From the trenches: Michael Mann on Wegman and the climate wars

The latest video from Peter “Climate Crocks” Sinclair in his new series at The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media is an extended interview with Michael Mann about his new book (reviewed by Bryan here), and gives an excellent overview of the hockey stick issue — including the Mashey/Deep Climate discovery of plagiarism in the Wegman Report. Michael Mann, the Hockey Stick … and the Climate Wars is well worth watching, if only for the frankly incredible way that Wegman answers a question about carbon dioxide.

Wegmangate: first blood

Plagiarism by George Mason University professor Edward Wegman and his team — first revealed last year by John Mashey and Canadian blogger Deep Climate — has now been acknowledged by Computational Statistics and Data Analysis. The journal has retracted a paper (Social networks of author-coauthor relationships, by Said, Wegman et al, CSDA 2008) by Wegman’s co-author Yasmin Said and Wegman himself, citing — according to a report by Dan Vergano in USA Today — “evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process”. Sections of the paper, itself based on the social networks section of the Wegman Report on the statistics of paleoclimate reconstructions, were copied and pasted from Wikipedia. It was rushed into print in a matter of a few days — extremely unusual in academic publishing.

Most interesting, however, is that Said et al seems to provide an example of an extremely rare beast: a self-refuting paper. Said, Wegman et al suggested that studies where scientists collaborated between institutions could be more liable to bias than papers where the “principal author tends to co-author papers with younger colleagues who were his students”. Said was a PhD student in Wegman’s department.

For the full story, refer to USA Today (original and follow-up), Deep Climate (one and two), with more at Deltoid, and especially at Stoat, where WMC provides an excellent dog/homework cartoon. Meanwhile, the world awaits GMU’s much delayed determination of the original complaints against Wegman and his report made last year…

Wegman investigated for plagiarism, “skepticgate” looms

George Mason University has confirmed that it is investigating allegations of plagiarism by Professor Edward Wegman, author of the hockey stick hatchet job “Wegman Report”. According to USA Today, the investigation began earlier this year after a letter of complaint from Raymond Bradley (as in Mann, Bradley and Hughes) whose textbook Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary was extensively copied and crudely altered in the report to Congress. USA Today credits the investigation by Canadian blogger Deep Climate and the extensive report on errors in Wegman’s document compiled by John Mashey (covered here last month). Wegman declined to comment, but has confirmed that litigation is involved. Informed speculation suggests that this may be related to copyright issues — likely to be a problem for anyone who lifts 30% of a report from other people’s work. The story has also been picked up by the Washington Post, and Andy Revkin at Dot Earth has dubbed the affair SkepticGate. This scandal may be about to go mainstream — and not before time.

More coverage at Deep Climate, Things Break, Rabett Run and The Cost Of Energy.

Wegman Report’s “abysmal scholarship” revealed

A detailed investigation into the genesis of the 2006 Wegman Report — much beloved of climate sceptics because it was critical of the “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstructions of Michael Mann (et al) — has shown it to be deeply flawed, stuffed with poorly-executed plagiarism, and very far from the “independent, impartial, expert” effort it was presented as to Congress. The new 250 page study, Strange scholarship in the Wegman Report (exec summary, full report) by John Mashey (with considerable assistance from Canadian blogger Deep Climate) finds that:

  • a third of the Wegman Report was plagiarised from other sources, without attribution
  • half of the references in the bibliography are not cited in the main text, and one reference is to “a fringe technology publication by a writer of pseudoscience”
  • a graph of central England temperatures from the first IPCC report was distorted and misrepresented
  • the supposedly impartial Wegman team were fed papers and references by a member of Republican Congressman Joe Barton’s staff
  • Wegman’s social network analysis of the authorship of “hockey team” papers was poor, and did not support the claims made of problems with peer-review in the field

Mashey points out that Wegman “claimed two missions: to evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph, and to assess potential peer review issues in climate science”. Instead, its real purpose was to:

#1 claim the hockey stick broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “thinktanks” and allies, under way for years.

If you’ve ever attempted to follow the “hockey stick” controversy, Mashey’s study is an incredibly thorough and detailed dissection of the extent to which the whole effort has been underpinned by the usual suspects — the network of well-funded think tanks and their political allies. His conclusion is telling:

I think this was a well-organized effort, involving many people, to mislead the American public and Congress. The former happens often, but the latter can be a felony, as is conspiracy to do it, and not telling about it. […] The Wegman Report misleads by avoidance of good scholarship, good science and even good statistics.

More on the Wegman scandal at Deep Climate, Not Spaghetti, and Scott Mandia’s Global Warming: Man or Myth?