Climate Scientist Mann Partially Absolved by Penn State

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

A panel convened by Pennsylvania State University has mostly absolved Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann wrongdoing on allegations stemming from e-mails he sent as part of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia e-mail theft last year, The New York Times reports:

In some of the e-mail messages, Dr. Mann refers to his assembly of data from a number of different sources, including ancient tree rings and earth core samples, as a “trick.” Critics pounced on the term and said it was evidence that Dr. Mann and other scientists had manipulated temperature data to support their conclusions.

But the Penn State inquiry board said the term “trick” is used by scientists and mathematicians to refer to an insight that solves a problem. “The so-called ‘trick’ was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field,” the panel said.

The e-mail messages also contained suggestions that Dr. Mann had purposely hidden or destroyed e-mail messages and other information relating to a United Nations climate change report to prevent other scientists from reviewing them.

Dr. Mann produced the material in question, and the Penn State board cleared him of the charge.

There were also questions of whether Dr. Mann misused confidential data and engaged in a conspiracy with like-minded scientists to withhold information from competing scholars. The Penn State board found nothing to support the charge.

The detailed findings of the three-member investigative panel are here; three of four charges of misconduct were investigated and dismissed. One remains: whether Mann was involved in "any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities." The panel could not determine the answer to that question and the university has appointed a second, five-person panel to look into it.

Posted in Climate, Education