The email conversations at the heart of 'Climategate' suggest a campaign to nobble journals, marginalise climate-change sceptics and withhold data from other researchers, says Andrew Montford.
The leaking, or perhaps hacking, of hundreds of emails from the servers of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia late last year has thrown the already turbulent world of climatology into turmoil. The significance of the emails is hotly disputed, but sceptics of the so-called consensus position allege that they contain evidence of the undermining of the peer-review process, attempts to pressurise journals, the withholding of data and code from outsiders, and at least one episode of the manipulation of results.
The accusations and denials will fly for months to come. So far, no fewer than five inquiries have been announced into various aspects of what has come to be known as Climategate, and some of these will not report until the middle of the year. However, regardless of the outcome, the affair raises ethical issues that will be of interest far beyond the narrow confines of climate science. Some of the most important concern the world of academic publishing.
Among the most serious allegations to emerge in the wake of the leaked emails is that CRU scientists tried to "nobble" scientific journals that accepted papers from sceptics. There are suggestions in the emails that as many as four different journals may have had their normal procedures interfered with.
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