Muir Russell and The Peer Review Three

We’ve all had an interesting time trying to get a straight answer as to the eleven publications said by Oxburgh to have been selected on the advice of the Royal Society. After much evasion, Trevor Davies has admitted that he selected them, using the references in the CRU submission to the SciTech Committee as a basis. (More on this in another post.)

An equally interesting question asked at the Committee – who chose the three peer review incidents considered by Muir Russell. The only cases considered by Muir Russell were: the dispute over Soon and Baliunas at Climate Research in 2003; an incident involving Sonja Boehmer-Christensen in late 2009 and the Cook-Briffa incident. (They also considered Michaels and McKitrick 2004 in their IPCC section.) Muir Russell was asked – why these three?

Good question. Neither the Soon and Baliunas incident nor the Sonja B-C played any role in Climate Audit coverage of Climategate. ZERO. Neither was mentioned once. Nor were they mentioned in my submission to Muir Russell (which did mention the Cook-Briffa incident), in which I also raised the equally important issue of “pal review”, another issue that Muir Russell “ducked or avoided” (applying Muir Russell’s words for a different matter).

Muir Russell answered that these were the three cases that were most in the news at the time. {I’ll insert the exact quote when the feed is available.)

Although Muir Russell said over and over that his report was all about “referencing”, no reference was provided here. (The failure to provide direct references to blogs is characteristic of these inquiries; I believe that the question of use without citation has been at issue in other contexts.)

So where did the Muir Russell Three come from?

The Three appear as a group in the “Issues Paper” dated Feb 11, 2010 – see item 5, where the Three are listed.

Although other incidents were mentioned in submissions (for example, my submission mentioned the Jones “going to town” and other incidents as well as the problem of pal review, an issue ignored by Muir Russell), the Muir Russell panel totally ignored the incidents brought to their attention in the public submission process.

So how were the incidents selected in the Issues Paper. The panel minutes of Feb 4, 2010 state that the Issues Paper was “synthesized” by Mike Grannatt of the Luther Pendragon public relations firm and Muir Russell working from papers from Boulton, Clarke and Norton.

Muir and Mike [Grannatt of Luther Pendragon] agreed to draft a synthesis of Geoffrey’s, Peter’s and Jim’s papers, in order to formulate and set out the issues to be explored by the Review Group. The draft would be circulated to Review Group members for comment. It would be important to ensure that all the points in the remit were reflected in the synthesis paper. The Review Group also wanted to ensure that there was opportunity to ask CRU ‘why’ certain things were done, not simply ‘what’ they did.

A question: were the Peer Review Three chosen by one of Boulton, Clarke and/or Norton? Or were they actually chosen by public relations firm Luther Pendragon? And, if so, what was Luther Pendragon’s criterion for choosing these three incidents – two of which had been of zero interest at Climate Audit.


  1. Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    The first question, the required reference is at their fingertips….did they have access to the questions to be asked?

    A clear case of the drunk looking for his lost car keys under the streetlight. He lost them in the alley with the hooker but the alley is dark and scary and he wouldn’t see them anyway so why look there?

    Although some decent questions were asked, they avoided answering directly and came up with all kinds of other reasons for what they did.

    Not very impressive.

  2. Bernie
    Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    Luther Pendragon has an interesting client list. Is it worth exploring or does it take us too far afield?

    • DaveS
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

      I had an ultimately fruitless correspondence with Kate Moffatt (of Luther Pendragon) during the Russell ‘inquiry’, trying to get answers to some of the obvious questions concerning the enquiry team, and the contradictory statements on the inquiry’s website. After repeatedly refusing to say anything other than ‘we’ve nothing to add to what’s on the website’ she eventually just stated that the correspondence was closed. So I don’t suppose you’ll get much out of them.

  3. Craig Loehle
    Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    This is like those babushka dolls–layers and layers. They paid Luther Pendragon to do the selecting? Really? A PR firm? “face-palm”

  4. Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    In my submission to Muir Russell I said, p. 44:

    [78] The affair over the Soon and Baliunas paper is, in my view, a sad indicator of the intolerant environment in the climatology community, especially since the paper in question was giving evidence of uncertainties that we now know were privately shared by others in the field. However the main instigators of the campaign to harass and discredit Climate Research were not apparently at the CRU so it is not directly relevant to the Inquiry.

    That was it. And nothing on the other 2 incidents. I hadn’t thought about it before this post, but it is odd that they focused so much on those incidents. Then again it is in keeping with the general air of cluelessness about the inquiry.

  5. Chris S
    Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    They went to a lot of trouble to get the stage management just right.

    Still, “the best laid plans”.

  6. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    The credibility of the Rusell Inquiry depends heavily on the CRU papers chosen for thir investigation. Prof Davies of CRU says that he chose them and had a verbal discussion with the Royal Society “at the end of February, early March”. The list was sent to the RS on 4 March and approved on 12 March, though some dates remain in dispute.

    First question, why was the Royal Society involved at all?

    Second question, did the RS discuss the list verbally, or did a person such as Lord Rees do the discussion as President, later saying it represented the RS?

    Remember the strange wording of the email –
    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.

    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. 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”.

    Best Wishes

    Surely this procedure needs confirmation. An Affirmation or Statutory Declaration from the main parties would seem to be in order, noting the date of the “conversation” and the main points of it.

    The problem is that the whole structure of the Muir Report leans on endorsement by the RS of the choice of papers to be examined, when in fact the list not have been endorsed by the RS at all. Is the President empowered to make such a statement on behalf of the RS membership? I think not.

  7. Mike Granatt
    Posted Oct 29, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    For the avoidance of doubt, Luther Pendragon played no part in choosing any of the issues considered by the Russell Review.

    Steve: thanks for commenting. As advisers on public relations, did you play any role in identifying or selecting the three peer review examples. As noted in my post, two of the three were never mentioned at Climate Audit and were not the main examples under discussion at the time. how did they get selected? Also did Luther Pendragon employees contribute to the drafting of any of the sections of the Muir Russell report?

  8. Mike Granatt
    Posted Oct 29, 2010 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    Steve, “Luther Pendragon played no part in choosing any of the issues considered by the Russell Review” means exactly what it says; and “issues” includes such items as peer review examples. Neither was it our role to draft any of the report, nor did we. Putting that on the record is all I wish to say.

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