One of the key controversies over the hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit was that the scientists’ apparent reluctance to publicly share data and methodologies. One of the reasons they gave was that some of their work used data from other countries’ meteorological agencies, which they did not have permission to share.
Permission to share some of that data has since been gained, leading to its publication on the UK Met Office’s website, but some countries have either refused or not replied.
So it was interesting to see this point in the conclusions of the Oxburgh Report‘s conclusions:
It was pointed out that since UK government adopted a policy that resulted in charging for access to data sets collected by government agencies, other countries have followed suit impeding the flow of processed and raw data to and between researchers. This is unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government.
By way of background, Professor Acton, in his appearance before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s hearing on the subject, pointed out that the international data came from 150 countries, and that getting permission from all of them had not proved easy:
Professor Acton: Unfortunately, several of these countries impose conditions and say you are not allowed to pass it on, so there has just been an attempt to get these answers. Seven countries have said “No, you cannot”, half the countries have not yet answered, Canada and Poland are amongst those who have said, “No you cannot publish it” and also Sweden. Russia is very hesitant. We are under a commercial promise, as it were, not to; we are longing to publish it because what science needs is the most openness.
In a supplementary submission to the committee, the UEA says that Sweden has since given permission for its data to be used, but it appears that some of the data are still outstanding. It would be a little ironic if the UK – where CRU is based – indeed started the practice of charging for climate data.