Penn State is conducting an inquiry into the controversy surrounding a Penn State professor whose illegally leaked e-mails have sparked an international debate over whether he and his colleagues distorted data on global warming.
The inquiry will determine if further investigation is warranted, a university spokeswoman said Sunday.
On Nov. 21, hundreds of e-mails sent between colleagues at England's University of East Anglia were illegally obtained from a server at the university's climate change research center and posted online. One of the researchers in-volved is Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann.
The e-mails appeared to indicate that the director of the research unit in question -- Phil Jones -- contacted his colleagues to request they delete certain exchanges.
Skeptics of climate change are calling the ongoing investigation "Climategate" and allege the leaked e-mails suggest the researchers -- including Mann -- had fabricated or manipulated data on global warming.
Penn State said in a statement last week that it did not want to speculate as to the meaning or intent of any of the leaked e-mails in question.
The university will look into the issues at hand, spokeswoman Lisa Powers said, and determine from whatever information is uncovered if further investigation is required.
In this particular situation, a Penn State committee will review every e-mail in question -- a total of about 300 messages, Powers wrote in an e-mail.
This process could take "quite some time," Powers wrote.
Mann said he understands the process and is glad the university is taking appropriate action.
"I would be disappointed if the university wasn't doing all they can to get as much information as possible," Mann said.
"I'm very happy they're doing it."
Though he says he was asked to delete selected e-mails by Jones, Mann said he did not comply with the request. He does not believe any of his colleagues went through with the deletion either.
But he does believe the controversy is a smear campaign led by those who do not believe in climate change -- skeptics who also consistently "badgered" Jones to try to distract him from his research.
"Someone being constantly under attack could be what causes them to make a poor decision," Mann said, though he didn't specifically say Jones' e-mail was inappropriate.
Mann said Friday that in their e-mail exchanges, the scientists used phrasing that can be easily misinterpreted by outsiders -- a misunderstanding that fueled accusations the scientists had tampered with data.
In one of the contested e-mails, Jones writes his colleagues to tell them that he had "just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline," according to the Associated Press.
Jones confirmed to the Associated Press that this was accurate, but the "Keith" in reference could not be identified.
The controversy continues with only one week left before the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, where politicians and scientists will meet in Copenhagen to discuss what measures they will take to combat climate change.
President Barack Obama is expected to attend a portion of the event, along with other world leaders and scientists.
Climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Sunday she does not think "Climategate" will be a distraction at next week's summit.
But she said a number of people have made a concerted effort to distort facts presented by scientists as the summit approaches and climate change legislation is debated in Congress.
"One thing is for sure," Ekwurzel said. "These allegations do not take away from the fact that the ice sheets are accelerating their melting rates and that the oceans are heating up at a pace that is entirely consistent with the heat-trapping gases that we have added to the atmosphere."
Ekwurzel said these changes are consistent with research done at East Anglia's climate change research center -- as well as data recorded in many other independent studies.
Mann said his research was reviewed by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a group of scholars specializing in furthering the use of science and technology for the general public.
In a report published by NAS in 2006, the academy said it saw nothing in his work that was in any way inappropriate, Mann said.
"They went out of their way to state that our work was of the utmost scientific integrity," Mann said.