East Anglia: More Sucking and Blowing

David Holland’s well-known FOI 08-31 included the following request:

1. The IPCC stated on July 1, 2006:

“We are very grateful to the many reviewers of the second draft of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report for suggestions received on issues of balance and citation of additional scientific literature.”

Did the IPCC receive any such “suggestions” in a written form other than those reported in the documents for each chapter entitled “IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report: Expert and Government Review Comments on the Second-Order Draft”2? If so, please provide them.

The U of East Anglia rejected a refreshed request in respect to the Wahl emails on the basis that the email to Briffa (acting here in his capacity as an IPCC author) was “not provided to the IPCC, only to Prof. Briffa and therefore is outside the remit of question 1”

Appendix F (08-31)

There is no question that a suggestion was received by Prof. Briffa from Eugene Wahl and this material is publicly available and has been widely commented upon. This ‘suggestion’ was not provided to the IPCC, only to Prof. Briffa and therefore is outside the remit of question 1.

Now let’s turn to their position refusing Holland’s related FOI request 08-23. In that case they argue that emails from IPCC authors are communications “received from the IPCC as an organisation”.

I believe that we have shown that the IPCC qualifies as an international organisation covered by the exception, and that, given the nature of the IPCC structure, information received from convening authors and authors of the Working Group, in effect, is communication received from the IPCC as an organisation.

I.e. they argue that communications sent from IPCC authors to IPCC Lead Author Briffa are communications sent by IPCC as an organization, but communications received by IPCC Lead Author from IPCC authors are not received by IPCC as an organization.

I wonder if they snickered when they wrote this.


  1. Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    If you read what I posted here:


    You will understand the US emails do not fall under FOI act.

    In my opinion you should be able to
    – request Briffa to US (UK foi is confused being in its infancy)
    but not
    – US to Briffa. These emails are owned by US citizens and therefore do not fall under FOI

    This has the added implication that even if US emails had been destroyed at the request of Jones, it would not be an illegal act since these Emails could never be subject to an FOI request!!!!!

    It is also interesting that some NASA emails have been released. So perhaps NASA have acted illegally in subjecting scientists to this exposure.


    • Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

      The real question is: what do they have to hide? (besides the decline)

    • KnR
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

      Nationality has nothing to do with it , it is the organisation residency the FOI covers and that means CRU are legally required to meet the requirements of the FOI. BS for all their worth its actual making things worse and goes directly against the advance even the poor reviews of them give.
      The USA actual has its own freedom of information laws and there tougher.

    • max
      Posted Nov 26, 2010 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

      Ix my good man,

      please check your sources. What you refer to is the OMB ruling that correspondence was not considered research data which had to be released by persons who merely received a federal grant. It does not mean that all correspondence in all cases does not have to be released. People (not just scientists) who work for federal and state governments fall under a whole different section of US FOI (actually the section you refer to is . NASA, for instance, is a agency of the federal government (not merely a recipient of government grants) and correspondence by and to NASA scientists is required to be released (with exceptions).

      • Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 1:30 AM | Permalink

        I think you need to check the FOI documentation here:

      • Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

        For Example:
        The change that brought some Universities into FOI regulation:

        This appropriations law commands OMB to revise Circular A-110 in such a way as to require future such federal grantees to submit their research data to the federal grantor agency so that their data can be processed for potential disclosure in response to FOIA requests made for the data. In short, this new statutory provision overrules the longstanding Supreme Court precedent of Forsham v. Harris, 445 U.S. 169 (1980), which held that data generated and held by private research institutions receiving federal grants were not “agency records” subject to the FOIA and that a grantor agency was not obligated to demand those records in order to respond to any FOIA request for them.

        In order to implement this statutory provision, OMB prepared a proposed revision of Circular A-110, … OMB published a final revised version of Circular A-110, which can be found at 64 Fed. Reg. 54,926.

        The final revised version of this circular significantly defines the term “research data” to include “the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, but not” such things as trade secrets, commercial information, personnel and medical information, and any “similar information which is protected under law.” Id. at 54,930. It also limits the application of this new provision to “research data relating to published research findings,” id. (emphasis added), which it defines as either “[r]esearch findings [that] are published in a peer-reviewed scientific or technical journal” or that are “publicly and officially cite[d] . . . in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.” Id.

        Thus, in actual implementation, this statutory provision should apply to only certain types of “research data” as specified by OMB. Further, it applies only to data created under grants “issued after the effective date [November 8, 1999]” of the revised Circular A-110. But for any such data that is requested under the FOIA, the agency must obtain the data from the grantee and then process the FOIA request, except for one major difference pertaining to fees: “The agency may charge the requester a reasonable fee equaling the full incremental cost of obtaining the research data . . . in addition to any fees the agency may assess under the FOIA.” …


        (d) (1) In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for research data relating to published research findings produced under an award that was used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, the Federal awarding agency shall request, and the recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that they can be made available to the public through the procedures established under the FOIA. If the Federal awarding agency obtains the research data solely in response to a FOIA request, the agency may charge the requester a reasonable fee equaling the full incremental cost of obtaining the research data. …
        (2) The following definitions apply for purposes of paragraph (d) of this section:

        (i) Research data is defined as the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, but not any of the following: Preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, or communications with colleagues. This “recorded” material excludes physical objects ( e.g. , laboratory samples). Research data also do not include:

        (A) Trade secrets, commercial information, materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, or similar information which is protected under law; and

        (B) Personnel and medical information and similar information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study.

        (ii) Published is defined as either when:

        (A) Research findings are published in a peer-reviewed scientific or technical journal; or

        (B) A Federal agency publicly and officially cites the research findings in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.


        So no government grant funded research falls into this category if published before 1999.

        Privately funded research is exempt

        “communications with colleagues” is specifically exempt

  2. Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    Am I missing something here? Under UK law emails sent by Briffa and received by him are both subject to the FOI Act and EIR.

    • Gilbert K. Arnold
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

      I believe the discussion is centering about the differences in UK FOI and US FOI. Our (US) FOI has different standards than the British one. One difference in that we also have individual state FOI statutes.

  3. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

    It appears to me that EAU has retreated still deeper into their bunker. Consequently, the fact that their statements lack even a semblance of logic, is no longer important. Now, defending the bunker is all that matters.

  4. Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    It is an interesting dilema.
    FOI UK – no privacy so all you “stuff” gets thrown open
    FOIA US – emails (any) are excluded explicitly from exposure.

    Email from US to UK which wins: US privacy or UK FOI?

    Until this is sorted it will hamstring UK research. Is any US researcher going to openly communicate with a UK researcher knowing that whatever he writes will be pulled apart, mis-interpreted, and put on the Blogs within 20 days?

    That should put another nail in the coffin of UK research.

    ps moderators any chance of freeing my post:
    thefordprefect Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 8:29 AM

    • Atomic Hairdryer
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

      I think you are confusing US FOI law. Emails are not exempted under s552 Title 5 unless they fall under some fairly narrow exemptions. The Open Government Act 2007 added to FOI and extended it to cover release of data, and clarified ‘private’ entities working for government. There is no explicit exclusion for emails under US FOI.

      What you are probably also confusing is the idea of privacy. Work emails, either work related or sent from work systems are not private automatically under FOI law. Neither is using non-work email systems like gmail to attempt to subvert FOI law, all that should do is show intent to evade it.

      If you think there is some blanket explicit exemption, care to cite the applicable section of FOI law?

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

        This thread is about the contradiction in UEA positions. US FOI has nothing to do with this thread. No more OT ruminations on US FOI law please.

    • KnR
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

      There are in fact a number of exemptions within the FOI act which the CRU have used in the past , however these do have to be justified. In these case it’s clear that they don’t think they can so are playing fast and loose with wording.

      The important points to remember are that
      Jones planed to avoid FOI requests before he got any.
      Initial FOI requests were due to CRU failing to meet the rules of journals in which they put their research
      Jones stated he delete data before he release it under FOI
      Jones asked others to delete e-mails relating to an FOI request
      CRU has been found to be in breach of the FOI.

      Jones and the CEU are hardly the innocent some are trying to sell them as.

    • Bad Andrew
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

      “Until this is sorted it will hamstring UK research.”

      You mean there will be fewer meaningless squiggly lines to project significance onto?

      Indeed, The Worst Of Times.


  5. PhilH
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    “put on the Blogs within 20 days?” 20 days? Try three years and endless requests.

    If they would honestly stick to the science and open books, they would have nothing to fear. If they want to slander an opponent, threaten to beat him up or hide a decline, let them use the telephones or their personal e-mail addresses. Or they can akways get together over drinks in Tahiti.

  6. Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM | Permalink

    All this seems to be in keeping with Geoffrey Boulton’s subtle position on the niceties of scientific ethics: “Arguably, the scientist should be Janus-faced, facing in two directions, with two sets of ethical responsibilities.” (http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Ethics_transcripts.pdf). (Published well before climategate).

  7. EdeF
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    Let us review once again why we would like to see communications among the IPCC lead author and others: first off we would like to see any substantive
    rebuttal to the lead authors comments on the subject in question; secondly
    how or if the lead author defends his case based upon the critique. We would then have some idea as to the strengh of the author’s case relative to the minority opinions and whether or not any comments were added in the subsequent
    report or if the lead author just ignored everything and kept his report in tack as it is. We would also like to see if there was any undue political or
    team pressure applied in rejecting any well-researched technical information
    from the report that didn’t agree with the party line.

  8. oneuniverse
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if it’d be worthwhile engaging the services of a lawyer, to determine the options available for progressing these inquiries by the public.
    I’d be glad to contribute several £k to such an endeavour, contingent on the willingness of individuals such as Steve McIntye, David Holland and Andrew Montford to provide input.

    • oneuniverse
      Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

      McIntye -> McIntyre, my apologies Mr. McIntyre.

  9. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

    What we are seeing from EAU is obfuscation. Sound science does not require obfuscation.

    Since the Climategate emails were distributed, the credibility of scientists has been harmed by the actions of a few in the climate science community. The current actions by EAU worsen the situation.

    What science needs is full discolsure. EAU’s “sucking and blowing” to prevent disclosure causes further harm.

  10. Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if they snickered when they wrote this.

    Don’t know, but I sure did.

  11. Bob
    Posted Nov 27, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

    Steve, your terrific auditing mind will enjoy this.http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/small-tyrants-large-tyrannies/

    • stan
      Posted Nov 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

      While I agree with much of what he writes in that link, I think that small decisions lead to large tyrannies only when power is invested in small minds (see e.g. “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.)

      I think insofar as quality control is concerned and the need to closely examine assumptions and standard conventions, climate science is a pretty good example of “Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.”

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