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Cuccinelli goes fishing again

Filed under: — group @ 4 October 2010

In keeping with our role as a site that tries to deal with the science of climate change rather than the politics, we have specifically refrained from commenting on various politically-motivated legal shenanigans relating to climate science. Some of them have involved us directly, but we didn’t (don’t) want to have RC become just a blog about us. However, the latest move by Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia, against Mike Mann and UVa is so ridiculous it needs to be highlighted to the widest audience possible.

For background, Rosalind Helderman at the Washington Post has covered most of the story. The last installment was that Cuccinelli’s attempt to subpoena 10 years of emails between 39 scientists and Mike Mann and ‘all documents’ residing at UVa related to four federal and one Commonwealth of Virginia grant, was thrown out by a judge because Cuccinelli did not provide any reason to suspect that fraud had occurred and that federal grants are not covered by the relevant statute. Without due cause, the AG is not allowed to investigate (and without such a restriction, there would be no end to politically motivated witch hunts).

Yesterday, Cuccinelli filed a new demand that takes this previous judgment into account. Namely, he attempts to give a reason to suspect fraud and only targets the Commonwealth grant – though still asks for 10 years of emails with an assortment of scientists. However, his reasoning should scare the bejesus of anyone who has ever published a paper on any topic that any attorney might have a political grudge against. For the two papers in question the fraud allegation is that the authors

… knew or should have known [that they] contained false information, unsubstantiated claims, and/or were otherwise misleading. Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect.

So in other words, if you publish a result that might turn out to be statistically weak or with understated error bars – even if this was in no way deliberate and regardless if you were aware of it at the time – Cuccinelli thinks that is equivalent to fraud. And any grant that you apply for that even cites this paper would therefore be a false claim under the statute. Cuccinelli is specifically not stating that deliberate scientific misconduct must have occurred, all you need to have performed is an inadequate (according to him) statistical treatment or you made an unsubstantiated claim. If you want “unsubstainted claims”, Soon and Baliunas (2003) (cited approvingly by Cuccinelli) would be a great example of course. But more generally, this would clearly open up pretty much the entire literature to ‘fraud’ investigations since one can almost always improve on the statistics. You didn’t take temporal auto-correlation into account in calculating the trend? Cuccinelli thinks that’s fraud. You didn’t fully characterise the systematic uncertainty in the “unknown unknowns”? That too. You weren’t aware of the new data that showed an older paper was incomplete? Too bad. This is not just an attack on Mike Mann, it is an attack on the whole scientific enterprise.

However, as appalling as this reasoning is, Cuccinelli’s latest request is simply bone-headed because the grant in question, entitled “Resolving the scale-wise sensitivities in the dynamical coupling between the climate and biosphere”, simply has nothing to do with the MBH98 and MBH99 papers! Even if one agreed with Cuccinelli about their quality (which we don’t), they are not referenced or mentioned even obliquely. The grant was to look at how climate variability impacted land-atmosphere fluxes of carbon, water and heat and doesn’t involve paleo-climate at all. So even if, for arguments sake, one accepted Cuccinelli’s definition of what constitutes ‘fraud’, nothing associated with this grant would qualify. We doubt there could be a clearer demonstration of the inappropriateness of Cuccinelli’s case.

Well, maybe one. In the attachment to the subpoena, Cuccinelli repeats his claim that since Mann used the word “community” in a blog post here on RC, he must therefore be using “Post Normal” jargon, and that might be “misleading/fraudulent” in the context of a grant application. Really? Scientists who use the word “community” regardless of context are therefore to be suspected of fraud? This is just embarrassing.

It might be worth pointing out that under the Virginia Bar ethics guidelines, it states that:

A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.

We can only wonder when this will start to be applied to the current AG.

444 Responses to “Cuccinelli goes fishing again”

  1. 201
    dreater says:

    Re: 195 – Worst case, Wegman would conclude that he had to leave GMU…at which time he would no doubt be provided with a full-time position on the staff of a conservative “think tank,” and the charade would continue.

  2. 202
    will denayer says:

    Good evening,

    I am sorry for asking this question here specifically, but I do not know how to start a new topic.
    Is it true that the North Atlantic Current is no longer functioning or this is a very sick joke?
    I found this article: http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2010/09/14/life-on-this-earth-just-changed-the-north-atlantic-current-is-gone/

    As for Cuccinelli, don’t you all get the feeling that we live in the Middle Ages again?

    Thank you for reading,

    Dr. Will Denayer, Ireland

  3. 203
    John E. Pearson says:

    202: Will Denayer: What kind of doctor are you that you don’t you have an internal alarm that goes off (quack! quack! quack!) when you read stuff like this???

  4. 204
    Steve Metzler says:

    John E. Pearson (#198):

    Do you happen to know if Wegman had federal or Virginia state funding for the work in question?

    I realise that Jim, Eric, Gavin, et. al. are giving us more than a bit of leeway to air our political views on this thread, seeing as that is its stated intention. Having said that… you win the thread with that one. Spot on.

  5. 205
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://rads.tudelft.nl/gulfstream/
    No worries for honest fishing operators.

  6. 206
  7. 207
    John Mashey says:

    re: 210
    Please read the SWSR report, at least the first sections.

    Other outcomes include:
    1) Civil litigation for copyright problems.
    Although of varying degrees, some minor, there are 5 different books, several Wikipedia pages, 16 articles and Mann’s dissertation. ( well, maybe 13: 3 are from M&M, pretty safe.)

    2) Possible mis-use of funds problems from the NIAAA, ARL, ARO. I don’t know offhand what penalties accrue.

    3) Then there is the possibility of 18USC1001 (misleading Congress), and 18USC271 (conspiracy to commit felony). I have discussed this with Washington-savvy lawyers who think this is not fantasy, but if you do, you should read the US Code more than I have and tell me why. I am certainly no lawyer. To save time, those 2 could add up to 10 years in Federal prison, plus fines.

    If they get into that, then 18USC1512, 1519 may come into play for one or more people at GMU, given removal of key evidence files in August. Although unlikely in this case, that’s up to 20 years…

    People are focused right now on the plagiarism, but if that’s all they look at, they are missing the wealth of other problems. I cringe at the thought of yet another -gate, but really, DC’s happenstance finding of the original slice of plagiarism really is the best analogy to the original Watergate breakin. Nobody expected to find such a giant mess attached.

  8. 208
    Edward Greisch says:

    Altruism vs psychopath/sociopath/sciopath:
    SEE: “The Genetics of Altruism” by Lumsden and Wilson. No longer in the Library of Congress. That’s E.O. Wilson. This is the book that started Sociobiology [sciobio]. Sciobio is the science of ethics and morality. “The Genetics of Altruism” gets mathematical, as I remember. It has been quite some time. There is a gene involved.
    Anyway, there are times when altruism is good [when it will be returned] and times when it is bad [when it will not be returned.]
    http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/BB/A/R/B/G/_/bbarbg.ocr

    Reference book: “The sociopath next door : the ruthless versus the rest of us” by Martha Stout.
    New York : Broadway Books, 2005.
    4% of all people are born sociopaths/sciopaths/psychopaths. There is no cure because it is caused by a part of the brain simply being missing. A written test, the MMPI [Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory] can identify sociopaths before they cause destruction.

    Psychopaths in positions of power are a problem for us. They spend billions to prevent us from stopping GW. Why would they want to be in positions of power? Since they don’t care, they are easily bored.

  9. 209
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Nobody expected to find such a giant mess attached.

    A textbook example:

    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.98.3302&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    Scientific Writing for Computer Science Students
    Wilhelmiina Hämäläinen
    Course material September 20, 2006
    Department of Computer Science
    University of Joensuu

    —-quote follows—–

    2.7. YOUR OWN OPINIONS?
    21
    • If you express somebody else’s ideas by your own words, then put the
    reference immediately after the idea.
    • If you express somebody’s ideas by her/his own words, then it is a
    citation!
    • If quotation marks ”…” are missing, it is called plagiarism!
    • As a rule of thumb: if you borrow more than 7 words, then use quota-
    tion marks.
    • If the citation is translated, then mention also the translator in refer-
    ence.
    • If you add or dropp words, show it by [] or ….
    • If you emphasize words, mention it.
    • An example:
    Nykänen [Nyk03] remarks that unreferred citation is plagiarism (trans-
    lation and emphasis by the author): ”If you borrow more than seven
    words … from a text it [borrowing] is called literary theft.”

    —–end quote—–

  10. 210
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re #207

    Shouldn’t the reference to #210 be replaced with #201? [RC doesn’t do pre-cognition.]

  11. 211
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re: #209 Hank.

    Don’t you think those rules could be a bit onerous at times especially in educational and journalistic, as opposed to research, material?

  12. 212
    Hank Roberts says:

    Geoff, no, I think the limits of borrowing, plagiarism, and literary theft are clearly understood by writers these days. Taking other people’s work is no more tolerated in education than in literature or fiction.

    The excerpt I quoted from is from coursework for computer scientists — it’s one example of a straightforward explanation for people not coming from a background in writing about how to reuse other people’s work honestly. Take a look at the full document for context.

    Yes, much of what appears in many newspapers is simply copypasted from press releases without attribution. Take any science story in most newspapers and ‘oogle strings and you’ll find the same stuff many places, sliced and diced to fit the available space between the ads. But that’s not “journalism.” I’m sure you’ll find journalism schools teach similar rules.

  13. 213
    Mike Donald says:

    #178 Snapple

    Many thanks for the link. I was going to ask what the betting is that Cuccinelli would end up in a right wing think tank but it looks like he has no financial need – tame reporters will help the story along. And when this episode falls on richly deserved stony ground expect Cuccinelli to do a “persecuted for my beliefs” routine.

  14. 214
    will denayer says:

    293: Pearson.

    A good one. Now can you say something about the content? It’s clearly not impossible, so is this article crap or not and why? Thank you!

    Will

  15. 215
    Chris Colose says:

    will denayer (202, 214)

    It is crap.

  16. 216
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re #209

    The first rule is the problematic one for teachers i.e.

    If you express somebody else’s ideas by your own words, then put the reference immediately after the idea.

    so the teacher writes a lot of text which follows

    …”on the shoulders of giants”.

    The quotes are right, now for the source Newton , now for the full reference.

    How about all those other giants invoked by the teacher in the text? Do they have to be mentioned explictly? Will the choice of references be non-controversial? Will the reader want them? Yes definitely,if (s)he is learning the history of the subject.

    That raises further issues; should references to text books and reviews be avoided? should the reference be to the first source? how far back does this advice go? These comprise a different topic (sorry) but they do come under the general area of accuracy.

    It is clear that secondary references should be allowed; but what if the cited author has broken the quoted rule and been unfair to the originator of the idea?

    How many times do you see the statement that the relative humidity is roughly independent of temperature, with no reference to Arrhenius?

    If you plot temperature against time do you have to provide a reference to Descarte for inventing rectangular coordinates?

    It is also quite common for the names of formulae or equations to be given instead of an attribution or reference and then to be unfair or wrong e.g. Clausius-Clapeyron instead of Carnot? Snell’s or Descarte’s or Hariot’s law instead of Ibn Sahl’s etc.

  17. 217
    Radge Havers says:

    OT, politics north of the border.

    Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) in the news.

    “Villains who twirl their moustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.”
    –Captain Picard, Star Trek, The Drumhead

  18. 218
    Andrew Thompson says:

    I don’t even agree with a lot of your global warming views, and I still think this guy should stand down. My sympathies that you have to go through this.

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    Geoff, look at the source I quoted from and you’ll be reassured: that’s not about lecture notes or teacher’s lectures to classes, or blogging for that matter.

    That is an example of directions for citation specifically for computer science students, who are not native English speakers, and who will write a Master’s level thesis. Rules for that particular context.

    How each institution granting degrees explains this is of interest.

  20. 220
    Radge Havers says:

    And more Cuccinelli today at the Washington Post.

    “But every mention of the outspoken attorney general drew loud applause, and some activists handed out ‘Cuccinelli for President’ lapel stickers.”

  21. 221
    Rod B says:

    I was simply replying to Susan’s implication that there is a good shot at winning the debate just because natural altruism will make it so (simplified for brevity with apologizes to Susan). If you all and Dr. Hamilton are (were) convinced of this strategy, go for it. I would suggest ain’t gonna happen.

  22. 222
    Jim Cox says:

    I filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of the most recent CID. Cucchinelli’s office complied with that. I also asked for an estimate of the number of man-hours that Cucchinelli’s office has spent in the Cucchinelli v. U.Va. case. They refused to comply with that, claiming that they don’t keep records of such things. That seems far-fetched.

    I sent a copy of the response from Cucchinelli’s office to my local community newspaper, in the hopes of getting the word out about Cucchinelli’s abuse of power.

  23. 223
    Lotharsson says:

    Shouldn’t the reference to #210 be replaced with #201? [RC doesn’t do pre-cognition.]

    RC’s precognition worked pretty well in this case once you invoke the transitive property of chained references ;-)

  24. 224
    J Bowers says:

    220 Jim Cox — “They refused to comply with that, claiming that they don’t keep records of such things.”

    Lawyers who don’t keep track of their hours. Hmmmm…

  25. 225
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #218 Hank.

    That is an example of directions for citation ……. a Master’s level thesis.

    Good.

  26. 226
    Snapple says:

    USA Today notes:

    “‘Clearly, text was just lifted verbatim from my book and placed in the (Wegman) report,’ says [Raymond] Bradley, who is also one of the authors of the 1999 [“hockey stick”] Nature study. In response to earlier concerns raised by the Deep Climate website, Bradley says he wrote a letter in April to GMU, noting the possibility of plagiarism and demanding an investigation of both the 2006 report and a subsequent, federally-funded study published by some of Wegman’s students. ‘Talk about irony. It just seems surreal (that) these authors could criticize my work when they are lifting my words.'”—U.S.A. Today (10-8-10)

    I wonder if Dr. Wegman was under oath when he testified in Congress. If the research misconduct investigation finds deliberate dishonesty in the Wegman Report, he might be accused of lying to Congress/purjury.

    Cuccinelli yaks about “states’ rights” and Virginia’s revolutionary traditions; but he won’t answer my questions about his dad’s clients, even though I stupidly voted for him before I understood his true agenda.

    Virginians revolted because they didn’t like being ruled by European tyrants, not because the EPA was trying to protect us from global warming.

    Cuccinelli’s campaign gets money from his father’s advertising company.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/09/attorney-general-cuccinellis-daddy-and.html

    The father used to be an executive with the American Gas Association and now has an advertising company which touts the elder Cuccinelli’s history as a gas expert and his “European” clients. Cuccinelli’s financial patrons may include Russian gas companies, but the AG office won’t answer questions about the elder Cuccinelli’s clients.

    Cuccinelli can probably be stopped in court this time, but unless he can be recalled or disbarred, he will keep coming. He has the recources of his dad’s clients and the resources of the state of Virginia. Cuccinelli is a subversive who is attempting to purge independent scholars. He can loose in court but continue to make gains politically.

    Winning is court is not enough.

    The Russian gas companies are subverting European politicians, and they are probably starting that process here.

    “European” gas interests have a lot of money. The former CEO of Russia’s Gazprom is President Medvedev, and the Kremlin-financed media is sponsoring denialist propaganda. The fossil fuel companies in Russia are often partly state-owned, and they all must collaborate with the foreign intelligence service’s political operations.

    Scientists should not identify Christians with denialists. This is not true. The big denominations accept the science of global warming. If you bash Christians, you are playing into Cuccinelli’s hands.

    It would be better if scientists highlighted the efforts of Christian denominations to fight global warming. The theological reason is that Christians are supposed to be stewards of the Earth.

    Maybe scientists should be speaking at churches and inviting clergymen to your universities and government agencies.

    Religion is a very powerful political force for good or evil.

    Cuccinelli doesn’t just want to be governor, he wants to be President of the United States.

  27. 227
    J Bowers says:

    225 Snapple — “I wonder if Dr. Wegman was under oath when he testified in Congress.”

    Automatically assumed without a need to actually swear an oath, and it’s a criminal offence to lie to Congress, regardless, last I read. When you watch a Congressional hearing and the witnesses take oaths, I believe it’s not actually necessary and more for the TV age.

  28. 228
    Fred Moolten says:

    The few Wegman Report snippets I’ve seen alleging plagiarism do not, in my view, rise to the level of serious plagiarism, although they may deserve a scolding for the technical infraction of excessive verbatim copying. Why that infraction is minor rests on the nature of what was copied.

    One can plagiarize the thoughts and information originating from someone else, but the Report clearly attributes its content to Bradley, and does not pretend to have been the originator of the tree ring data that it presumes to assess.

    Plagiarism can also entail an attempt to claim credit for the way content is expressed. Here, the issue, as I see it, is how much credit is attributable to the very pedestrian declarative sentences describing the data – sentences that would seem to be a rather natural way to state the information by anyone wanting to write about it. I found nothing in the nature of the writing itself that was exceptionally creditable – it was not eloquent, inspirational, stylistically original or creative. If plagiarism implies an attempt to steal credit, what was there in the writing that was worth stealing? Of course, if one copies, without attribution, entire pages, one is also offering readers the logical narrative that comes from how each thought progresses to the next. That may deserve some credit, but in this case, the progression seemed clearly to be an attempt by the Report to follow the content as it was originally written by Bradley.

    The writers of the Report were careless, and by excessive verbatim copying, set a bad example for others who might emulate them while claiming undeserved credit for truly distinguished writing. That deserves some censure. On the basis of the items I’ve seen, I doubt that it deserves much more, but there may be additional evidence that supports a stronger case against Wegman than the few examples that so far have found their way into the news.

    Incidentally, I found both the content and the writing of Michael Mann’s WAPO piece to be very creditable.

  29. 229
    dhogaza says:

    Fred Moolten:

    The few Wegman Report snippets I’ve seen alleging plagiarism do not, in my view, rise to the level of serious plagiarism, although they may deserve a scolding for the technical infraction of excessive verbatim copying.

    Can you back this up with an academic institution’s definition of “serious plagiarism” vs. “the technical infraction of excessive verbatim copying plagiarism”?

    I doubt it …

    reCAPTCHA suggests you’re “protecting pocres” …

  30. 230
    Edward Greisch says:

    From MoveON.org email: “News just broke that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—one of the biggest sources of corporate cash backing Republicans this year—has been using money from foreign corporations in India, Bahrain, and elsewhere to fund its attack ads, in apparent violation of the law.” It references:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/05/foreign-chamber-commerce/

    Snapple: If you can trace money from Russia to Ken Cuccinelli with hard evidence, that would be an interesting case.

  31. 231
    Snapple says:

    I liked Dr. Mann’s letter in the Washington Post, too. Cuccinelli is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks he can intimidate Dr. Mann!

    Before I read anything about climate science, I assumed there was actually a scientific debate about global warming; but as soon as I began to look at what the scientific organizations like the NAS said, I realized that denialists really were mouthpieces for the fossil fuel industry who were trying to fool me.

    High school textbooks discuss global warming a lot. The textbooks even have windmills on them! This wouldn’t happen if the science weren’t well accepted because many scholars write textbooks.

    There was even a scientist at Princeton named Happer who testified in Congress, but he didn’t provide evidence or footnotes. Happer’s testimony showed me denialism was fake. After his testimony, Dr. Happer let the SPPI add footnotes to his paper. Many of the footnotes cited the non-scientist Lord Monckton!

    I saw that last winter before Copenhagen the Kremlin-financed satellite channel Russia Today used Lord Monckton to propagate the Russian line on global warming. Monckton speaks English and is a nobleman, so the Kremlin propaganda agencies know he will seem credible. Pravda also calls global warming a “hoax” by greedy, dishonest scientists. If you follow Russian politics as I do, you have heard that KGB cliche about the greedy dishonest scientists pretty often. Stalin’s “Doctors’ Plot” and the KGB’s AIDS propaganda are good examples.

    I don’t have a Ph.D., and I never took physics; but didn’t just fall off the back of the turnip truck, either. I have read Congressional testimony by scholars before, and they put real evidence and research in their own footnotes. I thought Dr. Happer’s behavior lacked integrity, even though he is at Princeton.

    Dr. Happer testified that there is global warming but that the effects of increased CO2 will be beneficial to mankind. Dr. Happer did not address the research of other scientists about the harmful effects of increased CO2. His official testimony doesn’t include footnotes to support his “scientific” opinions and is sprinkled with irrelevant, silly, historical analogies that don’t really have anything to do with global warming. Happer seemed to think that saying he was from Princeton was enough, but his testimony was not what I would expect of a Princeton professor.

    The footnotes (often from Monckton) were added to that paper by the SPPI after he testified.

    See:

    “Why Did Dr. Will Happer Let the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) Add Footnotes to His February 25, 2009 Senate Testimony?”

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-did-drhapper-let-science-and-public.html

  32. 232
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Radge Havers tells us “But every mention of the outspoken attorney general drew loud applause, and some activists handed out ‘Cuccinelli for President’ lapel stickers.”

    Yes, there’s a certain contingent in the electorate for whom rejection of reality is a badge of honor.

  33. 233
    Snapple says:

    Fred Moolten writes:

    “The few Wegman Report snippets I’ve seen alleging plagiarism do not, in my view, rise to the level of serious plagiarism…”

    The reported allegations are pretty serious. They reportedly include the charge of fabrication.

    USA Today notes:

    “GMU spokesman Daniel Walsch confirms that the university, located in Fairfax, Va., is now investigating allegations that the Wegman report was partly plagiarized and contains fabrications. Last month, a 250-page report on the Deep Climate website written by computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif., raised some of these concerns. Mashey says his analysis shows that 35 of the 91 pages in the 2006 Wegman report are plagiarized (with some of the text taken from a book, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, by Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts) and contain erroneous citations of data, as well.”

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/10/wegman-plagiarism-investigation-/1

    Maybe the scholars at GMU who are on the committee to investigate the research misconduct will publish their findings.

  34. 234
    Rod B says:

    Radge Havers, your post #219 is accurate but misleading. The positive response to Cuccinelli at that rally likely had nothing to do with his suit(s) against Mann.

  35. 235
    dhogaza says:

    Fred Moolten:

    Plagiarism can also entail an attempt to claim credit for the way content is expressed. Here, the issue, as I see it, is how much credit is attributable to the very pedestrian declarative sentences describing the data – sentences that would seem to be a rather natural way to state the information by anyone wanting to write about it. I found nothing in the nature of the writing itself that was exceptionally creditable – it was not eloquent, inspirational, stylistically original or creative. If plagiarism implies an attempt to steal credit, what was there in the writing that was worth stealing?

    Unlike property theft, the seriousness of plagiarism doesn’t rest upon the “worth” (eloquence, creativity, etc) of the writing that’s been stolen. From the same source:

    Plagiarists steal good stuff and they steal garbage.

    And, just for humor’s sake, sometimes they plagiarize when writing about plagiarism:

    the New York Times’ Fox Butterfield, [who] rooked several paragraphs of a Boston Globe story—a story about plagiarism

    Nor does providing a reference to the source material get one off the hook, if it isn’t properly cited and/or quoted.

    For instance:

    Stephen Ambrose handled his first plagiarism scandal of the week with the graceful humility you’d expect from America’s Uncle History. Over the weekend, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes nailed Ambrose for heisting several passages of The Wild Blue, his recent best seller about World War II B-24 bomber crews, from historian Thomas Childers. Ambrose had footnoted Childers but still passed off Childers’ elegant prose as his own. Ambrose apologized immediately for the “mistake,” blamed it on faulty attribution, and promised to place the text in quotations in future editions.

    Note that unlike Wegman, Ambrose quickly owned up to his sin, and promised to make amends (and, no, the appearance of the word “elegant” in describing Childers’ prose is not the basis of the charge).

    Of course, Ambrose may’ve been hoping that his quick admittance of sin might cause people to treat this as a one-off “mistake”, rather than a pattern of behavior, but he was wrong.

    Like Wegman and his graduate students, Ambrose was exposed as a serial plagiarist.

  36. 236
    Hank Roberts says:

    > oath
    Amateur opinions, including mine, aren’t going to matter.

    This story describes a “19 page indictment” charging “… making false statements, … perjury and … obstruction of Congress”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/sports/baseball/20clemens.html?_r=2

    My hunch: a witness who does not take the oath doesn’t risk a perjury charge.

  37. 237
    Radge Havers says:

    231 Ray
    Agreed.

    233 Rod
    Hardly misleading. I offered no comment other than the pull quote. Given the way things are going these days, the disturbing thing about that is, in my view, imagining that he could end up as President– where he would be in an even stronger position to launch attacks on science. I left the comment short so that anyone reading it could draw their own conclusion, my own view being fairly trivial and the assumptions people make when commenting so often being revealing.

  38. 238
    Snapple says:

    [OT – please, no more]

  39. 239
    Snapple says:

    Fine, but check out pages 15-16 in Cuccinelli’s legal document against the EPA.

    http://www.oag.state.va.us/PRESS_RELEASES/Cuccinelli/Joint%20Motion%20to%20Remand%20VA%20filed%20with%20clerk%204_15_10.pdf

    He is citing the Russian economist Andrei Illarionov’s Russian Institute for Economic Analysis–the IEA:

    “On December 15, 2009—the very day that EPA announced the Endangerment Finding—the Russian Institute of Economic Analysis (“IEA”) reported that CRU probably tampered with Russian climate data and that the Russian meteorological station data do not support human-caused global warming……” etc

    Illarionov is an adviser to the Cato Institute and a “former adviser” to Putin and to Chernomyrdin, the former head of the Soviet Gas Ministry. Supposedly he had a “falling out” with Putin. Most people who fall out with Putin don’t make such graceful landings.

    The legal document also cites RIA Novosti, which is the official government news service.

    This summer while NASA was helping them spot hundreds of fires, the government line changed and RIA Novosti reported that Medvedev confirmed global warming.

    Cuccinelli failed to cite reputable Russian scientists who say there is global warming, but he cited only official Russian government sources.

  40. 240
    Snapple says:

    There is a lot of very complicated information about Wegman’s alleged research misconduct in this 250-page report titled “Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report.”

    Probably the GMU investigation of Wegman is looking at some of these issues.

    http://deepclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/strange-scholarship-v1-02.pdf

  41. 241
    John E. Pearson says:

    240 Snapple: Hat’s off to John Mashey! Kudos to John Mashey. Well done!

  42. 242
    Fred Moolten says:

    To Dhogaza (229, 235) and Snapple (233) –

    I haven’t seen the evidence regarding fabrication, but the plagiarism charge strikes me as unworthy of very vigorous prosecution, based on the examples in the news media.

    The reason I see the charge as rather trivial (and unlikely to result in more than a scolding if the cited examples are representative) is that there seems to be little evidence that the Wegman Report writers were trying to steal credit for anything, which is the moral essence of plagiarism. If there is no attempt to steal, and if the original writer (Bradley) is deprived of nothing of value, a charge of serious plagiarism will be hard to sustain.

    The report clearly attributes its content to Bradley, and then recapitulates much of that content as background for its analysis. In so doing, the writers often copied some passages verbatim or nearly so from Bradley, but it is a stretch to believe that they were trying to get away with a dishonest effort to earn undeserved credit for their writing skills. Rather, they were mainly careless and willing to cut corners. It would have been more circumspect either to paraphrase every statement or to separate out each of the verbatim citations in quotation marks (although it would have been somewhat cumbersome, considering the number of both copied and non-copied passages). One can argue that the writers should have taken more time and trouble, but I doubt that their failure in that regard deserves a severe penalty inflicted by the law or by the University.

    If one looks at well established examples of plagiarism in the scientific or literary sphere, they differ significantly from the current case. Often, they involve false implications that the plagiarist originated the thoughts or data that were presented. When it is only the writing itself that is involved rather than the content, the verbatim copying of passages from elsewhere is almost inevitably an issue when the passages exhibited some particular literary skill, style or flourish. Merely stating facts in a straightforward way is rarely by itself grounds for a plagiarism charge that sticks, if the statements are very much what anyone would write to describe the given facts. If yesterday’s newspaper stated that the “high temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit and the low temperature was 58 degrees Fahrenheit”, and I later write the same statement, word for word, in a local community column without attribution, I won’t be seen as trying to steal anything and I doubt that the Weather Channel will sue me for plagiarism. I’m unaware of successful plagiarism suits based exclusively on the issue of copying when what is copied is simply a straightforward description of factual content, and when the content is appropriately attributed to its originator. Can such an example by cited?

    You asked me, Dhogaza, about institutional definitions of plagiarism. Having worked in academic institutions for many years, I’m very familiar with the task these institutions face, and I concur with their attempts to write rules that minimize the latitude given to writers to write in a way that might constitute plagiarism. These rules are sometimes quite rigid, but that is appropriate when it’s impossible to micromanage every piece of writing within the institution. For this reason, I suggested above that a “technical” infraction might be seen in the Wegman Report. What I did not see was evidence of dishonesty. My guess (it’s only that), is that when the dust settles, that perspective will be the one that prevails.

    Given that prospect, I recommend that we avoid excessive denunciations of actions that don’t deserve very harsh criticism. Otherwise, we risk appearing vindictive and unfair, and in the end, we will be the losers for it. What later emerges in the form of additional evidence will be another matter.

  43. 243
    Snapple says:

    Here is an interesting snip from Dr. Mashey’s document. He puts this line in bold: “Congress and the DoJ should investigate the manufacture of the Wegman Report.”

    [Mashey’s] Recommendations.
    George Mason University ought to investigate many problems, as should several other universities and journals, the US Office of Research Integrity and perhaps the American Statistical Association (ethics issues). At least 4 agencies may have possible fund mis-uses to consider. Some authors or publishers might pursue copyright issues. Congress and the DoJ should investigate the manufacture of the Wegman Report. Possible felonies are covered by the US Code, 18.U.S.C §1001 (misleading Congress), §371 (conspiracy), §4 (misprision), which might involve many more people.
    The report lists about 30 issues, not all for Wegman Report itself, but including derivations and related activities.

  44. 244
    Marco says:

    Fred Moolten, I have two examples of potential dishonesty:
    1. Bradley was cited in some places, but not for most of the sections that were copied almost verbatim. Why?

    2. There were some, textually speaking minor, changes in the cited text. Some of those changes introduced errors, some outright distortions. The same actually happened with the “summaries” of several articles (they were also mostly verbatim copies of the abstracts), in one case, IIRC, turning around the conclusion of that paper.

    unrelated:
    Anyone know who hazzerer Kevin is? He’s in the recaptcha and wants out.

  45. 245
    dhogaza says:

    You asked me, Dhogaza, about institutional definitions of plagiarism. Having worked in academic institutions for many years, I’m very familiar with the task these institutions face, and I concur with their attempts to write rules that minimize the latitude given to writers to write in a way that might constitute plagiarism. These rules are sometimes quite rigid, but that is appropriate when it’s impossible to micromanage every piece of writing within the institution. For this reason, I suggested above that a “technical” infraction might be seen in the Wegman Report. What I did not see was evidence of dishonesty. My guess (it’s only that), is that when the dust settles, that perspective will be the one that prevails.

    And the repeated plagiarism by a doctoral student who had Wegman as her thesis advisor?

    You’ll let her skate, too?

    The plagiarism charge may be trivial in your view, however GMU has clarified that they’ve moved beyond the inquiry phase into the investigatory phase (since you’re fond of courts, from grand jury indictment to trial, as an analogy). Clearly GMU is treating this seriously.

    Note also that plagiarism is only one of many problems covered by Mashey in his 250 page investigation.

  46. 246
    Fred Moolten says:

    Re 245 – Rather than repeat myself, I would refer to my previous comments (242, 228) to explain why I perceive the plagiarism charges to be relatively inconsequential, reflecting shoddy scholarhsip rather than deliberate dishonesty.

    I’m not sure it’s worth more column inches here for further exchanges of opinions on this issue. Readers can review what’s been said and make their own judgments. However, I will tentatively predict that the final result of the investigation will be to scold Wegman and/or his grad students for their bad scholarship but to find them innocent of deliberate dishonesty. In other words, I expect the conclusions to be, “You were careless and sloppy, but you’re not cheaters.” In any case, we’ll see what transpires.

    My comments refer exclusively to examples I’ve seen in the news media. I make no judgment about other allegations in Mashey’s report, because I haven’t read it. More generally, though, I expect it’s a tactical mistake to focus on Wegman and thereby dilute the focus on Cuccinelli, who appears to be a demagogue trying to intimidate scientists in order to further his political ambitions. Wegman is much less vulnerable to charges of deliberate wrongdoing, and shifting the focus to him may backfire. I believe most objective observers will be sympathetic to our condemnation of what Cuccinelli is doing, but may conclude we’re being too harsh on Wegman, even if he is not immune to criticism.

    [Response: Fred, I don’t necessarily disagree with your take on ‘likely outcomes’, but I do object to the implication that there is some ‘strategy’ involved here. Scientists are simply defending themselves against attacks, not doing ‘strategic planning.’ So even if you are right about what the ‘strategy’ ought to be, it won’t have much impact, since there is no grand strategy! Perhaps we ought to be organized — as the anti-science crowd certainly appears to be — but the truth is, that we are not, whatever the attempts to tell the public we are (with their persistent use of the word ‘Team” for example).–eric]

  47. 247
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Fred Moolten says, \The reason I see the charge as rather trivial (and unlikely to result in more than a scolding if the cited examples are representative) is that there seems to be little evidence that the Wegman Report writers were trying to steal credit for anything, which is the moral essence of plagiarism.\

    While I agree that I really don’t want to see this pursued to its end, I would point out that Wegman did have reason to hide the extent to which he relied on Bradley, et al. He did not want people to see how ignorant he was of his subject matter. He was being put forward by M&M among others as an expert.

    Wegman’s effort smells. Deep Climate and John Mashey have identified many troubling aspects to the report. Unfortunately, I rather doubt anything will come of it. I am sure Wegman and his collaborators had access to sufficient funds to consult attorneys and so stayed just this side of legal.

    It bothers me that science is even having to play such silly games to defend itself.

  48. 248
    Didactylos says:

    Fred Moolten: a “technical” infraction is usually just an isolated case, not a systemic problem. If repeated technical infractions (almost too many to count) don’t constitute dishonesty, then it must be a *serious* case of incompetence.

    But technical or not, plagiarism is plagiarism – and usually something tenured Professors can get away with with impunity, as you so unsubtly (and rightly) imply. Someone earlier mentioned disinfecting sunlight. That is what we have here: with the media watching, GMU can’t do the usual academic wrist-slap cover-up.

    Undergraduates get kicked out for plagiarism on this scale. I see no reason why the same standard should not apply to everyone.

    Fred Moolten, given your comments, I strongly suspect that you haven’t looked at the reams of evidence that John has provided. Yes, if you just take one sentence that was copied in isolation, the similarity could arguably be coincidental. But when it continues for paragraph after paragraph, the evidence becomes damning.

    Why *haven’t* you read John Mashey’s report, before making such strong and baseless claims?

    [Response: Umm. guys, seems to me that there are a lot of opinions forming here on the basis of insufficient knowledge. I agree that Moolten is writing without really understanding the issues very well, but now I must ask you, Didactylos, where you get the idea that there is usually an “academic wrist-slap cover-up” for plagiarism, or that professors can ‘get away’ with anything. My one experience with this has been that questions start getting asked immediately by University administrators, even when the charges are trumped-up falsehoods perpetuated by people with a track record of harassment of anyone they disgree with. Enough speculation on all sides, okay?–eric]

  49. 249
    Bob Conklin says:

    Monday, October 11th 2010, 2:21 PM EDT Co2sceptic (Site Admin) Ninety legal challenges in the US against the global warming fraud are bolstered by an increase in the number of top scientists now prepared to speak out.

    Hal Lewis ???

    [Response:Never heard of him. A quick search on Web of Science gives 6 citations, 3 of them political opinion pieces about nuclear energy, and one a complaint about IPCC co-written with Fred Singer. Hmm.-eric]

  50. 250
    John McManus says:

    Fred Moolten:
    Maybe Wegman wasn’t trying to take credit for Bradley’s ideas, but he altered them to try and scre Mann.

    The scenario I see is as follows:
    The word comes down to Barton from the brothers Grimm that an attack on Mann is necessary. All that lovely coal money you see.

    Inside a smoky senate backroom the bourbon is poured and Wegs gets the job. Cash for a hatchet job on Mann. No pressure, just produce a document we can use. t doesn’t have to be good, who’e ever going to read it. But it has to be long enough to appear scholarly. Here is the info we want included. It is from a Canadian mining promoter ( remember Briex) .

    A couple of GMU underlings, glad for the coal cash do a quick web search, cut, paste and pad and bingo A REPORT.

    Careless to the point of unethical the saving grace was the fact that the Wegman report was so poor it got little scrutiny. Put the trash out, do not go through it.

    Mashey may be a dumpster diver, but he is an invaluable dumpster diver. What is more interesting is the intervention of Ritson. A man with the understanding of the subject and the math and statistic skills undemonstrated by Wegman, he sees mistakes.

    This would not be the first time . McIntyre comeon down.