Oxburgh Refuses to Answer

I asked Ronald Oxburgh, chairman of what may be the most [self-snip] “inquiry” in recent experience, a few simple questions about the terms of reference and documentation of this “inquiry” – an “inquiry” in which, to their shame, Kerry Emanuel, David Hand, Herbert Huppert, Lisa Graumlich, Michael Kelly and Huw Davies, were complicit.

Oxburgh sent me an all-too-academic answer in which he editorialized about all sorts of things while evading or refusing to directly answer my questions. I’ll provide my email, Oxburgh’s answer and then re-examine my questions and insert the answers net of the editorializing.

The net result, as you will see, is that Oxburgh says that they have no documents evidencing the terms of reference of the inquiry or the selection of the eleven papers, no notes, transcripts or other documentation of the interviews with CRU employees and Oxburgh refused consent for panelists to directly provide me with any notes that they might have taken.

Breathtaking.

Here is my email to Oxburgh:

Dear Dr Oxburgh,

I would appreciate it if you could clarify some issues pertaining to your recent report (the Report) on the University of East Anglia.

Unlike most inquiry reports, the Report does not contain an Appendix stating its terms of reference. Is there a document setting out the terms of reference of the inquiry? If so, could you please provide me with a copy of this document? Did the terms of reference specifically precluded from considering one of the most important CRU activities – Lead Authorship in IPCC reports – or was this omission your own decision?

The Report states that the eleven papers were “selected on the advice of the Royal Society” and that “CRU agreed that they were a fair sample of the work of the Unit.” Can you provide me with copies of the documents evidencing the Royal Society providing this advice and the CRU agreeing that they were a “fair sample”. Did you carry out any due diligence of your own to verify that the articles were in fact a “fair sample”?

The report states that the panel made two visits to the University to question members of the University. Are there any minutes of these visits? If not, could you tell me who was interviewed and when and by whom? Were interviews recorded or transcribed for the benefit of panellists not in attendance for the entire proceedings? If not, were notes on any of the interviews transcribed and distributed? If not, do you have any personal notes on the interviews?

Finally, would you consent to Dr Emanuel providing me with any documents that he received in the course of participating in this inquiry.

The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has urged openness and transparency and I hope that you respond in this spirit, rather than seeking to utilize possible FOI exemptions.

Thank you for your attention,

Steve McIntyre

Oxburgh promptly replied:

From: OXBURGH, Lord
Sent: June-03-10 12:35 PM
To: Steve McIntyre
Cc: ‘Prof David Hand'; ‘Prof Herbert Huppert'; ‘Prof Huw Davies'; ‘Prof Kerry Emanuel'; lisag@cals.arizona.edu; ‘Prof Michael Kelly'; Williams Lisa Ms (VCO)
Subject: RE: SAP Report

Dear Dr McIntyre,

Thank you for your message. I am afraid that I am not able to be very helpful as none of the documents about which you inquire exists. It may, however, be useful if I give a little more information about the review

The University approached me to chair this review, which I was rather reluctant to undertake, to try to determine whether their staff had been deliberately dishonest in their research activities. If we had had any doubts I suspect that the University would have instituted a more formal inquiry that could have led to the dismissal of the individuals concerned. Given the seriousness of the allegations they wanted our inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible both for the benefit of the individuals concerned and for the University’s internal concerns as well as for their wider concerns about the science. The intention was to supplement the wider and more formal Muir Russell review that was already underway and which I believe will report later this year.

For these reasons the inquiry was established with a minimum of formality and many of the arrangements were made verbally. I saw no reason to seek any documentary evidence to establish that the Royal Society had been involved in the selection of suggested papers that gave us somewhere to start. Although I believe that all members of the Panel read all the papers on the list and found them an excellent introduction to a subject that was new to many of them, everyone went far beyond this and examined other published and unpublished material. There were no constraints on what we looked at and we were able, and did, ask for anything we wished. All our requests were answered promptly.

The important point to emphasise is that we were assessing people and their motivations. We were not assessing the wisdom of their judgement or the validity of their conclusions. It was for this reason that the membership of the panel included outstanding and very experienced scientists from outside the field. All had long experience of assessing scientists. I think that we all felt that looking people in the eye over many hours of discussion about their work and their methods, are just as important as what they say. I believe that the presence of third parties or recording devices could not begin to capture that. It was my judgement that we were most likely to be able to make a fair assessment if proceedings were as informal as possible. We played things very much by ear and at regular intervals withdrew to assess progress, compare impressions and discuss whether we wished to change tack or do anything differently. This was an exercise that depended totally on the experience and judgement of the Panel members.

The main people we interviewed were Phil Jones and Keith Briffa but a number of other researchers were present for some of the time and questioned as well.
The only written record, apart from any notes that individuals may have kept privately but of which I am unaware, is our final report that was agreed unanimously. Similarly the terms of reference were given to me verbally and are encapsulated in the introductory paragraphs of our report.

I apologise for replying somewhat briefly but am unclear as to the purpose of your inquiries and am reluctant to agree that other members of the Panel should be further involved. The Panel asked me, and I agreed, to handle all inquiries about our work. The understanding in securing their full participation at short notice was that there should be minimum incursion on their time. Within the time available to me – and I like the others on our panel am now buried in my day job – I will try to answer any other reasonable requests but I might be able to be of more help if I understood what you wish to establish.

Yours sincerely,
Ron Oxburgh

Reviewing the Bidding

Unlike most inquiry reports, the Report does not contain an Appendix stating its terms of reference. Is there a document setting out the terms of reference of the inquiry? If so, could you please provide me with a copy of this document?

No. My contact left a folded copy of The Times from the previous day in a secret location. Berlin Rules, y’know. I proceeded to a pre-assigned meeting place in a safe location in a heath to avoid surveillance. We made sure that there would be no evidence of the actual terms of reference.

Did the terms of reference specifically precluded from considering one of the most important CRU activities – Lead Authorship in IPCC reports – or was this omission your own decision?

Do you seriously think that you can get me to comment in writing about CRU’s activities within IPCC? I’m not going to touch that with a bargepole. Next question.

The Report states that the eleven papers were “selected on the advice of the Royal Society” and that “CRU agreed that they were a fair sample of the work of the Unit.” Can you provide me with copies of the documents evidencing the Royal Society providing this advice and the CRU agreeing that they were a “fair sample”.

We are “outstanding and very experienced scientists”. We don’t ask for documents. If it was worth knowing, we already knew it.

Did you carry out any due diligence of your own to verify that the articles were in fact a “fair sample”?

Due diligence??? Puh-leeze. We are “outstanding and very experienced scientists”.

The report states that the panel made two visits to the University to question members of the University. Are there any minutes of these visits?

You must be on drugs.

If not, could you tell me who was interviewed and when and by whom?

You think that I’m going to give you a schedule that says something like:

April 6 11 a.m. – 11.55 a.m. – Phil Jones interview. Oxburgh, Hand, Emanuel, Huppert,… in attendance
Apr 6 2 pm- 2.30 pm – Keith Briffa interview. Oxburgh, Hand, Emanuel, Huppert,… in attendance

Do you think that we’re going to tell you something that you don’t already know? :) See if this “helps” you.

The main people we interviewed were Phil Jones and Keith Briffa but a number of other researchers were present for some of the time and questioned as well.”

Were interviews recorded or transcribed for the benefit of panellists not in attendance for the entire proceedings? If not, were notes on any of the interviews transcribed and distributed?

And let people actually see what we asked and what their answers were?

If not, do you have any personal notes on the interviews?

Moi? I’m Lord Ron Oxburgh, Chairman of Falck Renewables. I don’t do notes.

Finally, would you consent to Dr Emanuel providing me with any documents that he received in the course of participating in this inquiry.

Try FOI. We’ll see you in three years. Ta, ta, for now.

[Note - a reader recommends re-reading Bishop Hill's post at the time of the Oxburgh release. I do too.]

[Note 10 am - I edited the last section in the first 45 minutes or so after the post went online to increase the satirical content. Initially, it just had plain vanilla answers - No; no; no comment... On reflection, I thought that the total unresponsiveness of Oxburgh "answers" deserved satire. The editing was stylistic and not substantive, other than being more satirical. Satire is a difficult voice to pull off and reasonable people can differ on whether it succeeds. In this case, I am shall-we-say "gobsmacked" at an inquiry which doesn't have any documents or even a written terms of reference.]

106 Comments

  1. JohnH
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

    As a user of real Whitewash I have to warn Dr Oxburgh that it comes with a health warning attached, both eye and skin protection must be used or it becomes very irritating as it is high alkaline.

  2. Third Party
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:28 AM | Permalink

    Doesn’t the UK culture embrace and celebrate the multitude of historic walls made of stone erected there over time?

  3. glacierman
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    The second paragraph of his response pretty much says it all…followed by: “For these reasons the inquiry was established with a minimum of formality and many of the arrangements were made verbally.”

    On another note, in the real world, if no record of a meeting or conversation exists, then the meeting or conversation did not happen. It is just unbelievable that no records were made, or kept. This is a very obvious, and purposeful strategy. Based on this, he achieved the goals he stated in Paragraph 2 – ” they wanted our inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible both for the benefit of the individuals concerned and for the University’s internal concerns”

    Mission Accomplished, with no records to audit!

  4. Third Party
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    Has this posting been revised in the last few minutes?

    I swear I never saw any references to drugs in the posting I first read.

    Steve 9.40 am: I usually write straight to the blog. In this case, I hit the publish button a little bit before I had finished editing, since it cried out for more satire and I revised it a little bit. I might polish it a little more as the satirical answers are a little repetitive.

    • show the "provenance"
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:12 AM | Permalink

      Steve, you have published, if you write direct. You need to show a record of the amendments to your comments. Otherwise, wait with the postings (probably would serve you well). But since you ARE a PR organ, you need to take responsibility for your initial comments. And show the record of edits.

      Steve - I always note edits and have done so. I’d done so in an inline comment response and have added a note in the text. Editorially it seems reasonable enough to me in this sort of case to describe the edits, rather than carry strike-out versions.

  5. geo
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    I don’t even understand why they made that report public based on his description of its intent, and the existance of the Muir Russell inquiry.

    Apparently they felt they had an internal need to determine if anyone needed firing immediately, but why bother the rest of the world with the results of such a self-admittedly superficial inquiry? One can wonder if Oxburgh even knew in advance that they would publish his findings publicly.

    “I saw no reason to seek any documentary evidence to establish that the Royal Society had been involved. . . ”

    Okeyfine –the obvious follow-up is “Who told you the Royal Society was involved?”

    I find it nigh astonishing that in the same email where he tells you that he can’t consent to you pestering the others as it was agreed that it would be his job to handle such inquiries so as to limit their time spent on the matter. . . he then pesters them all with a copy of the exchange. Umm, what? Presumably he expects them to read it (or why send it?). From there, who knows how much time they’ll spend thinking about it and exchanging emails behind the scenes. Very curious.

    If there was any doubt previously (not much), this exchange makes it clear that Oxburgh’s report can be kicked to the curb as no more than outsourced quickie HR review. All it accomplishes is giving Jones and Briffa grounds to resist firing between now and the Russell report.

  6. glacierman
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

    From Oxburg:

    “to try to determine whether their staff had been deliberately dishonest in their research activities. If we had had any doubts I suspect that the University would have instituted a more formal inquiry that could have led to the dismissal of the individuals concerned.”

    So the University, and Oxburg wer of one mind, in agreement, and already had their conclusions set when Oxburg agreed to do the job – The rest was just Marketing.

  7. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    Oliver, I find the infatuation with titles quite remarkable. Conrad Black, a prominent Toronto businessman who founded the National Post (among other things), renounced his Canadian citizenship in order to become a Lord. He pulled lots of strings to get his Lordship. It caused much amusement among the Toronto press. Black is now in an American jail. The US Supreme Court has agreed to his case, which raises some interesting legal issues. (I’ve commented on his case before and meant to do so recently. It bears, in a way, on the Cuccinelli thing.)

    • geo
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

      Oy, now you made me read up on the history of “the Nickel Resolution” –there’s 15 mins of my life gone forever. The “infatuation” seems to go both ways (i.e. being after titles, and preventing others from having them) based on that history.

      An entirely non-binding resolution which never became law even in Canada, never presented to the monarch, but adopted as “regulation” (I guess!) by the government, but ony in part (the hereditary bit never attempted to be enforced), then ignored entirely by a successive government, then reinstuted as policy regulation by a following government and kept up, sorta-kinda, ever since.

      Oy vey.

  8. geo
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

    Btw, unless Oxburgh is an absolute liar, I suspect there are one or more “Bubu Jallow” type entries on that panel, lending their name and that’s it.

    Because I find it unlikely that if no notes or recordings were made of the interviews, that all of those so-called participants where there for those interviews.

    Maybe they skimmed some of the papers superficially, but more likely not even that beyond reading the abstract and where appeared and when.

    The ultimate “time-saver” is of course “I’ll take care of it –you just read the resulting report and we’ll incorporate any concerns you have about it”.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

      Precisely. Why would Emanuel travel all the way from MIT to CRU when he could just say, ‘I know the defendants (Jones and Briffa) well M’lud and they are of fine character, so help me God.’

  9. IanH
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

    Don’t know how he has the gall to use his title [self-snip]

  10. EdeF
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    “We were not assessing the wisdom of their judgement….” Diet Coke spill alert.

  11. Mike S
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

    Steve, if after all these years you actually believed you were going to get a stratight answer…. You must be on drugs.

  12. My comments are being held up. Hoi polloi, not.
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    Steve, this is a juvenile and uncalled for parodying of Oxborgh’s words. He was honest about how they ran the inquiry. You might disagree, but please stop and think at least a MOMENT from their perspective rather than from that of a nitanoid amateur lawyer.

    When Dick Feynman investigated NASA, he was much more interested in really learning what was going on, in penetrating some obfuscation than in having a bunch of records for re-review (in fact he chafed at some of those constraints).

    Now, perhaps superlegalistic procedures are still required and you are right and Dick wrong. Perhaps. But then have that discussion. Like a grownup. But the “on drugs” fake-words-in-the-mouth just lower you. I really think all your time, listening to yourself (and having lots of attaboy cheering comments) has really warped you.

    (And I shouldn’t have to say this–but I definitely do, based on your history–if you decide that I’m right and you were too shrill, AMEND your post, but do not erase this comment or your words. You have a bad tendancy of hiding stuff you said that was outrageous and than claiming it was out of a kindness, rather than you using your editorial power to help hide how you showed your ass. Be a mensch. Like the Volokh crew.)

    • geronimo
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

      I think you’ll find that any organisation that is interviewing people who might lose their jobs on the basis of the interview has an obligation to record the interviews. Certainly when I have been involved in such actions it was deemed necessary to record them to protect both sides in the event of any dispute.

      Not taking notes, or recording the interviews implies that the outcome was known.

      • geo
        Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

        Ah, but you miss the nuance of Lord Oxburgh’s communication. His investigation would have fired no one. It might have led to a subsequent investigation that might have resulted in firings.

        The burueaucratic mind is absolutely wonderful at those kind of distinctions.

    • glacierman
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:45 AM | Permalink

      You call it juvenile, but others see it as venting and using satire to express their experiences. This is a blog, not a technical paper. I think it is an obvious reaction to being treated like a juvenile. Remember, even kids know when they are being snowed. Those who go along with the snow job usually aspire to a position where they can blow more snow and protect their snow flinging friends.

      ps nah nah nah nah nah

    • TomFP
      Posted Jun 6, 2010 at 3:42 AM | Permalink

      Baffled as I am by his criticism of Cuccinelli, it’s good to see a bit of venom from SM’s pen. He has accurately described the difficulties of writing good satire, and modestly implied that he may, in some eyes, have failed. He may be no Auberon Waugh, but I think he has succeeded. He has also, for the benefit of anyone (including Oxburgh) who cares to read it, retailed his reasons for resorting to satire – generously, since humour is notoriously dulled by explication. Oxburgh’s remedy, if he feels aggrieved, is to stop twatting around like a climate scientist, and send Steve a proper answer.

      Still don’t understand his problem with Cuccinelli, though…

  13. L Nettles
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    when we find out what drugs Steve is on, I want some. And more Cowbell (if by Cowbell you mean snark )

  14. ZT
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    The Royal Society deny giving advice in the selection of specific papers to Oxburgh (see http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/4/16/actons-eleven-the-response.html). Hence one or other group _is_ guilty of distorting the facts. (Whatever their titles – this is what they ought to be remembered for).

  15. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    At Cicerone’s AAAS forum, Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, who are supposedly associated with this “inquiry” in some respect said:

    First, we have no reason to believe they did anything wrong, that is the purpose of these enquires which have been set up. But of course the press coverage leads the public to feel we do need some reassurance, and that is the purpose of the enquiries.

    “Reassurance” for the public.

    Not the sort of thing that you want to put in writing in the terms of reference – might be misconstrued by people who are not “outstanding and experienced scientists”.

    • Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

      Isn’t the Royal Society’s motto “nullius in verba” usually translated as “on the word of no one” or “Take no one’s word for it”?

  16. artwest
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    Steve: I find the infatuation with titles quite remarkable.

    ————

    It may not be realised by a lot of people abroad, but many British people find the “nobility” just as absurd and treat many “nobles” with the scorn they so richly deserve.

    I think it’s worth bearing this in mind when assessing the credibility of the assorted “nobles” who crop up when the establishment want to lend, say, an inquiry spurious authority. Just because a Lord chaired an inquiry, the general population aren’t going to doff their caps and say “Yes, M’lud”.

    Sometimes this spurious authority seems to have more effect on non-UK citizens. On the other side of the AGW fence, and leaving aside his personal attributes, I’ve seen Lord Monckton’s title lend him much more additional status on sceptical sites among, say, Americans than it would amongst most British people.

  17. artwest
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    One of Oxburgh’s most dismal argument for doing an appalling job seems to be basically “I didn’t want to do it, nobody else did much either. We couldn’t wait to get it finished and we can’t be arsed to think about it any more”.

    I wonder in how many other fields of endevour this would be thought of as such a reasonable excuse that someone would so cheerfully admit to it.

  18. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    Oxburgh is chairman of Falck Renewables, which is run by a Canadian promoter named William Heller. I smiled a little bit when I saw that. I know lots of people like Heller. Why would a Canadian promoter want an English lord as a director? I don’t believe that Heller has the faintest interest in Oxburgh’s contribution to the business other than the gloss of respectability added by having a “lord” on the board of directors and, in this case where Falck has an interest in subsidies for wind power and ongoing controversies over permitting wind facilities in the UK, Oxburgh’s services as a lobbyist might actually be useful.

    Heller may whisper sweet nothings into Oxburgh’s ear about his value as a general business adviser, but I doubt that he really loves him in the morning.

    • glacierman
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

      More Satire. Hard to argue this is juvenile. Sounds more Adult to me.

  19. Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    If this is a brief response, I shudder to think what a lengthy response would have been.

    Steve, there is a minor error repeated in two places:

    Did the terms of reference specifically precluded preclude from considering one of the most important CRU activities – Lead Authorship in IPCC reports – or was this omission your own decision?

    I think the satire is well done. I would love it if someone came up with a Yes, Minister or Black Adder version of these events.

    Keep up the good work.

  20. dearieme
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Permalink

    Just a suggestion, but consider “many of the arrangements were made verbally.” Verbally = “in words”, but Oxburgh might assume/hope that the reader thinks that “verbally” means “orally” i.e. “in speech”. If that’s his game, it’s worthy of Sir Humphrey. Though I confess that it’s more likely that Ron is just ill educated.

  21. Garry
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    Steve — I think you’ve done a good job with the satirical writeup. It certainly gave me a few laughs.

    And I’m fairly sure that the reason for no TOR or notes or minutes is because they knew you’d ask for them.

  22. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:14 AM | Permalink

    This reminds me of a departmental external review we underwent at Argonne lab. The purpose was just to 1) make us aware that someone was watching and 2) see if outside top scientists thought we were ok, more or less. So, no formality, no notes, no terms of reference, and a short informal final report that said we all looked ok. No problem. If this same model of “review” is applied to a big scandal potentially affecting public policy and the possible cutoff of funding to CRU, doesn’t that seem perhaps inappropriate?

  23. Dave L
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    Climategate was a true learning experience. No more will underhanded work be conducted via e-mails or other retrievable documents. From now on, it’s cell phones, text messages. and unrecorded face to face conversations. No evidence, no problems.

    • glacierman
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

      I agree with you except on one point – Ask the former mayor of Detroit what happens when you send text messages via a publicly owned cell phone. If it their own, then no problem.

  24. Ed Caryl
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    Steve, you knew going in that the Oxburgh panel was a whitewash, and Oxburgh clearly and forthrightly confirmed it was a whitewash. What more do you want?

    • theduke
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

      How about a legitimate inquiry?

      • Ed Caryl
        Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

        Well, sure. But we didn’t get one, and we won’t.

  25. Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

    McIntyre.
    You walk a very thin and frayed tightrope between satire and defamation.

    – snip –

    Some months ago I suggested that your acolytes or yourself come up with a few names that would be acceptable to both sides. They would need to be scientists, preferably with a background in climate; statisticians with no ax to grind either way; etc., etc.

    All that one person could come up with was a judge!!!!!!

    What is you aim with all this action against the CRU, please will you publicly state your aims?

    Your actions have about as much use in this world as all the failed USA hardware sitting on the bottom of the Gulf.

    Mike

    • GrantB
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

      What is a reputed scientist? What does a scientist need to achieve to be reputed? These are questions that need to be answered.

    • Garry
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

      On Jun 4, 2010 at 10:29 AM Mike said: “…all the failed USA hardware sitting on the bottom of the Gulf.”

      It’s not “USA hardware.”

      Deepwater Horizon was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea.

      • Brian B
        Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

        Not to mention BP is a British company and Transocean is a Swiss one.

        Steve - do this on another thread.

    • Harold
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

      “They would need to be scientists, preferably with a background in climate”

      I think perferably without a background in climate. As already seen, too many ways for payback to occur for a climate scientist to participate.

    • Mike Blackadder
      Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

      Forget about who carries out the inquiry. This factor should have had a minimal impact on the substance of the inquiry.

      The problem here is that their work is of no possible use. Where is the evidence to support their findings? Other than being satisfied after “looking people in the eye over many hours of discussion about their work and their methods”?

  26. Broxe
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

    Unfortunately, obfuscation and cover up are a way of life in the British establishment, in all fields of life and activity. Try searching, ‘Holly Greig’, and you get an idea of what we are up against.

  27. Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

    Craig Loehle.

    As Oxburgh says:
    The intention was to supplement the wider and more formal Muir Russell review that was already underway and which I believe will report later this year.

    Is this not a reasonable reply?

    I agree with Dave L Posted Jun 4 – no more open science phone/text will be the order of the day. I’m sure the stolen emails were written for private consumption not public display.

    • Mike Blackadder
      Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 11:08 AM | Permalink

      “Is this not a reasonable reply?”

      Taking into context his reply in its entirety; no. It is absurd to stand behind an inquiry that admitedly has not set out to actually answer any questions. It is equally absurd to suggest that this inqiury ‘supplements’ the formal inquiry by carrying out secret interviews where no notes were taken.

      It sounds to me like this exercise set out to supplement the credibility of those accused with a fake inquiry when nothing of substance has actually been done.

    • Mike Blackadder
      Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

      Re: “no more open science phone/text will be the order of the day. I’m sure the stolen emails were written for private consumption not public display”.

      I don’t get it. Are emails ‘written for private consumption not public display’ an example of open science? If not, how does this manage to discourage open science? It seems to me that revealing corruption discourages corruption. It seems to me that the experience with the leaked e-mails would encourage scientists to carry out their work professionally and to weigh the consequences of their secrets becoming public knowledge.

      If we choose to ignore the e-mails then we can get some satisfaction in upholding their right to privacy. But this comes at the cost that we offer an alternative to open science and professionalism. We say that there will be no consequences to your lack of professionalism and openness, even when the evidence is right in front of us. We offer that it is easier to continuing similar conduct than to subject your work to public scrutiny (and Steve McIntyre).

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jun 7, 2010 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

      Thefordprefect “the stolen emails were written for private consumption not public display.”

      Your sentence is too long. Suffice to say “the emails were written.”

      Steve: In Toronto, there was a police scandal recently arising from “private” conversations between Toronto police and various mob members about payoffs and the like – things that the policemen in question did not intend for “public display”. The police establishment pretended to investigate the scandal, but this was only a pretence. They delayed for one reason or another until the statutory limit of six years passed. The charges were stayed in the midst of Climategate.

    • TomB
      Posted Jul 20, 2010 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

      Thefordprefect: “I’m sure the stolen emails were written for private consumption not public display.”

      What you’re talking about is “expectation of privacy”. As an academic, professional, and government funded organization the user of such an email account has no reasonable expectation of privacy. The email account – and all communications conducted therewith – does not, has never, and will never belong to the account user. It belongs to the organization and those that fund its operations.

  28. John McManus
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

    Before “climategate” hit the front page , I was uneducated about climate matters. The headlines spured me to read.

    After realising that most commentary was mere parroting of a single web blurb, I decided to read he original ( selected) emails. It took a while to get through everything , but the result was helpful.

    I have always had an amateur’s interest in archeaology and had read about dendrochronology, climate of the American Southwest, tree ring banks and bristlecone problems. Divergence is so well known that I knew it. `Finding it at the CRU reassured me of the rigor of their work.

    So : one lie .

    Bloggs criticised secrecy within the hockey team, but the emails showed openness and wide cooperation.

    So : 2 lies.

    Trick? Just silly: I’m a Canadian . I know that a hat trick isn’t sneaky. It’ a figure of speach.

    So: 3 lies.

    Now that I was starting to see the problems, I used Google to find climate sites. Some ot them dealt with facts. Quelle surprise The fun began. I can now log onto a contrarian site, start reading and play ” Spot the Lie” with myself. Doesn’t take long . A few sentences, the lie appears and I click off. WUWT is great for this game.

    Thanks guys: Without you I would be completely uninformed.

    • PhilH
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

      JMcManus: What have you been smoking, man?

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

      Re: John McManus (Jun 4 11:05),

      Finding it at the CRU reassured me of the rigor of their work.

      Rigor mortis, you mean. I note that not one of these supposed lies are accompanied with an actual quote. (first error)
      AFAIK nobody has claimed that CRU wasn’t aware of divergence. What they did about it is the problem. In particular they hid in in some graphs so the unaware wouldn’t notice.

      Bloggs criticised secrecy within the hockey team

      Again, a quote would be useful. In any case it appears to me you’re simply confusing two meanings of “within”. (second error) The complaint is that the team keeps many important things secret i.e. kept within that group. It is not particularly that some of the team kept secrets from other members of the team (though in some cases that did happen). (OTOH, if you did mean only the first usage of “within” then clearly you have read a different set of e-mails than I did.)

      I know that a hat trick isn’t sneaky. It’ a figure of speach.

      To start with the “C” in CRU isn’t “Canadian.” But unless you’ve actually read some of the threads here and know that the “trick” in question is not that sort of trick, there isn’t much hope for anything you might say.

    • kim
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

      1. Yep, openness and wide cooperation in many matters, including suppressing contrary opinion.

      2. The ‘hide the decline’ trick was sneaky.

      3. There are a wide variety of beliefs at skeptical sites, befitting our general ignorance of true climate regulatory mechanisms. This is in contrast to the rigidity of opinion on the consensus side, gathered around their incorrect assumptions about sensitivity, as they are.
      ===========

    • artwest
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

      John McManus
      “Divergence is so well known that I knew it. `Finding it at the CRU reassured me of the rigor of their work.”

      No one said that they didn’t know about it – just that they tried to minimise it and pretend that it made no difference to the supposed reliability of trees as thermometers.

      JM: “Bloggs criticised secrecy within the hockey team, but the emails showed openness and wide cooperation.”

      Openness and wide cooperation between the Hockey Team and their acolytes – breaking the FOI laws to prevent non-believers getting information.
      See the difference?

      JM:”Trick? Just silly: I’m a Canadian . I know that a hat trick isn’t sneaky. It’ a figure of speach.”

      “Hat trick” being an entirely different figure of speech and nothing to do with the CRU email.
      “Trick” can also mean the client of a prostitute – I doubt that the Nature “trick” was that kind of trick either. Probably.
      Look up the word “context”.

    • Crob
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

      As someone who isn’t quite as educated as yourself, I’m a bit confused by your second “lie”. Given your dendro readings and extensive re-reading of all the e-mails, did you get the feeling that “trick to hide the decline” was being used as a figure of speech? While I’m familiar with the “hat trick” reference, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard “trick to hide the decline” used in sports or any other casual setting. If your entire post was a sarcastic parody of typical AGW supporter, I apologize for not recognizing it as such. I’m relatively new to this site and don’t know different posters personalities or sarcastic inclinations.

    • mondo
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Permalink

      Actually, the phrase “hat trick” is a term in the game of cricket. It means that a bowler secures three wickets with three consecutive balls. What that term is doing in John McManus’ post, I cannot fathom.

  29. Benjamin
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    “Given the seriousness of the allegations they wanted our inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible both for the benefit of the individuals concerned and for the University’s internal concerns.”

    Am I reading this correctly ?

  30. Ed-B
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    “I’m sure the stolen emails were written for private consumption not public display”

    duhh! Of course you are correct, but that is not the point. The emails demostrate that the “scientists” were not doing science, but advocacy, and had to lie to do it.. and once you tell a lie.. more follow, and more..

  31. ZT
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    TFP…

    …and would that be hardware which is the direct responsibility of David Eyton – noted climategate email reviewer and Muir inquiry team member?

    http://www.climateaudit.info/pdf/cru/2005,%20Eyton,%20The%20journey%20to%20deepwater%20operatorship.pdf

  32. Don Keiller
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

    I predict another flurry of F.O.I. requests.

  33. Tom Fuller
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

    I think it’s clear that some people have learned very well the lessons of the Iraq War. Following the UK’s entry into the conflict, something extremely unpopular with the public, a series of inquiries were commissioned and executed featuring the same type of leadership by the great and the good with unimpeachable credentials.

    However, the remits assigned were either vague and without deliverables or focussed on extremely thin slices of decision-making or activities. The cumulative effect is that people believe that the issue has been exhaustively investigated when in fact the opposite is the case.

    The same is happening here.

  34. Benjamin
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

    Anyone knows when the Muir-Russel investigation preliminary conclusions should be made public ?
    In the FAQ they say by the end of May….

  35. theduke
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

    “I am afraid that I am not able to be very helpful as none of the documents about which you inquire exists.”

    This is the equivalent of the CRU losing it’s temperature data.

    As is often said, it’s usually not the crime that gets people in trouble, it’s the cover-up.

  36. jeff id
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

    Ha Ha, this reads like an Air Vent post, self snips, proper translation of replies and everything. Nice..

    I’m surprised he claimed no documentation existed, that is just beautiful. [self snip the angry part]

  37. Martin Ackroyd
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    It’s excellent that the informality of the “inquiry” has been exposed.

    Sorry to say this, but the “satire” is distracting and weakens things.

    It leads to people quoting stuff that “deniers” have said and then others, correctly, pointing out that it was made up. An uninvlived reader then begins to wonder if other statements by the same “denier” were also made up.

    Martin

    • Ed_B
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

      Martin:

      ““satire” is distracting and weakens things”

      “An uninvolved reader then begins to wonder”

      I doubt there exists an uninvolved reader that reads this BB. As for the satire, it is deserved don’t you think?

      • Martin Ackroyd
        Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

        Yes, no question it’s deserved.

        No, I did not mean to say that an uninvolved reader would find it here.

        But I think it is possible someone from RC might say “Look at this nonesense posted by McIntyre on his blog – anything you find there cannot be trusted”.

        Someone uninvolved, reading that, might then say to themselves “Yes, makes sense to me. Maybe all that stuff about the hockey stick was just satire too”.

        • Ed_B
          Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

          Anyone that reads RC is a devoted warmist. No need to worry about converting them.

          This blog, on the other hand, is read by journalists and politicians worldwide. Why? Because it is accurate with the science and the tactics used by the proponents of CAGW.

          That is why Jones et al needed to cover their tracks. Steve simply has no peer when it comes to ferreting out bad science and corrupt ethics.

    • Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

      Steve isn’t a “denier” in any case. So anyone quoting him as such would be simply wrong.

  38. Pat Frank
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Dr Oxburgh’s high English prose transmits a very refined image of a meeting known colloquially from the bad old days of US party politics as, ‘the smoke-filled room.’

    There, high level party hacks would meet in private, over drinks and cigars, to decide who would run, who would win, and by how many votes. Back-room party politics, it was, and Dr. Oxburgh, with his absence of “third parties or recording devices,” his “proceedings … as informal as possible,” his “exercise that depended totally on the experience and judgement of the Panel,” his “[verbal] terms of reference” and lack of honest minutes, and finally his refusal to convey the proceedings, describes exactly party hack/smoke filled room party politics.

    I recall Pierre Salinger, the American Francophile, describing the French by pointing out that you could say what you liked about them and they’d always take it as a compliment so long as you included that they were “complicated.”

    Likewise, it seems, among the British, whatever you do politically is alright so long as you dress it in an upper class vocabulary coupled with windy grammar. Description in a modulated Oxfordian voice rounds out the crime from permissible to obviously the right thing.

  39. Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

    off-topic

  40. Dave L
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

    I read Ron Oxburgh’s reply for a second time.

    You must read the satirical blog at Bishop Hill: “Overheard” from April 17, where you will find references to “Ronnie”, such as:

    “Instead of picking someone who was an obvious follower of the cause, he chose Ronnie, whose financial interests in the outcome of the inquiry all but ensured the correct result was delivered.”

    “It was a stroke of genius to avoid publishing the terms of reference for Ronnie’s scientific panel at all.”

    What’s that you say? Two days work? Ronnie is thorough isn’t he?

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/4/17/overheard.html

    Eh, Bernard?

  41. UK John
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

    Was it a “review” or an “inquiry” Lord Oxburgh appears unclear.

  42. Judith Curry
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

    Steve, based upon my own investigation of this (two informal conversations with relevant people), the Oxburgh investigation was a fairly ad hoc and informal affair, a supplement to the more extensive Russell investigation of issues related to the actual behaviors of the CRU scientists with regards to their published papers. IPCC issues were beyond the purview of the Oxburgh committee, apparently.

    So the two main investigations are the Russell inquiry and the IAC/IPCC inquiry. I would expect the IAC inquiry to be open and transparent. Re the Russell inquiry, since it is at the request of UEA, it is UEA that is establishing the ground rules apparently, so I’m not sure what to expect in this regard. The key issue in any event is the issues surrounding the IPCC 3rd and 4th assessment reports. Re the IAC, it seems that a primary focus is how to improve future assessments, but I hope that there will also be an investigatory element as well, but I just don’t know. So it is possible that the issues surrounding the 3rd and 4th assessment reports that you are concerned about will fall between the cracks, I hope not, but it remains to be seen.

    Steve
    : the Apr 22 minutes of the Muir Russell “inquiry” say that they are not going to examine CRU conduct in connection with IPCC (even though that is one of the main topics of interest):

    The Review Team emphasized that it had not been commissioned to examine the IPCC’s processes. As part of its remit, the Review is reviewing CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice. The Review recognised that a separate independent review of the IPCC’s processes and procedures is being conducted by the InterAcademy Council.

    The IAC inquiry is focused on future processes, not past actions. At the end of the day, none of the “inquiries” will have investigated the events in question. And no one in the “community” speaks out against these evasions.

    Judy, you don’t really think that things are “falling between cracks”. The committees are being designed not to investigate issues that are actually of concern.

    • Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

      The committees are being designed not to investigate issues that are actually of concern.

      Woefully true. Thank you Steve for everything you’ve said in this thread.

    • Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

      Dr Curry, Steve is absolutely right.

      You can have cracks only if you have many investigations. You can makes claims of ‘exhaustive’ investigation if you have many investigations.

    • Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

      Dear Dr Curry,

      you say that the Oxburgh commission was “informal” which you seem to consider OK – but you also say that some other commissions, like the IAC meta-IPCC panel, want to improve the future methodology of the IPCC.

      Respectfully, I don’t think that you understand and appreciate what it really means for scientific research to be of a high quality and how it can be achieved.

      In particular, the dominance of “informal affairs” in the IPCC activities is one of the main reasons why reasonable people can’t consider the IPCC conclusions to be solid results of scientific work. Why? Simply because science isn’t an “informal affair”. It’s not about drinking beverages with someone’s friends and future friends in the pub.

      Science is a meticulous activity whose main point is to abandon hypotheses that have been shown inconsistent with the data or otherwise in error, and replace them by new or refined or more accurate hypotheses that are viable and that can become useful theories along the way.

      What the IPCC and the people around it seem to be doing is to have lots of “informal affairs”, not necessarily romantic ones, that lead to the major conclusions. And all the paid “formal work” is only being inserted to predetermined places with predetermined “relevant conclusions” to look more convincing. Only the “microscopic” answers – to questions that no one outside the narrow expert circles care about – are (sometimes) optimized according to the professional standards and the scientific method is more or less applied to them.

      This is the case of the investigations of institutional and human failures, too. Nothing is ever found, understood, and appreciated in these investigations, so there’s never any way to know what should be improved and how it should be improved. The only purpose is to have someone who says “everything is fine” although it’s self-evidently not.

      Any research in science should be about the finding of evidence showing what is right and what is not. In the same way, an inquiry into the sociology of institutions should find what is right and what is wrong, and to deduce the appropriate conclusions. That’s not being done and your text indicates that you personally don’t want it to be done.

      I recommend you to read Feynman’s Caltech commencement speech, “Cargo Cult Science”,

      http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

      where he mentions e.g. the “informal” experiments with rats running through mazes that filled the psychological literature 8 decades ago. They could never find anything because they were never careful enough. So they could never separate pre-existing beliefs that are right from those that are not.

      The world is often complicated – and Feynman mentions a scientist named Young who actually had to find 7 quality requirements for the rat experiments to make any sense. These were 7 subtle ways how the rats are able to find the right location – 7 methods how the rats were fooling the experimenters. Neglecting any single of these rules made all the experiments “contaminated”. That showed how incredibly far from being scientifically relevant all the previous experiments had been.

      In a similar way, the IPCC seems to be equally clueless about the reality, equally far from anything that would resemble scientific research into the main questions it’s supposed to investigate. Its research is given by “informal affairs” and its institutional investigations are whitewashes whose goal is to quickly clean anyone rather than to find the right and wrong parts of the mechanism. What is being celebrated all the time are pieces of research that make “spectacular” claims rather than research that makes sense and that follows certain basic principles.

      This approach can’t ever become trustworthy in the eyes of impartial, honest people. It can only be liked by the people who like the conclusions, for unscientific reasons, regardless of the means used to reach them.

      Best regards
      Lubos Motl

      • Judith Curry
        Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

        Lubos, I suggest that you read my posts on the subject:

        http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/04/squeaky-clean.html?showComment=1271462868897#c1343322932444511542

        http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/23/an-inconvenient-provocateur/

        and many many others of a similar ilk

      • Judith Curry
        Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 6:32 AM | Permalink

        Lubos, see

        http://climateaudit.org/2010/04/23/curry-on-the-inquiries/

        • Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 8:16 AM | Permalink

          Thanks, Dr Curry, good texts – and in the given context, even somewhat courageous ones. Sorry if I made some unsupported extra conjectures about your views.

          Still, I am afraid that the imperfections we mention are not just isolated accidental problems with a particular investigation by Lord Oxburgh.

          I think that they are a part of the design. You know, I know Robbert Dijkgraaf well and we even co-authored a paper. But there are two issues why it may be unreasonable to expect that the investigation he ordered will be an impartial one: Robbert has been an AGW “consensus” advocate which seems an interesting coincidence. Even more obviously, Pachauri was one of the two people – with Pan Ki Moon – who actually chose and ordered IAC to do the meta-review.

          With all my respect to Robbert, I don’t understand how one can trust the impartiality of such an investigation if the main boss of the investigated body had a 50% vote in the selection of the “judges” – and the other one uncritically endorses Pachauri, anyway.

          Russell may also be different – but even when it worked fine, it could be a coincidence. The problem is much broader and can be seen statistically: the whole system of the IPCC and around (including the relevant media and politicians, grant agencies etc.) is *designed* to push a particular agenda, so even if there are good papers or impartial investigations, they may be “overvoted” by the preconceived ones.

          Best wishes
          Lubos

        • Judith Curry
          Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 8:30 AM | Permalink

          Lubos, I totally share your concern about the IPCC, that it is designed to push a particular agenda. I saw a brilliant statement a few days ago somewhere in the blogosphere (i am still trying to track it down), that said something like “the IPCC has become a Maxwell’s daemon for climate science.” I thought that was a brilliant analogy.

          Re the IPCC, I have submitted a statement to the IAC, in response to a list of questions that they sent me. I thought the questions were good ones, which I hope bodes well for the investigation. I hope that all of the statements submitted will be made public; if not, i will make my statement public after their report is published.

        • Frank Hobbs
          Posted Jun 7, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

          http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/05/lysenkoism-sceine-in-postnormal-context.html

          Comment 8: “The IPPC plays the role of a Maxwell’s demon, selecting only that research which supports the warmist view, to create the enchantment that distance from expertise inevitably leads to.”

          An improved analogy would be a series of Maxwell’s demons: a demon for picking authors, another demon for deriving a scientific consensus from published papers, another for handling peer-reviewed comments, etc. The worst demon of all prepares the SPM. Why do climate scientists permit ANY group to come between the public and their science; especially a group of opportunistic politicians, lawyers, and environmental activists – few of whom care about scientific integrity or the cost of regulation? Adopt the NAS model.

          I also wonder if scientific integrity (as expressed by Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science) isn’t corrupted when scientists spend too much time in the political/legal arena; where the rules of the adversarial process for finding “truth” being “successful” are different.

          (Thank you for engaging the skeptics. I’d cheerfully pay whatever is economically appropriate to avoid serious climate change, but I certainly won’t support any regulation under the present corrupt system.

  43. Jay
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    This is just breathtaking:

    “Given the seriousness of the allegations they wanted our inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible…” He might have added…’with as little fuss and to-do as possible.’ After all….”If we had had any doubts I suspect that the University would have instituted a more formal inquiry.”

    If the Climate-Gate emails taught EAU-CRU and Mr. Oxburgh anything…it is not to leave a pesky paper trail. If acts and actions are not in writing, on tape or on video…they are deniable, they can not be collaterally attacked and criticized.

  44. Luther Blissett
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    Oxburgh has admitted to the defectiveness of his enquiry. First he writes:

    “The University approached me to … try to determine whether their staff had been deliberately dishonest in their research activities.” [1]

    Which he interprets as a practical matter of:

    “…assessing people and their motivations. We were not assessing the wisdom of their judgement or the validity of their conclusions.” [2]

    Oxburgh was asked to conclude a factual matter – whether UoEA staff had been deliberately dishonest.

    Yet what he seems to be saying is that he decided to dispose this by delivering a value judgement. Moreover, a value judgement not specifically about UoEA scientific staff’s ability to draw a conclusion from their research data (“validity of their conclusion”); nor about whatever he intended by the nebulous words “wisdom of their judgement”. Not, in other words, about their expertise or capacities as scientists. The value judgement Oxburgh decided was relevent was about the people themselves and their motivations – about their character as people, their character in general.

    If I say Oxburgh’s account commits several logical errors, that is a matter of fact. Any view I might have about Oxburgh’s theocrasy would be a value judgement.

  45. pesadilla
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    This is my feeble attempt at black adderesque

    Dear Mr Mcintyre (listen up mac)
    if for one millionth of a second, you are insinuating that i should respond to such a minute portion of the populace as yourself, then you had better have a rethink. It would be beneath the dignity of a person of my standing and level of intelligence, to resort to considering your impertinent(not giving respect) enquiries as to the nature of my activities in respect of the recent enquiry and i am appalled by your audacity.
    I am minded to inform you that you are flagulating a deceased quadruped and that any further peremptory emanations which might impugn my impeccable character,
    will be resisted with all the pugnacity and diabolical tenacity at my command.
    Please be informed that i will tolerate no further paroxysms that might be conceived in your cerebrum.
    yours most sincerely

    Lord O

    Steve: This sounds like a demonic possession of Lord Oxburgh by Lord Monckton or vice versa.

  46. Crazy Dung
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    At last I can make a valid contribution to the debate!
    A Hat trick can refer to 3 wickets taken in 3 consecutive balls in the game of cricket. It can also refer to three goals scored by the same player in a football match.
    However most importantly of all it can refer to a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat and indeed this is one of the most solid foundations of the warming cause.

  47. Crazy Dung
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    The pesadilla post can not possibly be improved! (Unless a dictionary happened to be available)

  48. Manfred
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 4:24 PM | Permalink

    Ronnie Oxburgh:
    “I will try to answer any other reasonable requests but I might be able to be of more help if I understood what you wish to establish.”

    Phil Jones:
    “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    • snowmaneasy
      Posted Jun 9, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

      Thats exactly what I thought when I read Oxburgh’s statement….

  49. Pete
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Permalink

    Definition: An ‘Oxburgh’ enquiry.
    No written terms of reference, no written notes of interviews etc., and the conclusions are known before the enquiry takes place. Also known as the ‘Null-enquiry’ or the PEE (Politically Expedient Enquiry), where the Enquiry ‘pees’ on the public.

  50. ZT
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

    “I think that we all felt that looking people in the eye over many hours of discussion about their work and their methods, are just as important as what they say…”

    Jones and Briffa the mesmerists?

    (Though one suspects the eyes were not entirely dry throughout those many hours).

    Let’s hope that Lord Ronnie of Oxburgh enjoys his supporting role in the inevitable ‘Climategate the Farce’.

    Or perhaps, as representations of life in the UK, should we consider Climategate, Monty Python, and Black Adder more documentary than comedic(?)

  51. Neil Fisher
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 6:25 PM | Permalink

    Re: Oliver K. Manuel (Jun 4 08:37),
    OT, but I prefer this version of the serenity prayer:
    “God, grant the the courage to change the things I can’t accept, the patience to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of the people I had to kill because they really p****ed me off”. :-)

    Sorry – Steve, delete away if you like.

  52. Tony Hansen
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

    Does not Oxburgh deserve credit for running a paperless office?

  53. Harold
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    “The important point to emphasise is that we were assessing people and their motivations.”

    This would seem to be a task for experienced clinical psychologists.

    “I think that we all felt that looking people in the eye over many hours of discussion about their work and their methods, are just as important as what they say.”

    Here’s where a videotape would be nice – people can say anything (and do), but turn the video tape over to Paul Ekman for analysis, and you’d have some answers you can rely on.

    This all seems very tribal to me.

  54. Russ
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

    Steve it sounds like another one of those Scientific TRICKS, you know the one I’m talking about. A trick is a new scientific term now you know, since they always spin things in their favour and rewrite history in their favour.

  55. Edwin
    Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:04 PM | Permalink

    English is an evolving language, finding new meaning in each generation.
    Next time I want a friendly chat with my mates over biscuits and ale I shall call them to my inquiry.
    And when I want to conduct a formal documented inquiry I shall call people to my interrogation.
    When I call you to my torture, don’t be alarmed, I mere mean you have to provide a signed testimony.

    • Russ
      Posted Jun 4, 2010 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

      WOW Edwin, sounds like you are rewriteing a new dictionary as we speak. What else have you rewritten, and how far will you go?

  56. Ron Cram
    Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 12:53 AM | Permalink

    Steve,
    If I understand correctly Oxburgh wrote:

    “If we had had any doubts I suspect that the University would have instituted a more formal inquiry that could have led to the dismissal of the individuals concerned.”

    But it can’t be. I’m sure I’m confused about where the reporting leaves off and the satire begins. The above quote must be a bit of satire. He cannot actually have written this, right?

    Wait, Oxburgh really did write that?

    I don’t understand. If they did not have any doubts, why assemble a panel to investigate? Oh, but this was not a real investigation as it was determined beforehand it would not lead to the dismissal of any of the individuals concerned. But wait. If you are not investigating, why pretend to be investigating? What exactly was the purpose of the “inquiry” if not to obtain the facts?

  57. bobdenton
    Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 4:46 AM | Permalink

    Oxburgh’s response appears to be civil and as helpful as can be in explaining what his review did. It may well be that it could have been done differently and done better, but there is no obfuscation of what was done.

    I thought that on the whole the Oxbrugh report was fair and contained significant criticisms of science as done at CRU. However, just about anybody who had taken an interest could have written a report, much the same in substance, at any time. It contained nothing new. Lack of statistical expertise, noisy data, confirmation bias. A great deal of the peer reviewed literature is carried out under such conditions and nonetheless honestly, and in formal compliance with scientific methodology.

    I’ve never had any reason to believe that they strayed beyond the permitted boundaries. They’re pretty expansive and pretty flexible. The story of the Briffa Fudge and the divergence problem pushed the envelope, possibly, to the limit, but stayed within it. People can honestly believe things in the teeth of all available evidence because to believe them would disconfirm other things which are sustained by a powerful but unconscious confirmation bias.

    Oxbrugh encapsulates his review as follows:

    “The important point to emphasise is that we were assessing people and their motivations.”

    Well he did identify confirmation bias, but whenever you read a paper you come with a presumption of confirmation bias, it’ just one of those things.

    What would have been more interesting would have been an investigation into the possibility of advocacy bias – a type of confirmation bias but motivated by the shared political culture of your institution and peers. This would have required a form of positive vetting – an enquiry into the wider scientific culture at EAU Environmental Sciences and the subjects response to it. George Smiley would have alighted on the proximity of Mike Hulme and the fact that that UEA is one if the intellectual centers of post normal science. He would have investigated to what extent they absorbed or repudiated these ideas and the effect that they had on the research proposals programs, conclusions and conduct generally of the CRU staff.

    Had Oxbrugh been able to tell us if CRU was a hotbed of post normal science and whether the staff considered themselves to be agents of influence, that would have been new, interesting and useful.

  58. mt
    Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 7:07 AM | Permalink

    Lord Oxburgh:
    “The important point to emphasise is that we were assessing people and their motivations. We were not assessing the wisdom of their judgement or the validity of their conclusions.”

    Prof Trevor Davies, CRU’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research:
    “Our concern has been to bring together a distinguished group of independent scientists who understand the difference between assertion and evidence, and are familiar with using the latter to judge the validity of conclusions arising from science research.”

    http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/CRUstatements/SAPannounce

  59. Bob Ryan
    Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

    Having been an institutional auditor for the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency and participated (as an observer) in the institutional audit of the UEA in 1998 I am stunned by Oxburgh’s reply. With QAA and undr UEA’s normal internal review procedures what you requested would have been undertaken as a matter of course, terms of reference, notes of meetings etc etc would have been made, kept and made available on request. This could not have been a review in any normal sense of the word – frankly it reads like a damage limitation exercise rather than a meanigful attempt to examine the quality of the research undertaken.

    • Garry
      Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

      Bob Ryan, I also am an auditor registered with a UK certification agency (but practicing in the USA). I cannot find anything in the activities of these several UK reviews of UEA that would pass any kind of audit of even the most cursory kind.

      Nor were they ever intended to.

      As the efforts of Steve McIntyre have amply illustrated, the absence of a TOR or notes or minutes tells us that this was not intended to be any kind of serious “review,” but rather only a public relations exercise that leaves no traceable fingerprints or evidence of any kind, but only a single letter declaring “Everything is A-OK” as the sole remaining artifact that it ever even existed.

  60. TGSG
    Posted Jun 5, 2010 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    I’d give the “inquiry” a b+ :)

  61. Bill Hunter
    Posted Jun 6, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    I think the satire is well deserved.

    If you go to investigate a locksmith for participating in a robbery where a lock was picked you don’t inspect his regular work on locks for evidence of lock picking and that is exactly what was done here.

    This whole affair is about people shopping their titles and reputations to political ends so make the blighters pay, with penalty interest.

  62. Daniel
    Posted Jun 7, 2010 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    This letter from Lord O may be one the most incredible things I ever read ; either he does not realize really what he wrote, or more probably he does not realize the degree of crude disdain he shows towards anybody outside the circles of power

  63. Boris
    Posted Jun 7, 2010 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

    So Ocburgh is polite to you and you are an utter ass to him on your blog. So he doesn’t run an inquiry the way they do in mining companies or something. Personally I’d tell you to [snip] off if you emailed me again. which you’d then post on your blog as proof of how climate scientists are all jerks (and therefore incompetent). And then mosh would post about how its stupid to tell McIntyre to [snip] off because then the skeptics win.

    RomanM: Such language is unnecessary even if you don’t have anything cogent to say.

    Steve: Oxburgh had important official duties to carry out and failed to carry them out. His email back to me didn’t answer any of the questions that I asked.

    As editorial advice to you, sarcasm is a difficult voice to carry off even for people that are good at it; I frequently get criticized for it when I use it as you did here. In your case, you don’t have a light enough touch to pull it off and it detracts from the point that you are trying to make. Until you achieve a lighter touch, I’d urge you to make points in a neutral voice.

14 Trackbacks

  1. By A little truth would be nice « the Air Vent on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    [...] by Jeff Id on June 4, 2010 Ok, Climate Audit has a post on a reply from Ronald Oxburgh (of the Oxburg coverup of climategate) to a request from Steve McIntyre for documentation of papers [...]

  2. [...] McIntyre fisks this letter in a very devastating way.  You can read it by clicking here. [...]

  3. By | Eye on Britain (2) on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    [...] here for more [...]

  4. [...] Whitewash Oxburgh refuses to answer questions about his whitewash inquiry into Climategate.  When asked for transcriptions Oxburgh said: The [...]

  5. [...] che McIntyre, che proprio non ne vuol sapere mollare, chieda a Oxburgh di chiarire alcuni aspetti del rapporto di cui è stato principale firmatario, ovvero di conoscere [...]

  6. [...] skeptics are angered at another allegedly scurrilous failure by the Oxburgh investigation; the committee kept no records of any interviews or notes from their [...]

  7. By Farsartade granskningar | The Climate Scam on Jul 3, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    [...] Det som triggade McIntyres nyfikenhet var att Phil Jones skall ha sagt att det är ”probably impossible to do the 1000-year temperature reconstructions with any accuracy”. Alla som följt Climate Audit vet att detta varit kärnan i McIntyres kritik mot hockey-diagrammet.  Man får förstå att han då gärna vill få ett sådant uttalande bekräftad av denna ”oberoende och öppna” kommitté. Se även. [...]

  8. [...] encore, ce dernier a écrit à Lord Oxburgh suite à la publication du rapport, notamment pour mettre la main sur le ou les [...]

  9. [...] skeptics are angered at another allegedly scurrilous failure by the Oxburgh investigation; the committee kept no records of any interviews or notes from their [...]

  10. [...] questions about the terms of reference and documentation of this “inquiry”” he received remarkable answers that he summarized as follows; “The net result, as you will see, is that Oxburgh says that they [...]

  11. [...] questions about the terms of reference and documentation of this “inquiry”” he received remarkable answers that he summarized as follows; “The net result, as you will see, is that Oxburgh says that they [...]

  12. [...] questions about the terms of reference and documentation of this “inquiry”” he received remarkable answers that he summarized as follows; “The net result, as you will see, is that Oxburgh says that they [...]

  13. [...] from Bishop Hill we learn that it appears that the Oxburgh investigation let Dr. Phil Jones choose what evidence to review. So let me amend what I said above: The [...]

  14. [...] questions about the terms of reference and documentation of this “inquiry”” he received remarkable answers that he summarized as follows; “The net result, as you will see, is that Oxburgh says that they [...]

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