“No Working Papers”, “No Correspondence”

Last year, we noted the insolent and unresponsive answers by IPCC chapter 6 Lead Authors to Review Comments in connection with the Hockey Stick reconstructions. Under IPCC policies, Review Editors have important obligations to ensure responsiveness of Chapter Authors (see policies discussed here). The comments by Review Editors were not put online by IPCC, but, after some effort, David Holland managed to obtain the Review Comments for WG1 and WG2. While a few WG2 Review Editors made substantive comments, WG1 review editor comments proved to be a few-sentence form letter in all but one case (chapter 6 Review Editor Mitchell noting outstanding controversy in connection with the Hockey Stick.)

It seemed inconceivable that these form letters were the entire corpus of the Review Editor contributions, given their important obligations in the IPCC process. Holland accordingly pressed Mitchell for any supplementary information, reports pertaining to his duties as IPCC Review Editor. Even though IPCC policies state clearly that all comments will be retained for 5 years:

All written expert, and government review comments will be made available to reviewers on request during the review process and will be retained in an open archive in a location determined by the IPCC Secretariat on completion of the Report for a period of at least five years.

Mitchell replied that he had no kept “any” working papers and that he was not required to do so.

For my own part, I have not kept any working papers. There is no requirement to do so, given the extensive documentation already available from IPCC.

In the modern day and age, it seemed inconceivable that Mitchell could have discharged his duties without any trace or ripple in the electronic pond and accordingly, on April 1, 2008, Holland submitted an FOI request asking for all emails to and from Dr Mitchell in his capacity as IPCC Review Editor, with a turn of phrase that unfortunately was construed as limiting the request to emails concerning the HS. Once again, he has been essentially stonewalled. Although Mitchell’s final terse Review Editor report referred to outstanding issues in connection with the HS, according to the Met Office, Mitchell either never corresponded with any IPCC chapter author or IPCC official about these misgivings during the course of the IPCC review process or subsequently destroyed the relevant correspondence.

On January 31, 2008, Holland wrote to Mitchell as follows:

Dear Dr Mitchell,

WGI TSU have now kindly sent me a copy of your Review Editor’s Report and I attach a copy.

Clair Hanson from your office, on behalf of WGII TSU has kindly sent me all the WGII reports and many of them provide substantial additional information.

Can you confirm that the attached is the complete report or let me have a copy of any supplemental information?

Thanking you in advance,
David Holland

On Feb 20, 2008, Holland replied as follows:

Dear Mr Holland

I can confirm that you have had the complete Review Editors report and that there was no supplemental information submitted with the Review Editors report

I hope this answers your enquiry.
John Mitchell

On Feb 22, 2008, Holland sent a follow-up letter, to which Mitchell eventually replied on March 31, 2008 (See below.)

On March 14, 2008, Mitchell sent emails regarding Holland’s request to Susan Solomon, Jean Jouzel and Keith Briffa, stating that Holland was linked to me and to the “Climate Audit website”, as follows:

I have received the following letter from David Holland, who has links with Stephen McIntyre and his Climate Audit website, on the review process for chapter 6 of AR2. I have discussed this briefly with Jean and we do not think there is an issue. However given the wider nature of the questions, I think it would be more appropriate for any response to come through IPCC rather than me as an individual. I will wait to hear from IPCC before I respond…. I understand Brian has received a similar enquiry, hence I have included his name on the copy list.
John.

On March 14, Solomon replied to Mitchell as follows (and her language is then incorporated almost verbatim into the Mitchell letter as shown below)

I feel that the most appropriate response will be from you since you have been queried.

I will offer the following points that may be useful to your or others in replying to the queries that you or other REs may have received but of course it ius up to you how you wish to proceed.

The IPCC process assesses the published scientific and technical literature, or in some cases ‘gray literature’, based on the judgement of the authors. In general, gray literature is used very seldom in Working Group I although such material as industry technical reports are used more frequently in WGr3. Unpublished draft papers or technical reports referenced in chapters are made available to the reviewers for the purpose of review, but not the underlying datasets used. IPCC does not have the mandate nor resources to operate as a clearing house for the massive amounts of data used in the referenced papers. The governance of research and requirements of the scientific literature are not IPCC’s role.

The review editors do not determine the content of the chapters. The authors are responsible for the content of their chapters and responding to comments, not REs. Further explanations, elaboration or re-interpretation of the comments or the author responses would not be appropriate. All of the comments and all of the authors responses have been made available. These are the proper source for anyone seeking to understand what comments were made and how the authors dealt with them and it would be inappropriate to provide more information beyond the references to the web pages where this can be found.

One important sentence in Solomon’s letter that was not directly incorporated in Mitchell’s rely was the following:

Further explanations, elaboration or re-interpretation of the comments or the author responses would not be appropriate.

In mid-March, Holland sent a separate letter to Keith Briffa. On April 1, 2008, Keith Briffa sent the following letter in connection with Holland’s email to “Peck” [Overpeck?]. Eystein, John [Mitchell] and Phil Jones, a letter subsequently produced by the Met Offuce in connection with the FOI inquiry (see below).

Hi, Peck Eystein, John (and Phil as Head of CRU); just to keep you in the loop. I have received the attached letter – I am not asking for any input as regards a response which I shall keep brief – when I get round to it. Just thought it appropriate to let you know what was happening. I will forward my response in due course. Cheers, Phil.

It’s interesting now to read Mitchell’s letter of March 27, 2008 to David Holland – this is the letter in which Mitchell said that he had kept “no working papers”, which apes Susan Solomon’s letter almost verbatim.

Dear Mr Holland,

Thank you for your letter of 22 February 2008. I apologise again for the delay in replying, I have been away from my office much of the intervening time and also, in view of the width of your questions, I have also consulted IPCC.

You raise two main points in your letter.

Your first question concerns the grounds for one of the citations in chapter 6 of the Working Group I Report. The IPCC process assesses the published scientific and technical literature, and in some cases ‘gray literature’, based on the judgement of the authors. Gray literature is used very seldom in Working Group I (but more frequently in Working Group III, for example in the form of technical reports from industry). Unpublished draft papers or technical reports referenced in chapters are made available to the reviewers for the purpose of review. This does not include the underlying datasets used as IPCC has neither the mandate nor the resources to operate for a clearing house for the massive amounts of data used in the referenced papers. Note IPCC’s role does not include the governance of research, or the requirements of scientific literature.

Your second question concerns the conduct of review editors. You should note that the review editors do not determine the final content of the chapters. It is the authors that are responsible for the content of their chapters and responding to comments, not the review editors. All of the comments and all of the authors’ responses have been made available, and are the proper source for anyone wishing to understand what comments were made and how the authors dealt with them. It would be inappropriate to provide more information beyond the web pages already freely provided.

For my own part, I have not kept any working papers. There is no requirement to do so, given the extensive documentation already available from IPCC. The crux of the review editors’ work is carried out at the lead authors meetings going through the chapters comment by comment with the lead authors.

I hope this answers your two main concerns.

John Mitchell

It seemed incomprehensible that Mitchell did not have a single piece of correspondence pertaining to his duties as IPCC Review Editor. Thus David Holland’s FOI request on April 4, 2008:

I am therefore asking initially to see all emails to and from Dr Mitchell in connection with his work as an IPCC Review Editor.

To assist you in this matter I would suggest information that I am seeking would likely be found in correspondence between Dr Mitchell and the following individuals involved in the assessment: Drs Susan Solomon, Jean Jouzel, Eystein Jansen, Jonathan Overpeck, Keith R. Briffa, Jean-Claude Duplessy, Fortunat Joos, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Daniel Olago (Kenya), Bette Otto-Bliesner, W. Richard Peltier, Stefan Rahmstorf, Rengaswamy Ramesh, Dominique Raynaud, David Rind, Olga Solomina, Ricardo Villalba, De’er Zhang, and Timothy Osborn.

Relevant information may also be found in correspondence between Dr Mitchell and the IPCC Panel, DEFRA, CRU and the IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit.

The specific areas of context that I am interested in seeing include references to studies by Briffa; Mann Bradley and Hughes e.g. MBH98/99, the “hockey stick”; Rutherford et al.; Wahl and Ammann; McIntyre and McKitrick e.g. M&M 2003, M&M 2005; NRC, 2006; Wegman et al., 2006. I am also interested in any discussion of Expert Reviewer’s Comments or the proposed or actual responses to them. I am particularly interested in any discussion of Expert Reviewers’ Comments from Susan Solomon, Ross McKitrick, Steve McIntyre and the Reviewer for the Government of the United States of America. I would obviously wish to see any drafts of text to be included or proposed to be included in the official drafts of Chapter 6.

On May 1, Holland received a reply to the FOI request, in which his request was paraphrased as follows:

the release of all documents concerning the IPCC assessment of this matter [Historic Temperature Reconstructions in IPCC 2007 Working Group I Chapter 6 Palaeoclimate] held by the Met Office.

Note that Holland’s request was somewhat re-characterized by the respondent. This should be of note to any readers thinking of submitting FOI requests – officials may well re-characterize a FOI request; requesters should make their requests as concise and precise as possible and avoid editorializing in order to minimize any such adverse re-characterization.

The official then listed the following information (see above) as responsive to this re-characterized request:

The Met Office holds information as requested and is listed below. One exemption has been applied S40 Personal Information. Personal email addresses have been removed.
1 Email from you to Dr Mitchell dated 31 January 2008
2 Email from you to Dr Mitchell dated 22 February 2008
3 Email from Dr Mitchell to Susan Solomon, K Briffa and others dated 14 March 2008
4 Email from Susan Solomon to Dr Mitchell dated 14 March 2008
5 Email from Jean Jouzel to Dr Mitchell dated 31 March 2008
6 Email from Keith Briffa to Dr Mitchell dated 1 April 2008; the attachment shown on the email is a letter from you, of which you will already have a copy.
This is all the information held by Dr Mitchell, on behalf of the Met Office regarding all of your questions asked.

In other words, prior to Holland’s correspondence, and despite the concerns about the HS ultimately expressed in his terse final report as Review Editor, Mitchell had never once emailed or corresponded with any IPCC author or official about these misgivings. Amazing.

As noted before, the destruction of working papers is at odds with IPCC policies requiring that all “written expert, and government review comments” be retained for 5 years, a policy that would include Mitchell’s comments as Review Editor.

Mitchell dealt with this by saying that he had not kept any documentation.

For my own part, I have not kept any working papers. There is no requirement to do so, given the extensive documentation already available from IPCC.

The IPCC Review Process is supposed to be “open and transparent”. The ink is barely dry on AR4. And yet here we have the unedifying spectacle of public officials “not keeping” any working papers and claiming to be unable to locate any relevant correspondence.


25 Comments

  1. Francois Ouellette
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

    What this shows is that the Review Editor’s job was just not taken seriously. It seems that the authors are entirely responsible for the chapters. In other words, the authors decide how they respond to the reviewers comments, and the Review Editor only rubber stamps their decisions. This is indeed the impression that one gets by reading the review comments, and the authors laconic responses of the type: “accepted”, “rejected”, or “taken care of”, without ever detailing exactly why, how, or what changes have been made, and if those were acceptable to the reviewers. This is in marked contrast to a standard journal paper, where the Editor can force an author to respond adequately to the reviewers comments, and has the authority to reject a paper if that was not done.

    But by having so many people involved in the process, the IPCC gives the impression of a rigorous process. How often do we hear that thousands of scientists were involved in the process, so it can’t be wrong. But in the end, when one scrutinizes the whole process, one soon realizes that the report is the work of a very small group of people, who can do whatever they want. Many of the “authors” themselves are not quite happy with the process, as can be seen by some of their own comments, where they complain that their own pet research was not cited properly, or given enough importance. That is quite revealing about the structure itself.

  2. bender
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    If you believe in the consensus why would you waste your time implementing a proper review process and documenting its workings? Mitchell’s a busy guy.

  3. Posted May 2, 2008 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

    Documenting all the incompetence and (possibly willful) misconduct at the IPCC and GISS would cost a lot of money. Somehow I suspect the IPCC and NASA will not be paying for that audit. Too bad.

  4. SteveSadlov
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    Weren’t there review comments made by US Government Officials (presumably, people from the EPA, DoE, NOAA, etc) that were essentially ignored? That is brash, if true.

  5. Sam Urbinto
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    But, hey.

  6. mbabbitt
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    If only 60 Minutes wasn’t in the tank for AL Gore and the IPCC…

  7. Francois Ouellette
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    Personnally, I think that, while the public may be misled into thinking that the IPCC is an unbiased, serious, scientific report, politicians and policy makers in general are not that easily fooled. Many, if not most, have scientific advisors who can explain in private what’s going on. They have to pay lip service to AGW and the IPCC, but as one can easily see, genuine action and policies don’t necessarily come by that easily.

    In my opinion, the stance taken by scientissts, and especially the activist type, does a great disservice to the scientific institution. Imagine, if that prediction of cooling, or no warming, pans out over the next decade. Climate scientists may jump and shout that this is just “natural” variability, they will have lost all their credibility. And they will be the first ones to suffer from it.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    #7. Francis, I think that you can be a little calmer. Some of the IPCC resistance is mere bureaucratic-ness. If they want to play that game, fine. But then they should expect people like myself or David Holland to avail themselves of tools that have been provided by governments to deal with obstructive bureaucrats.

  9. Jon
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

    I was under the impression that the authors of Chapter 6 approved of the handling of the NH temp reconstruction.

    Is the issue here to see who complained about it and what they said (which was presumably ignored)?

  10. Francois Ouellette
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

    #7 Steve,

    I’m very calm, thank you. Only nervousness has to do with tomorrow’s hockey game.

    But you have to have been part of the academic world to understand how hard it is to get, and maintain funding for scientific research. I have lived through the fiber optic bubble of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Suddenly, it was all the craze, and money was flowing to fund all the things we wanted to do for the past 20 years. Then it all crashed, and the field lost all its appeal, and the funding disappeared. All my ex-colleagues had to reinvent themselves, and do stuff like nanotechnology and biotech. They do the same thing, but name it differently. You no longer get funding to make the next fiber optic gizmo, but a nanocarbon coated optical fiber that cures cancer, that’ll get you some money.

    By making extravagant claims, climate scientists risk being totally discredited if the real world doesn’t follow. Who’s going to fund models that are always wrong? Who’s going to fund the next satellite if climate doesn’t seem to be a problem any more?

  11. Armagh Geddon
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    Re IPCC and associates: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

  12. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    Re #8

    #7. Francis, I think that you can be a little calmer. Some of the IPCC resistance is mere bureaucratic-ness.

    I do not think that Francois assessments of the IPCC and the process under discussion are inconsistent with allowing the process to fall prey to the very predictable tendencies of bureaucrats.

    They can make all the rules they want for appearances and use all the lawyerly defenses of their apparent failures to enforce them, but in the end one need only judge how the process is carried out — rules and enforcement notwithstanding.

  13. Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    I’d like to post my short article that will be published tomorrow in a local Newspaper:

    Title: Ashamed by Mother Nature. Text: In April 2007, I wrote in one of my published articles that the global warming had stopped in 1999, one year after the warming caused by El Niño, which had nothing to do neither with carbon dioxide nor with human activities. Today the warmologists have accepted the fact in an article published this week in Science magazine, written by Richard Kerr. Finally, those that were saying that the world was being warmed up gradually have accepted that their predictions of a scorching atmosphere did not occur as they expected. Mother Nature has put them in the right where they had to be and now they do not find the way for explaining their methodological mistake. From their official reports, they continue threatening to the world on a future anthropogenic hell that would follow this period of cooling that they say “it is masked by Mother Nature”. No way, science is correct once again. What would happen if the predictions of the Russian scientists on an imminent Glacial Era become real? “

  14. Jon
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    Is #13 satire?

  15. Posted May 2, 2008 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    # 14

    A bit… ;)

  16. Dennis Wingo
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 11:05 PM | Permalink

    snip The trouble here is should there be a real catastrophic issue one day, who is going to TRUST them???

    This is what I, with my scientific background am most concerned about. I sat down the hall from John Christy in the late 80’s when he first analyzed satellite data to find the first discrepancies with the global warming predictions of that time. I saw him skewered by Senator Albert Gore’s committee at that time over his findings. Later I heard him lament about not being able to get funding from local Alabama Interests such as the coal companies because they wanted him to “remain pure” with no claims about any ties to the coal companies (The owner of Drummond Coal company is on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees). I watched the struggles of people like him and the massive amounts of funding channeled to an unknown University of Michigan climate group that disappeared in the mists. I watched Triana be born out of a dream by Gore, and funded by NASA to the tune of first $75M dollars and then with overruns as the non existent science of the “screen saver” passed by the entire NASA peer review process to get in the end over a quarter of a billion dollars in funding. Today that spacecraft sits in pieces in nitrogen storage at Goddard.

    Science in many forms has been corrupted by massive amounts of cash that flows into research that spews out papers with little review on subjects that continue to diverge from the actual data taken by satellites, balloons, and surface stations (at least the ones that have been calibrated).

    The problem is that science in general will suffer if we enter a pronounced cooling trend like I remember as a child in the sixties where we had snow in Alabama in November. Science can provide, and indeed has the only solutions that are truly out there for the problems that face our planetary civilization, but without sufficient corrective action, science will be discredited an no one will listen the next time that we collectively cry wolf.

  17. Louis Hissink
    Posted May 3, 2008 at 4:46 AM | Permalink

    #17

    Dennis,

    Life is not that gloomy though it might seem so at present. The task in hand is to recognise, and thus point to, the new priests selling the new religion.

    This religion is different to its predecessors in that it is cloaked in scientific jargon but the same types are there running it.

    While I am part of the world-wide mining industry, and can appreciated the coal industry’s policy as enunciated to Roy Spencer in this post, some of us are not frightened by the cockroaches in Greenpeace or other environmentally based NGO’s.

    Sound science will always win in the end; it’s waiting for that time that is difficult to handle.

  18. Posted May 3, 2008 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    A charitable view of the way the scientific system works is that these big picture themes are needed to provide the compelling business case for the whole field, and then people get the useful work done outside of that. This explains why so much investment in Tokamaks say, when it seems like they are never going to produce viable power. The UN are adept at producing their own compelling business cases too, and the IPCC is just the latest. Expect it to be milked for all it is worth. You have to make a living and live with yourself at the same time.

  19. Posted May 3, 2008 at 12:55 PM | Permalink

    # 16 to # 18

    Dennis, Louis, David,

    I understand and share Dennis’ viewpoint because I experienced some problems when I said in a TV program that we could confront an epidemic of West Nile Encephalitis if the Health Secretary didn’t control the importation of vectors (mosquitoes) hidden in used car tires and old domestic electronic devices. The next day, I received a memo from the authorities pushing me for going to their offices because they had found a serious problem in my lab. I told the producers at the TV channel what was happening and they made that the authorities changed their intentions. When I went to the Health Secretary offices, they told me that I didn’t have to scare the people with those things, but they didn’t touch my lab. Finally, they made me to sign a document where I was obliging myself to not publicize my business openly through Media. I had to sign it and I went to the HR offices, but I was received coldly and they did not take into account my objection.

    I have seen other colleagues undergo worst consequences; for example, one of my teachers went to jail by writing in a local newspaper that the beans sold by a government company contained aflatoxins. He was mistreated by the police.

  20. dearieme
    Posted May 3, 2008 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    “bureaucratic-ness”: it’s not often that one comes across a new euphemism for ‘telling lies’.

  21. Posted May 3, 2008 at 7:54 PM | Permalink

    Lies over lies… Now the IPCC is creating more lies to hide their previous lies… or errors. Now I understand, Steve McIntyre, why those people didn’t want you to see their data. ;)

  22. cal smith
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    I have begun a quest [probably quixotic] to organize debates on global warming issues. I am presently looking for a kickoff topic and participants for a debate at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Austin Texas for sometime this fall. I think a debate about the integrity of the IPCC report might be an interesting first debate. I think Steve M would be the ideal debater from the critics side. Would you be willing to consider it Steve? It may be very difficult to find a competent defender willing to debate but it is worth the try. At this time I can only assure reimbursement for travel and living expenses.

    Other readers at this site are welcome to encourage Steve to say yes and make suggestions about other topics or debaters.

  23. Ron Cram
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 9:14 PM | Permalink

    cal,

    I would suggest a debate between J. Scott Armstrong and an IPCC rep (to be named later) on the subject of why the IPCC projections do not include any discussion of the principles of scientific forecasting. You can learn more about scientific forecasting on this website. Armstrong and Kesten Green audited the IPCC forecasts and found them lacking.

    There are at least four academic journals dealing with scientific forecasting and no IPCC Report has referenced a single article from any of the four. I have emailed several scientists to ask if they felt the IPCC should seek to follow the principles established in the scientific forecasting literature. Several of them claimed they knew nothing of the field. Only Richard Lindzen wrote back saying of course the IPCC should follow these principles. James Annan tried to argue that the principles simply did not apply to physical sciences. When I named three of the principles specifically and asked for his reasons for saying these principles did not apply, he refused to answer.

  24. John B
    Posted May 15, 2008 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

    Massively Peer Reviewed?

    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2008/s2245643.htm

  25. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 21, 2008 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

    I’ve added a couple of letters and re-arranged this post for greater clarity.

4 Trackbacks

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