Correspondence with the University of Virginia

While we’re talking about the University of Virginia, I’ll report today on two complaints filed by Ross and I in April 2005 with the University of Virginia and their handling by then President John Casteen and Vice President Ariel Gomez.

On April 22, 2005, we filed a formal request with the University of Virginia for computer codes in order to reconcile important outstanding issues.

April 22, 2005

Dr. Ariel Gomez,
Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

Dear Dr. Gomez,
We have been carrying out studies of Mann et al. [Nature 1998, GRL 1999], prominent papers co-authored by Dr. Michael Mann of your university. We have been unable to replicate a number of claims made in these papers. We found discrepancies between the data and methods described in print versus information contained in Dr. Mann’s website at the University of Virginia (frp://holocene.evsc.Virginia.edu/pub/MBH98), which we communicated to Nature in late 2003. In response to this communication, Nature required Mann et al. to publish a Corrigendum and provide an extensive new Supplementary Information in July 2004. However, even with the additional information in the new Supplementary Information, we remain unable to substantiate many claims made in the original publication.

In our attempts to reproduce these calculations, as long ago as November 2003, we politely requested access to computer code used in Mann et al. [1998]. We have also requested various supporting calculations, including the results of the controversial 15th century calculation step. Dr. Mann refused all these requests.

Dr. Mann has continued to use the source code in question (or variations of it) up to and including 2004, in connection with articles published in journals [Mann et al., Earth Interactions, 2000], at websites hosted by the University of Virginia [Mann et al., 2003, ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/mann/EandEPaperProblem.pdf ], a submission to Nature posted up at a Stanford University website [Mann et al., 2004a, http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/MannEtAl2004.pdf%5D, an unpublished submission by Mann et al. to Climatic Change [Mann et al., 2004b, noted up at http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/References/References.html%5D and in articles at the website http://www.realclimate.org [Mann et al., 2004c, see, for example, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=8%5D.

We attempted for nearly a year to obtain access to the source code through Nature, who ultimately decided in September 2004 that such access was up to the originating author (who had already refused). In February 2005, we published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters showing that an important methodology was misrepresented in the original publication (and not corrected in the Corrigendum). Dr. Mann’s continuing refusal to provide access to the source code has attracted considerable public attention. On Feb. 14, 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported Dr. Mann’s refusal in a front page story and quoted Dr. Mann as saying: “Giving them [McIntyre and McKitrick] the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in”.

We have never engaged in “intimidation tactics”. We have sought information that should have been willingly provided in the first place. Dr. Mann’s results have been extensively applied in climate research and have been used for public policy in Canada and internationally, and, in our opinion, there is no justification for anything other than the most comprehensive possible disclosure.

Recently, our attention was drawn to the following policy of the University of Virginia regarding research:

Each investigator should accurately record all research procedures undertaken, observations made and all results, regardless of whether its value or import is apparent. These records should be maintained for at least five years and all data and notebooks resulting from sponsored research are the property of the University of Virginia. http://www.virginia.edu/vprgs/researchconduct.html#university

This policy is set out in additional detail as follows:

The retention of accurately recorded and retrievable results is of the utmost importance in the conduct of research, and it is the responsibility of each investigator to maintain such records in a secure location.

Data and notebooks resulting from sponsored research are the property of the University of Virginia. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to retain all raw data in laboratory notebooks (or other appropriate format) for at least five years after completion of the research project (i.e., publication of a paper describing the work, or termination of the supporting research grant, whichever comes first) unless required to be retained longer by contract, law, regulation, or by some reasonable continuing need to refer to them. https://etg07.itc.virginia.edu/policy/policydisplay?id=%27RES-002%27

The computer source code used by Dr. Mann in the above studies is clearly an included “record” of “research procedure” and, according to the above term of employment, any code used during Dr. Mann’s employment at the University of Virginia is accordingly the property of the University of Virginia, rather than the personal property of Dr. Mann.
To facilitate resolution of the remaining points of technical dispute, we are formally requesting access to the computer source code used by Dr. Michael Mann of your university in Mann, Bradley and Hughes [Nature 1998, GRL 1999] and in Mann et al. [2000, 2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c].

Yours truly,
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick

cc:
Dr. John T. Casteen III,
President,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

The request for computer code was partly satisfied in summer 2005 without reference to the University of Virginia when Mann placed code online that had been supplied to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. However, the code was incomplete as I reported at the time. The code for the critical and controversial retention of principal components, the battleground issue, was withheld.

Mann’s actual procedure for retention of principal components remains unknown to this day. This has not stopped Mann and others from saying that anyone doing it differently from them was “wrong”. (The procedure advocated at realclimate in December 2004 for the North American network was not used in other networks and appears to have been developed after the fact – a procedure rightly criticized by Wegman as having “no statistical integrity”).

In addition to the above complaint, we also submitted a formal complaint to John Casteen, President of the University of Virginia, under their Code of Ethics about untrue and defamatory allegations made by Mann against us as follows:

April 22, 2005

Dr. John T. Casteen,
President,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA
ald8m@virginia.edu

Dear Dr. Casteen,
We are writing to express some concerns arising from our interactions with Dr. Michael Mann of your university.

The Code of Ethics of the University of Virginia requires the following:

7. Our communications on behalf of the University with all persons, including co-employees, clients, customers, patients, students, guests and vendors, are conducted professionally and with civility. http://www.virginia.edu/statementofpurpose/uethics.html

We are involved in an academic debate with Dr. Mann concerning some scientific results which he published in 1998 and subsequently. The debate has garnered considerable scholarly interest and widespread international media attention. We would like to bring to your attention some of Dr. Mann’s recent public statements regarding us, made in his academic capacity, which, in our opinion, do not meet the standards of professionalism and civility of an academic community or as required by the Code of Ethics of the University of Virginia.

a) Dr. Mann sent an email to a European science magazine, Natuurwetenschap & Techniek, in response to some technical questions during their preparation of a story for publication. This email has been published on the Internet. http://www.natutech.nl/nieuwsDetail.lasso?ID=2565. We object to Dr. Mann’s hostile, uncivil and personally derogatory comments, especially to a reporter preparing a story for international publication. We object in particular to his accusation that we have been “plainly dishonest.” We object to Dr. Mann’s dissemination and endorsement of an ad hominem attack against us by the Environmental Defense Fund, containing an untrue suggestion that our work was financed by ExxonMobil. We object to the statement that one of us (McKitrick) was “prone to publishing entirely invalid results apparently without apology.”

b) In a recent (Apr. 18, 2005) interview with MotherJones.com, http://www.motherjones.com/news/qa/2005/05/michael_mann.html, Dr. Mann stated that “many of claims made by the contrarians [regarding the hockey stick] were fraudulent”. As we have been the most prominent critics of the hockey stick, we believe that these comments were directed at us. Even if employed as a general accusation against the various scholarly teams that have published criticisms of Dr. Mann’s study, a more unprofessional and uncivil term than “fraudulent” can scarcely be contemplated. But in the context the accusation is almost certainly directed at us and we accordingly register our objection.

c) Based on his comments to Natuurwetenschap & Techniek, we believe that Dr. Mann may have sent highly prejudicial ad hominem communications to New Scientist, which was considering an article (by David Paterson) about us, but which was ultimately not printed. We believe that Dr. Mann’s communications may have contributed to this.

d) We believe that Dr. Mann may have sent unsolicited communications to Geophysical Research Letters attacking a submission that we made, although the journal ultimately did publish our work (selecting it as a highlighted article).

Vigorous debate on scientific issues occasionally gives rise to strongly expressed views. We are accustomed to the energetic level of public debate that has arisen over the important scientific issues on which we have published, and we do not seek to limit legitimate debate or criticism of our work in any way. However, in our view, the above communications by Dr. Mann in an academic capacity, especially the public accusations of dishonesty and fraud, do not meet the standards of civility and professionalism as understood in an academic community or as codified in Item 7 in the University of Virginia Code of Ethics.

Yours truly,
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick

cc:
Dr. Ariel Gomez,
Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

On May 30, 2005, not having heard back from either official, we sent a reminder email as follows:

Dear Dr Casteen,

We have not received any acknowledgement of the email below and would appreciate an update on the matter.

Yours truly, Stephen McIntyre

Outcome
The University of Virginia did not acknowledge either letter and, to my knowledge, the university did nothing.

In retrospect, that is surely too bad. Readers of the Climategate letters are rightly offended by the unprofessional language. One of the difficulties faced right now by people like Judy Curry, seeking to temper the animosity of the debate, is that this sort of unprofessional language has become more deeply engrained in the debate over the past few years. Climate scientists are quite willing to blame “skeptic” sites for this language, but are unwilling to look into the mirror of their community and acknowledge the substantial contribution of their “community” to the deterioration of conduct.

April 2005 preceded most of the events in controversy. Had University of Virginia officials investigated our complaints, it seems to me that this might well have mitigated or even avoided some portion of the later controversy.

If Cuccinelli wants something useful to do at the University of Virginia, I suggest that they interview Casteen and Gomez and ask them why they ignored our letters. Far too much attention in this controversy has been focused on Mann and not enough on the enablers.

13 Comments

  1. TerryS
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    Correction?
    Under “Outcome” you say “The University of Virginia did acknowledge”
    Shouldn’t this be “did not”

    Steve; Fixed.

  2. kim
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    Witness: I. Jolliffe.
    =======

  3. kim
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

    Let another be strong, silent, and patient for once.
    ==========

  4. kim
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

    The call for Glass Darkly’s silence is not witness suppression. He has nothing useful to say. He should be strong in the face of the paradigm collapsing in smithereens around him and he should be patient because it is good to break destructive habits.
    =================

  5. Fred
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

    Perhaps the Cuccinelli fishing expedition will provide the background email traffic that will explain what the Executive Leadership at the University of Virginia was discussing at the time you made these requests and reveal who knew what when and what was discussed about the clear violations of University policy.

    The non response to your requests, the clear violation of their own policies would certainly make it easy to believe they were covering up something or someone.

    Very easy.

  6. Gary
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

    The original complaints were both emails, right? Emails sometimes get lost, inadvertently or otherwise, especially if passed on to others for response. Unless legal matters or bad publicity are immediately involved, academic administration can be as sloppy about follow-up as anybody else. This was right before commencement and who knows what else was going on. It probably was viewed as a minor spat and forgotten. Not an excuse – just a possible explanation. Registered letters with a return receipt would have provided a better trail of evidence.

  7. mpaul
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    Transparency would have protected Mann and UVA from the legal difficulties they now face from the Virginia AG. Had Mann released everything, the argument would simply have been, ‘are his conclusions correct’? But by stonewalling, they (Mann and UVA) have created an air of suspicion. As a result, they have faced escalating attempts to force the production of code culminating in the AG investigation. And Mann now faces wide-spread public allegations of fraud, a destroyed career and potential financial ruin.

    Mann has gotten some very bad advice (assuming he is taking advice).

    I also see that in a USA Today article, Mann is condemning the current AGs investigation as a “politically-driven attempt at diverting the public from thinking about what we ought to do about climate”. This response is very similar to the “giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in” response that you got. I can’t think of a worse response (short of accusing the AG of beating his wife). Once again, Mann’s actions will likely worsen his dilemma.

    And how is the public to think “about what we ought to do about climate”, without access to information? Mann’s position is unsupportable.

    • Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

      I couldn’t have imagined a more predictable response from Mann. This is exactly the problem with Cuccinelli’s investigation. Nobody likes a bully and the gang mentality invariably looks ugly to anyone looking on. Mann will get far too much mileage out of playing the victim and scientific progress in climatology will suffer as a result.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

    The Barton letters came out in June 2005 and attracted huge attention. Mann and I had been on the front page of the Wall St Journal in Feb 2005. I don’t see how a responsible manager could have assumed that it was a nothing.

  9. Craig Loehle
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

    It is looking increasingly like a primary building block for universities is stonewalls…sad really.

  10. Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    Come on, Steve, you surely understand why the target of Cuccinelli’s investigation is Mann and not Casteen or Gomez, don’t you?

    It’s because Mann has been directly financially benefiting from the hockey stick claims while the “enablers”, Casteen and Gomez, were not. It’s the money that is at the very core of Cuccinelli’s investigation. You know, we’re talking about something like $500,000 here. That’s many bottles of beer.

    Presidents and vice-presidents of universities surely ignore lots of e-mails that are only marginally related to random employees at their universities, don’t they? You surely don’t think that if a random unrelated official ignores an e-mail, it’s the same kind of misconduct as if a scientist gets half a million of dollars by presenting fraudulent claims, do you?

    You may find the money insufficiently noble to be worth your attention – but at any rate, whether you like it or not, it’s the reason why thousands of climate scientists began to parrot the theses about the catastrophic man-made global warming. This set of wisdoms has inflated the funding of the discipline by a factor of ten or so. So money surely matter and it’s silly to pretend otherwise.

    And Mann is a top example of the people who are affected by this “subtlety” – by the money. He’s surely not the only one. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t an important one. And it doesn’t mean that he may be overlooked.

  11. Johan i Kanada
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:13 PM | Permalink

    Audit:
    “.. filed by Ross and me..”

  12. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 11:14 PM | Permalink

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/05/u-va_plans_to_comply_with_cucc.html

    University spokesman Carol Wood stated:

    The University has never received a complaint or allegation of academic misconduct on the part of Professor Mann. Had we, as a research institution, we have ample procedures in place to address such allegations. And while we may not understand the basis of the CID, we will gather what information may still reside at the University.”

5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] no, in February of ’05 you went to the Wall Street Journal to make the extraordinary claim: Giving them [McIntyre and McKitrick] the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics [...]

  2. [...] no, in February of ’05 you went to the Wall Street Journal to make the extraordinary claim: Giving them [McIntyre and McKitrick] the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics [...]

  3. [...] and pay more attention to the institutions that have enabled Climategate conduct, as for example here: Far too much attention in this controversy has been focused on Mann and not enough on the [...]

  4. [...] and pay more attention to the institutions that have enabled Climategate conduct, as for example here: Far too much attention in this controversy has been focused on Mann and not enough on the [...]

  5. By Above the Law « Climate Audit on Mar 5, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    [...] the University of Virginia should have carried out a misconduct investigation; indeed, Ross and I filed a formal complaint with the University of Virginia in 2005 which they refused to investigate. I [...]

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