InterAcademy Council did not investigate …

While I patiently wait for someone from the IAC to respond to my E-mail enquiries regarding the “compilation” of responses to their Review questionnaire, I thought I’d take a look at the “official” record of the “Decisions taken by the Panel at its 32nd Session with regards to the Recommendations resulting from the Review of the IPCC Processes and Procedures by the InterAcademy Council (IAC)”.

One of the IAC recommendations (p. 53) is:

The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict-of-interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership (IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), authors with responsibilities for report content (i.e., Working Group Co-chairs, Coordinating Lead Authors, and Lead Authors), Review Editors, and technical staff directly involved in report preparation (e.g., staff of Technical Support Units and the IPCC Secretariat).

This was preceded by the following (p. 52):

The lack of a conflict-of-interest and disclosure policy for IPCC leaders and Lead Authors was a concern raised by a number of individuals who were interviewed by the Committee or provided written input. Questions about potential conflicts of interest, for example, have been raised […] about the practice of scientists responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work.

The Committee did not investigate the basis of these claims, which is beyond the mandate of this review. However, the Committee believes that the nature of the IPCC’s task (i.e., in presenting a series of expert judgments on issues of great societal relevance) demands that the IPCC pay special attention to issues of independence and bias to maintain the integrity of, and public confidence in, its results.

The IPCC Secretariat informed the Committee that the Panel will be discussing options for conflict-of-interest and disclosure policies for the various actors in the IPCC process (e.g., members of the Bureau, non-UN staff, non-WMO staff, and authors) at its next Plenary session. [emphasis added -hro]

It is to the IAC Review Committee’s credit that – notwithstanding the hefty funding (see p.ii of the report) it received from the UNEP (parent of the IPCC) – it chose to comment (and make a recommendation) on a rather significant matter that was “beyond [its] mandate”.

This is why the IAC review is deserving of far more credibilty than the Oxburgh, Muir Russell or Penn State “reviews”. None of the latter three appeared to pay much (if any) heed to that which was within their respective remits – let alone that which was not – nor to submissions that were critical of the key actors (and/or their actions) and all of which succeeded admirably in practicing selective myopia in order to permit them to sweepingly declare that “the science” is sound, and the key actors ‘innocent’.

Muir Russell probably came the closest, but was still off by a country mile and tumbled rapidly down the hill when it chose to accept at face value whatever the key actors fed them in “response” to the allegations. But I digress …

Certainly, conflict of interest is one of the first things I noticed when I began my independent exercise in due diligence. And if anyone on the Review Committee had taken the time to read Andrew Montford‘s excellent The Hockey Stick Illusion and/or the Wegman Report, they would have known that conflict of interest is rampant.

The “official” response (p. 10) of the IPCC to this particular recommendation from the IAC:

Conflict of Interest Policy

The Panel noted that in its report the IAC has recommended:

“The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership (IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), authors with responsibilities for report content (i.e., Working Group Co-Chairs, Coordinating Lead Authors, and Lead Authors), Review Editors, and technical staff directly involved in report preparation (e.g., staff of Technical Support Units and the IPCC Secretariat).”

The Panel at its 32nd Session:

I. Agreed with this IAC recommendation.

II. Decided to implement a rigorous conflict of interest policy, taking into consideration the specific circumstances related to participation in IPCC activities.

III. Established a Task Group on Conflict of Interest Policy to propose options for such a policy, consulting with relevant organisations, for its decision at the 33rd Session.

The “terms of reference” of this Task Group appear on p. 13:

Terms of reference for a Task Group on Conflict of Interest Policy

The Panel welcomed and acknowledged the recommendations and suggestions by the IAC on the IPCC’s conflict of interest policy (as discussed in Chapter 4 of the IAC Report) and decided to establish an inter-sessional Task Group on Conflict of Interest Policy as discussed in Chapter 4 of the IAC Report to develop proposals on further implementation of the IAC recommendations and decision taken by the Panel at its 32nd Session.

The Task Group is specifically requested to address, inter alia, the issues listed in Annex III to this decision and propose amendments, including to the Principles Governing IPCC Work and relevant documents, if necessary, by 31 January 2011. Governments will then be invited to provide comments on the proposals by 28 February 2011 to allow preparation of a revised draft for consideration and decisions by the Panel at its next Session (IPCC-XXXIII).

The Task Group is open to participation by the members of the IPCC and consists of:

Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sudan, UK and USA.

The Task Group will elect its Co-Chairs to coordinate its work.

The Task Group will seek the advice of the IPCC Chair, the IPCC Vice-Chairs, Working Group and TFI Co-Chairs and the Secretary. The duration of the Task Group is until the IPCC’s 33rd Session unless decided otherwise.

Annex III

The Task Group should address the issues listed below as mentioned in the IAC recommendations (Chapter 4), IPCC responses at its 32nd Session and IPCC-XXXII/Doc. 22.

For each of the issues the Task Group should establish a timetable for action, consider resource implications and identify responsibilities for implementation. It should propose amendments to the Principles Governing IPCC work and relevant documents if needed taking into account decisions made at IPCC-XXXII.

Chapter 4: Governance and Management

Conflict of Interest Policy

1. Recommendation: The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership (IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), authors with responsibilities for report content (i.e., Working Group Co-Chairs, Coordinating Lead Authors, and Lead Authors), Review Editors, and technical staff directly involved in report preparation (e.g., staff of Technical Support Units and the IPCC Secretariat).

[12/20/2010 – 01:00 PM PDT: Following paragraph edited for a few missing words and clarity -hro]

I’m really sorry that AccessIPCC was not ready for prime-time live during the IAC’s review. SRC (Self Reference Concern: Author of a chapter containing references to own work) is one of the tags we used. AccessIPCC determined that throughout the 44 Chapters of AR4, there are 6,279 citations of 3,456 (of approx 18,000) references tagged as SRC. Even without the additional 3,930 citations of 2,681 references that are tagged as ARC (Paper authored or co-authored by person who is also in list of Authors of another chapter), it seems to me that the potential for conflict of interest may well be … far worse than the IAC Review Committee might have thought.

Had AccessIPCC been online at the time, perhaps the IAC Review Committee’s recommendations might have led the IPCC Panel to offer less redundant padding and more substance to the “terms of reference” provided to the Task Group they’ve established.

2 thoughts on “InterAcademy Council did not investigate …

  1. Yes, there are many kinds of conflict of interest. One not specifically mentioned is being beholden to an institution that is tightly enough linked to the “consensus” that you know or reasonably fear that your professional or occupational cajones will be excised with a butterknife.

  2. C. Figueres, UNFCCC Exec. Secý.—-
    http://figueresonline.com/CFO_English_Long.pdf —-
    may not satisfy conflict of interest guidelines. How will she respond to IAC Review Committee suggestions for IPCC changes, when she continued as ´ Senior Advisor, C-Quest Capital, carbon finance company´ into this year? &
    ´2004- 10 Independent senior level climate change advisor´
    How much more could one be conflicted?
    ———————-
    2010 Appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework
    Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    2008-2009 Vice President of the Bureau, UN Framework Convention
    on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    2008-2010 Principal Climate Change Advisor, ENDESA Latinoamérica,
    largest private utility in Latin America
    2009-2010 Senior Advisor, C-Quest Capital, carbon finance company
    focusing on programmatic CDM investments
    2008-2010 Vice Chair of Rating Committee, Carbon Rating Agency, first
    entity to apply credit rating expertise to carbon assets
    2007 Representative of Latin America and the Caribbean on the
    Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism,
    UNFCCC
    2004- 10 Independent senior level climate change advisor

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