Head of ‘Climategate’ research unit admits sending ‘pretty awful emails’ to hide data
By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 8:34 AM on 02nd March 2010
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Scientists at the heart of the Climategate row were yesterday accused by a leading academic body of undermining science’s credibility.
The Institute of Physics said ‘worrying implications’ had been raised after it was revealed the University of East Anglia had manipulated data on global warming.
The rebuke – the strongest yet from the scientific community – came as Professor Phil Jones, the researcher at the heart of the scandal, told MPs he had written ‘some pretty awful emails’ – but denied trying to suppress data.
The Climategate row, which was first revealed by the Daily Mail in November, was triggered when a hacker stole hundreds of emails sent from East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.
They revealed scientists plotting how to avoid responding to Freedom of Information requests from climate change sceptics.
Some even appeared to show the researchers discussing how to manipulate raw data from tree rings about historical temperatures.
In one, Professor Jones talks about using a ‘trick’ to massage figures and ‘hide the decline’.
Giving evidence to a Science and Technology Committee inquiry, the Institute of Physics said: ‘Unless the disclosed emails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research and for the credibility of the scientific method.
‘The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital.’
Last month, the Information Commissioner ruled the CRU had broken Freedom of Information rules by refusing to hand over raw data.
But yesterday Professor Jones – in his first public appearance since the scandal broke – denied manipulating the figures.
Looking pale and clasping his shaking hands in front of him, he told MPs: ‘I have obviously written some pretty awful emails.’
He admitted withholding data about global temperatures but said the information was publicly available from American websites.
And he claimed it was not ‘standard practice’ to release data and computer models so other scientists could check and challenge research.
‘I don’t think there is anything in those emails that really supports any view that I, or the CRU, have been trying to pervert the peer review process in any way,’ he said.
Professor Jones, who was forced to stand down as head of the CRU last year, also insisted the scientific findings on climate change were robust.