A panel of outside experts appointed by the University of East Anglia to examine the conduct of its Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in light of the embarrassing e-mails disclosed late last year has delivered what is perhaps the most nuanced and authoritative judgment yet on "climategate." The CRU's Phil Jones, who had stepped down as the unit's director while it was under review, has been reinstated in a similar position.
"Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigor and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behavior of CRU scientists, we find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt. In addition, we do not find that their behavior has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments. But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the University of East Anglia, who failed to recognize not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the university and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science."
Just days before the East Anglia review group released its findings on July 7, a Penn State panel issued similar conclusions, largely clearing Michael E. Mann of hockeystick graph notoriety. My assessment was that the e-mail imbroglio nonetheless had caused lingering damage to the reputations of the CRU and the IPCC, and that their work will be scrutinized much more closely in the future. Roger Pielke Jr, with whom I've crossed swords on occasion, has voiced the same opinion.
"The e-mail don't change at all the fundamental tenets of the science," Pielke told the New York Times. "But they changed the notion that people could blindly trust one authoritative group, when it turns out they're just like everybody else"--that is to say, subject to human foibles and human error.