UEA: IPCC Requires Secrecy, Not Openness

In the recent U of East Anglia refusal of David Holland’s renewed request for IPCC review comments, held out of the IPCC archive through conduct described by Fred Pearce as a “subversion” of IPCC principles of openness and transparency, East Anglia stated:

recent guidance given to IPCC lead authors has clearly indicated that communication between lead authors is to remain confidential, and that emails and preliminary versions of work are not made public, cited, quoted nor distributed. We believe that this is persuasive evidence that the IPCC feels that the release of such material would adversely affect their interests.

Has anyone seen a copy of this alleged “guidance”? I quickly looked at documents presented at the IPCC October 2010 meeting in Busan and didn’t see anything responsive.

Pachauri’s July 5, 2010 memo on the media, that caused some controversy at the time, doesn’t contain such instructions. Hoggan’s comments at desmog about that particular botch seem to apply to CRU as well:

Andy Revkin’s revelations over the weekend about the botched media relations strategy deployed by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, demonstrate that the IPCC has failed to learn from its recent missteps in managing public communications.

If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t act as if you do.

Words that CRU would do well to heed.

Again, has anyone seen this document? I wonder if the University of East Anglia will claim that it’s confidential if someone FOIs it.


  1. Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

    At the UEA they are so far ahead, they can already tell us about future guidelines already.

  2. David Holland
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    As I have said elsewhere climate scientists are inclined to redefine words like “peer-review” “accepted” and so forth. They may be redefining “recent” as the guidance in the fourth para of page 4 of Appendix E in the recent UEA zip file is what the Met office and Oxford said two years ago. What the public authorities are doing is pretending the IPCC working groups or the IPCC are the Panel who set the rules and pay the bills.

    However It is my intention to regularly file EIR requests with the several lead authors in the UK for all their procedural instructions and we shall soon find out how well UEA’s tough stance survives.

    Search the Principles Governing IPCC Work and their Appendix A procedures and you will find no provision for confidentiality, only a fundamental principle of openness and transparency. The hired hands do not make the policy or the rules.

    • ianl8888
      Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

      “The hired hands do not make the policy or the rules.”

      Unhappily, de facto, they do, David

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

        we’ll see, I guess.

        It will be interesting to see what “guidance” was sent out and/or what excuses they give for concealing the guidance document.

  3. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 6:40 PM | Permalink

    “Andy Revkin’s revelations over the weekend about the botched media relations strategy deployed by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, demonstrate that the IPCC has failed to learn from its recent missteps in managing public communications.

    If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t act as if you do.”

    This quote from the thread introduction appears to point the other side of what is implied by not coming clean in the area of climate science and the IPCC. It would appear that those who would defend the science but criticize the communications are implying that the science of the consensus remains true, but that the (poor) public relations can defeat in advocacy matters what is so true in the science realm.

    Another side of this coin is that the consensus has always been about advocacy and public relations and that is the case because the science is not at all certain about the ultimate level of AGW and its effects.

    I think it is important to keep these sides of the issue separate.

  4. KnR
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    The FOI is not a matter of choice but a legal requirement on every organisation within the UK , CRU cannot simple say we don’t won’t to , they are required to supply a reason and that reason can be taken to the FOI body to see if it stands up to judegment . In this case they would havea very hard time claiming that the reason is because of ‘guidance’ and then refuse to supply the guidance.
    Seems CRU have learnt nothing when it comes to how the FOI applies to them.

  5. timheyes
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    And yet a UN planner and eminent doctor of International Relations can tell the media that the next report will be worse than the last one?


    • Phillip Bratby
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 1:49 AM | Permalink

      It’s hard to imagine how the next report could be worse than the dreadful 4th report. Or am I misinterpreting what he meant? ☺☺

      • timheyes
        Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

        I was hoping someone would point out the irony of the statement.

      • Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

        Indeed. And even if one’s interpretation is conditioned by many years of “it’s worse than we thought, and it’s happening faster than we thought… must act now” stories, consider the depiction of AR4 by Canada’s “best-known climate scientist”, Andrew Weaver. Weaver had declared that AR4 would reveal climate change to be “a barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles”.

        I’m not sure about the data on which they depend, but these climate scientists do seem to have at their disposal a virtually bottomless hyperbole pool into which they might dive.


  6. geo
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 10:25 PM | Permalink

    Transparency is much to be desired. Yes, everyone involved should know that’s the standard at the outset, and that *all* their communications on the subject will be treated that way. This isn’t about ambushing people who had no reason to believe their “informal” communications would be exposed publicly, (they have argued) bereft of “context” they did not realize the importance of providing given the audience that would see it. But so far as I can tell, the IPCC has sung many hymns to transparency, while falling woefully short of the reality.

  7. Ed Waage
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 10:44 PM | Permalink

    There is a document at the IPCC web site here

    Click to access ipcc-principles-appendix-a.pdf

    “Thirdly, the review process should be objective, open and transparent.”

    The UEA position appears to violate this official IPCC published guidance.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 1:11 AM | Permalink

      Re: Ed Waage (Nov 25 22:44),


      the issue is about communication between lead authors. not between lead authors and reviewers.

      “recent guidance given to IPCC lead authors has clearly indicated that communication between lead authors is to remain confidential, and that emails and preliminary versions of work are not made public, cited, quoted nor distributed. We believe that this is persuasive evidence that the IPCC feels that the release of such material would adversely affect their interests.”

      The argument will be advanced that the author of chaper 5 should be able to talk privately with the author of chapter 6. While the communication between authors and reviwers is open and transparent, the communication between authors will be protected. And so if you want something to happen outside the process you now see how it can be done. Open yet private.

      As the climategate mails show Jones had a metting with Parchuri to discuss FOIA. no journalist has seen fit to inquire of either about this meeting

      • Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

        Pachauri was keyed in on parts of the Soon and Baliunas affair as well.

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Nov 28, 2010 at 2:39 AM | Permalink

          Re: Shub Niggurath (Nov 26 07:01), yes
          that is a fascinating mail.

          there are a couple reasons for putting him on it. At the time some were worried that he was in the Bush camp. very odd mail

  8. kuhnkat
    Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 11:26 PM | Permalink

    I seem to remember someone mentioning an EU law that requires all Climate Research to be OPEN to anyone. Is this real?? Would it apply to anyone or organization from the EU involved in IPCC business?

    • Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

      There is the Aarhus Convention, which has been ratified by about 40 countries, mostly European. The Convention requires the countries to adopt laws that make environmental information available to members of the public. In the UK, the Environmental Information Regulations were enacted pursuant to the Convention. The EIR is like the FoI Act, but with substantially stronger provisions.

      I used the EIR to get the tree-ring data held by Queen’s University Belfast. I would have been unlikely to get that data under the UK FoI Act. Even so, it took three years and a very large effort.

      In Sweden, I have been trying to get tree-ring data from Lund University. Lund University repeated resisted, and I eventually took the case to court. The Swedish legal system is strange: I presented my case; the university presented its defense; and the court then issued its verdict. I was not given any chance to rebut the university’s case. The verdict was for the university.

      I appealed, and the appellate court agreed to hear the case. In my appeal, I argued that the university’s defense in the first court was untruthful. The university presented new untruths to replace the old untruths (so I claim) for its defense. Again I was given no chance to rebut the defense. Again the verdict was for the university.

      I am preparing to file a formal complaint with the Aarhus Convention Secretariat, alleging that Sweden is in breach of the Convention. If the Secretariat finds in favor of releasing the data, then Sweden will be forced to either change its laws or withdraw from the Convention.

      The moral of the story is that, yes, there are relevant laws, but getting them enforced can be an tremendous effort.

      • Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 6:08 PM | Permalink

        How is the analysis of that eagerly awaited tree ring data going?

        • oneuniverse
          Posted Nov 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

          Moderators –
          I’d appreciate the courtesy of dropping me an email or note, however brief, to let me know why my reply to TFP was deleted – my reply seemed reasonable and on-topic to me, I quoted Keenan in the Belfast Telegraph explaining his motivation for requesting the data from QUB.

          Steve: Keenan and Belfast was OT to this thread. No need to rise to bait,

        • oneuniverse
          Posted Dec 1, 2010 at 8:24 AM | Permalink

          Thanks Steve. I agree my comment was OT, as was TFP’s (both referring to Keenan’s success at QUB). However, given that TFP’s comment appears to have passed moderation (it’s still up, and had been up for over 40hrs at the time), I expected that valid critical replies on-topic to that comment (as I believe mine was) would pass moderation as well. I’ll try to be more discerning in the future.

          Steve: I prefer that readers do not rise to bait, even if the bait is not moderated.

  9. fredb
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

    I side with the confidentiality for draft and author-to-author discussions. Think about it, think about human nature. You and I spurt forth words all the time, and often we wish we could grab them just as they leave our mouth. It’s called being human … we say silly things. You and I are no exception. If the IPCC author-to-author discussions in preliminary preparations were fully disclosed, imagine what will happen; simply that the telephone and skype usage would rocket because they’re human, and will find other ways to do the work.

    I suggest, if this blog calls for transparency on personal communications, let’s see the same standard applied to the behind-the-scenes communications here and everywhere — it’s neither realistic nor desired!! If you argue it is, expose your own life to the world first! Remember the supposed Mark Twain joke: “I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying ‘flee at once – all is discovered.’ They all left town immediately.”

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 4:41 AM | Permalink

      Re: fredb (Nov 26 01:22),

      when I am charged with writing a document that will change the way the world operates I would gladly
      have all my communications disclosed. Had to submit to similar rules when working for defense.

      • fredb
        Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 5:16 AM | Permalink

        I think your comment strengthens my point of view, at least in my opinion it does. When something is as important as this, you need to let them get on with it to thrash out the issues internally (and I use that word “thrash” deliberately) without the distraction of the world commenting and ripping apart every little personal quirk of conversation. Otherwise I would anticipate that the product will be bland, non-controversial and non-useful, and YET politicians will STILL make decisions, only now they’ll be making it with an incomplete picture.

        However, we obviously approach this with different philosophies, which is an interesting question itself … how does one converge a global community of different philosophies of life. 🙂 A discussion for another time …

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 9:54 AM | Permalink

          IPCC policies say that (1) the process is to be open and transparent; and (2) all written review comments are to be archived.

          Wahl’s emails to Briffa are clearly written review comments. Their “reasons” why Wahl’s review comments should be exempt are totally bogus. They say that Wahl submitted his review comments outside the formal process. All the more reason why they should be on the record.

          Issues surrounding Lead Author discussions are not the same as the Wahl issue. I agree that one can argue that there are different considerations. However, one can also argue that comments by Lead Authors one to another reviewing work to date are review comments and, according to IPCC procedures, should be archived.

          If IPCC wishes to change the language of its procedures at a formal session to place a cone over Lead Author communications, that’s up to them. But it shouldn’t be done unilaterally by authors, whose interests may or may not be the same as the organization’s. And it does affect their ability to claim that their process is “open and transparent”.

        • fredb
          Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

          Thanks Steve, I think I agree with the principles and especially your last paragraph.

          Where I differ is where you suggest interpreting as “review comments” the informal back and forth author-to-author discussions which occur in the development of the document. Where does one draw the line on transparency in the spectrum between an authors speculative thoughts and formal external review, and critically, who draws the line, and on what criteria? That decision is what has to be articulated and defended.

          For myself, I do not accept the argument that these informal emails of the back and forth discussions are “review comments”, and would not support these being taken as such. But that’s where we deviate I guess, and we each lobby accordingly.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

          I can understand the argument for a cone over Lead Author discussions. But the opening issue was the Wahl emails to Briffa.

          Let’s stipulate for a moment that Lead Author discussions can be carried out within a cone of secrecy. I don’t see that this entitles UEA or IPCC to keep the Wahl emails under this cone.

          Wahl was not a Lead Author, nor a Contributing Author and not within the (temporarily stipulated) cone of secrecy.

          Wahl’s emails contained suggestions on the Second Draft that were later incorporated in the document. These were “review comments”, every bit as much as comments submitted on the record. The fact that Wahl submitted them off the record is irrelevant to this determination. Indeed, the language accompanying these emails provides plenty of evidence that both Wahl and Briffa were aware that the activity was surreptitious – something that they should have been asked about by one of the “inquiries”.

        • Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

          Not to mention that each page of the TSU compiled comments document that Briffa had sent to Wahl contains a footer which clearly states:

          “Confidential, Do Not Cite, Quote or Distribute”

          But perhaps the words above, not unlike the word “trick”, have a different connotation to climate scientists.


          Just as:

          “All written expert, and government review comments will be made available to reviewers on request during the review process …”

          may well be a “principle” [p. 3] with a rather unique connotation (if not denotation).

        • Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

          You’re really dancing around the issue, IPCC stated rules were subverted. There are no two ways around it.

          Steve: IPCC made no such statement. Fred Pearce used the word.

        • Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Permalink

          Sorry, I should have typed “IPCC-stated”, not that the IPCC had stated that rules were subverted. I meant that their rules were subverted.

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 4:33 PM | Permalink

          Re: fredb (Nov 26 05:16),

          You might think that, but those are just thoughts not arguments.
          Let’s call the IPCC document what it is. A review of the science.
          It is not science. There is no need and no benefit derived from
          chapter authors communicating privately. Whatever they discuss they
          can discuss at open meetings of all chapter authors. Having worked on large
          documents myself I can testify that these open meetings yeild better results
          than people working in isolation. There is no empirical argument that
          working with private communication is better, no moral argument that it is superior, no argument whatsoever except the personal desire of those involved.

          When working on a document of grave import we had one simple rule: AVO
          avoid verbal orders. verbal communication, communication that was not subject to record keeping requirements,caused deaths. That is a fact which your thoughts to the contrary cannot change. when people are allowed to “thrash” things out
          the result is more often than not dominated by personality rather than by reason.

  10. John Ritson
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    I know where some recent guidance on IPCC lead author-to- author correspondence confidentiality came from but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to release it. I’ll check with my source and get back to you.

    • P. Solar
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

      Astounding! now knowing why its a secret may itself be a secret.

      This is starting to sound more like the secret intelligence community than peer-not-review science.

      Hopefully the next IPCC report will also be a secret and we won’t need to deal with the lies and distortion it will surely contain.

  11. Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 5:17 AM | Permalink

    I think it would be helpful if some UK government authority were to state clearly the overall philosophy behind the FOIA (presumably this is stated somewhere in the legislation, but it seems to have become lost).

    To my mind, the whole idea of the FOIA was first and foremost that all government activities (with limited exceptions) should be open to inspection by the people. In other words, the passing of the Act into law *should* have been the signal for all branches of government to voluntarily start sharing information. The FOIA is only secondarily a means for forcing such openness in cases where it isn’t forthcoming.

    That’s what I find so frustrating about all this – not so much all the ‘he said, she said’ stuff, but the fact that the UEA is so blatantly ignoring the spirit of the legislation.

    If the UEA scientists want to keep the details of their work secret from the public, they should go and find private employment somewhere and stop working (via the government) for the people of the UK – that’s all there is to it.

  12. P. Solar
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 7:16 AM | Permalink

    And of course none of these *recent* guide lines have anything at all to do with AR4 and David Hollands FIOA requests relating to that era.

    This is more irrelevant, disingenuous, smoke and mirrors maneuvering by UEA.

    Ignore it and press ahead with FOI demands.

  13. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    “recent guidance given to IPCC lead authors has clearly indicated that communication between lead authors is to remain confidential, and that emails and preliminary versions of work are not made public, cited, quoted nor distributed. We believe that this is persuasive evidence that the IPCC feels that the release of such material would adversely affect their interests.”

    OK, we now have the feelings/indications of the IPCC on lead author communications and that they can be kept from public view. Given that the IPCC is supposed to be an agency that transparently reviews the science on AGW, why would they not say something to the effect that all communications will be subject to public scrutiny?

    I can certainly see if one were doing a public relations effort on obtaining immediate mitigation for AGW that lead authors might want to hide their behind the scenes dealing as they, of course are more in the business of doing public relations than science. Given that the IPCC is more about advocacy than science, I can understand the hesitancy to be more than forthcoming.

    I do have to laugh at the defenses that have been presented here of the IPCC’s hesitancy to reveal. Attempting to somehow equate what people might communicate as private individuals and made public with what a government body communicates in making decisions (and for me no matter what the extent and potential consequences might be) is pure silliness.

    What Douglas J. Keenan says about the efforts required to obtain information (often and finally through litigation of FOI) is quite true, and, of course, well known by those who are hesitant to provide the requested information. I think, given the current state of affairs in obtaining information, it is important to make the inferences that if the body/people who are hesitant to reveal, the chances are good that they do indeed have something to hide or at least that public relations and advocacy are a big part of their efforts. It also provides an opportunity for those with silly defenses to step forward and provide more evidence as to what bodies like the IPCC and their defenders are up to.

    • David Holland
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 12:41 PM | Permalink

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Nov 26 10:24), Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Nov 26 10:24),

      No Kenneth we have the “feelings/indications” of the hired hands. To more exact I should say the seconded hands. The IPCC is a Panel of government officials which commissions and accepts reports from ad hoc groups of scientists and other “experts” employed and paid for the most part by public authorities in IPCC member countries. Almost no one is employed by the IPCC.

      The “Principles Governing IPCC Work” and their “Appendix A” Procedures are agreed by governments not the ad hoc groups. The procedures are woefully inadequate and assume wrongly that their gaps will be filled by the ad hoc groups in accordance the fundamental IPCC principle that the assessment is done “on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis”. Its like having an honesty box in a shop. It worked in one village last year on boxing day but I’m not sure I’d try it on Oxford Street.

      These hired hands are ignoring the IPCC Principles and using convenient but ridiculous interpretations of words like “materials” in Appendix A

      • Kenneth Fritsch
        Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

        It really makes no difference to me whether it is the hired hands who direct the IPCC or the, evidently, ill defined operators of the institution through neglect of enforcing their own rules. It might be an issue with someone applying legal recourse (like FOI) to sort out the responsibilities of a sovereign nation or the much more amorphous legalities connected with the UN. Does one blame the inmates when they are running the institution?

  14. Alfred Burdett
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    “In the recent U of East Anglia of David Holland’s renewed request for IPCC review comments, held out of the IPCC archive through conduct described by Fred Pearce as a “subversion” of IPCC principles of openness and transparency, East Anglia stated…”

    Not sure what it is, but there seems to be a serious glitch with this sentence.

  15. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

    With all due respect to FredB it really doesn’t matter what your opinion is when all the evidence so far released and known is that the IPCC considered that issue and rejected your opinion.

    • fredb
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 2:35 AM | Permalink

      An interesting observation that deserves exploration (somewhere else, probably over pizza and beer late into the night).

      Your comment needs a context of course; one needs to say my opinion doesn’t matter *to who*. It matters to me of course. It might matter to people who agree with me. It might even matter to people who disagree with me. It might not matter to the IPCC (although I’m not sure I would necessarily say that without evidence). Ironically, maybe your opinion of my opinion doesn’t matter either. At the end of the day opinions are just that, opinions. Whether they matter of not depends not on whether the opinion emanates from a position of authority and to which community the opinion is expressed.

      I fully agree my opinion doesn’t matter in this forum, which is really a sounding room of opinions. 😉

      • Kenneth Fritsch
        Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

        I think your opinion and others voiced here can be informative even though I think you are either looking at these situations incorrectly or are attempting to defend the lack of total transparency in favor of behind the scenes maneuvering that needs cover for public relations reasons. Another point that is missing here is that the conversations recorded can or least should be revealed when an issue of wrong doing is suspected and evidenced. What informal conversations would be required for an official of the IPCC working in an official capacity and for what purposes?

        Issues with government bodies should be handled much differently and with much more scrutiny than those with private individuals and bodies and for very obvious reasons. The Star Chamber did not work very well, as we might recall.

  16. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

    Fredb: Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I meant my comment only to apply in the context of this post and the IPCC. I agree that my opinion doesn’t matter. I also agree that your opinion is important in a more general context. Interestingly, Kenneth Fritsch’ reference to a Star Chamber proceeding was exactly what I was thinking of. Along those lines, when I am being told that my children and their progeny are being exposed to a substantial risk of death or increasingly deleterious quality of life, and that I must pay money and change my conduct to avoid such an outcome, and this warning and threat is coming from a panel of a political organization whose member nations are known and/or recognized to be corrupt and/or despotic, I don’t buy that I am not entitled to know in full detail how the Panel arrived at such a conclusion. However, in a more perfect world I would agree with your opinion.

  17. TAG
    Posted Nov 28, 2010 at 7:11 AM | Permalink

    snip – overeditorializing and venting

  18. j ferguson
    Posted Nov 28, 2010 at 7:16 AM | Permalink

    That they feel they need privacy for their discussions suggests that they don’t see their charge as describing the science, but instead PR, propaganda, or outright advocacy.

    Those do have to be contrived in private.

  19. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 29, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Eduardo Zorita here says that he doesn’t know anything about the alleged “guidance” document.

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