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Climate Hustle

Climategate: Impeding Information Requests?

Posted on 26 November 2010 by James Wight

This is the final part in a series on the fake scandal of Climategate.

The final allegation arising from the "Climategate" emails between scientists at the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU), which the Muir Russell inquiry examined, is that Freedom of Information requests received by CRU “were incorrectly denied.” Meanwhile, defenders of CRU “have suggested that a number of these FoIA requests were inappropriate or frivolous.” [10.2]

Arguably this is the only instance where there is actually a case to be answered. Below I have reproduced some of the emails often quoted in support of these allegations (all were written by Phil Jones):

7/5/2004: Many of us in the paleo field get requests from skeptics (mainly a guy called Steve McIntyre in Canada) asking us for series. Mike and I are not sending anything, partly because we don’t have some of the series he wants, also partly as we’ve got the data through contacts like you, but mostly because he’ll distort and misuse them. Despite this, Mike and I would like to make as many of the series we’ve used in the [Reviews of Geophysics] plots available from the CRU web page.

2/2/2005: [D]on’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites — you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? - our does! […] Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it—thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that.

21/2/2005: I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!

27/4/2005: I got this email from McIntyre a few days ago. As far as I’m concerned he has the data — sent ages ago. I’ll tell him this, but that’s all — no code. If I can find it, it is likely to be hundreds of lines of uncommented fortran ! I recall the program did a lot more than just average the series. I know why he can’t replicate the results early on — it is because there was a variance correction for fewer series.

29/5/2008: Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. […] Can you email Gene and get him to do the same? […] We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.

3/12/2008: When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions — one at a screen, to convince them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA […] became very supportive. […] The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data Protection Act request sent by a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific credibility with his peers! If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn’t yet) I am supposed to go through my emails and he can get anything I’ve written about him. About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little — if anything at all.

10/12/2008: Haven’t got a reply from the FOI person here at UEA. So I’m not entirely confident the numbers are correct. One way of checking would be to look on CA, but I’m not doing that. I did get an email from the FOI person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting emails — unless this was ‘normal’ deleting to keep emails manageable! […] According to the FOI Commissioner’s Office, IPCC is an international organisation, so is above any national FOI. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on, unless it has anything to do with our core business — and it doesn’t. I’m sounding like Sir Humphrey here! McIntyre often gets others to do the requesting, but requests and responses all get posted up on CA regardless of who sends them.

The general allegation is that CRU incorrectly denied FoI requests. In particular, the Review focused on the question of whether UEA’s formal processes for dealing with FoI requests were “fair and impartial”.

The Review Team interviewed the relevant UEA and CRU staff, as well as representatives of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). UEA’s FoI process is centred around their Information Policy & Compliance Manager (IPCM). In the two years after current laws came into effect at the start of 2005, no requests for information were logged with the IPCM, though we know from the emails that there were such requests. We know from the IPCM log that CRU received four requests in 2007, two in 2008, and one in the first half of 2009 (four were fully granted and three rejected).

Then came the storm. Between 24 July and 28 July, CRU received no less than 60 FoI requests, and 10 more between 31 July and 14 August. The requesters demanded access to both raw temperature station data and any related confidentiality agreements. The Review found evidence that this was an organized campaign (one request asked for information “involving the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested]”). The Review says “such orchestrated campaigns [have] literally overwhelming impacts on small research units.”

The Review found there was “insufficient priority given from the UEA centre to motivating staff and to prompting continuing education” about their legal requirements under FoI law. Similarly, they found “a lack of engagement by core CRU team”, as well as “a tendency to assume that no action was required until precedents had been set”. Some of the emails suggest a “lack of sympathy with the requesters” and “a tendency to answer the wrong question or to give a partial answer.” [10.5]

“There seems clear incitement to delete e-mails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made.” (The former is legal but not the latter.) The email dated 3/12/2008 included “a clear statement that e-mails had been deleted […] It seems likely that many of these ‘deleted’ e-mails subsequently became public following the unauthorized release from the backup server.” [10.5]

The Review found that the IPCM “may have lacked […] the authority to challenge the assertions of senior professors” and “the UEA senior staff need to take more explicit responsibility for these processes”. He told the Review he felt “very much the bull’s eye at the centre of the target”. He explicitly denied that he “became very supportive” as suggested by Jones.  The 10/12/2008 email provides “evidence that the IPCM did try to warn Prof. Jones about deliberate deletion of information”. [10.5]

In general, “[t]he Review found an ethos of minimal compliance (and at times non-compliance) by the CRU with both the letter and the spirit of the FoIA and EIR. We believe that this must change”. The Review also made it clear that CRU did not receive enough support from UEA management, and made recommendations to the university on how it should handle future information requests. It also recommended to the ICO that it engage more with universities and clarify how FoI law applies to research.

However, as Steve Easterbrook commented, the Review “never really acknowledges the problems a small research unit (varying between 3.5 to 5 FTE staff over the last decade) would have in finding the resources and funding to be an early adopter in open data and public communication, while somehow managing to do cutting edge research in its area of expertise too.” The Review does point out that in the years since CRU was founded climate science has developed from “a relatively obscure area of science […] into an area of great political and public concern.”

The Review concluded:

[W]e find that a fundamental lack of engagement by the CRU team with their obligations under FoIA/EIR, both prior to 2005 and subsequently, led to an overly defensive approach that set the stage for the subsequent mass of FoIA/EIR requests in July and August 2009. We recognize that there was deep suspicion within CRU, as to the motives of those making detailed requests. Nevertheless, the requirements of the legislation for release of information are clear and early action would likely have prevented much subsequent grief. [10.6]

As Phil Jones has admitted, CRU did the wrong thing with regard to Freedom of Information requests. However, they clearly perceived that the requests were not being made in good faith. The Review apparently made no attempt to investigate the motivations of the requesters. This is not surprising as its remit was to examine the behaviour of the CRU scientists, but that in itself is yet another example of the double standard I referred to in the first installment of this series.

In any case, all this must be considered in context. Generally, the inquiry criticized CRU’s openness but concluded that “their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt” and “we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments”. Indeed, it is very unlikely that the conclusions of the scientific community could have been influenced by the behaviour of these few individuals — because the entire work of CRU comprises only a small part of the large body of evidence for anthropogenic global warming.

Global warming has been observed not just on land but also over the oceans and in the troposphere, as well as being confirmed by indicators including Arctic sea ice, glaciers, sea level, humidity, ocean heat content, and many others. And we don’t need a hockey stick to know that humans are causing global warming. The pattern of warming we observe is the same as that long predicted for greenhouse warming: the stratosphere is cooling, nights have warmed faster than days, and winters faster than summers. Climategate has not even invalidated CRU’s results, let alone the conclusions of the entire climate science community.

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Comments 51 to 78 out of 78:

  1. At least no one who thinks it through would conclude that McIntyre et al. are acting in good faith.

    1. McIntyre set up the whole FOI affair.
    2. He knows what requests were sent in to the CRU.
    3. He knows the responses.
    4. He knows the law.
    5. I think he would know of any failure to comply with the law.
    6. I don't think he is the type to hold back this information.
    7. He has not announced "Cool it folks. There is no violation here."
    8. By innuendo (or whatever his exact words) he lets people think his FOI requests were not answered properly and legally.

    QED
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  2. Eric (skeptic):

    "Each request contained just 4 or so countries so that it could not be rejected because of one country being proprietary. There were also requests to obtain the proprietary agreements for those countries that were deemed proprietary."

    5 countries, exactly, using a cut-and-paste form.

    At least one such request was made without the cut-and-paster from the horde having read instructions, because the section listing the five countries being requested was left ... BLANK!

    BTW, UK FOI law also allows for the agency not providing data that the requester can get elsewhere, which in the case of those countries that were not holding it as proprietary data is easy - you can get it from the global repository maintained by the US. You can even get scans of the original data sheets if you want *really raw* data.

    And, yes, the CA campaign was asking people to submit five countries per request, whether or not they were holding their data as being proprietary. Sorting through them would only make the work more onerous. McI and the CA crew could've figured out which countries make data freely available by scrutinizing the GHCN database.

    "To deem that campaign "vexatious" as dhogaza says is fair enough"

    Thank you, therefore CRU had a legal basis for denying the FOI requests.

    Cameron seems to be conflating Phil Jones saying "I was wrong" with an admission of *illegal activity*, which is a very different thing. Tch tch.
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  3. caerbannog, my statement that you quoted in #49 is neutral narrative of what the CA regulars did and does not imply good faith or bad faith. As for CRU's response, it is summed up well by Kooiti Masuda in #35. Also as Kooiti points out, the CA regulars were a diverse crowd, so some may have been acting in bad faith in their FOI requests. But I wouldn't paint them all with the same brush.

    As for what Steve should have done instead, he should not have wasted his time. It is CRU itself that finally clarified their lack of raw data, lack of agreements, lack of records of who the data was given to (e.g. Rutherford), etc in http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/availability/ After reading that memo it would be pointless to send an FOI for anything, but that could not be said before that memo was published.
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  4. Eric,

    It would be reasonable to assume that McIntyre was organizing the FoI requests in bad faith as he had a public history of acting in bad faith, e.g. 1934 vs. 1998.
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  5. 'But I wouldn't paint them all with the same brush.'
    Perhaps, but that brush is definitely appropriate for McIntyre himself. He should have encouraged his readers to do exactly what was described by caerbannog. He didn't. Why?

    It was so much better to accuse CRU of fraud, or Mann and Jones of being out there to destroy civilization (and I'm not making these up). CA became little more than an online lynch mob with better vocabulary than the one at WUWT. Actions clearly showed that there was never a true sincerity in McIntyre's skepticism; if there was, he would have done a lot more real work and published it. Just like Watts would have done some data analysis if he actually was intending to understand something.

    That's not what skeptics do. They accuse scientists systematically of fraud/incompetence but never provide any proof of it. Regular skeptics on this site do it quite often too. When shown that there was simply an element they overlooked, instead of duly apologizing, they say, "I'll look into it again and get back to you", which never happens. They complain about ad-homs all the time yet go on insulting personally those who disagree with them in ways that truly can not be let to appear on the site. Then they complain about censorship.

    When investigations are completed of blanket accusations (like the e-mails story) that conclude there is no fraud, they suggest the investigations themselves are fraud. When mathematical proof is shown that their allegations are false (as with Watts Canadian stations nonsense) they ignore it an wave their hands, or change the subject.

    Skeptics routinely claim that fraud is going to cost us trillions.
    I note that there still has not been one instance of scientific fraud confirmed after years of a scrutiny so intense that we can only wish it would be applied to other fields like, say, banking practices.

    After years of accusing the entire field of climate science to be riddled with fraud and error, skeptics' record of publications demonstrating so is non existent, but they really have nothing very interesting to publish.

    So they create their own journal out of nothingness (E&E) and claim high and loud that it is for them. Then, in true "skeptic" fashion, they make it their chief source of "scientific" information. What a joke. Seriously, how can a self professed skeptic consider trustworthy a source that has bias against a theory as its foundational premise? Would skeptics trust publications from a journal claiming to be a platform for pro-AGW papers? No, they would call it a political journal. They do that already with respectable publications, or accuse NSIDC of being a propaganda office (I'm still not making this up, it was read on skeptic sites).

    Why anyone who can reason would buy into the "skeptics" message would be incomprehensible, except for the fact that a careful examination almost always reveals an intense emotional bond to some ideology in which the idea of limiting carbon emissions does not fit.
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  6. @Camburn: "CRU did not follow the law. It is that plain and simple."

    Actually, no laws were broken, except by the person who hacked the e-mails. If Jones and the CRU had broken any laws, they would have been prosecuted. Are you as confused about Law as you seem to be about Science?

    "The issues that deal with climate is the mis information on both sides."

    Actually, the disinformation is coming out from one side only: the climate deniers'.

    "The models do not project the certainty that some would have you believe."

    Which scientist claimed their models projected certainty? Please provide some evidence for your allegations.

    "The temp data gets pulled in both directions."

    Do you have evidence supporting this?

    "The sensativity of climate to co2 is a very much loaded question."

    Not really, but if you have an actual scientific argument to support your claims, please share it with us.

    "The trend in temp since 1850 has been up. The long term trend since 8000 BP is still down. These are known facts."

    Current temperatures are already as high as they've ever been since the HCO, and may even be higher on a global scale.

    The fact that the current trend is going dramatically up while the normal long-term trend should lead to a decrease is *evidence* that AGW is indeed happening.

    I suggest you learn a bit more about the science before challenging it, otherwise it simply sounds as if you're opposing AGW on political grounds.
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  7. ""The models do not project the certainty that some would have you believe."

    Which scientist claimed their models projected certainty? Please provide some evidence for your allegations."

    Indeed. Climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 most likely in the range of 2-4.5C projects a lot of uncertainty, not certainty.

    Of course, Camburn and his ilk are those that project certainty, i.e. that even the low end of that rather wide range is too high. They're certain of it. Their own certainty is what they mean by "uncertainty".
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  8. Philippe Chantreau (#55): Regular skeptics on this site do it quite often too. When shown that there was simply an element they overlooked, instead of duly apologizing, they say, "I'll look into it again and get back to you", which never happens.

    Eric (skeptic): It's often not feasible to investigate an issue right away especially one that is complex. This site is very useful in pointing out flaws in my thinking but it can take time to integrate that new knowledge. So it may appear to be hit and run, but its not. Arguments like this thread are not very useful since I am not going to convince anyone about Steve M. It is much more useful for me to put forth alternatives to CAGW and let people poke holes in them. I'll apologize now in advance for those times where I will be wrong.
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  9. archiesteel@56:
    Laws were broken and prosecuted. No sir: They couldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.

    2. Dis-information. I will go with only one that is well known. There are multitudes of others.
    a. The west side highway of Manhaten will be under water by 2013. Isn't going to happen.

    3. Models and certainty. You base your 2.0 to 4.5 C increase in temps on model runs. The scientist who produced the model seems to have made you certain of this.

    4. Temps 8,000YBP. The HO is still the warmest period of this interglacial. The current warm period may be within 1.0C of that temperature. This is a brief history of the Holocene.
    http://westinstenv.org/palbot/2007/12/14/holocene-temperatures-and-sea-level-changes/

    5. Trend going up since 1850. You attribute this trend to co2. Well, the period from 1850-1940 saw very little increase in co2PPMV. The temp did increase. Also please observe the ends of past interglacial periods. On each one there was a dramatic increase in temps before the fall of said temps. We may be experiencing one of those now as the cycle is ripe for it to happen.

    6. This topic has drifted of target. Maybe you can start a new thread where we can talk in earnest about historical climate. I would welcome it.
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  10. Also, I would suggest that you read WG1 in regards to modeling climate.
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  11. "Nevertheless, models still show significant errors. Although these are generally greater at smaller scales, important large-scale problems also remain. For example, deficiencies remain in the simulation of tropical precipitation, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (an observed variation in tropical winds and rainfall with a time scale of 30 to 90 days). The ultimate source of most such errors is that many important small-scale processes cannot be represented explicitly in models, and so must be included in approximate form as they interact with larger-scale features. This is partly due to limitations in computing power, but also results from limitations in scientific understanding or in the availability of detailed observations of some physical processes. Significant uncertainties, in particular, are associated with the representation of clouds, and in the resulting cloud responses to climate change. Consequently, models continue to display a substantial range of global temperature change in response to specified greenhouse gas"
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  12. Camburn: #61

    It's called smoothing, and it's a reasonable response to complex systems with fractal properties. I'm reminded of the old Douglas Adams quote: 'If anyone finds out what the universe is for it will disappear and be replace by something more bizzarly inexplicable."
    There is another theory that states: "This has already happened.'

    Or to put it another way; if you model something with sufficient precision to be an exact model of the phenomenon under investigation, you're not modelling, you're replicating. All models are wrong but many are useful (quote attributable to someone else).
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  13. @Camburn: "Laws were broken and prosecuted. No sir: They couldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired."

    I'm sure you can tell me which law was broken, and how long the statutes of limitations are for that offense...

    "Dis-information. I will go with only one that is well known."

    That's what I said: the well-known disinformation is the one that comes from professional climate science deniers, whose junk science is peddled by think tanks that are funded by such oil industrialists as the Koch brothers.

    "You base your 2.0 to 4.5 C increase in temps on model runs. The scientist who produced the model seems to have made you certain of this."

    I would hardly call a 2.0 to 4.5C spread "certainty". On the contrary, it indicates an admitted degree of *uncertainty*. As for myself, I am not certain of it, I accept it as correct after reading up on it and understanding the science behind such a claim.

    "The HO is still the warmest period of this interglacial. The current warm period may be within 1.0C of that temperature."

    Actually, we don't know for certain that the current temperatures aren't already higher than those of the HCO. In any case, they are very close to them.

    "Trend going up since 1850. You attribute this trend to co2."

    Actually, I mostly attribute the warming since 1975 to CO2. You're the one who brought up 1850 - don't put words in my mouth, please.

    "On each one there was a dramatic increase in temps before the fall of said temps. We may be experiencing one of those now as the cycle is ripe for it to happen."

    Actually, we aren't - and those alleged rises (I have not seen any convincing evidence of their existence) were likely much slower than the current warming we are experiencing.

    "This topic has drifted of target. Maybe you can start a new thread where we can talk in earnest about historical climate. I would welcome it."

    It's unlikely you'll bring any arguments that haven't already been debunked on this site. Frankly, I've wasted enough time with political activists trying to delay action on climate change.
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  14. Camburn,

    There is currently a thread for discussions on early 20th century climate, and your other points are also already addressed on this site.

    argument #38: "It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low"
    What caused early 20th Century warming?
    &
    argument #36: "We're coming out of the Little Ice Age"
    What ended the Little Ice Age?
    &
    argument #10: "We're heading into an ice age"
    Are we heading into a new Ice Age?

    argument #5: "Models are unreliable"
    How reliable are climate models?

    That Manhattan quote is taken from a Salon interview that Hansen gave in 1998 & Watts popularized last year. Watts then goes on to claim, wrongly as usual, that there is no trend in sea level increase.

    argument #21: "Sea level rise is exaggerated"
    How much is sea level rising?
    &
    argument #74: "Sea level rise predictions are exaggerated"
    How much will sea levels rise in the 21st Century?

    You are correct on your last point. This thread is now off-topic and should move to a different area of the site.
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  15. For those still following this thread. Aside from the constant shifting of the goal posts and failure to concede anything, also please note the appearance of numerous red herrings and stereotypical "skeptic" speaking points once the "arguments" made by skeptics, concerning the FoIA's and them supporting the vexatious FoIA requests by ClimateAudit, were repeatedly refuted.

    For example, Camburn claims that "Models and certainty. You base your 2.0 to 4.5 C increase in temps on model runs. The scientist who produced the model seems to have made you certain of this."

    The above statement is very misleading. Not all estimates of climate sensitivity require climate models. Knutti and Hegerl (2008) have an excellent summary in which they discuss the multiple, independent lines of evidence which support the range for climate sensitivity stated in AR4 (2007). Also see the work of Annan and Hargreaves to quantify the uncertainty, examples here, and here.

    There is more misinformation in Camburn's posts, but Bibliovermis and Archiesteel did a fine job addressing those pedestrian "skeptic" myths. Also, the "skeptics" have done a fine job undermining their case on this thread, betraying their true beliefs and demonstrating their ignorance of climate science.

    Sorry to be harsh, but sometimes one has to call a spade a spade, and I suspect that such candid discourse is the only way of connecting with the "skeptics".

    I for one, am certainly looking forward to the return of more SkepticalScience posts on climate science.
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  16. Some further legal clarifications, seeing as some commenters persist in making inaccurate statements.

    Firstly, in the UK, a person is presumed innocent of an offence until proved guilty in a court of law. As far as I can ascertain, the only police investigation is into the access to the CRU server and I presume that this could result in a charge under the Computer Misuse Act. I am not aware of any investigation into an offence under the Data Protection Act.

    The Information Commissioner (ICO) has stated that the time limit has expired for any prosecution under Regulation 19 of the EIR or Section 77 under the Freedom of Information Act. The ICO has therefore ruled out any investigation as to whether an offence under R19 or S 77 has been committed. The Muir Russell report stated that "we have seen no evidence to delete information in respect of a request already made." Conclusion: Professor Jones stays innocent. Incidentally, the law may be changed to remove the time limit and the ICO will be more circumspect in dealing with the media!

    Whether others think the requests were "vexatious" or manifestly unreasonable, UEA did not reject those requests on that basis. The clear inference is that the requests, as far as UEA was concerned and they would be the ones affected, did not fall under those exemptions. UEA/CRU sought permission to release the data from those supplying it and only withheld the specific data when permission was denied.
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  17. Regarding the data that "skeptics" had demanded access to via FOI requests, it turns out that all of that data had been available to them all along. The data that the CRU refused to release was available for the asking (and signing of nondisclosure agreements) from the organizations that actually owned said data.

    Now, given the skeptics actions (FOI demands, etc.), one would get the impression that they *really* wanted the data in question and were "chomping at the bit" to do some real work verifying the CRU's published results.

    Now, can anyone here point to even *one* legitimate research result produced by the "skeptics" who had been pestering the CRU?

    Mind you, the skeptics have had access to all the data and information they needed to conduct independent checks on the CRU's work, and they've had access to the data/information for *years*.

    Now to the "skeptics" here -- what have you guys done with it? Once again, can you show us even *one* legitimate research/analysis result that you've produced (peer-reviewed or not) that shows any significant problems with the CRU's work?

    It's not like you guys haven't had enough time (you've had full access to all the data you've needed for *years*). It's not like you don't have access low-cost computing resources. Hardware these days is dirt cheap, and all of the software that you need is available for free (i.e. Linux, GCC/G++, SciLab, R, etc. etc.).

    So given all the data, time, and computing resources that you have had at your fingertips for *years*, what have you guys actually done?
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  18. Mikel @66,

    Thanks for that information.

    And a question that caerbannog asked is worth repeating:

    "Now to the "skeptics" here -- what have you guys done with it? Once again, can you show us even *one* legitimate research/analysis result that you've produced (peer-reviewed or not) that shows any significant problems with the CRU's work?"

    The answer? Nothing of course-- because they were clearly not interested in the data, but rather harassing UEA/CRU in their ongoing vendetta against the scientists there.
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  19. Albatross @68

    "Now to the "skeptics" here -- what have you guys done with it? Once again, can you show us even *one* legitimate research/analysis result that you've produced (peer-reviewed or not) that shows any significant problems with the CRU's work?"

    This particular post on this blog has FOI as it's topic and I'll answer the question from that perspective.

    FoIA/EIR/DPA give individuals the right of access to information. These rights do not come with any obligation to do anything with the information obtained. Any request for information does not have to include any indication of use. Moreover, those dealing with requests are not entitled to ask what use the requester intends, even though that may assist us in helping them with their request.

    We are expected to provide advice and assistance and we are entitled to seek clarification if it is not clear what information is required. It is not for us to judge whether the information provided has any value.

    I appreciate that those, including scientists, may find this irksome for their valuable and hard won information to be released in this manner, which is one of the many reasons why professional staff should be used to deal with these requests. Objectivity is essential.
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  20. Mikel @69,

    Thanks. Again, good points. One has to understand that in this case there was a history of people from ClimateAudit requesting information that was (freely) available elsewhere, which ClimateAudit knew CRU were not entitled to release, and even removing data from CRU servers (without permission).

    Also, the sheer volume of the requests in such a short time indicates that the requests were not legitimate, not to mention the fact that they were all for the same number of stations, many from overseas and at least one request provided no contact details. This is beyond suspicious, especially when one applies context.

    Given that you are familiar with the ins and outs of the legalities, is there any recourse for UEA/CRU to pursue action (legal or otherwise) against those people known to have orchestrated the requests under discussion? Surely, the FoIA has to be streamlined to strongly discourage such behaviour in the future?
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  21. FoIA/EIR/DPA give individuals the right of access to information. These rights do not come with any obligation to do anything with the information obtained. Any request for information does not have to include any indication of use. Moreover, those dealing with requests are not entitled to ask what use the requester intends, even though that may assist us in helping them with their request.


    This is quite true, but is very important for everyone to keep in mind that the credibility of the skeptics depends very much on what they have done (or in every case seen so far, have *not* done) with the information.

    The take-home message here, is regardless of whether the CRU handled all FOI requests properly, the individuals making the FOI requests have demonstrated in spades that they have no credibility (or integrity, for that matter).

    This may be a little OT with respect to this thread, but it is a message that people need to be told, loudly and clearly. The skeptics' motives were all nefarious. The skeptics haven't even *tried* to produce anything constructive or worthwhile with the data made available to them, *even though they have had all the time and resources necessary* for them to do so.

    The global-warming "skeptics" who have accused the CRU of manipulating data have not made the slightest effort to perform the data analysis that might confirm their accusations, even though all the data they needed to do so was served up to them on a silver platter.

    At this time it is safe to conclude that the "skeptics" who have been bashing the CRU and other climate-research institutions for allegedly "manipulating data" have *zero* integrity (whether or not the CRU actually fumbled any legitimate FOI requests).
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  22. "We are expected to provide advice and assistance and we are entitled to seek clarification if it is not clear what information is required. It is not for us to judge whether the information provided has any value.

    I appreciate that those, including scientists, may find this irksome for their valuable and hard won information to be released in this manner, which is one of the many reasons why professional staff should be used to deal with these requests. Objectivity is essential."

    So I've read one of the original FOI responses that pissed off McI so deeply. It

    1. Pointed out that the data wasn't UEA's to give

    2. Said that UEA was working on getting the data available, and hoped to be able to release it in the future.

    Eminently reasonable, IMO.
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  23. Albatross @70

    "Given that you are familiar with the ins and outs of the legalities, is there any recourse for UEA/CRU to pursue action (legal or otherwise) against those people known to have orchestrated the requests under discussion? Surely, the FoIA has to be streamlined to strongly discourage such behaviour in the future?"

    In answer to your first question, none that I know. That UEA did not deem these requests manifestly unreasonable suggests that there was no demonstrable harassment and therefore unlikely to infringe the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

    In answer to your second question, the Muir Russell report recommended that the ICO developed guidance, particularly for small research units, for dealing with orchestrated campaigns and being consistent with the principles of openness.

    dhogaza @72

    Yes, superficially quite reasonable. However, Exceptions under EIR can be overridden in the public interest. Moreover, all UK public authorities are expected to put in clauses in contracts that allow for complying with EIR/FoIA. I would guess that CRU contracts with WMOs predate the FoIA/EIR.

    I reiterate my points that this is not simple and that these requests are best left to professional staff to deal with.
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  24. Yes, superficially quite reasonable. However, Exceptions under EIR can be overridden in the public interest.


    The response from UEA stated that they considered whether the public interest would be better served by releasing the data despite the agreements, and decided that no, the public interest would not be better served by breaking them.

    Moreover, all UK public authorities are expected to put in clauses in contracts that allow for complying with EIR/FoIA. I would guess that CRU contracts with WMOs predate the FoIA/EIR.


    Given that the data goes back decades, that's a good guess.

    I reiterate my points that this is not simple and that these requests are best left to professional staff to deal with.


    Which would be the case for the response to McIntyre I'm discussing ...

    McIntyre knew all this, but huffed and puffed about the unreasonableness of it all, blah blah blah.
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  25. dhogaza @74

    Agreed. It would appear that UEA information compliance staff have been dealing with requests for information held by CRU from early 2007. The record for the request log starts from 2005 and the first entry is dated 25/1/07.

    I daresay there will be further discussion when the Information Commissioner publishes their Decision Notices relating to appeals.
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  26. "I daresay there will be further discussion when the Information Commissioner publishes their Decision Notices relating to appeals."

    Yeah, it will be another "whitewash", eh? :)

    Actually, I'm sure they'll point out the obvious, that UEA could've handled things better (isn't that always true?), but that nothing illegal was done ...
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  27. "Yeah, it will be another "whitewash", eh? :)"

    That probably reads as though I'm suggesting Mikel will claim it's a whitewash, which wasn't my intent. I'm just pointing out the certainty that the usual suspects in the denialsphere will call any conclusion short of felonies carrying long terms of imprisonment a "whitewash".
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  28. dhogaza @ 77

    No clarification required as far as I am concerned. Your meaning was quite clear.

    I will add that the ICO has ruled out an investigation into an offence under R19/S77. What remains are the Decision Notices(DN). These are findings of any appeal to the ICO. Decision Notices may require the public authority to release information or may state that they did not fulfil their legal obligations under FoIA/EIR, or even endorse the response of the public authority. The public authority can appeal to a Tribunal (court) or comply with the DN. DNs are not findings of any felony. However, ignoring a DN could lead to contempt of court.
    Anyone who tries to argue that it is or wiill be a "whitewash" is merely demonstrating ignorance of the legislation.
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