Friday, February 12, 2010

Key 'climategate' scientist cleared of wrongdoing

By Tim Leslie

ABC News Online, 12 February 2010
One of the scientists at the centre of the 'climategate' email scandal has been cleared of any wrongdoing, and had allegations of manipulating and hiding data dismissed.
Pennsylvania State University conducted an inquiry into Dr Michael Mann, a climatologist working for their Department of Meteorology, after a series of emails were leaked as proof scientists were manipulating data to push the case of human induced climate change.
Dr Mann was cleared of all allegations of misconduct, with one caveat. In relation to the allegation of deviating from accepted practices, while there was no evidence of his work falling outside of accepted scientific practice, the public nature of the leak and fears it may undermine trust in science mean further investigation was needed.
The University looked through all of Dr Mann's email correspondences in making its findings.
Central to the claims Dr Mann manipulated and withheld data was the use of the word 'trick' in an email exchange discussing a graph to be presented in a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report.
In the inquiry the University found the contrary to claims of falsification, the scientists involved were merely trying to explain data.
"In fact to the contrary, in instances that have been focused upon by some as indicating falsification of data, for example in the use of a 'trick' to manipulate the data, this is explained as a discussion among Dr Jones and others including Dr Mann about how best to put together a graph for a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report," the inquiry said.
"They were not falsifying data; they were trying to construct an understandable graph for those who were not experts in the field.
"The so-called 'trick' was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field."
Professor Roger Jones for, Victoria Uni's Centre for Strategic Economic Studies says the report clears Dr Mann of any wrongdoing.
"Essentially what it shows is that there was no material evidence that Michael Mann had actually done any of those things, which was suppressing for falsifying data, deleting or concealing emails, and the misuse of privileged or confidential information, and they found that there was no evidence of that either," he said.
Professor Jones says while the scandal damaged public perception in the science of human induced climate changes, reviews like this are important to regain trust.
"We do have to maintain as much public confidence in the science as we can," he said.
"And if it comes to these sorts of unfortunate events where you get a whole heap of emails stolen you certainly have to have a close inquiry to try and maintain and restore that confidence if it's been eroded."
He says the scandal also shows the disconnect between the scientific consensus and the media debate on climate change.
"What we have is this situation where the overwhelming majority of the climate science community has got one view of the science, and there are a very small group of scientists, most of the time they're actually not practising in the climate area themselves, [who disagree]," he said.
"And the when you get into the media the mix is more like 50-50, so the public can get the view that there's actually a real debate going on here whereas while there is one in the media, in the science there isn't actually that much of a material debate."

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