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« Frankely, a bit of a stretch | Main | Brooke on the Stirling FOI case »
Saturday
Sep032011

Critiques and responses

There is still huge interest in the Remote Sensing affair and quite what this means for the climate debate is still unclear.

One aspect of the story that has attracted a great deal of comment is the fact that Remote Sensing has not retracted the paper. As Retraction Watch puts it:

We are not in a position to critique the claims. But we are curious: If Wagner feels he published the article in error, why not simply retract it? Was it really necessary to fall on his sword to make the point that he now feels he made a mistake in publishing the paper? It’s a noble gesture, and not unprecedented for editors of climate journals, but is it best for science?

Remote Sensing has now made it clear that they will not be retracting the paper.

It seems clear from Wagner's resignation letter that his understanding of the alleged flaws in Spencer's paper came from blog posts like the one at RC; there is, as yet, no formal critique of the paper in the literature. It therefore seems fairly clear that Wagner's resignation was prompted by blog posts and perhaps word of mouth from Spencer's rivals. If so, this is extraordinary and quite an indictment of climate science.

Apparently there is going to be a formal critique of the paper, which will be published in GRL in the near future. This will be interesting for sure, but one has to wonder why a critique of a paper in Remote Sensing would be published in GRL; of course the suspicion will be that the authors will expect an easy ride from the editors there. We know that prominent climatologists have expressed their satisfaction with the "plugging" of the "leaks" that had been seen at that journal in the past. Remote Sensing, on the other hand, is presumably much more of an unknown quantity to them.

And if GRL publishes a critique, what then? Will Spencer be allowed to respond? Let's hope that new editor-in-chief Eric Calais has a better grasp of the journal's rules than his predecessor, Jay Famiglietti.

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Reader Comments (205)

Presumably, the idea of publishing the critique in a different journal is so that a rebuttal of the rebuttal can more easily be blocked from publication.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

The letter of resignation and the explanation for the action appears to have been drafted to maximising damage to the spencer paper.
This procedure smacks of OO tactics.
Wish I could subject it to a Steve M analysis.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Why Wagner thinks the way or degree this paper is covered in blogs is his responsibility is a bit of mystery. Given the Internets endless capacity for stupidity why would you let this sort of coverage have any effect on your professional life ?
You hope their smart enough to know that having no power over other areas means they can have no responsibility for them either .
What may make life more 'interesting ' is if Spencer and or the reviewers call Wagner publicly out over this, force him him to put up or shut up and tell them what is wrong with it other than he does not like the way its been covered by other people .

Its a dirty game that is be played here , you need to deiced to stay clean and lose or get a little dirty and win becasue the other side have no issues with playing as dirty as they can get , as they have a great deal to lose.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14768574

Richard Black again!

What on Earth has the fact that Roy Spencer is a "committed Christian" got to do with it. Richard Black quotes Bob Ward, but does he say what Ward's religious affiliations are, or if he has any.

Once again, snide, underhand "journalism" by Black.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterCaptBlack

Maybe the resignation is linked to the fact that there will be no critique of the Spenser paper in Remote Sensing? If there is some internal disagreement, within the magazine, about Wagner's opinions it might explain his seemingly bizarre actions (and the blaze of publicity from the usual suspects).

The fact that the paper will not be retracted, and that the rebuttal, when it comes, will be in a 'safe' Team journal implies that there is a difference of opinion at Remote Sensing.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Interesting comment by Roy Spencer on WUWT:

"At the end of the Guardian article, it says Andy Dessler has a paper coming out in GRL next week, supposedly refuting our recent paper. This has GOT to be a record turnaround for writing a paper and getting it peer reviewed. (...)"

Another case of lightning fingers?

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

I've no issue with Roy Spencer being a Christian, as long as he doesn't claim that he knows with any certainty or can prove god's existence. An individual's personal ideology is a belief in the absence of evidence. My understanding is that Spencer recognises and can easily distinguish between what is belief and what is evidenced. Pointedly, Spencer's paper addresses this key problem between religious faith in the veracity of models versus the actual evidence accumulated through observational sciences.

Inevitably, my issue with much of climate science is that this distinction - between what is believed and what is substantiated through observation - is all too frequently absent. It comes as no surprise whatsoever that Spencer, whose paper attacks the religion of global warming, is being attacked by the new church as a heretic.

This is a Galilean moment in history. And the process is manifestly "[redefining] what peer review is."

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

It's not unprecedented to criticize one paper in a different journal though . "Corrections to the Mann et al. (1998) Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemisphere Average Temperature Series" by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick published in Energy & Environment springs to mind .

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

CaptBlack
Agreed, he should have put a photograph of Al Gore and pointed out that Bob was a disciple.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Sequence of events;

S&B look at problems associated with handling of data from remote sensing but not remote sensing per-se.

They wish to publish and end up finding a host at Remote Sensing which would not have been their first choice.

Remote Sensing is for techies who's primary function is to quality check data: they only produce raw product. Refined product is expected only from Nature or Geo Research etc. S&B is refined product and unexpected.

Refined product turns out to satisfy criteria for publication.

Messenger gets shot.

Sep 3, 2011 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Hengist good joke, or at least I hope it's a joke, because everyone and his mate knows that M&M published there absolutely 100% correct criticism of MBH in E&E because they couldn't get the original publisher to publish their paper. So your either wilfully misinformed (lying) or holding forth on a subject of which you have no knowledge (foolish). Take your pick.

Sep 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

@ SSAT
I hope not.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Please remember, DNFT

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

This is a political resignation. He was in the hands off honourary editorial role. The managing editor was the genuine editor. The big boss does not like sceptics, or any truck with them so he threw a wobbly..


'After having become aware of the situation'....
'The managing editor of Remote Sensing selected three senior scientists'......
'Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision......as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing'.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

An editor of one journal resigns because of a sceptical paper and a critique of that paper is being fast tracked in another journal.

The CAGW faithful have shown their true colours again. They bully the editors of journals to the point where they resign under pressure and corrupt the peer review process by using friendly journals to fast track papers that support the consensus.

This is the state of climate science - corrupt to the point of farce - it is little wonder that more and more people express their distrusts of scientists.

The CAGWists have scored one almighty own goal. Long may they continue.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I have problems accepting that he resigned because of a blog post. I would be interested in pressure was applied on him to resign & if so by whom. I wonder if anyone has managed to contact the now former editor for additional comment. I would be interested in what he has to say...

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Black's article is his way of putting the boot in. It may not prick the ears here but a 'committed christian' indicates a strong Republican stance even Tea Party. The language will be instantly recogniseable to his prophets in the church of climatology.

And yea the message was recognised as holy and the messenger was taken unto the fold and praised for it's deliverance.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

There are some potentially ambiguous words in Wagner's explanation for his resignation. I was most struck by his comment that a sympathetic trio of reviewers had been "unintentionally" selected. Unintended by whom? Is it possible he feels his editorial team has gone rogue and chosen reviewers he would not had he been kept informed? If he has lost control of his team or they have concealed their intentions from him then he really would be unable to continue as editor. He almost says so: "This latter point was missed in the review process [...] this paper [is] fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal. [I resigned] as Editor-in-Chief―to make clear that the journal Remote Sensing takes the review process very seriously."

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I'd be careful about giving credence to "Retraction Watch" as an impartial commentator.

Their article links to Tim Lambert's "Deltoid" blog as a source - which is surely beyond the wildest shores of rabid denierphobia.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Roy, it is clear, as you indicate, that there is a difference of opinion within remote sensing. It is an extraordinary over-reaction of Wagner to resign. His resignation basically says that the three reviewers, and those who appointed/supervised them are inept.

It'll be quite interesting to see how those individuals choose to respond to such a professional slur.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

No editor would resign on the basis of criticism in a blog. Wagner was got at by CAGWists.To say that he felt he should go on the basis of the authority of RC is nonsense to the point it must be a lie.

Wagner didn't have the bottle to withstand the subtle and not so subtle academic blackmail that must have been applied. He caved in to pressure whilst his editorial board didn't.

How must they feel at the way that Wagner has left in the lurch and the mess he has created for the journal that they now have to deal with.

As for the CAGWists they simply have scored a spectacular own goal, the news following this resignation that they have fast-tracked a paper thru a friendly journal will do them great damage.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

What if Wagner is simply telling the truth as he sees it? No conspiracy; no arm-twisting or threats of a roughing up from Ben Santer. Just an admission that there was a screw-up - and a strong personal protest about the way in which SB11 has been misrepresented by the authors and some elements of the media.

If you take a deep breath and read the opening paragraphs of the letter afresh, this is the simplest and so most persuasive explanation. Emphasis mine:

Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011 [2], the main author’s personal homepage [3], the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes [4], and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News [5], to name just a few.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

CaptBlack

Just cantacted the BBC with this.

Why is it necessary to point out in a very bold way, when reporting on a scientific subject what a man's religious beliefs are. In all Richard Black's reporting has he done this before in any article about anyone else? Is it casting doubt on someone's research because of their religion. Is the last person this happened to Albert Einstein?

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered Commentersandy

BBD
That might make sense if any of the other warmest journal editors had ever resigned because of the dodgy papers they published.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

It is rather interesting to note that the managing editor at 'Remote Sensing' is based in Peking, seeing that the Chinese are not exactly bowing to the IPCC political proposals. It is even more interesting because Wagner wrote that Mr Wang, the managing editor, chose the reviewers.
Which gives rise to the question - did he resign because he found himself between a rock (Mr Wang) and a hard place (The Team)?
It will be interesting to see how many chinese and Japanese papers will make it into AR5 ...


Another point caught my eyes, and that is how the MSM and some blogs are reporting on Prof Wagner's resignation. They have been turning it into a critique of Dr Spencer, and simply state that SB11 is 'a bad paper' - no reasons given.
This, I'm afraid, means that the AGW believers will now point to these reports as 'facts' - never mind that they aren't scientific rebuttals. Wait for the shout of 'everybody says SB11 is bad!' in blog posts.

The whole resignation looks more and more to have been a political production with AGW mass appeal, rather than about the science.

The closeness to the forthcoming AR5 must have played a role here. However, it would seem that The Team assume wrongly that everybody has forgotten about the Climate Gate e-mails.
Well, we haven't ...

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Viv Evans

The whole resignation looks more and more to have been a political production with AGW mass appeal, rather than about the science.

No doubt exactly what Wagner really meant when he wrote:

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper.

And then:

With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011 [2], the main author’s personal homepage [3], the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes [4], and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News [5], to name just a few.

As I said above, perhaps many here are reading a little too much into this. Would it not be simpler and more sensible to take Wagner's statement at face value? Especially given that it is very clear on the reasons why he has resigned.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD -

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper.

How did he become aware, where were the various arguments given, what were these arguments and who were the pros and contras? There may well be no conspiracy, but until those questions are answered that part of his explanation is not particularly "robust".

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14768574

Richard Black again!

What on Earth has the fact that Roy Spencer is a "committed Christian" got to do with it. Richard Black quotes Bob Ward, but does he say what Ward's religious affiliations are, or if he has any.

Once again, snide, underhand "journalism" by Black.
Sep 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM CaptBlack

Hilariously, if you go to Roy Spencer's own blog,(http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/09/editor-in-chief-of-remote-sensing-resigns-from-fallout-over-our-paper/#comments) his most virulent and abusive critic is well known warmist stormtrooper Barry Bickmore - quote ..And yet, when I took your “simple climate model” apart and reproduced your methods, I found that your “statistical method” was complete garbage....

Bickmore's blog states, in his own words - Barry Bickmore is a geochemistry professor at Brigham Young University, an active Mormon......

http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/about-barry-bickmore/

From Wikipedia:-

Mormonism traces its origins to the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. on April 6, 1830 in Western New York.[8] Roughly a decade earlier, the young Joseph was seeking a remission of his sins. Confused by the doctrines of competing denominations, he went into a grove of trees to pray about which church to join. Joseph claimed that during his prayer, the Lord appeared to him in a "pillar of light" and instructed him not to join any of the churches.[9] A few years later Smith said that an angel directed him to a nearby hillside where indigenous American prophets had buried a book written on golden plates.[10] Smith claimed to have translated the book, and in March 1830 he published the Book of Mormon, named after Mormon, the ancient prophet-historian who compiled the book

Clearly religious belief only disqualifies you from practising science if you are a "denier" - warmists are allowed to believe anything they like (and usually do!).

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

BBD,

People don't resign from their jobs because of scientific disagreements. They resign when the reasons to leave their jobs outweigh the reasons to stay.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Bad Andrew

People resign from their jobs when they screw up too.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Foxgoose

Spencer believes in Intelligent Design. Going to delegitimise him for his religious convictions as well?

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Grantb

How did he become aware, where were the various arguments given, what were these arguments and who were the pros and contras? There may well be no conspiracy, but until those questions are answered that part of his explanation is not particularly "robust".

Conspiracy theory. Wagner no doubt got a few emails from Trenberth and chums, and read the RC article and possibly other critiques of SB11 as well.

It actually doesn't matter. Everyone here says 'he was pushed'; I say there's sod-all evidence of that and from the man's own words it's obvious that he jumped.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD,

If people typically resigned from their jobs because they screwed up, there would be no long durations at any one job on anyone's resume. People resign not because of a screw up, but because either the powers that be want you out or you want out yourself.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Bad Andrew,

Have you considered that your little conspiracy theory might conflict with reality?

Wagner hasn't quit his job - which is a Head of Dept at Vien TU. This was just a little on the side.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

The point being, that this was motivated by anything having to do with actual climate science is marketing to the weak-minded.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Bad Andrew

People resign not because of a screw up, but because either the powers that be want you out or you want out yourself.

This is silly.

You screw up. You get called in to the corner office. You admit being at fault. It is suggested that you resign. You take the hint and do so. End of story.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"Wagner hasn't quit his job"

He resigned from something, right? OK he resigned from A job. The conclusion is still valid.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

@BBD 'People resign from their jobs when they screw up too.'

c.f. Pachauri..., Jones..., etc...?

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

"You get called in to the corner office"

Excellent BBD. You just made my point.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Andrew

The point being, that this was motivated by anything having to do with actual climate science is marketing to the weak-minded.

Do you think that I am weak-minded? Perhaps it is time you read some of the critiques of SB11. They are all about... actual climate science and methodological errors by S & B.

Start your research here.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Andrew

No, I did not. You are arguing that there is something sinister going on here. I am saying that there is not. It is a banal example of someone screwing up and (for once) accepting responsibility and resigning.

Get your rhetoric straight please.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD,

As we just walked through (and as you illustrated yourelf with your "corner office" parable), people don't resign from jobs because of scientific disagreements.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

"You are arguing that there is something sinister going on here"

No I'm not. I'm arguing there is something political going on here.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

BA, is right - this is not a resignation about a scientific matter.

There is very little science in the paper published.

Wagner clearly feels ambushed by someone who clearly had an agenda other than science. And he knows that Spencer's post-publication antics have made him look the fool for having been hoodwinked into publishing it.

He's pretty pissed with Spencer.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Andrew

I said that Wagner resigned because he screwed up. Not because of a 'scientific disagreement'.

You are twisting things...

Michael is essentially correct though. Spencer clearly does have an agenda other than the purely scientific. He does appear to have hoodwinked the journal. He and others did misrepresent the claims made in SB11 after its publication.

So yes, there is something political going on. You are right there. And Spencer is the one making the running. Wagner just got stuffed for being naive.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

In other words, he screwed up.

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD wants us to take the following statement at face value:

"With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011 [2], the main author’s personal homepage [3], the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes [4], and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News [5], to name just a few."

The problem is that the man who had these thoughts and then made them public shows the professionalism and dedication to ethics of a panicked undergraduate.

Sep 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

As Jonathon Jones pointed out, this is very unusual in science. In science, editors don't resign when papers are published in their journals.

In climatology, however, this has happened several times.

In science, you do not see a coordinated media blitzes, with edits to Wikipedia pages, BBC, Guardian, etc. articles all synchronized to a particular event. And in science, you would not see such activity confused with 'refutation'.

Whatever climatology is, it is not science.

Sep 3, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Not to belabor my point, but recall the drummer in your favorite rock band leaving the group due to "musical differences". He wouldn't "leave" because he suddenly realizes he likes jazz. He leaves because he is no longer willing to function as this band's drummer, or the rest of the group feel he can no longer to their satisfaction be the drummer. This is band politics, but the concept is the same everywhere, including climate science.

Andrew

Sep 3, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

it will be interesting to watch future developments in Wagner's career - it seems odd to resign as editor because you suddenly realise your journal has published a "bad" paper. Surely the appropriate response is to rebut the paper precisely and accurately, or even to retract the paper. To leave the paper published ijn peer-reviewed literature without your journal rebutting it is surely an odd way of proceeding.

Sep 3, 2011 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

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