July 13, 2010 - This blog is Part 4 in a series that started in the spring. The first three parts are at the links at the bottom of the page.
I met Dr. Michael Mann for the first time last week.
I was at Penn State to attend the Department of Meteorology's 75th Anniversary Weekend. During the informal dinner Friday evening, I had a brief conversation with him.
A Penn State Investigation had just cleared him of a fourth and final accusation of academic misconduct, and we talked briefly about it.
He was modestly grateful that this particular chapter had closed. However, he acknowledged that even with this little victory, there will always be a group of people convinced that he committed fraud… or worse… a crime.
To be fair: The Penn State Investigation Committee frowned upon Dr. Mann's sharing of unpublished scientific papers with other researchers without written permission of the authors. Dr. Mann explained to the investigation committee that he believed he had implied consent on these papers, as he had worked closely with the authors.
Below is an excerpt from the report:
"The Investigatory Committee considers Dr. Mann's actions in sharing unpublished manuscripts with third parties, without first having received express consent from the authors of such manuscripts, to be careless and inappropriate. While sharing an unpublished manuscript on the basis of the author's implied consent may be an acceptable practice in the judgment of some individuals, the Investigatory Committee believes the best practice in this regard is to obtain express consent from the author before sharing an unpublished manuscript with third parties.
The Investigatory Committee would like to note that Dr. Mann, after being questioned by the Investigatory Committee about this issue, requested and received confirmation that his assumption of implied consent was correct from the author of one of the papers in question. This "after the fact" communication was not considered by the Investigatory Committee in reaching its decision.
The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.
More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.
The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous."
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Saturday night, I met up with an old meteorology classmate of mine. He and I graduated together in 1991, and he went on to get his PhD in 2005. He now works for the Department of Meteorology as a specialist in information technology, and he is one of two people who oversee the Department's computer systems.
He noticed I had been talking to Michael Mann at the barbecue, and I explained to him what I had been blogging about. Two things struck me about our conversation.
First, he talked about the email theft from East Anglia. Remembering it was a crime, he told me he would not be surprised if it turned out to be an inside job. He told me that those systems are very secure, and it would be very difficult for an outsider to break in.
Second, he told me how frustrating it was to be forced to dig up old emails when Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe demanded them a few years ago. Inhofe, you may recall, is among the most vocal Senators who are convinced that the entire science is a hoax. In my classmate's words, "The email recovery wasn't too difficult, but it is time that could have been used for constructive work, not something like this."
My classmate went on to remind me that he has been a conservative his whole life, but that "these people were crazy."
* * * *
It is easy to criticize a person you have never met… in a place you have never been… whose shoes you have never walked in… whose work you do not understand… whose scientific conclusions you do not like. But to abuse the power of an elective office to harass that person is shameful.
A 40-page brief was filed by Cuccinelli today to counter the UVa petition that was made to an Albemarle County Circuit Court a few weeks ago. One sentence in the Attorney General's brief really bothered me:
"Ultimately, as with most of the University's arguments, the overbreadth argument fails because of the deference due to the Attorney General at this stage of the proceedings."
My mother used to say the same thing to me when I was a child, she just put it a different way.
You have to do it because I said so.