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« The heights of bizarre | Main | Payday for Pachauri (redux) »

More evidence of gatekeeping

The news that a Russian think tank has accused the CRU of cooking the books has been doing the rounds of the internet. The other intriguing angle to this story though was further evidence of climate sceptic papers being illegitimately rejected by reviewers. Here Phil Jones reports to Mann what he has done.

Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both reviews, hopefully successfully. If either appears I will be very surprised, but you never know with GRL.

Now, someone has identified themselves as being the authors of one of the papers concerned. Commenting at Climate Audit, Lars Kamel says this:

One of those rejected papers about Siberian temperatures may have been by me. The time is about right. I got it rejected because of nonsense from a reviewer and the editor saw it as an attack on him when I critized the quality of the review. After that, I gave up the idea of ever getting something AGW critical published in a journal.

It will be interesting to see if Kamel's paper on CRU's handling of Siberian temperatures was valid, or if Jones rejected it simply because it disagreed with him. I wonder if we can get hold of Jones' review? The second part of Kamel's point is important though. This suggests that at least some sceptics simply gave up trying to get their views published because they knew they could not get their findings past the gatekeepers. This demonstrates that the IPCC reports can never be anything other than biased. The scientific literature does not represent the collected knowledge mankind has about the climate. It represents the collected views of part of the climatological community.

Another scientist has been speaking out on the same issue. Dutch professor, Arthur Rorsch, is making further allegations of misdeeds by climatologists. In an article entitled "Sick science" he explains how difficult it was for sceptics to get published.

"It is exactly as we feared.   If I were to submit an article from a friendly colleague who wanted to publish in a scientific journal, we would always get a rejection; without proper  argumentation. I was not the only Dutch researcher that happened to. Climate skeptics everywhere ran into brick walls.  

He describes the emails as demonstrating an intent to deceive and has this to say of the state of climatology:

This is no longer genuine science.  These are politically motivated is a religion, or rather, a belief.


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Reader Comments (16)

"This demonstrates that the IPCC reports can never be anything other than unbiased"

ummm... taking the context, I'm not sure that is what you wanted to say.

[BH: whoops!]

Dec 17, 2009 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Lord Monkton is right. There should be criminal penalties for these scoundrels.

Dec 17, 2009 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDana White

Someone should create an Open Source online portal for people to get this stuff out there. With peer review broken there's the need for a new model.

Dec 17, 2009 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDan

There's much confusion here about "gatekeeping" and refereeing. Editors, advised by referees, are gatekeepers - that's their job. If an editor gets a paper saying CRU has got something wrong, he'll almost certainly send it to a CRU person as referee. That would happen in any field. It's just getting the other side - it doesn't mean the paper will be blocked. And, sending it to Phil Jones, the editor probably expects a trenchant response. And all PJ is really saying is that he provided one.

I don't work in climate science. But I've refereed a lot of papers and have sometimes "gone to town". And gained the view that "I would be surprised if the paper appears", but "you never know". I would not normally talk about it, even to a trusted colleague in private email. But that last minor indiscretion is the only sin here.

Dec 17, 2009 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Aufhammer still has to work and publish in that community. His comments should be understood in that light.

Dec 17, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDana White

No Nick, that's NOT how it works. The job of a referee is to ensure that the article meets professional standards. An editor who sent ana rticle to the person or organization being criticized has committed malfeasance. If an independent referee deems the article suitable and the editor decides to publish it, then the researcher being criticized gets the opportunity to respond. There is a big difference.

Dec 17, 2009 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Slightly off topic but unfortunately it appears that a stitch up, sorry deal is imminent at Copenhagen. Basically, as We all know, America will throw loads of wunga in the direction of the third world and they can rub their hands happy that they can carry on living their lazy ways without the need to invent, work or at least try to rid themselves of poverty. Funny thing about that. Africa keeps talking about the drought and how it can lay the blame on the rich nations. I guess they havent read this article which I came across after a random search regarding drought in Africa.

Yet another inconvenient truth. Just wait till they demand more and more and more money in the not to distant future.

Dec 17, 2009 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony

Robert, do you actually know how it works? I have had a long career in scientific research, and am very familiar with the system. As here, there will be a number of referees, and where the topic is a specific criticism of some existing work, the editor can and should ensure that at least one of the referees is able to provide a viewpoint close to the work being criticised. That view needn't prevail - it is just being heard.

Dec 17, 2009 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Thanks for linking the Aufhammer paper. Some points about it:
1. It isn't anything to to with the IEA issue. It's dendro.
2. It isn't obviously critical of CRU. It expresses some general doubts about dendroclimatological modelling.

Dec 17, 2009 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

My only real experience with the peer review process is in biology/chemistry. The referee is simply supposed to ensure that your conclusions are supported by the data and that there is no obvious hole in the data. The CRU editors seemed to go well beyond this. Indeed, the CRU "peer review" reminds me much more of litigation than the peer review I've experienced. In litigation, if the opposing side submits a brief or sends a letter to the judge, you can rest assured that our side is going to slam the submission.

Dec 17, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDana White

I'm Sorry Nick, but you are being dense, if not out-right deceptive. The subject of an article does not get to "peer-review" it. A peer-reviewer is not responsible for guaranteeing the truth of the article - that is the job of the replicators... a person who is "familiar" with work can review. A person who is being reviewed CANNOT! Do you have a problem with that?

Dec 18, 2009 at 3:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Well, Robert, you still haven't indicated whether you are making these loud pronouncements based on actual knowledge of how the system works. But it's probably moot here, since Aufhammer's paper, for example, is certainly not specifically directed at Jones, or even CRU.

Dec 18, 2009 at 4:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes


Yes, I think I've conflated two different papers that the team were trying to keep out of the literature. Hard to keep track of them all. ;-)

Dec 18, 2009 at 7:12 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Have I puiblished? No Nick, I have not.... at least nothing I am willing to call a professional, peer-reviewed publication. Have I been a referee? Again, No. Does that mean I have nothing to say? Again, No. And yes, Nick, I make a distinction between how the system works and how it SHOULD work. I make sure that ALL my students know the difference between how the system claims it SHOULD work and how it really DOES work. When the young people of Europe and America have figured out how badly the've been betrayed by progressives, liberals or "conservatives" ... by their elders, by their teachers, by their heroes... by their parents. By all means, Nick, play word games with me....

Dec 18, 2009 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

I'm 100% with Robert Phelan on this one. Nick, my call is you are wrong here and I write as someone who has published and reviewed a large number of papers. The peer review process is about several aspects: The timeliness and relevance of the science for the journal; the quality of the writing (are descriptions of methods concise and clear such that another can replicate them); are the diagrams clear and appropriate; is the discussion relevant and well structured and does the data justify the conclusions. Peer review is not meant to give another group a (secret) right of reply. The appropriate avenue for this is a comment that is published after the initial paper has been published.

In a way this is a microcosm of the whole problem with climate science. Peer review is meant to aid the publication of science, contrarian science if it is based on a good dat set, appropriate methods and a cogent argument. Then the science is in the open and we can all have a discussion and assess the merits.

As Nick is promoting peer review it is a form of gatekeeping and giving scientists a chance to secretly trash the work of another and get away with it because of a cosy coterie of editors and reviewers.

Dec 18, 2009 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSplice

Peer review is not meant to prevent bad science from being published. Indeed, the papers published by The Team that did not disclose method and data are bad science by default - you cannot replicate what was done.

The only way science can learn is by making mistakes. Preventing bad science from being published and refuted is... bad science! Insisting unpublished science is bad is also bad science - how can it be bad if it has not been tested by others? Insisting unpublished science is bad *because it has not been published* is down right corrupt. If The Team had confidence in their science they should have happily excused themselves from review papers about their work.

If the subject of a paper gets to review a paper that is no guarantee that it will be blocked, however, what the CRU emails show is the peer reviewers muscling in on the job of editors. Elbowing out the gatekeepers and acting as the gatekeepers themselves - particularly when chummy climatologists discuss tactics to prevent publication while insisting publication is the gold standard of science (when it is not). Peer review is the very first step. Replication is required. If a paper is bad it *should* be published.

Dec 18, 2009 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

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