Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scientists feel heat over climate e-mails

In the next few days, the jury who will decide the fate of one of the UK’s most prominent climate scientists will take their places. An independent panel of five experts, some but not all of them scientists, will be named to investigate possible wrongdoing by climate experts at the UK’s University of East Anglia, and chiefly by Phil Jones, director of the university’s climatic research unit.

Such drama could barely be further from a climatologist’s career of slow research, scanning through temperature data, refining and running computer models of the weather.
At issue are e-mails sent by Professor Jones and other climate scientists at the UEA and universities around the world over a period of years. Some of the messages, which were hacked from a UEA server and posted on the web, appear to show malpractice within the research unit.

There are three clear charges: that Prof Jones and others tried to subvert the scientific peer-review process; that he attempted to conceal data that others requested; and that some data were manipulated. British police are also investigating the case.
Prof Jones insists that none of the allegations are justified and that his words have been taken out of context.
But the scandal is taking its toll. “I feel tremendously pressurised by all this but I’m trying to continue my work in the science,” Prof Jones said this week.
Part of the problem was the scientists’ poor response to the allegations. Prof Jones’s backers based their defence on the fact that the e-mails had been stolen. As the authenticity of the e-mails was not in doubt, this gave many people the impression that the UEA had no better argument. Read more.

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