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MITRE Releases Report Examining NOAA Internal Policies and the Karl Study


Today, the MITRE Corporation released its report investigating internal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientific policies and procedures regarding the publication of a study titled Possible Artifacts of Data Biases in the Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus. This study was led by NOAA scientists – with Thomas Karl as the principal author – and generated concerns from whistleblowers about its conclusions after its publication. Commissioned by the Department of Commerce, MITRE engaged leaders in the fields of environmental science and engineering who were able to objectively and independently assess the Karl Study.

“Providing data-driven scientific products is an essential part of our mission at the Department of Commerce,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We can do more to ensure that all policies are followed when releasing critical data to the public. For example, as MITRE found in its report, the Karl Study did not include a disclaimer that it was not an official product of the Federal government. As a result, it is often mistaken as a NOAA publication – even though it was not subject to heightened internal governmental review – which has spawned additional, unnecessary controversy surrounding the study’s findings.”

While the MITRE report found that the publication of the Karl Study was not fully compliant with NOAA internal procedures, it also determined that there was no evidence that NOAA intentionally distorted climate data. The report also details the deficiencies in NOAA’s internal review processes.

“MITRE provided NOAA with an invaluable service by producing an independent report on internal policies which has identified opportunities for improvement,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. “We will take these findings into account and endeavor to be responsive to the MITRE’s recommendations.”

In 2015, the journal Science published the Karl Study. Responding to questions from the public after its release, a Congressional committee asked for related documents and communications from NOAA. On September 22, 2017, the Department of Commerce commissioned MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit that operates Federally-funded research and development centers, to inquire into the complaints and to identify any concerns which were raised during the scientific review process.

NOAA will publish a plan responsive to MITRE’s findings and recommendations no later than February 1, 2019.

The full report can be seen here.