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E&E threatens a libel suit

Filed under: — group @ 22 February 2011

Abuse of the UK libel laws is so commonplace as to require no real introduction (but see the Campaign for libel reform for more details). Because of the ridiculous costs and pro-plaintiff assumptions, it has been (ab)used by many and fought against successfully only by a few. In the realm of discussions about science, Simon Singh’s triumph over a libel suit brought by the British Chiropractors Association stands out, as does Ben Goldacre’s successful £500,000 defense against Matthias Rath – a vitamin salesman peddling bogus AIDS cures. But despite that, it remains (for now) a potent threat to throw around if you want to try to intimidate a critic.

We received this letter on Friday:

From: Bill Hughes
Cc: Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen
Subject:: E&E libel
Date: 02/18/11 10:48:01

Gavin, your comment about Energy & Environment which you made on RealClimate has been brought to my attention:

“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line. ”

To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make. And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.

At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate. I’m quite happy to work with you to find a mutually satisfactory form of words: I appreciate you might find it difficult.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes
Bill Hughes
Director
Multi-Science Publsihing [sic] Co Ltd

The comment in question was made in the post “From blog to Science” and the full context was:

The many existing critiques of peer review as a system (for instance by Richard Smith, ex-editor of the BMJ, or here, or in the British Academy report), sometimes appear to assume that all papers arrive at the journals fully formed and appropriately written. They don’t. The mere existence of the peer review system elevates the quality of submissions, regardless of who the peer reviewers are or what their biases might be. The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line – you end up with a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature or conversation. It simply isn’t worth wading through the dross in the hope of finding something interesting.

The point being that if the ‘peer-review’ bar gets lowered, the result is worse submissions, less impact and a declining reputation. Something that fits E&E in spades. This conclusion is based on multiple years of evidence of shoddy peer-review at E&E and, obviously, on the statements of the editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. She was quoted by Richard Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education (3 Sep 2003) in the wake of the Soon and Baliunas fiasco:

The journal’s editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, a reader in geography at the University of Hull, in England, says she sometimes publishes scientific papers challenging the view that global warming is a problem, because that position is often stifled in other outlets. “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway,” she says. “But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

So the claim that the ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ while certainly ‘terribly damaging’ to the journal’s reputation is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.

Other people have investigated the peer-review practices of E&E and found them wanting. Greenfyre, dissecting a list of supposedly ‘peer-reviewed’ papers from E&E found that:

A given paper in E&E may have been peer reviewed (but unlikely). If it was, the review process might have been up to the normal standards for science (but unlikely). Hence E&E’s exclusion from the ISI Journal Master list, and why many (including Scopus) do not consider E&E a peer reviewed journal at all.

Further, even the editor states that it is not a science journal and that it is politically motivated/influenced. Finally, at least some of what it publishes is just plain loony.

Also, see comments from John Hunter and John Lynch. Nexus6 claimed to found the worst climate paper ever published in its pages, and that one doesn’t even appear to have been proof-read (a little like Bill’s email). A one-time author, Roger Pielke Jr, said “…had we known then how that outlet would evolve beyond 1999 we certainly wouldn’t have published there. “, and Ralph Keeling once asked, “Is it really the intent of E&E to provide a forum for laundering pseudo-science?”. We report, you decide.

We are not surprised to find that Bill Hughes (the publisher) is concerned about his journal’s evidently appalling reputation. However, perhaps the way to fix that is to start applying a higher level of quality control rather than by threatening libel suits against people who publicly point out the problems? Is being known as the journal who tries to sue critics of their editorial policies (or worse, tries to intimidate critics by threatening libel suits) really going to help?

As a final note, if you think that threatening unjustifiable UK libel suits against valid criticism is an appalling abuse, feel free to let Bill Hughes know (but please be polite), and add your support to the Campaign for libel reform in the UK which looks to be making great headway. In the comments, feel free to list your examples of the worst papers ever published in E&E.

Bill, if you are reading, you can take this ‘form of words’ as a full and complete response to your email.

Update: The Guardian reports on the story, and Bill Hughes sends another email.


308 Responses to “E&E threatens a libel suit”

  1. 101
    Keith says:

    Sebastien #99
    …… that would be slander

  2. 102

    #92 HotRod, what part of “At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate.” *doesn’t* read like a threat to escalate, to you?

    [Response: Indeed, along with the subject line "E&E libel", the threat is unambiguous in any honest reading. - mike]

  3. 103
    Eli Rabett says:

    We don’t do no honest readings.

  4. 104
    John Hunter says:

    Re.post 32 (Eli Rabett) – I was a bit surprised to see that Richard Courtney is still on the Editorial Board of E & E. We had a little argument back in 2003 (see http://www.members.iinet.net.au/~johnroberthunter/www-swg/greenhouse_industry.html), during which Courtney made numerous threats of litigation towards me, none of which of course materialised.

  5. 105
    Sou says:

    Bill Hughes intimates that Gavin suggested that “an academic journal does not bother with peer review” and says what a dreadful charge that would be. In the quote he provides in his letter, I do not see Gavin accusing E&E of being an ‘academic journal’.

    Reminds me of an incident a couple of years ago, but I cannot quite recall what it was – anyone?

  6. 106
    dhogaza says:

    Bill, the publisher says:-
    And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.
    and then you quote him with:-
    ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position”

    So what you have done is take his words mid sentence to change the focus

    No, he quoted the *editor*, who is not *Bill the publisher*.

    Read for comprehension, please.

  7. 107
    sidd says:

    Now you made me do it. I went to the E&E website. There seem to be four abstracts of refereed papers available for December 2010.

    The first pair might be slitely defensible. The last two are howling lunatic.

    Mr. Bill Hughes: That’s spelled “Howling Lunatic” in case your lawyers are as incompetent as your referees and editors. I look forward to your lawsuit.

    sidd

  8. 108
    Russell says:

    Hughes’ covenant ” with the UK’s Professional Golfers Association (PGA) whereby PGA members will have unrestricted online access to…The Annual Review of Golf Coaching series, and the Sports Science Handbook, from 2010.”

    suggests E&E’s editorial duties ought to be assigned to such British Open winners as, overlapping with Viscount Monckton on the Marylebone Cricket Club board, will feel naturally obliged to impose minimal standards of sportsmanship on lounge lizards like Delingpole.

    Once the syndics of The Spectator realize the implications of even millimeter per annum sea level rise on coastal links like St. Andrew’s, they will rally to HRH’s point of view, leaving TVMOB & the Telegraph wets in the lurch.

  9. 109
    Jaime Frontero says:

    I can only second the first.

    Bravo!

    [Recaptcha: "ensari rates". So does RealClimate.]

  10. 110
    Clippo says:

    Re: # 76, Ray Ladbury,

    My apologies for mentioning THE main supporter of E & E in my opinion. I’m an AGW ‘alarmist’ and proud of it and have debated considerably and frustratingly with him elsewhere. I agree with your comments about him – so sorry for rattling your cage.

    However, I have long suspected that he has some sort of software on his website that detects automatically when E & E is discussed/his name appears elsewhere on the internet –(perhaps he just google’s these terms every couple of hours ) – so I was surprised he hadn’t appeared here.

  11. 111
    Lars Rosenberg says:

    Worst ever: Jelbring H. : The “Greenhouse Effect” as a Function of Atmospheric Mass, Energy & Environment, 1 May 2003, vol. 14, no. 2-3, pp. 351-356.
    Jelbring uses the textbook formula for the lapse rate, g/cp, to prove that the earth’s temperature depends on g and cp.
    In an acknowledement he thanks his own company for economic support and ”two brave anonymous peer reviewers making the publication a fact.”

  12. 112
    Andy Russell says:

    This would seem like a great opportunity for E&E to kill two birds with one stone:

    If they implemented some sort of open peer review then they could refute the claims being made here and act on one of the “skeptic” causes – that closed peer review biases the system.

    This does, however, rely on them having a robust system…

    I wrote Bill a letter, which I put on my blog.

  13. 113
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Eli #32: here is a bio of David Cope. Unremarkable, and gives no cue as to why he would be on the board of a junk journal.

  14. 114
    Mango says:

    In the Late 50′s Eugene Parker tried to publish a paper in the Astrophysical Journal. The peer review process rejected the paper, because the reviewers simply didn’t believe Parker. The paper was saved by the editor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (who later received the 1983 Nobel Prize in physics) and published.

    The paper was Parker’s hypothesis on the now widelt accepted solar wind

    Should Parker’s paper have been rejected or published?

    /Mango

  15. 115

    Steven Mosher has a point, in a devil’s advocate (his specialty) kind of way:

    “effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line – you end up with a backwater of poorly presented and incoherent contributions that make no impact on the mainstream scientific literature or conversation.”

    The claim of having dispensed with peer review seems based on inference from the second part of this sentence: That E&E is full of shoddy and incoherent contributions. But is that by itself enough evidence to claim that peer review was dispensed with – in *any* paper that concur with the editor’s politics? That is a much tougher question than the question “is E&E a reputable journal” or “are there many bad papers in E&E”.

  16. 116
    Richard Tol says:

    For your information, I have published a few papers in E&E. All were peer-reviewed as usual. I have reviewed a few more for the journal.

  17. 117
    Thomas Palm says:

    I once tried to submit a comment to an article in E&E and it was accepted by the editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. When nothing happened I sent a letter to her four months later asking if she knew of a publishing date. Her response was that she didn’t remember it, but after a while she returned and noted that yes, they had received it and she had forgotten all about it. At that point I withdrew the comment as I found the attitude somewhat unprofessional.

    In one of here letters she described the purpose of E&E:
    “Not being able to judge the scientific value of the arguments myself, and being a journal not dedicated to scientific debates (teh climate sceptics groups serves this purpose better|), but rather to making social scientists aware that there are other views than those summarised in the name of the IPCC, I have decided not to continue this debate, at least for the time being.”

    “This debate” refers to comments to the original paper by Hans Jelbing that claimed the greenhouse effect was caused by the mass of the atmosphere and had nothing to do with IR-absorption.

  18. 118
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    For an example of a poorly reviewed refereed paper in E&E, try this one, where the first sentence of the abstract is incorrect!

    Ryunosuke Kikuchi, “External Forces Acting on the Earth’s Climate: An Approach to Understanding the Complexity of Climate Change”, Energy and Environment, vol. 21, no. 8, pp. 953-968, December 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1260/0958-305X.21.8.953

    The abstract begins: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines lifetime for CO2 as the time required for the atmosphere to adjust to a future equilibrium state [O.K. so far], and it gives a wide range of 5-200 years [incorrect]; however, a number of published data show a short lifetime of 5-15 years [misleading with incorrect implication].”

    The IPCC do not give a range of 5-200 years for the adjustment time, the most recent WG1 report gives an “approximate value of 100 years” for the adjustment time. It is the residence or turnover time that is about four years (page 948). The 1990 report gives a value of 50-200 years for the adjustment time and about 4 years for the residence/turnover time (page 8). Both reports clearly distinguish between adjustment time and residence time. Clearly the reviewers of this paper were unaware of what the IPCC claim regarding adjustment time. The abstract also implies that the “short lifetime of 5-15 years” is the dajustment time, it isn’t, it is the residence time, and anyone competent to review the paper ought to have known that.

    As we only have to look in the most recent edition of E&E to find a clear example of a failure of the peer-review process, that would support the contention that peer review at E&E is not uniformly substantive.

  19. 119
    aloy says:

    Ooooooh. Dangerous debate. Anyway perhaps E&E needs a new pair of glasses. They’ve got a baaaaaaad case of myopia, don’t they?

  20. 120
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Look what the cat dragged in… from Multi-Science’s website, this… and this… and this… without even trying very hard.

    They really seem to be specializing in denialism. I wonder who sponsors the current attack. Peiser?

    Their journals are here. Does anybody recognize these or have a subscription?

  21. 121
  22. 122
    Beesaman says:

    Does this not fall under the Right to Reply format rather than libel laws?

  23. 123
    Dennis says:

    Here’s an opportunity for E&E’s peers to step forward and say “Yep, I reviewed numerous climate science papers.” But I suspect not a single climate scientist will admit to that.

  24. 124
    ghost says:

    My reaction is similar to those of most here. The old joke about the piccolo player in the church meeting sums up my feelings about this matter, and the multiple ones like it around the world.

  25. 125
    Tim Joslin says:

    Guys, I don’t want to see you distracted by having to defend yourselves in court.

    The legal process does indeed need to be cheaper and I understand steps are being taken to address this problem. However, this is clearly a case falling within the remit of the libel laws as it doesn’t take a lot of detachment to realise the original post does indeed publicly attack E&E’s reputation.

    AIUI, the problem Simon Singh had was that in using the word “bogus” he opened himself up to the argument that he was alleging not just that the cures didn’t work but that their proponents knew they didn’t work, i.e. that there was deliberate deception involved. Similarly, the Hutton Affair (one suicide, several high-flying careers derailed, oceans of bad blood between the BBC and the Blair government) resulted not from the accusation that a (rather nonsensical) claim about Iraqi WMD was false, but that the government knew it to be false. I make this point to ensure you are aware of the cultural sensitivity that it’s not arguments about facts that are going to cause you a problem, but arguments about motivations.

    Steven Mosher’s general argument (in #58 and #84) is correct – are you able to defend against E&E’s best case?

    The offending passage is this:

    “The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line…”

    which could be construed as an attack on both E&E’s competence and the integrity of its executive.

    The wording is at least clumsy, since from the context it’s clear that what you are actually arguing is that E&E has “effectively dispensed with substantive peer review”, period.

    Hughes’ first charge is that:

    “To assert, without knowing, as you cannot possibly know, not being connected with the journal yourself, that an academic journal does not bother with peer review, is a terribly damaging charge, and one I’m really quite surprised that you’re prepared to make.”

    It sounds like you’re prepared to use the curate’s egg argument that an adequate peer review process is either in place or it isn’t. It can’t be “good in parts”. As One Anonymous Bloke (#65) points out, it therefore doesn’t look like E&E’s best argument is the one Mosher suggests, i.e. that some papers have been peer reviewed.

    You might also be able to use the “no reputation to defend” argument against this charge, though as I recollect from tales of the days of yore, this was more often applied by a judge awarding negligible damages than argued on behalf of defendants.

    The problem is the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”, which relates to what appears to be a second potential charge:

    “And to further assert that peer review is abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position, is even more damaging, not to mention being completely ridiculous.”

    The phrase “even more damaging” rather suggests this is where Hughes feels he is on firmer ground.

    You could argue, I suppose, that the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line” is in fact entirely redundant, which strictly speaking is the case. However, it’s there, so that argument might not be sustainable.

    Maybe instead you’d have to argue that your assertion is in fact that, because no rigorous peer review process is in place, E&E publish papers based on editorial discretion rather than editorial discretion and scientific rigour (what else could possibly happen?). I think this is what you are actually arguing in this post, though, IMO, your argument that:

    “…the claim that… ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ … is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.”

    doesn’t actually address the complaint against you.

    Scientific rigour alone is not sufficient to ensure publication in a specific journal. That would be a daft state of affairs since there’d then be practically no point in journals having an editor. All editors select, commission or require revision of content on the basis of relevance to their readership – that’s a key part of the role of the editor.

    The trouble is the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line” can be read to imply the interpretation Hughes puts on it, i.e. that you’re alleging not just that the peer review process is inadequate but that the reason it is inadequate is to permit the publication of “papers that follow the editor’s political line”. And that touches on the cultural sensitivity.

    If you think Hughes is serious (and the title of his email does include the word “libel”), maybe you want to think about clarifying what you really meant in including the clause “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”.

  26. 126
    Joe Cushley says:

    I especially like the last sentence in Energy and Environment’s self-description…

    “Particular attention is given to ways of resolving conflict in the energy and environment field.”

  27. 127
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tim Joslin,

    Gavin has merely drawn attention to the reputation E&E has among serious scientists. Roger Pielke and many others have said pretty much the same thing.
    So it would seem E&E is suing for “Definition of Character”.

  28. 128
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Clippo, No worries, I was actually joking (as I was hoping my use of the term “summon” as in demonology might make clear). I am serious thought that we don’t want to get him started here. He’s incapable of logical argument–only repeating his discredited points ever more loudly.

  29. 129
    Martin Vermeer says:

    > “for any papers that follow the editor’s political line”

    Are there any examples of papers that followed the editor’s political line, yet from their apparent scientific quality appear to have undergone substantive peer review?

    One example will do. If it exists it should be findable. Right?

  30. 130
    VickyI says:

    Not that some of us have become very quickly accustomed to a certain social networking site, but it’s times like this I wish RC comments had a ‘like’ button…

    [Response: Your wish is our command... - gavin]

  31. 131
    bigcitylib says:

    Here is how Oliver Manuel’s work went through peer review at E&E. A kind of case-study:

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2011/02/peer-review-at-e.html

  32. 132
    Tim Joslin says:

    Ray Ladbury #126:

    Do you mean “Defamation of Character” or are you making some kind of quip? If the former, it would seem that yes, that would seem to be what Bill Hughes is upset about.

    Maybe “others have said pretty much the same thing” in your opinion, but that’s pretty much beside the point.

    It’s necessary, I’m afraid, to address the specific complaints that Bill Hughes has made. It seems to me not inconceivable that things could become a tad problematic if Gavin is really alleging that “peer review [has been] abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position”. Is that provable?

    It may be, for example, that the E&E peer review process is weak (assuming that it is) for some reason (e.g. organisational difficulties such as under-resourcing) entirely unconnected with the editor’s political views, and that some people have simply found it easier to get their work published in E&E than elsewhere, since only in the case of E&E are they able to get it through both the scientific rigour and editorial discretion filters that exist for all journals.

  33. 133
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    bigcitylib,

    So it appears as if Manuel’s paper was sent to at least one reviewer, who rejected it as the work of a crank. Even after that, it was still published, although not as a peer-reviewed paper because Sonja liked what it had to say about climate. Is this a fair summary?

    Oh yeah, that and the fact that she solicited it because she liked what Manuel was saying on the climateskeptics mailing list…

  34. 134
    bigcitylib says:

    RN,

    Sounds right. He is offered space to write something either peer-reviewed or not. When one of his pieces doesn’t “pass” it is still published. Although I’d note on the E&E website there isn’t really a category for “opinion”. His shorter piece is marked ‘book review”, the latter “origonal”. Also, I’m not sure I would refer to what his paper went through as “substantive” peer review, one of the reviewers being “the only theoretical physicist I know here”

  35. 135
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tim Joslin, The “definition of character” line is an old joke (dating from Vaudeville, I believe).

    WRT Hughes allegations, I don’t see how you could interpret Gavin’s remarks comments as saying that E&E has no peer-review system. He has merely said that the system is by-passed for articles that fit with Sonja’s political agenda. She has said as much, herself. In fact, were there to be a legal proceeding, Sonja would wind up being a star defense witness!

    It is not that no other journals have content that is not peer-reviewed–Science and Nature both have commentary. However, there the commentary is clearly identified. In E&E, you can have two pieces side by side that went through very different processes to get printed with no difference made clear to the reader.

    There is also the question of the effect of the statement. It is arguable that the people who read E&E don’t care if the material therein is peer reviewed. Many distrust peer review. Moreover, it is unlikely that Gavin’s comment would cause anyone to change their opinion of E&E, as there is probably little overlap between people who trust both E&E and Gavin.

  36. 136
    Philip S says:

    I posted this earlier on Deltoid; so apologies for the repetition.
    I can’t speak for the US, but I know something about libel law in the UK, which is generally regarded as exceptionally favorable to plaintiffs.
    From what I can see, if Hughes is threatening a libel action then that action is extremely unlikely to succeed. This is because Schmidt’s piece quite clearly falls under the heading of ‘fair comment’. The exact nature of what constitutes ‘substantive peer review’ is open to debate and differences of opinion. Since no clear and measurable standard exists, only broadly observed conventions, Schmidt’s remarks need only be true if E&E’s anti-AGM articles do no not pass the ‘substantive peer review’ standard in the opinion of anyone in the field – including himself. A single witness, produced by the defence – say, an editor at a peer-reviewed publication – who was willing to say that the R&R’s peer review process was different from his or her own, would be enough to render the plaintiff’s case effectively void. Indeed, so weak would be the plaintiff’s case, that a counter-claim for vexatious litigation would quite likely follow – and win.
    I suspect Hughes was advised along these lines by his company lawyers. That is why no direct reference to legal action was made in his e-mail. If you really want someone to retract something, and you think you have a case, you don’t send a vaguely menacing e-mail; you serve them notice that you intend to seek damages, while indicating that a retraction might suffice. (This I know from personal experience). In short, Schmidt should ignore Hughes’s e-mail. It contains a hollow threat.

  37. 137
    Philip S says:

    I posted this earlier on Deltiod; so apologies for the repetition.
    I can’t speak for the US, but I know something about libel law in the UK, which is generally regarded as exceptionally favorable to plaintiffs. From what I can see, if Hughes is threatening a libel action then that action is extremely unlikely to succeed. This is because Schmidt’s piece quite clearly falls under the heading of ‘fair comment’. The exact nature of what constitutes ‘substantive peer review’ is open to debate and differences of opinion. Since no clear and measurable standard exists, only broadly observed conventions, Schmidt’s remarks need only be true if E&E’s anti-AGM articles do no not pass the ‘substantive peer review’ standard in the opinion of anyone in the field – including himself. A single witness, produced by the defence – say, an editor at a peer-reviewed publication – who was willing to say that the R&R’s peer review process was different from his or her own, would be enough to render the plaintiff’s case effectively void. Indeed, so weak would be the plaintiff’s case, that a counter-claim for vexatious litigation would quite likely follow – and win. I suspect Hughes was advised along these lines by his company lawyers. That is why no direct reference to legal action was made in his e-mail. If you really want someone to retract something, and you think you have a case, you don’t send a vaguely menacing e-mail; you serve them notice that you intend to seek damages, while indicating that a retraction might suffice. (This I know from personal experience).
    In short, Hughes’s e-mail contains a hollow threat.

  38. 138
    Steve says:

    “Multi-Science Publsihing [sic] Co Ltd”

    The signature made me laugh, it tells me all I need to know about E&E.

  39. 139
    Septic Matthew says:

    Gavin: So the claim that the ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ while certainly ‘terribly damaging’ to the journal’s reputation is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.

    The first phrase in quotes (‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’) is a misleading paraphrase (of the editor, who may have been misquoted in the first place) that omits an important qualifier; in the final clause the word “ridiculous” misattributes what the letter claimed “ridiculous” applied to.

    Somebody with more legal expertise than all of us have needs to review the specific language (I second Steve Mosher: read all the language with careful attention to exactness) to determine whether Gavin’s language constitutes “reckless disregard for the truth” or “actual malice”. Recall that Gavin is an employee of the U.S. govt, and interested parties may demand to know whether any of his postings were done on government time.

    I recommend the consultation of an attorney, someone who understands the law and juries. The warning in the letter sounds serious to me.

  40. 140
    das75428 says:

    Energy & Environment can’t be that bad, it’s referenced in the IPCC AR4 four times.

  41. 141
    Tim Joslin says:

    Philip S #136:

    Maybe Hughes hasn’t yet decided whether to take legal action.

    What about Hughes’ second complaint that “peer review [has been] abandoned precisely in order to let the editor publish papers which support her political position”?

    (Impossible ReCaptcha btw, completely indecipherable).

  42. 142
    Didactylos says:

    Septic Matthew: The truth is an absolute defence.

    And both you and Mosher seem to be unable to “read all the language with careful attention to exactness”, so maybe it’s time to stop embarrassing yourself further?

    (You won’t, of course. But it would be nice if you did.)

  43. 143
    arch stanton says:

    das75428 #139:

    I assume you are joking, but for the benefit of those who may not have spent much time reviewing the AR4 – it should be mentioned that they reference lots of sources for discussion purposes. I’d be surprised indeed if any of the references you mentioned are used to directly support a conclusion of the IPCC.

  44. 144
    bratisla says:

    @140 : don’t know about US or UK libel customs, but in France this mail would not even be considered as a libel suit threat.
    If I were Gavin, I would not even bother to contact my lawyers – not until a clear libel suit threat is delivered. This letter sounds more like a right to answer with an attempt to put “friendly” (and quite patronizing, if you want my opinion) pressure, so that realclimate on his own takes back its claim. Mr Hughes does not even try to back his request with some legal basis …
    (but I’m influenced by my french law habits, a bit less forgiving in case of a spurious libel suit. You do NOT want to upset french judges by wasting their time with bogus libel suits, oooh no)

  45. 145

    LR 111: Jelbring uses the textbook formula for the lapse rate, g/cp, to prove that the earth’s temperature depends on g and cp.

    BPL: Oh, dear God. No wonder this stupid argument keeps popping up on amazon.com forums.

  46. 146

    TJ 125: the original post does indeed publicly attack E&E’s reputation.

    BPL: WHAT reputation?

  47. 147
    Hugh Laue says:

    Dr Philip Lloyd copied me with this email from E&E on 12 Dec 2008. He’d asked E&E for their review policy and got this reply from Sonja.

    From: Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen [mailto:Sonja.B-C@hull.ac.uk]
    Sent: 09 December 2008 08:16
    To: Philip Lloyd
    Subject: RE: Energy & Environment
    We publish three types of papers, clearly differentiated.
    1. Peer reviewed (at least two reviewers and my own view, relevant only to some subjects). This creates difficulties only in certain subjects, opinions are heavily divided and one side tries to exclude the other; e.g. on global warming science . Environmentalism becomes a problem, for it prejudices ‘believers’. Because I believe that the science debate over climate change continues, I publish climate ‘sceptics’, heavily peer reviewed, by peers, not IPCC devotees.
    2. Technical communications and Viewpoints, these are short (up to about 3000 words) and not peer reviewed. This can be a mixed bunch, because publication is faster authors sometimes prefer it. I use it also for very controversial subjects can creep in, but readers are warned.

    We usually have 4-6 peer reviewed papers and 4 or 5 Viewpoints per issue. The precise mix varies, and Guest Editors (of Special Issues) have some freedom to select and categorise papers, but I have the final word.

    I hope that answers your question, feel free to ask more.

    I attach our ‘mission’ statement.

    Best wishes

    Sonja B-C
    PS: I remain sceptical of the current consensus that ‘global warming’ is as important a scientific/environmental issue as UN and EU tend to claim, but this is based on my own work in political analysis of environmental issues. This bias is reflected in the journals’ scientific contribution, but not in the others (economics, engineering, politics ..) E&E analyses environmental debates impacting on energy industries , it is not an environmentalist journal.

    Dr.Sonja A.Boehmer-Christiansen
    Reader Emeritus, Department of Geography
    Hull University
    Editor, Energy&Environment
    Multi-Science (www.multi-science.co.uk)
    HULL HU6 7RX
    Phone:(0044)1482 465369/465385
    Fax: (0044) 1482 466340

  48. 148
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    # 50 Slioch:

    “I must confess I find myself wishing that someone would write a deliberately bogus anti-AGW paper with identifiably false data and bent statistics and submit it to E&E to see what happened.”

    So you’re wishing for business as usual?

    [Response: Anybody remember L'affaire Sokal? --raypierre]

  49. 149
    greyfox says:

    Re: 60; that does indeed sound logical.
    I have read all the posts above with interest. It is clear that the corporate-driven campaign to discredit and intimidate climate science is sophisticated, long range, ruthless and determined. Rather than simply focus on one event at a time, like this potential lawsuit, (and an endless whack-a-mole ensuing), it seems to me that we have reached a sort of tipping point in the battle to inform and influence public debate. One only has to watch the political upheaval in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Arizona to realize that there is a broad-spectrum assault on many institutions, and that the money that is driving the denialist bilge is also driving these corrosive agendas as well. No mystery now where the money is coming from; we now also know that the US Chamber of Commerce has been utilizing pros to attack reputations etc via electronic means.
    To avert total disaster, and to avoid herding cats, perhaps there should be some serious talk about new and much more robust strategies to deal with the above personalities and issues. If Limbaugh can broadcast ‘execution’ demands, then we have wandered into a zone that needs something more than just semantic hair-splitting and handwringing. Ordinary people with extraordinary courage are changing the world as we speak.

  50. 150
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Greyfox #149 As an interested observer of the events on the USA, I have been reminded of Hansen’s call for people to take to the streets. The people are on the streets for entirely different reasons, though; any damage to the AGW denialists will come as a side-effect. However, if Americans can achieve a return to democracy that might lead to more pressure to heed the science.


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