Tag Archives: Academic Journal

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.

Climategate 2 – Defending the Indefensible

A while ago, I wrote a post in which I put a series of Climategate emails together, and showed how the so-called ‘team’ (a group of leading IPCC scientists), conspired to have a journal editor sacked from his role as an academic journal editor, and also tried to have him sacked from his university. It is a long post, and continues in a second post, but you may wish to read them before continuing. When writing the post, I never imagined that people might actually try to defend the ‘team’, as the whole series of emails are in context, and very clearly show abysmal behaviour on the part of the team.

However, I have just engaged in an exchange of comments with someone who is actually trying to defend the team. He is not the first person to do so in the comments section (see my last comment below, this was a commentator called ‘Alex C), but nevertheless I am surprised that he is mounting such a determined defence. It is just plain odd. As such, I thought I would publish our small debate. It is interesting of itself, as I believe that it is illustrative of a willful disregard for the evidence of shabby behaviour on the part of the team. My point in posting the exchange is this; I simply cannot understand the motivations for defending the indefensible.  I am just plain puzzled.

The comments come at the end of the post, and I simply cannot see what the commentator is trying to achieve – people will have read the emails. Why are they defending the behaviour that they are defending? Do they really believe the arguments they are putting forwards? I genuinely cannot see why they continue to defend this. With this introduction over, I will paste in the comments (I will not block quote them to avoid block quotes within block quotes which will be hard to read):


John C

How is this corruption of peer review? The mails seem to describe a situation where an editor has allowed reports for publishing that should have never passed peer review.

This seems to be more about the lack of peer review on part of the editor than a corruption of peer review.

Does the blog author agree that a scientific journal which willfully publishes poor research should lose credibility?



I think that you may not know what peer review actually is? The papers were, as was stated in the emails, subjected to qualified people for review.

As for poor research, what about the work of Michael Mann? Are you suggesting that the work behind the so-called hockey stick chart was good science? Or, like those who sought to have Professor de Freitas sacked, do you think good science only involves findings of climate alarm? Nobody who has respect for science would find the attempt to destroy a person’s career, for simply allowing a peer reviewed paper to be published, to be acceptable. The process of science involves challenge, debate, and alternative explanation….do you not understand this?

I do not think anyone who reads your comment will be convinced….

Nice try.


John C

How about we try to stick to the topic. Trying to change the subject is not an honest approach to debating.

Could you post the exact quotes that state that the papers went through actual, qualified peer review? Because this is what I’m seeing:

“the Soon and Baliunas work is just crap science that should never be passed peer review”

And another thing the e-mails seem to show is that this is not the first time de Freitas allows through papers of poor quality.

So again, how is this corruption of the peer review process? The actual corruption these e-mails indicate is that de Freitas allows through papers that are simply not good science, which undermines the integrity of the peer review process.

Do you disagree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem? For example, an editor of a biology journal lets a creationist publish poor research attacking Evolution?



I am sticking to the topic. You are following the ‘team’s’ method of ad hominem attack when you suggest I am not debating with an ‘an honest’ post. Michael Mann’s hockey stick has been discredited, and his presentation of his results was ‘crap science’ intended to create a false impression of the temperature record (see link below).


If you read the emails, you will find that Michael Mann is front and centre in this terrible behaviour. The paper at the centre of this was work which questioned his hockey stick. Does it not seem odd to you that the very people who had such a stake in a now utterly discredited piece of work are the very same people who are trying to wreck the career of the person who allowed publication of work that went against it?

You correctly point out that the emails accuse Professor de Freitas of allowing other poor quality papers through. It is not the role of a cabal of people to determine/decide upon the quality of work that is published, in particular when the work just happens to be contrary to their own work. Do you not think there is a conflict of interest here??? If your approach was, for example, applied to the idea of Phlogiston, with Becker as the person who determined the ‘quality’ of all subsequent work, would modern chemistry have ever have gotten off the ground? Science advances through fits and starts, with occasional wrong turns. However, alternative explanations need to be published in order to identify when science has taken a wrong turn.

Also, although calling my approach ‘dishonest’ do you not think this might describe your linkage with creationism? The Soon and Baliunas paper has flaws (as do many generally good scientific papers), but it is clearly work of science. Perhaps it is not a very honest approach to set a dishonest analogy and to try to sway the minds of readers with this analogy. The work of Soon and Baliunus cannot be compared with creationism. This is a rhetorical trick.

Returning to the question of peer review, this is is in the emails:

How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by an unscrupulous editor to ensure that ‘anti-greenhouse’ science can get through the peer review process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas, Soon, and so on).

I have highlighted the point about bona fide, as the paper was reviewed by scientists. The ‘team’ may not like or agree with some scientists, but they are nevertheless bona fide scientists. What the team object to is that these scientists have a different theoretical position on climate change to their own. They object to the idea that these scientists are questioning their own theory. Well, tough! If their theory is strong enough, they can defend in the peer reviewed literature, but that peer review literature must not be subject to their interference! Why, if they have such a strong case, would they resort to the kind of behaviour that is evident in the emails? Is it because, for example, they were all aware that Mann’s hockey stick would not withstand scrutiny?

As I said in my previous response, I do not think you understand how peer review is supposed to work. It is not about a self-selected group ensuring that only work that agrees with their own is allowed to be published, where such a group determine ‘quality’ based upon whether work supports their own theory.

Again, I will leave it to readers to make their own judgement.


John C

That’s a lot of text. I would like to return to the core of the issue, as I am not here to discuss everything you can manage to bring up in a single comment.

Do you or do you not agree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem?

Do you or do you not agree that the scientists you are accusing of corrupting peer review genuinely think the research was so poor it shouldn’t have been published?

Do you or do you not agree that the paper in question was a poor one?

Do you or do you not agree that if scientists notice that a journal is publishing papers that should have never been published in the first place, they are justified in dealing with that in some way?

Do you or do you not agree that a group of scientists should be allowed to discuss how to deal with a journal that keeps publishing poor research?

The reason I mentioned creationism is that it’s an easy example to use. Most rational human being reject creationism, so it’s a good way to see whether you are being consistent when you make your claims and arguments.



I will answer you point by point:

Do you or do you not agree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem?

You are making an assumption here that the research is poor. As I have said, even good papers might have flaws. (edit) see answer below as well.

Do you or do you not agree that the scientists you are accusing of corrupting peer review genuinely think the research was so poor it shouldn’t have been published?

I disagree with this. I do not believe they think it is poor research, they think it disagrees with their own work. They may dress this up, and try to convince themselves, but…their own internal dissent over the hockey stick chart suggests that they put their ’cause’ above science. In particular, many of the ‘team’ expressed serious reservations about Mann’s hockey stick, but they did nothing about it. If they are the great defenders of science, why did they not immediately publish a paper to express their concerns with the validity of the hockey stick?


It doesn’t quite work does it. You are trying to portray the team as a group of scientists of integrity trying to defend the world against ‘crap science’ – but it is odd, is it not, that this integrity did not include getting a rebuttal of Mann’s hockey stick into the peer reviewed literature. Clearly, the ‘team’ thought the hockey stick was highly problematic, so why not act to correct the science? In short, the harping on about science appears as a crass case of self-justification for what they knew was wrong. For example, from the emails, Wigley acknowledged the nature of what they are doing:

Jim Salinger raises the more personal issue of deFreitas. He is clearly giving good science a bad name, but I do not think a barrage of ad hominem attacks or letters is the best way to counter this.

If Jim wishes to write a letter with multiple authors, I may be willing to sign it, but I would not write such a letter myself.

Look at the email, and look who is on the distribution?

Do you or do you not agree that the paper in question was a poor one?

As I state in the about section of this blog, I leave the details of climate science to others. I have read in other skeptic blogs that the paper had flaws, but was overall a good paper (see link below):


However, this is not the issue, is it? The peer reviewed literature is filled with papers with flaws, and the place to deal with these flaws is in the peer reviewed literature, not through seeking to attack individuals. This is corruption of the scientific process.

Do you or do you not agree that if scientists notice that a journal is publishing papers that should have never been published in the first place, they are justified in dealing with that in some way?

Again, you are making an assumption that this work should never have been published and relying upon the views of the people whose work is being questioned to say that it should not have been published. I am not sure you are getting the point here. If there were such a problem (and there is no reason to think this is the case), the proper way of ‘dealing with it’ is to seek to challenge the content in the peer reviewed literature, not to plot to damage the careers of those involved. It really is that simple…..

Do you or do you not agree that a group of scientists should be allowed to discuss how to deal with a journal that keeps publishing poor research?

Absolutely, if scientist believe that work is poor, then they should be able to discuss this. However, there is discussion of science, and then there is plotting to attack someone’s career through smearing their name, and running a campaign to have them sacked from an editorial position. This is not the same as discussing the merits of scientific work, is it?

Again, I will leave readers to judge between your defence of the emails. I do not think they will be convinced. In the end, the authors of the emails make my case for me, with their own words. When uncovering these emails, I remember my sense of shock and disgust. I am guessing that this will be the reaction of most readers, and this is reflected in most of the comments here.


[My comment: This was sent through as I was writing this post – determined does not express this.]

John C

1. The first question is a general question. I did not say whether it was poor or not in this case.

2. Why would they lie to each other and pretend that they geninely thought the research was poor in internal e-mails? That doesn’t make sense at all.

3. You leave the details of climate science to others, but it is clear that the paper was a poor one, as it has received significant criticism. Indeed, Wikipedia states that “the publisher subsequently admitted that the conclusions of the paper could not be supported by the evidence and that the journal should have requested appropriate revisions prior to publication.”

Furthermore: “Eventually half of the journal’s editorial board resigned along with von Storch. Von Storch later stated that climate change sceptics “had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common” and complained that he had been pressured to publish the paper and had not been allowed to publish a rebuttal contesting the authors’ conclusions.”

The issue is that an editor allegedly allowed poor research to be published. And this was not an isolated incident. There’s a major difference between finding flaws after publication, and overlooking or allowing major flaws and publishing it anyway!

Wikipedia links:


Do you still deny that the paper was a poor one, and should have never been published? It seems to me that others have already looked at the details of the paper and found it lacking. Indeed, they have found that it should have never been published, and the only reason it was published is that climate skeptics had identified the journal as not having a sufficiently rigorous review process.

4. The question about whether poor research should be published or not is a general question again. Do you think it’s OK to publish papers that are fatally flawed to the point where they should never have been published in the first place? And if not, it must surely be OK for someone to deal with this.

5. You first say it’s OK to discuss how to deal with a journal which allows poor research to be published, but then you say it’s not OK anyway?

Do you not agree that now that we have established that the paper did indeed not qualify for publication, and the only reason it was published was that the journal had a flawed and sub-standard review process?

And does it not follow from that that it was necessary to do something about this, so as to prevent further pseudoscience from posing as real science?

What should they have done, exactly?



You still have not explained why the response was not that which is the normal way for science to proceed. That is, if scientists have a problem with the quality of work, they should simply respond by putting their view of why it is wrong in the peer reviewed literature. It really is that simple. There is no need to conspire to have journal editors sacked from their editorship or from their job. In the end, you are just using smoke and mirrors to try to hide the fact that this is not the way that science proceeds. You do not address the problems of Mann’s blatant misrepresentation of data in any of your emails, but still continue to harp on about the quality of the Soon and Baliunas paper? Is this not odd?

In the end of your email, you talk about ‘pseudo-science’. We have now moved back on to the same method you used earlier, when you linked the paper to creationism. On what basis is it pseudo-science? I took the trouble to answer all of your points, so I will now ask you to answer one for me:

Do you think that Mann’s misrepresentation of data in his hockey stick chart is good science or pseudo-science?

I ask this question, because although there were flaws (and good points) in the Soon and Baliunus paper, they did nothing comparable to what Mann did with the hockey stick chart. However, you keep on focusing on the paper. You do so, because the behaviour of the team is abysmal. This is the smoke and mirrors. However, whilst defending this group of scoundrels, you keep on suggesting that they are defending ‘science’. However, you make no acknowledgement of the crass distortion of science in the misrepresentation of data in the hockey stick chart. If I were very cynical, I might suspect that you are Michael Mann, or one of the team. I also note that another comment defending this comes from a person called ‘Alex C’ in the second of the two posts (he gives two comments, and the defence comes in the 2nd comment).


An odd coincidence that you are both posting with the same name format? However, I have assumed that you are just an interested observer, and have responded on this basis.

You end this comment with the question of ‘what should they have done exactly?’

I think I have answered this question so many times, I am puzzled that you continue to ask. Endless repetition of the question does not change the answer. As such I will both say what they should and should not have done:

What they should have done: It is so, so simple. If they felt that a paper was wrong, they should simply write a paper and seek to publish it in the peer reviewed literature.

What they should not have done: They should not have conspired to have an editor sacked, should not have smeared his good name, and should not have sought to have him sacked from his job at his university.

I am sure that you can keep on going. I am sure that you will….I will let you have the last word here and will not respond further – life is too short and, more to the point, I will let readers judge for themselves. I really see no point in going forwards. I am also so puzzled by your determination to defend this behaviour that I am making a post out of our exchange here (you will be able to find it on the home page in a short while. I am genuinely puzzled at your determination to defend these people, and their shabby behaviour. Again, I am working on the assumption that you are just a genuinely interested party.

Over to you for (I hope) a final comment.


That is the end of the exchange so far. No doubt, the commentator will respond, and you will find his answer in the comments section of the post. It really is odd, the accusation of Soon and Balunias as being pseudoscience, but no comment on the misrepresentation of data by Mann. All very, very odd. Comments, thoughts, explanations for this kind of determination to defend this are welcome.

Climategate 2 and Corruption of Peer Review

The post here is a follow-up from my last post on some Climategate 2 emails, which I have tied together into a kind of narrative. Why should you read this?It is very simple. There are plenty of articles, views etc. out there claiming that the climategate 2 emails are being taken out of context. I have also seen Phil Jones has been saying that it is just the normal ‘to and fro’ of normal scientists going about their business etc. etc.

This is most certainly not the case in the emails that follow. There really is no hiding place for the authors, and no ambiguity. The emails will track how annoyance at the publication of a ‘contrary’ article in a journal develops into an attack on the editor, Chris de Freitas, an accomplished scientist. The attack includes a plot to see if they can get him sacked from his job at University of Auckland. Within the story, it is evident exactly what kind of ‘scientists’ the key authors are. The word scientist applied to these people has denigrated the meaning of the word.

Amongst those involved are Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Jim Salinger, Tom Wigley, Barrie Pittock, Mike Hulme + others. In addition Pachauri, the head of the IPCC is copied into many of the emails, meaning that he was fully aware that some of the key scientists in the IPCC were effectively out of control.

The post is very long, but please stick with it. The story unfolds, and is worth the effort if you really want to see what is going on. When quoting the emails, I do so minus annoying symbols such as >>>. Where I am commenting within the email text, I place the text as [this is my comments] (update 28 November: I have changed the surrond to my comments to {my comment} as a couple of people seem to have confused my commentary for the original authors, & will do the same for the next post when I have time), and any bold text is my emphasis.

The starting point is email 2683, from 12 April 2003 when there is grumbling about a paper by Soon & Baliunas (S&B) published in the journal Climate Research (abreviated to CR in the emails). There is some discussion of the S&B study, and Mike Hulme discusses the potential of the paper on the thoughts of policymakers with Barrie Pittock:

Yes, this paper has hit the streets here also through the London Sunday Telegraph. Phil Jones and Keith Briffa are pretty annoyed, and there has been correspondence across the Atlantic with Tom Crowley and Ray Bradley. There has been some talk of a formal response but not sure where it has got to.  Phil and Keith are really the experts here so I would leave that to them. Your blow by blow account of what they have done prompts me again to consider my position with Climate Research, the journal for whom I remain a review editor.  So are people like Tim Carter, Nigel Arnell, Simon Shackley, Rob Wilby and Clare Goodess, colleagues whom I know well and who might also be horrified at this latest piece of primary school science that Chris de Freitas from New Zealand has let through (there are a good number of other examples in recent years and Wolfgang Cramer resigned from Climate Research 4 years ago because of it).

I might well alert these other colleagues to the crap science CR continues to publish because of de Freitas and see whether a collective mass resignation is appropriate.  Phil Jones, I believe, is already boycotting reviews for that journal.

The first point to note is their concern is as much about the impact upon policy as it is about the science. This will become important for setting the context for the progressive process in which they eventually seek to destroy the career of the offending editor.We then get a response from Salinger, in response to Pittock’s call for someone to ‘take up the gauntlet’:

Dear Mike, Barrie, Neville et al

Saturday morning here and thanks for all your efforts.  I note the reference to Chris de Freitas.  Chris writes very voluminously to the NZ media and right wing business community often recycling the arguments of sceptics run overseas, which have been put to bed.

I, personally would support any of these actions you are proposing particularly if CR continues to publish dishonest or biased science. This introduces a new facet to the publication of science and we should maybe have a panel that ‘reviews the editors’.  Otherwise we have the development of shonkey editors who then manipulate the editing to get papers with specific views published.  Note the
immediacy that the right wing media (probably planned) used the opportunity!

Your views appreciated – but I can certainly provide a dossier on the writings of Chris in the media in New Zealand.

There are several points of note here. First of all, the positioning of de Freitas as being part of a right-wing, and there is even suggestion of a conspiracy. Finally, just to demonstrate that de Freitas is an ‘outsider’, Salinger will produce the evidence. Having a different view, it seems, is condemnation. Pittock then responds to Salinger:

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I hope the co-editors of ‘Climate Research’ can agree on some joint action. I know that Peter Whetton is one who is concerned. Any action must of course be effective and also not give the sceptics an excuse for making de Freitas appear as a martyr – the charge should surely be not following scientific standards of review, rather than publishing contrarian views as such. If a paper is contested by referees that should at least be stated in any publication, and minimal standards of statistical treatment, honesty and clarity should be insisted on. Bringing the journal and publisher into disrepute may be one reasonable charge.

‘Energy and Environment’ is another journal with low standards for sceptics, but if my recollection is correct this is implicit in their stated policy of stirring different points of view – the real test for both journals may be whether they are prepared to publish refutations, especially simultaneously with the sceptics’ papers so that readers are not deceived.

On that score you might consider whether it is possible to find who de Freitas got to review various papers and how their comments were dealt with. I heard second hand that Tom Wigley was very annoyed about a paper which gave very low projections of future warmings (I forget which paper, but it was in a recent issue) got through despite strong criticism from him as a reviewer.

Here we have our first indications that de Freitas may be about to face problems. Note that Pittock suggests that any hint of attacking de Freitas for contrarian views must be avoided. The whole phrasing of this seems almost to admit that this is exactly what they are doing. Note also that the implication is that anything that is published by skeptics must be of a low standard. It is a view of quite extraordinary arrogance. It is even more evident in the final bold statement; annoyance that a less alarmist paper gets through.

We now move onto email 2272, of 16th April. The thread of the email is a response to Pittock’s email, and Phil Jones kicks off with this:

There have been a number of emails on these two papers {probably Wigley’s paper}. They are bad. I’ll be seeing Hans von Storch next week and I’ll be telling him in person what a disservice he’s doing to the science and the status of Climate Research.

I’ve already told Hans I want nothing more to do with the journal. Tom Crowley may be writing something – find out also next week, but at the EGS last week Ray Bradley, Mike Mann, Malcolm Hughes and others decided it would be best to do nothing. Papers that respond to work like this never get cited – a point I’m trying to get across to Hans. We all have better papers to write than waste our time responding to drivel like this.

Notice that the suggestion is that pressure will be put on the editor Hans van Storch. As will be seen, this is positively mild in comparison to what follows, but is nevertheless interference with the review system to keep out articles that do not support the ’cause’. Michael Mann then pitches in:

Phil relayed this message to me–this echos discussions that others of us here have had as well, and at Phil’s request, I’m forwarding some of these (Phil seems to have deleted them). I am encouraged at the prospect of some sort of action being taken.

The “Energy and Environment” piece is an ad hominem attack against the work of several of us, and could be legally actionable, though I don’t think its worth the effort. But more problematic, in my mind, is the “Climate Research” piece which is a real challenge to the integrity of the peer-review processes in our field.

I believe that a boycott against publishing, reviewing for, or even citing articles from “Climate Research” is certainly warranted, but perhaps the minimum action that should be taken. A paper published there last year by a University of Virginia “colleague” of mine who shall remain nameless contained, to my amazement, an ad hominem attach against the climate modeling community, and the offending statement never should have seen the light of day (nor should have any of the several papers of his which have been published there in recent years, based on quality and honesty standards alone).

A formal statement of “loss of confidence” in the journal seems like an excellent idea. It may or may not be useful for me to be directly involved in this, given that I am a primary object of attack by these folks. However, I’m happy to help in any way that I can, and please keep me in the loop.

Notice that the entire tenor of the email is summed up in the last statement in bold. Mann is taking any criticism of his work as a personal affront that must be stopped. Anything which critiques his work must be stopped. The boycott of citing and publishing in a journal is a big deal, as journal success is determined by ‘impact factors’ which in turn are driven by citations. This is already bringing out the ‘heavy guns’, but still is nothing in comparison to what comes later. In the interim, Mike Hulme continues the interference with the independence of the journal (Update 27 November- I just noticed that there is a section commencing with [Wolfgang Kramer ….] in this case the […] were in the original, not my addition Update: 28th, as per update, my comments now in {…}):

Dear Co-Review Editor

You may or may not have seen/read the article by Soon and Baliunas (from the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics Lab) in the Jan 31 2003 issue of CR (vol.23,2).  A variant of this analysis has just been published in the journal Energy and Environment.  The authors/editor made a big media campaign to publicise this work, claiming it showed clearly the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century and that the IPCC (and other) analysis claiming the 20th century was the warmest in the last millennium was plain wrong.  In the UK, the Sunday Telegraph ran the story.

I have followed some email discussion about this amongst concerned paleoclimate experts here at UEA, in the USA and in Oz and NZ and their is overwhelming consensus {note this phrase carefully – the consensus of the ‘team’} that the Soon and Baliunas work is just crap science that should never be passed peer review (for a flavour see Mike Mann, Phil Jones and Barrie Pittock below).  These paleo-experts have decided it is not worth a formal scientific response since the story has not run that widely in the mass media (although is now used by sceptics of course to undermine good science) and that the science is so poor it is not worth a reply.

The CR editor concerned is Chris de Freitas and I have followed over the years papers in CR that he has been responsible for reviewing.  [Wolfgang Cramer resigned from CR a few years ago over a similar concern over the way de Freitas managed the peer review process for a manuscript Wolfgang reviewd].

Whilst we do not know who reviewed the Soon/Baliunas manuscript, there is sufficient evidence in my view to justify a “loss of confidence” in the peer review process operated by the journal and hence a mass resignation of review editors may be warranted.  This is by no means a one-off – I could do the analysis of de Freitas’s manuscripts if needbe.

I am contacting the seven of you since I know you well and believe you may also have similar concerns to me about the quality of climate change science and how that science is communicated to the public.  I would be interested in your views on this course of action – which was suggested in the first place my me, once I knew the strength of feeling amongst people like Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Mike Mann, Ray Bradley, Tom Crowley, etc.  CSIRO and Tyndall communication managers would then think that a mass resignation would draw attention to the way such poor science gets into mainstream journals.

Of course, we would need to be sure of our case and to argue on grounds of poor conduct of peer review (I can forward a devastating critique of the Soon/Baliunas method from Barrie Pittock if you wish) rather than on disagreeable content of one manuscript.  CR does of course publish some good science, but the journal is not doing anyone a service by allowing crap science also to be published.

Now the most interesting point of note here is that the article in question refutes the infamous hockey stick chart developed by Mann, in which the Medieval Warm Period disappears. What we have here is Mann, and other members of the team trying to get the editors of a journal to discredit the entire journal, simply for publishing a paper which refutes his own [Mann’s] work! Note in this that the stakes are being raised again. Mann seeks to have the entire journal tarnished as a result of the publication of the offending papers. Note also his offer to re-review the manuscripts, which is disingenuous, to say the least (bearing in mind he is calling it crap). The aim appears to be to find out who did the review (which becomes quite and obsession, see earlier Pittock email). Finally, see how the consensus (highlighted) apparently trumps peer review! So the pressure is building against the journal…..

We are now onto email 3039 of 17 April. This is from the apparently mild mannered Phil Jones to Mike Hulme:

See the other emails I’ve sent today. Came in to do some work ! Keep me informed of the results and I’ll talk to Hans.  Nice try to shut Tim Lenton up – he’ll continue though !

Email O332 sees the approach to the de Freitas problem take a nasty turn. This is from Pittock to the rest of the ‘team’ and is very long so most commentary is in the text [comments in this format]. It is worth reproducing in full, as…well, you will see….:

I just want to throw in some thoughts re appropriate responses to all this – probably obvious to some of you, but clearly different from some views expressed. This is not solely a reply to Phil Jones, as I have read lots of other emails today including all those interesting ones from Michael Mann.

1. I completely understand the frustration by some at having to consider a reply to these nonsense papers, and I agree that such replies will not get cited much and may in fact draw attention to papers which deserve to be ignored.

2. However, ignoring them can be interpreted as not having an answer, and whether we ignore them or not, there are people and lobby groups which will push these papers as ‘refereed science’which WILL be persuasive to many small or large decision-makers who are NOT competent to make their own scientific judgements, {again, this is about policy, not about science} and some of whom wish the enhanced GH effect would turn out to be a myth. In our Australian backwater for example, such papers WILL/ARE being copied to business executives and politicians to bolster anti-FCCC decisions, and these people do matter {and goodness, wouldn’t it be terrible if they got an alternative picture of the science!}.There has to be a well-argued and authoritative response, at least for private circulation, and as a basis for advice to these decision-makers.

3. I see several possible courses of action that would be useful.

(a) Prepare a background briefing document for wide private circulation {why private???}, which refutes the claims and lists competent authorities who might be consulted for advice on this issue.

(b) Ensure that such misleading papers do not continue to appear in the offending journals by getting proper scientific standards applied to refereeing and editing {nothing we disagree with goes into the journal}. Whether that is done publicly or privately may not matter so much, as long as it happens. It could be through boycotting the journals, but that might leave them {them??? – people who disagree} even freer to promulgate misinformation. To my mind that is not as good as getting the offending editors removed {they want to determine who can and cannot edit a journal?} and proper processes in place. Pressure or ultimatums to the publishers might work, or concerted lobbying by other co-editors or leading authors.

(c) A journalistic expose of the unscientific practices might work and embarass the sceptics/industry lobbies {this sounds like a call to smear anyone who disagrees} (if they are capable of being embarassed) e.g., through a reliable {as biased as they are???} lead reporter for Science or Nature. Offending editors could be labelled as “rogue editors” {this is simply unreal}, in line with current international practice? Or is that defamatory? {I would suggest that, yes, calling anyone who disagrees with you, or allows publication of dissenting views, would indeed be defamatory}

(d) Legal action might be useful for authors who consider themselves libelled, and there could be financial support for such actions (Jim Salinger might have contacts here). However, we would need to be very careful to be moderate and reasonable in our reponses to avoid counter legal actions.

4. I thoroughly agree that just entering in to a public slanging match with the offending authors (or editors for that matter) on a one-to-one basis is not the way to go {no we do not want debate in the literature, for example????}. We need some more concerted action.

5. One other thought is that it may be worthwhile for some authors to do a serious further study to bring out some statistical tests for the likelihood of numerous proxy records showing unprecedented synchronous warming in the last 30+ years. This could be, somewhat along the lines of the tests used in the studies of observed changes in biological and physical systems in the TAR WGII report(SPM figure 1 and related text in Chapter 19, and recent papers by Parmesan and Yohe (2003) and Root et al. (2003) in Nature 421, 37-42 and 57-60). Someone may already have this in hand. I am sure the evidence is even stronger than for the critters. That is of course what has already been done in fingerprinting the actualtemperature record. {well, here is a radical alternative – address the skeptical arguments with science – however, as will be seen, they choose path 3B rather than the science!}

We now come to email 3052, 23rd April. This is where it gets really, really nasty. For this reason, I have listed all of those who were a cc on the email, and who it was addressed to. The email is from Jim Salinger, then working for NIWA new Zealand, and I imagine you will be shocked:

cc: n.nicholls@bom.gov.au, Peter.Whetton@csiro.au, Roger.Francey@csiro.au, David.Etheridge@csiro.au, Ian.Smith@csiro.au, Simon.Torok@csiro.au, Willem.Bouma@csiro.au, j.salinger@niwa.com, pachauri@teri.res.in, Greg.Ayers@csiro.au, Rick.Bailey@csiro.au, Graeme.Pearman@csiro.au, mmaccrac@comcast.net, tcrowley@duke.edu, rbradley@geo.umass.edu

To: Pittock@csiro.au, m.hulme@uea.ac.uk, Barrie.Pittock@csiro.au, mann@virginia.edu, Phil Jones, harvey@geog.utoronto.ca, wigley@ucar.edu, n.nicholls@bom.gov.au

For information, De Freitas has finally put all his arguments together in a paper published in the Canadian Bulletin of Petroleum
Geology, 2002 (on holiday at the moment, and the reference is at  work!)

I have had thoughts also on a further course of action.  The present Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland, Professor John Hood (comes from an engineering background) is very concerned that Auckland should be seen as New Zealand’s premier research university, and one with an excellent reputation internationally.  He is concerned to the extent that he is monitoring the performance of ALL his senior staff, from Associate Professor upwards, including interviews with them.  My suggestion is that a band of you review editors write directly to Professor Hood with your concerns.  In it you should point out that you are all globally recognized top climate scientist.  It is best that such a letter come from outside NZ and is signed by more than one person.  His address is:

Professor John Hood
Vice Chancellor
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, New Zealand

Let me know what you think!  See suggested text below.



Some suggested text below:


We write to you as the editorial board(review editors??) of the leading international journal Climate Research for climate scientists
We are very concerned at the poor standards and personal biases shown by a member of your staff. …..

When we originally appointed … to the editorial board we were under the impression that they would carry out their duties in an objective manner as is expected of scientists world wide.  We were also given to understand that this person has been honoured with science communicator of the year award, several times by your … organisation.

Instead we have discovered that this person has been using his position to promote ‘fringe’ views of various groups with which they are associated around the world.  It perhaps would have been less disturbing if the ‘science’ that was being passed through the system was sound.  However, a recent incident has alerted us to the fact that poorly constructed and uncritical work has been allowed to enter the pages of the journal.  A recent example has caused outrage amongst leading climate scientists around the world and has resulted in the journal dismissing (??).. from the editorial board.

We bring this to your attention since we consider it brings the name of your university and New Zealand into some disrepute. We leave it to your discretion what use you make of this information.

The journal itself cannot be considered completely blameless in this situation and we clearly need to tighten some of our editorial processes; however, up until now we have relied on the honour and professionalism of our editors.  Sadly this incident has damaged our faith in some of our fellow scientists. Regrettably it will reflect on your institution as this person is a relatively senior staff member.

Yes, read it again. There can be no doubt that they are trying to get Chris de Freitas sacked from the University of Auckland. Re-read it if you have any doubts. When the team object to a person, they really, really object. And if that means seeking to destroy a reputation and career, so be it. If you look at Pittock’s email with the options for action, you can see the final option was to address critiques with science. Instead, the proposed course of action is to gang up on an individual, and trash their career and reputation.

Any ambiguity or lack of context here??

And it gets worse, as the action is approved of by other members of the team. Along the way, they also sometimes reveal more than their willingness to pursue a vendetta against de Freitas.

This is email 1051230500.txt, of 24th April. Tom Wigley tries to hide behind a fig leaf of science, but in the end hypocritically then agrees to sign the letter to tarnish de Freitas. I will  not quote all the email, as it is very long, and this post is now too long overall. Wigley does discuss using science to solve the problems along the way, but I will just focus on the parts that deal with the trashing of de Freitas. The email starts with this (note, the bit in […] on this occasion is the original author):

[Apologies to those I have missed who have been part of this email  exchange — although they may be glad to have been missed]

I think Barrie Pittock has the right idea — although there are some unique things about this situation. Barrie says ….

(1) There are lots of bad papers out there
(2) The best response is probably to write a ‘rebuttal’

to which I add ….

(3) A published rebuttal will help IPCC authors in the 4AR.

(Update 27 November- this was in block quote, and is now clearly my text)It is very clear that Wigley is very uncomfortable about what is going on, and knows that he is in a conspiracy against an individual. The following discussion follows consideration of attempts to find out how Wigley had rejected papers in review, but which still had been published. He goes on to say:

This second case gets to the crux of the matter. I suspect that deFreitas deliberately chose other referees who are members of the skeptics camp. I also suspect that he has done this on other occasions. How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by an unscrupulous editor to ensure that ‘anti-greenhouse’ science can get through the peer review  process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas, Soon, and so on).

The peer review process is being abused, but proving this would be difficult.

The best response is, I strongly believe, to rebut the bad science that does get through.

Note the points I have highlighted. People with bona fide scientific background should not review articles, as they might actually accept them for publication. Even if these scientist believe a paper is worthy of publication, apparently it is a bad publication. I do not think he had any idea of the implicit corruption of  peer reviewed science that is revealed in this exchange – but then again, look at the next part of Wigley’s email, and ask what this has to do with science?

Jim Salinger raises the more personal issue of deFreitas. He is  clearly giving good science a bad name, but I do not think a barrage of ad hominem attacks or letters is the best way to counter this.

If Jim wishes to write a letter with multiple authors, I may be willing to sign it, but I would not write such a letter myself.

In this case, deFreitas is such a poor scientist that he may simply disappear. I saw some work from his PhD, and it was awful (Pat Michaels’ PhD is at the same level).

In this, he acknowledges what is going on, as he does at the start of the email, but is willing to go along with it……despite recognising that it is wrong! The same email has the following from Salinger:

This will be the last from me for the moment and I believe we are all arriving at a consensus voiced by Tom, Barrie, Neville et al., from excellent discussions.

Firstly both Danny and Tom have complained to de Freitas about his editorial decision, which does not uphold the principles of good science.  Tom has shared the response. I would be curious to find out who the other four cited are – but a rebuttal would be excellent.

Ignoring bad science eventually reinforces the apparent ‘truth’ of that bad science in the public mind, if it is not corrected. As importantly, the ‘bad science’ published by CR is used by the  sceptics’ lobbies to ‘prove’ that there is no need for concern over climate change.  Since the IPCC makes it quite clear that there are substantial grounds for concern about climate change,  is it not partially the responsibility of climate science to make sure only satisfactorily {agreeing with their views} peer-reviewed science appears in scientific publications?  – and to refute any inadequately reviewed and wrong articles that do make their way through the peer review process?

I can understand the weariness which the ongoing sceptics’ onslaught would induce in anyone {because it is too much trouble to refute them?}, scientist or not.  But that’s no excuse for ignoring bad science.  It won’t go away, and the more we ignore it the more traction it will gain in the minds of the general public, and the UNFCCC negotiatorsIf science doesn’t uphold the purity of science, who will?

We Australasians (including Tom as an ex pat) have suggested some courses of action.  Over to you now in the north to assess the success of your initiatives, the various discussions and suggestions and arrive on a path ahead.  I am happy to be part of it.

Again, good science is the science that agrees with their own views. Bad science is to take an opposing view. ‘Purity of science’ is taken to mean ‘agreeing with my views’. Again, this is disturbing, but more disturbing is the moral righteousness that leads towards the comment that Salinger is happy to be part of it. The plot thickens in email 1430 of 28 April, when Phil Jones writes to Mike Hulme:

I’ve just talked to Clare about discussions I had with Hans last week in the US. I think he is now convinced about de Freitas and is drafting a letter with Clare to go to the publishers and to de Freitas. Basically trying to get the reviewer’s names etc and their reports in the first instance, with maybe sending some of the background emails to the publishers.

Also assessing copyright as the ‘other’ Soon/Baliunas paper in Energy and Env. is essentially the same as that in CR. Hans wanted to try this first, but didn’t want to tell all what he was doing. Fears a backlash if de Freitas gets removed without due cause.  So let’s all try and keep the emails down, and hope we can report something to all once the correspondence Hans initiates gets replies.

Here, they are trying to get de Freitas through other means, which is copyright violation. Give them credit; they are determined! Mike Hulme replies to say that he will add his weight to the campaig for removing de Freitas as editor, suggesting that he will carry more weight as an ex-editor.

At this point, I will end the story. There is plenty more material to piece together, but I have (again) run out of time and energy for this. As such, I will round up this very, very long post with a few comments.

The first point is that, despite the claims about taking emails out of context, it is 100% apparent that within the context here that the aim is to corrupt the review process, and exclude skeptical articles from publication. There is repetition throughout of a justification being ‘bad science’, but they mean work that is critical of their own work when they say this. The arrogance in this is astounding, and is only a fig leaf to protect their own work.

Also, in attacking de Freitas, it is apparent that Wigley knew that this was wrong, but he was willing to sign a letter to damage his reputation. Salinger uses the fig leaf of science as a prelude to his self-righteous comment that he is happy to be part of it.

There is no hiding place in here, and the emails that follow are just as bad. I have not looked at them all in detail but, as I have shown in the last post, other members of the team were fully onboard with the attack on de Freitas.

Just as importantly, Pachauri, the head of the IPCC is copied in on many of the emails, from some of his ‘leading scientists’, where it is 100% apparent that they are out of control. He does nothing.

This is all very tragic. I will, if I have time, try to finish the story, or others may want to take it forwards if they have the time or inclination. What I do know is that this particular case appears to be one of the most clear and damning I have yet seen with regards to the ‘team’ seeking to stifle debate, and ultimately destroy the scientific process. It is just all the more shocking for the tribalistic hounding of Chris de Freitas.

Update 28 November:

I have continued the story in a new post, and it is now partially complete. I have been informed by Steve McIntyre that he is planning to take the story forwards. As such, I end the new post at the point where I heard from Steve. I have stopped as Steve understands the background to the story better than me, and his blog has far, far greater reach. I am confident that he can do it justice. If you would like to see the next section of the story, it can be found here.