I think Mr. Hughes would’ve been better off leaving this alone. He now has this nice post filled with additional information on the lacking peer review of E&E. I’m pretty sure he’ll back down because any actually lawsuit would require discovery of how shabby and politicized their peer review process actually is. Their reputation can only suffer further by pursuing this.
Unfortunately, this is an expansion of the denialist/corporate techniques of intimidating genuine scientists, illegally hacking into sites, overwhelming their sites with electronic ‘bots’ et al. In the states, aggressive attempts to place climate scientists in the political/legal crosshairs (e.g. Virginia AG and his threats) have made the notion of objectivity passe. We are now witnessing a regression into thuggery on behalf of a group of hyper-wealthy energy barons. Of course, nature and physics doesn’t care a whit about this; it will do what it will do. I keep wondering why they try to buy another five years before any action is taken to ameliorate CO2 production; does anyone have a guess why that figure might be important to them?
The widely quoted “By the way, E&E is not a science journal….” was stated by E&E editor Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen here in the comments to an article that is ironically partly about peer review.
Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 22 Feb 2011 @ 10:07 AM
Hmmm…perhaps it would be easier to provide a list of publications in E&E that are actually *good*, in particular when dealing with climate science.
I’m still laughing about Arthur Rörsch telling me Beck’s CO2 history paper was the most rigorously reviewed paper in E&E. And still it was crap (did I now also libel E&E, or just Beck? Or the reviewers? Ah, who cares).
An enterprising author should take on the distasteful task of deconstructing a series of Energy and Environment issues. John Cook could do this well. The magazine is nothing more than an oil and coal company financed effort to discredit climate science, and protests to the contrary border on the comical.
Hughes’ attempt to intimidate should be met with the kind of backbone that climate scientists are beginning to show these days. Printing lies soils the authors and those who read them, and all should be called to account.
Good luck. I suspect they don’t intend going to court: certainly this wouldn’t be the only empty threat of a libel action we’ve seen in the last couple of years. But if they do, it can be a very costly business whether or not you are eventually vindicated.
Presumably the peer-review processes at E&E are documented? Oddly enough they are not on the journal’s website.
Any E&E peer reviewers want to step forward now? If they are indeed following the usual process, there should be dozens of reviewers. It’s no breach of protocol to say “I reviewed a paper for E&E” (although it might cause a loss of face).
I don’t judge E&E by its (unknown) editorial process. I judge it by the quality of its papers.
I know scientists don’t have the time or resources for this sort of legal cr@p, but its time that some of these hard core institution backed deniers were taken to task, and exposed in a court of law.
To date we have seen:
• An attorney general on a witch hunt.
• A senator ready to start McCarthy style hearings.
• A professional journal that is using its clout to bully scientists.
A parade of pseudo-experts and experts that lied in testimony to Congress.
• Journalists (and their media outlets) who not only publish misleading articles, but actually make up their own facts and quotes.
• A very professional computer hack job invasion of privacy (my own opinion as someone well versed with computers is that if it weren’t professional, they would have been caught by now — can you find any other computer hacking crime for which the perpetrator has not yet been caught? Certainly, any CRU insider would have been caught, so that favorite denial fantasy can be put to rest).
• Famous bloggers and climate science “personalities” who have repeatedly and demonstrably libeled and slandered reputable scientists in climate change, with no sign of remorse or restraint.
Really, after all of this illegal, immoral and abusive behavior, E&E is going to come after you with a stick because you actually called them out on their role in this?
Someone who has published in E&E once said this in Nature‘s Climate Feedback blog:
2. On our Energy and Environment paper from 1999 [actually it has a 2000 date], had we known then how that outlet would evolve beyond 1999 we certainly wouldn’t have published there. The journal is not carried in the ISI and thus its papers rarely cited. (Then we thought it soon would be.) We were invited to submit a piece in 1997 or 1998 and we had this in prep and sent it in.
However, I’ll stand by the analysis in that paper (which has been discussed on our blog in depth). So if you have questions or comments about that paper, or even better, this paper (on which you are closely examining the bibliography but not the paper itself) please do share them! ;-)
And remember that this paper [not the 2000 one] is peer-reviewed and is appearing in a pretty high-quality outlet.
Far be it from me to comment further, but I suspect that is hardly a complimentary comment on E&E’s procedures, at least then.
This and the Virginia business, Monckton’s threats and others points up a clear need for grassroots funding to provide legal help to scientists. Does such a thing exist yet? Perhaps it should be part of an existing organization, similar to what NCSE does on the evolution front?
This is off topic, but maybe I will have planted a seed.
I am a lowly field scientist in western PA. Friday’s vote in the House should indicate that action is needed immediately.
I think we should start using any means available to communicate the urgency of the climate situation. And, it is time for all scientists to use their blogs to organize.
Given the seriousness of the situation, we should be hitting the streets. Nothing less then the National Mall will do. No one, other then scientists and intellectuals, is listening to what you are saying in these blogs. Yes, discussion is important, but action is now critical.
Friday’s vote should tell you the time is now to get out from behind your desks, or lecturns, and act. This situation is about to get out of control.
Again, I apoligize for being off topic. I am not usually this confrontational, but I have kids.
“GreyFox (3): Can you elaborate on the buying 5 years? I had the impression that the goal was not to do anything ever.”
It’s an odd number that has cropped up repeatedly in blog rejoinders from denialists in the past few months. I thought perhaps I was getting ditzy, but then saw it again on Climate Progress, and it occurred to me that maybe there is something requiring that minimum amount of time for the Koch’s or whoever to accomplish. I might also be full of nonsense on it…or not.
I refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram
Non-readers of Private Eye may need to google the reference
Comment by David Griffiths — 22 Feb 2011 @ 11:42 AM
I am disappointed in this post. You were asked for a retraction, and instead you posted a defense of your comments. The accusation of libel in this case should not require you to defend your statements. Your original statement was perfectly legal even if incorrect. Since they threatened a lawsuit, I would have preferred you refused to back down. In defending your statements, you are giving credence to the idea that it is OK to bring a libel action.
In defending your statement, you are giving credence to the idea that it’s OK to bring libel actions like this. Since they threatened legal action, I wish you hadn’t done that, and just held your ground.
re: 19, Monckton/Schulte attack on Naomi
See PDF @ DeSmogBlog,
and then see Monckton’s appearance in the comments and my reply. Note that episode included demanding an apology from Naomi, copying her Chancellor and putting it out on BusinessWire.
Comment by Horatio Algeranon — 22 Feb 2011 @ 11:57 AM
While the emphasis is on Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen Benny Peiser is also editor of E&E and the editorial advisory board includes such luminaries as David Ball of Middlesex University, Richard Courtney, an old friend, ho ho Bjorn Lomborg.
The really worrying name there is David Cope, Director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
Here’s more of Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen’s quote linked to above. Unfortunately, that particular website doesn’t generate links to individual comments, so you have to search for her in the thread:
By the way, E&E is not a science journal and has published IPCC critiques to give a platform critical voices and ‘paradigms’ because of the enormous implications for energy policy, the energy industries and their employees and investors, and for research.
We do not claim to be right, but the editor – having researched the subject since the 1980s – believes that climate is too complex to be predicted for policy purposes, and that many voices – scientific communities? – should therefore be allowed to compete for truth. Science does not progress by consensus.
I think that fairly states the journal’s purpose and the editor’s goals contradict Bill Hughes’ complaint:
And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.
I do get a little tired of this knee-jerk reaction to UK libel laws.
The law has to strike a balance between the rights of the accused and the accuser, and prevent either from having undue power.
In the case of libel, for centuries the power has been with the newspapers – able to publish what they want, and with the money to defend themselves. Therefore the law has balanced that by putting the burden of proof on the defendant. The “presumption of innocence” is applied here to whatever is asserted in the actual defamation being complained of.
In this uneven landscape, it is no surprise that things get hairy when the situation is reversed. But in all of these supposedly infamous cases, justice has mostly won out in the end.
And for heaven’s sake, people: don’t believe a word on the subject from any media source. They are the people who are going to benefit most from a major change in the law. We don’t want a Fox News appearing in the UK; we have enough trouble with our existing scummy media.
[Response: You shouldn’t misconstrue the above post to imply that all libel laws are unjust, but rather that, the situation in the UK is that the costs and in-built bias for the plaintiff result in a situation where the merest threat of a suit is enough for big institutions and deep-pocketed individuals to squelch justifiable critiques. A fairer system would allow people whose comments were justifiable to at least make that case in court without bankrupting themselves – win or lose. – gavin]
Perhaps a constructive response of the realclimate readership would be to systematically review papers that have appeared in E&E and where there are clear errors, submit comments papers to E&E to explain those errors. If there is substantive peer review at E&E, this will only be possible for a small fraction of the papers they have published. The threat of libel is deplorable – criticism of the review process at E&E is nothing new and the publisher would do better to address the criticisms.
Comment by Dikran Marsupial — 22 Feb 2011 @ 12:20 PM
A quote from Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen
My interests are purely academic, professional and political. I am interested in the value and misuse of the peer review process.
As suggested, if Sonja is losing sales at E&E, maybe Bill Hughes should find a better editor more interested in ‘science’ and the ‘value’ of proper ‘peer review’ to bolster their reputation in the community, rather than relying on an editor that seems to favor political views that don’t have strong scientific basis.
Sonja seems to just not like the ‘scientific’ peer review process and favors her own version of peer review for her publications approvals for E&E.
I think your response of “bring it” (I paraphrase) is spot on, given that truth is an absolute defence in both the UK and US.
But please have a little more faith in the system. It worked for Simon Singh, and in the wake of the McLibel case, legal aid is available if required.
Can the system be improved? Absolutely! But letting the media say what they like is not the answer. I didn’t read all the cases featured by the Campaign for Libel Reform, but those that I did seem to have been settled justly. Are the people behind it merely misguided, or is there some media group behind it? It’s hard to say, since they aren’t at all clear about what they want.
I don’t have full access to E&E b/c my library does not have a sub. But I noticed the abstracts don’t give submission and acceptance dates. If these are not given in the full articles or if the gap is small that would be some additional evidence of weak peer reviewing.
I don’t have full access to E&E, but I noticed that their abstracts do not give submission and acceptance dates. If these are not in the full articles or the lag is very short, that would be additional evidence of weak peer reviewing.
Please fight this, even if they actually do sue and not just threaten! The Simon Singh legal case was an absolute disaster for the chiropractors:
– The judge ruled that Singh had a legal right to criticise them as part of scientific discourse.
– So many people dobbed chiropractors into the advertising standards authority for misleading adverts that their own association advised chiropractors to stop all advertising and remove their websites from the web!
– The publicity around the case forced the chiros to publish their ‘evidence’, which was ripped to shreds in a sober article from the British Medical Journal
“I didn’t read all the cases featured by the Campaign for Libel Reform, but those that I did seem to have been settled justly”
As to the need for libel reform: it still cost Singh a year of his life during which he had no time to work and 200,000 pounds (he was fortunate enough to be supported by a major newspaper, the Guardian). I’m sure a site like RC could muster similar support in the form of donations of money and legal expertise.
However the idea that this is the cost of free speech is chilling, if not terrifying, and puts 99% of the population out of the game. Us ordinary people would have to retract and shut up shop if we were sued for something posted on a blog, no matter how right we were lest we be financially ruined for life.
This, p7-8 has more words:
“As to “peer review,” Ms. Boehmer-Christiansen has acknowledged in an
email to Dr. Tim Osborn of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia
(U.K.), that in her rush to get the McIntyre and McKitrick piece into print for political
reasons Energy & Environment dispensed with what scientists consider peer review (“I
was rushing you to get this paper out for policy impact reasons, e.g. publication well
before COP9”). As Ms. Boehmer-Christiansen added, the “paper was amended until the
very last moment. There was a trade off in favour of policy.”
I am obliged for the link to Hughes’ fascinating website, which suggests complaints might better be directed to your golf pro than E&E’s editor:
“Ground breaking licence agreed between academic publisher and sporting body
Multi-Science Publishing & Professional Golfers Association licence agreed
Multi-Science Publishing Co Ltd has announced that it has signed a licence with the UK’s Professional Golfers Association (PGA) whereby PGA members will have unrestricted online access to the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, The Annual Review of Golf Coaching series, and the Sports Science Handbook, from 2010.”
Your link to Hughes’ fascinating website suggests complaints might better be directed to golf pros than E&E’s editor:
“Ground breaking licence agreed between academic publisher and sporting body
Multi-Science Publishing Co Ltd has announced that it has signed a licence with the UK’s Professional Golfers Association (PGA) whereby PGA members will have unrestricted online access to the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, The Annual Review of Golf Coaching series, and the Sports Science Handbook, from 2010.”
Our libel system is unjust and profoundly illiberal. It can hardly be said to have “worked” for Simon Singh when he had to appeal, pay half a million pounds, over a year of his life and untold stress. There are a litany of similar cases at the moment, not to mention libel tourism. It’s quite frankly a national disgrace and I urge people to support the cause of Libel Reform. The people behind it are not a shadowy media cabal (as any cursory research of the subject will reveal), rather they are concerned scientists, people in the legal profession, journalists, organisations such as Amnesty and a variety of others. Not to mention many deeply worried citizens such as myself.
I think the one thing that is correct in Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen’s statement is that “… should therefore be allowed to compete for truth. Science does not progress by consensus.” In science, the truth will always win out, no matter what other people believe.
I must confess I find myself wishing that someone would write a deliberately bogus anti-AGW paper with identifiably false data and bent statistics and submit it to E&E to see what happened.
Yes, I know, better things to do, but the idea does make me smile.
SteveF (and happyskeptic): Simon Singh isn’t exactly a poor defenceless member of the public. Leaping from one exceptional case to wild generalisations is exactly why I’m asking for fewer knee-jerk reactions.
The results from the McLibel case seem quite clear: costs should be proportionate to what can be afforded, and major newspapers should be able to look after themselves. People with fewer resources should be treated differently.
Oh, and both of you – maybe you should get together and work out exactly how much it cost the Guardian (since they footed the bill). You seem to disagree quite substantially.
They’re not serious about this. If they were, the first you’d have heard would be a Solicitor’s letter. This is knockabout comedy, no doubt with the spinoff that the denialosphere can have 15 minutes claiming that “RealClimate has been shown to be bogus, because E&E are suing, no smoke without fire, etc.” Expect Morano etc to say you’re now mired in legal problems and the whole warmist hoax is plainly going down.
If Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen is so ‘proud’ of presenting the findings of ‘deniers’, then why all of the brough-ha-ha?
Giving that giving the occasional ‘fringe lay/pro-scientist’ with some kind of an ‘unconventional hypothesis’ a break should make her feel ‘proud of her rebelious spirit’ – if her motives were perfectly, uuuuh, honest!
That’s exactly the point I was making – Singh wasn’t defenceless , he had huge resources on his side. However 99%+ of the population are defenceless against such legal threats – whether the amount is 200,000 or 500,000 is immaterial, no one but the super rich can afford that. Nor will legal aid pay all of that, leaving behind a sum still plenty to ruin most individuals.
Not to mention that it took Singh a year of full time unpaid work just to defend himself. Obviously media shouldn’t be able to publish lies without recourse but the current libel system is a disaster.
The exact claim you made was that E&E effectively dispenses with peer review for ANY paper that fits her political agenda.
Showing that they have shoddy peer review in most cases doesnt make your case
Showing that the editor sometimes publishes according to her political views doesnt make your case. Just being a nit picker.
Just for the record. I don’t trust the journal. I think finding stupid articles there is easy. But to the exact charge you made I think as a juror
I would ask you this.
You said they effectively dispensed with peer review. How did you determine that? Did you mean that whatever peer review they may have had was not up to your standards? That is, the junk that got through didnt look like it had been reviewed?
And you said ANY paper that fit her views. Did you mean some papers? or most papers? How did you determine that ANY paper that fit her views would not be reviewed. If a paper that fit her views was peer reviewed, then would your claim be wrong.
I think they might be taking you at your EXACT words. Not your meaning which we all get. Just a heads up. FWIW.
and ya, the libel laws in the UK need reform. Those in Canada as well.
We don’t want a Fox News appearing in the UK; we have enough trouble with our existing scummy media.
Well Didactylusl, in the link below, are comments from Sir David Attenborough and Mark Thompson, head of BBC, that they would like to see more ‘politically’ biased television in the UK. If you read the link, you will see that Thompson implies praise for Fox news !!!!
Also, this isn’t idle chatter because Rupert Murdock’s attempt to buy controlling stock in BskyB is currently being investigated by our Competition Commission. It is accepted fact also that Vince Cable’s antagonistic comments about Murdoch were the reason his responsibility for media affairs within his Business Secretary portfolio was withdrawn.
Back on E & E topic, I’m surprised the well-known blogger Poptech, hasn’t popped up to defend E & E – a good proportion of his ? 750 ? scientific papers debunking AGW are listed there and he has argued E & E’s case, (usuccessfully), all over the blogosphere.
I find the most efficient way to proceed is to ignore all research it publishes. If anything of merit gets published there (by accident?) I’ll eventually become aware of it when the issues it raises get examined in more detail in subsequent papers in a respectable journal.
happyskeptic: I thought the directives from the McLibel case had already been codified in law. I may be wrong about that, but I’m still confident that in a similar situation, aid and damages would be treated using the “exceptional circumstances” provisions (if only to avoid another embarrassing trip to Strasbourg).
#56 Steven Mosher. Of course showing a preponderance of shoddy reviews will make Gavin’s case: either the system employed at E&E ensures robust review, or it doesn’t. If an occasional robust review slips through, the editors can hardly take the credit.
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 22 Feb 2011 @ 3:35 PM
Compare this to the situation in the US, where corporations seem to be able to do what they like with impunity – no thanks.
One can believe that UK libel law goes too far, while at the same time understanding that first amendment absolutism in the US has led to libel law not going far enough …
Canada has similarly terrible libel laws. As journalist who has been sued for libel by a deep-pocket institution I can attest this isn’t about justice or proving right or wrong. Its about suppression by those who can afford to spend the most. Libel cases in Canada (even after some reforms in 2009) rarely get to court because they are too expensive too defend as Gavin points out. In my case years of expensive pre-trial nonsense bankrupted the newspaper and I would have lost my house if I hadn’t apologized for daring to speak truth to power.
Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 22 Feb 2011 @ 4:33 PM
Boy this libel stuff sure is confusing. Monckton says stuff about scientists and they can’t touch him, yet F&F (sorry, E&E; it is all about pronunciation) feel confident enough that they can lob a letter at you.
Has the letter been published anywhere else before you put it up on this site? If so, that could be very interesting to a lawyer for your defence.
In any case, the fact that political slants are considered okay for a scientific publication in F&F breaks the implicit guarantee of a recognised academic science journal. A politics journal might be an acceptable place in which to place a personal political slant upon an article, but in an alleged academic science journal? I think not.
Hughes is making the same mistake Holocaust denier David Irving made when he sued Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. If this stupid suit goes through, I sincerely hope Hughes has his asterisk handed to him just like Irving did.
Don’t you dare conjure that imbecile, Poptart. The guy is utterly incapable of defending his list except by repeating “But I have n papers…” My recommendation would be to add his name to the spam filter.
Don’t forget Jim Hansen having his papers rewritten, Ben Santer finding a dead animal on his porch as a warning, Jim Salinger getting fired, and an Australian climate scientist having her kids threatened with “brutal gang rape.” Or Limbaugh and Breitbart calling for climate scientists to be executed. If we ever start to see real action on AGW, I fully expect climate scientists to be assassinated, either with the traditional firearms in public places, or kidnapped first. Blackmail is another possibility. God knows what they would have done to Jim Pollack if he were still alive…
“His insistence on not even responding to these criticisms leads people to regard him as a crank/crackpot. Based on Part II, he can probably get this published in E&E, but certainly not in any scientific journal of any repute or credibility.”
Bravo for standing up to this. Indeed, this threatening email only serves to expose the inadequate review process in E&E journal and the role of a biased Editor who acknowledges her own “political agenda”. “But isn’t that the right of the editor?” … indeed it isn’t, and shame on the Publisher for allowing this to pass as a due process of science.
Well guys I think you miss my point. I think the libel charge is off base. I think the libel laws need reform. What I’m trying to EXPLAIN ( not defend) is the ANGLE I think they will take.
\The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line \
The angle I think they will take with this sentence is to focus on the phrase
\any papers\ gavin has said
\It simply isn’t worth wading through the dross in the hope of finding something interesting.\
The Angle they will use would go something like this. Gavin has said it isnt worthwhile to wade through this stuff. So he hasnt read it all. Further, he hasnt seen papers that were rejected. So, he really doesnt have a basis to say that ANY papers that follow the editors line don’t get a substantial peer review.
is that clear? If you want to know how to beat a bogus charge that these guys are making you had better understand their best case. Now, I think their best case is BOGUS. we all know what Gavin meant. he makes that clear. BUT, if you are going to face them in court someday, you had better get a clear view of their best case.
Stephen Mosher #83 fair enough. Now, with apologies to Ray Ladbury:
“exhibit a: ladies and gentlemen, a list of papers by Poptech published in E&E. The defence rests.”
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 22 Feb 2011 @ 7:11 PM
Hm. But does the publisher consider E’n’E a “primary journal” or is it in whatever other category they have? The main page ( multi-science.co.uk/index.htm ) says:
“Of course, all Multi-Sciences primary journals are fully refereed; the fact that distinguished editors and editorial boards lend their names and their time to the journal is one way of understanding the esteem in which they are held in certain quarters.”
Which raises some questions about ambiguities in the text:
Which is a “primary journal” and which is not a primary journal, for the publisher?
What does “fully refereed” mean, and what other kind of refereed is the alternative?
For the two editors who long ago withdrew their names, whose names still appear on the masthead, how is one to be understanding that fact?
In which “certain quarters, and what other quarters, is this esteem?
Bill, the publisher says:-
And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.
and then you quote him with:-
‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’
So what you have done is take his words mid sentence to change the focus, change some words, and then put quotes around it, like that makes it alright.
If you are going to quote someone who is threatening to sue you, do it correctly or you will get no sympathy from me.
I really don’t see any libel threat in Bill’s email, or in reality, but maybe I’m naive. So I think your escalation to libel of a polite objection to you publicly slagging off their publication a bit OTT.
I entirely defend your right to say that you have a poor opinion of E&E standards, and that Sonja, in your opinion and perhaps by her own words, is an editor biased towards scepticism, whether for good reasons, journal balance, or whatever.
If you view E&E as a ‘a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature’, then say so.
Free speech, innit. And only people who are childish, which she isn’t, or people with (real or imagined) commercial interests would sue.
IMO it’s probably too late for E&E to ‘start applying a higher level of quality control’ as a means of changing their current reputation.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know the circulation numbers of the magazine, nor the demographics of its readership.) Going by the articles it publishes, I’d say that it would have difficulty in getting quality reviewers for any ‘scientific’ articles and, even if it did, they would not have much of a job to do because E&E also seems to find it hard to attract scientists to submit quality papers in their field. Not only that, the magazine would lose whatever readership it has and, because of it’s reputation, would not be likely to attract people interested in reading the work of reputable authors.
E&E has a niche market and the letter copied in the above article is probably an ill-thought way of pandering to its existing market. There might be other ways of increasing its readership, but none that I can think of would involve better quality control in the form of peer review for science papers.
Since the relationship between “energy” and the “environment” is inherently political, E & E doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this case.
ON the issue of bias in general, the peer review system is working fine. That less skeptical papers are published is meaningless. That’s the way science works, unless you can show them to be wrong, you don’t have a leg to stand on.
People think climate science is sloppy?, then prove it.
I think it’s terribly sloppy, but unless I can prove it then my opinion remains just that.
I think E&E should also sue Dr Peter Ridd from JCU for libel for calling E&E a “third-rate journal” live on Australian Radio a few years back. The interesting twist to this one is that Ridd was actually referring to an article he published in E&E, lamenting that no serious journal would publish it.
Perhaps someone should tell them that UK libel laws are not enforceable in the US?
Sorry Bill Hughes, but if you want your “science” journal to be viewed as something more credible than supermarket tabloids and college diploma mills, threatening people (especially in foreign countries) isn’t the way to go about doing it.
You could try, you know, putting actual real climate scientists on the review team instead of a bunch of heavily biased political hacks with an agenda to grind. Your review team is about as fair and balanced as Fox News pundits.
Or perhaps you’re just working on your new marketing pitch?
“Real science journals got you down? Tired of dealing with rejection after rejection? Then send your papers to E&E! We’ll publish ANYTHING! Our hand selected group of psuedo-science experts will give your paper the rubber stamp of approval*! Bad research? Falsified data? Poor grammar? We’ll take it all! So remember, if you’ve got a paper that can’t be published anywhere else, send it to E&E where science failures meet success!”
*As long as it meets our political objectives.
You can do better than this Bill. But the choice is yours. You can clean house and get some real scientists on board instead of the political hack squad, or you can continue to be known as the journal that other journals use for toilet paper and bird cage lining.
Bill Hughes intimates that Gavin suggested that “an academic journal does not bother with peer review” and says what a dreadful charge that would be. In the quote he provides in his letter, I do not see Gavin accusing E&E of being an ‘academic journal’.
Reminds me of an incident a couple of years ago, but I cannot quite recall what it was – anyone?
Bill, the publisher says:-
And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.
and then you quote him with:-
‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position”
So what you have done is take his words mid sentence to change the focus
No, he quoted the *editor*, who is not *Bill the publisher*.
Hughes’ covenant ” with the UK’s Professional Golfers Association (PGA) whereby PGA members will have unrestricted online access to…The Annual Review of Golf Coaching series, and the Sports Science Handbook, from 2010.”
suggests E&E’s editorial duties ought to be assigned to such British Open winners as, overlapping with Viscount Monckton on the Marylebone Cricket Club board, will feel naturally obliged to impose minimal standards of sportsmanship on lounge lizards like Delingpole.
Once the syndics of The Spectator realize the implications of even millimeter per annum sea level rise on coastal links like St. Andrew’s, they will rally to HRH’s point of view, leaving TVMOB & the Telegraph wets in the lurch.
My apologies for mentioning THE main supporter of E & E in my opinion. I’m an AGW ‘alarmist’ and proud of it and have debated considerably and frustratingly with him elsewhere. I agree with your comments about him – so sorry for rattling your cage.
However, I have long suspected that he has some sort of software on his website that detects automatically when E & E is discussed/his name appears elsewhere on the internet –(perhaps he just google’s these terms every couple of hours ) – so I was surprised he hadn’t appeared here.
Worst ever: Jelbring H. : The “Greenhouse Effect” as a Function of Atmospheric Mass, Energy & Environment, 1 May 2003, vol. 14, no. 2-3, pp. 351-356.
Jelbring uses the textbook formula for the lapse rate, g/cp, to prove that the earth’s temperature depends on g and cp.
In an acknowledement he thanks his own company for economic support and ”two brave anonymous peer reviewers making the publication a fact.”
In the Late 50’s Eugene Parker tried to publish a paper in the Astrophysical Journal. The peer review process rejected the paper, because the reviewers simply didn’t believe Parker. The paper was saved by the editor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (who later received the 1983 Nobel Prize in physics) and published.
The paper was Parker’s hypothesis on the now widelt accepted solar wind
Should Parker’s paper have been rejected or published?
Steven Mosher has a point, in a devil’s advocate (his specialty) kind of way:
“effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line – you end up with a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature or conversation.”
The claim of having dispensed with peer review seems based on inference from the second part of this sentence: That E&E is full of shoddy and incoherent contributions. But is that by itself enough evidence to claim that peer review was dispensed with – in *any* paper that concur with the editor’s politics? That is a much tougher question than the question “is E&E a reputable journal” or “are there many bad papers in E&E”.
I once tried to submit a comment to an article in E&E and it was accepted by the editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. When nothing happened I sent a letter to her four months later asking if she knew of a publishing date. Her response was that she didn’t remember it, but after a while she returned and noted that yes, they had received it and she had forgotten all about it. At that point I withdrew the comment as I found the attitude somewhat unprofessional.
In one of here letters she described the purpose of E&E:
“Not being able to judge the scientific value of the arguments myself, and being a journal not dedicated to scientific debates (teh climate sceptics groups serves this purpose better|), but rather to making social scientists aware that there are other views than those summarised in the name of the IPCC, I have decided not to continue this debate, at least for the time being.”
“This debate” refers to comments to the original paper by Hans Jelbing that claimed the greenhouse effect was caused by the mass of the atmosphere and had nothing to do with IR-absorption.
For an example of a poorly reviewed refereed paper in E&E, try this one, where the first sentence of the abstract is incorrect!
Ryunosuke Kikuchi, “External Forces Acting on the Earth’s Climate: An Approach to Understanding the Complexity of Climate Change”, Energy and Environment, vol. 21, no. 8, pp. 953-968, December 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1260/0958-305X.21.8.953
The abstract begins: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines lifetime for CO2 as the time required for the atmosphere to adjust to a future equilibrium state [O.K. so far], and it gives a wide range of 5-200 years [incorrect]; however, a number of published data show a short lifetime of 5-15 years [misleading with incorrect implication].”
The IPCC do not give a range of 5-200 years for the adjustment time, the most recent WG1 report gives an “approximate value of 100 years” for the adjustment time. It is the residence or turnover time that is about four years (page 948). The 1990 report gives a value of 50-200 years for the adjustment time and about 4 years for the residence/turnover time (page 8). Both reports clearly distinguish between adjustment time and residence time. Clearly the reviewers of this paper were unaware of what the IPCC claim regarding adjustment time. The abstract also implies that the “short lifetime of 5-15 years” is the dajustment time, it isn’t, it is the residence time, and anyone competent to review the paper ought to have known that.
As we only have to look in the most recent edition of E&E to find a clear example of a failure of the peer-review process, that would support the contention that peer review at E&E is not uniformly substantive.
Comment by Dikran Marsupial — 23 Feb 2011 @ 3:59 AM
Ooooooh. Dangerous debate. Anyway perhaps E&E needs a new pair of glasses. They’ve got a baaaaaaad case of myopia, don’t they?
Guys, I don’t want to see you distracted by having to defend yourselves in court.
The legal process does indeed need to be cheaper and I understand steps are being taken to address this problem. However, this is clearly a case falling within the remit of the libel laws as it doesn’t take a lot of detachment to realise the original post does indeed publicly attack E&E’s reputation.
AIUI, the problem Simon Singh had was that in using the word “bogus” he opened himself up to the argument that he was alleging not just that the cures didn’t work but that their proponents knew they didn’t work, i.e. that there was deliberate deception involved. Similarly, the Hutton Affair (one suicide, several high-flying careers derailed, oceans of bad blood between the BBC and the Blair government) resulted not from the accusation that a (rather nonsensical) claim about Iraqi WMD was false, but that the government knew it to be false. I make this point to ensure you are aware of the cultural sensitivity that it’s not arguments about facts that are going to cause you a problem, but arguments about motivations.
Steven Mosher’s general argument (in #58 and #84) is correct – are you able to defend against E&E’s best case?
The offending passage is this:
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line…”
which could be construed as an attack on both E&E’s competence and the integrity of its executive.
The wording is at least clumsy, since from the context it’s clear that what you are actually arguing is that E&E has “effectively dispensed with substantive peer review”, period.
Hughes’ first charge is that:
“To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make.”
It sounds like you’re prepared to use the curate’s egg argument that an adequate peer review process is either in place or it isn’t. It can’t be “good in parts”. As One Anonymous Bloke (#65) points out, it therefore doesn’t look like E&E’s best argument is the one Mosher suggests, i.e. that some papers have been peer reviewed.
You might also be able to use the “no reputation to defend” argument against this charge, though as I recollect from tales of the days of yore, this was more often applied by a judge awarding negligible damages than argued on behalf of defendants.
The problem is the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”, which relates to what appears to be a second potential charge:
“And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.”
The phrase “even more damaging” rather suggests this is where Hughes feels he is on firmer ground.
You could argue, I suppose, that the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line” is in fact entirely redundant, which strictly speaking is the case. However, it’s there, so that argument might not be sustainable.
Maybe instead you’d have to argue that your assertion is in fact that, because no rigorous peer review process is in place, E&E publish papers based on editorial discretion rather than editorial discretion and scientific rigour (what else could possibly happen?). I think this is what you are actually arguing in this post, though, IMO, your argument that:
“…the claim that… ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ … is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.”
doesn’t actually address the complaint against you.
Scientific rigour alone is not sufficient to ensure publication in a specific journal. That would be a daft state of affairs since there’d then be practically no point in journals having an editor. All editors select, commission or require revision of content on the basis of relevance to their readership – that’s a key part of the role of the editor.
The trouble is the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line” can be read to imply the interpretation Hughes puts on it, i.e. that you’re alleging not just that the peer review process is inadequate but that the reason it is inadequate is to permit the publication of “papers that follow the editor’s political line”. And that touches on the cultural sensitivity.
If you think Hughes is serious (and the title of his email does include the word “libel”), maybe you want to think about clarifying what you really meant in including the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”.
Gavin has merely drawn attention to the reputation E&E has among serious scientists. Roger Pielke and many others have said pretty much the same thing.
So it would seem E&E is suing for “Definition of Character”.
Clippo, No worries, I was actually joking (as I was hoping my use of the term “summon” as in demonology might make clear). I am serious thought that we don’t want to get him started here. He’s incapable of logical argument–only repeating his discredited points ever more loudly.
Do you mean “Defamation of Character” or are you making some kind of quip? If the former, it would seem that yes, that would seem to be what Bill Hughes is upset about.
Maybe “others have said pretty much the same thing” in your opinion, but that’s pretty much beside the point.
It’s necessary, I’m afraid, to address the specific complaints that Bill Hughes has made. It seems to me not inconceivable that things could become a tad problematic if Gavin is really alleging that “peer review [has been] abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position”. Is that provable?
It may be, for example, that the E&E peer review process is weak (assuming that it is) for some reason (e.g. organisational difficulties such as under-resourcing) entirely unconnected with the editor’s political views, and that some people have simply found it easier to get their work published in E&E than elsewhere, since only in the case of E&E are they able to get it through both the scientific rigour and editorial discretion filters that exist for all journals.
So it appears as if Manuel’s paper was sent to at least one reviewer, who rejected it as the work of a crank. Even after that, it was still published, although not as a peer-reviewed paper because Sonja liked what it had to say about climate. Is this a fair summary?
Oh yeah, that and the fact that she solicited it because she liked what Manuel was saying on the climateskeptics mailing list…
Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 23 Feb 2011 @ 10:56 AM
Sounds right. He is offered space to write something either peer-reviewed or not. When one of his pieces doesn’t “pass” it is still published. Although I’d note on the E&E website there isn’t really a category for “opinion”. His shorter piece is marked ‘book review”, the latter “origonal”. Also, I’m not sure I would refer to what his paper went through as “substantive” peer review, one of the reviewers being “the only theoretical physicist I know here”
Tim Joslin, The “definition of character” line is an old joke (dating from Vaudeville, I believe).
WRT Hughes allegations, I don’t see how you could interpret Gavin’s remarks comments as saying that E&E has no peer-review system. He has merely said that the system is by-passed for articles that fit with Sonja’s political agenda. She has said as much, herself. In fact, were there to be a legal proceeding, Sonja would wind up being a star defense witness!
It is not that no other journals have content that is not peer-reviewed–Science and Nature both have commentary. However, there the commentary is clearly identified. In E&E, you can have two pieces side by side that went through very different processes to get printed with no difference made clear to the reader.
There is also the question of the effect of the statement. It is arguable that the people who read E&E don’t care if the material therein is peer reviewed. Many distrust peer review. Moreover, it is unlikely that Gavin’s comment would cause anyone to change their opinion of E&E, as there is probably little overlap between people who trust both E&E and Gavin.
I posted this earlier on Deltoid; so apologies for the repetition.
I can’t speak for the US, but I know something about libel law in the UK, which is generally regarded as exceptionally favorable to plaintiffs.
From what I can see, if Hughes is threatening a libel action then that action is extremely unlikely to succeed. This is because Schmidt’s piece quite clearly falls under the heading of ‘fair comment’. The exact nature of what constitutes ‘substantive peer review’ is open to debate and differences of opinion. Since no clear and measurable standard exists, only broadly observed conventions, Schmidt’s remarks need only be true if E&E’s anti-AGM articles do no not pass the ‘substantive peer review’ standard in the opinion of anyone in the field – including himself. A single witness, produced by the defence – say, an editor at a peer-reviewed publication – who was willing to say that the R&R’s peer review process was different from his or her own, would be enough to render the plaintiff’s case effectively void. Indeed, so weak would be the plaintiff’s case, that a counter-claim for vexatious litigation would quite likely follow – and win.
I suspect Hughes was advised along these lines by his company lawyers. That is why no direct reference to legal action was made in his e-mail. If you really want someone to retract something, and you think you have a case, you don’t send a vaguely menacing e-mail; you serve them notice that you intend to seek damages, while indicating that a retraction might suffice. (This I know from personal experience). In short, Schmidt should ignore Hughes’s e-mail. It contains a hollow threat.
I posted this earlier on Deltiod; so apologies for the repetition.
I can’t speak for the US, but I know something about libel law in the UK, which is generally regarded as exceptionally favorable to plaintiffs. From what I can see, if Hughes is threatening a libel action then that action is extremely unlikely to succeed. This is because Schmidt’s piece quite clearly falls under the heading of ‘fair comment’. The exact nature of what constitutes ‘substantive peer review’ is open to debate and differences of opinion. Since no clear and measurable standard exists, only broadly observed conventions, Schmidt’s remarks need only be true if E&E’s anti-AGM articles do no not pass the ‘substantive peer review’ standard in the opinion of anyone in the field – including himself. A single witness, produced by the defence – say, an editor at a peer-reviewed publication – who was willing to say that the R&R’s peer review process was different from his or her own, would be enough to render the plaintiff’s case effectively void. Indeed, so weak would be the plaintiff’s case, that a counter-claim for vexatious litigation would quite likely follow – and win. I suspect Hughes was advised along these lines by his company lawyers. That is why no direct reference to legal action was made in his e-mail. If you really want someone to retract something, and you think you have a case, you don’t send a vaguely menacing e-mail; you serve them notice that you intend to seek damages, while indicating that a retraction might suffice. (This I know from personal experience).
In short, Hughes’s e-mail contains a hollow threat.
Gavin: So the claim that the ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ while certainly ‘terribly damaging’ to the journal’s reputation is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.
The first phrase in quotes (‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’) is a misleading paraphrase (of the editor, who may have been misquoted in the first place) that omits an important qualifier; in the final clause the word “ridiculous” misattributes what the letter claimed “ridiculous” applied to.
Somebody with more legal expertise than all of us have needs to review the specific language (I second Steve Mosher: read all the language with careful attention to exactness) to determine whether Gavin’s language constitutes “reckless disregard for the truth” or “actual malice”. Recall that Gavin is an employee of the U.S. govt, and interested parties may demand to know whether any of his postings were done on government time.
I recommend the consultation of an attorney, someone who understands the law and juries. The warning in the letter sounds serious to me.
I assume you are joking, but for the benefit of those who may not have spent much time reviewing the AR4 – it should be mentioned that they reference lots of sources for discussion purposes. I’d be surprised indeed if any of the references you mentioned are used to directly support a conclusion of the IPCC.
@140 : don’t know about US or UK libel customs, but in France this mail would not even be considered as a libel suit threat.
If I were Gavin, I would not even bother to contact my lawyers – not until a clear libel suit threat is delivered. This letter sounds more like a right to answer with an attempt to put “friendly” (and quite patronizing, if you want my opinion) pressure, so that realclimate on his own takes back its claim. Mr Hughes does not even try to back his request with some legal basis …
(but I’m influenced by my french law habits, a bit less forgiving in case of a spurious libel suit. You do NOT want to upset french judges by wasting their time with bogus libel suits, oooh no)
Dr Philip Lloyd copied me with this email from E&E on 12 Dec 2008. He’d asked E&E for their review policy and got this reply from Sonja.
From: Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen [mailto:Sonja.B-C@hull.ac.uk]
Sent: 09 December 2008 08:16
To: Philip Lloyd
Subject: RE: Energy & Environment
We publish three types of papers, clearly differentiated.
1. Peer reviewed (at least two reviewers and my own view, relevant only to some subjects). This creates difficulties only in certain subjects, opinions are heavily divided and one side tries to exclude the other; e.g. on global warming science . Environmentalism becomes a problem, for it prejudices ‘believers’. Because I believe that the science debate over climate change continues, I publish climate ‘sceptics’, heavily peer reviewed, by peers, not IPCC devotees.
2. Technical communications and Viewpoints, these are short (up to about 3000 words) and not peer reviewed. This can be a mixed bunch, because publication is faster authors sometimes prefer it. I use it also for very controversial subjects can creep in, but readers are warned.
We usually have 4-6 peer reviewed papers and 4 or 5 Viewpoints per issue. The precise mix varies, and Guest Editors (of Special Issues) have some freedom to select and categorise papers, but I have the final word.
I hope that answers your question, feel free to ask more.
I attach our ‘mission’ statement.
PS: I remain sceptical of the current consensus that ‘global warming’ is as important a scientific/environmental issue as UN and EU tend to claim, but this is based on my own work in political analysis of environmental issues. This bias is reflected in the journals’ scientific contribution, but not in the others (economics, engineering, politics ..) E&E analyses environmental debates impacting on energy industries , it is not an environmentalist journal.
Reader Emeritus, Department of Geography
HULL HU6 7RX
Fax: (0044) 1482 466340
Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 23 Feb 2011 @ 4:51 PM
Re: 60; that does indeed sound logical.
I have read all the posts above with interest. It is clear that the corporate-driven campaign to discredit and intimidate climate science is sophisticated, long range, ruthless and determined. Rather than simply focus on one event at a time, like this potential lawsuit, (and an endless whack-a-mole ensuing), it seems to me that we have reached a sort of tipping point in the battle to inform and influence public debate. One only has to watch the political upheaval in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Arizona to realize that there is a broad-spectrum assault on many institutions, and that the money that is driving the denialist bilge is also driving these corrosive agendas as well. No mystery now where the money is coming from; we now also know that the US Chamber of Commerce has been utilizing pros to attack reputations etc via electronic means.
To avert total disaster, and to avoid herding cats, perhaps there should be some serious talk about new and much more robust strategies to deal with the above personalities and issues. If Limbaugh can broadcast ‘execution’ demands, then we have wandered into a zone that needs something more than just semantic hair-splitting and handwringing. Ordinary people with extraordinary courage are changing the world as we speak.
Greyfox #149 As an interested observer of the events on the USA, I have been reminded of Hansen’s call for people to take to the streets. The people are on the streets for entirely different reasons, though; any damage to the AGW denialists will come as a side-effect. However, if Americans can achieve a return to democracy that might lead to more pressure to heed the science.
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 23 Feb 2011 @ 5:42 PM
Oh sue, Mr. Hughes, please sue! We can’t wait to find out what kind of dross lies in the files E&E, all opened by justifiable subpoena. What is the actual review-to-submission ratio? Or the submission-to-acceptance ratio?
Or perhaps you just might want to check with Dr. Boehmer-Christiansen before opening that can of worms?
Tim Joslin @141
Libel is something any publisher or senior editor normally knows about as a matter of course. If they don’t, they certainly should, because even innocent or casual inaccuracies can be ruinous. So I’m betting Hughes has consulted on the issue and been told he stands no chance in court; or has realised it himself. If he is seriously considering the costs (and financial risks) of litigation, then he is not going the right way about it.
The second refernce [“peer review [has been] abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position”?] amounts to a speculation as to motive. But it is of no great consequence if the central claim that the norms of “substantive peer review” have been abandoned, is tenable. It would be hard to demonstrate in court that the attribution of a political motive in itself is damaging or injurious. (If someone hurls a brick through your window for recreational purposes; is it libelous to write that their motive was, in fact, political? Answer: no, even if that is not true.)
As it happens, the e-mails quoted above from Dr.Sonja A.Boehmer-Christiansen clearly demonstrate a political intention (witness the repeated references to policy). Further, that intention is realised through an overt editorial policy of giving ‘skeptics’ a platform, and of ensuring that the contributions of such ‘skeptics’ are only ‘peer-reviewed’ by like-minded individuals. In this context, Schmidt’s speculations as to motive would seem to be not only fair comment, but demonstrably accurate.
You are so right, really. I should clarify…Americans have been asleep at the wheel for decades, and a group who are, um, not so nice have been busily planning and executing a root-up silent coup. Doing a damn’d good job of it too, sadly. The ‘going to the streets’ was really a stand-in for getting off our collective duffs and understanding that this isn’t a pleasant high school debate. Rather, it is going to be a West Side Story rumble…if we have the stomach for it. I’m not kidding. You should see the laws being launched one after another in Arizona, where I reside. They verge on secessionist sedition among other things.
As for the scientists and those who have faithfully written on this blog for years, I hope you know that you have my undying admiration for slogging through the research and math and making sure the climate evidence for warming is robust and valid (all while dodging the venom of the denialists). My point is that we have passed the time when we have the luxury to parse decimal points and station readings. There is beyond enough evidence and data to support what must be done. The fight, however, is not in that arena now. The post today about the legal potential for a libel suit is valid enough, but this just the sort of thing that diverts our attention and energy from the more basic battle. Intentionally. We have to get it.
Oh, indeed. Please, please, one of you guys, or a group of you, get some grad students to put together a bogus, \skeptical\ paper that sounds just realistic enough to the unwary. Bury a bogus concept or some bogus math in the paper and submit to places like E&E, SPPI, WUWT … and sit back for the fun.
If the paper is published by a journal like E&E, that would garner some interesting attention once the ruse is exposed.
“5E.G. Beck “180 years accurate CO2 analysis in air by chemical methods” In press Energy&Environment.
6Here the reference to the research of Mann et al. is not given, because in my opinion the papers have to be retracted as violations of good scientific practice with respect to selective data use and refusal to cooperate with others to have the computer programmes reinvestigated.”
Charles #157 (And with respect to the RC crew, who are clearly the target of your suggestion) This would be an excellent project for Arts Faculty students (say from media studies, making a documentary). Do any of the RC crew have connections to the Arts faculty? Charles is right, the “debate” is no longer scientific, and what is the best way to expose the ridiculous? Humour.
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 23 Feb 2011 @ 11:43 PM
Text of an email sent to Mr. Hughes:
Bravo Mr. Hughes!
I have long despaired of the constant misrepresentation of climate science (and scientists) in the mainstream media, and wondered why more libel suits have not resulted. Yet legal systems in North America seem unable or unwilling to address the problem – the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, in fact, has recently been requested by an obscure Conservative federal government committee to LOOSEN the laws governing the publication of false information (see these Star and Globe and Mail reports)! Perhaps Britain can do better.
Rest assured that should you decide to prosecute a libel suit against RealClimate (as your letter to them seems to threaten), I will welcome the public exposure, in a forum providing strict rules of evidence and a right to cross-examine, of the standards of science and peer review represented by the respective litigants – and will gladly contribute financially towards RealClimate’s defence.
Gavin: “…venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for ANY papers that follow the editor’s political line”
#116 by Richard Tol (co-editor-in-chief of Energy Economics, and an associated editor of Economics, according to his website): “For your information, I have published a few papers in E&E. All were peer-reviewed as usual. I have reviewed a few more for the journal.”
BTW, Science and Nature publish a variety of non-peer reviewed articles commissioned by the editors. Was Gavin and David’s “News and Views” article in Nature (Climate change: Too much of a bad thing. Nature 458, 1117-1118 (30 April 2009) peer-reviewed?
[Response: No. ‘News and Views’ pieces are just opinion, not research. – gavin]
I think that the main problem in the US is tied to the feeling that global warming imposes restrictions and constraints which are opposed to Liberty. My feeling, from France, is that Liberty is a very strong value in the US, maybe a too strong value. And opinion, things, perceptions or facts which threaten liberty are strongly, emotionally rejected.
Therefore, maybe changing the tone and including metaphors to convey the message that doing nothing is restricting the liberty to choose the best course may be more successful?
so let’s assume you are accused by Hughes and loose a 500.000 Pounds process under UK libel law could you be arrested in Heathrow when you come home at chrystmas? I just imagine the pictures and the lead stories.
PS Within one of the review processes launched by E&E on a rather dubious paper Ralph Keeling summarized his experience:
\The Beck article provides an interesting test case for E&E’s recently advertised willingness to serve as a forum for \skeptical analyses of global warming\ (E&E mission statement, Dec. 2006). The result was the publication of a paper with serious conceptual oversights that would have been spotted by any reasonably qualified reviewer. Is it really the intent of E&E to provide a forum for laundering pseudo-science? I suggest that some clarification or review of the practice is appropriate.\
So, Gavin, you are far from being the first to note the obvious.
Indeed. It would seem that someone has not fully understand that one’s peers are competing with one for grad students, funding, attention, accolades and fame and glory. Most of they would not pull you out of the streets if a bus were bearing down on you.
You know, while I am not really a big fan of “sokaling”, such a parody might actually do the denialosphere a favor by making them a little more circumspect about gulping down every hook, line and sinker they see attached to a shiny bit of chum.
I´d say that the most ridiculous E&E paper would certainly be Ernst-Georg Beck´s claiming that the CO2 has risen and fallen arbitrarily by more than 100 ppm from one year to the next befor 1958, while suddenly calming down to a steady yearly rise from coincidentally the time of Mauna Loa and onwards:
I´m a biologist and an occasional science blogger, and not a single of the students from 2.year an on I have discussed this with have not asked themselves how on earth such claimed CO2 rises and declines could indeed be possible. I struggle to believe that this paper was ever seen by a reviewer with any kind of B.sc degree before publication.
The E&E will always be able to defend themselves by saying that the publish papers by critics, too. Nakicenovic and the SRES team was indeed allowed a response – and bothered to send in one – to the spurious claims by Castles & Henderson about the alleged failure to correct for purchasing power parity in the emission scenarios.
Christoffer, as I noted in comment 6, Arthur Rörsch, prof.em. in genetics, informed me that Beck’s article was the most rigorously reviewed article published in E&E. You will also note in Beck’s acknowledgments a range of thanks yous to people who hold a PhD in somewhat relevant fields.
So, no need to struggle there, it WAS really reviewed by people with more than a BSc. It just shows how enormous the political pressure at E&E is: even supposedly qualified people are so much more interested in the narrative, rather than the actual facts, that they’ll accept anything that can be construed as casting doubt. Unless it rocks their own boat a bit too much, such as the apparently French theoretical physicist who reviewed Oliver Manuel’s article and thought it nonsense (it was ultimately published in E&E anyway, as an “opinion” piece; I’m guessing the political accusations in the piece were too good to be ignored).
i.e., claims the mantle of journal:
“Energy and Environment is an interdisciplinary journal aimed at natural scientists, technologists and the international social science and policy communities covering the direct and indirect environmental impacts of energy acquisition, transport, production and use. …
A major aim of Energy and Environment is to act as a forum for constructive and professional debate between scientists and technologists, social scientists and economists …”
WUWT claims to have some relevance to science.
SPPI claims to be an institute.
It is ~one-man operation, essentially a website, by Robert Ferguson, whose main address is a PO Box in a UPS store in suburban VA.
He has a secondary address in DC, which you can see for yourself via Google Streetview (it’s the white door at right labeled 209.). Whether this is an actual office suite or a virtual office is unknown to me. Some DC resident might stroll by and see.
Steve Goddard claimed affiliation with SPPI in the recent Lisbon affair, despite not appearing on the list.
Steve Goddard SPPI
Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit
Steve Mosher, Independent Consultant
Roger Tattersall, Leeds University (“tallbloke”)
Unless they paid their own ways, the EC took care of this, in which case:
SPPI = PO Box/website, which doesn’t even list Goddard
Climate Audit = website
Mosher’s description is open and a fair.
Tallbloke is a web content editor in Leeds School of Education, in a university that has substantial efforts in environmental sciences. He was excited to be invited to Lisbon on official climate business. His own list says “independent researcher.” I.e., as best as I can tell, tallbloke (properly) did not claim the Leeds affiliation, but it got there somehow.
Actually, I was a bit surprised no one from E&E attended.
as best as I can tell, tallbloke (properly) did not claim the Leeds affiliation, but it got there somehow.
He said he filled it in on a form. Logically, I assume that would be the official registration form, which one might expect to have a field for “affiliation”. He claimed to have been surprised that this showed up on the official list of attendees, which seems a bit naive (regardless of exactly which form he filled in had “affiliation” on it, if I’m wrong about it being the registration form).
Also, it’s not clear that the EC paid attendees’ expenses, it might have been the foundation that sponsored it.
How dare you spread such total nonsense about the SPPI! I have personally been to Bob’s SPPI. I couldn’t find the SPPI for the longest time! (Even the CIA at its most cunning has never been able to replicate the SPI’s brilliant disguise!)
I personally cruised back and forth right in front of the parcel post store and could not locate Bob’s institute. My GPS was doing flip-flops. As everyone(in Washington) knows, this happens when you are near a national security facility that has jamming.
You have failed to realize the obvious, Dr. Mashey: Bob is a mighty wizard who operates a REALLY DENSE NETWORK of highly-miniaturized SPI reconnaissance satellites and other classified SPI sensors from his primary address (mailbox #209 in the Haymarket, Virginia parcel post store).
America has no need for climate scientists or CIA reconnaissance satellites now that we are served by the mighty eyes and ears of Bob’s state-of-the-art SPI facility, mailbox #209.
Bob’s SPI satellites and classified SPI sensors are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye, which is obviously why I couldn’t see them. These invisible satellites and classified sensors prove there is no global warming.
And one more thing. Pay no attention to that Russian conspiracist Andrei Areshev. He is a fabricator who claims that the mighty Bob is CAUSING global warming by beaming secret climate weapons at “certain countries” and burning them to the ground.
Re: Hank Roberts #175……… What has Peiser done lately?,
He did complain to the UK Daily Telegraph about AGW ‘deniers’ being called ‘deniers’ because of holocaust associations. I am pretty certain I read this but I can’t find the link in the DT’s website – it was ? 1-2 years ago
Therefore, answer to above question – nothing remotely serious..
Coming at this from a different angle. I think there is a problem with how the Climate Science community is perceived post climategate.
Going head to head with journal editors and ‘rubbishing’ publications, that don’t follow the concensus line, appears very much a continuation of what was disclosed in the emails.
My opinion; This doesn’t play well. A small percentage of people take the time to evaluate the science for themselves. Most people recognize boorish behaviour when they see it. Argue the science, don’t take cheap shots at the opposition.
[Response: You’re kidding right? Scientists have been “arguing the science” on this, and other controversial topics, for as long as science has existed. Maybe if more than “a small percentage” of the population took the time to fulfill their basic human responsibility (yes, that’s right, basic human responsibility) to understand very fundamental facts about the world they live in, and didn’t just lazily soak up the soap opera that the media presents to them, then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.–Jim]
The ‘middle ground’ is being lost. To regain it, a more tolerant, understanding, and inclusive approach is required. You’re not going to get it by shouting everyone down, no matter how frustrated you may be.
It would consider resolving things amicably, a ‘form of words’ you are both happy with – you don’t have to endorse the publication, you can even express some reservations about certain papers. Just downplay the petulant ‘Climate Scientists’ meme. It turns people off!
[Response: Unfortunately science is kind of like that. You don’t get to be nice with every random idea that’s floating around. Not everyone’s idea is very good, and science is a method for winnowing out the bad ones, and keeping the ones that work. Much as I’d love to say ‘oh that’s interesting’ every time someone proposes that the sun is made of iron, or that CO2 changes by 100ppm in a year (but only prior to 1957), I can’t. If you want validation, go to a therapist, if you want science, you have to deal with the fact that it is a tougher environment. There is nothing wrong with discussing the reputation of journals and whether one would consider publishing there, scientists do it all the time – in emails and over coffee. And journals (normally) are quite keen on maintaining a high reputation. But when they slip up (in this case, over and over again), I don’t know why you think we can’t mention it. – gavin]
I think you can mention it. The point is rather- should you mention it ;)
As I said, I doesn’t play well, particularly if your intention is to re capture the middle/moral high/ ground.
[Response: I don’t know about that – plucky little scientists standing up against faceless corporations who’d rather sue than deal with their problems – actually plays quite well, and is accurate to boot. – gavin]
GSW, So, is it your position that biologists should invite the Discovery Institute to Lunch
Well, remember, when William Dembski of the Discovery Institute posted a photo of a darwin doll with its head in a vise, and suggested that he’d like to apply this technique to evolutionary biologists to get them to tell the truth, the anti-science types said “oh, he’s funny!”.
But when a scientists says that a creationist claiming the world is 6,000 years old is being stupid, that’s *boorish behavior*, which is added evidence that evolutionary biologists know that creationism is truth and science fradulent.
179. GSW: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”
“Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”
GSW: YOU are the one who is being immoral. “Climategate” was indeed a crime. THe crackers who broke into a computer that was not theirs were the criminals. The scientists did nothing wrong.
Mother Nature is neither subtle nor forgiving nor gentle. There is no middle ground. Your species either survives or goes extinct. Mother Nature has a great deal of experience in making species extinct. To survive, we must follow the dictates of science exactly. The scientists are speaking for Nature, not for themselves.
Comment by Edward Greisch — 24 Feb 2011 @ 11:34 PM
Some of the things attributed to me above, I don’t recognize and can’t really comment. The point I was making was – in some circumstances it is better to keep the commentary down to a dry statement of fact, i.e without the ‘Edge’.
You can choose to make the agenda the ‘Science’ (fact), or you can hand over the agenda to those who do not wish to discuss the science, rather focus on personalities and acrymonious disagreements about, well… not very much.
Ding Dong battles between biologists and creationists, I think, is ultimately only beneficial to the creationists. Worth thinking about. Avoid the ‘confrontation’ as much as possible and when engaged, ‘control’ the agenda.
I certainly hope that “truth” and “valid, reasonable opinion” are legitimate defences agains accusations of libel in the UK, as they are in Canada… Good Luck! And I do fully support your ‘form of words’, perhaps Mssr Hughes may not find it ‘mutually satisfactory’, but such is what he deserves!
University of Buckingham, the only private uni in the UK, self-described as libertarian, academic home to the International Policy Network’s director, Julian Morris, prior co-director of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Get a taste of IPN’s views on climate change (no prizes for guessing)…
“Response: You shouldn’t misconstrue the above post to imply that all libel laws are unjust, but rather that, the situation in the UK is that the costs and in-built bias for the plaintiff result in a situation where the merest threat of a suit is enough for big institutions and deep-pocketed individuals to squelch justifiable critiques. A fairer system would allow people whose comments were justifiable to at least make that case in court without bankrupting themselves – win or lose. – gavin]”
A lot of the problems with big libel cases, in particular the recent trend in jurisdiction shopping, seems to revolve around trials presided by a particular judge, Justice Eady. I believe he was the one who determined that the definition of “bogus” in Simon Sings article on Chiroprachters implied that he was asserting they were *knowingly* providing false cures, rather than merely providing false cures.
Definitely, things have got out of hand over the years, in part because various rulings set precedents.
> private uni
What does “private” mean in British English in that context?
E’n’E’s Board, whether actual or alternate-history (Lomborg and Wossname), and Bucks and IPN and whatnot does sound like they may offer a fine opportunity for someone’s application of social network mapping tools.
Has anyone blogged or circulated a suggestion to potential reviewers who may have glanced over E’n’E’s ‘reviewed’ papers so they might consider whether putting together a reply or followup to any of them could under any imaginable circumstances become a worthwhile use of their time?
Not that a bad paper becomes any more worth noticing because the publisher has gotten I’m sure there’s a good British word for this. “Shirty?”
Reading the comments of Hughes and, I have to agree with 125. and others.
Sure, you are protected from any damages via recent US legal changes making UK rulings hard to enforce. HOWEVER, you should think about the damage to your own credibility by losing: “realclimate.org shown to be dishonest” etc. would be real ammo for denialism.
I would suggest it may be better to re-word so as to be more explicit as to what you are arguing.
Please, please sort out an alternative to recaptcha, it keeps reporting as failed, but the website is claiming attempts to repost are duplicate. Sorry if it is, but it is not appearing.
@Real Climate in general:
I really hope you have taken legal advice from someone familar with UK Libel law.
Truth is an absolute defence, but there can be a difference between truth determined in the courts and truth determined in science.
Reading your comments to Hughes, and how they can be interpreted (see Eady’s interpretation of Bogus in the Simon Singh vs. BCA case), I think they may have a case along the lines of comment 125s point.
A US lawyer may tell you that you are safe from any damages, and don’t even need to turn up. But consider how bad it would look if you lost.
The deniers could quite happily push the meme “Climatologits proven in court to be liers”. A totally horrible situation.
Also, your attitudes as good scientists, citing links etc. to substantiate the statements you are making may provide grounds for anyone suing you to argue your comments are statements of fact that you might need to prove to be absolutely true, rather than comment that you might need to prove to be fair. This probably makes their hypothetical case eaier and your case harder, as was the case in Simon Singhs trial.
If the whole point of this website is to get the case and arguments for AGW out there, it’s not helped at all if people can cast doubt on your actual honesty by pointing to court rulings.
“The problem is the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”, which relates to what appears to be a second potential charge….”
The editor of E&E is quoted in this paragraph, published in today’s Guardian:
“But she did not deny that she allows her political agenda to influence which papers are published in the journal. “I’m not ashamed to say that I deliberately encourage the publication of papers that are sceptical of climate change,” said Boehmer-Christiansen, who does not believe in man-made climate change.”
It strikes me that if you are going to let politics get in the way of science, then you are running what is tantamount to a quasi-political journal and not a purely scientific one – the latter being, of course, where the science should always reside. We are all aware that there is a heck of a lot of politics surrounding climate and other environmental issues, of course, but it IS politics and not science, and clear labelling is a good thing at all times! It is when politics masquerades as science (e.g. all things suffixed by “gate” passim, 2009 onwards) that trouble tends to start a-brewing.
Comment by Michael McClory — 25 Feb 2011 @ 11:49 AM
Why libel RC when they are all heavily peer reviewed and published scientists when you could listen to their criticisms and tak them on board. Its not like the commentators of RC are not contactable or are aloof and full of hubris.
Nah, that magazine (journal it is not perhaps)is not up to the standard of some others which contain a lot more relevant and meaningful material. Even science works in divisions of ability.
I think what folks are missing here is the fact that the term “peer” will have different meanings applied to different groups – sceptical genre papers are no doubt reviewed . . . by peers of the sceptical genre, and in a publication with a political slant, that would include sceptics with a political agenda.
They probably don’t care if the judgment would be unenforceable. All they want is to be able to say you were proven wrong in a court of law. Many climate deniers assert that court decision trumps scientific consensus, and no doubt that will be the modus operandi here.
E&E published a paper saying that the sun is a hot ball of iron. Nothing more needs to be said.
Could someone please help me understand something about libel law. Specifically, who you can and cannot sue and where or where not.
E&E are in the UK, yet it appears that they can file a libel suite against RC. That is across the pond.
Is that because of the way the libel laws in the UK are drafted? If so, why then did Briffa and Jones and others not go after McIntyre– someone who seems to conveniently go after scientists outside of Canada. By the same token, why can’t scientists in the USA then go after people slandering them in Canada or the UK or anywhere else for that matter?
Gavin’s comments seem perfectly defensible. The problem for E&E is that Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen has not just once, but frequently made comments on the public record trying to excuse the poor quality of various articles when they have been rightly vilified. These comments have completely undermined any pretensions that E&E might have to ever being regarded as a top journal, or even as a half-decent journal.
The truth is an absolute defence, but lawyers don’t rely on just one defence. If it should go to trial, then the response will depend on the exact text referred to in the complaint. Gavin can argue that what he has said is true, and that it is fair comment, and that E&E have no reputation to defend. There is spade-loads of evidence to back this up.
Gavin’s criticisms are not intemperate, and he has not made rash generalisations that might be misinterpreted (despite the best efforts of some of the scummier blogosphere – they had to resort to misquoting him).
So where does your fear come from? The legal system is imperfect, but it strives to reach the correct conclusion.
Just a quick comment to say that I completely support Gavin’s stance on this. E&E was once a moderately interesting minor interdisciplinary journal until SB-C’s climate change denialist agenda made it a venue for all kinds of frankly ridiculous pseudo-scientific papers.
I would just make one comment though – you say that the ISI Master List is an ‘official’ list of journals, and this is repeated in the Guardian piece. It is nothing of the sort. It is a list run by a private commercial enterprise that prides itself on rejecting large numbers of perfectly decent journals every year on the basis of its own (opaque and unaccountable) ‘priorities’. Unfortunately, it has become the basis of academic assessment exercises worldwide, but we should not keep allowing Thomson-Reuters the power to decide which journals are ‘worthy’ and which are not.
I am no lawyer, but started looking into this about 18 months ago, some of which is discussed in CCC, March 2010, p.1 and especially p.184, “Defamation is complex, especially Internet & international.” Some links are provided to give you a start.
As Gavin notes, UK libel law has well-known issues, but in general, I would guess that filing a lawsuit in jurisdiction X tends to want to have a lawyer who can practice in jurisdiction X.
(I say jurisdiction, not county, to cover US case, some of which is state-by-state).
In practice, given that:
a) (Opinion) Relatively few scientists are wealthy enough top think about pursuing libel cases, especially foreign ones.
b) It’s asymmetric warfare: somebody can write defamatory material quite easily, but calling them on it can take a lot of time and effort away from doing research or teaching.
c) (Opinion) If one considers the entire population, and looks at the distributions, I think one gets:
– classical skeptical thinking and willingness to argue
(scientists’ distribution likely concentrated at right)
(scientists’ distribution probably less, but certainly not at extreme right)
Put another way, some people threaten legal action at drop of a hat, but that seems atypical of scientists I know.
No, even if someone is interested (c), one must be able to overcome a) and b). As it stands, this tends to be done, rarely, as it takes unusual combinations, as when a scientist gets fed up, has a clear-enough case, can find a lawyer with the right expertise (which actually includes some familiarity with the climate anti-science turf), and can either pay for it or get pro bono help.
Although some lawyers do pro bono work, the combination above is rare. The best example is Canadian, of course, Andrew Weaver (U of Victoria) and Roger McConchie in Vancouver. If you search Amazon for “Canadian libel”, you get this.
I was lucky to find a used copy of that 1000-pager, I have only started reading it. Opinion: CFP folded quickly for good reason.
To the best of my knowledge, the organization needed to address a) and b) above does not yet exactly exist.
“Gavin’s comments seem perfectly defensible.”
If interpreted the correct way. It is worth noting that Simon Singhs comments (Chiroprachtys claims to cure Coelic are Bogus) is also perfectly defensible. Probably more so in the sense that a strictly legalistic reading of what Gary said could be paraphrased as “All articles that co-incide with the editors political beliefs are not substantively peer reviewed”. The distinction is kind of important, because as currently worded, what it is saying is not just that E&E is sloppy with reviews and politically biased, but that no sceptical material published by them can be trusted. Those are two slightly different things. No amount of demonstrating that E&E is deeply sloppy and biased can demonstrate that the articles they present can be discounted immediately as being purely published only due to bias. Did I get that across well? I’m in need of a coffee, my appologies.
Furthermore, there is then the question of what is “substantive”. I am not a lawyer, but I think that while there is an argument that if the post is “comment” then this might be able to be defined more loosely and ambiguously. However, by documenting the supporting evidence, it could well be ruled that Garys comments are not reasonably interpreted as comment, but as statements of fact. This is what happened in Singhs case. In this case, fair comment would not be a defence (it was ruled on in Singhs case), only absolute truth, which can be hard to prove (In Singhs case, he was initially required to prove that BCA actually *believed* their treatments had no efficacy).
Substantive is unlikely to be interpreted by the judge with deep reference to science practices, but in terms of what the “man on the Clapham omnibus” might think is sufficiently substantive. Simple failure to ensure that the papers are not only sent to referees who are inherently favourable may not be viewed as unsubstantive. Indeed, there is no standard of practice generally applied in other fields and other journals that referees must be actively hostile. Indeed, it may not even be sufficient to show that the editors have an active policy of sending papers to favourable referees, if the court presumes referees are generally assumed to act in good faith as a matter of principle.
Worst case scenario then might see RC as being required to prove the absolute truth that ALL papers that contradict the IPCC view of AGW have been sent by E&E as a matter of policy to referees who will approve them irrespective of their quality, or E&E will always disregard negative recommendations.
I agree there is abundant material to show E&E is pretty much useless, but the important thing to understand here is that the precise definitions of what was said is determined by the presiding judge, ultimately, and that determines what arguments you can use. It is no use clarifying after you have published. Singh could say what he meant by bogus till he was blue in the face, the point was that the court initially decided that bogus implied malice to the reader, so damage was done to the good faith of Chiropractors. In this case, E&E has approached RC to reach a mutual acceptance, and been declined. This is being generally interpreted as a sign they have no case. This is not true, it is often a requirement for a case to be accepted now that attempts to settle out of court have been made in good faith precisely to prevent the abuse of the law to simply silence people with a solicitors letter. Alarm bells would be ringing for me.
However, I am no lawyer, I am a plasma physicist, though I do have lawyer friends who have had to worry about defamation suits in mundane university politics back in the day.
The point is that this could be a tricky legal case. Simon Singh won in the end, after appeal IIRC, but it took time and money. If RC did not invest time and money (probably, being in the US and protected against UK courts now, they have no immediate need to answer any lawsuit) and lose by default (or even if they need to fight to win on appeal) denialists have a fantastic totem of “Warmenism proven wrong in court of law” crap that is going to make trying to convince people about the validity of the science all the more harder.
“E&E are in the UK, yet it appears that they can file a libel suite against RC. That is across the pond.”
It can be filed here because RC is “published” here, i.e. can be viewed on the net. There is a lot of debate by what is meant by published here, one judge, Justice Eady, has taken a very lax view on this, allowing Khazak businesmen to sue a Khazak newspaper because it’s online website can be shown to have a hundred hits from UK IP addresses. This is obviously crazy, though perhaps no crazier than US prosecutors going after UK businessmen undertaking acts legal in the UK that affect only other entiteis in the UK, but which at one point involved traffic that passed through a US server. Welcome to globalisation.
“the same token, why can’t scientists in the USA then go after people slandering them in Canada or the UK or anywhere else for that matter”
They can, it is just insanely expensive. Because libel laws have traditionally involved the rich and the powerful versus very rich newspapers, libel lawyers charge very large fees.
Still, this is all worst case stuff. One hopes nothing comes of it, but if I were on the RC team, I would have argued to re-word the post to make it clear that E&E had a political bias that was included in the decision to publish a given article, and that there was therefore no guarantee that AGW skeptical views presented were any good. My response would have been broadly similar, but slightly differently worded, and in particular I would agree to delte the word “any” from this sentece:
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”.
If RC does get sued, I’ll be first in line to donate for the court case. Please don’t give them a win by default, it will be hugely damaging because it will be massively misinterpreted.
Sorry that this is ‘off topic’. I figure that this behaviour will be a thing of the past when the ice has all gone.
Comment by Brent Hargreaves — 25 Feb 2011 @ 6:38 PM
Was that a Top Gear stunt? BTW, greatest show on TV if you like cars (which I do, I can hardly wait for an affordable electric sports car, it will make everyone forget about gasoline engines…)
Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 25 Feb 2011 @ 9:01 PM
‘Universal synthetic statements'(USS) are asymmetrical in the sense that they cannot be proved but can be falsified by establishing one exception (Popper * Logic of Scientific Discovery). Of course unlike Popper, we are not discussing scientific statements, but remarks about the reviewing policy of a magazine. I have no experience of the law and have no idea if such considerations would influence a British court; I am just trying to interpret one of the concerns in comment #219.
If #219 is correct then we might be able to construct the following USS about British law : “anyone using a USS on any occasion would be unable to use the defence of truth in any libel action”. This would be a rather crazy conclusion, but I suppose could be avoided by removing words like ‘any’ and ‘all’.
A more common sense conclusion would be if the truth of the statement could be ‘sufficiently’ established by considering some important examples or alternatively if more attention could be paid to a second statement which was not universal and possible to establish.
*. Popper has been much criticised , but isn’t that particular conclusion fairly sound?
[The vast majority of these threats remain just that, but one day there will be an exception].
I have to ask – is this really a worth while activity for us? What do we do – fact check every ridiculous claim on conservapedia.com? (If you haven’t seen conservapedia.com – check it out. It is hilarious – and they are serious – its not a joke.) Anyway, I think Gavin made a mistake. He should have just quoted the editor’s comments and left it at that.
Let’s just state the science as it is, and not get wrapped up in the denialist’s dogma. Come on – that’s what they want. Just ignore it and move on.
Gavin, I take it your statement should be construed to refer only to E&E papers dealing with climate as a physical/natural science topic, not to papers on non-climate topics or on e.g. the economics of climate change (cf. Richard Tol’s comment upthread). It seems obvious in context of the full blog post, but is not necessarily evident from the isolated paragraph, considering that E&E is multi-disciplinary (or multi-something, anyway).
If so, I’d think the “any” might be defensible (cf #219, 225)… unless someone can think of a physical climate-science paper in E&E over the last, what?, maybe five years that would actually have passed peer review in a science journal. Examples of those that wouldn’t seem plentiful.
Sorry if someone brought up this distinction and I missed it.
One wonder if Bill Hughes has ever bothered to ask Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen to explain her comments on the political nature of her editorial policy and the short-changing of proper peer review. It would have been easy enough to do so before sending this letter.
The focus of the original claim is “dispensed with ‘substantive’ peer review” Substantive means they lowered the bar, which is completely defensible. Of course, your new post has some serious fighting words in it.
I’m imagining this court drama (which would be a terrible waste of time & finances), in which Gavin’s attorney calls in expert witnesses, like some 350 top climate scientists, who all basically say, “Gavin is right, dead on, it’s even worse than Gavin portrays…”
Of course the other side could bring in their “expert” witnesses, and the defense attorney would then have to ask them about their various backgrounds (dentist, retired engineer, community college geology instructor, biologist, etc), and their lists of climate science pubs in peer-reviewed jnls, and show to the world that these don’t hold a candle to the backgrounds of the defendent’s expert witnesses :)
Comment by Lynn Vincentnatnathan — 26 Feb 2011 @ 1:11 PM
Apologies both, I know your words are well intentioned, but libel in the UK is a somewhat uncertain process that it is best, if possible, to avoid. Seb has highlighted some points above very well. Like Seb, I’m not a lawyer, and coincidentally I’m a Physicist to ;)
There are some UK references subtitled ‘guidelines’ for the unwary. The words are strikingly similar on each site.
(The purpose of libel law)
“Libel law protects individuals or organisations from unwarranted, mistaken or untruthful attacks on their reputation. A person is libelled if a publication:”
“Discredits them in their trade, business or profession”
(Get your facts right)
“The most important point is to make absolutely sure that what you are printing or writing is true. Do not make claims or accusations that you cannot prove. Even if you think you can do this, be cautious. Proving things in court can be very difficult.
And the test of what the words mean is what a reasonable reader is likely to take as their natural and ordinary meaning, in their full context – what you intended as the author or publisher is irrelevant.
If you write something that cannot be substantiated the credibility of your site, organisation or cause may be questioned. It can also land you with an expensive lawsuit and there is no legal aid for libel cases.”
(The burden of proof lies with the defendant)
Almost uniquely in English law, in libel cases the burden of proof lies with the author / publisher and not the complainant. In other words, you have to prove that what you write is true. The person you’ve targeted does not have to prove that you’re wrong.”
(From Bill’s letter):- “To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge”
(continuing with references..)
“Falsehood: If there is MALICE (ie deliberate telling of lies) then in rare cases there can be an action for malicious falsehood – this is a crime. If you commit malicious falsehood you can be prosecuted by the police, as well as having a civil action for compensation.”
@230 You may interpret Gavin’s comments as ‘lowering the bar’, i.e. peer review not as good as ‘Nature’ or ‘Science’, but the court may interpret “dispensing with any substantive” as meaning “non-existent” to the average man on the “Clapham omnibus”.
@231 ‘Expert Witnesses’ saying in their ‘view’ the papers weren’t any good is neither here nor there, you may have to actually ‘prove’ there was no peer review process.
As I said at the beginning, the process is ‘very’ uncertain, you’d have to very brave, or fool hardy, to venture down this path, if you had an option.
Apologies for the formatting, cut and paste screwed it up a bit ;) , Also, obviously, this should not be construed in any way as ‘legal advice’ – Ask someone who is qualified.
GSW: Your sources are out of date. Criminal libel no longer exists in the UK.
I think all this “concern” is a waste of time. Truth is not the only defence, and the meaning of the text must be taken in context – this means that all the people gleefully ignoring parts they don’t like are just creating hot air.
GSW, your supposed possible interpretations are wrong. If a miscarriage of justice did occur, then there would be grounds for appeal.
I will say it again: what Gavin has said is justified, is fair comment, and E&E have no reputation to defend.
Or are all these idiots coming here and trying to misread Gavin’s words cleverly trying to create grounds for how the “average man” might interpret them? If so, very clever. Unfortunately, the law is not interested in what idiots think. So go away. And take your “concern” with you.
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 26 Feb 2011 @ 8:08 PM
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line – you end up with a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature or conversation. It simply isn’t worth wading through the dross in the hope of finding something interesting.”
Some have interpreted this as saying all papers in E&E must be bad, but that idea simply does not match behavior in the real world. The old saw is relevant:
Once is an accident.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.
Even Science or Nature make mistakes, occasionally let something bad through, even fraud. Errata get published. Still, I can read them with fairly high confidence that there was serious peer review by people who actually knew something about the topic, that I don’t have to go through every citation in a paper to see if it says anything like what they claim, that it doesn’t break laws of physics, etc.
Suppose a journal published one bad paper, especially if it were out of its turf, like G&T, or Said, Wegman, et al (2008), or SSWR W.5.6, one might guess that something slipped by (or maybe worse, but maybe not). McShane&Wyner may be a somewhat similar (if less extreme) case.
Two like that would be seriously worrisome, but when one sees Beck, phlogiston, (endocrine surgeon) Schulte on consensus on climate, just to pick 3, it does not prove every paper is bad, but why would anyone bother to look?
If one cannot trust a journal to do serious peer review, what is its value-add? Why is at any better than a random blog?
As a slight analogy, one might consider my favorite dog astrology journal, JSE, most of whose articles are freely available on-line, allowing the reader to assess its nature. If one does not accept idea that astrology is proved by studying 500 Parisian puppies, that something weird happens when sheep are suffocated, one should not assume every article is bad. Actually, if you search for 19:2, the first article in that issue appears at first glance to be a reasonable debunk of crop circle theories, although I have not studied it enough to be sure. I am uncertain how that got in with reincarnation, a lament on the difficulty of publishing UFO research in serious journals, a paen for the PEAR project (mixed with lament for its passing), and David Deming’s praise for the science of Crichton’s State of Fear. That’s the one quoted by McKtrick and later Andrew Montford in HSI.
Gavin, you are NOT the father of Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen’s illegitimate child, also known as E&E.
BTW, methinks that one could parse Hughes’s following sentence;
“To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make.”
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line. ”
To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make. And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.
Gavin’s statement is a direct quote and a matter of fact (the quote, in and of itself, weather the statement is true or false or anywhere’s in between is inmaterial after the fact).
Hughes’s two sentence “interpretation” (above paragraph by Hughes following Gavin’s statement) of what Gavin actually stated are both incorrect and false statements RE:
“does not bother with peer review” is not what Gavin stated.
“that peer review is abandoned” is not what Gavin stated.
Both of these statements, as written, are false statements of what Gavin actually stated.
I do think that Gavin should bring a libel suit against Hughes, in the UK, for making, not one, but two false accusations/statements.
They don’t need to worry about hypothetical black swans, RC has to substantiate their claims
Yes, the claims refer to the white swans, which are the main topic of this thread. You will of course always find people who assert that white is black. One of the proper roles of courts is to recognise such assertions and ignore them.n
From: Bill Hughes
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2011 17:10:24 -0000
Gavin, according to todays Guardian, I am planning to sue you for libel. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if you read that interpretation into my email of last Friday, then I must apologise for not having expressed myself more clearly, and of course for any discomfort you felt.
Your comment of Feb 13th I felt, clearly strayed across the line from insult – with which I am well accustomed in respect of EE – into libel, which puts everyone in a far trickier position So my purpose in emailing you last Friday was to invite you to draw back slightly. I’m sorry that you didn’t take up my offer, for if you had much of this week’s unpleasantness could have been avoided.
So, even though I am convinced you have libelled EE, please be assured I am not actually intending to do anything about.
re: #244: What an unethical and dishonest person Mr. Hughes represents himself as. He admits to issuing threats without substance in an attempt to intimidate. The mauling the Guardian gave E&E was the least he deserves.
Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 27 Feb 2011 @ 12:47 PM
What a shame-
if Hughes hadn’t folded, and the Multi-Science sporting goods journals had joined in a class action, RC might have done some lucrative carbon fiber free driver endorsements.
What a mealy-mouthed, disingenuous, self-exculpatory pile of crap from Bill Hughes.
They say all publicity is good publicity. Can’t see it in this case… I know it would have meant a lot of extra work for Gavin, but I really would have liked to see this go to court. It could have served as a flag-ship case to expose the complete rottenness at the heart of the denialist position. Heigh ho: they look pretty damn stupid as it stands.
Well, one has to say, when one looks at the phrase and wording that got Singh into trouble over the BCA, I can not share your confidence in this matter. Sorry if nothing that small empirical fact makes me an idiot, perhaps wiser heads such as yourself can explain the wisdom of the courts that ruled the following statement:
\You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.\
was not a comment (and thus not dependable as fair comment) but a statement of fact and that the word bogus means that the treatments offered were not only ineffective, but that the BCA believed them to be so.
The law is perfectly capable of being an ass, so, you know what they say about \fools rushing in\. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter really.
On topic, I find it disappointing that EBSCO lists E&E as a peer-reviewed journal. An e-mail campaign by scientists to EBSCO recommending that they re-evaluate their position on E&E is, perhaps, warranted. Of course, any action on EBSCO’s part would be entirely their choice, but one would think that accuracy is important in their business, and a position which is at odds with those in the field can not look good.
[With that said, it’s quite possible that E&E’s peer review process in other arenas is adequate, and is only substandard in climate science.]
That (a “de-listing” by EBSCO as a peer-reviewed journal) would pretty much put an end to any chance of a libel suit, now or ever. Then I’d like to see E&E threaten to sue EBSCO for their action.
[Not that an actual suit was ever much of a likelihood… E&E has everything to lose, and relatively little to gain, from such a course. In fact, even if they could have won the suit, they might still have suffered a net loss from lost future submissions, subscriptions and professional respect from the overall process. The main defense would have to have been to subpoena the names and documents of all authors and reviewers, both published and rejected, so that RC could prove its position. It would have been a field day, and probably a personal inconvenience and embarrassment to many involved, authors and reviewers alike. It really was never an option for them, methinks.]
Why do you go to such effort to forget the final outcome of the case? Singh got into trouble because he framed the general view as unequivocal fact – but reason still prevailed.
And let’s not forget that Singh may still have been able to prove that the statement was indeed fact – he just didn’t want to rely on that defence alone.
I’m not going to argue with you further about the merits of the Singh case, since you have clearly made up your mind.
But as for me, I’m glad that newspapers can’t libel people easily in the UK. It’s not like the media is a nice, friendly entity. Even individual journalists…. look at Monbiot: one day defending climate change science with every fibre of his being – the next day attacking Phil Jones and saying the most indefensible, shocking things about him.
Didaktylos, the whole argument now seems sterile as they have made clear that they have no intent to sue.
However, you should read more carefully. See post 219:
“Simon Singh won in the end, after appeal IIRC, but it took time and money. If RC did not invest time and money (probably, being in the US and protected against UK courts now, they have no immediate need to answer any lawsuit) and lose by default (or even if they need to fight to win on appeal) denialists have a fantastic totem of “Warmenism proven wrong in court of law” crap that is going to make trying to convince people about the validity of the science all the more harder.”
As you can see, I have no intention of forgetting the final outcome. If you are going to go around calling people idiots, it might be best to read what they wrote first.
To expound a bit, Singh LOST on facts. He was unable to prove it, and he would not be given leave to appeal on that argument again. He lost for the simple reason that the Judge decided to interpret his words to mean something different than he did mean, and his words as statements of fact rather than comment. This left his only defense, of truth, to be to prove something that he never claimed to be the truth in the first place: that the BCA promoted treatments knowing that they wouldn’t work. That is next to impossible to prove.
His appeal was on the grounds that his statements were clearly comment, the appeal succeeded, allowing him fair comment defense, and the BCA withdrew.
On the other hand, the post we are responding to looks far more a statement of fact than fair comment, and it is worded in such a way that a strict interpretation of the meaning of the words and the impression given in context is firstly much closer to statement of fact than Singhs article is, and I do think there is a real possibility that readers could take away a message that is more than what was meant.
The fact that you and I can agree to what is means doesn’t mean that the court will, as Singhs case showed, and the fact that Singh managed to get a court to agree, in the end, after a lot of time and money, that it was comment, not factual statements is no guarantee that this line of defense would be open to RC. Hence the concern.
Given that RC hasn’t got the Guardian standing behind it, and unlike Singh has no financial need to even answer the case, and if they did initially lose and then won on appeal, that would still leave a lot of grounds for people to repeat a misleading lie about “climatologists convicted liers”. I’d find that very difficult personally, as when convincing people about the professionalism and integrity of climate science, and informing them of the basic science itself, I’d rather not have this very useful site dismissed out of hand as “oh, but they are convicted liers”. That’s all a pointless risk that I think is worth a minor edit in language to avoid.
That’s all very clear in the other posts, I’ve got nothing more to say on the issue, and as it is irrelevant now anyway, perhaps best to let sleeping dogs lie.
re: 255, 256
Well, I laughed at the Sokal episode and postmodernism stuff as much as any, and have no love for the left when it goes anti-science, but I’m afraid that NYT Times article was seriously ill-informed in claiming climate anti-science was based on tactics from the left.
1) This is strongly derived from the cigarette guys, using the Hill&Knowlton tactics. See Allan Brandt, The Cigarette Century.
2) See how this transitioned into climate anti-science, which got rolling on a small scale around 1990 with the George Marshall Institute folks, as per Merchants of Doubt. Those guys were not exactly left.
3) The same thinktanks that organize much of this learned the trade from the cigarette work. See CCC, pp.93-95, where entities that do climate anti-science also had tobacco connections (“T”) in first line. Many of these entities are very rightward, although some act more as nonprofit PR agency/lobbyists.
4) Try the Tobacco Archives, such as this or especially this, wherein the tobacco guys say who they work with or how much they paid them. Let’s see:
AEI, CATO, CEI, Manhattan, TASCC, Reason, Heartland, Frontiers of Freedom, Alexis de Tocqueville, George Mason Law&Economics Center, Americans for Tax Reform.
Commonwealth Foundation (that may not be so obvious, but I’m from PA. That’s run by one of Richard Mellon Scaife’s guys and does stuff like buying attack ads in the Penn State Daily Collegian to go after Mike Mann. But it did help with tobacco.)
Pacific Research Institute, Independent Institute, Heritage, NCPA, Annapolis Center.
Most of these are mentioned in the CCC document. Maybe some of the others in the tobacco list are left, but these are mostly on right. Many are funded by Scaife or Koch, never accused of leftishness.
5) Bottom line: the NYT Times article was poorly informed.
Guys, OT here, but can you help. Winth in the last year I read a post on RC about solving the world’s energy demands with large solar arrays in the equatorial deserts. Can’t seem to find it by searching or browsing topics. I like to cite it.
Comment by calyptorhynchus — 27 Feb 2011 @ 11:20 PM
Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Feb 2011 @ 12:11 AM
#260 John Mashey says:
Agree with you 100%, the author of that article was born in 1965, how would see remember such things while still in dippers?
Probably something she was told from some extreme left-wing wonks while in college. Or read it in a book.
I’m 57, I remember the 60’s, there was never a left wing anti-science crowd, at best it was an anti-authoritarian crowd focused almost entirely on Vietnam and Tricky Dick and sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll.
“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate.”
“At the moment” cannot but be interpreted as anything other than suggesting escalation if conditions are not met.
“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate, but am prepared to take further action if your response is not satisfactory.”
To spin this to mean anything else is absurd, to wit:
“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate, but I will probably settle down, so don’t bother.”
This is all reinforced with the use of “merely” which is meant to emphasize his action could be more severe. To wit:
“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate, but am prepared to take further action if you do not respond satisfactorily.” Or are we supposed to think “merely” means:
“At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate. But who am I kidding? A wink and a fiver under the table when next we meet would be grand! You’re such a rascal! Kiss-kiss!”
Re #261: I don’t recall such a post here, but Climate Progress definitely covered it. The reference is to a specific project to bring Sahara solar to Europe, and IIRC some work has gone ahead on at least the planning for such a thing.
Interesting to read. Just an apropos, also inspired by your previous title “How easy it is to get fooled”. I’m looking forward to comments on this site about this:
“(…) Publishing an extensive set of temperature records is the first goal of Muller’s project. The second is to turn this vast haul of data into an assessment on global warming. Here, the Berkeley team is going its own way again. The big three groups – Nasa, Noaa and the Met Office – work out global warming trends by placing an imaginary grid over the planet and averaging temperatures records in each square. So for a given month, all the records in England and Wales might be averaged out to give one number. Muller’s team will take temperature records from individual stations and weight them according to how reliable they are.(…)”
“Reliable” here seems to open up the possiblity for a lot of altering of the data sets, and we can “look forward” to further and endless “climategates” in the corporate media. People presenting themselves as scientific superheroes finally coming up with the “objective” conclusion, as Muller does here, always raises my suspicion. Contrary to his own claims, this presentation of his project resembles exactly the spin he claims to be working to free us all from. Not very promising…
Muller as his views are presented in the Guardian interview seems to me not to be as unbiased as he wants to appear:
“You might think three groups was enough, but Muller rolls out a list of shortcomings, some real, some perceived, that he suspects might undermine public confidence in global warming records. For a start, he says, warming trends are not based on all the available temperature records. The data that is used is filtered and might not be as representative as it could be. He also cites a poor history of transparency in climate science, though others argue many climate records and the tools to analyse them have been public for years.”
Another point raises my scepticism even more:
“One donor has had some climate bloggers up in arms: the man behind the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation owns, with his brother David, Koch Industries, a company Greenpeace called a “kingpin of climate science denial”. On this point, Muller says the project has taken money from right and left alike.”
The Koch oil-billionaire brothers are the main financial supporters behind the so-called “Tea-party” “movement”, starring as it’s front figures the oil fanatic Sarah Palin and the right wing extremists in Fox News etc.
What “left” should mean in this company of US superbillionaires (does Muller consider Bill Gates “left”?) is not very clear to say the least. In this world at least one thing is very, very clear: almost everyone in the upper classes around the world, including chinese communist leaders, saudi kings etc. are by now not very fond of man-made global warming, because they feel it threatens their oil-made model of human life. To me it seems that these people are making stronger and stronger efforts to “free” humankind of the unpleasant news from climate science, oceanography (growing pH in the seas stemming from higher CO2-levels in the atmosphere – probably an even worse threat than global warming) etc. or, in short, to “free” us all from the unpleasant realities that now undermine “the american way of life”.
Comment by Karsten Johansen — 28 Feb 2011 @ 4:42 AM
Well, I’m glad that’s over and done with, then.
Re: the NYT piece (#255, 256, 260),
I agree with John Mashey’s reminder above. But a central element of the tobacco strategy as I understand it involved working with elite right-wing scientists to foster research and researchers that could underline the uncertainties. It did not rely on undermining faith in scientists and the scientific process as such. The climate-denial industry has in part continued that strategy (minus the tobacco companies’ largesse in funding real, if distracting, research).
But there’s a vocal strand that’s just anti-science, anti-scientist, anti-expert, anti-elite. That’s what populism does, left or right. I’d look to endogenous anti-science antecedents on the populist right before assuming they’ve borrowed the clothes of the populist left.
As for the idea that climate denial is somehow fed by relativism from science studies, I don’t get it. My impression is most voices in the denialsphere strongly distrust any approach to science with “post-” or “-construct-” in its name.
“Fact Free Journalism: how the right is using ‘journalistic balance’ to discredit climate change”
We can only wish.
Comment by Horatio Algeranon — 28 Feb 2011 @ 8:32 AM
In the fall-out from this, how many “scientists” actually outed themselves as peer-reviewers for E & E?
I counted two. Craig Loehle and Richard Tol. (I could write LOL here… in fact I have). Loehle is the logging industry’s chief scientist at the perhaps misleadingly named National Council for Air & Stream Improvement. He also appears to have written a book called Becoming a Successful Scientist… Given the kicking his 2007 paper at E & E got here – http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/12/past-reconstructions/ – I’m not sure he’s the best qualified person to write a tome with that title.
Tol, is an economist who comes up with gems such as “poor and exhausted people are unlikely to take up arms, and if they do, they are probably not very effective”, when confronted by a hypothetical Third World terrorism scenario resulting from climate change. So that’s all right then…
1. Simon Singh won on appeal because, as you say, Eady J was wrong at first instance on the issue of whether the complained of words were assertions of fact or were comment. He spent the money and was invovled in the time not because of any inherent defect in English (and Welsh) libel law, but because a judge got it wrong – an error corrected on appeal;
2. The views of a very strong Court of Appeal in Singh on where the line is to be drawn between fact and honest opinion will not be ignored in any subsequent litigation; any judge hearing E&E v Schmidt will err more toward considering Gavin’s views opinion rather than fact as a result.
3. The Grauniad did not support Simon Singh.
What is unduly claimant-friendly about a position, common to all common-law systems bar one (taking the US for these purposes as a single sytem), that whoever makes an allegation has to back it up? If the police accuse me of wrongdoing, I am entitled to ask them to prove it or shut up; the same should apply to the DailyMail.
> “poor and exhausted people are unlikely to take up arms, and if
> they do, they are probably not very effective”
That reminded me of a paper worth a look, on how to question beliefs:
“… people who are highly certain of their beliefs … will be particularly reluctant to make statements that might misrepresent their true beliefs …. most people … will feel that they have been misconstrued if someone asks them a question implying that they have extremely conservative beliefs, such as “Why do you think it’s a good thing to keep women barefoot and pregnant?”
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
1988, Vol. 54, No. 2, 268-273
Change Through Paradox: Using Self-Verification to Alter Beliefs
(That paper also may explain why we get denier types in whose questions assume absurdly exaggerated claims that they want to attribute to climate scientists: a difference in how people react. People highly certain of their beliefs hunker down when offered information that contradicts their beliefs, but may change when their beliefs lead them to extreme statements.)
Tol apparently hasn’t said anything he considers extreme enough to make him reconsider his beliefs, yet.
“But a central element of the tobacco strategy as I understand it involved working with elite right-wing scientists to foster research and researchers that could underline the uncertainties. It did not rely on undermining faith in scientists and the scientific process as such. The climate-denial industry has in part continued that strategy (minus the tobacco companies’ largesse in funding real, if distracting, research).”
The tobacco industry funded both:
a) general skepticism towards scientists and science in general
b) science or sciencey-looking publication likely to increase uncertainty
p.8 on Hill&Knowlton tobacco strategy and similarity with climate anti-science
p.76 on TASSC, of which I claim
“It is a classic example of
tobacco companies trying to “hide in the crowd” of general anti-science.”
p.140 on Steve Milloy, see especially the Sourcewatch article listed there.
The fossil folks learned to do better money-laundering, and:
p.10 shows the flows of funding and memes. There is both fossil and tobacco money flowing through a maze of thinktanks and fronts, and eventually ends up in books by “scientists.” it is very hard to track.
pp.36-37, references DEF2002 (de Freitas), ESS2002 (which got money in an interesting way), GMI1990 (which may or may not have had any industry funding that early), SOO2003 (Soon & Baliunas, whose first sponsor was API).
pp.93-95 shows matrix of funders versus thinktanks. ExxonMobil is shown, but pp.47-48 describes some of the Foundations, of which the most relevant are the 3 Koch-related ones and 3 of the Richard Mellon Scaife ones. They, plus Earhart are clearly fossil-fuel-related.
p.87 NIPCC money through Heartland; who funded it?
Of course, a current effort that may be legitimate (it has some good people associated) is ,a href=”http://berkeleyearth.org/index”>BEST, which has some reasonable donors. It also has Charles Koch, which might be a concern, given the vast array of climate anti-science efforts he has funded. We’ll see when they publish and how; so far, it seems to be release by website of something to fix climate science’s problems.
John, the Berkeley EST project has changed their anticipated date for showing the data three times that I’ve noticed, just in the past week or two — first the page said it would be available in late 2010, changed to early 2011, now to “first half of 2011″ — and that’s for the raw data.
They ought to be able to make raw data files available. Heck, they could just list the sources where they got it so others could look up the original info.
I’m hoping. But their stated approach –using raw data rather than data plus metadata corrections– is bound to increase the error range and uncertainty of the result, isn’t it?
Actually, I must say it reminded me to have a re-read of Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”:
Give me your tired, your poor…
Comment by Jaime Frontero — 28 Feb 2011 @ 12:44 PM
I must say Gavin’s smile looks so very smug in the Guardian picture, right next to the Seinfeld restaurant. No wonder Hughes is so mad…
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 28 Feb 2011 @ 1:24 PM
Re: Richard Tol on poor and exhausted people (#275, 277),
You forgot to quote his next sentence: “The human suffering would be substantial nonetheless.” He’s not saying poor, exhausted people are a good thing. He’s discussing whether a given scenario is likely to lead to violent conflict.
Much as I prefer Lord Stern’s perspective to Richard Tol’s, he still deserves to be quoted fairly (and FWIW I think he has a point in the statement quoted).
Koch funding of BEST sounds most like the kind of tobacco funding I alluded to — a more sophisticated approach than funding third-rate studies (e.g. Soon and Baliunas) and researchers at ideological think-tanks. But the contrast I was drawing obviously breaks down at a case like Milloy. Thanks for the pointers, I’ll think harder about this.
OK. He should be quoted fully, but he’s still got it badly wrong IMO. Does he really think that successful guerrilla movements down the years regularly got a full night’s sleep and three square meals a day?! I’m sorry, I reckon the man’s a got a *very* distorted view of history as well as science. They fight specifically (and often effectively) *because* they’re tired of being tired and hungry. One of the places Tol is commenting on is the Horn of Africa. I didn’t see the well-equipped US Army doing so well against So mali irregulars… and when the *whole* populace rises up…
One of the aspects of the denialist position I hate most is when they try and tell us that action to curb carbon emissions will ‘hurt the Third World most’. Mendacious, self-serving nonsense…
This is straying off-topic.
In my first post, I genuinely wanted to know if anyone had seen any other E & E peer reviewers poke their heads out of their burrows in the recent to-ing and fro-ing. I think this sort of thing is worth knowing.
One could quote Tol correctly and he could still be entirely wrong. If Pakistan sees more severe weather events as a result of climate change and quality of life degrades further, nuclear weapons could become available to a variety of disgruntled parties.
Comment by Charlie Harnett — 28 Feb 2011 @ 4:34 PM
I’m hoping. But their stated approach –using raw data rather than data plus metadata corrections– is bound to increase the error range and uncertainty of the result, isn’t it?
Oh, wait ….
Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Feb 2011 @ 11:41 AM
That’s a bit amusing…. because I recently wrote up a little app that implements a simple gridding/averaging routine, and then I used it to crunch GHCN raw monthly-mean data.
Not bad for an amateur playing with “raw data”, eh? This is what I was able to produce from a simple, spare-time “programming with beer” project over a period of just a few days. I used a 20-deg by 20-deg (at the equator, compensated for latitude) grid-size (nice round numbers, big enough to capture multiple stations per grid-cell in sparsely sampled areas — no other particular reasons).
I keep hearing about all these projects that are supposedly going to “set the record straight” by producing results from “non manipulated” data, but I never get to see any of the final results (even though my own “raw data” project took me just a few days…)
“1. Simon Singh won on appeal because, as you say, Eady J was wrong at first instance on the issue of whether the complained of words were assertions of fact or were comment.”
Correct, the point is this highlights the risk.
“He spent the money and was invovled in the time not because of any inherent defect in English (and Welsh) libel law, but because a judge got it wrong – an error corrected on appeal”
Hmm, I disagree in the sense that the Law is too strong in many respects and allows it to get to this point. It’s not *just* Singh after all, who has been put into a position of “invest a lot of time and money or shut up”, there have been medical researchers for example, put in this situation. Note, I don’t think you always get your costs apportioned to the loser if you win in the end.
“The views of a very strong Court of Appeal in Singh on where the line is to be drawn between fact and honest opinion will not be ignored in any subsequent litigation;”
1. Something you would want to get from an experienced UK Libel lawyer than to assume.
2. The language and style used by Singh is actually very different from that used by Gavins post plus the follow up. By way of an example, an interpretation of Singh says, more or less, “there is no evidence this works, so my oppinion as a good scientist is that it doesn’t” (Note, do courts operate under Occams Razor?) and “therefore the BCA shouldn’t be peddling treatments that haven’t been proven to work”.
A similar interpretation of Gavins article says “E&E have dispesnesed with any real peer review for articles relating to climate change, as we can see from x,y,z”, that sounds more statement of fact. Again, without solid legal advice I personally wouldn’t want to be in the position of assuming that the “correct” ruling is that the piece is a statement of oppinion vs. a statement of fact. Unless you are legal expert in these areas, it seems really cavalier to me to display a degree of confidence that the court will reach a particular interpretation that a degree of caution wouldn’t be worthwhile.
3. The Grauniad did not support Simon Singh.
Yes they did. For the first case, they paid for his legal advice and offered to pay the settlement if he wished to avoid court. What they did not do is offer to pay the dammages if he lost, nor did they support his appeal. One wonders if Singh would have settled in the first place if he had not had the Gaurdian payings what can be incredibly expensive legal advice… and one can see the problem with the law more clearly. It would be more helpful to have some kind of consistent weight given to scientific statements, particular regarding what is regarded true and not true in areas where a scientific debate is ongoing. Researchers need to be able to publish stuff that reads like statements of fact, which they believe to be true, but which can turn out to be wrong without threat of being asked to engage in several months of incredibly expensive litigation.
Back to the original topic:
Bill Hughes says this was brought to his attention.
That’s actually interesting.
1) Does Bill Hughes follow RC, either in person or via Google Alerts?
2) If not, who out there might have brought it to his attention.
This was obviously not very serious. Let us hope that anyone is both serious and an Associate Editor learns if this and is invited to comment here.
Should they also be allowed to tell your boss that it is a matter of record that you are, say a thief, if you are employed in a position of financial responsibility, thereby ruining your career? (One can construct nastier versions that get you killed by vigilantes of course.)
Hence the distinction between statements of fact and statements of opinion in UK libel law.
Oh, sigh, the NY Times article. I agree about disagreeing with the leftish stuff (62 myself).
But since digging in about climate science (around 2004) have seen everything turned, as I said, upside down and inside out – it’s accelerated from a few days to within 24 hours.
As to authority on that, you should see my underlined and annotated copy of Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science. Naomi Oreskes covers some of the same ground, as do others such as Schneider. Also seemingly endless hours research – had to look up Fred Seitz and read right through the record to get it straight. It was surprising how google seemed to always put the denial stuff at or near the top. I was startled by the denial stuff and at first wondered if I would find something in it, but every hole I went down had something corrupt at the bottom.
I’ve posted endless rebuttals of each new “expert”, often culled from you guys or elsewhere if the words did the job than I could.
Well, this is too much all about me, but it never does to understimate the power and skill of the professional denialosphere, and the emotional ties with which it binds its acolytes.
What bothers me is that as far as I can see they are winning as time goes sifting by.
Oh, and re BEST, while I appreciate that if it were in any way genuine it couldn’t contradict the data, I don’t think “wait and see” has worked well so far. OTOH, do we have a choice?
Libel Should they also be allowed to tell your boss that it is a matter of record that you are, say a thief…
Yes. Anyone should be allowed to say anything, and listners be allowed to make up their own minds about the claims, as well as the credibility of the speaker. If I want to say E&E or Nature or Science and or their writers are biased or politically motivated, that should be a-ok. That’s not to say groundless criticism is a good thing, just that the suppression of it is far worse and open to abuse. A bit like with say prostitution and drug Prohibition.
It’s not as if they never reject anything. I once submitted a rebuttal, which resulted in my becoming embroiled in argument with the original author by email, and my rebuttal didn’t get published. So they do have standards. If you point out something in E&E is junk they don’t publish. Your rebuttal, I mean.
Relate this and some of the things reported here to allegations the denial camp have about peer review. In general: if they accuse the mainstream of X where X is completely unreasonable there is a 0.999999 probability that the mainstream isn’t doing it but they are, a propaganda tactic beloved of tinpot dictators. Indicates where these people are coming from.
“Note, I don’t think you always get your costs apportioned to the loser if you win in the end.”
The general rule is subject to very limited exceptions; but unless you actually lose on issues (in which case your costs may be discounted), or do something particularly heinous in conduct of the litigation appallingly, it’s a safe bet you’ll get your costs.
“Yes they did. For the first case, they paid for his legal advice and offered to pay the settlement if he wished to avoid court. What they did not do is offer to pay the dammages if he lost, nor did they support his appeal.”
That isn’t quite the case; see Simon’s article here:
“Initially The Guardian newspaper tried its best to settle the matter out of court by making what seemed to be a very generous offer. There was an opportunity for the BCA to write a 500 word response to my article to be published in The Guardian, allowing the BCA to present its evidence. There was also the offer of a clarification in the “Corrections and Clarifications” column, which would have pointed out: “The British Chiropractic have told us they have substantial evidence supporting the claim they make on their website that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. (Beware the spinal trap, page 26, April 19).”
Unfortunately, the BCA rejected these offers and moreover made it absolutely clear that it was not suing The Guardian, but rather it was suing me personally. At this point The Guardian newspaper chose to step back.”
So the Grauniad withdrew at the commencement of the claim; Simon fought the claim both before Eady J and the Court of Appeal.
On the more general position; insofar as it is required after the Court of Appeal decision, I’d agree with Jack of Kent and support the extension of qualified privilege to scientific commentary on issues of public health or safety (broadly defined).
I totally agree with what a previous commenter said. The peer review process is completely run-down and I’m surprised it hasn’t been reformed by now. The only that is worse is their reputation after trying to go through with this.