Penn State Panel Finds Climate Researcher Did Not Falsify Data, but Inquiry Continues

February 03, 2010

A prominent climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University has been cleared of falsifying data and most accusations of scientific misconduct by a panel of university administrators, but the officials decided to look more closely into possible errant behavior.

The researcher, Michael E. Mann, is a key figure in the so-called Climategate scandal, in which computer hackers stole hundreds of private e-mail messages by researchers that suggested they had manipulated or exaggerated findings to support policy action related to global warming. Soon after the stolen e-mail messages became public, when the hackers posted them online, officials at Penn State began a formal inquiry into Mr. Mann's behavior. The final report on the investigation was released Wednesday morning.

Mr. Mann was cleared of three of the four charges of professional misconduct, as the administrators found insufficient evidence to further investigate those claims.

The university took the unusual step of making the personnel investigation public because of the intense public interest in the case and its implications for public trust in science, said Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman for the university. Mr. Mann agreed to make the report public.

"While a perception has been created in the weeks after the ... e-mails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State," the report says.

And while Phil Jones, director of the climate unit at the University of East Anglia, wrote to Mr. Mann in one of the e-mail messages asking the Penn State researcher to "delete any e-mails" he had exchanged with another climate researcher about a United Nations report, the university panel found no evidence that Mr. Mann had done so. In fact, the researcher supplied his full e-mail archive to investigators, and some of the messages contain information about the disputed report, the Penn State panel said.

As to whether Mr. Mann had violated norms of climate research in some of his other behavior, though, the Penn State administrators said they lacked the expertise to make the call. So they punted, forming a new committee of five professors. That committee will now begin its own investigation. Results are expected in about four months.

Mr. Mann issued a statement on his Web site but declined to talk further about the matter.

"This is very much the vindication I expected since I am confident I have done nothing wrong," he said on the Web site. "I fully support the additional inquiry which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts. I intend to cooperate fully in this matter — as I have since the beginning of the process."