Tag Archives: McIntyre

Climategate 2 and Corruption of Peer Review – Part II

This is a continuation of a narrative I am putting together from the climategate 2 emails, which shows how the ‘team’ (a group of famous climate scientitsts) get together to trash the good name and career of an editor of the academic journal Climate Research. The editor in question is Chris de Freitas, an accomplished scientist. The reason for their actions; he allowed the publication of a paper which contradicted the work of the team, and in particular published a paper which was supportive of the existence of the Medieval Warm Period. Michael Mann’s famous hockey stick chart saw this period disappear, and his ‘hockey stick’ chart was used by the IPCC as evidence of anthropogenic global warming.

Before reading this section, I strongly recommend that you start with the first post on the subject, which is here. In the first section, I detail how some of the most famous climate scientists plot to have Chris de Freitas, who allowed the contrary paper, sacked from his job. This post follows the story forwards.

As before, 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], and any bold text is my emphasis. For this post, I will mainly only quote parts of emails that directly refer to the team’s attempt to attack de Freitas.

In the previous post, I was up to email 1430, but had missed out a crucial email in which Phil Jones is supportive of action 3b and 3c suggested by Pittock to deal with the de Freitas problem (see previous post, email O332 ), which I will remind you of as follows:

(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]

Phil Jones writes back to Pittock endorsing both of these actions as follows, in email o332,  on 17 April:

My earlier email reply to Neville gives the details of a paper already out there and two more planned. It is clear when these come out we have to be more active in gaining more widespread publicity for them (much more than we normally do). [it is clear here that they are, quite literally, activists] At the moment Ray’s extensive paper (with others) in the PAGES volume could be a starting point.

Mike Hulme is moving towards your 3b course of action and I’ll talk to Hans von Storch, who although he says he’s not the Chief Editor is thought of by many to be this de facto. 3c is possible through contacts we all have with editors at Science and Nature. I realise the issues with lobbying groups and I’m sure this has been discussed at the IPCC planning meeting in Marrakesh this week.

Let’s see how Mike gets on and my talks with Hans (and Tom Crowley) next week.

In this email, Phil Jones is clearly endorsing actions to use whatever means necessary to blacken the name of de Freitas. It is also possible to see that they see themselves as having influence at Science and Nature, and that they consider they can call on this influence to do a hatchet job. In the same email, Mann responds to Phil Jones as follows:

I’m going to try to get ahold of Dick Kerr today to see if I can get his interest in doing a story. My guess is that Dick will go for it. If so, I’d like to give him a list of names of people to contact for comments.

Richard (Dick) Kerr is a staff writer for Science magazine. I will jump ahead a little here, as it is appears that Mann succeeds. By 15th August, a story appears in Science magazine called ‘In the Eye of the Storm‘. This is an extract from the piece, and you will note how closely it follows the team’s objective:

It has been a hot summer for Hans von Storch. In June the German meteorologist was promoted to editor-in chief of Climate Research and asked to douse the controversy from the journal’s publication in January of a paper skeptical about global warming. But by the end of July he had thrown in the towel and resigned.

The paper that led to his rise and fall claimed that the 20th century was in fact cooler than a period in the late Middle Ages.Authored by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it was based on a study partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute and widely quoted by politicians skeptical of global warming. The Bush Administration even referenced it in a recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency that critics said was altered to hew more closely to the party line.

But other climate researchers say the authors’ data was too limited to support their claims. “They could not draw those conclusions from the methods they used,” says Von Storch.

This was not the only piece that appeared in Science. The following paper is published:

Bradley, R. S., Hughes, M. K., & Diaz, H. F. (2003). Climate in Medieval time.(Climate Change). Science, 302(5644), 404(402).

It may come as no surpise to see that the paper rebuts the Soon & Baliunas (S&B) paper, the publication of which led to the team’s attack on de Freitas. This is the conclusion of the paper:

The balance of evidence does not point to a High Medieval period that was as warm as or warmer than the late 20th century. However, more climate records are required to explain the likely causes for climate variations over the last millennium and to fully understand natural climate variability, which will certainly accompany future anthropogenic effects on climate.

And, if looking at the references used in the paper, it contains references to three Mann papers, and offers this at the end:

We thank J. Hansen, J. Lean, M. Mann, and J. Salinger for comments. Support by the U.S. Department of Energy (R.S.B., H.F.D,), NSF Earth System History program (M.K.H.), and NOAA Earth System History program (R.S.S., M.K.H.).

And here is the rub. Apparently, according to Mann in email number 2469, the article was ‘a solicited piece’. It seems that the planned journalistic expose and the rebuttal all took place as planned. This should, at the very least, cause some concern about Science Magazine in this ugly business. Furthermore, for example, Bradley was on the distribution of many of the key emails plotting against de Freitas, including the one in which Wigley admits that the attack on de Freitas is ad hominem. Here we can see the extent of the team, and a cynical view might suggest that Richard Kerr is joining as a team member (he is later copied in on emails from other members of the team e.g. here).

I have digressed a little, as I wanted to follow up on some interesting points in the emails, and I continue the story at email 4132, of 28th April. This is Phil Jones to Mann:

Now had a chance to catch up a little.  On de Freitas I hope something is going to happen, but I don’t to say anything yet. Hans and Clare will write to the publishers and try to get the reviews from de Freitas. Hans is now convinced he should go, but wants to do on a due cause basis and by the book so any backlash can be dealt with in a fair manner.

From the previous post, you may remember that all along, the team wanted to know who had been responsible for the Soon & Baliunas (S&B) paper. It seems here that the pressure from the team is finally working with regards to Hans von Storch. Mann only makes one comment on this, which is below:

Re, DeFreitas–good to hear. That piece that Jim Salinger just forwarded is especially damning…Thanks for the message.

I am assuming that Mann is referring to the email, in which Salinger is proposing sending a letter with the clear intention of getting de Freitas sacked from University of Auckland. However, I cannot be sure from this snippet, as it may refer to the email below.The next email I have found comes quite a bit later, on 16 May, and is email 4808. (corrected 28 November, thanks Alex) MannPhil Jones is following up on the email of Mann Hulme, in which he proposes writing a letter to the other editors of Climate Resarch, asking for the editors to resign in protest at de Freitas being an editor.

Did anything ever come of this? [the email to the CR editors]

Clare Goodness was in touch w/ me indicating that she had discussed the matter w/ Von Storch, and that DeFrietas would be relieved of his position. However, I haven’t heard anything. A large segment of the community I’ve been in contact with feels that this event has already done its damage, allowing Baliunas and colleagues to  attempt to impact U.S. governmental policy, w/ this new weapon in hand–the appearance of a    legitimate peer-reviewed document challenging some core assertions of IPCC to wave in congress. They appear to be making some headway in using this to influence U.S. policy, which makes our original discussions all the more pressing now.

In this context, it seems important that either Clare and Von Storch take imminent action  on this, or else actions of the sort you had mentioned below should perhaps be strongly considered again. Non-action or slow action here could be extremely damaging.I’ll forward you some emails which will indicate the damage that the publication has already caused.

Thanks very much for all your help w/ this to date, and for anything additional you may be able to do in this regard to move this forward.

It seems that the pressure of the team is bearing fruit, and that they will achieve their aim of having de Freitas sacked as an editor. Also, the primary concern of Jones in this email is the impact of the S&B on policymakers. Other people researching other climategate emails have found the team openly referring to the ’cause’, and it is apparent that the big concern about the S&B paper is that it is damaging ‘the cause’.

You may have noted that Clare Goodess has been floating into view in some of the emails. As a backgrounder, she is a researcher at the CRU East Anglia, and is therefore a colleague of Phil Jones. She was also copied in on email 1051156418.txt in which Wigley admits that they are discussin an ad hominem attack on de Freitas, so must be aware of the role that she is about to play. This is email 4159, and the following is from Goodess to Mann on 19 May:

Hans and I have already raised this issue with Inter Research, but they havent taken  it up yet. Hans and I have have contacted de Freitas and InterResearch over the issues that you and others have raised before. One of the things de Freitas said in response, was that he had contacted the editor of Energy and Environment to see why it had been published. The editor told him that it deserved ‘a less interferedwith version’ , i.e., the original authors had complained about the  changes required by the CR reviewers!

Hans, InterResearch and I are still discussing what action needs to be taken and how to respond to de Freitas’ inititial responses. I will ensure that all those who have expressed concerns to me and/or Hans/Mike Hulme are informed of the outcome.

Notice here, that team members are being kept in the loop at all stages. In the normal world, even if accepting that there should be a review of the position of de Freitas, you would expect this kind of review to be confidential, as it directly relates to the reputation of an individual.The response from Mann is:

Thanks very much for the update, and for your efforts to do something about this. De Freitas’ argument seems to amount to “well the editor at ‘Energy and Environment’ was even worse than me”, and that doesn’t quite hold water.

As de Frietas apparently seeks to distance himself from culpability, please keep in mind that this is only one of  numerous past complaints of suspicious and apparently unethical behavior on his part in association with his position at “Climate Research”. I’m forwarding, under separate cover, an email describing a complaint from Danny Harvey and Tom Wigley.

I, as well as many other of our colleagues, look forward to hearing what happens here.

For this email alone, it might be reasonable for de Freitas to challenge Mann in court for libel. Mann is directly suggesting that de Freitas has behaved unethically in relation to his role at Climate Research. Meanwhile in email 2104, they are planning a new line of attack. On 22nd April, Harvey sends an email copying an email he, Wigley and Goodess write the following to de Freitas:

Dear Dr. de Freitas:

We have discovered that we were both reviewers of the paper Revised 21st century temperature projections by Michaels et al. recently  published in your journal (vol. 23, pp. 19, 2002). In our reviews, we both judged the paper to be in category d (Publication not recommended) because of numerous flaws in the arguments, which we carefully documented.

We now see that the paper has been published almost without alteration from the original submission, except for a few added paragraphs that  either do not address or inadequately address the main objections that we raised. The revised manuscript was apparently not subjected to re- review at least not by us. We find this to be most unusual  even if the authors presented a counter-argument to each of our objections, it is the normal procedure among reputable journals for the authors reply to be forwarded to the original reviewers for further comment.

We note in this regard that even under the less damning evaluation category c (Revise and re-submit for additional review), responses and      revisions should be sent back to the original referees. Your decision that a paper judged totally unacceptable for publication should not      require re-review is unprecedented in our experience.

We therefore request that you forward to us copies of the authors responses to our criticisms, together with: (1) your reason for not sending these responses or the revised manuscript to us; (2) an explanation for your judgment that the revised paper should be published in the absence of our re-review; and (3) your reason for failing to follow accepted editorial procedures.

Yours truly,
Danny Harvey and Tom Wigley
Best wishes, Clare

In other words, a new line of attack has opened up. I have had several academic papers accepted for publication, including some that have strongly divided reviewers, but where the editor has come down upon my side and accepted the paper (and some with the opposite outcome). From this experience, it seems that their complaint is without any foundation, but I have never been a journal editor (although I have reviewed articles).

I’m afraid that, at this point, I will call it a day again. I have just had a comment on the original post on this subject from Steve McIntyre, and he has mentioned that he plans to follow this up. As this blog is only a minor one, and this is a major story, I will leave it to those that can give a better airing to finish the story. I only hope that the work I have done on this might help.

As a conclusion, I would just like to say that the de Freitas affair is, I believe, a very, very major story. In particular there is no question of ‘out of context’ or any of the other excuses that were wheeled out for climategate 1. They are absolutely explicit in their aims, and their endorsement of Salinger’s proposal to try to get de Freitas sacked. This is something that most people, even those who do not follow this subject, can grasp hold of.

In the meantime, I have every confidence that Steve will take this story forwards, and give it the reach it deserves . In particular, Steve’s good name has enough weight to carry the story into the mainstream media. I suspect that this might finally be enough for the ‘team’ to held accountable for their corruption of science. Let’s hope so.

As a final note, I will follow up this story with the New Zealand media, in particular when Steve’s version of events is published. In my original post, I have posted a copy of the email I sent to the New Zealand Herald, effectively challenging them to respond to the story. More of the same may be on the cards, time allowing.

Update: 28 November

I see that this post has been linked to on Real Climate in some comments on Climategate 2. This is the comment:

Any context on this thread – which might be interpreted to constitute a coordinated effort to have someone dismissed for not following the party line?


And the answer is given as follows:

[Response: The issue has nothing to do with not ‘following the party line’, but rather of being guilty of appalling editorial practices, whereby papers were published with claims that were not justified by the analysis, or that were accepted almost ‘as is’ regardless of the views of referees. Hans von Storch in email 2106: “For me it is important that we admit that the result of the review process of Soon & Baliunas was insufficient”, and noting the pattern “We should have been more vigilant after we had seen that actually two critical comments were written on the first Soon paper” (also handled by de Freitas). The corruption here was de Frietas, not anyone who responded. – gavin]

My response to ‘Gavin’. When reading the whole series of emails, and looking at the context of the whole, I think readers can make up their own minds. This is yet another attempt by the ‘team’ (Real Climate is their online support) to shift the direction, again smearing Chris de Freitas. Again, here again we have accusations of Chris de Freitas as ‘corrupt’. If I were Chris, I might be chatting with some lawyers right now.

Interestingly, I do not think I need to say more. I think the emails speak for themselves, except to say that  it is interesting to see how they will try to spin this. I saw (and responded to) a comment (awaiting moderation at time of writing) on Wattsupwiththat which was very similar to this, and said something similar to my comment here.

Update 1st December

I have noticed that the campaign against Chris de Freitas is being restarted, so I have written a post dedicated to the subject, which can be found here.


Climate Change and Science

Some readers may wonder why I have doggedly pressed Professor Keith Hunter to clarify his comments on the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. I hope that news coming out of the US will help explain. These are the results of a new survey:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 69% say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who say this is Very Likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) don’t think it’s likely some scientists have falsified global warming data, including just six percent (6%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Another 10% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

There is growing concern amongst the public about the honesty of scientific researchers, and the concern revolves around climate change. The climategate scandal, of course is one of the key issues. However, a review by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) highlights another matter of concern. Published in Climatic Change, the abstract of his paper is as follows:

Abstract Authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) received guidance on reporting understanding, certainty and/or confidence in findings using a common language, to better communicate with decision makers. However, a review of the IPCC conducted by the InterAcademy Council (2010) found that “the guidance was not consistently followed in AR4, leading to unnecessary errors . . . the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented.” Our comprehensive and quantitative analysis of findings and associated uncertainty in the AR4 supports the IAC findings and suggests opportunities for improvement in future assessments.

The original paper is well worth a read, but Dr. Pielke has also presented a blog post on the paper, with the headline ‘How many findings of the IPCC AR4 are WGI are incorrect? Answer 28%.’ The actual paper concludes with the following:

Although the IPCC has made enormous contributions and set an important example for global assessment of a vexing problem of immense ramifications, there remain clear opportunities for improvement in documenting findings and specifying uncertainties. We recommend more care in the definition and determination of uncertainty, more clarity in identifying and presenting findings and a more systematic approach in the entire process, especially from assessment to assessment. We also suggest an independent, dedicated group to monitor the process, evaluate findings as they are presented and track their fate. This would include tracking the relationship of findings and attendant uncertainties that pass up the hierarchy of documents within AR5. Strict rules for expressing uncertainty in findings that are derived from (possibly multiple) other findings are needed (see, e.g., the second example in the Supplementary Material).

It is not the purpose of this note to discuss other, related scientific assessments of climate change knowledge; but, we do note that our preliminary analysis of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Synthesis and Assessment Products suggests a far less systematic application of the guidance supplied to authors of those documents and far less consistent application of the defined terms. We believe that the concerns we have expressed here, and the resulting recommendations, apply more broadly than the IPCC process.

The point of the paper is best expressed in the blog post.

What does it mean?  Nothing too interesting, really — science evolves and any assessment is a snapshot of knowledge in time. However, I suspect that some people will get excited or defensive to learn that by the IPCC’s own logic, the report’s future-looking findings could include 28% or more that will not stand the test of time. Of course, such excitement and defense are part of the context that the IPCC and its critics have together created, which has led to incentives to hold the IPCC up as some sort of sacred text or to denigrate it as a sham. Our work suggests neither. Instead, from the perspective of its assessment products it is a valuable if imperfect organization.

As Dr. Pielke has identified, the IPCC reports are used as a sacred text, but science is not about sacred texts. The IPCC is presented as an authority which cannot be questioned, which ends up as an argument from authority rather than an argument about the evidence and theory. A further problem is the reluctance of key researchers to release the raw data, and details of the adjustment to data, that is the foundation of much of the science that the IPCC relies upon.

For example, Steve McIntyre has had to doggedly pursue data from several key papers with endless obstructions used to block his access to the data. Just one example can be found here, but taking the time to read the blog will find a long and sorry tale of questionable behaviour on the part of those presenting the science (or reviewing the science) of climate change. A similar tale can be found here in New Zealand, with endless obstructions to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) investigations into NIWA’s temperature records. Richard Treadgold offers a good summary of the rather shabby story here, saying the following:

NIWA has enjoyed tremendous support in our dispute with them. Much has been written about it and much obloquy heaped on my and my Coalition colleagues’ heads. This scientific review of NIWA’s report provides justification for our initial scepticism and our perseverance. Seeing what this audit reveals, it’s hard to find reasons to support NIWA.

At first, we hinted strongly at malpractice, to goad the ever-languid NIWA scientists into releasing the data they had withheld for many years. Our goading eventually succeeded in prompting the reconstruction of the NZTR.

Examining the results of that work has uncovered stronger evidence of unscientific and even possibly unethical behaviour than we ever imagined. We certainly never hoped for this. To clarify: this does not please us. We never wanted to find evidence of dishonesty, never imagined that we might and we are disappointed to discover that they failed to do what they said.

There really is something shabby about all of this. In my own work, in an unrelated discipline, I have found similar problems. For example, in a mirror of problems with skeptical researchers have had with reviews, I found an example in which a piece of research that refuted a broadly accepted theory was reviewed by the originator of the theory. It may come as no surprise that the review saw the paper rejected for publication (not my own research I might add, but I have had a similar if less dramatic experiences).

Those on the skeptical side of the debate have, as Richard Treadgold puts it, have obloquy heaped on their heads. Terms such as ‘flat earthers’ and ‘deniers’ are applied. The problem is that much of the skeptical side of the debate resolves around questions about the empirical evidence and theory. On the other side of the debate, in addition to the ‘honest’ science, there is concealment and/or distortion of data, invocations of arguments from authority, and blocking of access to the supposedly gold standard of science, the peer reviewed literature. The general public are starting to notice.

Dr. Pielke is correct when he implies that there is good science on the warming side of the debate, but the bad ‘science’ creates doubt in the minds of the public about the science overall. There are perfectly honest researchers on the warming side of the debate, who are undoubtedly conducting their research with integrity. The problem is that they will end up being tarred with the same brush. More broadly, ‘science’ as a concept is being tarred with the same brush.

It is for this reason that the defenders of the bad science need to be called to account, in particular when those people are in a position of influence. Organisations like NZCSC are the defenders of science, but are instead portrayed as nuts/cranks.Those who insult these defenders of science cloak their insults with the name of science. In doing so, they undermine science as a whole. In other words, it is time for the defenders of science to be given the respect that they deserve.

Note: What constitutes ‘science’ has long been a problematic question. However, I do not think that anyone would reasonably suggest that practices such as distorting data to fit theory or blocking critical work just because it is critical would be accepted as ‘good science’.

More Hockey Stick Tricks

For those that have seen Al Gore’s (in)famous film on global warming, they will no doubt remember the hockey stick chart, where Al Gore ascends on a forklift. The hockey stick chart was promoted by Al Gore and the IPCC as a ‘smoking gun’ of climate change, and perhaps still resides in popular imagination in this role.

Unfortunately, for the anthropogenic global warming thesis, the hockey stick chart was long ago discredited by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick ( see here for a peer-reviewed paper, here for a summary, and here for a presentation to the US government). Then came climategate, and the notorious attempts to hide and block skeptic views from being published and the attempts to block McIntyre and McKitrick (here for a summary of some of the revelations), and the attempts to manipulate results to create the hockey stick.

Following climategate, there were whitewash investigations of the ‘scientists’ involved in the dodgy practices revealed by the climategate emails (see here for Ross McKitrick’s summary). There is more though, with Steve McIntyre’s tirelessly unearthing new evidence of the ways in which the investigations were a whitewash, which can be found at the Climate Audit website. It all makes rather depressing reading.

As if this rather sordid story of scientific misconduct, and attempts to cover up scientific wrongdoing, were not enough, there are yet more revelations on data manipulation in the construction of the hockey stick chart. This from the climate audit website:

The day before yesterday, I reported that Briffa and Osborn (Science 1999) had not just deleted the post=1960 decline (see also CA here), but had deleted the pre-1550 portion as well – the deletions contributing to an unwarranted rhetorical impression of consistency between the reconstructions, an impression that was capitalized upon in the commentary in the running text of Briffa and Osborn 1999.

However, the best way to view the problem is with the chart that is supplied along with the text:


As you will see from the chart, there are two sections of data that have been deleted without any explanation – the deleted data on the right is the ‘hide the decline’ that is discussed in the climategate emails, and the central deleted data is the latest revelation. Anthony Watts, on the Watts up with that blog, reasonably has the following to say of this new example of misleading use of data.

As I’ve written elsewhere, this sort of truncation can be characterized as research misconduct – specifically falsification. But where are the academic cops? Any comment from Science magazine?

This is yet more evidence of the shabby behaviour on the part of so-called climate ‘scientists’. How many exposures of these kinds of ‘tricks’ will it take before the academic institutions and journals finally do something about this kind of misconduct? Thanks to the tireless efforts of those at Climate Audit, there will no doubt be further revelations to come….