While we’re talking about the University of Virginia, I’ll report today on two complaints filed by Ross and I in April 2005 with the University of Virginia and their handling by then President John Casteen and Vice President Ariel Gomez.

On April 22, 2005, we filed a formal request with the University of Virginia for computer codes in order to reconcile important outstanding issues.

April 22, 2005

Dr. Ariel Gomez,
Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

Dear Dr. Gomez,
We have been carrying out studies of Mann et al. [Nature 1998, GRL 1999], prominent papers co-authored by Dr. Michael Mann of your university. We have been unable to replicate a number of claims made in these papers. We found discrepancies between the data and methods described in print versus information contained in Dr. Mann’s website at the University of Virginia (frp://holocene.evsc.Virginia.edu/pub/MBH98), which we communicated to Nature in late 2003. In response to this communication, Nature required Mann et al. to publish a Corrigendum and provide an extensive new Supplementary Information in July 2004. However, even with the additional information in the new Supplementary Information, we remain unable to substantiate many claims made in the original publication.

In our attempts to reproduce these calculations, as long ago as November 2003, we politely requested access to computer code used in Mann et al. [1998]. We have also requested various supporting calculations, including the results of the controversial 15th century calculation step. Dr. Mann refused all these requests.

Dr. Mann has continued to use the source code in question (or variations of it) up to and including 2004, in connection with articles published in journals [Mann et al., Earth Interactions, 2000], at websites hosted by the University of Virginia [Mann et al., 2003, ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/mann/EandEPaperProblem.pdf ], a submission to Nature posted up at a Stanford University website [Mann et al., 2004a, http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/MannEtAl2004.pdf], an unpublished submission by Mann et al. to Climatic Change [Mann et al., 2004b, noted up at http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/References/References.html] and in articles at the website www.realclimate.org [Mann et al., 2004c, see, for example, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=8].

We attempted for nearly a year to obtain access to the source code through Nature, who ultimately decided in September 2004 that such access was up to the originating author (who had already refused). In February 2005, we published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters showing that an important methodology was misrepresented in the original publication (and not corrected in the Corrigendum). Dr. Mann’s continuing refusal to provide access to the source code has attracted considerable public attention. On Feb. 14, 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported Dr. Mann’s refusal in a front page story and quoted Dr. Mann as saying: “Giving them [McIntyre and McKitrick] the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in”.

We have never engaged in “intimidation tactics”. We have sought information that should have been willingly provided in the first place. Dr. Mann’s results have been extensively applied in climate research and have been used for public policy in Canada and internationally, and, in our opinion, there is no justification for anything other than the most comprehensive possible disclosure.

Recently, our attention was drawn to the following policy of the University of Virginia regarding research:

Each investigator should accurately record all research procedures undertaken, observations made and all results, regardless of whether its value or import is apparent. These records should be maintained for at least five years and all data and notebooks resulting from sponsored research are the property of the University of Virginia. http://www.virginia.edu/vprgs/researchconduct.html#university

This policy is set out in additional detail as follows:

The retention of accurately recorded and retrievable results is of the utmost importance in the conduct of research, and it is the responsibility of each investigator to maintain such records in a secure location.

Data and notebooks resulting from sponsored research are the property of the University of Virginia. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to retain all raw data in laboratory notebooks (or other appropriate format) for at least five years after completion of the research project (i.e., publication of a paper describing the work, or termination of the supporting research grant, whichever comes first) unless required to be retained longer by contract, law, regulation, or by some reasonable continuing need to refer to them. https://etg07.itc.virginia.edu/policy/policydisplay?id=%27RES-002%27

The computer source code used by Dr. Mann in the above studies is clearly an included “record” of “research procedure” and, according to the above term of employment, any code used during Dr. Mann’s employment at the University of Virginia is accordingly the property of the University of Virginia, rather than the personal property of Dr. Mann.
To facilitate resolution of the remaining points of technical dispute, we are formally requesting access to the computer source code used by Dr. Michael Mann of your university in Mann, Bradley and Hughes [Nature 1998, GRL 1999] and in Mann et al. [2000, 2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c].

Yours truly,
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick

cc:
Dr. John T. Casteen III,
President,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

The request for computer code was partly satisfied in summer 2005 without reference to the University of Virginia when Mann placed code online that had been supplied to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. However, the code was incomplete as I reported at the time. The code for the critical and controversial retention of principal components, the battleground issue, was withheld.

Mann’s actual procedure for retention of principal components remains unknown to this day. This has not stopped Mann and others from saying that anyone doing it differently from them was “wrong”. (The procedure advocated at realclimate in December 2004 for the North American network was not used in other networks and appears to have been developed after the fact – a procedure rightly criticized by Wegman as having “no statistical integrity”).

In addition to the above complaint, we also submitted a formal complaint to John Casteen, President of the University of Virginia, under their Code of Ethics about untrue and defamatory allegations made by Mann against us as follows:

April 22, 2005

Dr. John T. Casteen,
President,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA
ald8m@virginia.edu

Dear Dr. Casteen,
We are writing to express some concerns arising from our interactions with Dr. Michael Mann of your university.

The Code of Ethics of the University of Virginia requires the following:

7. Our communications on behalf of the University with all persons, including co-employees, clients, customers, patients, students, guests and vendors, are conducted professionally and with civility. http://www.virginia.edu/statementofpurpose/uethics.html

We are involved in an academic debate with Dr. Mann concerning some scientific results which he published in 1998 and subsequently. The debate has garnered considerable scholarly interest and widespread international media attention. We would like to bring to your attention some of Dr. Mann’s recent public statements regarding us, made in his academic capacity, which, in our opinion, do not meet the standards of professionalism and civility of an academic community or as required by the Code of Ethics of the University of Virginia.

a) Dr. Mann sent an email to a European science magazine, Natuurwetenschap & Techniek, in response to some technical questions during their preparation of a story for publication. This email has been published on the Internet. http://www.natutech.nl/nieuwsDetail.lasso?ID=2565. We object to Dr. Mann’s hostile, uncivil and personally derogatory comments, especially to a reporter preparing a story for international publication. We object in particular to his accusation that we have been “plainly dishonest.” We object to Dr. Mann’s dissemination and endorsement of an ad hominem attack against us by the Environmental Defense Fund, containing an untrue suggestion that our work was financed by ExxonMobil. We object to the statement that one of us (McKitrick) was “prone to publishing entirely invalid results apparently without apology.”

b) In a recent (Apr. 18, 2005) interview with MotherJones.com, http://www.motherjones.com/news/qa/2005/05/michael_mann.html, Dr. Mann stated that “many of claims made by the contrarians [regarding the hockey stick] were fraudulent”. As we have been the most prominent critics of the hockey stick, we believe that these comments were directed at us. Even if employed as a general accusation against the various scholarly teams that have published criticisms of Dr. Mann’s study, a more unprofessional and uncivil term than “fraudulent” can scarcely be contemplated. But in the context the accusation is almost certainly directed at us and we accordingly register our objection.

c) Based on his comments to Natuurwetenschap & Techniek, we believe that Dr. Mann may have sent highly prejudicial ad hominem communications to New Scientist, which was considering an article (by David Paterson) about us, but which was ultimately not printed. We believe that Dr. Mann’s communications may have contributed to this.

d) We believe that Dr. Mann may have sent unsolicited communications to Geophysical Research Letters attacking a submission that we made, although the journal ultimately did publish our work (selecting it as a highlighted article).

Vigorous debate on scientific issues occasionally gives rise to strongly expressed views. We are accustomed to the energetic level of public debate that has arisen over the important scientific issues on which we have published, and we do not seek to limit legitimate debate or criticism of our work in any way. However, in our view, the above communications by Dr. Mann in an academic capacity, especially the public accusations of dishonesty and fraud, do not meet the standards of civility and professionalism as understood in an academic community or as codified in Item 7 in the University of Virginia Code of Ethics.

Yours truly,
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick

cc:
Dr. Ariel Gomez,
Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies,
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA

On May 30, 2005, not having heard back from either official, we sent a reminder email as follows:

Dear Dr Casteen,

We have not received any acknowledgement of the email below and would appreciate an update on the matter.

Yours truly, Stephen McIntyre

Outcome
The University of Virginia did not acknowledge either letter and, to my knowledge, the university did nothing.

In retrospect, that is surely too bad. Readers of the Climategate letters are rightly offended by the unprofessional language. One of the difficulties faced right now by people like Judy Curry, seeking to temper the animosity of the debate, is that this sort of unprofessional language has become more deeply engrained in the debate over the past few years. Climate scientists are quite willing to blame “skeptic” sites for this language, but are unwilling to look into the mirror of their community and acknowledge the substantial contribution of their “community” to the deterioration of conduct.

April 2005 preceded most of the events in controversy. Had University of Virginia officials investigated our complaints, it seems to me that this might well have mitigated or even avoided some portion of the later controversy.

If Cuccinelli wants something useful to do at the University of Virginia, I suggest that they interview Casteen and Gomez and ask them why they ignored our letters. Far too much attention in this controversy has been focused on Mann and not enough on the enablers.

Source: Climate Audit

More on ecology:

  1. Cuccinelli v Mann
  2. The Virginia Statute
  3. BP and the Climategate Inquiry
  4. Heartland Presentation
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