Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

Chair announced for 'Climategate' science probe

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The row surrounds e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia

A chairman has been appointed to an independent review into the science published by the research unit at the centre of the "Climategate" row.

Lord Oxburgh is a former chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

"The shadow hanging over climate change and science more generally at present makes it a matter of urgency that we get on with this assessment," he said.

The Lord's appointment was made on the recommendation of the UK Royal Society.

The e-mails issue came to light in November last year, when hundreds of messages between scientists at the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climate Research Unit (CRU) and their peers around the world were posted on the world wide web, along with other documents.

Critics said that the e-mail exchanges reveal an attempt by the researchers involved to manipulate data.

Chair - Ron Oxburgh FRS (Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool)
Huw Davies, professor of physics at the Institute for Atmospheric & Climate Science at ETH Zurich
Kerry Emanuel, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Lisa Graumlich, directs the school of natural resources and the environment at Arizona University
David Hand, professor of statistics in the department of mathematics at Imperial College London
Herbert Huppert, professor of theoretical geophysics at the University of Cambridge
Michael Kelly, Prince Philip professor of technology at the University of Cambridge

Lord Oxburgh will lead the second independent review into the e-mail controversy and will scrutinise scientific material from the CRU.

The CRU Scientific Assessment Panel is distinct from the panel chaired by Sir Muir Russell, which will look at the methods and practices used by scientists at the research unit.

Sir Muir's review will, among other things, examine e-mail exchanges for evidence of suppression or manipulation of data at odds with acceptable scientific practice and look into CRU's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Both inquiries are funded by UEA.

Ron Oxburgh trained as a geologist and has worked in academia, the civil service and in business. He has been chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and was non-executive chairman of Shell Transport and Trading until the Company merged with Royal Dutch Petroleum to form Royal Dutch Shell in 2005.

He is currently president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables.

Picking the team

Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation think-tank, said he was "surprised" by the selection as he said Lord Oxburgh was "a representative of an energy company which promotes wind energy and campaigns on de-carbonisation".

"We are a bit surprised that they couldn't find someone who was completely independent of the debate. But perhaps we shouldn't be, because the university has a track record of selecting some contentious panel members in the past," he told BBC News.

UEA will be aware of allegations of bias directed at the review chaired by Sir Muir Russell. Even before that review could begin its work, one of its members, Dr Philip Campbell, the editor-in-chief of Nature journal, resigned.

Dr Campbell stood down because of remarks he had made last year in the Chinese media in which he said the scientists mentioned in the e-mails had "behaved as researchers should".

The university says the panel comprises scientists who use techniques similar to those used in CRU but who largely apply them to other areas of research, as well as those with experience in climate science and related research.

Professor Trevor Davies, UEA's pro-vice-chancellor for research commented: "Our concern has been to bring together a distinguished group of independent scientists who understand the difference between assertion and evidence, and are familiar with using the latter to judge the validity of conclusions arising from science research."

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said he expected critics would try to discredit the panel. But he added: "Nobody should be in doubt that this is a high-quality panel of individuals who have demonstrated both their authority and integrity."

The university says the CRU Scientific Assessment Panel will have access to any publications or materials it requests, and all information considered will be listed in the eventual report.

UEA, in consultation with the Royal Society, has suggested that the panel looks in particular at key publications from the body of CRU's research which were referred to in the university's recent submission to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee.

The panel will meet in Norwich in April and will be given the opportunity to see original data and speak to those who carried out the work.

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