Michael Mann Exonerated? Not.

Source:  Wattsup

by Willis Eschenbach

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

The official report of the Pennsylvania State University Inquiry Committee into the actions of Dr. Michael Mann is available here. It is the Report of the Inquiry that Mann says exonerated him completely of the three most important allegations.

The Inquiry Report was written by professors. As you might expect, it has plenty of extra words and paragraphs. So let’s take a tour through just the highlights of the Inquiry Report.

The quotations in bold italics are from the report. Nothing is taken out-of-order, and I have endeavored to include sufficient context. Here’s where the story started:

Beginning on and about November 22, 2009, The Pennsylvania State University began to receive numerous communications (emails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E. Mann of having engaged in acts that included manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming from approximately 1998. These accusations were based on perceptions of the content of the widely reported theft of emails from a server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.

Given the sheer volume of the communications to Penn State, the similarity of their content and their sources, which included University alumni, federal and state politicians, and others, many of whom had had no relationship with Penn State, it was concluded that the matter required examination by the cognizant University official, namely Dr. Eva J. Pell, then Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. The reason for having Dr. Pell examine the matter was that the accusations, when placed in an academic context, could be construed as allegations of research misconduct, which would constitute a violation of Penn State policy.

A fine start. Numerous people are calling for an investigation, so Penn State will look to see if one is justified. They go on to cite the relevant policy statements that Mann may or may not have violated:

Under The Pennsylvania State University’s policy, Research Administration Policy No. 10, (hereafter referred to as RA-10), Research Misconduct is defined as:

(1) fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other practices that seriously deviate from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities;

(2) callous disregard for requirements that ensure the protection of researchers, human participants, or the public; or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals;

(3) failure to disclose significant financial and business interest as defined by Penn State Policy RA20, Individual Conflict of Interest;

(4) failure to comply with other applicable legal requirements governing research or other scholarly activities.

RA-10 further provides that “research misconduct does not include disputes regarding honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data, and is not intended to resolve bona fide scientific disagreement or debate.”

That seems quite clear. Then they look at the “purloined emails” (love the term they use) and discuss what they plan to investigate:

From November 30 to December 14, 2009, staff in the Office for Research Protections culled through approximately 1075 of the emails that were purloined from a server at the University of East Anglia. Emails were reviewed if they were sent by Dr. Mann, were sent to Dr. Mann, were copied to Dr. Mann, or discussed Dr. Mann (but were neither addressed nor copied to him). In summary, the following were found:


206 emails that contained a message/text from Dr. Mann somewhere in the chain;


92 emails that were received by Dr. Mann, but in which he did not write/participate in the discussion; and


79 that dealt with Dr. Mann, his work or publications; he neither authored nor was he copied on any of these.

From among these 377 emails, the inquiry committee focused on 47 emails that were deemed relevant. On December 17, 2009, the inquiry committee (Pell, Scaroni, Yekel), Dr. Brune and Dr. Foley met to review the emails, discuss the RA-10 inquiry process and go over what their respective activities would be. It was agreed that these individuals would meet again in early January and that they would use the time until that meeting to review the relevant information, including the above mentioned e-mails, journal articles, OP-ED columns, newspaper and magazine articles, the National Academy of Sciences report entitled “Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years,” ISBN: 0-309-66144-7 and various blogs on the internet.

Well, that all sounds impressive, until you finish reading the entire report. At that point you realize that the paragraph above is the last you hear of any of this stuff. None of the important questions are ever answered. Which 47 emails were deemed to be relevant, and why? What was learned from the 47 relevant emails? Which “blogs on the internet” did they review, and what were the results? Which OP-ED columns did they read, and what did they conclude? We never find out anything further. The rest of the report is silent on everything listed in that section.

So it is just handwaving about the emails, presenting lots of numbers and no content. They also list all those things that they are supposedly going to look into, newpapers and journal articles … and then they never refer to any of that again. Without details, that is just filler, hollow claims without a stitch of followup or substantiation. Meaningless. We don’t even know if they understood the import of the emails, or which ones they found important. Nothing.

Back to the report. Next they discuss who would make up the inquiry team, followed by this explanation of how they defined the allegations against Dr. Mann:

At the time of initiation of the inquiry, and in the ensuing days during the inquiry, no formal allegations accusing Dr. Mann of research misconduct were submitted to any University official. As a result, the emails and other communications were reviewed by Dr. Pell and from these she synthesized the following four formal allegations. To be clear, these were not allegations that Dr. Pell put forth, or leveled against Dr. Mann, but rather were her best effort to reduce to allegation form the many different accusations that were received from parties outside of the University. The four synthesized allegations were as follows:

1. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?

2. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?

3. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?

4. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities?

I was surprised by the vague, broad, and unspecified nature of these allegations. If they actually had read and understood the purloined CRU emails, I would have thought that they would have identified the specific instances of things in the emails that looked shonky. But at least they cover the ground.

After further procedural matters, they report how they decided on what exact questions to ask Dr. Mann:

… it was decided that each committee member would send Dr. Foley specific questions that would be added to the four formal allegations and that would be used by the committee during the interview of Dr. Mann. These were compiled into one document. It was also decided that during the upcoming interview of Dr. Mann, Dr. Foley would ask each of the initial questions with follow up questions coming from the other committee members, and he would moderate the interview.

That is followed by their report of the first actual piece of investigation, their interview with Dr. Mann. They report on this interview as follows:

In an interview lasting nearly two hours, Dr. Mann addressed each of the questions and follow up questions. A recording was made of the meeting, and this recording was transcribed. The committee members asked occasional follow-up questions. Throughout the interview, Dr. Mann answered each question carefully:

• He explained the content and meaning of the emails about which we inquired;

• He explained that he had never falsified any data, nor had he had ever manipulated data to serve a given predetermined outcome;

• He explained that he never used inappropriate influence in reviewing papers by other scientists who disagreed with the conclusions of his science;

• He explained that he never deleted emails at the behest of any other scientist, specifically including Dr. Phil Jones, and that he never withheld data with the intention of obstructing science; and

• He explained that he never engaged in activities or behaviors that were inconsistent with accepted academic practices.

OK. They met with Mann for two hours, what I would see as a preliminary interview to get his claims on the record so they could be checked. He told them he was totally, completely innocent and as pure as new driven snow. The interview was recorded and transcribed.

So far, the inquiry was going very, very predictably, basic stuff. First Step. Initial Interview With Subject. Subject denies everything. Interview recorded, transcribed, and done. Check the first box on the checklist.

But at that point, things take an astounding turn. Here is the very next event in the chronology, as described in the very next paragraphs of the Report.

On January 15, 2010, and on behalf of the inquiry committee, Dr. Foley conveyed via email an additional request of Dr. Mann, who was asked to produce all emails related to the fourth IPCC report (“AR4”), the same emails that Dr. Phil Jones had suggested that he delete.

On January 18, 2010, Dr. Mann provided a zip-archive of these emails and an explanation of their content. In addition, Dr. Mann provided a ten page supplemental written response to the matters discussed during his interview.

They asked him to provide them emails? They asked him to assemble and send them the evidence against himself?

He works for Penn State. The ownership of the emails is theirs. They are investigating him. The very, very first thing that is done in an investigation of this sort is to do an email dump of the subject of the investigation. Then the investigators go through to see what they can find.

THEY ASKED MANN TO ASSEMBLE THE EMAIL EVIDENCE AGAINST HIMSELF!!! I know I’m shouting and that’s impolite, but it needs to be shouted. If any one thing about this Inquiry characterizes the bumbling incompetence of the Inquirers, surely it is that single fact — that they let him pick and choose the evidence to be used against him. I mean, you could stop right there and go home knowing all you need to know about the quality and impartiality of the Inquiry.

But as tempting as going home might be at this point, the report continues, and so perforce we also must continue along the weary trail of their tortured caricature of an inquiry. However, as we proceed, remember that they asked him to assemble the evidence against himself. I’d heard stories that professors were out of touch with the real world, but c’mon, folks, don’t professors watch cop shows once in a while? That’s bozo level Investigation 101. Do an email dump of his machine and the email server, then compare the emails that were deleted from his computer to the emails that remain in the server.

But nooooo, he’s their esteemed colleague, that would be unseemly, so they politely asked him to send them the email evidence showing whether he had deleted emails or done anything else underhanded … words fail me.

After their killer hard-hitting look at the email question, and their collegiate discussion with their esteemed colleague, what did they look into next? The Penn State clown car careens on to the next step in their relentless inquiry, as shown by the next paragraph:

On January 22, 2010, the inquiry committee and Dr. Brune met again to review the evidence, including but not limited to Dr. Mann’s answers to the committee’s questions, both in the interview and in his subsequent submissions. All were impressed by Dr. Mann’s composure and his forthright responses to all of the queries that were asked of him. At this point, Dr. Foley reviewed the relevant points of his conversation with Dr. Gerald North, a professor at Texas A&M University and the first author of the NAS’ 2006 report on Dr. Mann’s research on paleoclimatology. Dr. Foley also relayed the sentiment and view of Dr. Donald Kennedy of Stanford University and the former editor of Science Magazine about the controversy currently swirling around Dr. Mann and some of his colleagues. Both were very supportive of Dr. Mann and of the credibility of his science.

Just kidding about the relentless inquiry, that was it. Four days after getting the emails from Mann, the party was over. At that point, looking for evidence was passé. All relevant questions had been asked. They were finished with the inquiry part, no more evidence collection, that was it, time to examine the collected evidence.

The above paragraph says that with the inquiry safely behind them and all relevant evidence gathered, they met to consider that evidence. Bear in mind that the totality of the evidence that they report being collected by their inquiry was:

1. Mann denied everything, and they were impressed with his style.

2. Two friends of Mann told Dr. Foley that they were supportive of Mann.

3. None of the emails chosen by Mann showed any evidence of wrongdoing.

Based on that evidence, four days later, on January 26, 2010, the inquiry committee met to announce their findings.

After a careful review of all written material, and information obtained from the purloined emails, the interview of Dr. Mann, the supplemental materials provided by Dr. Mann and all the information from other sources, the committee found as follows with respect to each allegation:

OK, moment of truth, drum roll, please …

Regarding the first charge, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, did Dr. Mann engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data? How does the Penn State Jury find?

As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

So take that, you callous unbelievers, there’s no need for any kind of further investigation. Case closed, total exoneration. And further …

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.

Nonsense. The “trick” is a way to hide adverse data, something that scientists should never do. At least they have proven conclusively that the inquiry committee members were neither statisticians nor mathematicians. And that they weren’t investigators either, or even inquirers. But I digress …

Regarding the second allegation, did Dr. Mann engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones, how does the Jury find?

As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

The emails Mike provided showed no wrongdoing regarding AR4, so again no investigation is necessary … I’m not sure how they got around the CRU email where Mann told Jones that he would pass Jones’s request to (illegally) delete any AR4 emails on to Gene Wahl. That one is real hard to peanut butter over, but somehow they did it.

Maybe that email wasn’t one of the 47 relevant emails. Or maybe it was, but they just identified the 47 relevant emails and never asked Mann about them … we don’t know.

In any case, regarding the third allegation, did Dr. Mann  engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to him in his capacity as an academic scholar, how does the Jury find:

As there is no substance to this allegation, there is no basis for further examination of this allegation in the context of an investigation in the second phase of RA-10.

Same same, no investigation needed, everything is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds for the first three inquiries.

And as to the final allegation, did Dr. Mann engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities, how does the Jury find?

The Jury finds nothing!

Fooled you, huh, and it fooled me too. But then I remembered that these are university professors. They know the rules. And it’s against the rules to deal conclusively with every single item on any given agenda. For at least one item, you are required to form a new committee to further investigate the matter. And true to their code, they decided Allegation Four was just too tough to answer. So they closed their report by punting the ball to a new committee. This is a committee to do an investigation into allegation four …

And that was it, folks. That was the inquiry that Mann says “exonerated” him of any wrongdoing on the first three allegations of misconduct. The inquiry that decided that there was no need for an investigation on the three most important allegations, case closed.

But wait, it gets worse. You remember that the Report said the interview with Mann was recorded and transcribed? Perhaps it got misplaced or something, because it hasn’t been released. So the Inquirers haven’t bothered to let us know what questions Mann was asked, or what his answers were.

But at least the Inquirers have been good enough to tell us the crucial information, that they were impressed by Dr. Mann’s composure and his forthright responses …

Me, I’m sitting here at my keyboard and busting out laughing at this pitiable grade-school excuse for an inquiry. I mean, it’s the perfect storm of inquiries. Ask Mann if he’s innocent, ask him if he’s got any incriminating emails, talk to two of his friends, collect a bit of unspecified information from unknown “sources”, and then deny the need for any further investigation, based on the lack of evidence of wrongdoing … that’s delicious. They studiously avoid collecting any evidence, so studiously that they don’t talk to a single critic of Mann’s actions.

And then they say that there isn’t enough evidence to justify an investigation, and they decline to show us any of the evidence! Man, that is as sweet a scam as I can imagine, right up there with Catch-22.

In a bizarre way, the outcome of this Inquiry is custom made for Michael Mann. Here’s why. You remember that for years we couldn’t tell if Mann had done anything wrong with the Hockeystick, because the data wasn’t released?

Well, to close the circle, now we can’t tell if Mann was forthright with the Inquiry Committee, or even what he questions he was asked, because the data wasn’t released.

Perfect symmetry.

Penn State Alumni, where is the outrage? Might be out there and I missed it, but roar, Nittany Lions, roar!

OTHER VOICES

Steve McIntyre has interesting analyses here and here. In the latter he highlights issues arising from the fact that this was an inquiry into whether enough evidence exists to justify an investigation, and not the subsequent investigation itself.

This was an inquiry, for which you would expect lower standards of proof. All you need is enough facts to justify an investigation. Now me, at that lower standard I thought the Climategate emails were prima facie evidence that an investigation was warranted, not some pissant inquiry. But despite their dedicated and exhaustive searches for evidence, the dedicated Inquirers couldn’t even satisfy that lower inquiry standard and ask for an investigation … ah, well.

Steve also discusses Cuccinelli here.

Steve Milloy raises addition questions here.

Fox News weighs in from the right.

Bishop Hill adds to the story here.

Lucia hosts a discussion at the Blackboard.

The Report of the final Investigation into the part of the Inquiry that couldn’t be decided by the previous Inquiry is here. The Investigation into the fourth allegation of the Inquiry report says there was nothing to see here, move along. I know you are surprised by that news.

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