Selective publication of hacked emails is ‘mischievous’, says East Anglia

More than 1,000 documents relating to climate change research have been stolen from the university and published online. Zoë Corbyn reports

November 23, 2009

The University of East Anglia has described the selective publication of hacked emails and papers from its climate change scientists as mischievous and irresponsible.

It has emerged that the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has been the victim of computer hacking, with about 1,000 emails and 70 other documents stolen and published online.

In one of the most controversial emails, which has been confirmed as genuine, a researcher suggests using a “trick” to manipulate temperature data to “hide the decline”.

But the University of East Anglia said that the suggestion has been misconstrued.

“The selective publication of some stolen emails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way,” it said in a statement.

Phil Jones, director of the CRU and one of the victims of the hacking, also attempted to “put the record straight” and said that the email had produced a “great deal of ill-informed comment”.

“The word ‘trick’ was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward,” he said.

The data appear to have been taken from a university server, with elements published on a number of websites late last week. The case raises significant issues about the security of universities’ computer systems.

“The volume of material published and its piecemeal nature makes it impossible to confirm what proportion is genuine. We took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation and have involved the police in what we consider to be a criminal investigation,” the university said.

The unit’s research has contributed to the consensus that human activity is affecting the world’s climate in ways that are potentially dangerous. The university stressed that the CRU’s published research was fully peer-reviewed by the relevant journals.

An anonymous link to the Russian server where the hacker had posted the documents first appeared on the climate change blog, the Air Vent, last week.

Lord Lawson, a former Conservative Chancellor and a climate change sceptic, has now called for an independent inquiry into the claims that CRU scientists manipulated data to strengthen the case for man-made climate change.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com

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