You are here

The Other Scandal In Unhappy Valley

So it turns out that Penn State has covered up wrongdoing by one of its employees to avoid bad publicity.

But I'm not talking about the appalling behavior uncovered this week by the Freeh report. No, I'm referring to another cover up and whitewash that occurred there two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it's time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we've also learned about his and others' hockey-stick deceptions since.

To review, when the emails and computer models were leaked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia two and a half years ago, many of the luminaries of the "climate science" community were shown to have been behaving in a most unscientific manner. Among them were Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn State, whom the emails revealed had been engaging in data manipulation to keep the blade on his famous hockey-stick graph, which had become an icon for those determined to reduce human carbon emissions by any means necessary.

As a result, in November of 2009, the university issued a press release that it was going to undertake its own investigation, independently of one that had been launched by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in response to a demand from Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R- N.Y.). In July of the next year, the panel set up to investigate declared him innocent of any wrongdoing:

Penn State Professor Michael Mann has been cleared of any wrongdoing, according to a report of the investigation that was released today (July 1). Mann was under investigation for allegations of research impropriety that surfaced last year after thousands of stolen e-mails were published online. The e-mails were obtained from computer servers at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, one of the main repositories of information about climate change.

The panel of leading scholars from various research fields, all tenured professors at Penn State, began its work on March 4 to look at whether Mann had "engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities."

My emphasis.

Despite the fact that it was completely internal to Penn State, and they didn't bother to interview anyone except Mann himself, and seemingly ignored the contents of the emails, the warm mongers declared him exonerated (and the biggest victim in the history of the world). But many in the skeptic community called it a whitewash:

This is not surprising that Mann's own university circled the wagons and narrowed the focus of its own investigation to declare him ethical.

The fact that the investigation cited Mann's 'level of success in proposing research and obtaining funding' as some sort of proof that he was meeting the 'highest standards', tells you that Mann is considered a sacred funding cash cow. At the height of his financial career, similar sentiments could have been said about Bernie Madoff.

Mann has become the posterboy of the corrupt and disgraced climate science echo chamber. No university whitewash investigation will change that simple reality.

Richard Lindzen of MIT weighed in as well:

"Penn State has clearly demonstrated that it is incapable of monitoring violations of scientific standards of behavior internally," Lindzen said in an e-mail from France.

But their criticism was ignored, particularly after the release of the NAS report, which was also purported to exonerate him. But in rereading the NAS "exoneration," some words stand out now. First, he was criticized for his statistical techniques (which was the basis of the criticism that resulted in his unscientific behavior). But more importantly:

The OIG also independently reviewed Mann’s emails and PSU’s inquiry into whether or not Mann deleted emails as requested by Phil Jones in the “Climategate” emails (aka Allegation 2). The OIG concluded after reviewing the the published CRU emails and the additional information provided by PSU that “nothing in [the emails] evidenced research misconduct within the definition of the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation.” Furthermore, the OIG accepted the conclusions of the PSU inquiry regarding whether Mann deleted emails and agreed with PSU’s conclusion that Mann had not.

Again, my emphasis. In other words, the NAS investigation relied on the integrity of the university to provide them with all relevant material, and was thus not truly independent. We now know in hindsight that it could not do so. Beyond that, there are still relevant emails that we haven't seen, two years later, because the University of Virginia continues to stonewall on a FOIA request, and it's heading to the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Michael Mann, like Joe Paterno, was a rock star in the context of Penn State University, bringing in millions in research funding. The same university president who resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal was also the president when Mann was being whitewashed investigated. We saw what the university administration was willing to do to cover up heinous crimes, and even let them continue, rather than expose them. Should we suppose, in light of what we now know, they would do any less to hide academic and scientific misconduct, with so much at stake?

It's time for a fresh, truly independent investigation.

*Two inappropriate sentences that originally appeared in this post have been removed by the editor.