Mann Misrepresents the UK Commons Committee

Mann’s inclusion of the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (“Commons Committee”) among the investigations that supposedly “investigated” and “exonerated” Mann personally is as invalid as his similar claims regarding the Oxburgh and Muir Russell inquiries or his claim to have won a Nobel prize.

The Commons Committee (see report here) did not conduct any investigation into Mann’s conduct nor did it make any findings whatever in connection with Mann’s conduct. I’ll demonstrate this in today’s post, which is the third in the present series (previously I discussed the Oxburgh and Muir Russell inquries here and Muir Russell here).

In addition, I’ll also discuss an important discrepancy between the findings of the Muir Russell panel and the report of the Commons Committee concerning the notorious email concerning Jones’ construction of the 1999 WMO diagram (the “trick … to hide the decline”). Whereas the report of the Commons Committee had concluded in respect of this incident that Jones had “no case to answer”, the Muir Russell panel found that the diagram omitted data and was “misleading”. In combination, these constitute the elements of the offence of “falsification” as defined in academic misconduct codes.

Mann’s pleadings also emphasize and rely on international media coverage as an essential element of the defendants’ knowledge of the reports, but media coverage of Jones’ appearance before the Commons Committee was savage.

Commons COmmitteee Terms of Reference

Following the public announcement of the Muir Russell committee in January 2010, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee invited written submissions on the following questions:
• What were the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
• Were the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?
• How independent were the other two international data sets (see paragraph 23)?

These terms of reference obviously did not include examination of Mann’s conduct.

The Committee Hearings, March 1, 2010
The Committee held hearings on March 1, 2010. The hearings had four sessions. First were University of East Anglia’s Vice Chancellor Acton and Phil Jones. Then Nigel Lawson and Benny Peiser. Then ^ of the Information Commissioners’ Office. Finally from the climate establishment, SLingo, Beddington….

Mann’s pleadings placed great importance on reports of the investigations in international media. However, CRU and Jones received savage coverage in contemporary articles (see CA post here).

For example, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail:

Professor Acton’s left eyebrow started doing a little jiggle of its own. His eyeballs bulged with admiration for the climate-change supremo. His lips were pulled so wide in wonderment they must nearly have split down the seams like banana skins. Others, watching the tremulous Professor Jones, will have been less impressed. He may be right about man-made climate change. But you do rather hope that politicians sought second, third, even 20th opinions before swallowing his theories and trying to change the world’s industrial output.

Simon Carr in The Independent:

His defence was a bit unscientific too: “I’ve obviously written some very awful emails,” followed by a wry smile. But the committee declined to be charmed. Why wouldn’t he release the codes? “Because we had an awful lot of work invested in it.”

Yes, by the sound of it there was considerable data smoothing and oiling and homogenising and substituting and standardising… I don’t know much about statistics but I know what I like. And when a scientist says: “We couldn’t keep the original data, only the added-value data,” all sorts of sirens and alarms go off.

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian:

The sight of another scientist being skewered makes for painful viewing. Whatever your view on man-made global warming, you had to feel sorry for Professor Phil Jones, the man behind the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia

Anne Treneman in The Times:

Professor Jones’s face was immobile, eyes steady behind wire specs. He seemed, like a dead calm sea, almost glassy. And, like ships in the Bermuda Triangle, questions that got near him just seemed to disappear.

Only once did he admit to anything and that was about an e-mail. “Uh. Yes. I have obviously written some very awful e-mails,” he murmured.

Oh dear. It seems the planet is in more trouble than I thought.

It is not obvious to me how such reports in international media communicate an exoneration of Jones, let alone Mann.

The Commons Report
The report of the Commons Committee contained no findings (let alone exoneration) of Mann’s conduct, whether it be allegations of misconduct, data torture, data manipulation or poor statistical practice. Indeed, there was negligible consideration of such issues even for CRU scientists.
They were much more interested in questions of data transparency, Freedom of Information (then a raging controversy) and the terms of reference of the two UEA inquiries and that matters not fall between the inquiries, as evidenced by the five headings of their Conclusions: Datasets; Freedom of Information; ICCER; Science Appraisal Panel.

The Report contains a section entitled “Dishonesty”, but only one incident: the notorious trick email. (The “similar” near contemporary 2001 IPCC TAR diagram was not mentioned.) They noted that the language of Jones’ email had suggested an intent to “falsify data”. (In academic misconduct language, “falsification” includes “changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record
In the case of both the 1999 WMO and 2001 IPCC TAR diagrams, adverse data had been omitted. The Muir Russell report subsequently found that the 1999 WMO diagram was “misleading”. The omission of data resulting in a “misleading” diagram appears to satisfy the elements of “falsification”, but this was not pursued further by the Muir Russell panel. And while the Muir Russell panel observed that the 2001 IPCC TAR diagram was “similar”, the Muir Russell panel didn’t pursue it further either.

While the Muir Russell inquiry was hardly zealous in its inquiries, even the Muir Russell panel was unprepared to fully acquiesce in the sharp practice of the 1999 WMO diagram. However, the Commons Committee appears to have limited its consideration to word play. It accepted the argument (originally set out by Gavin Schmidt) that the term “trick” in this context did not necessarily imply malfeasance, since the term was also a “colloquialism for a “neat” method of handling data”. Curiously, Rich Lowry of National Review subsequently took a very similar line of argument in a different context, arguing in respect to the term “fraudulent hockeystick”, arguing that it did not imply criminal malfeasance or academic misconduct.

The Committee also took the view that Jones’ use of the words “hide the decline” was merely “shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous”, adding a request that the Oxburgh panel address the issue. (I sharply criticized this finding at the time. There is no evidence that the adverse data is “erroneous” in the sense of mesaurement errors. Its only defect is that it went the “wrong way”.”)

66. Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers-including a paper in Nature-dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous. We expect that this is a matter the Scientific Appraisal Panel will address.

In their conclusions, the Commons Committee accepted the argument that the words in the email were mere word play. (However, there is no record that they examined the underlying diagram to ensure that it was not misleading):

We are content that the phrases such as “trick” or “hiding the decline” were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

They stated that, “within [their] limited inquiry”, Jones had “no case to answer”, a conclusion that was subsequently widely cited, generally without the qualifications and limitations of the Committee’s actual statement (as, for example, the Mann pleadings):

In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty-for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”- we consider that there is no case to answer. Within our limited inquiry and the evidence we took, the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact.

However, instead of finding that Jones had “no case to answer”, the Muir Russell panel reached the opposite conclusion, finding that the 1999 WMO diagram was “misleading” (but without linking back to the Commons Committee report):

On the allegation that the references in a specific e-mail to a “trick” and to “hide the decline” in respect of a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.

Unsurprisingly, Mann’s Reply Memorandum favorably cited the Commons Committee finding, while vociferously denying that the adverse Muir Russell finding had anything to do with him.

In the Reply Memorandum, Mann included the Parliamentary Committee among the investigations that purportedly gave him wide ranging “exoneration” by the Parliamentary Committee, claiming that it had “also found that “there is no case to answer” with respect to accusations of dishonesty”. (Mann did not mention that the consideration of dishonesty by the Commons Committee had been limited to the 1999 WMO diagram).

In March 2010, the United Kingdom’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report finding that the skeptics’ criticisms of the CRU were misplaced, and that its actions “were in line with common practice in the climate science community.” It also found that “there is no case to answer” with respect to accusations of dishonesty.

In their support memorandum to their motion to dismiss, the National Review had cited Muir Russell finding that the 1999 WMO diagram had been “misleading” as evidence of qualifications to the Muir Russell findings. (For the purposes of Mann litigation, I think that their argument would have been more effective if they had focused on the 2001 IPCC TAR diagram, which had “similar ” issues according to Muir Russell, and with which Mann was directly associated as IPCC Lead Author.) Mann responded with outrage that he had had “nothing to do” with this graphic and accused National Review of trying to “obfuscate” the evidence and of being “disingenuous” (a very Mannian word):

In their brief, the NRO Defendants suggest that the University of East Anglia’s investigation actually found that the hockey stick graph was “misleading.” See NRO Mem. at 9, 35; . This allegation is yet another example of Defendants’ attempts to obfuscate the evidence in this case. The “misleading” comment made in this report had absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Mann, or with any graph prepared by him. Rather, the report’s comment was directed at an overly simplified and artistic depiction of the hockey stick that was reproduced on the frontispiece of the World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 1999.39 Dr. Mann did not create this depiction, and the attempt to suggest that this report suggested an effort by Dr. Mann to mislead is disingenuous.

Given Mann’s claim that these adverse findings had “nothing to do” with him (and I agree with him on this narrow point) (Ross McKitrick observes in comments below that CG2 emails show that Jones had sent the 1999 WMO diagram to Mann for his review and that Mann had signed off on it), one can surely wonder at his apparent inability to see that the “exonerations” of the Muir Russell, Oxburgh and Commons Committee (such as they were) also had “nothing to do” with him.


Mann’s claim that the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee “investigated” and “exonerated” him personally is as invalid as his similar claims regarding the Muir Russell and Oxburgh inquries or his claim to have won a Nobel prize. Media coverage of Jones’ appearance before the Commons Committee hearings was eloquently savage, perhaps even Steynian. Nor did the Commons Committee report result in any uncontradicted findings on dishonesty: its only finding on dishonesty – that Jones had “no case to answer” in respect to the 1999 WMO diagram – was contradicted and superceded by the finding of the Muir Russell panel that the diagram was “misleading”. This diagram had “nothing to do” with Mann himself, but Mann was implicated in the 2001 IPCC TAR diagram, which also deleted adverse data from the Briffa recontruction and which the Muir Russell panel described as “similar”. I will return to this topic in a later post.

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