Scientist steps down during e-mail probe
Hacked messages about global warming caused controversy
The Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2009
A scientist who is one of the central figures in the uproar over pirated e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as the unit's director while the university investigates the incident.
Climate skeptics have seized on several e-mails from Phil Jones to other researchers as evidence that prominent scientists have sought to silence their voices in the debate over global warming. Jones's e-mail account was apparently hacked and his e-mails were posted online last month.
"What is most important is that CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible," Jones said in a statement. "After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director's role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this. The Review process will have my full support."
Several of Jones's e-mails to colleagues have sparked controversy, including his comment that he had used "a trick" to "hide the decline" in a chart showing global temperatures, and his request to "delete any emails" regarding a specific topic. Another e-mail suggested that he and other respected scientists boycott an academic journal called Climate Research because it had agreed to publish a paper they viewed as flawed.
"I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," he wrote to other researchers.
Jones denied repeated requests for interviews by The Washington Post, but he issued a statement last month saying his words had been taken out of context, a position echoed by other academics on the e-mail chain, including Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. Jones denied deleting any e-mails, and said he meant to imply the way he arranged the temperature chart was "a clever thing to do" rather than an effort to distort the science.
Trevor Davies, pro vice chancellor for research at East Anglia, in Norwich, England, said the inquiry will examine whether the university responded properly to Freedom of Information Act inquiries, the status of its data security and "any other relevant issues." He added that nothing in the pirated e-mails suggested that the unit's work was "not the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation."
Marc Morano, who edits the climate skeptic blog ClimateDepot.com, welcomed the news in an e-mail: "This is a positive development in the battle against politicized science. Jones was at the epicenter of the UN's efforts to hype man-made climate fears. His stepping down is a victory for science."
Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group, said opponents of action on climate change are using the hacked e-mails "to spread disinformation."
The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2009
The head of the British research unit at the center of a controversy over the disclosure of thousands of e-mail messages among climate-change scientists has stepped down pending the outcome of an investigation.
Phil Jones, the director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, said that he would leave his post while the university conducted a review of the release of the e-mail messages. The university has called the release and publication of the messages a “criminal breach” of the school’s computer systems.
The e-mail exchanges among several prominent American and British climate-change scientists appear to reveal efforts to keep the work of skeptical scientists out of major journals and the possible hoarding and manipulation of data to overstate the case for human-caused climate change.
In a related announcement, Pennsylvania State University said it would review the work of a faculty member who is cited prominently in the e-mail messages, Michael Mann, to assure that it meets proper academic standards.
Skeptics have seized upon the disclosures to call into question years of efforts to document changes to the climate and its causes. Republicans in Congress have begun an investigation into the work of the scientists who sent the messages — many of whom have conducted much of their research with money from the federal government — and the scientific and policy decisions that may have flowed from them.
The British university has contended that the messages were illegally obtained by a hacker, who posted them on Web sites of groups critical of the current scientific consensus that human activity has caused dangerous changes to the global climate.
Professor Jones, in a statement issued by the climate research unit, said, “What is most important is that C.R.U. continues its world-leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible.” He added that “the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the director’s role during the course of the independent review.”
For more than a week, the episode has fueled a fierce debate on the blogosphere and in newspaper opinion columns and once again placed global warming science under intense scrutiny.
Senator James M. Inhofe, a Republican of Oklahoma who is the most outspoken climate-change skeptic in Congress, renewed his call for an investigation on Tuesday.
“The e-mails reveal possible deceitful manipulation of important data and research,” Mr. Inhofe wrote.
(c) 2009 The New York Times Company