Steve McIntyre: was Michael Mann “exonerated” by the Oxburgh Panel?

March 1

In the defamation case, Mann v. Steyn, Professor Michael Mann claims to have been “exonerated” by a long string of investigations.  Usually the word “exonerated” means being personally investigated and having been found entirely innocent.  For Mann, apparently sometimes it means that someone else (not necessarily Mann) was investigated and not found guilty.

In an important series of posts at Climate Audit, Steve McIntyre is going carefully through the investigative reports that Mann claims exonerated him and pointing out what was actually said and not said. While his first post involves a report of an investigation of people other than Mann, other posts by McIntyre are exploring some of the reports that were indeed investigations of Mann and in which Mann was found not guilty of misconduct.

McIntyre’s first post in the series examines the OxBurgh Panel Inquiry:

Integral to Mann’s litigation are representations that he was “investigated” by 6-9 investigations, all of which supposedly gave him “exonerations” on wide-ranging counts, including “scientific misconduct”, “fraud”, “academic fraud”, “data falsification”, “statistical manipulation”, “manipulation of data” and even supposed findings that his work was “properly conducted an fairly presented”. Mann also represented that these investigations were widely covered in international and national media and thus known to Steyn and the other defendants.

In today’s post, I’ll look closely at the Oxburgh panel, one of the investigations cited in Mann’s pleadings. However, contrary to the claims in Mann’s litigation, not only did the Oxburgh panel not exonerate Mann, at their press conference, Oxburgh panelist David Hand, then President of the Royal Statistical Society, made very disparaging and critical comments about Mann’s work, describing it as based on “inappropriate” statistics that led to “exaggerated” results. These comments were widely reported in international media, later covered in a CEI article that, in turn, was reported by National Review. Moreover, information obtained from FOI in the UK a couple of years ago shows that Mann objected vehemently to criticism from Oxburgh panelist, which he characterized as a “rogue opinion” and unsuccessfully sought a public apology.

Mann’s claim that the Oxburgh panel “exonerated” Mann on counts ranging from scientific misconduct to statistical manipulation to proper conduct and fair presentation of results has no more validity than his claim to have been awarded a Nobel prize . . . .

As both McIntyre and the National Review have pointed out, the Oxburgh Panel was investigating the conduct of the East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU), not Michael Mann. National Review noted in their Reply Memorandum (as quoted by McIntyre):

[T]he Oxburgh report, cited by Mann (Pl.’s Resp. at 19) as evidence of his “exoneration,” examined only the conduct of East Anglia Climate Research Unit scientists, not Mann. Nonetheless, the panel concluded that it was “regrettable” that tree-ring proxy reconstructions “by the IPCC and others” neglected to emphasize “the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century.” See Pl.’s Resp., Ex. 5 at 5 ¶ 7. Prof. David Hand, the head of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the panel, subsequently singled out Michael Mann’s research for criticism, noting that Mann’s used “inappropriate methods” that “exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick.” See Supp. Coffin Decl., Ex. H. The panel, though not Prof. Hand, later clarified that its report had not charged any scientists with being “deliberately misleading” in their analyses.

In his pleadings Mann pointed to press coverage of the investigations, apparently to support allegations of malice on Steyn and Simberg’s part, since supposedly they could see from the press reports that any criticisms of Mann’s methods were unfounded.

But as McIntyre documents, one of the main themes of the press coverage of the Oxburgh report was the comments made at the official press conference by “panelist David Hand, an eminent statistician who was then the President of the Royal Statistical Society.”  Hand criticized the quality of Mann’s work, leading to headlines around the world, such as “Climategate scientists chastised over statistics.”

Here is part of McIntyre’s account:

 Louise Gray of the Daily Telegraph, generally highly sympathetic to green causes, reported that Hand had accused Mann of using “inappropriate” methods that had “exaggerated” the threat from climate change . . .

The article continued with harsh words about Mann:

Professor David Hand said that the research – led by US scientist Michael Mann – would have shown less dramatic results if more reliable techniques had been used to analyse the data… But the reviewers found that the scientists could have used better statistical methods in analysing some of their data, although it was unlikely to have made much difference to their results.

That was not the case with some previous climate change reports, where “inappropriate methods” had exaggerated the global warming phenomenon. Prof Hand singled out a 1998 paper by Prof Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a constant target for climate change sceptics, as an example of this. He said the graph, that showed global temperature records going back 1,000 years, was exaggerated – although any reproduction using improved techniques is likely to also show a sharp rise in global warming. He agreed the graph would be more like a field hockey stick than the ice hockey blade it was originally compared to. “The particular technique they used exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick. Had they used an appropriate technique the size of the blade of the hockey stick would have been smaller,” he said. “The change in temperature is not as great over the 20th century compared to the past as suggested by the Mann paper.” . . .

The New Scientist’s report, also by a very green reporter, . . . reported that the “strongest example of imperfect statistics” was said to occur in the work of Michael Mann, which had led to “exaggerated” results:

 [Hand] said the strongest example he had found of imperfect statistics in the work of the CRU and collaborators elsewhere was the iconic “hockey stick” graph, produced by Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. The graph shows how temperatures have changed over the past 1000 years (see graphic, right). Hand pointed out that the statistical tool Mann used to integrate temperature data from a number of difference sources – including tree-ring data and actual thermometer readings – produced an “exaggerated” rise in temperatures over the 20th century, relative to pre-industrial temperatures. That point was initially made by climate sceptic and independent mathematician Stephen McIntyre.

Read the whole thing, including an account of Mann’s attempts to get a retraction. Instead, what Mann got was this statement, which only said that any problems noted weren’t necessarily intentional or deliberate:

For the avoidance of misunderstanding in the light of various press stories, it is important to be clear that the neither the panel report nor the press briefing intended to imply that any research group in the field of climate change had been deliberately misleading in any of their analyses or intentionally exaggerated their findings. Rather, the aim was to draw attention to the complexity of statistics in this field, and the need to use the best possible methods.

Note that this statement doesn’t actually offer an opinion on whether the (criticized) findings were “deliberately misleading” or “intentionally exaggerated,” merely stating that their comments were not intended to imply this accusation.

McIntyre concludes:

As noted at the start, Mann’s pleadings assert that he was “investigated” by multiple investigations and that all of the investigations (i.e. including Oxburgh) exonerated him of scientific misconduct, fraud, academic fraud, data falsification, statistical manipulation, manipulation of data and even supposed findings that his work was “properly conducted and fairly presented” and that these findings were announced and reported in “international and national media” of which the defendants were aware.

However, it is evident that the Oxburgh panel did not interview Mann or carry out any of the steps necessary to conduct an investigation of Mann’s work and that they did not provide the wide-ranging “exoneration” asserted in Mann’s pleadings.  Furthermore, public statements by members of the Oxburgh panel on Mann’s work were highly critical and, far from indicating the widespread exoneration claimed by Mann, suggested the opposite. Indeed, Mann himself at the time perceived these opinions as damaging to himself, as he dismissed Hand’s as a “rogue opinion” and unsuccessfully sought an apology from Hand. (emphasis added)

If all you need to be personally “exonerated” is not to be convicted by an investigation of someone else entirely (in this instance, an investigation of the staff of the East Anglia CRU), then perhaps the Oxburgh panel also exonerated many of Michael Mann’s critics.

 

Jim Lindgren is a law professor at Northwestern University, with a BA from Yale and a JD and a PhD in (quantitative) sociology from the University of Chicago. He is a cofounder of the Section on Scholarship of the Association of American Law Schools and a former chair of its Section on Social Science and the Law.
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Next Story
Eugene Volokh | March 1