Thursday, 4 February 2010

School to Probe Climate Scientist

Pennsylvania State University has begun a formal investigation into whether a prominent faculty member is guilty of scientific misconduct for the way he carried out research into climate change.
But the university said a preliminary inquiry into Dr. Michael Mann's work, completed late last month, cleared him of allegations that he conspired with other scientists to squelch views and data at odds with their belief that the earth is warming.
Those allegations arose after an unknown computer hacker stole hundreds of emails and other documents from a British scientific center, the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, in late November.
The emails and documents were published online shortly before the United Nations' climate summit in Copenhagen. Global-warming skeptics said the documents called into question the validity of U.N.-sponsored reports contending that the earth is heating up and that human activity is almost certainly the primary contributor.
Dr. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, was a leading contributor to the U.N. reports. He is perhaps best known for his controversial "hockey stick" chart, which showed the earth's temperatures rising rapidly.
In a statement released Wednesday, Dr. Mann said he believed Penn State's first review, which centered on material in the hacked emails, cleared him of misconduct. But he said he fully supports the new inquiry into his scientific methods, "which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts."
Penn State said it is undertaking the new inquiry because the purloined emails may be undermining public confidence in Dr. Mann's findings, "in science in general and climate science specifically."
Officials at East Anglia University determined last month that scientists there had failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests to share their data. The director of the climate-research unit, Dr. Phil Jones, subsequently stepped down from his post.
The U.N.'s climate-change group has also admitted there was no scientific basis for its predictions that warming would lead to the demise of Himalayan glaciers. It has promised more-rigorous scrutiny of research.