The BEST Article Finally Published – Sort of….

I have just found a post on Watts Up With That (WUWT) reporting that the BEST paper has finally been published. For those who are unaware of it, the ‘preview’ of the paper is given below:

We report an estimate of the Earth’s average land surface temperature for the period 1753 to 2011. To address issues of potential station selection bias, we used larger sampling of stations than having prior studies. For the period post 1880, our estimate is similar to those previously reported by other groups, although we report smaller error uncertainties. The land temperature rise from the 1950s decade to the 2000s decade is 0.90 ± 0.05°C (95% confidence).

This is what WUWT said about the publication:

After almost two years and some false starts, BEST now has one paper that has finally passed peer review. The text below is from the email release sent late Saturday. It was previously submitted to JGR Atmospheres according to their July 8th draft last year, but appears to have been rejected as they now indicate it has been published in Geoinformatics and Geostatistics, a journal I’ve not heard of until now.

(Added note: commenter Michael D. Smith points out is it Volume 1 issue 1, so this appears to be a brand new journal. Also troubling, on their GIGS journal home page , the link to the PDF of their Journal Flier gives only a single page, the cover art. Download Journal Flier. With such a lack of description in the front and center CV, one wonders how good this journal is.)

Well, I thought I would do a quick confirmatory check, and took a look for the journal in ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports, and check whether this is in any way an established journal. ISI JCR is probably the most important of all of the citation tools:

Progress in science is driven by the publication of novel ideas and experiments, most usually in peer-reviewed journals, but nowadays increasingly just on the internet. We all have our own ideas of which are the most influential journals, but is there a simple statistical metric of the influence of a journal? Most scientists would immediately say Impact Factor (IF), which is published online in Journal Citation Reports® as part of the ISI Web of Knowledgesm (www.thomsonreuters.com/products_services/scientific/Journal_Citation_Reports).

The result of my search Geoinformatics and Geostatistics was:

***** No matching journals were found. *****

For those who are unaware of the way journals work, you should know that anyone can establish a journal. Anyone. As an academic, I quite often receive spam invitations to submit to journals which are entirely without repute, and where they charge a ‘publication fee’ or ‘review fee’. The journals are real, but they have no reputation, and will get no reputation. It might be noted that even some reputable journals charge fees (which is outrageous but not the subject of the post), although I am lucky that this is not the case in my field. However, there are also periods during which a new and serious journal has no reputation, and it takes time to build that reputation.

The interesting thing about this new journal is the publisher. I took a look at the other journals that they list as their own publications, and typed all the journal names listed under ‘A’ into the ISI JCR, and all of them returned the same result:

***** No matching journals were found. *****

I was more than a little surprised, and thought that perhaps it was a problem with the database, so typed in ‘Geophysical research letters’, but it came up with a result (57964 citations). If the sample of journals beginning with the letter ‘A’ is indicative of the standing of the publisher, then this is indicative of a very poor or not yet established academic publisher. I also took a look for journals from my field, and found only one in a related area, and had not heard of it, and this also was not included in the ISI database.

Bearing all of this in mind, we have two options to explain the publication. One is that the BEST group got together, and because they could not get published, decided to simply create their own journal in conjunction with a few allies. The choice of publisher is telling if this is the case. Having a new journal with a launch article that will undoubtedly be cited might help raise the publisher’s profile. For BEST, they can then say that their paper has been peer reviewed and published, but it is all very dubious. The other option is that this is a genuinely new journal seeking to fill a gap in the literature. Again, as the BEST paper will guarantee citations, it will help give the journal an ‘impact factor’ from the start, something which is hard to achieve. In this case, it would be very much in the interest of a new journal to publish such an article.

In both cases, it is all a little dubious. If a study is of a high quality, and is important, it is most unusual that anyone would choose an unknown journal. I know that, in my field, there are the important ‘go to’ journals, and I select from the most prestigious where it has a chance of publication, and with the best fit for my work. This is the same with everyone I know. I am not in a position to judge the article itself, as it is out of my area of expertise, but I can say that the choice of journal and publisher is most odd if the paper is sound and important. Most odd.

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11 responses to “The BEST Article Finally Published – Sort of….

  1. Anthony “Liar” Watts’ own words:

    I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.

    But what actually happened? Predictably enough, denialism happened.

    • If the work is any good, why is it published in this rather dubious choice of journal? Again, you fail to address the point, and as usual just throw around the word denier.

      • Watts obviously thought it was excellent… until the results didn’t agree with Watts’ beliefs. It’s damn hilarious! It perfectly demonstrates the denialist mindset.

        Facts are irrelevant to the denier.

        • Still not addressing the issue of the post…

          • Oh, but I am addressing the post. I am pointing out how Watts was snuggling up to BEST and Muller before the results turned out to not match Watts’ ideology. So now he’s out to get Muller and BEST, and attacks them all the time.

            So what do you think about the fact that Watts first said “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong” only to break his promise the moment he noticed that the results contradicted his religion?

            Also, why are you complaining about my comments? The other guy who posted an off-topic comment that didn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the post was praised by you. He was a denier like you, of course…

  2. I found this Youtube link on the WUWT post you cite

    It shows Richard Muller demonstrating the “greenhouse effect” (you only need to watch the first 2 mins to get the idea)

    It is fairly depressing if this is a university level presentation, so obviously wrong.

  3. I found Muller a little bit disingenuous. I never really bought the Former Sceptic tag. I get the impression that he is on the whole a decent chap but lacking in a few PR skills. He has been a vociferous critic of Michael Mann, for example. I got banned from Mann’s Facebook page just for mentioning Mullers name. No explanation, nothing. All comments deleted, no further ability to post.

  4. By the way, sorry about the split personality. It is a feature of WordPress out of my control

  5. Snerksnerk: As usual, you are ignoring the fundamental question – why this rather odd publishing if the work is of sound quality and of importance. As it is, perhaps part of the reason has been revealed by Andy in the comments above; that Mann appears to have a vendetta of some kind against the lead author. As such, it is quite possible that the publication has been blocked by Mann, and his network of allies. After all, he has form on this…..

    http://newzealandclimatechange.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/climategate-2-and-corruption-of-peer-review/

    Whatever the finding, if a paper is well constructed, offers a contribution, then it deserves publication. However, as I have discussed, I am not qualified to judge the merits of the paper.

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