‘Climategate’ police questions and Oxburgh review unlikely to change minds

The latest round of news about the emails stolen from the CRU servers last year will probably do little to change anyone’s views on the increasingly polarised debate over climate science.

First, as the FT reports, UK police are questioning those who made FOI requests about the CRU’s data:

The Financial Times has learnt that everybody who made a request to the university’s climate research unit under Freedom of Information rules ahead of the alleged hacking is being approached by officers searching for the culprits.

While perhaps being a reminder of the fact that the ‘climategate’ emails were illegally obtained, some will no doubt decry it as overkill. 

The other big news on the hacked emails is the publication on Wednesday of the report reviewing the CRU’s climate science workings, led by Lord Oxburgh, had a broadly similar conclusion to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: there was no evidence of malpractice, only of “dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention”.

However it had a few criticisms, the key one being the lack of involvement of statisticians in such a statistics-heavy area of research:

We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians.

The president of the UK’s Royal Statistical Society, Professor David Hand, chimed in that he believed the Michael Mann ‘hockey stick’ graph used “inappropriate” methods. However he also said this should not detract from underlying data which show a warming effect. From the FT:

“If you look at any area of science, you would be able to find odd examples like this. It doesn’t detract from the vast bulk of the conclusions,” he said.

Unsurprisingly given the controversy over the panel’s composition, sceptics found the whole thing unconvincing, although some welcomed the point over statistics. The main reasons appear to be the lack of transparency, (the interviews were conducted in private), apparently not taking into account sceptics’ criticisms, and being too short at five pages. (One levels: “I’ve seen blog posts longer than this.”)

Related links:

UEA emails – scientific panel announce - FT Energy Source
Skeptical Science -

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