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After claiming that he never deleted any emails, Phil Jones now admits deleting emails

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Tom Nelson
Nov 16, 2010

The CRU server that held the stolen information was seized long ago as evidence from the cluttered desk where it sat in one of the unit’s cramped offices. The unit itself is housed in a curious four-storey cylindrical tower at the heart of the busy UEA campus, and it brings to mind a Norman keep within a medieval castle. An appropriate analogy, considering that its occupants have weathered an extended siege that left visible scars on the tower’s exterior. Its doorbell was removed to shield the scientists inside from the incessant ringing of journalists and film crews.

He adds: “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.”

Another allegation was over his use of data from weather stations in China for a 1990 paper on the impact of urbanization on temperature. The paper1, published in Nature, stated that data were used from stations where there had been few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times. When critics later uncovered the fact that many of the stations had moved, they cried fraud; earlier this year, Jones said in a separate interview with Nature2 that he was considering a correction.

He now says such a step is unnecessary and that he stands by the claims in the paper. He was on medication during the previous interview, he says, and felt under pressure then to publicly concede that he had made mistakes.
…When Jones is now asked if he deleted such messages, he says: “No, I deleted e-mails as a matter of course just to keep them under control.”

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.

A source close to the CRU says it is almost impossible to determine who deleted what and when — much less why. More certain is the conclusion that the hack of the server was a sophisticated attack. Although the police and the university say only that the investigation is continuing, Nature understands that evidence has emerged effectively ruling out a leak from inside the CRU, as some have claimed. And other climate-research organizations are believed to have told police that their systems survived hack attempts at the same time.

Flashback: Climatologist at centre of leaked email row dismisses conspiracy claims | Environment | The Guardian

Jones accepted, though, that the contents of some of the emails were cause for embarrassment: “Some of the emails probably had poorly chosen words and were sent in the heat of the moment, when I was frustrated. I do regret sending some of them. We’ve not deleted any emails or data here at CRU. I would never manipulate the data one bit – I would categorically deny that.”

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This article was posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:13 am

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