By James Randerson
Oxburgh: UEA vice-chancellor was wrong to tell MPs he would investigate climate research
The vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia gave “inaccurate” information to MPs when he told them that the university was setting up an inquiry into the reliability of key scientific climate change papers produced by his researchers, according to the man who led the inquiry.
Lord Oxburgh told MPs on the science and technology select committee today
“This had to be done rapidly. This was their concern. They really wanted something within a month. There was no way our panel could evaluate the science.”
Committee member Graham Stringer MP said this went against what the university had said at the time.
“We were told very clearly both by press releases and by Acton when he came [before the committee] that this was going to be an investigation into the science. Oxburgh made it very clear that it was an investigation into the integrity of the scientists,” he said.
Oxburgh was appointed in March to head the second of two inquiries initiated by the university to look into the fallout from the online release of emails and documents from its Climatic Research Unit (CRU).
When announcing that inquiry during a grilling by MPs on 1 March, Acton said “[The main inquiry led by Sir Muir Russell] is not looking at the science. It is looking at allegations about malpractice. I am hoping later this week to announce the chair of a panel to reassess the science and make sure there’s nothing wrong.”
Oxburgh defended the inquiry from MPs’ suggestions that the nine-page report which took less than a month to complete was superficial or rushed.
“I don’t think we could have done usefully any more than we did to answer the question that we were set,” he said.
“We worked very hard and I’m afraid I worked the panel very hard.”
He also denied that the panel was biased in favour of the scientists and said that complaints about lack of openness were wide of the mark. He said that contrary to speculation, one of the panel members was sceptical about climate change – but he refused to say who.
MPs also asked whether the expert panel had looked specifically at a paper on Chinese weather stations published by Prof Phil Jones the head of the unit that has been the subject of an allegation of fraud
Oxburgh said it had not.
Stringer asked why Oxburgh had decided not to publish the notes made by committee members during their deliberations.
Oxburgh, who has been unwell and sometimes erupted into violent bouts of coughing during the evidence session, said that he did not think that the notes would have added to the report.