LONDON - Scientists involved in last year's "climategate" leaked emails controversy, which added to scepticism about the science of global warming, were not open enough with their data and unhelpful with requests for information, an independent review of the affair found yesterday.

They and their institution, the University of East Anglia, did not embrace the "spirit of openness" enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act, according to a long-awaited report.

However, the review found that the researchers concerned, led by the director of UEA's Climatic Research Unit Professor Phil Jones, could not be faulted for their "rigour and honesty as scientists", and there was no evidence that they had behaved in a way that might undermine the conclusions of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The review effectively clears those involved of dishonesty and corruption; it absolves them of the allegation made by climate sceptics that they had manipulated both climate data and the scientific peer-review process to serve their predetermined views that climate change is man-made.

Leader Sir Muir Russell said the allegation that the CRU had "something to hide" and its research into changes in global temperature could not be trusted because the scientists were concealing or manipulating data did not stand up.

The Russell review is broadly similar to the two previous inquiries, one by the Commons select committee on science and technology in March and the other from a panel which reported in April. Both had given votes of confidence in the credibility and integrity of the studies into climate change which the CRU has carried out.

Yesterday Jones was reinstated in the CRU in the new position of director of research, which UEA stressed was not a demotion, but merely allowed him to concentrate on research while reducing his administrative responsibilities. UEA vice-chancellor Professor Edward Acton said he hoped the report would finally lay to rest the conspiracy theories, untruths and misunderstandings that have circulated.

Nevertheless, the review's condemnation of the lack of openness at UEA amounted to "significant criticisms", and its practices needed to change.

The affair began last November when more than 1000 emails and other documents sent and received by CRU staff over more than a decade were hacked from a UEA server and placed on the internet, where they were widely circulated and publicised by climate-sceptic bloggers.

It is widely believed that the hacking was carried out to serve the climate sceptic cause and specifically to undermine the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, which ultimately proved a failure, with nations unable to agree on carbon emission targets.

WHAT THE FIVE REPORTS SAID
* House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: No evidence that the work of Professor Phil Jones and the Climatic Research Unit has been undermined, but they could have been more open.

* Lord Oxburgh inquiry into the science: "Absolutely no evidence of any impropriety." Could have used better statistical methods and given greater emphasis to uncertainty, but all conclusions were sensible and honest.

* Sir Muir Russell's inquiry into the emails: The argument that the climate scientists had something to hide "does not stand up". No evidence of selective use of data to produce a predetermined outcome. Scientists needed to be more open to scrutiny.

* Two inquiries by the University of Pennsylvania into scientist Dr Michael Mann: The Investigatory Committee determined that Mann did nothing that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community. A previous investigation found him innocent of suppressing data, deleting emails and misusing confidential information.

HOW THE SCEPTICS RESPONDED
* Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a sceptical think-tank, said the Russell report was a "damning indictment of the university's handling of freedom of information requests". "I don't think the university can just claim this is a vindication."

* Andrew Montford, a climate sceptic who is conducting a review of how the three Climategate inquiries were set up and carried out, said the Russell review "has picked up some of our concerns on freedom of information" but had "brushed other issues under the carpet". He said: "Not to ask Professor Jones if he had deliberately deleted emails so they could not be requested is a pretty extraordinary omission."

* David Holland, a retired engineer and sceptic, one of the principal seekers of information from the CRU, said: "When it was set up 20 years ago the IPCC rules required climate science to be assessed on 'a comprehensive, open and transparent basis'. Sir Muir Russell's inquiry has rightly reported that UEA has not lived up to this."

- Independent