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« Hans von Storch interview | Main | More evidence of gatekeeping »
Friday
Dec182009

The heights of bizarre

Warmist blogger Deep Climate has been doing some detective work and has found an extraordinary similarity between a paragraph of the Wegman Report (which demonstrated that the Hockey Stick algorithm was wrong) and a paragraph of a book written by a sceptic physicist, Donald Rapp.

Here's the Wegman section:

The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem is to extract the temperature signal and to distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

And here's the Rapp equivalent

The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem challenge is to extract the temperature signal and to thus distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

Too similar to be accidental, I'm sure you would agree.

The Wegman Report was published in 2006, while Rapp's book appeared two years later. Now you or I would therefore assume that Dr Rapp had pinched the relevant paragraph from Professor Wegman, but in the bizarre world of climate science such simple explanations do not hold. Deep Climate concludes instead that Dr Rapp was a ghostwriter for the Wegman report.

And slowly the awful truth dawned on me. The Wegman report section was an early version of the text book chapter, not the other way around. I had just discovered a hitherto well hidden fourth author.

I'm speechless. I simply do not have the words to express how ridiculous this is. I'm not the only one either. One of Deep Climate's commenters wonders if our hero hasn't maybe got things back to front:

DC, are you sure you don’t have the plagiarism backwards? Rapp author was ripping off Wegman, rather than Wegman ripping off/collaborating with Rapp?

To which our supersleuth replies thusly:

[DC: That doesn't work. First off, Wegman has no knowledge of climate proxies at all. But suppose he or one of his co-authors wrote it. Then you have to suppose Rapp took that and extended it to three other proxies but kept the same style. And kept on going. I just can't see it. Something else is going on here ...]

If you refer back to the paragraphs quoted above, this is Paleoclimate 101 stuff - anyone who had read a few review papers on paleoclimate or the IPCC reports could have put this together. The idea that Wegman needed to get expert help to write this is simply risible. Half the commenters on ClimateAudit or RealClimate could have put that handful of sentences together.

It all smacks of a desperate attempt to try to smear Wegman, but one that is so transparent in its efforts to twist the facts to fit a preconceived conclusion that I think it will simply backfire on its author. It's just too funny.

 

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Reader Comments (29)

Yet another 'Upside Down Man'?

Dec 18, 2009 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterVinny Burgoo

It's called re-writing history. It's the in-thing.

Dec 18, 2009 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Clearly taken out of context. Move along now.

Dec 18, 2009 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Bpwman

I'd have hoped that a Bishop was capable of detecting the conspiratorial hand of the Knights Templar.

Dec 18, 2009 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

It's amazing how much effort these faithful believers put into exercises of ad-hominen attacks, poisoning the well or conspiracy theories, rather than directing their attention to any fundamental issues. This example is especially bemusing and lame. I guess it shows they are worried about the Wegman report and have no other way to deal with it than to create a conspiracy story. It is pathetic.

Dec 18, 2009 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

What does Donald Rapp himself say about this 'discovery' ?

Dec 18, 2009 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterHans Erren

Yea but the commenters backing the idiot up and adding to his delusion are the evildoers here. DC has a serious case of Gross delusional syndrome and there are other eggheads prodding him on for more.

One wingnut calls it "elegant". There ought to be group therapy for all those nutballs.

Dec 18, 2009 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterjoe

There are many quotations in my book, clearly delineated by quote signs with attribution to the authors. As to plagiarism, here are my references to Wegman, lifted directly out of my book as it was printed:

Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006) said:
‘‘The papers of Mann et al. in themselves are written in a confusing manner, ...

Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006) also said: ‘‘The description of the work in Mann, Bradley, and Hughes (1998) is both somewhat obscure ...

A team led by Professor Edward J. Wegman performed an independent examination of the hockey stick controversy (Wegman, Scott, and Said, 2006). They produced a lengthy report, full of details.
According to Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006):
‘‘The controversy of Mann’s methods lies in that the proxies are centered ...

Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006) went on to say:
‘‘The centering of the proxy series ...

The findings of Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006) are quite lengthy and only a very brief summary is given here.

Wegman, Scott, and Said (2006) said:
‘‘If there is a tight relationship among the authors, and there are not a large number of individuals engaged in a particular topic ...

At no point did I use their text without proper attribution to the authors. There is no plagiarism in my book.

Almost all climatologists work within a narrow slice of the total climatology pie: solar variations, the oceans, atmospheric circulation, heat transfer, cloud formation, proxies for past variability, climate models, … but very few if any, have a synoptic view of the entire field. In judging my book, the issue is not who I am or what my background is, but rather, what is in the book – Is it complete? Is it correct? Is it understandable?

The debate on climate has degenerated down to claims about who is on our side vs. who is on your side, and the real issues of data and analysis get lost. In this blog, there is not one claim that anything in my book is erroneous, incomplete or difficult to understand. The only claims are that I plagiarized Wegman and that I am not qualified to write such a book. Let the book speak for itself.

Dec 18, 2009 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDonald Rapp

Thanks for your contribution, Dr Rapp. The paragraph that Deep Climate gives - are you saying that this is attributed to Wegman in your book?

Dec 18, 2009 at 3:46 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Even if it wasn't specifically attributed, the passage has the ring of something that could be easily remembered and spit out again unintentionally, especially when one does a lot of debating and/or explaining, verbally or in writing. I seriously doubt it was intentional plagiarism even if it was unattributed to Wegman.

Dec 18, 2009 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard A.

I believe Dr. Rapp needs to respond to the Good Bishop's inquiry. If he did not make a proper attribution, let he explain what did happen. We cannot have a dual standard, can we?

Perhaps others might have a copy of work in question and can find the "quotation" and clairfy what was done if Dr. Rapp does not respond.

Dec 18, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I've read the passage in question on amazon.com - follow the link from Deep Climate - and compared it to the Wegman report. There are indeed striking similarities between both, with only 3 insignificant edits made by Rapp. That fact alone makes it very likely that it was plagiarism - I've seen high school and college students disciplined for much less. It's also pretty damning that Rapp does not give ANY attribution in that text, nor does he add the proper quotes.

People have been accused of plagiarism for much less (valid accusations, IMO, given the publisher's subsequent actions), If Rapp, who avoided answering above whether he indeed copied Wegman almost verbatim in the relevant passage, doesn't clarify this, then I don't see what's so bizarre about being named as a possible ghostwriter for Wegman. It's better as the obvious alternative of academic plagiarism is much worse.

Dec 18, 2009 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterWatchman

I'm afraid Watchman is quite right. Pages 2-9 in Rapp's book seem to be copied verbatim (with some additions) from Wegman. It's much too similar to be a coincidence. The text is not indicated as a quote and, even if it was, this is quite beyond what would be acceptable.

Dec 18, 2009 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterOri

This just keeps getting bigger! Did these guys actually work or just work at getting funding

Dec 18, 2009 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered Commentertwawki

As Clint Eastwood said in his movie of the same name "Hang Him High". Sorry, I do not support dual or double standards. If Rapp got caught, let him pay and let's move on. There are no excuses for plagiarism. However, plagiarism is a misdemeanor in my book as compared to faking data which is a capital crime.

All I can say is thanks to the Chinese who had enough sense at Copenhagen to "Just say NO!"

And if you think I am a "hard a$$" when it comes to the scientific method and sholarly works, you got that right. But then again, I was trained forty years ago when "ethics" meant something. The Ends do NOT justify the Means.

Dec 19, 2009 at 12:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

@ Watchman
"If Rapp, who avoided answering above whether he indeed copied Wegman almost verbatim in the relevant passage, doesn't clarify this, then I don't see what's so bizarre about being named as a possible ghostwriter for Wegman."

Or, in other words, if X is caught wearing Y's watch but doesn't confess to theft, then we will just assume that Y is in league with X. What kind of logic is that?

Dec 19, 2009 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike

The AGW movement is "Orwellian" in nature. Based on lies. And all movements that lie and distort the truth, as Orwell discovered, rewrite history.

Dr William Happer of Princeton gives a little talk on this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lg-frkJBxm4

Dec 19, 2009 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

I must be missing something. Say Rapp did ghostwrite something for Wegman? So what?

Dec 19, 2009 at 3:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJJ

DeepClimate's specialty is to go to other websites and advertise his posts in a desperate attempt for hits.

Dec 19, 2009 at 3:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

It's common to mix direct quotes and paraphrased material. As long as it's clear that you are using their material this is fine. Having changed only a few words this should obviously be a quote. Sloppy, but hardly material to the point.

Dec 19, 2009 at 4:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterdavidc

@Mike:

That's not a very pertinent analogy :)

You should read Rapp's noisy and largely hilarious denials at Deep Climate. It all but renders speculation of ghostwriting moot. It does, however, show that Rapp is, at the very worst, guilty of improper attribution of scholarly work...although IMO his lazy ctrl-c-ctrl-v job of ~3 pgs of work can certainly be viewed as plagiarism by Joe Blogger.

In any case, we can conclude that his textbook suffers from dubious scholarship and is definitely not worth the $179 price tag.

Dec 19, 2009 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterWatchman

I've also had a look at the first section, on tree rings, comparing the Wegman report with the relevant section in Dr. Rapp's book. I have to agree with Watchman: these pages need a citation to Wegman. It's over 700 words with only a few modifications, nearly verbatim.

Of course, the original post is silly; getting the, hmm, chain of causality backwards. And I assume Rapp's lack of citation or quotation on these particular pages is inadvertent. But it does need to be corrected.

Dec 19, 2009 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTed Carmichael

"The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and *even* carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the *problem* challenge is to extract the temperature signal and *to* thus distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors."

I find the three alterations in the 2008 version more interesting than the 'plaigiarism', which is a borderline case at best.

The first sentence is a simple (and incomplete) list of factors, and it is difficult to see how it could be expressed otherwise, except by re-shuffling of the members; stylistic originality is not particularly of value in technical writing. The second sentence draws a simple conclusion from the first and establishes the 'problems' confronted in discerning the temperature signal amongst the statistical 'noise' generated by the other factors.

The three alterations in the Rapp redaction of 2008 seem to be trivial, but I would maintain that they alter the tone of the message subtly but significantly. First, in using the qualifier 'even', the 2006 version separates off from the rest of the deck the carbon dioxide card. 'Even'--would you believe it ?-- sets up an irony here, since the 'pollutant' carbon dioxide appears in a positive light: presumably, all other factors being equal (which they never are), abundance of atmospheric carbon dioxide is a cause of flourishing (obscure pun intended).

A 'problem' is not necessaritly soluble; many problems in life are intractable. A 'challenge', on the other hand, sounds like a negative state-of-affairs that will yield to sheer determination: the cliche example is the moon-landing of 1969. It occurs to me that it would be interesting to calculate the ratio of the number of times in the speeches of American politicians the word 'problem' appears compared to the word 'challenge'. I would bet a few bucks that 'challenge' comes out on top.

The third alteration is the substitution in the last sentence of 'thus' for 'to'. 'Thus' explicitly draws the conclusion that 'distinguish[ing] the temperature signal' will follow, as the night the day, the successful meeting of the 'challenge' of separating signal from noise. Without 'thus', there is no consequential relationship explicitly established.

It seems to me that these apparently minor changes in the earlier text are all in the direction of presenting a more sunny up-beat assessment of the future progression of climate science, and especially of paleoclimatology, from strength to strength. No gloomy 'problems' on the horizon! Only bright and shining challenges!

I wonder if some sub-sub-editor was working on the assumption that his superiors would appreciate 'smoothing out' the

Dec 19, 2009 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Glass

You're leaving out a key piece that leads DC to conclude it's Wegman doing the plagiarizing. The tree ring statement isn't the only unattributed text in Wegman's report. There's also text copied from Dyad and even a Wikipedia page, as it appeared in 2006, with no attribution to either (I guess that's one more reason why independent peer review, which Wegman's report did not go through, is a good thing). So that sets a precedent. I tend to agree, though, that DC's confidence in which direction the plagiarism went seems a bit too high. I think it's entirely possible (if not likely) Rapp copied from Wegman. Certainly, his love for Wegman's work is apparent throughout the book, as he referenced in many places. Perhaps Rapp just forgot to cite him for that paragraph. It would be nice if he cleared that up. Perhaps Rapp will clean up the citations in his new version of his silly textbook. I think the bigger question is why Springer would publish such drivel, with all sorts of dubious references and phrases like "global warming alarmist". Imagine the uproar among contrarians if a textbook contained the word "global warming denier" to describe people like Rapp.

Dec 19, 2009 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarkB

Nice diversion rhetorics, Dr Donald Rapp, but to avoid plagiaism accusations, next time, place a quote between quotes.

Dec 19, 2009 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJean Demesure

Arthur Glass said: I find the three alterations in the 2008 version more interesting than the 'plaigiarism', which is a borderline case at best.

That's exactly what I thought at first. Just a few sentences, a few (minor) improvements. But it turns out the parts that Deep Climate posted is just a small bit from the text itself. Go look at the Wegman report, then go to Amazon and use "Look Inside" to see the tree-ring stuff. Then let us know what you think, see if that changes your mind like it did me.

Dec 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterTed Carmichael

The ghostwriter post has vanished....

Dec 19, 2009 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterharold

Deep Climate has changed the name of the post and apologized to Rapp and Wegman.

Dec 20, 2009 at 5:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterharold

If anything can be learned from McIntyre, don't explicitly accuse anyone of fraud or misconduct, else it opens up a potential lawsuit. Just insinuate it. DC's revised post still has all the facts laid out and the general conclusions are obvious.

Of course, McIntyre rarely has his facts right.

http://deepclimate.org/2009/10/07/let-the-backpedalling-begin/

Dec 20, 2009 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarkB

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