Penn State’s integrity crisis

Penn State University just exonerated Professor Michael Mann for wrongdoing related to Climategate. While that good news for Mann is no surprise, it came at a dear cost to Penn State – its integrity.

Soon after Climategate broke last November, Penn State convened an internal committee to investigate Mann, the primary author of the now-infamous and discredited “hockey stick” global warming graph.

Hopes for a bona fide investigation were dashed when the preliminary results were released in February. To the joy of climate alarmists, Penn State announced via press release that Mann was cleared of three of the four allegations against him (regarding falsification/suppression of data, deletion of e-mails/data and misuse of confidential information).  But if one looks past the release and reads the committee’s report, it becomes obvious the fix was in.

The preliminary review included the Climategate e-mails themselves, an interview with Mann, and documents submitted by Mann. While one committee member did informally endeavor to get external views on Mann, they only came from Texas A&M’s Gerald North and Stanford University’s Donald Kennedy.

North had earlier dismissed Climategate in a Washington Post interview only a few days after the scandal broke. He also assisted with a futile 2006 effort to rehabilitate Mann’s debunked hockey stick. As editor of Science magazine, Kennedy was an outspoken advocate of climate alarmism.

The committee went to great lengths to defuse the money line from the Climategate e-mails – i.e., “Mike’s Nature trick… to hide the decline.” While explaining how “trick” could merely refer to a “clever device,” the committee failed to even mention “hide the decline,” a phrase referring to Mann’s still-unexplained deletion of temperature data contradicting the climate alarmism hypothesis.

Based on Mann’s denial, the preliminary report concluded that there was no evidence to indicate that Mann intended to delete e-mails – even though that conclusion is contradicted by the plain language and circumstances of the relevant e-mail exchange. No inquiry beyond Mann’s denial was made.

Finally, the preliminary report dismissed the accusation that Mann conspired to silence skeptics by stating, “one finds enormous confusion has been caused by interpretations of the e-mails and their content” – but shouldn’t the committee have attempted to eliminate that confusion?

It’s unclear why the committee didn’t immediately exonerate Mann of the fourth allegation — seriously deviating from accepted practices within the academic community — except that by leaving it open, the committee apparently hoped to rebuild “public trust in science in general and climate science specifically.”

Four months later, the committee’s investigation charade has concluded. Most shocking, however, is that Penn State remains openly unabashed by the investigation’s shoddiness.

As before, a media release clearing Mann of “any wrongdoing” is making alarmists giddy. But once again, the investigation’s disturbing reality is revealed in the report.