Jul 092010

Alex Cull has made this very useful transcription of Professor Edward Acton’s interview on Chanel 4 News soon after the Russell Report was published. The first part is fairly predictable, but see what happens when the presenter asks about deleted emails.

Channel 4 News: Wednesday 7th July, 2010

Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy (KGM) and Professor Edward Acton, UEA Vice Chancellor (EA)

KGM: Well, joining me now is Professor Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. We saw you in that report saying that this was insufficient helpfulness. It doesn’t sound like you think what happened and what Phil Jones did was terribly serious.

EA: I think it is very serious. I think that the shift to an atmosphere in which scientists are proactively making their conclusions, their data available is extremely progressive and I’m very supportive of it. What I would stress, though, is the fact that the scientists’ honour and integrity has been fully vindicated, means that they had nothing to hide, and the message to take away is that – even when you have nothing to hide, that’s not enough, should you find enquiries… should you be impatient with them, or be…

KGM: Has that honour been completely vindicated if they’ve been guilty of a failure of openness? And Phil Jones himself says he was guilty of some awful e-mails.

EA: I think many people are probably guilty of awful e-mails. On the issues of integrity and honesty, yes, Sir Muir’s panel found they were fully vindicated. On the issue of openness he was critical, and I think rightly so, then I think there’s got to be a shift towards a much more active openness and I’m determined that UAE should lead on it.

KGM: What do you think was the purpose of trying to hide e-mails, or delete e-mails, by Mr [sic] Jones?

EA: I asked Mr Jones if – Professor Jones – if he had deleted any e-mails subject to a FOI request. He had not.

KGM: That’s a slightly different question. I mean, because there was no FOI request, he was not guilty of deleting something that was subject to a… [waves arms] freedom of information request… But, nonetheless, things were hidden, presumably because he thought there would be requests for them.

EA: No, not to my knowledge. I do know that he has a very tidy two-monthly system of deleting e-mails, as rather a lot of people do.

KGM: So it wasn’t that he thought that “these could be problematic, I’d better get rid of them”…

EA: No reason to think that..

KGM: Did you ask him that specifically?

EA: What I asked him was whether he had done anything to contravene the FOI Act.

KGM: So you didn’t ask him that.

EA: I never asked anybody that, the question you are after.

KGM: Did you consider removing him from his post at all, during the course of…

EA: I was very glad when he stood aside in order to enable us to have a very thorough, very close analysis, to make sure that there was nothing in these accusations of scientific dishonesty. Now that he has been completely vindicated in terms of honesty, I’m delighted he should return and direct research within CRU.

KGM: And he didn’t offer to resign?

EA: No, he offered to stand aside, to allow a thorough investigation.

KGM: Where do you think your reputation is now, at the end of this?

EA: Well, I think the University has been through a turbulent time, because a lot of mud has been flung at it. I think that it has been difficult during that period. But two things have happened. One is homage has been paid to the world-historic significance of the work done here, alerting the species that there is a terrible problem. And the other is that its science has been found entirely honest and reliable. So I think that combination, if you were to make a prediction, is probably ultimately beneficial.

KGM: Would you accept that overall, though, the net effect of this whole furore is that a lot of people will have doubts about climate change science, regardless of what this report says at the end of the day, and that may be the responsibility of your department.

EA: I think it remains to be seen. I think if we were to tackle – to test opinion during the intervening months between November and now, I would have thought: yes. If you were to ask, now what is going to be the longer term effect, I think much less credence to random charges of dishonesty will now persist, and I think that may be very positive.

KGM: Professor Acton, thank you very much indeed.

EA: Thank you.

You can watch the video here. Professor Acton’s body language when dealing with the question of email deletions suggests that he was very well aware of the pitfall that was confronting him.

I’ll be returning to the matter of deleted emails, and what the Russell Report has to say about this, in another post very soon.

7 Responses to “Russell Report: Did Phil Jones delete emails?”

  1. Blimey, I’ve said some awful things about you lot in private emails. I think I’d better go and delete them in case my mailbox gets hacked :-)

  2. Or unless someone with access to your computer decides to leak them, perhaps?

  3. Peter:

    You mean worse things than you’ve actually managed to post here?

    But of course the difference is that the Climategate emails were not private, its just the authors and their supporters who wish that they had been.

  4. @Peter

    Unless you’ve sent them from a publicly funded institute, in a publicly funded position, on a publicly funded machine i really wouldn’t worry.

    besides, i’ve already read your emails, they weren’t that interesting :)

  5. On July 7, 2010, Professor Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia states in the interview (bold type by me):

    What I would stress, though, is the fact that the scientists’ honour and integrity has been fully vindicated, means that they had nothing to hide, and the message to take away is that – even when you have nothing to hide, that’s not enough, should you find enquiries… should you be impatient with them, or be…

    On March 24, 1973, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott quoted Nixon as saying:

    I have nothing to hide. The White House has nothing to hide. I repeat, we have nothing to hide, and you are authorized to make that statement in my name.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,907098,00.html

    Sounds like sort of a standard disclaimer when a publicly funded individual is caught doing something questionable.

    Max.

  6. Max

    Didn’t he also say: “There can be no whitewash at the White House”? Plus ca change…

  7. Not clutching at straws, a bit, are you? Do you have any training in psychology, or have you just watched alot of “Lie to me”?

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