Last November I pointed out the local connection to the Climategate emails. University of Arizona professor Malcolm Hughes was one of five recipients of the now infamous “Hide the Decline” email. In that post, I raised the question of Academic Fraud.
I'm sure that Malcolm Hughes and his friends are a true believers and would be shocked that people will look at these thousands of emails and conclude that he has been part of a massive research fraud. But even the most charitable reading of "using Mike's trick" to "hide the decline" shows that Hughes and his associates are engaging in politics instead of research--and with the amount of money that they have received from the federal government, their deceptions seem to surpass mere politics and PR and have moved into outright fraud.
The emails spawned a handful of investigations and the most recent report takes a hard look at the “hide the decline” email; the conclusion is devastating. Here's finding number 37 on page 62 of the report.
37. In relation to “hide the decline” we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC TAR), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading in two regards. It did not make clear that in one case the data post 1960 was excluded, and it was not explicit on the fact that proxy and instrumental data were spliced together. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, but that the reason for doing so should have been described.
The report concludes that the figure ultimately placed in the report was “misleading.” Take a few moments and ponder that conclusion. We know that Hughes received an email in which one of his fellow researches said (privately he thought) that he was going to use a “trick” to “hide” something. Then the figure on which he used the “trick” became quite famous, in fact “iconic”. It’s not like the figure was buried in some footnote and Hughes could have said “golly, I wonder what happened to that graph in which Phil said he was going to use Mike’s Nature Trick to hide the decline.”
Then after the emails were released and the figure was analyzed, the investigators concluded that the figure was indeed misleading. Not “confusing” but “misleading.”
Phil Jones and the other scientists have maintained that there are two meanings of “trick”. Sure, those of us who aren’t scientists looks at a “trick” as something that, you know, tricks people. Jones maintains that this trick is like using the quadratic formula, it’s a technique for solving a problem. OK, that argument had some merit---until the report concluded that the figure generated by this trick was misleading, that the trick was not disclosed, that the figure was so widely used (in its misleading format) that it became “iconic” and that Hughes and his friends never bothered to correct the misperception raised by the misleading figure.
For his part, Hughes seemed to know from the beginning that the trick and resulting figure were fraudulent. When Arizona Daily Star Reporter Tony Davis asked Hughes about the email, Hughes' response wa that HE hadn't used the trick, it was Phil Jones who used the trick.
That's academic fraud folks. Intentionally manipulating data to produce a misleading figure, and then sitting back to watch that figure gain "iconic" status...while you rake in awards and grants for being on the leading edge of your field...is a classic definition of fraud. And when Phil Jones sent Hughes an email saying that he was going to use the trick, and then Hughes saw that Jones had indeed used the trick to create a misleading figure and then that figure went on to become "iconic" in the climate debate, Hughes had a responsibility to report the fraud. But he didn't speak up. He remained silent and watch the grants pour in...
On December 9th of 2009, I wrote:
It’s looking more and more like Hughes has been part of an extensive fraud. Did he commit fraud? He certainly doesn’t seem to think so. But it looks to me like he’s an accomplice.
So now that the issue has been studied by an international--and indeed friendly--tribunal and the conclusion demonstrates that Regents Professor Malcolm Hughes was indeed an accomplice to fraud, what is the University of Arizona going to do about it?