What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 5, 2010

A Tale Of Two Papers

Do you remember Michael E Mann? He's the scientist up at Penn State whose emails were among those in the so-called "Climategate scandal."

Climategate was supposed to show how the world's scientists falsified data, suppressed dissenting views, and covered their tracks by deleting their emails. It all pointed (so the skeptics said) to the unmistakable conclusion that Global Warming is a fraud.

Except they didn't and it's not.

But that's beside the point of this blog post. The point of this blog post is a rather glaring example of how a newspaper's politics sometimes perhaps uh "guides" its reporting.

It should not be a shock to readers of this blog to learn that the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is no fan of climate science (ie global warming). And I am sure Richard Mellon Scaife's braintrust will be denouncing the Pentagon as a nest of socialists now that climate change has been accepted as reality by the US Military.

In this case, it's Mike Cronin (and not the editorial board) who's at fault. The outcry for Mann's head after "Climategate" was such that calls were made for investigations into Mann's conduct. The P-G's Susan Manella summarizes:
An academic committee at Penn State looked into Dr. Mann's e-mails for evidence of wrongdoing. Although no formal allegations were filed, the committee synthesized general concerns into four general allegations. In its report Wednesday, it vindicated Dr. Mann on three of them and left one to be further investigated.
So what happens in the coverage? Here's how the P-G's David Templeton reported it:
A Penn State University Inquiry Committee has cleared a noted climatologist of three charges of ethical and research misconduct in connection with hacked e-mails from a British university that cast doubt about his global warming research.

In its report Wednesday, the committee said Michael E. Mann, director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center, neither falsified nor suppressed research data; did not attempt to delete, conceal or destroy e-mails, information or data; and didn't misuse privileged or confidential information available to him.

But the committee will convene a panel of "faculty peers" to determine whether the purloined e-mails he wrote to colleagues deviated from accepted academic practices and "undermined confidence in Dr. Mann's research and climate science specifically."
And here's Mike Cronin of the Trib:
Fearing erosion of public confidence in research climate-change scientist Michael Mann conducted, Penn State University officials said Wednesday they will formally investigate the co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

School officials dismissed three allegations against Mann that questioned whether he suppressed or falsified data, deleted or concealed e-mails, or misused privileged or confidential information.

But three authors of a Penn State internal inquiry could not "make a definitive finding whether there exists any evidence" that Mann deviated from accepted research practices, said a report they published yesterday.
Here's the report, by the way, if you want to read it for yourself. Manella again:
Did [Mann] engage in any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data? There's no credible evidence. Did he try to delete or conceal e-mails? Again, no credible evidence. Did he engage in any misuse of privileged or confidential information? No credible evidence.
So of course Cronin focused on the fourth allegation - it's left open for further discussion. The report itself says:
In sum, the overriding sentiment of this committee, which is composed of University administrators, is that allegation #4 revolves around the question of accepted faculty conduct surrounding scientific discourse and thus merits a review by a committee of faculty scientists. Only with such a review will the academic community and other interested parties likely feel that Penn State has discharged it responsibility on this matter.
Nothing to do with the science, of course. I guess it was necessary to gloss over the "no credible evidence he falsified data" part in order for Cronin to quote, at length, a climate skeptic:
"There has been more than a whiff of corruption that has followed Mann for years," said Marc Morano, executive editor of Climate Depot, a Web site published in Washington skeptical of global warming. "The fact that even his own university could not clear his name does not bode well for Mann."

Morano said "Mann represents everything that is corrupt and unethical in climate science today. He is one of the prime reasons that the global warming movement lay in tatters. Mann will go down in scientific history as a statistical charlatan."
No point in letting the truth get in the way of a good smear, huh?

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