New Info on the Oxburgh Panel

Some interesting new information on the formation of the Oxburgh Panel has come as a result of Andrew Montford continuing to appeal and dig. See here and here. The formation of the Oxburgh Panel seems to have been a somewhat hurried response to a dismal press conference on Feb 4, with Alan Thorpe of NERC more influential than previously thought. Thus far, FOI requests haven’t resulted in correspondence about the appointment of Oxburgh, though it must exist.

A summary of the recent response to Montford’s reiterated request is here.

On Feb 4, 2010, there was a press conference attended by Alan Thorpe of NERC, Julia Slingo of the Met Office and Brian Hoskins. A contemporary public account of the press conference by Fiona Fox is here

But we did feel that the time had come to inject a simple and sober audit of the science into the frenzy, and give science journalists the opportunity to question three of the UK’s top climate researchers. And that’s exactly what the panel did. In possibly the clearest and most compelling summary I have ever heard, the experts told a room packed full of science reporters what we do know and how we know it, and what is much more uncertain, immature and up for debate. The panellists also talked about how this science is done, the kinds of peer review process at work, the way research is selected for funding and the myriad ways in which the goal of quality is achieved. After a week in which poor quality science, flaws in peer review and errors have loomed large, I personally was entirely convinced by their message that we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Alan Thorpe’s private assessment of the press conference to Beddington was much more discouraged:

It went fine but it is clear that the journalists think that it will take more than respected scientists re-affirming the science to turn the horrifically bad press that we are getting at the moment around. I think this is now a very bad time for British science as a whole unfortunately because of the UEA affair plus the IPCC report error.

I want to suggest that an authoritative urgent investigation be carried out into the peer-reviewed published science of the Climatic Research Unit at UEA- so purely to confirm or otherwise that the published papers are sound. This could (and perhaps should) be offered to Mur Russell as a contribution to his independent review. (Another issue is peer review in general and its credibility as a mechanism to regulate science quality. But this is probably a separate matter.)

I would be happy for NERC to help with such a scrutiny of the CRU papers but I feel the review would be most powerfulif owned by either yourself and/or the Rotal Society. It would need to be carried out very quickly.

What do you think? I have raised this with Martin Rees and he is going to talk it through with RS colleagues.

Four days later (Feb 10), as noted here , Trevor Davies emailed Beddington (then in India) notifying him of the new plan to rapidly carry out a “scientific assessment of key CRU publications”, referring to discussions involving Thorpe of NERC, Hoskins and Rees:

Muir Russell is launching the Independent Review tomorrow. Our understanding is that he will state definitively that he will not be reviewing the ‘science’. Given the time which has elapsed since we instigated the Review (Dec 3) and other events, we are of the view that there should be as rapid as possible scientific assessment of key CRU publications. There has been discussion between the Royal Soc (Martin Rees, Brian Hoskins), UEA (me, Peter Liss) and Alan Thorpe [NERC]. Initially we were hoping that the Royal Soc would undertake this, but Martin feels it more appropriate that the Soc helps us identify people with the appropriate standing, independence etc. We plan on issuing a statement to this effect tomorrow, Muir Russell has agreed.

On Feb 11, the planned Science Appraisal Panel was announced.

Beddington met with Pachauri in India on Feb 12 – notes on which are now available due to the Montford FOI. Beddington mentioned the planned panel.

Within the next couple of weeks, Beddington suggested to UEA that Oxburgh head the panel, but no documents or emails containing this nomination have been produced in response to FOI requests thus far. As reported on other occasions, Beddington met with Oxburgh in late March, also talked to Oxburgh panelist Michael Kelly and congratulated Oxburgh a “blinder well played”.


  1. genealogymaster
    Posted May 28, 2011 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

    Are you trying to say we shouldn’t question these people and take them at their word with no evidence to show the world. I’m sorry these are public positions and if they don’t FOI requests then go to work for a private company.

  2. oneuniverse
    Posted May 28, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Steve – you could have added that, according to Oxburgh in his email to you (and in contradiction to UEA’s widely reported announcement of the panel), “the science was not the subject of [The Science Assessment Panel’s]study”.

    BTW Fiona Fox’s account of the press conference doesn’t seem to be available on the linked Science & Media Centre website, but can be found at her blog.

  3. EdeF
    Posted May 29, 2011 at 12:15 AM | Permalink

    “..we are of the view that there should be as rapid as possible scientific assessment of key CRU publications.”

    Still no scientific assessment of CRU pubs has been made by any of the committees.

  4. Posted May 29, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    A fascinating insight into the establishment perspective. The general theme seems to be ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea for someone else to set up a science review to deflect the damage done by the climategate emails’. And of course, even blinder Oxburgh shifted the focus from science, as soon as his three and half days in Norwich permitted. Clearly the scientific Pontius Pilates realized that contact with the details could be catastrophic to their vaunted careers, and that yet something had to be done to prop up the CRU.

  5. justbeau
    Posted May 29, 2011 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

    Justice is blind, whereas Lord Oxburgh is blinder.

  6. HaroldW
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Permalink

    Not “a blinder well played,” but “a blinder played.”

    Mustn’t go to the well too often.

    • gernimo
      Posted May 31, 2011 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

      Steve, he’s correct, Beddington said: “blinder played”

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