Mon, 22 Mar 2010

Lord Oxburgh FRS, a former chair of the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, is to chair an independent Scientific Assessment Panel to examine important elements of the published science of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

His appointment has been made on the recommendation of the Royal Society, which has also been consulted on the choice of the six distinguished scientists who have been invited to be members of the panel.

The panel will have access to any publications or materials it requests, and all information considered will be listed in the Report. The University, in consultation with the Royal Society, has suggested that the panel looks in particular at key publications, from the body of CRU's research referred to in the UEA submission to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee. 

Announcing the appointment, Prof Trevor Davies, the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: "CRU's scientific papers have been examined by scientists from other institutions through the peer review process before being accepted for publication by international journals. We have no reason to question the effectiveness of this process. Nevertheless, given the concerns about climate research expressed by some in the media, we decided to augment the Muir Russell review with an independent assessment of CRU's key publications in the areas which have been most subject to comment.

"We are delighted that a renowned scientist of the standing of Lord Oxburgh has agreed to chair this very strong independent panel and await its findings with great interest. Colleagues in CRU have committed themselves to providing any support required by the panel."

The panel members are: Prof Huw Davies, Professor of Physics at the Institute for Atmospheric & Climate Science at ETH Zürich; Prof Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Prof Lisa Graumlich, Director of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at The University of Arizona; Prof David Hand, Professor of Statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College; Prof Herbert Huppert, Professor of Theoretical Geophysics at the University of Cambridge; and Prof Michael Kelly, Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge.

"The shadow hanging over climate change and science more generally at present makes it a matter of urgency that we get on with this assessment. We will undertake this work and report as soon as possible," said Lord Oxburgh.

The panel will meet in Norwich in April and will have the opportunity to see original data and speak to those who did the work. It comprises of scientists who use techniques similar to those used in CRU but who largely apply them to other areas of research, as well as those with experience in climate or related research.

Prof Davies said: "Our concern has been to bring together a distinguished group of independent scientists who understand the difference between assertion and evidence, and are familiar with using the latter to judge the validity of conclusions arising from science research. The panel members have the right mix of skills to understand the complex nature of climate research and the discipline-based expertise to scrutinise CRU's research. How they do this will be entirely down to the panel.

"The choice of scientists is sure to be the subject of discussion, and experience would suggest that it is impossible to find a group of eminent scientists to look at this issue who are acceptable to every interest group which has expressed a view in the last few months. Similarly it is unlikely that a group of people who have the necessary experience to assess the science, but have formed no view of their own on global warming, could be found.

"We are grateful to the Royal Society for helping us to identify such a strong panel and to the members for dedicating their time to this important matter." 

Their report will be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor. His response, and the report itself, together with the list of publications assessed,will be published in full.

Prof Ron Oxburgh FRS (Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool) trained originally as a geologist and has worked as an academic, a civil servant and in business. Between 1987 and 1993 he was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence and from 1993 to 2001 Rector of Imperial College. He was non-executive Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading until the Company merged with Royal Dutch Petroleum to form Royal Dutch Shell in 2005. He is currently President of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and Chairman of Falck Renewables. He is a former Chairman of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum and of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. He is Foreign member of the US, Australian and German Academies of Science. 

Prof Huw Davies was Professor of Atmospheric Dynamics at the ETH in Zürich where he served as both Director of the Institute for Atmospheric & Climate Science and Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences. He graduated from the University of Wales, studied for his doctorate at Imperial College London, and lectured at the University of Reading. He is a member of the Academia Europaea, and was President of the International Association of Meteorology & Atmospheric Science (IAMAS). Currently he is a member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and on the executive committee of the International THORPEX programmes. He was listed as a reviewer in the 1990 IPCC WG1 report. His research is in the fields of atmospheric dynamics and short-term climate variability. 

Prof Kerry Emanuel is Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was elected a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2007. He specialises in atmospheric convection, tropical cyclones and the mechanisms acting to intensify hurricanes, coining the term "hypercane" in 1994. His research group at MIT has developed a promising technique for inferring tropical cyclone activity from climate models. Prof Emanuel was asked to review a small portion of the IPCC report of 2007 dealing with tropical cyclones. He was named one of the 100 influential people of 2006 by Time Magazine. 

Prof Lisa Graumlich is Director of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at The University of Arizona. As a researcher, she investigates how ecosystems and human societies adapt to climate change, with a special focus on severe and persistent droughts. She started her career at The University of Arizona in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and was first Director of the University of Arizona's Institute for the Study of Planet Earth. In 1999, she moved to Montana State University to direct the Big Sky Institute, returning to Arizona to take up her current post in 2007. 

Prof David Hand FBA is Professor of Statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College. He is also Chief Scientific Adviser to Winton Capital Management, and President of the Royal Statistical Society. He has broad research interests, including multivariate statistics, classification methods, pattern detection, the interface between statistics and computing, and the foundations of statistics. He has wide-ranging consultancy experience to organisations ranging from banks, through pharmaceutical companies, to governments.

Prof Herbert Huppert FRS has been Professor of Theoretical Geophysics and Foundation Director, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, at the University of Cambridge since 1989 and Fellow of King's College Cambridge since 1970. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1987. His area of expertise is general fluid mechanics, in particular as applied to the Earth Sciences. Current areas of active research include: phase changes between fluid and solids (solidification and melting); formation of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic; propagation of gravity currents; particle-driven flows; turbidites and pyroclastic flows; flow of granular media; volcanic eruption dynamics; natural ventilation; slow viscous motions; flow in porous media and carbon dioxide sequestration. 

Prof Michael Kelly FRS is Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge, where during 2003-05 he was also executive director of the Cambridge-MIT Institute. He was a member of the research staff of GEC during 1981-1992, and professor of physics and electronics at the University of Surrey during 1992-2002, and head of its School of Electronics and Physical Sciences during 1996-2001. He is also a non-executive director of the Laird Group plc. He is a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and New Zealand and of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. He was chief scientific adviser to the Department of Communities and Local Government from 2006 to 2009.

Use this link to see a PDF of the University's submission to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee.