Climategate scientists hid information
By Juliet Eilperin
The British university at the center of an international controversy concerning climate change acted illegally by not disclosing raw data to the public, according to British authorities, but will not face prosecution because the statute of limitations has expired.
The case involves the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, whose server was illegally hacked last fall. The unit's director Phil Jones--whose work was the subject of multiple Freedom of Information Act requests--stepped aside from his post last month after the e-mails came to light.
The e-mails included comments by prominent researchers, including Jones, in which the scientists belittled their opponents and wrote of how best to make the scientific case that global warming is driven by human activity.
Britain's Information Commisioner's Office announced Thursday that "requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation," but since the requests were made in 2007 and 2008 and the violation was only recently discovered, they cannot prosecute.
"The legislation requires action within six months of the offence taking place, so by the time the action taken came to light the opportunity to consider a prosecution was long gone," the statement reads.
Francesca Grifo, who directs the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the new revelations underscore the importance of publicly disclosing scientific information.
"There are right ways and wrong ways for scientists to fight back against the climate skeptics who are trying to confuse the public about global warming. Failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act is the wrong way," Grifo said. "Scientists have a professional responsibility to uphold scientific integrity, even in a severely polarized environment. They should resist the urge to hide information, even if they suspect that their research will be misused."
Juliet Eilperin| January 28, 2010; 3:23 PM ET Save & Share:
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