East Anglia Learns Nothing

In breach of calls for openness and transparency in climate science, the University of East Anglia, together with Eugene Wahl and Caspar Amman, have refused to provide documents critical to the inquiry that Muir Russell should be undertaking.

One of the most notorious Climategate emails was Jones’ request to Mann, Briffa, Ammann and Wahl that they delete correspondence pertaining to AR4 review, which included correspondence carried out between Eugene Wahl and Keith Briffa in violation of IPCC procedures. Jones even told FOI Briffa that Briffa “should say” that no such correspondence existed.

The Climategate letters contain references to attachments to Wahl’s surreptitious correspondence with Briffa, but the attachments themselves were not included in the Climategate documents.

On April 5, 2010, I sent an EIR (FOI) request to the University of East Anglia for the attachments (as well as an attachment of the Wahl and Ammann version used in the First Order Draft, sent to Briffa directly and not now available at IPCC.) My request was as follows:

Pursuant to the Environmental Impact Regulations, I request copies of the following documents (reference is attached to Keith Briffa letter):

Wahl_MBH_Recreation_JClimLett_Nov22.pdf (attachment mentioned in Jan 4, 2005 458. 1104855751.txt)
Wahl-Ammann_3321_Figures.pdf; Wahl_Ammann_3321_Final_21Feb.doc – attachments mentioned in Feb 21, 2006 647. 1140568004.txt
Wahl_Ammann_3321_Final_21Feb-Revision1.doc – attachment mentioned in 650. 1140838402.txt Feb 24
AW_Editorial_July15.doc; AR4SOR_BatchAB_Ch06_ERW_comments.doc; Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_12jul06_ERW_suggestions.doc – attachments to 716. 1153470204.txt July 18, 2006
Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_25jul06KRB-FJ-RV_ERW_suggestions.doc – attachments to 733. 1155402164.txt from July 27, 2006

Thank you for your consideration,
Regards, Steve McIntyre

On May 5, 2010, I received a response from UEA extending the response time

Further to your request for information received 5 April 2010, I am writing to advise you that we are, pursuant to Regulation 7(1) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, extending the statutory deadline for our response to your request from the 20 working days set out in Regulation 5(2) to the 40 working days allowed by Regulation 7(1). This will alter the deadline from 5 May 2010 to 2 June 2010. I apologise for the late notification of this extension but it was only this week that it became clear that we would require the extension.

This extension is claimed because of the age and relative obscure provenance of the information requested, we quite simply are having difficulty identifying and locating some of it. An initial search indicates that some of the information is not held but I wish to ensure that we have not overlooked any possible location prior to making that formal assertion.

It is my opinion that, at this particular time, it is impracticable to either comply with the request or to formulate any other response within the statutory period as set out in Regulation 5(2) We are addressing your request currently and I expect that we will be able to provide a substantive response in advance of the revised deadline.

Today, on the last day of the extension period, they refused virtually everything that I had requested.

Your request for information received on 5 April 2010 for a series of documents relating to the work of Professors Wahl and Amman has now been considered and some of the information requested is enclosed herewith. However, it is not possible to satisfy all elements of your request directly.

In accordance with Regulation 14 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 this letter acts as a Refusal Notice, and I am not obliged to supply this information and the reasons for exemption are as stated below:
Exemption Reason

Reg. 6(1)(b), Information available
Some information is available elsewhere

Reg. 12(4)(d), Unfinished documents
Draft documents are unfinished documents

Reg. 12(5)(f), Adverse effects on person providing information
Release of the requested information, would have an adverse effect on the interests of third parties

Regulation 6(1) is cited because much of the information requested within several of the draft documents, particularly that pertaining to results, findings and interpretations is available within the final published version of the document and is therefore publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form.

In regards Regulation 12(4)(d), both ICO and DEFRA guidance indicates that a draft document is to be considered as an ‘unfinished document’ and this position has been upheld by a recent information Tribunal decision which stated that “However, the opinion of the majority and, ultimately our unanimous conclusion, is that the Draft Report is, by its very name and giving the words their logical meaning, an unfinished document. [1 - The Secretary of State for Transport v the Information Commissioner (EA/2008/0052, 5 May 2009), p.24, para.82]

We also cite Regulation 12(5)(f) as Professors Wahl and Amman have indicated, and we are minded to agree, that several documents were provided to this University on the understanding that they were not public documents and that release would have an adverse effect on future sharing of scientific information between researchers and would limit their ability to openly explore ideas and approaches in draft formats. They made it clear that they felt that the proper fora to access this information was by way of the completed version.

Pursuant to Regulation 12(1)(b), we must also apply a public interest test to any and all information excepted under Regulation 12 and this test must be applied as a whole to the entire request rather than exception by exception. It is our opinion that, in relation to the excepted material, the public interest lies in non-disclosure. Much of the requested information exists in the public domain in a finished format and no gain is to be obtained by the release of earlier, unapproved versions of the same material.

Further, there is a public interest in providing a space in which researchers can exchange ideas, theories and alternatives without fear that information or a position never intended for public release would be disclosed. There is also a public interest in ensuring that the information available to the public has been properly reviewed and assessed as takes place in the academic publication process. This lessens confusion the possibility that the public could be mislead or confused by earlier, less well-examined versions of the information.

Additionally, the intellectual property rights of the copyright holder in the final version are protected by ensuring that earlier, non-published versions of copyrighted work are not made available ‘in competition’ with the copyrighted version that the copyright holder has an expectation of making a profit from.

I would also add that any material released over which UEA has copyright is released subject to the understanding that you will comply with all relevant copyright rules regarding reproduction and/or transmission of the information released.

I’ll post up a longer chronology showing precisely where the Wahl correspondence fits into Climategate – Mosher and Fuller and touch on it in CRUtape but additional context has emerged over time. The Wahl correspondence was undertaken in direct contravention of IPCC rules and procedures. Briffa knew that the correspondence violated IPCC rules – the correspondence is marked burn-after-reading. It’s quite natural that Wahl and Ammann (and CRU) want to keep these violations secret.

I’m sure that Muir Russell panelist David Eyton of BP understands.


65 Comments

  1. glacierman
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    So, they consulted with the two people in question as to whether they thought the information should be released? That is a very interesting way of dealing with things. I am sure Wahn and Amman’s over riding priority was making sure the truth become public knowledge.

    I thought FOI was in place to protect the public, not the civil servants regulated under FOI.

    Good to see something on Wahl and Amman (esp). Been wondering when this would come up.

  2. Pat G
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

    Is this worth appealing?

  3. glacierman
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    If the FOI law amounts to the public being able to see only what the regulated wants the public see, after everybody has gotten their stories straight, then this gives credence to the use of subpoenas. Steve I understand your stance on the Virginia AGs request for records, but I think all their emails should be reviewable. It seems rediculous that they can effectively work together (conspire) to put out a document that may be nothing more than an advocacy piece, and the public is only allowed to see the final work product. Seems that legal discovery may be in order when there can be shown probable cause that something improper went on.

  4. Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    Reg 12 (4) is subject to a public interest test. I would have thought that the public interest in this instance would probably be seen as overwhelming and thus the exemption should not be applied.

  5. PaulH from Scotland
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

    As an informative aside:

    I have a friend who works in a senior role for a UK public sector organisation.

    These days, any ‘contentious’ communications are done via text. Which FOI laws apparantly don’t apply to.

    Measure, counter-measure…

  6. GaryM
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    I hope you refer this to the Information Commissioner’s Office before the FOIA statute of limitations runs. Looks like another pretty clear prima facie case of a violation of the Act.

  7. geronimo
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

    Steve, can you now go to the FOI commissioner? He seemed to have taken an uncompromising view of what should be shared and what shouldn’t and it was pretty much everything.

    These guys must have been up to something really stupid if they are prepared, with the full glare of the media no them, to point blank refuse FOI requests. Or it could be that they’re assured of political top cover? Would it help to send the correspondence to Muir Russell? I doubt that he’d want his whitewash muddied by skulduggery while it was in progress.

  8. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    Priceless: they can refuse on the grounds that someone would be embarassed (adverse effects).

  9. chopbox
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    To put it mildly, it seems rather odd that a private agency (University of East Anglia) with a direct stake in the dispute would be the final arbiter of whether disclosure of these documents would or would not be in the PUBLIC interest. I can understand their viewpoint that a full disclosure may dampen future swapping of ideas among academics, but surely in a reasonable environment, that would be just one of the items to be considered by a NEUTRAL party. (Another item might well be that full disclosure might prevent future academic malfeasance involving clandestine communication in an environment stipulated by IPCC rules to be open and above-board and/or that full disclusre could lead to an investigation into and possible repair of IPCC procedures.)

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

    Bishop HIll has a post discussing Bob Ward’s new New Scientist article on climate science PR.

    Needless to say, Ward did not speak out against the absurd Oxburgh “inquiry”.

    Here’s my communications lesson to Ward – if you want to speak to the public, speak specifically. And deal with the beam in your own eye before you worry about the mote in your opponents.

    Ward should start by calling out the absurd Oxburgh Inquiry. He should tell them to do it all over again – responding to questions asked by the Parliamentary Inquiry, dealing with articles and IPCC sections that were at issue rather than articles that were not at issue, taking proper evidence and submissions, making a balanced panel. If Ward is prepared to do so, then maybe he has something to say.

    Ward also left out perhaps the most important rule – tell the truth. You’d think that this wouldn’t need saying, but unfortunately it does. To take one simple example, don’t say that you have confidentiality agreements that prohibit disclosure of data to “non-academics” if there aren’t any confidentiality agreements that contain that language.

    Or in the present case, don’t say that information is available elsewhere unless you can provide a URL or reference to that other location. Nothing is accomplished by just saying whatever comes into the university’s head without taking care to ensure that it’s true.

  11. PolyiscensoredbyWattsorMcIntyre?
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    snip – irrelevant

    2. I wish you would not load the essays, with all these adjectives, and assumptions that others already agree with you, Steve. Make rational arguments to support a thesis. But when you just throw on a bunch of assumptions that you’re already proven the argument at the beginning to frame the discussion, it’s kind of hackish, Steve (almost mouth foamy).

    Blow us away with insight and evidence, not pompousness. Look to Volokh.com for very bright, conservatives, that “play fair” intellectually with arguments and framing of issues.

    Let me give some examples of what is off in your post:

    “In breach of calls for openness and transparency in climate science”

    “should be undertaking”

    “notorious”

    “in violation”

    “Jones even”

    “surreptitious”

    “I’m sure that Muir Russell panelist David Eyton of BP understands.”

    3. In terms of the content of the refusal, all you do is cite, it, Steve and then say that you will (later) explain why people have a motive to conceal the information. You don’t stop and make some reasonable analysis of the grounds for refusal themselves. I get the impression, that you think just “splatting” this stuff down is an argument. But it’s not.

    CHEERS, old man! ;)

    Steve: Not all posts make a “thesis”. In this case, I’m reporting the results of an FOI request. Given the long history, I think that I’m entitled to a few adjectives, I acknowledge that my own writing standards aspire to be relatively adjective-free, but even I quietly vent now and then. Some of the terms that you object to are relatively descriptive though – in the context of this post, it is highly relevant that the Wahl-Briffa exchange was a violation of IPCC rules and that it was carried out surreptitiously. The latter is true as a matter of fact. There have been calls for openness and transparency and these are relevant in the case at hand. The “delete all emails” email was one of the most notorious emails – surely even Bob Ward would agree with this.

    • cripes
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

      Your standards are too low, Steve. In comparison to some of the lower orders of hoi polloi, you might be less strained. But not from a reasonable man outsider perspective. Too much self-publishing and hanging with Watts (!) and listening to hoi polloi cheering you.

      Oh…and very FEW of your posts make an explicit thesis and then demonstrate it. You specialize in the “tada!” without explicit argument. That’s why, I have to occasionally call you on it. (And you do try to have it both ways at times, like the plausible deniability, but then get irked when reminded that you never really made or argued an assertion!)

      I actually doubt that I can reach you…but that’s fine. The test for me, is more what I can get through in order to influence the readers (and that does have an effect). Of course, you control the commentary and lately heavier and heavier in terms of playing unfair (and don’t argue it…that’s an assertion of opinion based on observation…it is just that.)

      • Dave Dardinger
        Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

        Re: cripes (Jun 2 16:34),

        The test for me, is more what I can get through in order to influence the readers

        And who are you? I see absolutely nothing in your post which both true and interesting. IOW, you had 0.0 influence on me. I’d say, “nice try” but it wasn’t.

        • Posted Jun 6, 2010 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

          > And who are you?

          The sound of a resounding tu quoque with the morning coffee is always priceless.

      • bender
        Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

        And the evidence that Steve “plays unfair” by “controlling commentary” is where exactly? Next time try to support your assertions. Or you can just watch your credibility crumble.

        To the extent that you rely on irrational arguments you aren’t “getting through” to anyone. Anyone that matters.

      • dougie
        Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

        re- The test for me, is more what I can get through in order to influence the readers (and that does have an effect)

        failed I’m afraid, do you even understand why your rant is ignored by most, but I will chip in anyway (lurker).

        read the blog, as bender would say, then come back & argue your case better (you will be respected for it).

        • Tom Fuller
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

          I’ll repeat my recommendation here that, given the nature of the subjects covered on this weblog and their importance to policy discussions, much of what is done here would perhaps benefit from a wiki format as opposed to a weblog. The only person with an encyclopedic recall of relevant material posted here is (I think) Steve Mosher, and I think our host’s habit of beginning posts in medias res can look disconcerting to new or casual visitors.

          I personally think you are entitled to hold an express an opinion on the behaviour of the Team. Many of us remember exactly why you are entitled to that opinion. It would be cumbersome to trot out the evidence base before each expression of that opinion. Hence a wiki would serve as a buildable evidence base.

          I would be willing to work on such a wiki–I doubt if I’m alone.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

          Re: Tom Fuller (Jun 3 12:01),

          I would be willing to work on such a wiki–I doubt if I’m alone.

          There is a wiki called Climate Audit 101 which was started a few years ago. It’s even linked in the left sidebar here as it’s where the Acronyms list is found. I’m not sure who grants permissions to work on it these days, but I see several people have last changes in 2010 so it’s not quite dead yet.

          Steve Mc was never directly associated with it, but I don’t suppose he’d complain too much if someone wanted to play with it. Of course, I’m not sure if the links on it are still working since the site was moved.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

          Re: Dave Dardinger (Jun 3 12:56),

          Looks like the links back here from Climate Audit 101 still work. I suppose I ought to get busy one day and update the pages I created way back then.

    • Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 4:07 AM | Permalink

      Re: PolyiscensoredbyWattsorMcIntyre? (Jun 2 14:33),

      Let me give some examples of what is off in your post: … “I’m sure that Muir Russell panelist David Eyton of BP understands.”

      I have to agree this is terribly off, a bit like that milk I left out before going on holiday last time. This can only be taken as a dig at a blameless executive of big oil, who, contrary to rumour, has given nothing to the ‘denialosphere’ and has recently gone out of his way to distance himself from past responsibility for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, for perfectly understandable reasons. Instead, he’s taken on a humble and obscure role on the Muir Russell panel, a group of people who dare not even speak to our host here, lest they catch some dread disease as yet undiscovered by science. It’s off message to suggest that big oil does anything but good and it’s high time Steve realised that. Except when they fund deniers, when they’re the scum of the earth. And it’s exactly that kind of subtlety that’s lost through such crude devices as mentioning Mr Eyton’s name. It has to stop.

  12. PaulM
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 2:42 PM | Permalink

    Hello, first time posting here.

    If I am understanding correctly, the information requested was in part “what was attached to these emails?” To the extent that the response is that “those attachments are available elsewhere,” without identifying them, it seems to me the response is non-responsive and not covered by the exemption – the exemption covering something other than what was actually sought. Perhaps the request could be rephrased to ask for an identification of the documents, and resubmitted?

    Steve: They know precisely what they are doing. They know that the requested documents don’t exist anywhere else. They are simply putting up roadblocks. It will take a couple of years to work through the system and by then they hope that it will blow over. There’s no downside for them in obstruction other than being criticized at a blog.

    • PaulM
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

      Hello Stephen,

      Many thanks for your response. As I mentioned I haven’t posted here before. But I have been a thoroughly intrigued lurker for some years, and can’t thank you enough for your work here, truly inspiring.

      Anyway, I agree that they know precisely what they are doing. Lawyers’ fingerprints are all over that response, and I say that speaking as one.

      But I still also think an extremely focused FOI request along the lines of “please identify the document attached to this particular email, and either provide it to me or tell me where it is publicly available” would be hard to dance around.

      There’s an old lawyerly adage: ask one question, get one answer; ask three, get none.

      Best of luck,
      Paul

      • bender
        Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

        Well, I’d encourage you to submit that FOI request yourself, but then – according to their logic – I would be part of the problem – orchestrating a “deluge” of unserviceable requests. So, please, nobody do anything. Let Steve do it all.

        • Posted Jun 6, 2010 at 8:07 AM | Permalink

          Another tu quoque and my coffee has just begun! Keep them coming!

    • R.S.Brown
      Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

      Steve, I have to disagree with you when you say:

      Steve: “They know precisely what they are doing. They know that the requested documents don’t exist anywhere else. They are simply putting up roadblocks. It will take a couple of years to work through the system and by then they hope that it will blow over. There’s no downside for them in obstruction other than being criticized at a blog.

      As of today, June 3, 2010, the clock began ticking on your filing a
      complaint with the Information Commissioner within the time limits for
      the obvious and new EIR/FOI violation the University of East
      Anglia has committed in refusing to provide the specified e-mail attachments.

      The previous UEA/CRU violations were officially noted but the several
      complaints filed were deemed moot due to being beyond the time limits
      set by law. That’s not the case with the new denial UEA just issued to
      you.

      Go for it !

  13. gl
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

    Poly,

    If the evidence wasn’t being withheld, everyone would be blown away by the insight it would provide. That is the point. If there is nothing to hide, why hide it?

  14. Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    Keep Spirit and Smile

  15. Tony Hansen
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    My thanks must go to the learned folk at East Anglia for highlighting the fact that I have never properly understood their meaning of the word ‘public’, or the term ‘public interest’.

  16. JamesG
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 5:09 PM | Permalink

    Learnt nothing? Au contraire. They’ve learnt to delay for 6 months, the time limit to fill the request, after which it can be safely binned. The civil service made a point of telling them this ruse.

  17. Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

    I just been handed this document – the start of another “gate” Guelphgate?
    I believe the refusal is to be contested.
    ========================
    May 31, 2010
    Reference Number: 2010-005
    Mr. xxxxxxxxxx
    xxxxxxxxxx,
    xxxxxxxxxx,
    xxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxx
    Gloucestershire, UK
    xxxx xxxx
    Dear Mr. xxxxx,
    I write in response to your request which was received by the University on May 3, 2010 under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) for access to the following:
    “…copies of all letters written to and received from Stephen McIntyre, Patrick J. Michaels and Anthony Watts for the period of 2002 to current date by Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph. The information is to include all copies of documents that may be backed up in mail servers.”
    Your request for access to the responsive records is denied. The reasons for this decision are outlined below.
    Subsection 65(8.1) of FIPPA states that the Act does not apply to “a record respecting or associated with research conducted or proposed by an employee of an educational institution, or by a person associated with an educational institution”. This exclusion is intended to preserve academic freedom and competitiveness; in particular with respect to specific, identifiable research projects that have been conceived by a faculty member of the University. Records identified as responsive to your request are in regard to research being conducted or proposed by the authors, thereby excluding them from the scope of the Act.
    Additionally, s.21(1) of the Act requires that the University refuse to disclose personal information to any person other than the individual to whom the information relates. Responsive records that were not respecting or associated with research conducted or proposed by Professor McKitrick were personal in nature; therefore, the University is obliged to protect these records.
    In light of these factors, your request for access to responsive records is denied.
    Please note that you may request a review of the University’s decision by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario within 30 days from the receipt of this letter.
    If you wish clarification concerning the University’s decision, please contact Ms Genevieve Gundy at fippa@uoguelph.ca or by phone at 519-824-4120, ext. 53438. In order to expedite inquiries, please refer to the reference number located at the top of this letter.
    Sincerely,
    ================
    Perhaps Mr. McIntyre would like to free the data?

    • bender
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

      What exactly would you like to see? There’s a difference between the personal correspondence that you requested of Ross McKitrick and the public data that others have requested of Phil Jones. Or can you not see that? Never mind.

      • Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 6:10 PM | Permalink

        As far as I am aware no personal emails were requested. Just any documents (emails) relating to publications of McKitrick and McIntyre using McKitrick’s University of Guelph position in the Author section (i.e. all of them).

        • GrantB
          Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 7:44 PM | Permalink

          The quotation from your request mentions nothing “relating to publications of McKitrick and McIntyre”. Perhaps you would like to share the full content of your request with us.

          I was one of the felons who requested confidentiality agreements from the UEA. Four countries only. I didn’t ask for any correspondence, electronic or otherwise. Nor would I. Nevertheless, if this little exercise floats your boat, then carry on regardless.

        • Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 8:38 PM | Permalink

          I though that the stolen CRU email bundle was supposedly prepared by CRU in answer to FOI requests?
          The UVa fiasco is requesting the lot – emails etc.

          The request was, I believe, for emails held on the university (a public body) servers no request was made to access their private emails.

        • bender
          Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 10:41 PM | Permalink

          I though that the stolen CRU email bundle was supposedly prepared by CRU in answer to FOI requests?

          Maybe your thoughts are based on false presumptions?

        • ianl8888
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:26 AM | Permalink

          ftp

          We’ve been here before

          No one who knows why the emails were collected has posted so here. My best guess with the information we do have is that they were collected by an officer at CRU to try and gauge the extent of the FOI imbroglio at the point when a further FOI decision was imminent

          You are entitled to second-guess this, of course

        • DaveS
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 7:33 AM | Permalink

          Perhaps the Muir Russell enquiry team know something we (or the on-going police enquiry) don’t know, as they regard it as appropriate to refer to the CRU emails as stolen. Not that they are prejudging anything, of course…

        • TomFP
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

          Interesting that you assume the CRU emails were compiled for the purpose of MEETING and FOI request. I have long suspected they were a compilation of emails intended to be OMITTED from, and thus to frustrate, an FOI request.

        • WillR
          Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:07 AM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (Jun 2 18:10),

          According to the FOI Officer, what the request says is:

          “…copies of all letters written to and received from Stephen McIntyre, Patrick J. Michaels and Anthony Watts for the period of 2002 to current date by Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph. The information is to include all copies of documents that may be backed up in mail servers.”

          That is certainly different that what you suggest. Additionally, the request appears to be badly framed, as well as being a shotgun request which could easily include laundry lists and shopping lists. Further, the second sentence appears to request all documents on the mail server that are “backed up”. Normally documents are not “backed up” on the mail server, but on independent media. This is a thoroughly confusing request. So, while I have no idea of the procedures followed at U of Guelph, I suspect that they don’t store backups “in their mail servers”.

          This is a pretty confused request that seems to have no purpose whatsoever as far as throwing any light on any particular process. The FOI process in Canada is, as I recall, designed to elicit information of public importance.

          Perhaps you could explain what you are looking for, purely for interests sake, and second, what the relevance to this discussion might be.

          If they quoted the request correctly, the requesting party was not that skilled at writing FOI requests and so it was easy to deny it.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 9:32 PM | Permalink

      Unlike others I have no issue with anyone exercising their rights. I suppose that FOIA requests are public record so I find it funny that you redacted your name.

      • Rattus Norvegicus
        Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 11:25 PM | Permalink

        Well, if you look at the FOI requests to UEA on whatdotheyknow.com you’ll see that the did not include any identifying information on the submitter’s identity. I have no problem w/identifying info being redacted.

        • Posted Jun 6, 2010 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

          FOI(A) requests are for government generated information, thus a usual practice is to excise the names of private persons that appear in the documents. Of course details in the laws in different places and situations where the name of the private individuals is obvious from context modify this

    • steven Mosher
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 9:35 PM | Permalink

      Why would you redact your name on a letter that is probably going to be in the public domain?

    • geronimo
      Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 2:46 AM | Permalink

      Mr. Prefect there are differences between you and Steve Mc, and indeed all the other FOI requests to the CRU. I’ll try to explain.

      In your case, and indeed in the cases of Cuccennelliin the case of Mann and Greenpeace in the case of Patricks, you have no reason to believe there has been malfeasance, or that that the information you require won’t be available from the individuals themselves. You are simply fishing, digging for dirt. In the case of Steve McIntyre he has prima facie evidence that Briffa broke the IPCC rules by passing a paper to Wahl.He has specifically asked for the emails and documents that would prove/disprove that suspicion.

      If you believe Prof McKitrick has broken any rules then let the university know and ask for the emails and documents relevant to your suspicions.

  18. J Solters
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    RE: Policensored & cripes. Symantics quibbles and adjective phobia are accepted elements of abstract academic naval gazing. So is agitation directed to inflection, tone and writing style.( Maybe they watch too much OPRAH.) If contributors focus on substance here, we’ll help Steve kick down data and policy barricades built with public funds by AGW advocates sooner rather than later without these silly diversions.

  19. PF
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 9:08 PM | Permalink

    I though that the stolen CRU email bundle was supposedly prepared by CRU in answer to FOI requests?

    Why would you think that? There’s no evidence of any FOI requests that would have required the collection of emails. You mean that you’ve followed this affair all this time and you don’t know this.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

      In another view, the said email collection reads like it was assembled for cremation, to be destroyed before it was requested.

      • Chris in OZ
        Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 8:12 AM | Permalink

        Spot on. From the 19 November 2009, I’ve always believed the collection of the emails was ready for deletion, just in case ! – snip

  20. Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Permalink

    “Policycensored etc”:
    Steve participates and many times has been the first one to point out for a standard of professional conduct the UEA/CRU has to adhere to. If you believe these standards are worth upholding use them to examine the actions of the UEA first.

    It is obvious that Briffa screwed up. The ICCER did not publish Dave Holland’s submisssion for fear of ‘libel’, and now this. These specific emails are the partie honteuse of the CRU.

    “Further, there is a public interest in providing a space in which researchers can exchange ideas, theories and alternatives without fear that information or a position never intended for public release would be disclosed. There is also a public interest in ensuring that the information available to the public has been properly reviewed and assessed as takes place in the academic publication process. This lessens confusion the possibility that the public could be mislead or confused by earlier, less well-examined versions of the information.”

    This raises several questions:

    1) Is scientific publication a process of science or a process of ‘informing the public’?
    It is clear how the CRU (and climate scientists in general??) view the exercise. Have strenuous debate, ‘settle’ the science, publish and provide an unconflicting unified front palatable for public consumption. – that seems to the view. This speaks to science as a political process of influencing policy and agenda-building, rather than a process of ‘knowledge generation’.

    It would seem to me, that the scientists at CRU should have no problems publishing their emails from their academic space precisely for the very reason quoted above – to let the outside world know that the messy, contentious process by which science is made took place in their case. Openness destroys power structures; it builds science.

    Imagine that Korea had protected Hwang Woo Suk for the sake of ‘national reputation’! There is no doubt, that UEA is dragging UK science to the depths with these types of actions.

    2)”confused by looking at earlier versions of information”
    Again, this speaks to “we’ll tell you what to think”. Everything else will “confuse” you.

    3)”…It is our opinion that, in relation to the excepted material, the public interest lies in non-disclosure.”
    This can be said for any FOIA reqeust. I wonder why the CRU scientists were not as savvy earlier. The ‘public interest’ is what they think the ‘public interest’ is.

  21. geo
    Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    Ish.

    I am utterly infuriated by the position, not new here, that an organization can get away with telling you they won’t provide the information because it is “publicly available elsewhere” without telling you exactly where that information is available.

    They cannot credibly make such a statement without having already determined *where* such information is available, so providing that information on whereabouts is exactly *no* increase in effort.

    That is “argument by assertion” and is exactly as credible as any “Yo Mama is sooo. . . !” assertion.

    • Rattus Norvegicus
      Posted Jun 2, 2010 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

      Well, in this case it is pretty clear. The available elsewhere stuff is Ch. 6 of AR4 and the published Wahl and Ammann paper. In both cases the final product is what is important, and not the process by which it was arrived at.

      The same holds true for the information requested in thefordprefect’s request to Guelph, for what it’s worth (and yes I am aware of all the internet traditions…).

      • Dave Dardinger
        Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

        Re: Rattus Norvegicus (Jun 2 23:30),

        In both cases the final product is what is important, and not the process by which it was arrived at.

        True if the final product were a poem or a novel, but not necessarily if it’s a piece of science. True, if all the steps of the science and the data generated were included or linked to, it’s not a problem, but it’s the lack of important methods and data which has been the problem all along.

      • geo
        Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:25 AM | Permalink

        Then they should have said so. I wasn’t asking for them to provide a URL link. They can’t make the statement without knowing the source. An extra two sentences of typing is hardly some great burden.

        By not making the specific statement of attribution, they leave room for subsequent round of “oh, no, *that’s* not the source I had in mind”. It’s a request for information with the force of law behind it, not an invitation to a game of 20 Questions.

      • Benjamin
        Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 3:44 AM | Permalink

        NO NO NO, it would mean that they have broken IPCC rules.

        IPCC states that all comments on AR4 chapters are to be made public. And there are many reasons for that, one being transparency in the writing process.

        They are all available on this website http://hcl.harvard.edu/collections/ipcc/index.html for others to review (same for WG1 and WG3).

        If comments were made through regular e-mails, then nobody can see then and one can for example influence the writing of a paragraph without this lobbying being public.

  22. EdeF
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:28 AM | Permalink

    They are violating the spirit of the EIR FOI law, which I have read and posted on long ago elsewhere on this blog. The law assumes a presumption of disclosure, and time or cost is low on the priority list. Steve is allowed a few adjectives from time to time…..I would have thought he would want to use some ancient Anglo-Saxon nouns, but he’s a better man than me.

  23. Rdcii
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

    FOI doesn’t mean “Freedom to see information (end product) that has already been published.” Of what possible value would that kind of FOI be?

    The ONLY reason FOI exists is to put a spotlight on the process. If you still don’t understand how insight into the process might be of interest to a taxpayer, then send me lots of money, and after a time-consuming and, I promise, laborious process, I will explain it to you. ;)

  24. JimR
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 2:05 AM | Permalink

    It’s strange that they would rely on The Secretary of State for Transport v the Information Commissioner (EA/2008/0052, 5 May 2009), p.24, para.82 for the exemption of a draft report. That case was about policy and not science. Under The Public Interest Test one factor was that the draft report in that case was not “reciprocal communication”. In this case the FOI was for “reciprocal communications”, drafts with feedback and suggestions for revision. In the cited case their position was a draft was simply a snapshot and not insight into the process, which is not true for the documents Steve requested.

    They also found that releasing the draft would not be in the public interest at the time it was requested (prior to the release of the actual study in that case) as it could cause “significant distraction”. (para 133) But the next paragraph they say:

    “134. We consider this to be not only the one factor that carries any weight but also carrying significant weight. We must consider the public interest balance at the relevant time, in this case in or around January 2007. There has now been sufficient time passed that if we were considering where the balance lay now, this factor would carry little or no weight at all.”

    So their cite for not releasing a draft seems to be specifically about policy and even then wouldn’t apply to drafts that included suggested revisions or drafts after the final report had been published.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 5:34 AM | Permalink

      By coincidence, I was before a tribunal this morning, asking for an order compelling the builder of my home to hand over building plans because of emerging defects. I wish to hire a building engineer to compare the final plans with the building as built. The builder has sent some preliminary plans, but I cannot know if these do or do not include approved (or non-approved) changes to the building.

      There is a fairly direct comparison with Steve’s FOI request. He does not want the “polished” version of the data that is designed to keep the authors free of controversy. He wants the original data, the “as built” material, to see if the offer is an accurate representation of its building blocks.

      Fortunately, in my country we have tribunals that seem more versed with the aspirations and motivations of inquirers than the FOI people in GB seem to be. This left me to wonder if the GB FOI people were the only path into the acquisition of these data. Question for you legal Brits – is there an administrative court that can hear such applications, bypassing the FOI structure?

  25. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

    There is a difference between the McKitrick emails and CRU emails conceptually but perhaps not legally. CRU was producing a quasi-governmental dataset, thus FOI applies (like NOAA or NASA official data) but was doing so via grants and as a branch of the university, so FOI does not apply (maybe). It needs to be sorted out what the law says vs what use the data were put to. When grants are given out, the money is sort of laundered re: being “public”, unless the work is semi-official (like GISS, I hope).

  26. Steven Mosher
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    I suspect, hehe, that there may be a pile of interesting stuff disgorged by other proceedings. So my advice to everyone is to welcome the kind of request that thefordperfect has made. Rest assurred, other inquiries from our side are moving forward and bearing fruits if what I’m hearing is correct. Kudo’s to ford.

    • Gord Richens
      Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

      Absolutely. No longer will there be the necessity of going to the source first and saying “please”.

  27. JCM
    Posted Jun 3, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

    Somewhat OT but what is the latest on the Norfolk Police/NDET investigation into the UEA emails ?
    7 months and counting.
    How many officers on the case ?
    Or is it a case of ‘No news is good news’…..for UEA

  28. Dave
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

    Time to take advantage of the record keeping obligations of data protection officers. Make a request for the records they have kept of the data they gathered in meeting the requirements to fulfil your first request. This must include a record of the published data they were referring to, or they haven’t met their obligations.

  29. John Murphy
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

    geronimo

    Sorry. Motive is irrelevant in an FOI request in every jurisdiction I know of. Truly personal documents are exempt in every jurisdiction I know of.

  30. Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

    I am read your blog this is very informative about climate science, it is my interest to read science blogs.

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