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Climategate: science unit gets 'clean bill of health'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 14 April 2010

An independent review into science produced by the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit concludes there is no evidence of "deliberate scientific malpractice".

A detailed review of 11 scientific papers from the CRU published over 20 years found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever", according to Lord Oxburgh, who headed up the inquiry.

Lord Oxburgh said the scientists at the research unit arrived at their conclusions "honestly and sensibly".

The conclusions were not tested by the review panel and therefore cannot be proved correct or incorrect.

But the scientific processes behing the CRU's hypotheses were given a "clean bill of health".

He said the reviewers found that the scientists could have used better statistical methods in analysing some of their data, but this was unlikely to have made much difference to the results.

Professor David Hand, a statistician from Imperial College and a member on the review panel, said the "inappropriate" methods for analysing the data had been used in the famous "hockey-stick" graph produced by US scientists led by Michael Mann in 1998 which showed a steep recent rise in temperatures.

Hand said this resulted in an exaggeration of the phenomenon. He said that there is no evidence these "inappropriate methods" were implemented by CRU.

He added: "I think that CRU perhaps did not use the most advanced statistical tools. But it's not clear to me that, had they done, that they would have drawn different conclusions."

And he said the researchers "are to be commended" for spelling out the uncertainties of the data in their scientific papers.

He concluded "there is no evidence of anything underhand. The opposite, if anything, they have brought out into the open the uncertainties with what they are dealing with."

The University of East Anglia's (UEA) climatic research unit (CRU) had become embroiled in a global row over emails sent by some of its scientists last year, which implied they had manipulated data supporting the theory of manmade global warming.

The emails had been hacked and were leaked online, which fueled the "climategate" row between climate scientists and sceptics.

The timing of the leaks was significantly before world leaders met in Copenhagen to attend a climate summit.

Last month the University of East Anglia was told by a committee of MPs to publish all their raw data and methods to ensure the research is "irreproachable" in future.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee, said a "culture of non-disclosure" at the University of East Anglia  in response to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for climate data was "reprehensible".

The committee said that some of the leaked emails suggested a "blunt refusal" by the CRU's head Professor Phil Jones to share scientific data.

But Phil Willis, chairman of the committee said the inquiry had found no evidence that Prof Jones hid or manipulated data to back up his own science.

Much of the criticism of CRU by sceptics has focused on an email in which Prof Jones talks about using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in temperature records sourced from tree ring data in the 1960s.

But the MPs said the phrases were colloquialisms and did not represent a systematic attempt to mislead.

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