Penn State has concluded its initial inquiry into climate researcher Michael Mann’s role in what has become known as Climategate — and has announced that an investigation into his research conduct at the school will now commence.  Their initial inquiry covered four areas of concern, but they have narrowed down potential for misconduct to one in particular, which is the least problematic for Mann:

An internal inquiry by Penn State into the research and scholarly activities of a well-known climate scientist will move into the investigatory stage, which is the next step in the University’s process for reviewing research conduct. …

In looking at four possible allegations of research misconduct, the committee determined that further investigation is warranted for one of those allegations. The recommended investigation will focus on determining if Mann “engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities.” A full report (http://www.research.psu.edu/orp) concerning the allegations and the findings of the inquiry committee has been submitted.

Actually, the report largely exonerates Mann from most of the allegations in connection to the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit e-mails.  The university found that Mann did not participate in the effort by the CRU to destroy or hide data, nor falsify any.  It also finds that the e-mails themselves don’t support or even make a case that Mann misused his privileged position to abuse confidential or proprietary information in order to support his findings, specifically that Mann had gained access to competing manuscripts ahead of publication in order to discredit them.

The final remaining issue is whether Mann performed to the standards expected of Penn State professors regarding scientific and personal conduct:

The allegation inquires about whether Dr. Mann seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities. In 2006, similar questions were asked about Dr. Mann and these questions motivated the National Academy of Sciences to undertake an in depth investigation of his research. The committee that wrote the report on surface temperature reconstructions found that Dr. Mann’s science did fall well within the bounds of accepted practice. What has changed since that time is that private emails have come to our attention and that of the public at large, and these give us a glimpse into the behind the scenes workings of Dr. Mann and many of his colleagues in the conduct of their science.

Decision 4. Given that information emerged in the form of the emails purloined from CRU in November 2009, which have raised questions in the public’s mind about Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research activity, given that this may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist, and given that it may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically, the inquiry committee believes an investigatory committee of faculty peers from diverse fields should be constituted under RA-10 to further consider this allegation.

In sum, the overriding sentiment of this committee, which is composed of University administrators, is that allegation #4 revolves around the question of accepted faculty conduct surrounding scientific discourse and thus merits a review by a committee of faculty scientists. Only with such a review will the academic community and other interested parties likely feel that Penn State has discharged it responsibility on this matter.

The entire report is worth a full read.  Penn State deliberately chose to avoid reviewing the science of climate change, preferring to leave that to those already involved in the research.  They focused instead on what the e-mails had to say about Mann’s conduct, not anyone else’s, and only within the parameters of Penn State’s expectations of its personnel.

The next report will come in four months, but anyone expecting a blanket condemnation of AGW will not find it at Penn State — at least, not in this inquiry.  East Anglia’s CRU will bear most of the fallout from the exposed e-mails.