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Steve McIntyre: NSF on Jones’ Email Destruction Enterprise

David Holland, the professional engineer who submitted the FOI which prompted Phil Jones to initiate what can only be described as a conspiracy to destroy documents related to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, has repeatedly asked: why did Jones take such a large professional risk by asking other scientists to destroy documents?

A correlative question for the other scientists (Briffa, Mann, Wahl, Ammann) is why they agreed to co-operate with Jones in this bizarre enterprise. These questions are not just Holland’s. They are important questions that deserve an answer.

But despite multiple so-called “inquiries”, Holland’s questions about Jones’ email deletion “enterprise” remain unanswered. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that, as far as the inquiries are concerned, they remained unasked. Instead of unravelling the conduct of Jones and his Team, the “inquiries” have been wilfully obtuse, both refusing to ask the salient questions and determining the matter on empirical findings that were either blatantly untrue or unsupported by the evidence that they collected.

In the UK, Muir Russell was commissioned by the University of East Anglia to inquire about the emails, but didn’t even ask Jones whether he deleted the emails. Muir Russell “explained” to the Parliamentary Committee that, if he had done so, he would have been asking Jones to admit misconduct. That a panel commissioned to inquire about misconduct should refuse to grasp the nettle of actually inquiring about misconduct is unfortunately all too typical of these sorry events. Muir Russell’s subsequent report then contained findings on email deletion that were blatantly untrue and known to be untrue to hundreds, if not thousands, of readers who’ve followed these events. In particular, even though Jones’ email initiating the deletion enterprise was marked re “FOIA” and was a direct response to Holland’s FOIA request, Muir Russell obtusely reported that there was no pending FOI request at the time of Jones’ deletion email. This sort of wilful obtuseness and/or incompetence was one of a number of factors that resulted in the Muir Russell “inquiry” exacerbating, rather than diminishing, the polarized attitudes in this field.

In today’s post, I’ll review the recent NSF Office of the Inspector General report as it pertains to Jones’ document destruction enterprise, together with the Penn State Inquiry Committee that it reviews. Like Muir Russell, both the Penn State Inquiry Committee and the NSF OIG neglected to consider obvious and fundamental questions about Mann’s participation in Jones’ document destruction enterprise and arrived at empirical conclusions that were unsupported by the inadequate record that they had collected.

Although the defects in the Penn State Inquiry Committee’s handling of Mann’s participation in Jones’ email destruction enterprise are or should be obvious to any Inspector General (and had been pointed out long ago at Climate Audit), the recent report of the Inspector General condoned Penn State’s mishandling of these matters, as I’ll discuss in today’s post.

On a number of occasions, I’ve urged readers to not hyper-ventilate so much about Mann and pay more attention to the institutions that have enabled Climategate conduct, as for example here:

Far too much attention in this controversy has been focused on Mann and not enough on the enablers.

I once again re-iterate this observation and request and ask people to focus more on the conduct of the inquiries and institutions than of the scientists and grant recipients. For the record, I was one of the people interviewed by the NSF Office of the Inspector General (OIG), though I see no evidence of my input in the report. I’ll discuss this in a follow-up post.

Jones’ email asking other scientists to destroy documents pertaining to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is probably the second-most notorious Climategate email (after the trick email).