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Lessons Learned?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorNovember 16, 2010 5:00 PM


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This week should bring us a flood of one-year anniversary stories on the stolen email scandal known as "climategate." Looks like Nature is first out of the box with its profile of Phil Jones, who agreed earlier this month to

talk at length about his experience. He proved largely unrepentant.

Anthony Watts is annoyed that the story didn't extract a pound of flesh from Jones:

It seems to be mostly a sappy rehabilitation piece where Dr. Jones gets to play the victim and the reporter is fully sympathetic.

That's not my reading of the Nature story, especially with passages like this:

So why did he urge colleagues to delete messages in which they discussed, among other things, the preparation of a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? An attempt to thwart critics, perhaps? "That was probably just bravado at the time," he says. "We just thought if they're going to ask for more, we might as well not have them." Then Muir Russell was correct? Had Jones broken the spirit of the law? "Not necessarily, if you've deleted them ahead of time," he says. "You can't second guess what's going to be requested." Jones goes back and forth on his motivations. Deleting e-mails would simplify his life if people requested them in the future, but that was not why he got rid of them, he says. "I deleted them based on their dates. It was to keep the e-mails under control," he repeats.

Seems to me that David Adam, the Nature reporter, did his job right there. He also elicits other curious responses from Jones that are sure to raise some eyebrows, such as this one:

The whole point about trying to pervert the peer-review process is that it is impossible to do it. There are so many journals and if people are persistent enough, they can get their papers published.

Despite inexplicably calling the Nature profile a "rehabilitation," Watts does appear to have walked away with the correct impression left by the story:

Dr. Jones seems to have fully rationalized everything that has happened in the past year.

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