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Penn State Climategate Updates

Professor Michael Mann is under investigation by his employer, Penn State University, for his role in the Climategate [1] emails. Since the 60-day investigation began in November more details should be available by the end of January, say University officials.

Just a quick refresher [2] from an earlier article:

In one leaked email, Jones talks about using Penn State [3] professor Michael Mann’s “trick” of manipulating data within his hockey stick diagram. “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline,” wrote Jones on November 16, 1999….

Far from what Professor Watson calls a “relatively obscure report,” in 2004 the BBC classified [4] Mann’s 1998 Nature article and his 1999 paper for Geophysical Research Letters as “seminal” to the hockey stick temperature graph…

Yesterday the National Center for Public Policy Research [5] called for Mann to return the stimulus funds he received back to the U.S. Treasury.

In addition, earlier this week the conservative Commonwealth Foundation [6] in Harrisburg demanded an independent investigation of Prof. Mann by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to “avoid this glaring conflict of interest” between the University’s science funding and Prof. Mann, and to “ensure that the investigation” of him is “credible.”

How big of a conflict of interest does Penn State face in this case? Mann was awarded over $540,000 from the stimulus, blogged Mindy Belz [7] at WorldMag.com [8] in December 2009. Paul Chesser at the American Spectator has more details, writing

So for the benefit of those interested in climate science transparency and even Mr. Mann himself…I will list here his funded proposals since 2006 from his CV:

“2009-2013 Quantifying the influence of environmental temperature on transmission of vector-borne diseases, NSF-EF [Principal Investigator: M. Thomas; Co-Investigators: R.G. Crane, M.E. Mann, A. Read, T. Scott (Penn State Univ.)] $1,884,991

2009-2012 Toward Improved Projections of the Climate Response to Anthropogenic Forcing: Combining Paleoclimate Proxy and Instrumental Observations with an Earth System Model, NSF-ATM [Principal Investigator: M.E. Mann; Co-Investigators: K. Keller (Penn State Univ.), A. Timmermann (Univ. of Hawaii)] $541,184

2008-2011 A Framework for Probabilistic Projections of Energy-Relevant Streamflow Indices, DOE [Principal Investigator: T. Wagener; Co-Investigators: M. Mann, R. Crane, K. Freeman (Penn State Univ.)] $330,000

2008-2009 AMS Industry/Government Graduate Fellowship (Anthony Sabbatelli), American Meteorological Society [Principal Investigator: M.E. Mann (Penn State Univ.)] $23,000

2006-2009 Climate Change Collective Learning and Observatory Network in Ghana, USAID [Principal Investigator: P. Tschakert; Co-Investigators: M.E. Mann, W. Easterling (Penn State Univ.)] $759,928. …”

(continued here [9])…

“Potentially adding insult to injury, Penn State received additional stimulus funds to investigate the impact of climate change last week,” writes Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters [10] on January 15, 2010.

Two clarifications on this point: According to an Excel sheet from the National Science Foundation, it appears that the grant mentioned by Sheppard was awarded in June 2009, before the Climategate-inspired investigation into Prof. Mann’s research began.

In other words, it is not “new” money from stimulus funds; however, Penn State chose to advertise the grant twice this month, on January 7 [11] and January 14 [12] and a University official told me that she couldn’t find a June 2009 mention of the grant through their newswire service [13]

“This grant appears to have nothing to do with Mann’s department,” argues Sheppard. “However, given the high-profile the university is currently under as a result of his involvement in ClimateGate, it seems absurd that any federal funds involving climate change would be going to this school while it is investigating its chief proponent of this myth,” he writes.

Actually, the NSF excel sheet [14] also lists Professor Mann as a co-investigator on the $1.9 million grant, as does Prof. Mann’s curriculum vitae [15]. So the money is at least partly going to Prof. Mann while he is under investigation.

The January 14th press release simply says that the grant “is intended to further the studies of a Penn State-led group of researchers” and does not mention any of the researchers’ names except for principal investigator Prof. Matthew Thomas [16].

For more reading:

Here’s an excellent 2005 Wall Street Journal article [5] explaining scientific controversy over Mann’s hockey graph and methods all the way back to the year it was published.

“Mr. Mann’s chart was both a scientific and political sensation. It contradicted a body of scientific work suggesting a warm period early in the second millennium, followed by a “Little Ice Age” starting in the 14th century. … Yet there were doubts about Mr. Mann’s methods and analysis from the start. In 1998, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a paper in the journal Climate Research, arguing that there really had been a Medieval warm period. The result: Messrs. Soon and Baliunas were treated as heretics and six editors at Climate Research were made to resign.

Still, questions persisted…”

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia [17].