The Oxburgh “report” said that the eleven “representative” publications that it reviewed had been “selected on the advice of the Royal Society”. The eleven articles were so implausible a representation that it seemed scarcely credible that they could have been selected by any person with any expertise in the field. I asked the Royal Society (as did Andrew Montford) who at the Royal Society had done the selection and their criteria as follows:
Can you tell me who at the Royal Society was responsible for providing this advice and what their criteria were for selecting these particular 11 papers?
This evoked the following reply, that, like all too many replies on climate topics, was totally unresponsive to the actual question:
The Royal Society agreed to suggest to UEA possible members for the Scientific Assessment panel that would investigate the integrity of the research of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU).
Members of the panel were suggested on the basis of the excellence of their work and their breadth of expertise and experience (including statistical capability).
The Royal Society recommended that the panel had access to any and all papers that it requested and suggested that the review begin by looking at key publications, which were chosen to cover a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale.
I sent a follow-up pointing out the unresponsiveness, but received no reply whatever.
Andrew Montford also attempted to get this information from the Royal Society. As he reported at his blog, his first inquiries (which included telephone calls) were met with identical unresponsiveness.
On May 6, after considerable persistence, Lord Rees of the Royal Society replied:
Thank you for your letter about the Science Assessment Panel set up by the University of East Anglia.
The Oxburgh panel had access to any publications it requested. As has been previously stated, the University suggested that the panel looked in particular at key publications from the body of CRU’s research referred to in the UEA submission to the Parliamentary Science and technology Committee. This was done in consultation with the Royal Society. I advised that the panel’s mode of operation was primarily a matter from the chair. Not having the relevant scientific expertise myself, I consulted experts who agreed that the suggested papers covered a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale.
The panel of members was chose by the chairman Lord Oxburgh from a list of around a dozen approved by the Royal Society. In making the recommendations, I consulted widely and members of the panel were suggested on the excellence of their work and their breadth of expertise and experience. Nobody with a significant link to UEA was included on the list. I believe that the Royal Society’s involvement helped to ensure that these busy experts accepted this important task.
You have to watch the pea under the thimble with these lords. Rees said that “as has been previously stated, the University suggested that the panel looked in particular at key publications from the body of CRU’s research referred to in the UEA submission to the Parliamentary Science and technology Committee.” The Oxburgh “Report” didn’t say that. It said something quite different: that the eleven publications had “selected on the advice of the Royal Society” and that the University had “agreed” that they were a “fair sample”. The language used here by Rees did not occur in the Oxburgh “report”, but was used in the press release on March 22, 2010 by the University announcing the inquiry.
More or less concurrent (Apr 16, 2010) with my unsuccessful request to the Royal Society and immediately after publication of the Oxburgh “report”, I submitted an FOI request to the University of East Anglia as follows:
Pursuant to the Environmental Information Regulations, I hereby request correspondence between the University of East Anglia and/or its officers and the Royal Society between December 1, 2009 and April 12, 2010 concerning the selection of publications considered in the Oxburgh “report”. Thank you for your attention.
Regards, Stephen McIntyre
Andrew Montford submitted a broader FOI request for all correspondence between the University and Oxburgh that was flatly rejected (more on this in another post.) I received a reply to my narrower request on May 26 – a reply that sheds remarkable light on due diligence as practiced by British lords.
Oxburgh visited the University of East Anglia some time during the week of March 8-12. I presume that the visit took place in the first part of the week, perhaps even on Monday March 8. (Beddington telephoned David Hand in the evening of March 8 for the purposes of “warming [him] up” – a call confirmed to UEA’s Trevor Davies by Beddington’s secretary on March 9. On March 10, Oxburgh emailed Kerry Emanuel, using his House of Lords c/o University of East Anglia letterhead, inviting him to join the panel, sending him a list of “around a dozen papers”, using language that left Emanuel with the impression that the papers had been selected by the Royal Society (as the Oxburgh “report” later stated):
I have been invited jointly by the University and the Royal Society to put together a small group to re-evaluate some important elements of the Unit’s published science. This work comprises around a dozen papers largely published in major peer-reviewed journals… Although all the panel would be welcome to read all the work, it is planned that each paper would be looked at in detail by at least two members and each member would be asked to pay attention to several papers in particular. I am attaching the list of publications that need to be scrutinized.
Now to British due diligence.
Two days later (March 12), after Oxburgh had already sent out the list of publications to Emanuel, Davies sent an email to Rees and Brian Hoskins at 11:07 a.m. saying that Oxburgh would like to say that the list (already sent out) had been chosen in “consultation with the Royal Society”. The email shows clearly that Davies is well aware that they will be severely criticized for the list and that they want to keep it secret. (In fact, they did keep it secret. The language of the press release was worded very evasively and no one guessed what they planned to do until after the “report” was a fait accompli. Davies:
Dear Martin [Rees] and Brian [Hoskins],
The UEA Press Office advises us that the Panel and UEA will come under enormous pressure for details of the publications to be assessed when we announce the membership of the Panel (probably Thursday [Mar 15]).[SM: In fact, the membership was not announced is until March 22 here; the Press Office's surmise proved incorrect and there proved to be no pressure on them for such details, which did not come out until the report itself on April 14.]
Initially we did not wish to do this but we have now been persuaded this is probably a good idea and it may, indeed, deflect other disruptive efforts by some in the media/blogosphere. Ron is comfortable with this, but is keen that we can say that it was constructed in consultation with the Royal Society.
I did send you this list earlier, which I attach again here.[List obtained] They represent the core body of CRU work around which most of the assertions have been flying. They are also the publications which featured heavily in our submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry, and in our answers to the Muir Russell Review’s questions.
I would be very grateful if you would be prepared to allow us to use a form of words along the lines: “the publications were chosen in consultation with The Royal Society”.
Seven minutes later, Rees reverted saying that he had no personal knowledge of the literature, but he had “no problem” saying that the list had been “drawn up in consultation” with the Royal Society – even though it had already been sent out – if Brian Hoskins was “happy” with the list:
From: Martin Rees
Sent: 12 March 2010 11:14
To: Davies Trevor Prof (ENV)
Cc: Hoskins, Brian J; P Liss; SJC
Subject: Re: CRU Science Assessmant Panel
It seems to me that the scope of the panel’s work is a matter primarily for Ron [Oxburgh], but if Brian [Hoskins] is also happy with this choice of papers (as you know, I have no relevant expertise myself!) I see no problem with saying that the list was drawn up in consultation.
Thirteen minutes later and only twenty minutes after the first email, Hoskins said that he was not “aware” of all the papers that might be included, but he did “think” that they covered the “issues of concern”. (Hoskins was subsequently asked whether he regarded himself as an “expert” in the literature and said that he didn’t.)
From: Hoskins, Brian J
Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 11:27 AM
To: Martin Rees; Davies Trevor Prof (ENV)
Cc: Liss Peter Prof (ENV); sjc
Subject: RE: CRU Science Assessmant Panel
I am not aware of all the papers that could be included in the list, but I do think that these papers do cover the issues of major concern.
Davies then thanked Rees and Hoskins for their comments:
From: Davies Trevor Prof (ENV)
Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 11:59 AM
To: Hoskins, Brian J; Martin Rees
Cc: Liss Peter Prof (ENV); sjc
Subject: RE: CRU Science Assessmant Panel
Dear Brian and Martin,
Thank you both for your comments.
Back to Rees’ letter of May 6 to Andrew Montford in which he said that he had consulted with “experts who agreed that the suggested papers covered a broad range of subjects over a wide timescale.” The record shows that Rees consulted only with one person (not plural), that the one person was not an “expert” in the literature and he merely thought that the list covered the “issues of concern” – which it didn’t.
The total “due diligence” – which involved no actual experts – took less than 20 minutes.
The claims in the Oxburgh report that the eleven papers were “representative”, were “selected on the advice of the Royal Society” with the UEA then agreeing that they were a “fair sample” are all untrue. Rees and Hoskins of the Royal Society know that these claims are untrue, but have taken no steps to ask Oxburgh to withdraw the false claim that they had been “selected on the advice of the Royal Society”.
In statements on release of the Oxburgh “report”, both Rees and Hoskins (as also Bob Ward) praised the 5-page and undocumented Oxburgh “report” for being “thorough” – the benchmark for Royal Society “thoroughness” apparently being set by the 20 minutes taken by Rees and Hoskins to respond to Davies’ request.
I understand that the Royal Society is BP’s first choice for an investigation of the Gulf oil spill.