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|A panel of independent experts has
officially begun its inquiry into the "Climategate" affair.
The experts, headed by Sir Muir Russell, will investigate how
e-mails from the UK's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) appeared on the
They will also consider if the e-mail exchanges between researchers
show an attempt to manipulate or suppress data "at odds" with
But even before the panel could start work, one of its members
Dr Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief for Nature journal, stood down
late on Thursday. The reason was not immediately clear.
Sir Muir's panel hopes to present "preliminary conclusions by spring
Speaking at the launch of the inquiry, Sir Muir, who is chairman of
the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, said: "We are free to
pursue and follow any line of inquiry that we wish.
"Our job is to investigate the scientific rigour, honesty, openness
and due process of what CRU's approach has been," he told reporters.
"We will be calling for evidence, for submissions and comments on
the issues that we will be putting to the members of CRU and others.
"We are also launching a website, and that will be the primary way
in which people will be able to follow our progress."
In November, more than 1,000 messages between scientists at the CRU,
based at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and their peers around
the world were posted on the web, along with other documents.
Climate inquiry independent vow
CRU maintains one of the world's most important datasets on how
global temperatures have changed.
Professor Phil Jones, the director of the unit, has stepped down
pending the review, and has said he stands by his data.
UEA appointed Sir Muir in December to head an inquiry into a series
of allegations that arose from the stolen e-mails.
As well as more than 1,000 e-mails, the hack took 3,000 documents.
The overall size of data amounted to 160MB.
The panel are also tasked with considering whether the unit failed
to observe Freedom of Information requests properly.
Critics said that the e-mail exchanges reveal an attempt by the
researchers involved to manipulate data.
Climate sceptics suggest that the affair shows that either human
activities are not affecting the planet's climate system, or that
the impacts are not as bad as many climate scientists suggest.
The panel's investigation will:
• "Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail
exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether
there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data
which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice."
• "Review CRU's policies and practices for acquiring, assembling,
subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research
• "Review CRU's compliance or otherwise with the university's
policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of
• "Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management,
governance and security structures for CRU and the security,
integrity and release of the data it holds."
However, the panel will not review the past scientific work of the
CRU, as this will be re-appraised by a UEA-commissioned study that
will involve the Royal Society in an advisory role.
"Colleagues in CRU have strenuously defended their conduct and the
published work and we believe it is in the interest of all concerned
that there should be an additional assessment considering the
science itself," Professor Trevor Davies, UEA's pro-vice-chancellor
for research, enterprise and engagement, said in a statement.
Royal Society President Lord Rees said that it was important that
the public had the utmost confidence in the science of climate
"Where legitimate doubts are raised about any piece of science they
must be fully investigated - that is how science works," he
"The Royal Society will provide advice to the University of East
Anglia in identifying independent assessors to conduct this
A spokewoman for UEA told BBC News that a chairperson would be
appointed "at the earliest opportunity".
But she added that the remit of the re-appraisal, such as how many
past CRU publications would be assessed, would be decided by the
As well as Sir Muir, the other members the Climate Change E-mail
Review team, which is being funded by UEA, are Geoffrey Boulton,
general secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; Professor Peter
Clarke of the University of Edinburgh; David Eyton, head of research
and technology at BP; and Professor Jim Norton, vice president for
the Chartered Institute for IT.
The deadline for submissions to the review is 1 March 2010.