National Science Foundation Review Exonerates Climate Scientist

By Michael Bezilla, Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK – The National Science Foundation’s Office of Inspector General has completed its review of allegations of research misconduct against Penn State Professor of Meteorology Michael Mann, and has found no direct evidence to support such allegations.

Mann, internationally known for his studies of climate change, was under investigation for allegations of research impropriety that surfaced in 2009 after thousands of stolen e-mails were published online. “Hackers” obtained the e-mails from computer servers at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, one of the main repositories of information about climate change.

Although Penn State never received any formal allegations of research misconduct, it launched an inquiry into Mann’s scholarly activities in 2010, based on the publicly released emails. After a four-month investigation, a panel of five University faculty members from various fields determined that the scientist violated no professional standards in the course of his work.

University Vice President for Research Henry C. Foley said the OIG then reviewed both the allegations of research misconduct against Mann and the University’s own inquiry.

“We appreciate the Inspector General’s careful assessment of the facts involved in this case,” said Foley. “The report clearly exonerates Professor Mann from any professional improprieties in his research, and adds credibility to the University’s own process of inquiry, which the OIG findings essentially upheld.

“Debate in the realm of climate change will continue, but my hope is that it will now be focused more on questions of science and not on distractions.”

The OIG’s review states that “as part of our investigation, we again fully reviewed all the reports and documentation the University provided to us, as well as a substantial amount of publically available documentation concerning both (Mann’s) research and parallel research conducted by his collaborators and other scientists in that particular field of research.”

The review notes that Mann’s data “is documented and available to researchers” and that “no direct evidence has been presented that indicates he fabricated the raw data he used for his research or falsified his results.”

The review concludes that “lacking any direct evidence of research misconduct, as defined under the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation, we are closing this investigation with no further action.”

The NSF review is the second major investigation at the national level of Mann’s controversial research into climate change, and the second such time his work has been upheld. In 2006 the National Academy of Sciences completed an inquiry into Mann’s findings at the request of Congress. It concurred with his findings that “there is sufficient evidence … of past surface temperatures to say with a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years.”

The Office of Inspector General’s review can be downloaded as a pdf at http://www.nsf.gov/oig/search online. Specify case number A09120086.

The report of the Penn State inquiry, and related documents, can be found at http://www.research.psu.edu/news/2010/michael-mann-decision online.

The National Academy of Science report is at http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=R1 online.

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