Monday, May 3, 2010

Bringing a whole new meaning to the term "Primary Investigator"

From Talking Points Memo:

[Virginia AG] Cuccinelli has launched an investigation into one of the climate scientists who was embarrassed by last year's Climate-Gate controversy -- and in doing so, he may be challenging long-held norms about academic freedom.

Last month, reports The Hook of Charlottesville, the AG requested "a sweeping swath of documents" from the University of Virginia, relating to the climate research work -- funded through state grants -- of Michael Mann.

Mann worked at the university from 1999 to 2005, and now runs Penn State's Earth System Science Center. If he were found to have manipulated data, Cuccinelli could seek to have the research money -- plus damages -- returned to the state.

It's not clear that there's much evidence of that, however. The climate-gate emails showed some scientists discussing ways to keep views skeptical of global warming out of peer-reviewed journals, among other things -- but they did not show outright fraud. Nor did they undermine the broad expert consensus that man-made warming is occurring and must be addressed.

Mann's work is currently being investigated by Penn State. In a recent USA Today story, he defended it, saying that though errors might exist, they were not fraudulent.


  1. There are always going to be errors in any non-trivial piece of work (just look at my rate of typos). :-) But the step forward to fraqud is one that we should take only with a lot of evidence -- extending the benefit of the doubt seems to be an important part of keeping a non-toxic academic environment.

  2. What scares me the most about this is the selective application. You will find errors and a certain amount of data cooking (some of which may even rise to the level of fraud) in every field of research, If you scrutinize one side of a debate you will create the false impression that the scrutinized side has shoddy research. If you add to that the threat of legal action...

    A truly horrifying precedent.

  3. It is unclear that this will be a selective process; after the UK group revelations this might actually act to restore public confidence in climate change research.