RealClimate logo

The Guardian disappoints

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 February 2010

Over the last few weeks or so the UK Guardian (who occasionally reprint our posts) has published a 12-part series about the stolen CRU emails by Fred Pearce that are well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting. We delineate some of the errors and misrepresentations below. While this has to be seen on a backdrop of an almost complete collapse in reporting standards across the UK media on the issue of climate change, it can’t be excused on the basis that the Mail or the Times is just as bad. As a long-time Guardian reader and avid Guardian crossword puzzle solver, I’m extremely unhappy writing this post, but the pathologies of media reporting on this issue have become too big to ignore.

We highlight issues with three of the articles below, which revisit a number of zombie arguments that have been doing the rounds of the sceptic blogs for years. Two follow-up pieces will deal with two further parts of the series. Hopefully some of the more egregious factual errors can be fixed as part of a ‘group experiment‘ in improving the stories, though the larger misconceptions probably can’t be (and readers should feel free to use this information to comment on the articles directly). Why the Guardian is asking for group input after the stories were published instead of before is however a puzzle. Some of the other pieces in this series are fine, which makes the ones that get it so wrong all the more puzzling. The errors consist of mistakes in the basic science, misunderstandings of scientific practice, more out of context quotes and some specific issues that are relatively new. (In the text below, quotes from the articles are in italics).

Part 3: Hockey Sticks

Some of the more egregious confusions and errors were in the third part of the series. In this part, a number of issues that were being discussed among the paleo-community in 1999 were horribly mixed up. For instance, there was a claim that arguments on the zeroth-order draft of the 2001 IPCC report were based on Briffa’s reconstruction showed the 11th century as being almost as warm as the 20th century, while Mann’s graph found little sign of the earlier warming. But this is simply untrue since at the time Briffa’s curve only went back to 1400 AD (not the 11th Century) and the discussions had nothing to do with the medieval warm period, but rather the amount of multi-decadal variability in the three different reconstructions then available. This was corrected in the online edition, but the description of the dispute in the article is still very confused.

That discussion was conflated with a completely separate April 1999 issue based on a disagreement about a perspectives piece in Science (which appeared as Briffa and Osborn, 1999) and which was in any case amicably resolved.

That discussion is then further confused with the discussions about the framing of the SPM text which despite Pearce claiming that ‘the emails reveal how deeply controversial it was at the time, did not get discussed in the emails at all. And while the article claimed that the uncertainty was not discussed in the IPCC report, the discussion in Chapter 2 was actually quite extensive.

Part 5: Chinese weather stations

This piece concerns the response of Phil Jones at CRU to a FOI request for data that had been used in a 1990 paper on the urban heat island (UHI). This now-20 year old paper was an early attempt to try and assess the possible magnitude of the UHI impact on the global temperature records. (Note that this is not the same as thinking that UHI does not exist).

Starting from the headline “Leaked climate change emails scientist ‘hid’ data flaws” on down, the article is full of misrepresentations. To start with, the data in question (and presumably it’s flaws) were not hidden by anyone, but rather had been put on the CRU server in 2007 response to a FOI request. Hardly ‘hidden’. Exactly contrary to the truth of the matter, the article incorrectly asserted that ‘Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws’.

These data assumed a much greater importance later in 2007 when they were used for a completely unsubstantiated claim of ‘fabrication’ and ‘fraud’ against Wei-Chyung Wang (a co-author on the paper) at SUNY Albany by a certain Douglas Keenan. These charges were found by the university to be baseless in 2009 and the matter was dropped. However, the Guardian noted that a couple of the emails mentioned the issue, and that one in particular had Tom Wigley asking Phil Jones about the situation. Curiously enough, Phil Jones’ response was not part of the archive, and Wigley’s current thoughts on the subject (presumably that have been informed by Jones’ answers) were not reported.

Pearce describes this conversation saying that ‘new information brought to light today indicates at least one senior colleague had serious concerns about the affair‘. However, Tom Wigley has subsequently passed on later conversations to me showing very clearly that he did not support Keenan’s allegations of ‘fabrication’ and the implication that he does here are very misleading. Indeed, the statement that ‘Tom Wigley, harboured grave doubts about the cover-up‘ is completely false. There was no ‘cover-up’; the email was written two years after the data had been posted online.

The line in the 1990 paper that has apparently caused the furore is the following:

“The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.”

For fraud to have been proven, it would have been necessary to show that Wang – at the time of the 1990 paper – deliberately misled in the line as it was written. It would not be enough to show that the statement was mistaken because of incomplete histories available to him at that time, nor that some stations had in fact moved. The statement is a declaration of a good faith effort to pick suitable stations. Instead, you would have to demonstrate that Wang was aware of substantial and important moves that made a material difference and deliberately concealed this fact. And for this there is absolutely no evidence. Keenan’s assumption of fabrication is merely that, an assumption.

Wigley’s ‘grave doubts’ were a suggestion that the key line be rewritten as

“Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”

A change that doesn’t undermine the paper in the slightest, and would hardly be likely to set the blogosphere aflame.

Quite frankly this whole allegation is absurd – why would anyone do this? All the authors involved have written many papers on the problems in the temperature record and on Urban Heat Islands in general, and even in China. Indeed the story here is that information was provided under FOI rules, and that it was not used to constructively examine the science, but rather to provide ammunition for baseless accusations that led to pointless university inquiries into alleged misconduct. That might be a good reason for why FOI requests are now being viewed with suspicion.

Other claims that this ‘may yet result in a significant revision of a scientific paper that is still cited by the UN’s top climate science body‘ . and that ‘what data is available suggests that the findings are fundamentally flawed‘ are simply made up. The findings of the 1990 paper was that UHI was unlikely to be contaminating the global temperature records in any significant way has been upheld by any number of additional studies in the 20 years since it was published. Oceans are not warming because of UHI, spring is not coming earlier because of UHI, and indeed, glaciers are not melting because of UHI (they are of course melting, recent news reports notwithstanding). No evidence of significant UHI contamination was found by Parker (2004, 2006), the record from GISTEMP which applies a different UHI correction than HadCRUT does not differ substantially at the global or regional scale. Other studies by Peterson, Jones, and others all show similar results. Even the more recent analyses of the Chinese stations themselves and even in an environment where urbanisation is happening faster than ever, UHI effects are still small (Jones et al, 2008).

As an aside, Keenan has made a cottage industry of accusing people of fraud whenever someone writes a paper of which he disapproves. He has attempted to get the FBI to investigate Mike Mann, pursued a vendetta against a Queen’s University Belfast researcher, and has harassed a French graduate student with fraud accusations based on completely legitimate choices in data handling. More recently Keenan, who contacted Wigley after having seen the email mentioned in the Pearce story, came to realise that Wigley was not in agreement with his unjustified allegations of ‘fraud’. In response, Keenan replied (in an email dated Jan 10, 2010) that:

.. this has encouraged me to check a few of your publications: some are so incompetent that they seem to be criminally negligent.

Sincerely, Doug

This kind of knee-jerk presumption of misconduct (and criminal misconduct at that) when people disagree with you has no place in the scientific discourse, and serves only to poison scientific debate. Indeed, Jones adds in one of the emails: “I’d be far happier if they would write some papers and act in the normal way. I’d know how to respond to that”. For the Guardian to dignify this kind of behaviour – especially after the charges had been investigated and dismissed – is unconscionable and a public apology should be forthcoming to Jones, Wigley and Wang.

Part 6: Peer review

The discussion of peer review is the most replete with basic misconceptions about the scientific process. Pearce appears to conflate any rejection of a paper or even a negative review for any reason as a prima facie case of mainstream climate scientists … censoring their critics. But in none of the cases highlighted were anyone’s view ‘censored’. To have your opinion published in peer-reviewed literature is not some fundamental right – it is a privilege that depends on your ability to do the analysis and the marshal the logical arguments and data to support your point.

Pearce, surprisingly for someone who has been on a science beat for a long time, states that peer review is the supposed gold standard of scientific merit. This is not the case at all. As we’ve outlined in many articles, peer review is just a first (necessary) step towards scientific acceptance and as the number of badly flawed papers that do appear in the literature attest, it is no guarantee of merit. For it to work of course there need to be some standards that should ideally be met, and this will lead to the rejection of some submissions. Thus automatically equating rejections of bad submissions with squashing of ‘dissent’ is like assuming that anyone who gets an F on a test is being unfairly discriminated against.

Pearce also declares that the mere act of reviewing a paper that is critical of your own work is mired in ‘conflicts of interest that would not be allowed in most professions‘. This is wrong on multiple levels. First of all, peer review of the literature is hardly unique to climate science, and so his claim about improper conflicts of interest is an accusation against the whole of science, not just climatology. Secondly, he confuses the role of the reviewer with that of the editor. Editors often solicit reviews of a critical comment directly from those being criticised, since that is often the easiest way to judge whether the critique is substantive. That is not the same as giving the right of veto to the criticised authors since, of course, it’s the editor’s job to weigh the different reviews from different sources, and use their own judgment as to the merits of the critique. Not asking the original authors for comment can certainly be (and has been) problematic and unfair to them. The problems most often arise – such as in Soon and Baliunas (2003) or McIntyre and McKitrick (2003;2005) when the criticised authors are not involved at all.

In the cases mentioned in this article, there is absolutely no evidence of unfair discrimination. Indeed, in one case of a submission by Lars Kamel, the reasons for rejection are obvious and Pearce appears not to know what the criteria for acceptance even are. He states that “the finding sounded important, but his paper was rejected by Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) that year“. But papers are not accepted or rejected because a finding ‘sounds important’, but because that finding is backed up by analysis and logic while acknowledging the prior work on the topic. In this case, the author did not “however, justify that conclusion with any data or analysis“, and so a rejected manuscript would have been very likely, regardless of who the reviewers were. Similarly, the assumption that “some would have recommended publication” purely because it called into question previous work is unsupportable as a general rule. Filling the literature with papers ‘just asking questions’ that ‘sound important’ but not demonstrating any actual results is a recipe for wasting everyone’s time with poorly thought out, and even mendacious, critiques of mainstream science from HIV-denial to perpetual motion machines. Papers in the technical literature are not just opinion.

Pearce also assumes (without evidence) that Kamel was discriminated against because Jones “would certainly have been aware of Kamel’s [negative] views about mainstream climate research“. But why should this be assumed? Most scientists (luckily) go through their whole career without wasting their time investigating and cataloguing the cranks in their field. Some climate sceptics get addressed here on RC a fair bit, but it would be a big mistake to think that these people, particularly the more obscure ones, are the subject of water cooler conversations at climate research labs across the world. Indeed, I can find no reference to Kamel on RC at all and I was unaware of his peculiar views until this story emerged. Why Jones should be assumed to omniscient on this topic is unclear.

Pearce quotes McIntyre discussing “CRU’s policies of obstructing critical articles in the peer-reviewed literature” slowing the resolution of unspecified “issues”. This is simply disingenuous – what papers have been obstructed that would have resolved what issues? We are unaware of any such papers, and certainly none from McIntyre. Prior therefore to declaring that “evidence, flawed though it might be, is actively being kept out of the journals” it behoves Pearce to actually find such evidence. Otherwise, the simple non-appearance of these mythical critiques is apparently proof of the corruption of the peer review process.

As an additional example of problematic practice, Pearce highlights a June 2003 email from Keith Briffa, who as an editor ‘emailed fellow tree-ring researcher Edward Cook, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, saying: “Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”‘. However, without context this is meaningless. People often sign reviews and this could well have been a second go around on a particular paper whose first round reviews would have been seen by everyone concerned. Briffa (like many editors) can have a feeling that a paper should be rejected for multiple reasons but would like to have the reasons gone into in some detail, mostly for the benefit of the authors. This is one reason why reviewing bad papers is so much more work than good ones. Quoting this as if it absolutely demonstrated bad faith or misconduct is simply a smear.

Pearce then accuses Cook of some unjustified quid-pro-quo because he wanted to use some of Briffa’s data to assess the practical implications of a new analysis technique, that Pearce interprets as “attacking his own tree-ring work“. However, this too is a misreading. The work in question has subsequently been revised and the authors themselves have said that the current submission is improved over the initial submission. It goes along with the overall point made above, that pure criticism is not particularly useful – it is much better to demonstrate that some technical point actually matters. This is what Cook appears to be asking for help to demonstrate.

The article then moves on to the issue of the 2003 Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research. Pearce nowhere acknowledges that it is (and was) widely regarded as a complete failure of the peer review system. Six (very independent minded) editors resigned from the journal because of the publisher’s inaction on tightening up peer review standards and even the publisher himself declared that the paper’s conclusions were not supported by the data or analysis of the authors. Is this not germane?

Pearce suggests that the reaction to the demonstrably low standards at Climate Research involved “improper pressure“. This has no validity whatsoever. The suggestion was made that maybe people should not submit work to the journal or cite work that appeared there. But how can a suggestion made among colleagues and not transmitted more widely be ‘pressure’ of any sort? People have their impressions about journals determined by many factors, and if they are seen to be publishing bad papers, that will be noted. Compare the reputations of Science and E&E for instance. Which would you rather be published in if you had a good paper?

The one email that Pearce declares “means what it seems to mean” refers to the declaration (along with exclamation point) that Jones would “redefine peer-review!” rather than include two flawed papers in the AR4 report. But it should be obvious that no-one gets to redefine what ‘peer reviewed’ means, and the exclamation point underlines the fact that this was hyperbole. The two papers referred to (McKitrick and Michaels, 2004; Kalnay and Cai, 2003)) were indeed discussed in Chapter 2 of AR4 as the contributing lead author of that chapter Trenberth rightly pointed out. As an aside neither have stood the test the time.

The problem with lapses in peer review (which will inevitably occur) is that they are sometimes systematic, indicating a more institutional problem instead of simply an unfortunate combination of poor reviewers and a busy editor. This appeared to occur at Geophysical Research Letters over the period 2005-2006. There was a string of bad papers published – ones that did not properly support their conclusions and made basic errors in the science. For instance, Douglass and Knox (2005), Douglass, Patel and Knox (2005), Douglass, Pearson and Singer (2004), Douglass, Pearson, Singer, Knappenberger, and Michaels (2004), and Loáiciga (2006).

Science is indeed a ‘self-correcting’ process, but someone has to do that correcting, and scientists do get frustrated when they have to spend weeks dealing with the aftermath of bad papers in the media and putting together the comments that almost every single one of these papers generated. (For amusement and for an example of the lack of standards being talked about, look at the response of Bjornsson et al to the Douglass, Patel and Knox paper).

Are scientists supposed not to notice these patterns? Or never discuss them among colleagues? The implication that the mere discussion of the situation is somehow a corruption of the peer review process is completely unjustified. Peer review only holds the status it does because scientists are on guard against failures in the system and try to correct them when they occur.

Update: Coincidentally, David Adams on the Guardian makes many of the same points as we do.

In two follow-up pieces we will host a letter from Ben Santer on Part 7 and on the skewed reporting of the ‘Yamal‘ issue in Part 9.

362 Responses to “The Guardian disappoints”

  1. 51
    andrew adams says:

    Pearce’s behaviour is slightly odd. The piece on the Chinese weather stations for example was supposedly partly based on the leaked emails and contains a clear accusation of malpractice against Jones and others – “climategate” writ large in fact. But this seems to be in contradiction with a piece he had written previously with the headline “How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies” which contains the passage

    Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on brief soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.

    So it seems that Pearce had a rather dramatic change of heart on the subject of “climategate”. And how long did this take? Well the piece alleging malpractice based on evidence in the hacked emails was posted on the Guardian website at 21:00 on 1st February, whereas the piece claiming that the “climategate” scandal was bogus was posted at , er, 18:04 on the same day, less than three hours earlier.

    [Response: Maybe I should have also mentioned that piece above. In it, Pearce is actually correct – most of the discussions about the emails have been based on nothing but out-of-context quotes and the criticisms evaporate on close examination. But as you say, the odd thing is that he is repeating the exact same pattern in the pieces discussed above. – gavin]

  2. 52
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Attacking science with gossip is like trying to kill an elephant with a paintball gun.

    All the confusion, mud slinging, accusations and gossip will not refute even a single paper. To realise this, it would just take a little effort to learn the basics about what science is and how it is done. Few people take this effort, making them vulnerable to the manipulations by those that want to delay climate change mitigation efforts for whatever reason. “Take my word for it, that red-green-yellow-blue animal is no elephant. Elephants are gray!”

  3. 53
    Rohan says:

    I wouldn’t be too hard on Kamels.

    When he refers to “these klimathotstroendes unwillingness to rethink their faith in light of new forskningrön”, I think he really has a point.

  4. 54
    Joe Cushley says:

    I feel the same sorrow as you Gavin. I used to buy the Guardian every day and still feel a tug every time I go into a newsagent, however I’m boycotting the paper now and have written to the editor to tell him why. I live just down the road from their offices and some of the journos (mainly the sports section!) drink in my local. If I ever see Pearce in there, I’ll give him a piece of my mind…

  5. 55
    trrll says:

    wallruss, the final decision whether or not to publish a paper ultimately resides with the editor. If the paper is rejected even though the reviews are not that bad, the author may grouse a bit to his friends, but there is no recourse–editorial decision is final. An editor can even assign himself as a reviewer, and at some journals editors routinely reject papers as unsuitable without even bothering to send them out for review. So there is no need for an editor to resort to anything underhanded if he does not feel that a paper meets the standards of his journal. It would not be unusual for an editor to be able to anticipate from his own inspection of a paper that the paper will be rejected, but not every reviewer is willing to put the work in to write a comprehensive critique of a paper that clearly is not going to make the grade. The fact that the editor is looking for somebody to write a comprehensive review to justify rejection actually implies that the editor sees something of value in the paper that is worthy of publication either in his journal or elsewhere, and wants to make sure that the authors receive clear guidance as to what is needed to fix the manuscript’s problems. The worst reviews from an author’s point of view are not the detailed critiques that tear apart ever statement, but rather the ones that make vague, general criticisms and express an overall lack of enthusiasm.

  6. 56
    Oxford Kevin says:

    I think the Guardian asked Pearce to do too much in too little time, the big guardian “exposé” was written almost in total by Pearce. A huge number of words was churned out in very little time. He must have had almost no time at all to check what his recollection of what happened was against the actual evidence.


  7. 57
    Oxford Kevin says:

    No matter how bad the pieces in the Guardian are, they are nothing compared to how bad the headlines in the Guardian has been. For the latest headline which completely misrepresents the content of the article and how this is used by the denialosphere as evidence of more alarmism by scientists see:


    [Response: Indeed. That was not a good headline. There is some background to this story in Stefan and Martin’s piece from last year. – gavin]

  8. 58
    The Ville says:

    I gave up buying national UK newspapers years ago.
    The local paper is useful for the local gossip and job adverts.

    Logically, what with 24 hour TV news and the Internet, the national papers should have gone bust ages ago and the local papers should be booming.

  9. 59
    Kris Aydt says:

    @6, Anand,

    You wrote – I wish RealClimate would stay out of this arena.

    I completely disagree. Your comment reminds me of the mom who says to the kids, “Gee kids, just play nice and be quiet … and your (alcoholic) father will stop beating you, he really is a nice man ….” (sigh).

    The implication that being “nice”, just sticking to science, and this will all blow over, seriously minimizes the damage to individuals caught in the crosshairs, as well as the broader damage to science and ultimately the public by such distortions and misrepresentation.

    As always, thank you Gavin. I can’t begin to imagine the importance of the contributions of RealClimate.

  10. 60
    Deech56 says:

    I thought this quote from the excellent David Adams article sums the problem up nicely: “False balance has been restored to the force.” It has now become safe to bash scientists. But the “science” has not changed. Thank goodness the scientists are not hiding and are pushing back.

  11. 61

    Michael K: a move away from “rationality” and “science” in public discourse, and towards the twin evils of superstition, “religion”, and faith in the irrational, which increasingly appears to characterise our society.

    BPL: Don’t confuse “the irrational” with “religion,” please. They are not one and the same.

  12. 62
    Nick Gotts says:

    It will be very interesting to see if Pearce defends his shoddy journalism here, and if Monbiot continues his misguided praise of Pearce. I have bought and read the Guardian regularly for 40 years, but am seriously considering ceasing to do so, and relying wholly on web sources for my news.

  13. 63

    So many stolen E-mails need to be explained properly, less time
    going after the most potent very active mis-informers around. Luckily there is a science guy:

    I believe that good science gets through when contrarians are pinned against capable climate scientists, Bill Nye did a fantastic job. However, in this case, Climate’s very best are thrown yet again in a mud pit spawned by an evil deed. The Guardian is just as much gullible for stolen E-mail bait thrown out illegally for the purpose of knocking off the best from their usually potentially lethal contrarian blows. Why can’t e-mails stolen illegally not be debated at all? Is it not justifying more thefts, more hacking? Is it so hard to deny the thieves primary goal, unfolding again right now? I put it this way, it would be more effective
    to deny any debate on the grounds that these E-mails were not released legally, case closed, go debate something which has been published, be damned hackers!

  14. 64
    Rohan says:

    You say that The Guardian owes climate scientists an apology, but probably the most prominent booster of Keenan is Australia’s own Andrew Bolt.

    Bolt has blogged continually about Keenan’s accusations against Wang, each time strongly implying that Wang is little more than a crook, and fully endorsing Keenan’s claims. In the first post he made, I was astonished to see commenters actually announcing their intention of harrassing Wang personally with emails. (Interestingly, Bolt recently reacted furiously to allegations that he encourages this sort of behaviour.)

    I read most of the documents on Keenan’s site at the time, and suspected that he was simply a serial pest.

    Bolt isn’t just some lone blogger – he’s a journalist employed by a major Australian newspaper, and is meant to adhere tojournalistic standards of accountablilty. (As is Michael Duffy, who has also uncritically backed Keenan.) I’ve really been sickened by his continual ignorant, smug attacks, which have gotten worse since the email hacking affair.

    Most of what he has written seems to me to be straightforwardly libellous. How is it possible to hold people like that accountable?

  15. 65
    EH says:

    It’s rather funny to read that Pearce papers are ” well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting.”, as if the normal standard of reporting were being very accurate and reliable. “Normal standard” of journalism is sensationalism and inaccuracy, and it is true for “alarming” reports as well. You seem to DISCOVER that journalists write more to attract readers and sell their newspapers than to establish scientific truth, but it has always been true ! The problem is that the warming speech has benefitted a lot of this alarmism in the past years, and that a large number of misconceptions , approximations, and exaggerations, even by a number of posters here, have been forged by alarmist reports in the medias. In this regards, climate scientists are punished by where they have sinned….

    Sums up my thoughts exactly. Sensationalism doesnt align with the pro-AGW side for a change. Oh well. I might take these crocodile tears a bit more serious when a site like realclimate would react just as indignantly to all the nonsense published in the media that doesnt stand between them and their funding.

    Why only critique the ramblings of some clueless journalists here, by the way; they are wrong, what else is new? Id rather see a fight between this site and mcintyre, for instance. Somehow, I rarely see his arguments get any reflection here.

  16. 66
    jobnls says:

    As someone who publishes regularly in medical science this whole ”rebuttal” only makes the ”climate science” participants look even more up in the air.

    The science is never better than the persons involved in performing the science period and yes a whole area of science can be enormously flawed for a long time if persons of compromised integrity are given too much influence (the worst publications that slip through peer review are always mainstream, politically correct papers by heavily influential authors and everyone who knows anything about science understands this).

    [Response: Nonsense. How about the Wakefield Lancet article? That is the equivalent here. Bad fringe science amplified by un-scientific advocacy groups to the great disadvantage of the public. – gavin]

    Important risk factors for this are: Scientific area without ability to experimentally determine causality, science with a high media impact, science that dictate policy, science with lots of economic incentive, science where a relatively small group of scientists occupy a scientific area. If we during the last 40 years have been so wrong about cholesterol and risk for MI despite it being a relatively easy subject of study, it seems that climate science might be in for serious embarrassment if you do not stop to draw these ridiculously far reaching conclusions on your seriously weak data. The e-mails and the responses on this blog also imply zeal as a major drive and humility and cautiousness seems to be totally lacking. This does not speak in favour of an honest open minded attitude towards science.

  17. 67
    J Bowers says:

    There’s a new article at The Guardian, “Reject sceptics’ attempts to derail global climate deal, UN chief urges” based on Ban Ki-moon’s appeal to ministers to reject “sceptical” undermining of the science.

    None other than Lubos Motl has joined in the comments, accusing the IPCC of lying in AR4 based on the emails. Thought you lot might like to be aware of it.

    LubosMotl: “After the ClimateGate and the general learning about all the lies that the IPCC deliberately wrote in their report, most people in the world realize that there’s no threat, or even if there’s one, humans can’t do anything about it.”

    You don’t need to be in the UK to join in the Guardian comments, by the way.

  18. 68
    Anand says:

    Chris McGrath

    Let me first try a sympathetic reading of the latest post. For this, let us not talk about Chinese data, springs, glaciers and public apologies.

    Why should there be a long exposition of what ‘peer review’ is, in RealClimate? To educate Fred Pearce? Peer review in science is a simple concept; the very fact that we hear repeated discussions of it in the climate science arena, only add to the existing confusion and make people suspicious.

    Why is it that climatologists feel that no-one on earth can understand what peer-review is, and this complicated process has to be expounded and laid out in clear detail, over and over?

    [Response: Because it is clear that it is not understood – not just in this article, but also far more widely. – gavin]

    Because it didn’t work the way it is supposed to work and we need to be informed otherwise?

    Let me tell you, in clear terms: Never ever believe someone who tells you that the integrity of a peer-review process can be inferred by looking at outcomes.

    Andrew Adams
    So it seems that Pearce had a rather dramatic change of heart on the subject of “climategate”. And how long did this take?

    Exactly. Do a little bit of digging on your own. You wont find the answers here. It may be worthwhile dissecting Fred Pearce articles for some, given as he is the man who wrote 12 green books before the glacier article and 12 books after that.

    Why the switch? Why the mutation? That is the real question.

  19. 69
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Andreas Bjurström says:
    23 February 2010 at 10:02 PM

    The sad thing is that the IPCC invoke this idea among the public.”

    The IPCC doesn’t.

    Where do you get that idea?

    However, it picks the BEST of those available papers, the ones most likely to be right or at least *good explanations of what’s going on*.

    It’s like saying that the olympic comittee have said that the 32 100m runners are the best in the world is wrong because only three win medals.

    A made up assertion with a non sequitor at the end.

  20. 70
    Roly says:

    what really saddens me is that you guys at rc have to spend so much time on this. from the contacts i’ve had with those working in climatology it is already a pretty demanding activity that is slowly becoming so politicised as to make anyone think twice about it as a career.

    there is a particularly noxious meme doing the rounds of the denialosphere along the lines that climate science is not a real science…..whatever that means (partly, it appears, because it uses inductive logic and statistics!)

    as a new environmental science graduate considering a research degree i can’t deny that this politicisation would be a factor in choice of thesis.

    [Response: Work on things you think are interesting and consequential. Most of this noise will never impinge on your science. – gavin]

  21. 71
    John Peter says:

    Edward Greisch (40)

    I disagree. With or without the quotes, nobody “needs” harm to our biosphere.

  22. 72
    Sean says:

    Walruss – if you read the link in the update, you’ll see that Briffa was actually emailing the reviewer to ask for an overdue review – the reviewer had indicated that the paper should be rejected, but the full case for that was still needed.

  23. 73
    wallruss says:

    “If this is a resubmission then the editor is likely to have a good idea of whether the revisions are likely to satisfy the reviewers, but no reviewer is going to recommend rejection of a paper that they actually like – regardless of what the editor asked. This doesn’t sound like a case where there was much conflict among the reviewers and so your examples don’t fit.”

    It doesn’t matter whether there was conflict between the reviewers or not, they might both have thought that the paper was awful or both loved it or somewhere in between – it’s the integrity of the review process that matters, and that must be maintained. It’s perfectly fine for an editor to say that referees comments must be detailed and extensive, particularly if rejection is recommended, but this should be done up front i.e. the reviewer should have been given detailed instructions. However, the editor should not give their own opinion of the science or try to influence the process in any way at this stage because it would compromise the review process. It’s vital that peer review is carried out in as subjective a manner as possible. Thus, giving away the identity of the second reviewer is also bad practice because it might have an inflence on the first reviewers opinion – even if only subconciously.

    [Response: But the editor would not have mentioned Stahle if Cook was not already aware of it. In cases where I have known the identity of other reviewers it is exclusively because they signed their first round review which are generally passed back to all the reviewers in the case of a resubmission. – gavin]

  24. 74
    Dave G says:

    Why do our newspapers even listen to ex-bankers (Keenan), toffs with a degree in classics (the Pythonesque Monckton) and weathermen (Watts)? All these people do is misinterpret science so that it fits their worldview. Surely our media should firstly determine whether the information that these unqualified people are giving them is true, or not.

    As far as I’m concerned, the undue importance given to these distortions of science by our media is a reaction to the power of the internet. The sceptic blogs are winning the propaganda war by a distance at the moment and this has caused a higher proportion of the public to question AGW. So our more traditional media end up getting pressured into adopting a more sceptical position by those who have swallowed the deniers distortions and misinterpretations.

    But the media should check the validity of the evidence being proffered by the sceptics before they write factually inaccurate nonsense. That hasn’t been happening recently. I’m personally disappointed that the Grauniad is now running inaccurate articles like this, as it was the only national newspaper my dad would allow in the house, so I grew up with it, and I have also read it for 35 years. I hope they reverse this trend, quickly, and get back to objective reporting on this important issue.

  25. 75
    John Peter says:

    You write:

    Some of the more egregious confusions and errors were in the third part of the series. In this part, a number of issues that were being discussed among the paleo-community in 1999 were horribly mixed up.

    Guardian readers probably believe the Hockey-Stick graph was done for Al Gore. You will miss that audience if you ignore the movie in your Part 3 corrections.

    I can’t satisfy my interest in UHI using Part 5. Can’t you make that part clearer?

    The first paragraph in Part 6 might interest Joe 6 pack, but
    s/he will rapidly loose interest if you can’t shorten the rest. Go with paragraph one and submit the restto Science or Physics Today.

  26. 76

    I have reported your critique to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor and recommend that others do like wise, via:


  27. 77
    Mark Gibb says:

    The establishment climate science community, with its circled wagons, is oftentimes amazingly and transparently disingenuous with its defenses of the bad behavior of some of its members.

    First, to quote Gavin:

    To start with, the data in question (and presumably it’s flaws) were not hidden by anyone, but rather had been put on the CRU server in 2007 response to a FOI request. Hardly ‘hidden’.

    I would call data that wasn’t released until 17 years after the paper was published, and after years of people asking for it, ‘hidden’. The fact that it was finally released does not excuse the bad behavior.

    [Response: 1990 was another world with respect to data access and the standards that are anticipated now were not those in effect at the time. – gavin]

    Also, Wang’s statement about station history should be criticized. It’s more than a mistake. How could a scientist truthfully state that he picked stations based on history, when no such history was available for a large portion of the stations he picked?

    [Response: This is a matter of opinion. Given that you can never know that the station histories you have at any one time are complete (and in fact we know they often aren’t), all such choices are tacitly made on the basis of information known at the time (given that there are no time machines, how could it be otherwise?). It is reasonable to pick stations that did not have significant documented moves for such a study though, of course, should new information come to light you would want to revisit the analysis. Wigley’s rewrite of the line is certainly clearer. – gavin]

    And as far as peer-review is concerned, no amount of your word-smithing can repair the damage that has been done to at least the appearance of integrity of the process.

    [Response: I am not responsible for people believing untruths. Many people are going around talking about the ‘compromised’ integrity of the process, but when pressed are unable to come up with anything that justifies such claims. Complaints about already published papers are not a corruption of the peer review process, nor is the rejection of a poorly argued paper, nor is the acceptance of well-argued paper. Peer review is not perfect and everyone has heard stories of unjustifiably critical reviews, and we mention plenty of papers that sneak through the process apparently without any serious review at all. But there is nothing in the emails that demonstrates ‘corruption’ regardless of how many people keep saying it. – gavin]

    You’ve got Jones saying he’s “going to town” on a paper that he already knows he is going to reject. He doesn’t “go to town” on papers from his friends.

    [Response: Maybe because they don’t write completely crap papers? I hardly need to point out that given that Jones has likely reviewed hundreds of papers in his career, you actually have no idea how many papers he has recommended to reject or accept or what proportion were from people he knows personally. – gavin]

    Another instance is a group of “scientists” discussing not including papers in the IPCC because they “dilute the message”, which, of course, was pre-defined.

    [Response: An assessment process should assess what’s out there that’s interesting (as Trenberth rightly says). But the IPCC doesn’t manufacture a consensus view, it reflects the consensus view (and has to because of the multi-layer review process). The two papers concerned were novelties – perhaps of some interest – but not well supported in the literature either then or subsequently. – gavin]

    So, you may make people here in your echo chamber feel better, but you’re not going to make things better for science in the community at large until you show a little humility.

    [Response: This is just weird. Science doesn’t depend on my attitude – which, by the way, you have very little knowledge of. Humility in front of the vast amount of stuff we don’t yet know about the universe is very important, but humility in the face of obviously wrong disinformation is pointless. – gavin]

  28. 78
    Mark Zimmerman says:

    Would it be possible to host a commentary on the state of Himalayan glaciers?

    Is there evidence for a recent acceleration of melting, as there is for other areas?

    [Response: Yes. – gavin]

  29. 79
    Trevor says:

    “Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”

    One question, Gavin. If this request by Briffa is perfectly legitimate, and it’s something that editors do all the time, and it was contingent on an unstated but (somehow) understood “if you are going to recommend rejection”, then why did Briffa precede the request with the word “confidentially”? “Confidentially” usually implies that whatever appears after that word should be kept secret. So why does Briffa want this request kept secret, if it’s really completely on the up-and-up?


    [Response: Discussions between editors, reviewers and authors are always confidential – you are not supposed to show people drafts you have received as a reviewer, and your reviews are supposed to be for the author’s eyes only – whether you sign your reviews or not. But I have no further information into the context of this remark than anyone else. – gavin]

  30. 80
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael K says, “Seen in a wider context the debate about “climate change” can been seen as evidence of a general trend, that is, a move away from “rationality” and “science” in public discourse, and towards the twin evils of superstition, “religion”, and faith in the irrational, which increasingly appears to characterise our society.”

    OK, while I agree that we’re seen human irrationality at work in the climate “debate”, when have humans in general ever been rational? While the “press” in the past tended to adhere to more professional standards and so kept a veneer of civility the public face of debate, those standards have been discarded now that people can go to a blog that will simply tell them what they want to hear if the press will not.

    I had hoped that science could be a tool that forced humans to listen to unpleasant truths they did not want to hear. I’m starting to conclude that evolution’s experience with intelligence appears to be a failure. People really don’t want to live in the real world, and unfortunately that’s the only one on offer.

  31. 81
    Ron Taylor says:

    There has been a sea change in the coverage of climate science in the past year or so. This is just one example. Others are really strange coverage in places like the NYTimes and Newsweek. Where is the investigative approach that led journalists to dig deeply in an effort to get at the truth?

    I somehow think this is linked to a siege mentallity as publications struggle for survival, leading editors to squeeze journalists to offer a friendly face to the people who pay the bills, namely, the companies that buy the ads. Have you noticed the big uptick in full- and multi-page ads by fossil fuel companies? Or how about those sweet-as-apple-pie ads now appearing on TV. I think these ads are costing more than dollars and I am rapidly losing confidence in all of journalism.

  32. 82

    Rohan #64:

    Most of what he has written seems to me to be straightforwardly libellous. How is it possible to hold people like that accountable?

    That’s what libel law is for. The problem has been that scientists aren’t the litigious kind, and also libel law having been (ab)used to shut people up, are reluctant to be seen using it. Apart from not having the money or the time.

    Perhaps this should change. What is dearly missing is a single well-resourced non-partisan professional organization — not hobbyist bloggers doing it by the side — engaged in the legal side of this. Libel suits are just one thing. Investigative journalism desmogblog style is another. Then there’s things like holding journalists accountable; FOIing denialist professors, approaching their home universities about scientific malpractice; assisting researchers targeted by smears; etc. etc. But it all takes a lot of time so don’t expect scientists, or any hobbyists, to do this. It’s for professionals.

  33. 83
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    A group of profs at my U are working to establish a broadly interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program (which would be distinct from our new, purely physical sciences Environmental Sciences Program).

    One course I’m trying to get someone in Communications to take up would be “Environmental Communications” (or Environmental Journalism, or The Environment and the Media).

    I’m thinking this would be THE most important course in our cluster. According to an article on “Covering Climate Change” — see — news media are actually cutting their science journalists due to financial problems. So regular journalists will have to do the science writing.

    And then there is issue of journalism slipping away from the who-what-when-where-why objectivity and truth-seeking of the past into blatant ideological lies and loaded words and opinion-passing-for-news, which I started noticing in large supply from the 1980s on.

    But I’m thinking that regular journalists, without a heavy-duty science background might be able to carry off good science coverage, IF they keep in contact with the scientists — acutal working, peer-review publishing scientists. And in today’s email world, that should be not too hard. I have nearly always gotten good input from scientists whenever I had Qs, doubts, or confusions. I think most scientists are happy and eager to help get the news coverage right.

    I just told our little taskforce committee yesterday, that we can have a pool of scientists on various environmental issues we can contact with Qs, and that I tell the students in my environmental courses that I’m not a scientist, and I might not know some things or may be uncertain, but I know scientists I can ask (and I do ask them).

  34. 84
    james wheaton says:

    I sense that the authors at RC are beginning to make a concerted effort to fight back, as well they should. The denialist crowd are making great strides to shape public opinion on the matter, and hence government action (or inaction) to protect the status quo, which is the goal after all. This is done by many tried and proven methods which take advantage of our society’s freedoms, or citizen’s gullibility, and the press’s irresistable penchant for creating or overconflating controversy. The only way I know of to battle this fraud (and that is exactly what it is), is to call it out whenever possible. Gavin is especailly skilled at that based on what I have read from him.

    It must detract much from your real work significantly, but unfortunately this science steps on some very big toes, so I guess it goes with the territory.

    Please continue; as one commenter stated – the denial must wilt with time. The sooner the better.

  35. 85
    HotRod says:

    Here’s Judith Curry’s analysis of why the climate debate is where it is:

  36. 86
    Frank Johnston says:

    The Economist has come out with a defense of science vs a “lie”.
    Frank Johnston

  37. 87
    RandyL says:

    Re: 79 Ray Ladbury “I’m starting to conclude that evolution’s experience with intelligence appears to be a failure. People really don’t want to live in the real world, and unfortunately that’s the only one on offer.”
    I think you have struck on the heart of the issue. That is why it does not matter how many facts you can present, many people (I will even state Most people) do not want the facts. They want something to believe in. When scientific facts are presented in their well-defined and clinical fashion, it leaves most people with a lack of personal attachment or belief. So, when someone comes along and postulates a “belief” that touches on basic human instincts ( some like to call this common sense ) that run counter to the facts, then these people become confused and fearful. Climate scientists must report their findings factually, accurately and clinically. That is what scientists do. It is up to others to interpret these facts and convert them into factually based “truths” or beliefs. I think that is the gap in the discussion here. There are a lot of facts and discussions about the facts. These data are scientifically significant but “human sensitive” insignificant. Does this matter? Only if you want to get people to understand the significance of the facts and do something positive and constructive with those facts. Is this an intelligence issue? Depends on what “type of intelligence” you are discussing. Many of us ( non scientists; myself included )are scientifically unintelligent and at the same time we may be emotionally or humanistic intelligent. News organizations, media, bloggers, talk show hosts etc for the most part are scientifically unintelligent. So, when presented with the facts, they will most likely reinterpret these ‘facts’ into something they want to believe. So, when a scientist plays the Joe Friday role (Just the facts ma’am) and proceeds to come to a scientific conclusion, that scientist is doing his/her job in the fashion. But, as we all know, the facts presented do not always mean the truth. It takes enough facts from a variety of sources and points of view to lead to the truth. It is this search for the “truth” that leads to confrontation and battles between and among the many participants in AGW. The scientists have produced undisputed facts. The “skeptics” have presented human centric non-factual reaction. Neither side is completely right or wrong. Somewhere in this there (hopefully) is the search for the truth. It is that truth that is the ‘real world’ perspective. Sadly the discussion has broken down and there is no longer any apparent search for the truth; only defensive battles to protect self interests.

  38. 88
    Jobnls says:

    Re Gavin

    [Response: Nonsense. How about the Wakefield Lancet article? That is the equivalent here. Bad fringe science amplified by un-scientific advocacy groups to the great disadvantage of the public. – gavin]

    The fact that you bring up Lancet, which is famous for its publication of heavy debatable science of poor quality, is, as you must know totally beside the point. I am naturally referring to the other 99% of mainstream scientific journals who do not specialize in media frenzies. The fact remains that the science is never better than the scientists performing it.

    [Response: Well, actually I disagree. Science ratchets up quality while discarding unsupported ideas and ends up with knowledge that is largely independent of the biases, prejudices and egos of the participants (at least over time). But that isn’t the point I was responding to – you basically claimed that the worst science in the literature were the big review articles written by mainstream figures. This is not true, and the Wakefield affair is a great example in your field of exactly the opposite. – gavin]

  39. 89
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Ray, it’s always been possible to manipulate *the group* into doing irrational things.

    However, left to their own devices, people ARE rational and WILL act in the main in a rational and sane manner.

    It’s just easy to push buttons and get an irrational action out, especially if you place them in large groups (where embarrassment can cause the average IQ to drop as someone doesn’t want to “buck the trend” and the nutters are always noisiest).

    This leads back to IMO the erroneous conclusion that *religion* per se is at fault.


    It’s a button-pushing topic.

    Religious belief is not easy to rationally maintain and therefore hard to rationally defend.

    This makes it great as an option to push buttons to get the populace moved down irrationality. See Yes Minister for examples of how starting off a question thread can change the answer if you choose “wisely”. Likewise you can turn the rationality of an argument into an attack on the person’s irrational (as in it cannot be explained to another convincingly unless they too are predisposed to believe too, not that it is irrational to have faith) belief system.

    Then move it into an attack of the morals this person has.

    Then move it to a PERSONAL attack on the people themselves.

    They are led here because to break out they have to break the manipulator’s attempt to frame this in beliefs and therefore require that they accede that their faith is merely personal opinion and lessened as a “deeper truth”.

    It takes a very strait mind to accept personal religion or faith (when it is GENUINE faith) and also accept it as irrational at the same time.

    So frame any discourse in terms of the group faith and/or morals and you can keep rationality constrained.

  40. 90
    Jim Heath says:

    Fascinating read. It is instructive to see how much respect a paper can garner from those who agree with it and how much derision can be fomented upon the publication of things with which we do not agree. News organizations by their very nature are biased to the views of their audience. Sometimes they lead the way, but mostly they reflect public opinion. The public is now split on AGW so you will see articles from the perspective of deniers, warmers and agnostics in the mainstream for awhile.

    I wouldn’t fret about the article. The truth eventually WILL vindicate those who are honest brokers of science and reporting.

  41. 91
    wallruss says:

    “But the editor would not have mentioned Stahle if Cook was not already aware of it. In cases where I have known the identity of other reviewers it is exclusively because they signed their first round review which are generally passed back to all the reviewers in the case of a resubmission. – gavin]”

    Sorry to nag, but if this is the case then the editor is still at fault. Comments by reviewers should be kept anonymous.

    It’s really important that the integrity of the process is maintained throughout, to avoid any possible bias (unconscious or otherwise) or external criticism. It’s fine for reviewers to see each other reviews, and necessary in the case of a resubmission, but they should always be kept anonymous. Reviewers should not sign their reviews (I can’t see any possible reason to do so, because it compromises the process). Furthermore, if an author does sign, the editor should delete their name before sending comments around.

    I’m really surprised that this is not standard practice. In my field/experience, reviewers are expressly told from the outset, not to reveal their identities. I have never known the identity of other reviewers – even in cases where I have known the Editor very well.

    [Response: Maybe it’s different in your field, but while it isn’t commonplace, it is not rare for reviewers to sign their reviews. People do it so that there can be follow-up on technical points, or because the review makes use of very specific knowledge and anonymity is pointless, or simply as a general rule (not everyone is happy with anonymous reviewing for instance). This is not any sign of a problem and it is up to the individual reviewer to decide to do this or not (AGU has a box you can tick for instance), and it is not up to the editor to second guess that decision. – gavin]

  42. 92


    Seriously, you are going to bring up this paper again?

    “This appeared to occur at Geophysical Research Letters over the period 2005-2006. There was a string of bad papers published – ones that did not properly support their conclusions and made basic errors in the science. For instance, …Douglass, Pearson, Singer, Knappenberger, and Michaels (2004)…”

    We have had a productive discussion about this 5 years ago regarding an early RC post. I think, then, we arrived at the conclusion, that, had you reviewed the paper, you would have had some additional concerns and would have made some good suggestions—which is probably true for *any* paper that you were to be a reviewer for—but in the case of our paper, I think we did a pretty good job even in the absence of your input. I thought we sort of agreed that while this paper was not a “bombshell” it was not “bad” either.

    Perhaps my recollection is wrong and we can start the discussion about it anew.


  43. 93
    Jobnls says:

    Apart from my response above the fact that you compare the anti vaccination lobby to climate sceptics is a further indicator that you might not exactly be in touch with reality. We are talking about numerous studies where we can with a high probability rule out a correlation i.e. a situation where correlations are actually informative. This is in stark contrast to your own field where correlations are not so informative to put it mildly.

    I would also believe that the anti vaccine lobby (who are great proponents of the “natural way”) are heavily sided with the AGW proponents on the climate debate and that I think sums it all up nicely.

    [Response: Don’t be ridiculous. Both fields suffer from anti-scientific attacks from fringe groups who occasionally burst through the peer-review hurdle. No one is claiming that every climate contrarian is an anti-vaccine, creationist who doesn’t believe HIV causes AIDS or that NASA landed on the moon. There may be some people who are in more than one of these camps but the similarities are in the tactics, not the personalities. – gavin]

  44. 94
    Ike Solem says:

    I wonder if the Guardian will run a similar 12-part series on energy – the viability of “carbon capture”, the issues with Britain’s nuclear reprocessing, the role of coal & oil in the British banking economy, and so on.

    Don’t count on it – the Guardian is an unabashed promoter of nonsensical carbon capture schemes – but they’re not exactly alone in this, though, are they?

    The problem is that the Guardian is viewed as being “liberal”, so whatever they say about energy and ecological issues must be trustworthy, at least more so than the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, right?

    Not true. If you read the Guardian article, you’d have no idea that carbon capture from coal combustion is an unproven, undemonstrated claim with very little scientific basis. It goes well with the Fred Pearce stuff, though.

  45. 95
    John S says:

    I note that Dr. Curry’s letter ( ) has been posted at Watt’s Up With That, and Pielke Jr. and Sr. sites, but not at RealClimate yet. (Although you rant yet again against the Guardian.)

    Dr. Curry writes:

    “In my informal investigations, I have been listening to the perspectives of a broad range of people that have been labeled as “skeptics” or even “deniers”.”

    without acknowledging her own role in perpetuating that particular term of endearment.

    However, if you actually read the entire essay, Dr. Curry seems to be taking a more conciliatory tone to the “auditors” with statements such as:

    “In their misguided war against the skeptics, the CRU emails reveal that core research values became compromised.”


    “So how did this group of bloggers succeed in bringing the climate establishment to its knees (whether or not the climate establishment realizes yet that this has happened)? ”


    “Debating science with skeptics should be the spice of academic life, but many climate researchers lost this somehow by mistakenly thinking that skeptical arguments would diminish the public trust in the message coming from the climate research establishment.”

    Hopefully, civil debate, and the transparency of data and methods, will allow us to find the truth.

  46. 96
    Killswitch says:

    Would it be possible to host a commentary on the state of Himalayan glaciers?

    Is there evidence for a recent acceleration of melting, as there is for other areas?

    [Response: Yes. – gavin]

    If you scroll down in the paper Gavin linked to, to the section titled “Confusion about the future of Himialayan glaciers:1” the first bullet point says “Himalayan rates of recession are not exceptional.b”

    [Response: Compared to the rest of world, where they are all melting as well. – gavin]

  47. 97
    Donald says:

    Good work. Thanks.

  48. 98
    Andy says:

    Re: 77 – OK, look, I just had a paper rejected. One good review, one bad. The editor didn’t think it belonged in the journal. I pretty much knew the outcome before it was submitted. But the reviewer’s comments were very helpful. The paper is being changed, added to, and will be submitted to a different journal. No big deal. No vendattas. So how is asking for a rigorous review to provide a rational rejection a problem? Isn’t this preferable say to a rejection based on the simple fact that you don’t have the right last name? As a submitter, I get to read the reviews. I’m going to want to know what I missed or got wrong. Bottomline: publishing science isn’t for those with thin skin or week knees.

    Authors shop around for journals, I know this could be a waste of folks’ time, but it really helps improve the paper and when you’re working with a university professor, well they need those pubs in good journals. It’s kind of like how students apply to Harvard knowing ahead of time they are likely to be rejected but what the hey, why not try?

  49. 99
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark Gibb recommends humility. Apparently, making unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, manipulation, etc. in an area of research he knows nothing about is perfectly consistent with his idea of humility. And having folks who have devoted about 30 minutes of study questioning the research of people who have beendoing research for 30 years–that’s consistent with humility, too.

    But having experts in a field suggest that they are in fact experts and that their opinion ought to be considered ahead of an absolute ignoramus, well, that’s hubris…at least in Mark Gibb’s universe.

  50. 100

    #29 Being disheartened is the first step to understanding. This is especially true if the conclusions of your scientific endeavours point to a need for social/behavioural change. Hopefully your environmental science course exposes you to the social aspects of the field. The science has been settled for many decades on numerous environmental issues. That science, however, is often a threat to people’s livelihoods, cultural practices and property. Effective communication, community engagement, political engagement and policy development (in a country with a functional infrastructure) are as essential as the scientific process that is applied to recommending a remedy.