Climategate 2.0 emails shed remarkable light on the role of Nature news “reporter”, Olive Heffernan, in the development of a “legend” to place CRU data obstruction in a better light.
They show that Jones had candidly admitted to Heffernan that his real reason for refusing data was simply to obstruct potential critics – a position essentially unchanged from his notorious 2005 refusal on the grounds that “we have 25 years invested in this”. Instead of reporting Jones’ admission, Nature attributed Jones’ data obstruction to an imaginary “inundation” of data requests following an initial supply of data in 2002.
In today’s post, I’ll review the development of the legend and Heffernan’s role in the process.
The curtain rises for today’s post on Aug 7, 2009 about two weeks after the FOIA/Mole incidents discussed in the past few posts. Heffernan asked Jones (721) whether Jones had sent supposed confidential data to Webster, but refused to send it to me. And, if so, on what grounds.
… I have one other question: McIntyre claims that you sent data to Peter Webstre at Georgia Tech, but that you would not supply him with the same data. Is that true, and if so, what was the reasoning?
This was one of the important questions that Muir Russell negligently failed to examine.
Jones’ reply to Heffernan (Aug 9 – 3497) was a pastiche of disinformation and unresponsiveness, none of which should have been accepted by a responsible reporter, but which passed unchallenged by Heffernan.
I did send some of the data to a person working with Peter Webster at Georgia Tech. The email wasn’t to PW [Webster], but he was in the CC list. I don’t know how McIntyre found out, but I thought this was a personal email.
As we’ve already seen, Jones knew precisely how I had found out as, a few weeks earlier, he had quoted (4531) in full a comment at Climate Audit by Peter Webster reporting that CRU had sent station data to Georgia Tech:
I also see from looking at Climate Audit that this request results from Peter saying on CA that he’s not had any difficulty getting data from CRU (see what he said below on June 24).
In that earlier email, Jones had also argued that he had provided data to Webster in a “personal” email, a claim that Palmer had rejected (1320). Despite Palmer’s explicit rejection of the email being “personal”, Jones stubbornly continued to take this line in his correspondence with Nature.
Jones then made the completely untrue claim that this was “one of the first times” that CRU station data had been sent to a third party:
This was one of the first times I’d sent some data to a fellow scientist who wasn’t at the Hadley Centre. As I said I have taken pity on African and Asian PhD students who wanted some temperature and precipitation data for their country.
In fact, CRU’s original collection of station data was financed by the US Department of Energy under a contract that obliged CRU to deliver station data to the US Department of Energy, which then placed the data online (where it remains online to this day). CRU itself had placed CRUTEM1 station data online in 1996 (which remained online until July 29-30, 2009). Jones had sent station data to Mann and Rutherford and even, in 2002, to me.
Jones then segued into characteristic self-pity, falsely claiming that he’d been “driven” into being “less helpful”:
The email has only gotten me grief, so this is another reason for being much less helpful to people emailing CRU. This goes against my nature, but I’ve been driven to it. You’d better not say this, otherwise McIntyre will request the emails where to prove I’ve been unhelpful! I should have just said to the GA person – use GHCN, like I do to everyone else.
The idea that Jones had “been driven” to being obstructive was a legend that was readily adopted by the climate establishment. But it was untrue. Somewhere along the way – perhaps in response to Mann’s encouragement, as Mosher and Fuller argue, or perhaps on his own – Jones chose , using his own free will, to withhold data from potential critics, – a decision notoriously explained in his Feb 2005 email to Warwick Hughes (shortly after the publication of McIntyre and McKitrick 2005) as follows:
We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.
Jones’ next sentence in his email to Heffernan shows that no change from the attitude in his 2005 refusal to Warwick Hughes:
I also don’t see why I should help people I don’t want to work with and who spend most of their time critisising me.
Here Jones candidly admitted the real reason why he had sent data to Georgia Tech and to Mann and Rutherford, but had refused to send the data to Warwick Hughes, Willis Eschenbach or me. It had nothing to do with confidentiality agreements from the 1980s that had been mysteriously “lost” during an office move. It had everything to do with Jones’ belief that he had the right to send data to pals and to refuse data to critics.
Jones’ failure to appreciate that publication of scientific articles entailed an obligation to provide data to potential critics, as well as to pals is exemplified in his subsequent whinging complaint:
Years ago I did send much paleo data to McIntyre but have also had nothing but criticism on his blog ever since. As I said, this criticism on blog sites is not the way to do science. If they want to engage, they have to converse in civil tones, and if people don’t want to work with them, they have to respect that and live with it.
There are multiple problems with this paragraph. Yes, Jones had sent me some paleo data, but it was untrue that he had “nothing but criticism” at Climate Audit ever since. On a number of occasions, I had complimented Jones for being somewhat responsive to requests.
A more serious issue is Jones’ view that merely providing data that had been used in an article relied upon by IPCC was a special favor that placed me under an obligation to refrain from criticism of the article. It was my view then (and remains my view) that archiving of supporting data was an obligation of the author, rather than an act of grace.
Nor do I accept Jones’ premise that asking for data constitutes a request to “work with” the originators of the data. It is no such thing. A request for data is simply a request for data. While much emphasis has been placed on FOI, FOI is really a last resort. An obligation to produce supporting scientific data arises on a number of grounds: journal policies; policies of funding agencies; policies of the institution of employment (including FOI); and, most notably, as an obligation of the scientific method.
Jones was criticized not because offence had been taken about Jones not wanting to “work with” the person requesting the data, but because Jones’ failure to provide data (particularly in the context of the repugnant explanation to Warwick Hughes) was not in compliance with any or all of the above obligations to provide data, a problem exacerbated by fabricated and untrue excuses by CRU and the University of East Anglia to FOI requests.
In his email exchange with Heffernan, Jones did not mention the supposed confidentiality agreements that he had long ago planned to “hide behind” – a strategy set out within a few weeks of the introduction of the FOI act in 2005 (see Climategate 1.0 email 490. 1107454306.txt).
Heffernan sent her planned quotes to Jones (Aug 10 – 3497) telling Jones to “shout asap if you see any problems” – a courtesy not extended to me, though I was also featured in the interview.
Heffernan’s article and blog post conspicuously omitted Jones’ petulant desire not to be criticized. Instead, Heffernan attributed Jones’ refusal to an imaginary inundation of requests commencing in 2002:
Why won’t Jones give McIntyre the data?
Jones says that he tried to help when he first received data requests from McIntyre back in 2002, but says that he soon became inundated with requests that he could not fulfill, or that he did not have the time to respond to.
This claim was a total fabrication. After my (successful) 2002 request, I had no further contact with Jones until 2004, when I requested some unavailable data used in Jones et al 1998 (a legitimate, unobtrusive and successful request.) In the Climategate correspondence between Jones and Heffernan (thus far), Jones himself did not advance the “inundation” legend. Perhaps Jones himself introduced the legend in a presently unavailable email or in a telephone interview and the legend was uncritically accepted by Heffernan. It also seems possible that Heffernan herself contributed to the development of an explanation of Jones’ conduct that was more dignified than Jones’ petulance. Although there wasn’t a shred of evidence for Heffernan’s “inundation” story, it quickly became a widely accepted legend in the climate “community”.
Nature re-iterated Jones’ untrue claim that CRU had entered into confidentiality agreements that prohibited sending data to non-academics – a claim that East Anglia itself later abandoned – (see e.g. their response to my appeal here).
He [Jones] says that, in some cases, he simply couldn’t hand over entire data sets because of long-standing confidentiality agreements with other nations that restrict their use… Although these data are made available in a processed format that shows the global trend, access to the raw data is restricted to academics…
Nature also regurgitated Jones’ untrue claim that their ability to provide data was restricted by confidentiality agreements “mislaid” during an office move in the late 1980s – a claim also later abandoned by the University of East Anglia:
Jones says he can’t fulfil the requests because of confidentiality agreements signed in the 1990s with some nations, including Spain, Germany, Bahrain and Norway, that restrict the data to academic use. In some cases, says Jones, the agreements were made verbally, and in others the written records were mislaid during a move.
Nature falsely claimed that I was “especially aggrieved” that Jones had sent the data to Peter Webster and, in a remarkable conflation of cause-and-effect, fostered the legend that “as a result of this” [in the context, the July 2009 FOI requests], Jones had become “markedly less responsive”:
The dispute is likely to continue for some time. McIntyre is especially aggrieved that Peter Webster, a hurricane expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, was recently provided with data that had been refused to him. Webster says his team was given the station data for a very specific request that will result in a joint publication with Jones. “Reasonable requests should be fulfilled because making data available advances science,” says Webster, “but it has to be an authentic request because otherwise you’d be swamped.”
Indeed, Jones says he has become “markedly less responsive to the public over the past few years as a result of this”.
More disinformation. I wasn’t “aggrieved” in the least that Jones had sent station data to Peter Webster. My sentiment was almost exactly the opposite. Jones’ action provided an opportunity to test CRU’s so-called confidentiality agreements.
Heffernan’s final sentence (which had been cleared with Jones) created a confusion between cause and effect that was quickly adopted by the climate community. In context, “this” (in the phrase “as a result of this”) could only be construed as the July 2009 FOI campaign seeking the mysterious confidentiality agreements. These requests were made in late July 2009 and were the result of Jones’ unresponsiveness “over the past few years”, rather than the cause of his prior unresponsiveness.
This non-sequitur appears to have originated with Heffernan rather than Jones, as the phrase occurred first in Heffernan’s email 3497 but not in Jones’ prior email interview (797).
In conclusion, the role of both Nature and Nature reporter Olive Heffernan is disquieting. Nature suppressed Jones’ candid admission that he simply didn’t see why he should provide data to people that wanted to criticize him and substituted a fabricated explanation more suitable to a hero of the revolution. Had Nature placed Jones’ actual answers on the record, the evolution of events might have been different. In this episode, Nature news reporting unfortunately seems more concerned about hagiography of its principal constituency (institutional scientists) than with accurate reporting.