Tomorrow (15 January 2013), the Information Tribunal will hear David Holland’s appeal of the ICO decision (FER0387012 ) regarding the connection of the Muir Russell Review and UEA in respect to FOI legislation (see FOI correspondence here.) Both Muir Russell and UEA Vice Chancellor Acton are scheduled to appear.
The hearing is at Court Room 7, Field House, 15 Breams Building, London EC4A 1DZ and commences at 10:30. Acton is scheduled for 11-12:30. Muir Russell is scheduled for 1:30-3:00. Also scheduled to attend on behalf of UEA are Brian Summers and Jonathan Colam-French plus three attorneys from Mills and Reeves. Muir Russell is also anticipated to have his own counsel present. David Holland is representing himself.
David will have an extremely difficult time pinning down either Acton or Russell. The transcripts of the Science and Technology Committee show that both are prone to give lengthy and unresponsive answers, thereby running out the clock.
For example, Muir Russell was asked how they chose the three examples of peer review – which barely scratched the surface of the peer review controversy and included an incident with the editor of Energy and Environment that was not of the faintest interest in the major climate blogs or commentary. Muir Russell falsely said that the three incidents were “at the top of the head” when the story broke and then ran the clock with diversionary puff about Richard Horton.
Q104 Pamela Nash: This question is to Sir Muir. In your review you found no evidence to support that there was any subversion of the peer review process and you examined three specific instances. Could you tell us why those three instances were chosen?
Sir Muir Russell: They were the three that had been at the top of the head, as it were, in the comments that were made when the whole story broke. I keep going back to what I said to Mr Williams. They were the things which we thought, as we were looking at the issues, were solid and good examples to pick and to test the accusations that had been made. I know there are comments that say, “You could have found more. There could have been others.” They weren’t in the forefront at the time. If you look at the footnote in Montford, I think it is, about one of them, it says that it wasn’t actually clear what the allegation was, so one has to be balanced. We couldn’t do everything but we looked at three very solid accusations.
The Soon and Baliunas was one that came up all the time and we looked at that fairly thoroughly.
The editor of Energy and Environment had sent a lot of emails to me about what we would do. So it was important to check out that position.
Then there was the Cook stuff and there is quite an extensive explanation of what was actually going on there. I think you will find three quite detailed explanations based on information that we got about what was actually happening.
Then, of course, we did the important thing of getting Richard Horton to work on peer review for us. You will see from the record of the predecessor Committee that one of the things that had happened that was, let’s say, uncomfortable, because I was quite uncomfortable sitting here when being asked about it, was that Dr Campbell of Nature had to leave the group because he had been interviewed and had said there was nothing wrong with what CRU had done. That was a prejudicial thing about the inquiry. It had nothing to do with his views about climate science. It was prejudicial about the inquiry, and he very properly said, “I have to leave.” So we brought in Richard Horton, not as a full member in the sense of being on the team and looking at all the work that we had done, because it would have been very difficult to catch up on that, but we brought him in to give us advice on peer review. We peer reviewed that because we got Liz Wager of COPE to have a look at that as well. You will see all that in the report. So I think that setting that set of judgments against the facts of the cases as we found them was really quite a good and balanced way of getting a serious big picture about what these people had been doing in relation to peer review and also peer review more generally so there are specific answers and there are some general points to go forward with on peer review. I put my hand up and say, yes, there could well have been other cases that we might have looked at, but these were the ones that everybody seemed to think were at the top of their heads at the
Another kind of problem will be how to handle totally unresponsive answers, the unresponsiveness of which is clear in transcripts, but, unless you are a litigation lawyer, hard to pick up at the time. Consider the following from Acton to Stringer:
Q96 Graham Stringer: And you recorded those meetings with Professor Jones and his team?
Acton’s answer was completely unresponsive:
Professor Edward Acton: If you examine our website you will find that these statements have been there for some time.
A recent FOI from David Holland has revealed that the UEA claims not to have a copy of the full statements from Briffa or Jones given to Acton nor any information on whether the supposed statements were signed nor even information on the date of the supposed statements.
It will also be very hard for David to pin Acton down when he makes statements that cannot be corroborated and sometimes seem to come out of thin air. For example, Acton told the following to the Science and Technology Committee:
Can those e-mails be produced? Yes, they can. Did those who might have deleted them say they deleted them? No. They say they did not. I wanted to be absolutely sure of those two, and I have established that to my satisfaction.
However, at the time, the key emails from Wahl to Briffa could not produced.
David’s task tomorrow will be very difficult, but he’s done a remarkable job thus far against UEA obstruction and I wish him well tomorrow.
The actual issue of the relationship between the Russell review and the UEA is an interesting one.