Academic experts clear scientists in 'climate-gate'

By Karla Adam and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 15, 2010; A06

LONDON -- In the second of three investigations of the scandal known as "climate-gate," a panel of academic experts said Wednesday that several prominent climate scientists did not engage in deliberate malpractice but did not use the best statistical tools available to produce their findings.

The University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has been under intense scrutiny since November, when hackers posted more than 1,000 pirated e-mails and a raft of other documents that highlight the scientists' hostility toward global warming skeptics. But the review -- which follows a British parliamentary review that defended the institution's research but faulted its tendency to withhold information -- did nothing to bridge the divide between many climate researchers and their critics.

After interviewing staff members and analyzing 11 peer-reviewed articles published between 1986 and 2008, the panel concluded: "We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it."

They also said it was "very surprising" that the researchers did not work more closely with statisticians. But, they added, it was "not clear" that "better methods would have produced significantly different results."

Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, called it a "superficial investigation."

"They don't even make a minimal effort to rebut the obvious appearance of widespread data manipulation, suppression of dissenting research through improper means and intentional avoidance of complying with Freedom of Information requests," said Ebell, whose think tank accepts funding from energy interests.

Set up and funded by the University of East Anglia, the review panel was led by Ernest Oxburg -- a geologist and former academic who is the honorary president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and is involved with the wind-energy company Falck Renewables.

The other members were Huw Davies at ETH Zurich, Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lisa Graumlich at the University of Arizona, David Hand at Imperial College London, and Herbert Huppert and Michael Kelly at the University of Cambridge.

A third review, headed by Muir Russell, a former civil servant, is expected to report back shortly on allegations of malpractice.

Eilperin reported from Washington.

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