.
The verdict follows three investigations into the world-leading global warming unit at the University of East Anglia accused of manipulating data to inflate the case of manmade climate change.
The Government’s response is designed to draw a line under the 18-month-long saga blamed for denting the credibility of the science.
Updated below with media links
But critics said that the UEA had not learned its lesson and was still being unnecessarily secretive.
The Climategate row, which was first revealed by the Daily Mail in November 2009, was triggered when a hacker stole hundreds of emails from the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, and tracks long-term changes in temperature and plays a leading role in compiling UN reports.
It is thought that the theft was motivated by the CRU’s repeated refusals to provide detailed information about the data underlying its temperature records.
The files showed scientists plotting how to avoid Freedom of Information requests and appeared to show them discussing how to manipulate data.
Some of the most controversial contained personal attacks on climate change sceptics and one, by the unit’s Professor Phil Jones, mentioned using a ‘trick’ to massage years of temperature data to ‘hide the decline’.
Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee’s enquiry, the professor denied manipulating the figures but admitted writing ‘some pretty awful emails’.
He also admitted withholding data about global temperatures but said the information was publicly available from American websites.
And he claimed it was not ‘standard practice’ to release data and computer models so that other scientists could check and challenge the research.
The enquiry went on to criticise the university for an ‘unacceptable’ culture of secrecy and added that it may have broken Freedom of Information laws.
But it cleared the researchers at the CRU of any wrongdoing and said there was no evidence they manipulated data to strengthen the case for manmade global warming.
The two further investigations also concluded that the scientists were honest but they were criticised for being disorganised, poor with figures and naïve.
In its response to the Science and Technology Committee’s report today, the Government said that nothing done at the CRU undermines the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change’.
The response, drawn up by a range of departments, including the Government Office for Science, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department of Energy and Climate Change concludes: ‘As the Committee notes, much rests on the accuracy and integrity of climate change science.
‘It is vital that the wider public and Government can take confidence in the evidence that underpins public policies.
‘Evidence from multiple disciplines and sources strongly indicates that climate change driven by human activities poses real risks for our future...
‘Important work remains to better understand the risks of climate change and how to manage them.
‘We welcome – and agree with – the finding of the Committee that it is time ‘with greater openness and transparency, to move on.'
The Information Commissioner’s office said that the researcher had breached the Freedom of Information acts when handling requests from climate change sceptics.
But added that the scientists will escape prosecution because the case came to light outside the six month-time limit for cases to be brought.
The UEA has made an informal pledge to improve the way it handles FoI requests and new guidance on how the legislation applies to scientific research is expected later this year.
But Dr Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said that the university had already broken its promise by turning down a FoI request made in the last few weeks.
He added: ‘The big problem is that the UEA is still reluctant to provide independent researchers with information and datasets.
‘It would appear that the expectation of transparency and openness is not really being applied.
‘Until they can be open and transparent, there will remain the questions of reliability and trust.
‘Checks and balances are at the very centre of scientific enterprise. Given the huge importance of what they are asking us to do, and the financial burdens, it is paramount that their conclusions can be checked.’
Freedom of Information Act inquiry ducks FOIA requests
by Andrew Orlowski - TheRegister
Climate e-mail reviews 'leave science sound'
by Richard Black - BBC News