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Unfinished Business

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 June 2011

A paper in the scientific literature has to have some minimum level of content to be worth publishing (and regrettably, the search for the ‘Least Publishable Unit’ (LPU) of work is occasionally apparent for those wishing to pad their CVs). But what happens when someone has something worth saying that falls below that level? This is might be an update to an earlier paper, with modifications to figure, one extra sensitivity test, or some other minor addition, that could be of interest to readers of the original, but it doesn’t really get to the point where one would write a whole new paper. Some new journals (such as Geoscientific Model Development, GMD) have set up mechanisms to provide versioning of papers so that small updates can be made relatively easily, but this is rather uncommon.

A common reason to want to add additional material is in the light of subsequent commentary. In the usual case of an official submitted comment, the required response provides a good opportunity to give further details, add justification, or even agree with the comment (this last one doesn’t happen very often, but it does occur). Comments are often hard to publish for all sorts of non-scientific reasons, see Rick Trebino’s appalling story for instance, and note GRL’s 2010 decision to stop accepting comments altogether. Unfortunately not all comment/response pairs that do get published are worthwhile, but I still think they can be useful.

Where criticism occurs on a blog, there is no necessity to respond (as there would be for a submitted comment), but it is possible that there is something worth addressing (not everything is of course). Responses posted to that material – either in blog comments or in other blogs are however a little unsatisfying since the blog commentary and response are not tied to the actual paper (though mechanisms like that used by ‘Research Blogging‘ or JournalTalk could conceivably be used), and can quite frequently spiral out of control (with additional criticisms, responses, and often vast amounts of irrelevant commentary). As a useful archive of a discussion, this leaves much to be desired, nonetheless, the determined reader can usually find some nuggets.

But there is a third case where the comment/response effectively never sees the light of day. For a number of reasons critics will sometimes decide not to submit a comment, but rather a whole new paper. This might be because they want to include more information than a comment would allow or are making a comment on a previous work as part of a larger paper. Or it might be that they (correctly) note that comments are not as useful on the CV as a ‘proper’ paper, or indeed, a journal does not want to accept a comment for some reason. Less nobly, comments are sometimes avoided to try to prevent the original authors from having the last word. However, there is a risk that this paper never gets published at all (perhaps because it has less than one LPU, or it isn’t very good, or it clearly nothing more than a comment on a previous paper, or the authors lose enthusiasm). In that case, the criticism, and any response to it from the original authors (if they were asked to respond), simply disappears from sight. While possible, in my experience it is very rare that the critics then turn back to the official comment route.

It is very unusual for any scientific paper to the last word on anything, and there are almost always things that, in retrospect, one would have done differently. So it is not surprising that questions get raised through all this that the original authors might want to tackle without themselves submitting a whole other paper. Theoretically most papers would benefit from a well-refereed post-publication commentary. Yet, without a formal mechanism to shepherd this process, this material generally falls through the cracks.

As readers might have surmised, this is leading up to something.

Two papers that I was an author or co-author on in recent years generated a fair amount of blog commentary – Schmidt (2009) in IJoC and Benestad and Schmidt (2009) in JGR – mostly because they were explorations of issues raised by authors critical of the mainstream view of climate science. Despite the blog discussions, however, in neither case was a comment/response pair published. A comment was submitted on Schmidt (2009) by Jos de Laat, but this did not pass peer review (rightly I think) and no more has been heard of it. In both cases however, other authors whose work was criticised (specifically Ross McKitrick and Nicola Scafetta) submitted new papers to the same journal that were effectively just extended comments. A couple of valid points were made, but much in the draft texts was either wrong or irrelevant. I was asked to respond to both submissions by the editors involved, and did so in the form of a signed draft response as if the papers had indeed been submitted as comments. In both cases however, the papers were eventually rejected. A similar paper by McKitrick and Nierenberg appeared in another journal, while Scafetta’s paper has not been seen again.

So why bring this up now?

The fact is well-crafted comments and responses on both these papers would have been a useful contribution to the literature, and it is a shame that this didn’t happen (as I stated in at least one of the responses). That the authors were unwilling to submit ‘just’ a comment for whatever reason is part of the story (but it is not clear that any actual comment would have stuck to the points I thought worth making, or that the comment/response would have passed peer review either). But both papers have been mentioned recently in various contexts and it was apparent that the conversations might have been at least a little more interesting if the at least some of the unpublished correspondence on the papers had been available.

It strikes me that these are unlikely to be unique circumstances (or at least I would be very surprised if this kind of thing hasn’t happened to other people). So is there interest in RC providing space for these kinds of discussions? Authors, with something extra to say that they don’t ever think they’ll put in a new paper, could add some extra analysis and tie up some of the loose ends. I’d be happy to start the ball rolling by dealing with some issues relating to the papers mentioned above, but is this something else anyone would care to do? Should we instead be advocating for a rapid reaction online journal specifically for worthwhile comments and replies, especially since some journals have stopped accepting them? Thoughts welcome.


38 Responses to “Unfinished Business”

  1. 1
    tamino says:

    … is there interest in RC providing space for these kinds of discussions?

    Yes. In fact I think that would be a very wise course.

    Should we instead be advocating for a rapid reaction online journal specifically for worthwhile comments and replies …

    The two are not mutually exclusive. I think it would take some time for such a journal to evolve to a truly useful formalized entity. Meanwhile, RC (and other blogs?) are already prepared to host this kind of discussion.

  2. 2
    adelady says:

    Been thinking along these lines since SkS produced the nifty graphic on tracking and classifying publications. (Not suitable for here because the criteria are linked to the rebuttal/myth system at SkS.)

    I like the idea. Maybe moderation / comment policy might be a bit more tightly focused for such discussions if the discussion is to be useful for long-term reference.

  3. 3
    Edward Greisch says:

    Thoughts:

    Should I subscribe to Geoscientific Model Development (GMD) or is it for professors only?

    Journaltalk seems like a good idea.

    I think that there is a lot of covering up for/by whoever has the most authority in maybe all situations. Humans more than 3 years old don’t tell the truth.

    I would love to read those professor to professor comments, but maybe on an Advanced RC [ARC] web site or a page 2. I would also like the original papers to be included and I would also like the original papers to include the intermediate steps so that I could follow them.

    My masters thesis was like that. And 2 other people eventually patented parts of it.

    The referees help keep the cranks out, and some of the good stuff as well.

    Why/how would/could economists comment on a climate paper? What else is going on here?

    A completely new system is needed to replace refereed journals, but first the human brain needs to be re-designed. Same for civilization and the universities. Looking back over 64 years, I have to agree with Q [from Star Trek]. What a pathetic species! “Pathetic” is the only word that fits.

    Papers take way too long to publish. Science takes far too long to filter down to the common person. Do the Borg do it better? Could you make RC B be the place you publish your papers as well as the comments? I would like that. I would also like to take a degree in climate science on line for free.

    Some sort of super-brain or hyper computer is needed to digest all the knowledge of the world. We must be missing a lot that requires post-doc level knowledge of several fields. How can your new comments web site be a step in that direction?

    Do journal editors have degrees in climate science or in English and journalism?

  4. 4
    Bruce says:

    “Should we instead be advocating for a rapid reaction online journal specifically for worthwhile comments and replies.”

    This would appear the more practical of the two alternatives. To prevent the comment-response cycle becoming unwieldy (with all those enthusiastic RealClimate posters) the process would need to be peer reviewed, albeit with less rigour than a journal. That is, the comments and responses would need to be relevent, substantive and informed to a level appropriate for the scientific discussion of issue in question.

  5. 5

    I agree with tamino. I would include links added along the line as related issues are published, with hyperlinks to other relevant responses or issue content.

    Example. If McKitrick gets his response paper published but there is no other reasonable comment or paper addressed to directly deal with it, it would be helpful for those that deal with communications on these issues to have a source that places all these issues in context to determine relevance, and of course aspects in the responses that may be irrelevant.

  6. 6
    Martin Smith says:

    I have strong interest in climate science but not enough knowledge to analyze a paper well enough to see what is wrong with it and what is right. Seeing a few rounds of peer comments on each paper would be most helpful.

    BTW, I can only decipher about 1 in 5 of the RECAPTCHA texts. Is there a degree of difficulty setting you can lower?

  7. 7
    CM says:

    If you can set up a way to round off such discussions with well-crafted comments and response, I’ll certainly look forward to reading it. Sadly, though, I don’t see all the potential contributors of well-crafted comments and response accepting that you’re making this offer in good faith — or engaging with it in good faith themselves, rather than hoping for an opportunity to trumpet that they’re being victimized.

    Please do set the ball running anyway. I have been tracking some of your scattered comments on McKitrick and Michaels (2007, PDF copy), de Laat and Maurellis (2006) and Schmidt (2009), through the rejected McKitrick and Nierenberg 2009 rebuttal (PDF) and the ensuing back and forth, up to McKitrick’s lament (PDF) over the climate journals’ lack of appreciation of McKitrick 2010 , and your send-up of that… and think you should gather them up somewhere they’ll be easier to find.
    :)

  8. 8
    chris says:

    A dedicated journal for this purpose would be useful, although really, all journals should have the facility for addressing serious criticism of published papers. Not sure if “ironic” is the word to describe GRL’s decision to disallow comments just at a time when a small number of “chancers” make knowing (and sometimes successful) efforts to sneak truly deficient papers into the system.

    I guess there are two problems with doing this via a blog:

    1. If it’s done here, there will be the perception of bias. However that’s not a reason not to do this, and I think it would be a very useful and interesting exercise.

    2. Unless it is really strongly moderated, it’s quite likely that the authors (and supporters) of some of the truly deficient papers that might be suitable for this form of feedback/comment will engange in the “argument ad infinitum”/”black is white” style of argumentation that underlies quite a bit of contrarian discourse…

    There is no question that it is worth focussing very objective criticism of deficient analyses in published papers. If it were to be done on this blog then there should be a seperate (and indexed) section on the blog for this so that these analyses/comments/feedback series were not diluted in the general flow of posts. It would be very useful indeed to be able to easily find the set of discussions relevant for any particular paper….

  9. 9
    chris says:

    Incidentally, my post above really refers to the sort of stuff that would normally go in a Comment on a problematic paper. The other part of this (“authors with something extra to say”) etc. is less controversial, but I wonder whether many publishing scientists would find this very interesting. They might consider that if it’s interesting enough to comment on, then it’s likely interesting enough to hold onto until there’s some value in publishing it. Also, for time series analyse4s, where it would be useful, say, to update a published analysis with the latest few years of data, this is already normally done via a database on on the authors website…

  10. 10
    Chris G says:

    I would hazard a guess that the current system has been at least partly shaped by the practicalities of how works are published. A hard-copy publishing system imposes difficulties with versioning of papers. I’m a programmer; so, I relate the kinds of updates Gavin is talking about to updates to code streams that are tracked in a version control system. If I had to implement version control in a system where the code is kept in stacks of punch cards … it would be difficult. However, electronic media makes this relatively easy; beyond code in flat files, systems for tracking document changes already exist.

    I’m thinking that the journals refusing to accept comments are taking a step backwards. I believe that journals that embrace electronic publishing and leverage that to provide links to updated charts, comments, etc. are the wave of the future. Probably this has been considered already, but the is hesitancy to be the first journal to take the plunge.

    I do think there is value to having comments reviewed before being published, and blogs don’t meet this requirement. No system is perfect, but a system that allowed minor updates with minor review requirements would be an improvement. IDK, but when I was in school reading papers, it wasn’t always easy to know if the paper I was reading had been updated or rebutted. Updates or comments within a single publisher would be easy to link electronically; rebuttals across journals would require some standardization and cooperation that might be hard to get at first.

  11. 11
    Vince Belovich says:

    I think it is definitely wortwhile, especially given the nature of climate science to be a magnet for controversy. Unfortunately, you would be opening yourselves up to even more work, and if that takes away from your usual posts, then it wouldn’t be worth it.

  12. 12
    Edward Greisch says:

    More important: Somebody needs to follow the money trail constantly to check for fossil fuel industry buyouts of either the publication or the editors. Rick Trebino’s appalling story is something that should have triggered an investigation by an attorney general. Rick Trebino should become more aware of the possibility of such things going on and enable himself to do something else. The editors were trying to make life difficult for Rick Trebino. Don’t get suckered, Rick Trebino.

    If a publication gets compromised by fossil fuel industry buyouts, consider it poison and boycott it.

  13. 13
    jules says:

    Yes – set up a journal for comments and replies. It is required and you will have so much fun doing it.

    I think you are should be less disparaging about the LPU. These days, with lots of potentially interesting abstracts landing everyday in my Google Reader, I want to be able to comprehend the message of the paper as fast as possible. Five papers each of one LPU are surely easier to absorb in this way than one paper with 5 diverse results.

  14. 14
    jules says:

    Yes – set up a journal for comments and replies. It is required and you will have so much fun doing it…

    I think you are should be less disparaging about the LPU. These days, with lots of potentially interesting abstracts landing everyday in my Google Reader, I want to be able to comprehend the message of the paper as fast as possible. Five papers each of one LPU are surely easier to absorb in this way than one paper with 5 diverse results.

    To Edward Greisch: GMD is Open Access – free to all!

  15. 15
    jules says:

    P.S. That reCAPTCHA thing is horrible.

  16. 16

    Just a comment on reCaptcha…

    I think we all need to understand that though it may be challenging for us, the boatloads of spam that can flood RealClimate eat valuable time from scientists doing some pretty fantastic work, in their ‘spare’ time.

    I would like them to sleep more, or spend more time with family and friends, rather than have to deal with the spam, so if that makes it a little inconvenient for some, let’s make that a contribution to them.

    reCaptcha: Yüan iondraFri

    esta no problemo, si

  17. 17
    Utahn says:

    Either or both sound fantastic. It sounds mighty daunting, though, and if it were me I’d be having sleepless nights worrying about how to keep it under control…

  18. 18
    Eli Rabett says:

    The EGU open review journals are moving somewhat in this direction, although they would have to add a post publication edited comment section to keep the discussion from degenerating. And, of course, there is the issue of how to keep the moles whacked. Frankly having to wade through Iron Sun Manuel’s laments would be a bit much

  19. 19

    #17 Eli Rabett

    Makes me think of the old zombie movies. Denialist arguments, even in the peer response system seem to have similar traits to the undead. There never seem to be enough hands to keep the mole holes covered. I can see the scene in my head now…

    …group of climate denialist zombies have just finished reanimating long dead climate arguments. One steps up to a weather remote truck and picks up the microphone from inside…

    Climate Zombie

    “Send more scientists”

    Dispatch Responds

    “Will do”

    As to an RC running line for a comment and response string that brings relevant responses to light that may not have made it would be an asset to understanding. Maybe you could put it in the index section as a string of items deriving from the previous paper or comment?

    If you had someone to write the PHP, you could integrate the initial paper and each subsequent response into the main article string so it is not burred in the index where few would see it.

  20. 20
    BillS says:

    Are you familiar of the model of The Cryosphere?

    http://www.the-cryosphere.net/

    Papers are submitted for peer review and then are subjected to comments by both official and unofficial reviewers. The author/s then respond as they see fit, presumably to all official reviewers, and others as well.

    At some point, and I do not know how that is determined, comments and responses are stopped. Can be very interesting to watch. In not a few cases the papers that are finally published (electronically) are significantly different and better than the original submissions.

  21. 21
    JJ says:

    I think it would be an interesting concept and one I would certainly tune in to often. To me, the ideal situation would be for multiple bloggers to come together and form a new site, one in which a refereed point-counterpoint discussion could take place. Allow those with reasonably relevant and adequate credentials to form response groups, each of which would have a limited number of responses to use in a given year. The groups would then have to make choices – is it worth it to use a response to reiterate a point or should I wait for the next discussion? Peer reviewed articles would be the starting point of discussions, and any response group that wished to comment would be required to write a short synopsis of the article: strengths, weaknesses, what it adds to the literature. Such a synopsis mechanism would be a useful tool to readers to determine where the person is coming from – did they grasp the gist of the article and have legitimate beefs with methods or analysis, or are they just trolling an idea that doesn’t fit their worldview?

    I think such an idea would need buy-in from both “sides” of climate science. But the understanding would be that a short response to this new site would take a lot less time and energy than a formal comment, and the review standards would be relaxed because another response group could quickly correct major errors or unfounded assumptions. The reason why such a forum is necessary is for precisely the reasons you point out – at this point, scientists are mostly talking over or around each other. I want to see multiple groups of scientists, all with different backgrounds and/or biases, debate a single point and directly respond to each other. Otherwise, it’s too difficult for me, as a layman, to ascertain what’s happening in the literature. Granted, you all already do a wonderful job of summarizing major developments. But, as you said, there is an undercurrent of criticisms that floats around the blogosphere that it is sometimes too difficult or time consuming to truly capture and respond to.

  22. 22
    Chris Dudley says:

    Speaking of unfinished business, towards the end of last month I posted a couple of comments refuting raypierre’s contention that to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at 450 ppm, emissions must drop to near zero. In fact, they need to drop to about half of the year 2000 emission level, something that I thought had been well known for a while since that is where, for example, the 80% cut by 2050 for developed countries comes from under contraction and convergence. I got no response to those posts so I posted code for a simulation which demonstrates raypierre’s error this month: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/06/unforced-variations-june-2011/comment-page-3/#comment-208067

    However, it seems to be held up in moderation for more than a day. Is there a problem with the code that I could help with? It is just IDL which I think is pretty familiar on this site.

  23. 23
    John N-G says:

    If you do decide to set up a comment and reply journal, I volunteer to help. Seriously. When I underwent the ordeal of preparing and submitting a commment to GRL while they were still in the unannounced phase of their new policy, I actually offered to serve as the comment-and-reply editor for GRL if only they wouldn’t forbid them. They didn’t take me up on the offer.

  24. 24
    jacob l says:

    re BillS
    all of the egu.eu is open
    and the A.M.S holds back around 2 years

  25. 25
    Ed Beroset says:

    The idea is laudable, but the execution would be very difficult to accomplish and still be worthwhile for both participants and readers. It’s hard to imagine a worthwhile payoff. On one hand, it might become a useful and respected space for such interaction. On the other, it might simply be ignored as a partisan gimmick and wither away from neglect. Both cases could lead to outcomes that are undesirable: either it has the effect of still further lowering the LPU, or it’s simply a waste of time.

    It’s not my field, so it wouldn’t be my time and therefore not my decision, but those are the thoughts of an interested observer.

  26. 26
    Joe Hunkins says:

    I’d really like to see a comment space here or elsewhere where perhaps only those with published research would engage on hot topics in climate science. It’s VERY frustrating as a peanut gallery participant to bounce between here and blogs like Climate Audit, weeding through hostile and uninformed comments in an attempt to examine the reason behind the assertions and assumptions.

  27. 27
    steven mosher says:

    Gavin, I would pay to watch certain papers have an extended discussions. For example, I would pay to watch Scafetta and you have such an extended commentary of one of his papers or your responses. I wouldnt expect or want many people to join in that discussion. Maybe the authors and a couple designated critics. So, ya, I’d pay to shut up and listen. There are other papers and issues where i’d likewise pay to watch certain people have an extended debate on a paper. But I’d only pay if the general public (including me of course) didnt get in the way.

    [Response: Careful what you wish for. A lot of us got to see a protracted exchange between Andrew Dessler and Roy Spencer, carried out by email, over Roy's claim that spontaneous cloud fluctuations cause El Nino (at least that's what I think he was claiming). Of course, Andrew (politely) wiped the floor with him, but still it wasn't very edifying to watch. More of an exercise in frustration, seeing how obtuse Roy could be, and how many barriers a fairly clever person can put in the way of being able to understand the plainly laid out truth before him. Not at all edfifying to watch. Don't think it would be much different between Gavin and Scafetta. --raypierre]

  28. 28
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Raypierre’s zinger: More of an exercise in frustration, seeing how obtuse (a person) could be, and how many barriers a fairly clever person can put in the way of being able to understand the plainly laid out truth before him.

    Ouch! Let’s all try to minimize the number of times we match that one!

    But who is doing what to whom? To whom does this apply?
    Are there not far too many extreme weather events and too many records being broken in too short a time one, two to brush aside saying “any one of them could happen any time” or the like?

    We’ve had extreme flooding from Australia to Togo to Colombia to Idaho to Pakistan, but where it’s not too wet it may be too hot and dry or even on fire. Crops are planted late, waiting for the flood to receed, or harvested late waiting for the ground to become dry enough to support the harvesting equipment.

    What are the odds? Are or aren’t we in grave danger from climate disruption by 2050? By 2030? Is Real Climate able to address this question, or are you limited to what happens to fall out of certain models designed for other questions?

  29. 29
    Jens says:

    I think it would be great if you hosted that. That was actually one of the original goals of many bloggers and science bloggers, to respond to important (science) issues not being covered by “letters to the editors” both to journals and in the media. The idea of “online communities”, however; has proved more complicated than imagined (look at the varied success of open publishing models). As said above, I think a lot of knowledgeable people don’t participate b/c of the time involved, the wading through junk problem, and the lack of CV potential to allocating your time this way. But RC has successfully built a community so it’s worth trying (for me of course;) ). I still wonder about the very interesting papers RC offers up for discussion which are completely ignored. And while it would be great if this were hosted here, I think journals should also be encouraged to allow rapid response. I still think one of the best places for these discussions is at the journal sites where the papers are readily accessible and the barrier to discussion is a bit higher. I love to pull a five year old paper from a journal and have accessible in a visible and linked supplement or correction PDF all the letters and author responses (even acknowledging the system’s lamentable inherent/unknown bias/editing). It’s absurd some journals are actually shutting this down, it’s the whole underutilized benefit of online publishing. Thanks for all your work.

  30. 30
    Jens says:

    Yes, host it here. The problems are as mentioned, the lack of CV potential for time allocated to these discussions, the wading through junk problem (lobbying + general silliness). An from there, even given the great success of the RC “online community”, I’ve seen total lack of interest in some really interesting papers you offer up for discussion. So as well, we should encourage journals to offer faster turnaround responses. Even given the known issues with this, it’s great when you can pull up a five year old journal article and get a link to a letters/comments and author response PDF right there. Journals have the same issues with participation that blogs do though, so overall its definitely a problem worth taking a crack at. Thanks for your work!

  31. 31
    steven mosher says:

    ray,

    I’m not a scaffeta fan. never have been.

  32. 32
    dhogaza says:

    Mosher:

    I’m not a scaffeta fan. never have been.

    No, you’re just a conspiracy-minded “climate scientists are dishonest frauds” fan, and the coiner of the term “Michael ‘Piltdown’ Mann” yukkers yukkers yukkers.

    And while you claim it was just a joke without meaning, you published a book cashing in on the “Climategate proves they’re all “Piltdown Manns” meme, and you continue to insist that mainstream climate scientists are dishonest and fraudulent.

    All while claiming to believe in the science you claim has resulted from fraudulent behavior and which rises to the level of scientific misconduct.

    Tch, tch.

    You’re the lowest of the low.

  33. 33

    I read Rick Trebino’s story with interest. Academics do not admit serious error easily. This all reminds me of an experience I had as an academic. I was in a smallish department with few senior people about 20 years ago, and a professor and head was appointed who didn’t really have the right qualifications. He couldn’t teach anything relevant, produced no research and brought in no funding. No problem, you’d think, when he comes up for tenure, he’ll be turfed. But no, the Dean thought (in his words) that “we need him more than he needs us”, with no factual basis for that claim. There ensued some seriously painful conflict as this guy’s personality flaws lead to increasing division in our small department, until a delegation visited the Dean’s successor, who instituted an inquiry, resulting in the guy stepping down as head, but he stayed on as a full professor for several years, causing more and more division. Eventually he left, but those of us behind the rebellion were permanently tarred as troublemakers.

    After several years at a much higher-ranked university including a couple of years in a good research lab, I was crazy enough to apply for a job there again. By this time, most of the good people had left and the department was down to a third of its strength, so you would think they would have to consider every qualified candidate (they were not flooded with applicants according to my internal sources). I didn’t even get to the stage of my references being checked, let alone short-listed or interviewed. Needless to say I’m quite thankful that they didn’t take me up, if the institutional rancour runs that deep. And no, I haven’t been a troublemaker in any other job. All I did in that previous place was insinuate extremely indirectly that the senior professors were dolts for appointing an unqualified person to a senior position, and failing to recognize their error.

    Back to the topic: I would like to see science published in a style more akin to a wiki, with evolving versions of a paper and a revision history. Unlike with Wikipedia, I would restrict editing rights, but I like the idea of content that can be fixed as errors come to light.

    Second prize: a science commentary wiki, in which the original paper remained immutable, but comments, corrections and clarifications could lead to an evolved understanding of the original paper. In many journals, length limits limit the clarity of writing. To some extent that can be addressed in a supplement, but a supplement also has the purpose of documenting data sources and methods that are too lengthy or technical for the body of the paper, so a separate place to developing an evolved understanding of a paper would be useful.

    All of this would of course work best if the original content is open.

  34. 34
    vukcevic says:

    Gavin, I would pay to watch certain papers have an extended discussions. For example, I would pay to watch Scafetta and you have such an extended commentary of one of his papers or your responses…..
    [Response: Careful what you wish for….Don't think it would be much different between Gavin and Scafetta. --raypierre]
    Comment by steven mosher — 9 Jun 2011 @ 11:03 PM

    Scafetta and number of authors (of the similar genre) have set themselves an almost impossible task. Starting from two distant and distinctive perspectives, precise and well defined solar system organization, and the nearly chaotic global weather patterns, intend to interweave a path of cause-consequence via loose correlations, to prove a cohesion between two. This bidirectional approach is about to be a protracted time wasting exercise.
    As an engineer of practical experience, after short initial personal effort on the same line, the idea was discarded. My approach is strictly unidirectional, starting literally from the climate ‘ground level’ without aiming at any particular direction.
    This proved to be a worth while, since in a short time led to identification of ‘events’ at the base of two major long term climatic indicies AMO and PDO.
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/A&P.htm
    Neither of two drivers is in any respect connected to any property of the solar activity (TSI, magnetic etc) or even less to the planetary configuration.
    It is likely that the solar variability and the CO2 contributions are further added to whatever degree their natural effect is, but most likely not to the extent either side of the argument advocates.
    I am in a process of writing an article (not a paper to be submitted for publication), it will be available shortly on the web.

  35. 35
    jen says:

    There are some post-publication review sites that seem to have varying success. A current one that seems to advertise a ton is faculty of 1000 for biomedical. I hesitate to mention it b/c I’m not super impressed but it could give some ideas.

  36. 36
    Nicolas Nierenberg says:

    Gavin, it is an interesting idea, and I agree that the current system isn’t working. But clearly you and your fellow site authors would have to remove yourselves from arbitrating this. How do you propose to peer review the submissions?

  37. 37
    Aubrey Meyer says:

    There is support for Contraction and Convergence: -
    http://www.gci.org.uk/endorsements.html

  38. 38

    I would like to suggest a new strategy designed to resolve the climate change debate (at least in the minds of rational journalists) before it is too late.

    At present the debate seems interminable, like fighting the Hydra: cut off one misperception, and another two appear in its place. The sceptics’ criticisms can be refuted, but they always come back with more. They attack, we defend, the journalists deduce that there is a “controversy”, and feel obliged to give the “skeptics” equal air time, which results in the lamentable situation that Joe Public is split 50/50 on climate change, which in turn extinguishes the enthusiasm of governments to do anything meaningful to address the problem of global warming.

    I propose that instead of just defending our position, we should take the fight to the sceptics’ own territory.

    In Popperian terms, if the sceptics’ position is scientific, it must contain a refutable statement.

    I put this to Benny Peiser.
    http://greenerblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/correspondence-with-agw-sceptic.html

    He was fought shy of offering a testable hypothesis, but his remarks clearly imply that he believes climate sensitivity is far lower than the IPCC figure.

    It is reasonable to argue that this proposition lies at the core of the sceptics’ position. Lindzen and Choi, and Roy Spencer are all putting forward arguments to support low climate sensitivity.

    Therefore if we focus the debate on their case,testing the fit of their proposition with what we already know, and even, if necessary, designing further investigations that would refute their proposition, we should, in theory, be able to achieve a resolution of the debate.

    I recognise that ideologues will never admit defeat, but the people we have to convince are the non-ideolgical commentators and journalists. If we can show them that the skeptics’ central case has been refuted by Popperian scientific reasoning (“disproven”), we might just be able to move on.

    The advantage of this strategy is that it focuses onto a single point – refutation of low sensitivity – and sidesteps the infinity of special pleadings and cherrypicked anecdotes that is the stock in trade of the skeptics’ hugely successful propaganda campaign.

    Is there any merit in this approach?


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