Sunday, April 8, 2012


date: Mon Aug 24 09:34:17 2009
from: Phil Jones <>
subject: Re: Data Loss- a couple of questions
to: Daniel Youmans <>


This alludes to another story (below) where the issues are similar. This is from a
skeptic email listing. It obviously depends on what people think of as
Environmental Information. It is useful to look at the EIR and see what it refers too.
It doesn't refer to climate data.
In this case with Queens, the tree-ring data come from ages ago, so to my mind
it isn't current EIR.
One issue is that FOI and EIR probably shouldn't apply to some things Universities do.
Researchers should be free to determine who they want to work with. In the tree case
there are numerous people in central Europe (alpine countries and Germany especially)
who have chronologies for dating buildings and paintings. Many make reasonable
livings out of doing this work. If their data were made available, they would be out of a
Keenan is a nasty person. I did comply with one of his FOI requests
Keenan documents things here, but misses out several important facts. SUNYA
(State University of NY at Albany) investigated the claims, and found them to be
Keenan agreed not to do anything about his claim until SUNYA investigated
things, but he then published them in a journal (Energy and Environment) whilst
their investigation was ongoing. There is no way of dealing with these people.
A number of US Universities have been beset with claims over the last few years.
The datasets CRU make available on its web site ( eg
are used by countless climatologists around the world. I'd just look at the number
of citations for this paper.

Mitchell, T.D. and Jones, P.D., 2005: An improved method of constructing a database of
monthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids. Int. J. Climatol. 25,
Also have a look at my citation record on World of Science. Because of my common surname
you have to remove one from biology, but it is still very high. This is a pain to do, so
have a look at this site.
Person obviously motivated by green politics, but it shows how high many CRU people
are in the list. My position varies on his list, but he's probably worth contacting.
With the way the UK govt assesses research for RAE (and the new REF) citation counts
are one metric. Proposals and PhD students are other metrics.
Names of people who were in CRU (Tom Wigley, previous Director, Mark New, Jean Palutikof
Robert Marsh, Sarah Raper and Dick Warrick). People still in CRU are me, Keith Briffa,
Tim Osborn who are in the list. Mike Hulme was in CRU, but is now in ENV.
This web site has been updated with citation counts for many of the skeptics. It is
difficult to classify people as easily as this though.
has a quote from Sir David King, the former govt Chief Scientist.
Have a look at the 2007 Report and the number of ENV people involved
in the IPCC Reports. ENV (including CRU) involvement is more than other
University Dept anywhere in the world. Only the Met Office in the UK and
NOAA (American Met Service) have more.
Away Aug 27-Sept 5.
Peiser, Benny wrote:

CCNet Xtra, 15 August 2009 2009 -- Audiatur et altera pars
They are my data. --Peter M. Brown, President of the Tree-Ring Society, April 2007
In other words, even if the research and the researcher's salary are
fully paid for by the public - as is the case at QUB - the researcher
still regards the data as his or her personal property.
-- Doug Keenan, 14 August 2009
I also offered to visit QUB with the case officer, to demonstrate how
quickly the data could be copied (e.g. from floppy disks), and to copy
the data myself. The officer, though, declined my offer, again saying
that she was satisfied with QUB's explanation. There is a mechanism to
appeal an ICO decision, to a tribunal. I told the case officer that I
wanted to do so. The officer replied that, in order to file an appeal, I
would need a formal Decision Notice from the ICO. I requested a Decision
Notice. The officer then informed me that the ICO would send a Notice,
but that, because they were busy, it would take about two years to do
-- Doug Keenan, 14 August 2009
The main problem with dendrochronolgy is one of small sample size. As a
forester, who specialises in forest measurement, I can state that within
any stand of trees, managed or not, there is always variation within the
stand with competition between trees being the main player. Sure annual
weather events will influence the stand as a whole, but often this will
be masked by the within stand competition. If the dendro gets the sample
wrong then any inferences that they might make about the past weather
are also incorrect. I shake my head every time someone quotes from
another dendro study, when will they ever learn?
--Pnadanus, WUWT, 14 August 2009
I speak as a forester who has examined tree rings on zillions of stumps
and cores. Weather events and conditions are not at all obvious in tree
rings. Heck, even fire scars are difficult to discern and fires often
leave no mark at all on individual trees. An unusually mild winter, dry
spring, or a hot summer are all virtually impossible to detect, even if
thousands of contemporaneous ring series are measured to a gnats eyebrow
and compared. --Mike D., WUWT, 14 August 2009
Watts Up With That, 14 August 2009

As many WUWT readers know, Steve McIntyre's tireless quest to get the
raw data that makes up the gridded Hadley Climate Research Unit HadCRUT
dataset has been fraught with delays, FOI denials, and obvious
obfuscation. In some cases the "dog ate my homework" is the excuse. The
UK Register has an excellent summary of the issue.
A similar issue has been brewing in parallel over tree ring data in the
UK. Doug Keenan tells us the story of getting the "ring around" for over
2 years trying to obtain what many would consider a simple and non
controversial data request. - Anthony
Guest Post by Doug Keenan
Queen's University Belfast is a public body in the United Kingdom. As
such, it is required to make certain information available under the UK
Freedom of Information Act. The university holds some information about
tree rings (which is important in climate studies and in archaeology).
Following discusses my attempt to obtain that information, using the
Scientists study tree rings for two main purposes. One purpose is to
learn something about what the climate was like many years ago. For
instance, if many trees in a region had thick rings in some particular
years, then climatic conditions in those years were presumably good
(e.g. warm and with lots of rain); tree rings have been used in this way
to learn about the climate centuries ago. The other purpose in studying
tree rings is to date artefacts found in archaeological contexts; for an
example, see here.
Tree-ring data from Northern Ireland
One of the world's leading centers for tree-ring work is at Queen's
University Belfast (QUB), in Northern Ireland. The tree-ring data that
QUB has gathered is valuable for studying the global climate during the
past 7000 years: for a brief explanation of this, see here.
Most of the tree-ring data held by QUB was gathered decades ago; yet it
has never been published. There is a standard place on the internet to
publish such data: the International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB), which
currently holds tree-ring data from over 1500 sites around the world.
QUB refuses to publish or otherwise release most of its data, though. So
I have tried to obtain the data by applying under the UK Freedom of
Information Act (FoI Act).
I have submitted three separate requests for the data. Each request
described the data in a different way, in an attempt to avoid
nit-picking objections. All three requests were for the data in
electronic form, e.g. placed on the internet or sent as an e-mail
attachment. The first request was submitted in April 2007.
QUB refused the first request in May 2007. I appealed the refusal to a
Pro-Vice-Chancellor of QUB, who rejected the appeal. The primary reason
that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor gave for rejection was that some of the
data was in paper form and had not been converted to electronic form.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor additionally claimed that after data was
converted to electronic form, "It is then uploaded to the International
Tree Ring Data Base". There might indeed be some small portion of the
data that is not in electronic form. My request, though, was for a copy
of the data that is in electronic form. So, is all data that is in
electronic form available at the ITRDB, as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor
QUB has in the past published the results of various analyses of its
tree-ring data (most notably its claim to have sequences of overlapping
tree rings extending back in time many millennia). In doing the
analyses, the sequences of tree-ring data are analyzed statistically,
and the statistical computations are done by computer. This is well
known, and moreover has been stated by QUB's former head tree-ring
researcher, Michael G.L. Baillie, in several his publications. (Indeed,
Baillie and his colleague Jon R. Pilcher, also at QUB, wrote a
widely-used computer program for tree-ring matching, CROS.) Obviously
the data that was used for those computations is in electronic form-and
it has not been uploaded to the ITRDB. Thus the claim by the
Pro-Vice-Chancellor is untrue.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor further claimed that to organize the data in
"the very precise categories which [I] have specified" [in my request]
would entail a vast amount of work. My request, though, was merely for
the tree-ring data that had been obtained and used by the university;
that hardly seems like precise categorization. Moreover, I later
submitted a second request for "the data about tree rings that has been
obtained by [QUB] and that is held in electronic form by the
university". That request was also refused. And a third request that was
very similar to the second was refused. All three requests were refused
in whole, even though the university is required to make partial
fulfillment when that is practicable.
The UK Information Commissioner's Office
After half a year of trying to obtain the information from QUB, I
appealed to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The ICO is
charged with ensuring that the FoI Act is enforced. My appeal to the ICO
was submitted on 24 October 2007. The ICO notified me that an officer
had been assigned to begin investigating my case on 14 October 2008.
Such a long delay is clearly incompatible with effective working of the
The ICO then contacted QUB, asking for further information. QUB then
admitted that almost all the data was stored in electronic form. Thus
QUB implicitly admitted that its prior claims were untruthful.
QUB now asserted, however, that the data was on 150 separate disks and
that it would take 100 hours to copy those disks. (These were floppy
disks-the type that slide into computers and, prior to the internet,
were commonly used to carry electronic data.) It takes only a minute or
two to copy a floppy disk, however; so the claim of 100 hours to copy
150 floppy disks is an unrealistic exaggeration.
QUB also said that it considered photocopying a printed version of the
data, but that this would take over 1800 hours. As noted above, all my
requests were for data that is in electronic form; moreover, I have
repeated this point in subsequent correspondences with QUB. The
statement from QUB about photocopying is thus not relevant.
On 22 December 2008, the ICO sent me a letter rejecting my appeal, on
the grounds that the time needed by QUB would exceed an "appropriate
limit" (as stipulated in the FoI Act). The ICO had accepted QUB's
explanation for refusing to release the data without question, and
without discussing the explanation with me. I telephoned the ICO to
raise some objections. To each objection that I raised, the ICO case
officer gave the same reply: "I'm satisfied with their [QUB's]
I also offered to visit QUB with the case officer, to demonstrate how
quickly the data could be copied (e.g. from floppy disks), and to copy
the data myself. This seemed particularly appropriate because the
officer had told me when she started on the case that she would visit
QUB as a standard part of investigation, yet she had not made such a
visit. The officer, though, declined my offer, again saying that she was
satisfied with QUB's explanation.
There is a mechanism to appeal an ICO decision, to a tribunal. I told
the case officer that I wanted to do so. The officer replied that, in
order to file an appeal, I would need a formal Decision Notice from the
ICO. I requested a Decision Notice. The officer then informed me that
the ICO would send a Notice, but that, because they were busy, it would
take about two years to do so.
Environmental Information Regulations
I discussed the above with a colleague, David Holland. Holland said that
my request should not have been processed under the FoI Act. His
reasoning was that the information I was requesting was about the
environment: environmental information is exempt from the FoI Act and
requests for such information should instead be processed under the
Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). He pointed out that the
tree-ring data clearly fits the definition of "environmental
information" given in the EIR. It also clearly fits the common
(dictionary) definition.
I had been aware that the EIR existed, but had assumed that the EIR was
essentially the same as the FoI Act. After the discussion with Holland,
though, I checked and found that there is one major difference between
the EIR and the FoI Act: under the EIR, there is no limit on the amount
of time that a public institution requires to process a request. In
other words, even if QUB's original claim that some of the data was only
available on paper were true, or even if QUB's revised claim that
copying data from disks would take 100 hours were true, that would still
not be a valid reason for refusing to supply the information.
I am not an expert in how to apply the EIR or FoI Act, though. So I
telephoned the ICO headquarters to ask for guidance. There I spoke with
a Customer Service Advisor, Mike Chamberlain. Chamberlain told me the
following: that the information seemed obviously environmental; that
there was no limit on processing time that could be used to refuse a
request for environmental information; that I could freely visit a site
where environmental information was held in order to examine the
information; and that it was the duty of the public authority (i.e. QUB)
to determine whether the EIR or the FoI Act was applicable. Chamberlain
also confirmed everything that he told me with someone more senior at
the ICO.
It is regrettable that I had not realized the above earlier. My initial
request to QUB, in April 2007, had stated the following.
It might be that this request is exempt from the FOIAct, because the
data being requested is environmental information. If you believe that
to be so, process my request under the Environmental Information
QUB, however, had not processed my application correctly. I should have
caught that.
There is another issue. I had described the information to the ICO case
officer by telephone and also by e-mail (on 24 November 2008). Hence the
case officer must have known that the information was environmental, and
thus exempt under the FoI Act and only requestable under the EIR. Why
did the ICO not act on that? On 29 January 2009, I e-mailed the case
officer, citing the above-quoted statement from my request to QUB and
saying "I would like to know the reasoning that led to my request being
processed under the Freedom of Information Act, instead of EIR".
Initially, there was no reply.
The EIR was enacted pursuant to the Aarhus Convention, an international
treaty on environmental information that the UK promoted, signed, and
ratified. Failure to implement the EIR would constitute a failure by the
UK to adhere to the Convention. So, a few weeks after e-mailing my
question to the ICO, and with no reply, I contacted the Aarhus
Convention Secretariat (ACS), at the United Nations in Geneva. The ACS
has a mechanism whereby individuals can file a complaint against a
country for breaching the Convention. I had an initial discussion with
the ACS about this. That turned out to be unnecessary though. The
Assistant Information Commissioner for Northern Ireland contacted me, on
10 March 2009: he was now handling my case and, moreover, he had visited
QUB and seen some of the data.
On 22 April 2009, I received a telephone call from the Assistant
Information Commissioner for Northern Ireland. The Assistant
Commissioner said that he was preparing a Decision Notice for the case,
and he made it clear that the Notice would hold that the data should be
released under the EIR. The next I heard anything was on 13 July 2009,
when it was announced that the Assistant Commissioner had been
suspended. On 13 August 2009, I telephoned the ICO: I was told that a
new officer would be assigned to the case within the next few days and
that a draft Notice, which had been written by the Assistant
Commissioner, was in the signatory process. I am presently awaiting
further word.
Another example-Gothenburg University
I have previously been involved with obtaining tree-ring data from
another institution: Gothenburg University, in Sweden. Sweden has a law
that is similar to the UK's Freedom of Information Act (the Swedish law
is the Principle of Public Access). In 2004, Swedish courts ruled that
the law applied to research data held by universities. In a famous case
known as the "Gillberg affair", a researcher at Gothenburg University
refused to obey the law. As a result, both the researcher and the rector
of the university were convicted of criminal malfeasance. (The
researcher received a suspended sentence and a fine; the rector received
a fine.)
Gothenburg University does substantial tree-ring research. On 10 April
2007, I requested their tree-ring data. The university's lead tree-ring
researcher repeatedly resisted, claiming that it would take weeks of his
time, and that he was too busy to do it. On 22 April 2008, I sent a
letter to the (new) rector of Gothenburg University, saying that if the
data was not supplied, I would file complaints with both the Court and
the Parliamentary Ombudsmen of Sweden. The next day, all the data was
submitted to the ITRDB.
What transpired with Gothenburg University exemplifies the importance of
laws on Freedom of Information for tree-ring data.
Motivations for withholding data
Some people have asked why QUB does not want to release the data. In
fact, most tree-ring laboratories do not make their data available: it
is not just QUB and Gothenburg that have been reluctant. The reason for
this was elucidated by Peter M. Brown, in April 2007. At the time, Brown
was president of the Tree-Ring Society, which is the main international
organization for tree-ring researchers. Following is an excerpt (the
full explanation is here).
... they ARE my data. Funding agencies pay me for my expertise, my
imagination, and my insights to be able to make some advance in our
understanding of how nature works, not for raw data sets. ... It is the
understanding and inferences supplied by the scientist that funding
agencies are interested in, not her or his raw data.
In other words, even if the research and the researcher's salary are
fully paid for by the public-as is the case at QUB-the researcher still
regards the data as his or her personal property.
There are only a few tree-ring laboratories where attitudes are
different. One example is the University of St Andrews, in the UK.
Almost all tree-ring data held by St Andrews is freely available in the
It is notable that QUB continues to withhold its data even though, in
2009, the tree-ring laboratory at QUB was effectively closed. The
closure was primarily due to the lab lacking funds, which presumably
resulted from having almost no research publications (i.e. the lab had
not been producing anything; so funding agencies declined to support
it). The dearth of publications occurred even though the lab has some
extremely valuable data on what is arguably the world's most important
scientific topic-global warming (as outlined here). This problem arises
because the QUB researchers do not have expertise to analyze the data
themselves and they do not want to share their data with other
researchers who do.
Date Sender Summary (with link) 2007-04-10 DJK My first request for the information held by
QUB (sent by
e-mail). 2007-04-16 QUB Acknowledgement of request. 2007-05-11 QUB E-mail saying that there
will be a delay in responding to
the request (which is required to be within 20 business days of my
request), but that QUB would respond by May 18th. 2007-05-21 DJK E-mail to the ICO, about
the lack of response from QUB;
Cc'd to QUB. 2007-05-22 QUB First refusal of the request for information. 2007-05-22 QUB
E-mail with attached description of how to appeal the
refusal (this was sent following a telephone call to QUB in which I
noted that they are required to send me such). 2007-05-23 DJK E-mail to the ICO, noting
that QUB had responded. 2007-05-24 DJK Appeal of the refusal, submitted to a
of QUB. 2007-05-25 QUB Initial response to the appeal, saying that appeal to a
Pro-Vice-Chancellor should be resorted to only if QUB's Information
Compliance Officer and I are unable to resolve things ourselves. 2007-06-02 ICO
Acknowledgement of my prior e-mails, correctly noting
that the ICO should not act at this time. 2007-06-21 QUB Second refusal of the request for
information. 2007-07-13 DJK Appeal, submitted to a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of QUB. 2007-07-26
QUB Notification that a response to my appeal to a
Pro-Vice-Chancellor will be delayed until the second half of August. 2007-08-15 QUB E-mail
from a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, saying that a response
to my appeal will be sent by September 30th (i.e. about seven weeks
after the four-week limit). 2007-09-28 QUB Rejection of my appeal by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
2007-10-24 DJK Appeal to the ICO. 2007-11-27 ICO Acknowledgement of appeal, saying that it
might be
several months before I hear from the ICO again. 2008-05-15 DJK Second request for the
information held by QUB. 2008-05-15 DJK Third request for the information held by QUB.
2008-06-12 QUB Rejection of my second and third requests, by the Head of
the Registrar's Office. 2008-06-19 DJK E-mailed reply to the Head of the Registrar's Office
QUB. 2008-07-01 QUB Acknowledgement of my last e-mail, by the Head of the
Registrar's Office. 2008-07-15 DJK E-mail to the ICO, notifying them of the rejected second
and third requests for the information. 2008-10-14 ICO E-mail notifying me that an officer
has been assigned to
my case and asking me to confirm that I would like to proceed. 2008-10-15 DJK E-mail to the
ICO, confirming that I would like to
proceed. 2008-11-24 DJK E-mail to the ICO, briefly synopsizing how tree-ring
dating works (this followed a telephone call, in which the case officer
had said that might be helpful). 2008-11-24 ICO Acknowledgement of my last e-mail and
notice that QUB's
response had been slightly delayed. 2008-12-22 ICO Rejection of appeal. 2009-01-21 DJK
E-mail summarizing telephone call with the ICO; during
the call I was informed that it would take roughly two years for the ICO
to issue a Decision Notice on the case. 2009-01-21 ICO Letter acknowledging my request for
a Decision Notice
(this was sent 43 minutes after my last e-mail, and its content appears
to be independent of that). 2009-01-29 DJK E-mail to the ICO, asking why my requests for
had been processed under the FoI Act, instead of the EIR. 2009-03-02 DJK E-mail to the ACS,
alleging a breach of the Aarhus
Convention by the United Kingdom. 2009-03-10 ACS Reply from the ACS Legal Support Officer,
concluding that
the evidence substantiating the allegation is sufficient for the ACS to
proceed with a review. 2009-03-10 ICO E-mail from the Assistant Information Commissioner
Northern Ireland, saying that he was handling the case and he had
visited QUB (this was concomitant with a telephone call, which
elaborated). 2009-03-11 DJK E-mail to the ACS, saying that the ICO was now
progressing things, and so my allegation was unnecessary. 2009-03-11 ACS Acknowledgement of
prior e-mail. 2009-03-25 ICO E-mail from the Assistant Information Commissioner,
saying that he was continuing with work on the case and would contact me
again after Easter.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information: Why Irish tree-ring data is
important, see: <[9]>
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At 22:25 21/08/2009, you wrote:

Thanks very much for that link- it definitely clears up a lot of the questions the
article raises. Have papers/websites reported a similar story to this before? Have
similar issues plagued other institutions?
Lastly, would you be able to give us a short quote on the importance of the work the CRU
does, and the benefits UEA gains from being associated therewith?
Many thanks,
Dan Youmans
Dan Youmans
News Editor (UEA)
The Project
e: [11]
w: [12]
On 21 Aug 2009, at 10:13, Phil Jones wrote:

There is no story here. We have lost no data.
We will be contacting Met Services around the world to see if we can release
their data.
There is an awful lot of history to the story that is doing the rounds on skeptic
They are just stirring things up - in some attempt to stop politicians doing anything
climate change.
At 22:04 19/08/2009, you wrote:

Dear Professor Jones,
I am contacting you as UEA News Editor of The Project, a new, free, student newspaper
set to launch in Norwich next month.
I am writing to you about the story, published on The Register's website, about the
CRU's loss of some data. Would it be possible for you to provide a reaction to this
story for our paper, perhaps mentioning the pre-eminence of the CRU and the School of
ENV that are so vital to UEA's reputation, or even better, if we could perhaps speak on
the phone?
I appreciate any help you can give me,
Dan Youmans
News Editor (UEA)
The Project
e: [14]
w: [15]

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email [16]

Dan Youmans
News Editor (UEA)
The Project
e: [17]
w: [18]

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

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