Hackers break the law, invade personal privacy and scientists are lambasted.

Reading that the CRU was hacked and emails and data was stolen, I though some pesky spammers had been up to no good. We at SU were hacked last week and used for spamming. The CRUs case though has proven more serious. Emails have been leaked on the web, primarily it would appear on blogs that take a sceptical stance towards climate change and climate science. Or as one distasteful little man puts it the Anthropogenic Global Warming Myth.

Interestingly it is the scientists of the CRU and their correspondants who are facing the brunt of what questioning. Emails suggesting a boycott of Climate Research are cited as unwillingness to face proper peer-review. They are accused of data manipulation to fit their results to their hypotheses. Finally there is the suggestion that they have deliberately deleted data and emails that might be of a sensitive nature. Phil Jones, director of the CRU has been encouraged to resign.

Firstly, let us address the issue of Climate Research. The suggestion that they boycott could be interpreted as a nefarious attempt to avoid thorough review or the response of a group of scientists frustrated at what they considered to be an inadequate review of a key paper, that of Soon and Baliunas, 2003. Hans von Storch even resigned from the editorial board of the journal and was later followed by four more of the board. I know of many cases where individuals and groups of scientists have question the impartiality or competence of a journals’ editorial board. Furthermore, I can point to a number of papers which I find weak or deceptive. It happens: peer review is imperfect and scientists get annoyed at times.

Moving on to the accusations of data manipulation. This is indeed serious. But, is there an intention to mislead? Without having seen the full correspondance it is difficult to say but I would be wary of criticising scientists who emphasise a legimate artefact or trend in their data. Climate Science is very firmly rooted in statistics (and of course physics, chemistry, mathematics and their related disciplines); statistics can be used legitimately to highlight data artefacts. [Ian waits for someone to nvoke Sir Winston Churchill here]. We are not talking about simple issues or relationships so one shouldn’t expect simple explanations or tools.

The deletion of sensitive emails or data is also serious, if as one source suggested, those might be the subject of a freedom of information act request. I regularly delete emails, including sensitive ones, to preserve my dignity and that of colleagues. I may use a government computer but surely I have the right to a degree of privacy. If there is no FOIA responsibility then there is no smoking gun.


Finally, on a personal note, I have had the pleasure of meeting the director of the CRU Professor Phil Jones (why is he suddenly bereft of his title?). I do not know Prof. Jones well, but I can without reservation say, he was polite, decent, and humble. Suggestions to the contrary are by small minded people who haven’t presumably had the pleasure of meeting him and who have a political axe to grind. Ironically the very thing they are accusing the CRU of having….

Okay, so that wasn’t the final comment. Anyone else out there peeved that the debate isn’t about the theft of private correspondance?

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