LONDON - Professor Phil Jones, the climate scientist at the centre of the scandal over the leak of sensitive emails from a university computer, has been largely exonerated by a powerful cross-party committee of British MPs who said his scientific reputation remained intact.

There was no evidence that Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, deliberately withheld or manipulated data to support the idea that global warming was real and that it was influenced by human activities, according to a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

But the MPs criticised Jones and climate scientists in general for being too possessive and secretive about the raw scientific data and computer codes they use to establish the link between global warming and human activities.

They also criticised the university for a culture of non-disclosure of scientific information to climate sceptics.

The committee's inquiry into the leak of private emails from the research unit last November found no evidence to suggest the hallowed peer review process had been subverted by Jones, and no reason to question the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is influenced by human activities.

But committee chairman Phil Willis said it was "reprehensible" that the university had refused to disclose information from within the small research unit, which had been inundated with dozens of information requests from climate sceptics.

"The focus on Professor Jones was misplaced. His actions were in line with common practices and those practices need to be changed," Willis said yesterday. "There is no evidence that Jones's work has been undermined in any way ... Jones has in many ways been scapegoated ... people were asking him for information purely to undermine his research, but that was no excuse [not to release it]."

The report says media focus on Jones and the research unit has been largely misplaced, because his refusal to share raw data and computer codes was an approach adopted by most climate scientists across the world.

"We have suggested that the community consider becoming more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies. On the accusations relating to Freedom of Information, we consider that much of the responsibility should lie with [the university], not [the research unit]."

The MPs concluded the research unit had breached the Freedom of Information Act by withholding data, but criticised the Information Commissioner's Office for making similar statements to the press without investigating the matter fully.

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