Skip to content

The UK government has provided an incomplete response to Andrew Montford’s FOI request for copies of “correspondence or documentation” related to “the appointment of the [Oxburgh} panel or its deliberations”. However, even the incomplete information so far shows that UK government Chief Scientist John Beddington played a critical role. In addition, it contains the remarkable information that US National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone was charged with contacting (“warming up”) the American panelists and UK National Academy of Sciences President Martin Rees with contacting(“warming up”) the UK panelists. Here is the correspondence obtained so far (attachments are mentioned and not provided and the existence of other correspondence is certainly implied). Original documents are here.


Obviously, these emails raise a number of issues.

The emails obviously contain an amusing malapropism. (Surely Kerry Emanuel didn’t need any “warming up” :) ). However, I find the procedures disquieting.

The Oxburgh report did not disclose the role of the UK government in nominating and contacting Oxburgh or other panelists. If this was “proper practice”, as the government now claims, then why didn’t the university and the Oxburgh panel disclose this information in the first place, instead of having to glean the information through the FOI process.

To the extent that the Oxburgh panel was supposed to be providing an independent appraisal, the idea that panel members were contacted (“warmed up”) by presidents of their respective National Academies is, to say the least, disquieting. In most walks of life, expressions of concern by influential people to judges, jurors and commissioners is viewed very adversely.

Second, the FOI response appears to have omitted key parts of the correspondence. The covering email stated “Professor Beddington offered two names of possible candidates to lead the Review, one of which was Lord Oxburgh.” Presumably there was an email or other document in which this was done, but this was not provided. There are other indications of omitted correspondence.

Third, the flimsiness of the cursory Oxburgh inquiry has been obvious to readers. The emails show that this was built-in. Oxburgh planned to spend two days at UEA and write the report in one day. The report shows no evidence of its writing extending into a second day. Has there ever been a flimsier inquiry report?

I have an outstanding FOI request to the university of East Anglia for their correspondence with the Royal Society on the selection of papers. The Oxburgh report said that the papers were selected on the “advice of the Royal Society”, but the Royal Society has refused to disclose the name of the person at the Royal Society who provided the advice or what criteria the Royal Society used to select the papers. The claim in the Oxburgh report seems to be untrue, but neither the Royal Society nor the Oxburgh panel have taken any steps to correct the seemingly false statement. Yesterday, the UEA acknowledged that they were overdue on responding to my FOI request and indicated their intent to respond by the end of the week.

Full story at: Climate Audit, 19 May 2010