Climate Researchers Cleared of Malpractice

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It's too soon to know whether it will quelch the debate over the existance of climate change but an inquiry has cleared climate researchers of malpractice in an affair that became popularly known as "climate-gate."

The University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit became embroiled in controversy last year when climate change skeptics, using more than 1,000 e-mails stolen from the center, charged that scientists had tampered with data to exaggerate the threat of global warming.

The inquiry followed a review of 11 scientific papers published by the center. It concluded Wednesday it found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety."

The review did not analyze the correctness of the conclusions, but gave the scientific processes at Climatic Research Unit a ``clean bill of health.''

This marked the second victory for the scientists, whose work at the CRU was challenged after private emails were hacked and published on the Internet. The emails wound up being published on the Internet before the opening of a United Nations conference on the climate in Copenhagen last December.

Last month, the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons similarly concluded that the content of the emails did not suggest an attempt to hide information that ran counter to climate change theories.

"We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it," the panel wrote in its report. "Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal."

Science Assessment Panel Report

In what might be construed as a mild criticism, the panel, chaired by former government adviser Ronald Oxburgh, suggested that the researchers adjust their routines and work more closely with professional statisticians. The UAE responded by allowing that it saw "the sense in engaging more fully with the wider statistics community to ensure that the most effective and up-to-date statistical techniques are adopted and will now consider further how best to achieve this."

Another review of the affair has yet to issue its findings.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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