Pennsylvania State University Report on allegations of misconduct by Michael Mann [condensed]

Posted on July 2, 2010

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On and about November 22, 2009, The Pennsylvania State University began to receive numerous communications (e-mails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E. Mann of having engaged in acts, beginning in approximately 1998, that included manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming.

These accusations were based on perceptions of the content of the e-mails stolen from a server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain as widely reported.

…Dr. Eva J. Pell, then Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, was asked to examine the matter.  The Inquiry Committee … consisted of Dr. Eva J. Pell, Ms. Candice Yekel, , and Dr. Alan Scaroni.

…At the time of initiation of the inquiry, no formal allegations accusing Dr. Mann of research misconduct had been submitted to any University official.  Therefore, the e-mails 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 but rather her best effort to reduce to reviewable allegations 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?

…[S]taff in the Office for Research Protections culled through the 1073 files that contained e-mails or e-mail strings that were purloined from a server at the University of East Anglia.  A subset of the files containing emails or email strings was reviewed.  This subset of files included emails that 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 files that contained emails or email strings that contained message/text from Dr. Mann somewhere in the chain;
  • 91 files that contained e-mails or e-mail strings that were received by Dr. Mann, but in which he did not participate; and
  • 79 files that contained e-mails or e-mail strings that dealt with Dr. Mann, his work or publications but that he neither authored nor was listed as copied.
  • From among these 376 files, the Inquiry Committee focused on 47 files that contained e-mails or e-mail strings that were deemed relevant.

Dr. Mann was asked to address the four allegations leveled against him and to provide answers to the fifteen additional questions that the Inquiry Committee had compiled.  A recording was made of the interview and was later transcribed.

Dr. Mann answered each question carefully:

  • He explained the content and meaning of the emails about which the Inquiry Committee inquired;
  • He stated that he had never falsified any data, nor had he had ever manipulated data to serve a given predetermined outcome;
  • He stated that he never used inappropriate influence in reviewing papers by other scientists who disagreed with the conclusions of his science;
  • He stated 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 stated that he never engaged in activities or behaviors that were inconsistent with accepted academic practices.

… Dr. Foley conveyed via email on behalf of the Inquiry Committee an additional request to Dr. Mann.  Dr. Mann was asked to produce all e-mails related to the fourth IPCC report (“AR4”), the same e-mails that Dr. Phil Jones had suggested that he delete.  On January 18, 2010, Dr. Mann provided a zip-archive of these e-mails and an explanation of their content.

… 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 Inquiry Committee found as follows with respect to each allegation:

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

 

Decision 1: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.

Allegation 2:  “Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy e-mails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?”

 

Decision 2: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.

Allegation 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?”

 

Decision 3: The Inquiry Committee determined there was no substance to this allegation and further investigation of this allegation was not warranted.

Allegation 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?”

 

Decision 4: The Inquiry Committee determined that “given that information emerged in the form of the e-mails purloined from CRU in November 2009, which have raised questions in the public’s mind about Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically, an Investigatory Committee of faculty peers from diverse fields should be constituted under RA-I 0 to further consider this allegation.”

II

 

The charge to the Investigatory Committee:

 

The Investigatory Committee’s charge is to determine whether or not Dr. Michael Mann engaged in, or participated 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.

 

Documents available to the Investigatory Committee:

  • 376 files containing emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia and originally reviewed by the Inquiry Committee
  • Documents collected by the Inquiry Committee
  • Documents provided by Dr. Mann at both the Inquiry and Investigation phases
  • Penn State University’s RA-IO Inquiry Report
  • House of Commons Report HC387-I, March 31,2010
  • National Academy of Science letter titled, “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science” that was published in Science magazine on May 7, 2010
  • Information on the peer review process for the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Department of Energy’s Guide to Financial Assistance
  • Information on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s peer review process
  • Information regarding the percentage of NSF proposals funded
  • Dr. Michael Mann’s curriculum vitae

 

Interview process:

 

The interviews were audio-taped and verbatim transcripts were prepared.  All interviewed individuals were provided an opportunity to review the transcripts of their interviews for accuracy.  The transcripts will be maintained in the Office for Research Protections as part of the official record.

The Investigatory Committee interviewed the following individuals:

  • Dr. William Easterling, Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Dr. Michael Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Dr. William Curry, Senior Scientist, Geology and Geophysics Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Dr. Jerry McManus, Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
  • Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

….

Summary of interview with Dr. Michael Mann

 

Would you please tell us what you consider in your field to be accepted, standard practice with regard to sharing data?

 

…data are made generally available (e.g., in the NOAA public database) after those scientists who obtained the data have had a chance to be the first to publish findings based on the data.  [Dr. Mann] noted that sometimes data are made available on a collegial basis to specific scientists before those who collected the data have published their initial findings.  Typically, this involves a request to not release the data to others until the data are made publicly available by the scientists who obtained the data.  Dr. Mann concluded his answer by stating that he has always worked with data obtained by other scientists, and that when such data were not already in the public domain, he made them available as soon as he was permitted to do so by those who initially obtained the data.

Dr. Mann drew a distinction between actual data and intermediate data that are produced as part of the analytic procedures employed.  He indicated that while such intermediate data may occasionally be shared with colleagues, it is not standard practice to publish or make generally available this intermediate data (to which he and others refer to as “dirty laundry” in one of the purloined e-mails).  Finally, he indicated that someone who wanted to reproduce his work would be able to independently reproduce this intermediate data and that, in fact, other researchers had done this.

Do you believe that the perceived hostility and perceived ulterior motives of some critics of global climate science influenced your actions with regard to the peer review process, particularly in relation to the papers discussed in the stolen e-mails?

Dr. Mann responded by affirming his belief in the importance of the peer review process as a means of ensuring that scientifically sound papers are published, and not as a means of preventing the publication of papers that are contrary to one’s views.  He elaborated by stating that some of the e-mails regarding this issue dealt with his concern (shared by other scientists, the publisher, and some members of the editorial board of the journal in question) that the legitimacy of the peer review process had been subverted.

Did you ever, without first getting express permission from the original authors, forward to a third party an in-press or submitted manuscript on which you were not a co-author?

In response to this question, Dr. Mann first responded by saying that to the best of his knowledge he had not done so.  He then clarified that he may have forwarded such a manuscript to a specific, close colleague, in the belief that permission to do so had been implicit, based on his close collegial relationships with the paper’s authors. …such judgments about implied consent are quite typical in his field, but they are made only as long as it is understood that such sharing would take place only among trusted colleagues who would maintain the confidentiality of the manuscript.

In response to a couple of follow-up questions,

Dr. Mann stressed that the stolen emails represent part of a larger context of active communication among scientists, and that he remains on friendly terms with scientists with whom he has had ongoing, and sometimes heated, disagreements about scientific matters.  He also commented that he and other scientists fear that the stolen e-mails will have a chilling effect on the way scientists communicate with each other, partly because members of the public may not appreciate the lingo or jargon (e.g., “dirty laundry” or “trick”) that scientists often use when communicating with each other about their science.

III

 

Summary of Investigation [of Michael Mann]:

 

The Investigatory Committee investigated the following potential acts of misconduct:

Did Dr. Michael 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?

The Investigatory Committee was given access to 376 files that contained emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia.  These e-mails were either sent by Dr. Mann, sent to Dr. Mann, copied to Dr. Mann, or discussed Dr. Mann (but were neither addressed nor copied to him).  The Investigatory Committee also reviewed the documents collected by the Inquiry Committee, as well as the Inquiry Committee’s findings and report. In addition, the Investigatory Committee reviewed a number of documents provided by Dr. Mann in response to requests from both the Inquiry and Investigatory Committees.  A number of public documents were also made available to the Investigatory Committee, including a number of editorials, both pro and con Dr. Mann, an open letter from 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences, published in Science magazine, May 7, 2010, and the full text of the British House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee report on “The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia,” which was published on March 31, 2010.

In the course of the investigation, the Investigatory Committee interviewed Dr. Michael Mann, as well as his immediate supervisor, Dr. William Easterling, Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University.  Dean Easterling and Dr. David Verardo, National Science Foundation Program Director for Paleo Perspectives on Climate Change, agreed to suggest names of eminent scientists who might agree to be interviewed by the Investigatory Committee in its efforts to establish the range of “accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities.”

As previously described, the Investigatory Committee contacted, and subsequently interviewed, three eminent scientists from the field of climate research:  Dr. William Curry, Senior Scientist, Geology and Geophysics Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Dr. Jerry McManus, Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University.

Based on the documentary evidence and on information obtained from the various interviews, the Investigatory Committee first considered the question of whether Dr. Mann had seriously deviated from accepted practice in proposing his research activities.

First, the Investigatory Committee reviewed Dr. Mann’s activities that involved proposals to obtain funding for the conduct of his research.

Since 1998, Dr. Mann received funding for his research mainly from two sources:  The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Both of these agencies have an exceedingly rigorous and highly competitive merit review process that represents an almost insurmountable barrier to anyone who proposes research that does not meet the highest prevailing standards, both in terms of scientific/technical quality and ethical considerations.

NOAA and NSF research grant proposals are both evaluated through similarly rigorous and transparent merit review (peer review) processes.  To illustrate, we describe the NSF review process, which has two stages.

In Stage 1, proposals are sent out to several external experts for merit review (mail review) based on the two NSF review criteria established by the National Science Foundation Board — Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.  In Stage 2, the proposal and its external expert reviews (mail reviews) are taken to a 8-15 person external expert panel and evaluated over a several day period (panel review).  Panel review members are not the same persons as the mail review members.

In Stage 1, the external reviewers only see individual proposals and rate them on a 5-point scale in descending order from Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.  In Stage 2, the entire panel (except those members who have a conflict of interest with the proposal) see all the proposals in the competition (usually about 140 proposals in the NSF program to which Dr. Mann has typically submitted his proposals) and rate them based on the same two NSF criteria on the same rating scale, but at this stage they evaluate the proposals in comparison with all the other proposals that were submitted.

All reviews are then taken under advisement by the director of the particular NSF program to which the proposal was submitted, who then recommends whether a project should be funded.  The program director is guided by the expert reviews, but may also take programmatic balance and other NSF criteria into account before making a final recommendation.  The rate of funding varies by program, but rarely exceeds 25 percent.

The results achieved by Dr. Mann in the period 1999-2010, despite these stringent requirements, speak for themselves:  He served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on five NOAA-funded and four NSF-funded research projects.  During the same period, Dr. Mann also served as co-investigator of five additional NSF-and NOAA-funded research projects, as well as on projects funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field.  Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research.

The second part of the Investigatory Committee’s charge was to investigate whether Dr. Mann had engaged in any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for conducting research or other scholarly activities.

One focus of the committee’s investigation centered on whether Dr. Mann had deviated from accepted practice with regard to sharing data and source codes with other investigators.

First, the Investigatory Committee established that Dr. Mann has generally used data collected by others, a common practice in paleoclimatology research.  Raw data used in Dr. Mann’s field of paleoclimatology are laboriously collected by researchers who obtain core drillings from the ocean floor, from coral formations, from polar ice or from glaciers, or who collect tree rings that provide climate information from the past millennium and beyond.  Other raw data are retrieved from thousands of weather stations around the globe.  Almost all of the raw data used in paleoclimatology are made publicly available, typically after the originators of the data have had an initial opportunity to evaluate the data and publish their findings.  In some cases, small sub-sets of data may be protected by commercial agreements; in other cases some data may have been released to close colleagues before the originators had time to consummate their prerogative to have a limited period (usually about two years) of exclusivity; in still other cases there may be legal constraints (imposed by some countries) that prohibit the public sharing of some climate data.

The Investigatory Committee established that Dr. Mann, in all of his published studies, precisely identified the source(s) of his raw data and, whenever possible, made the data and or links to the data available to other researchers.  These actions were entirely in line with accepted practices for sharing data in his field of research.

With regard to sharing source codes used to analyze these raw climate data and the intermediate calculations produced by these codes (referred to as “dirty laundry” by Dr. Mann in one of the stolen emails) with other researchers, there appears to be a range of accepted practices.  Moreover, there is evidence that these practices have evolved during the last decade toward increased sharing of source codes and intermediate data via authors’ web sites or web links associated with published scientific journal articles.

Thus, while it was not considered standard practice ten years ago to make such information publicly available, most researchers in paleoclimatology are today prepared to share such information, in part to avoid unwarranted suspicion of improprieties in their treatment of the raw data.  Dr. Mann’s actual practices with regard to making source codes and intermediate data readily available reflect, in all respects, evolving practices within his field.

Dr. Mann acknowledged that early in his career he was reluctant to publish his source codes because the National Science Foundation had determined that source codes were the intellectual property of the investigator.  Moreover, because he developed his source codes using a specific programming language (FORTRAN 77), these codes were not likely to compile and run on computer systems different from the ones on which they were developed (e.g., different processor makes/models, different operating systems, different compilers, different compiler optimizations).  Since then, however, he has used a more accessible method for developing his source codes (MA TLAB) and he has made all source codes, as well as intermediate data, available to the research community, thereby meeting and exceeding standard practices in his field.

Moreover, most of his research methodology involves the use of Principal Components Analysis, a well-established mathematical procedure that is widely used in climate research and in many other fields of science.

Thus, the Investigatory Committee concluded that the manner in which Dr. Mann used and shared source codes has been well within the range of accepted practices in his field.

The issue of whether Dr. Mann had engaged in any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for conducting research or other scholarly activities was examined by the Investigatory Committee via a number of additional means. When a scientist’s research findings are well outside the range of findings published by other scientists examining the same or similar phenomena, legitimate questions may be raised about whether the science is based on accepted practices or whether questionable methods might have been used.

Most questions about Dr. Mann’s findings have been focused on his early published work that showed the “hockey stick” pattern of climate change.  In fact, research published since then by Dr. Mann and by independent researchers has shown patterns similar to those first described by Dr. Mann, although Dr. Mann’s more recent work has shown slightly less dramatic changes than those reported originally.  In some cases, other researchers (e.g., Wahl & Ammann, 2007) have been able to replicate Dr. Mann’s findings, using the publicly available data and algorithms.  The convergence of findings by different teams of researchers, using different data sets, lends further credence to the fact that Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research has followed acceptable practice within his field.

Further support for this conclusion may be found in the observation that almost all of Dr. Mann’s work was accomplished jointly with other scientists.  The checks and balances inherent in such a scientific team approach further diminishes chances that anything unethical or inappropriate occurred in the conduct of the research.

A particularly telling indicator of a scientist’s standing within the research community is the recognition that is bestowed by other scientists.  Judged by that indicator, Dr. Mann’s work, from the beginning of his career, has been recognized as outstanding.  For example, he received the Phillip M. Orville Prize for outstanding dissertation in the earth sciences at Yale University in 1997.  In 2002, he received an award from the Institute for Scientific Information for a scientific paper (published with co-authors) that appeared in the prestigious journal Nature; also in 2002, he co-authored a paper that won the Outstanding Scientific Paper Award from the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and Scientific American named him as one of 50 leading visionaries in science and technology.  In 2005, Dr. Mann co-authored a paper in the Journal of Climate that won the John Russell Mather Paper award from the Association of American Geographers, and in the same year, the website “RealClimate.org” (co-founded by Dr. Mann) was chosen as one of the top 25 “Science and Technology” websites by Scientific American. In 2006, Dr. Mann was recognized with the American Geophysical Union Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing (i.e., reviewing manuscripts for Geophysical Research Letters).

 

All of these awards and recognitions, as well as others not specifically cited here, serve as evidence that his scientific work, especially the conduct of his research, has from the beginning of his career been judged to be outstanding by a broad spectrum of scientists.  Had Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions.

The third area of investigation was to address whether Dr. Mann had engaged in any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for reporting research or other scholarly activities.  Dr. Mann’s record of publication in peer reviewed scientific journals offers compelling evidence that his scientific work is highly regarded by his peers, thus offering de facto evidence of his adherence to established standards and practices regarding the reporting of research.

To date, Dr. Mann is the lead author of 39 scientific publications and he is listed as co-author on an additional 55 publications.  The majority of these publications appeared in the most highly respected scientific journals, i.e., journals that have the most rigorous editorial and peer reviews in the field.  In practical terms, this means that literally dozens of the most highly qualified scientists in the world scrutinized and examined every detail of the scientific work done by Dr. Mann and his colleagues and judged it to meet the high standards necessary for publication.

Moreover, Dr. Mann’s work on the Third Assessment Report (2001) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received recognition (along with several hundred other scientists) by being awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Clearly, Dr. Mann’s reporting of his research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers.  This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his work been outside of accepted practices in his field.

One issue raised by some who read the stolen emails was whether Dr. Mann distributed privileged information to others to gain some advantage for his interpretation of climate change.  The privileged information in question consisted of unpublished manuscripts that were sent to him by colleagues in his field.

The Investigatory Committee determined that none of the manuscripts were accompanied by an explicit request to not share them with others.  Dr. Mann believed that, on the basis of his collegial relationship with the manuscripts’ authors, he implicitly had permission to share them with close colleagues.  Moreover, in each case, Dr. Mann explicitly urged the recipients of the unpublished manuscripts to first check with the authors if they intended to use the manuscripts in any way.  Although the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Mann had acted in good faith with respect to sharing the unpublished manuscripts in question, the Investigatory Committee also found that among the experts interviewed by the Investigatory Committee there was a range of opinion regarding the appropriateness of Dr. Mann’s actions.  Opinions ranged from one expert who contended that it is never acceptable to share an unpublished manuscript without first obtaining explicit permission from the author(s) to do so, to another expert who felt that, when working with close colleagues, it is sometimes acceptable to do so by assuming that implicit permission had been granted.

The Investigatory Committee considers Dr. Mann’s actions in sharing unpublished manuscripts with third parties, without first having received express consent from the authors of such manuscripts, to be careless and inappropriate.  While sharing an unpublished manuscript on the basis of the author’s implied consent may be an acceptable practice in the judgment of some individuals, the Investigatory Committee believes the best practice in this regard is to obtain express consent from the author before sharing an unpublished manuscript with third parties.

The Investigatory Committee would like to note that Dr. Mann, after being questioned by the Investigatory Committee about this issue, requested and received confirmation that his assumption of implied consent was correct from the author of one of the papers in question.  This “after the fact” communication was not considered by the Investigatory Committee in reaching its decision.

Conclusion of the Investigatory Committee as to whether research misconduct occurred:

 

The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.  More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he 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.

 

The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.

—————

Please note that this is only a condensed version of this report, not authorized or meant to be authoritative.  It’s intent is merely to make more of this report accessible to the public than is available on most news sites.  It’s presumed editorial shortcomings are entirely the fault of Father Theo.

The original full report may be found at:

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/Final%20Investigation%20Report.pdf