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Response by the University of East Anglia to the Report by Lord Oxburgh’s Science Assessment Panel

Wed, 14 Apr 2010

UEA welcomes the Report by the Lord Oxburgh’s Independent Panel, both in respect of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) being cleared of any scientific impropriety and dishonesty, and the suggestions made for improvement in some other areas.

The Oxburgh findings are the result of the latest scrutiny of CRU’s research. The first was the original peer review which led to publication in some of the world’s leading international science journals; the second was the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee. Taken together, these must represent one of the most searching examinations of any body of scientific research. The veracity of CRU’s research remains intact after this examination.

It is gratifying to us that the Oxburgh Report points out that CRU has done a public service of great value by carrying out meticulous work on temperature records when it was unfashionable and attracted little scientific interest, and that the Unit has been amongst the leaders in international efforts to determine the overall uncertainty in the derived temperature records. Similarly, the Report emphasises that all of CRU’s published research on the global land-based instrumental temperature record included detailed descriptions of uncertainties and appropriate caveats. We also welcome the confirmation that, although some have accused CRU of trying to mislead, the Unit’s published research emphasises the late 20th Century discrepancy between tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature and instrumental observations.

The Report points out where things might have been done better. One is to engage more with professional statisticians in the analysis of data. Another, related, point is that more efficacious statistical techniques might have been employed in some instances (although it was pointed out that different methods may not have produced different results). Specialists in many areas of research acquire and develop the statistical skills pertinent to their own particular data analysis requirements. However, we do see the sense in engaging more fully with the wider statistics community to ensure that the most effective and up-to-date statistical techniques are adopted and will now consider further how best to achieve this.

Another area for suggested improvement is in the archiving of data and algorithms, and in recording exactly what was done. Although no-one predicted the import of this pioneering research when it started in the mid-1980’s, it is now clear that more effort needs to be put into this activity. CRU, and other parts of the climate science community, are already making improvements in these regards, and the University will continue to ensure that these imperatives are maintained.

The Independent Climate Change E-mail Review investigation is underway, and therefore some important issues are still under active consideration. This document is our immediate written response to the Oxburgh Report. In the coming weeks we shall be considering precisely how we act upon the detailed findings of the Oxburgh Report, together with the findings of the parliamentary select committee and, in due course, the Independent Muir Russell review report.

We are grateful to Lord Oxburgh, and his international expert team, for the fair, efficient and prompt way in which they conducted their Assessment.

Use this link to read the Science Assessment Panel Report.
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