Climate of confusion

July 28, 2016

David Petley from the University of East Anglia confuses two separate issues in his comments about open access to data (“Beware ‘nefarious’ use of open data, summit hears”, News, 11 July). The “Climategate” controversy in 2009 was about public (and possibly illegal) access to climate scientists’ “private” emails – emails that were indeed used to cast a smokescreen over climate science. However, it was also, and more fundamentally, about legitimate public access to important climate data. Here the issues were by no means as clear cut as Petley suggests. The most important lesson from Climategate, which most climate scientists and scientific institutions have subsequently taken to heart, is to make one’s data publicly available. This principle of openness does not “damage science”, however inconvenient it may be to act upon it.

Mike Hulme
Professor of climate and culture
Department of geography
King’s College London

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