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Nature editor quits ‘Climategate’ review panel

Departure comes as UEA launches second probe into climate science. Zoë Corbyn reports

A member of a panel set up to independently investigate the University of East Anglia “Climategate” affair has resigned just hours after his appointment was announced.

Phil Campbell, editor-in-chief of the journal Nature, was yesterday named as one of a five-strong team to be led by Sir Muir Russell, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, that will examine accusations that scientists in UEA’s Climatic Research Unit manipulated data to strengthen the case for man-made climate change and failed to co-operate with requests to release raw data for public scrutiny.

But he was forced to resign after doubts were raised about his impartiality on the strength of an interview he had given to a Chinese radio station in December 2009.

In the interview, Dr Campbell said there was nothing to suggest a cover-up at CRU.

Speaking after he quit the inquiry panel, Dr Campbell said: “I made the remarks in good faith on the basis of media reports of the leaks. As I have made clear subsequently, I support the need for a full review of the facts behind the leaked emails.

“There must be nothing that calls into question the ability of the independent review to complete this task, and therefore I have decided to withdraw from the team.”

Sir Muir said he regretted the loss of Dr Campbell but understood his decision.

UEA also announced yesterday that it would launch a separate probe – complementary to Sir Muir’s review – to reassess the science in key CRU climate-change publications.

Trevor Davies, pro vice-chancellor for research, said: “Published papers from CRU have gone through the rigorous and intensive peer-review process… [But] we believe it is in the interests of all concerned that there should be an additional assessment considering the science itself.”

Both reviews are meant to be independent, although UEA will fund them. The Royal Society will help identify appropriate assessors for the science review.

Announcing his team and sketching out the questions his review would address, Sir Muir said the inquiry would “draw conclusions that are evidence based”.

Its secretariat is being seconded from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The team includes Geoffrey Boulton, professor emeritus and former vice-principal of the University of Edinburgh; Peter Clarke, professor of physics at Edinburgh; David Eyton, head of research and technology at BP; and Jim Norton, an independent policy adviser.
Sir Muir was the vice-chancellor and principal of Glasgow from 2003 to 2009.

The review is seeking submissions until 1 March. It plans to publish its conclusions in the spring.

Three other reviews into the affair are also under way: Norfolk Police are investigating how the emails became public; MPs on the Science and Technology Committee are analysing the implications for scientific integrity of the disclosures; and the Information Commissioner has begun looking into possible breaches of the Freedom of Information Act.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com

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