What have Wegman and Said done … lately?

While we’re waiting for John Mashey’s magnum opus on the Wegman report (and believe me, it is well worth the wait), let’s take a look at what Edward Wegman and his protege and report co-author Yasmin Said have been up to recently (again, a big hat tip to John).

The Interface Symposium (an annual statistical computing conference dating back to 1967) held its 2010 edition in Seattle June 16-19, with Wegman and Said as program chairs. And what a program it was!

The program book [PDF] is now available online. So, without further ado, here are the two “invited sessions” that we all wish we could have attended.

Inv – 4 Perspectives on Climate Change

Organizer: Yasmin H. Said, Session Chair: Edward J. Wegman

  • Testing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming: A continuing
    controversy, S. Fred Singer, Science & Environmental Policy Project
  • Extracting information from large-scale computer model output, Mark Berliner, Ohio State

========================

Inv – 15 Policy Issues on Climate Change

Organizer: Yasmin H. Said, Session Chair: Edward J. Wegman

  • Global warming: Nexus of politics, economics and science, Jeff Kueter, The Marshall Institute.
  • Global warming–fact, fiction, and fraud, Don Easterbrook, Western Washington
  • Climate change policy and the climategate scandal, Yasmin H. Said, George Mason

Poor Mark Berliner, stuck in that less than illustrious company. Interestingly, neither session was listed in the advance list of sessions as of March 12, just three months before the conference.

Here are the abstracts of the presentations (except for Berliner’s which is too long, boring and reasonable):

Testing the Hypothesis of Anthropogenic Global Warming: A Continuing Controversy
S. Fred Singer, Science and Environmental Policy Project
The preferred test compares observed temperature trends with those derived from (greenhouse) climate models. I will discuss the statistical and other uncertainties of both sets of data.

=======

Global Warming: Nexus of Politics, Economics and Science
Jeff Kueter, President, George C. Marshall Institute
The United States Congress is actively considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Independently, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to impose regulations on emissions as well. Pursuit of an international agreement to limit emissions continues. The belief that anthropogenic activities are negatively transforming the Earth’s climate motivates each of these efforts. Debate over the certainty of that conclusion as well as the economic cost and consequences of proposed mitigation efforts is generating opposition to these legislative, regulatory and international efforts. The presentation will review the economic and scientific aspects of the ongoing public policy debate.

======
Global Warming, Fact, Fiction and Fraud
Don Easterbrook, Western Washington University
The global warming debate is filled with facts, fiction, and fraud. The facts are that (1) the Earth has experienced natural global warming and cooling 4 times in the past century, 40 times in the past 500 years, and 60 times in the past 5000 years, long before CO2 could possibly have been a factor, (2) at least 10 warm/cool climate fluctuations between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago were far more intense than recent warming, including warming of 15°F in 40 years, (3) from 1945 to
1977, while CO2 was soaring, we had 30 years of global cooling, (4) although we’ve had global warming (1977 to 1999), Antarctic ice is not melting, (5) nothing that humans are doing can significantly affect global climate. The fiction is that (1) CO2 is capable of producing warming of
the atmosphere 10°F by the end of the century, (2) sea level will rise 20 feet this century, (3) global warming is causing extinction of polar bears, (4) carbon cap and trade will reduce atmospheric CO2, (5) carbon cap and trade will affect global warming. The fraud is (1) faking data, (2) changing climate data to make it appear warmer, (3) lying about Himalayan glacier retreat, (4) deliberate suppression of data that doesn’t support CO2 as the cause of global warming.

=========
Climate Change Policy and the Climategate Scandal
Yasmin H. Said, George Mason University
The release of emails from the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit just before the Copenhagen Climate summit has had a damaging effect on public support for action on global warming. The lack of transparency by some climate researchers, the willingness to bend the peer review process, and the willingness to destroy data rather than share it with researchers of a different perspective all raise fundamental issues of climate change policy. Perhaps the best thing to come from the climategate scandal is the formal recommendation of engaging statisticians. In this talk I will discuss some of the implications of climategate on climate change policy.

Come again?

Perhaps the best thing to come from the climategate scandal is the formal recommendation of engaging statisticians.

If this symposium is what we can expect from “engaging statisticians” in climate science, maybe we had better rethink how to implement that recommendation.

The fact is there are large numbers of statisticians, and statistically sophisticated scientists, already hard at work in climate science. The last thing climate science needs is Wegman, Said and their gang of think tank retreads.

The elevation of Edward Wegman as an expert on the integration of statistics in climate science is an unspeakable travesty, and represents nothing less than an attack on the entire field. To say the least, the statistical profession has some serious soul searching to do.

========================

Update: Aug 3 – Various links for further reading and contemplation.

Update: Aug 4

An interesting contrast with the Wegman/Said invited sessions is the2007 ASA/NCAR workshop, “A Statistical Consensus on Global Warming”.  Here is the  list of presentations. Wegman’s presentation on PaleoClimate is distinguished by its demonstration of ignorance of  the field. (Some commentary on Wegman’s presentation is here on the previous thread to this one).  One wonders what PaleoClimate writing leader Peter Bloomfield (a statistician who served on the NRC “hockey stick” panel and is well versed in paleoclimatology) could possibly have made of it.

Update: Aug 5

The Interface 2010 home page lists an alphabet soup of co-operating organizations, but the leading one of those is clearly the American Statistical Society. In fact, grant support is listed as follows:

Remember that one of the conference co-chairs, Yasmin Said, accused climate scientists of “the willingness” to “bend the peer review process” and “destroy data”. And one of the invited presenters, Don Easterbrook, goes further and accuses climate scientists of outright scientific fraud:

The fraud is (1) faking data, (2) changing climate data to make it appear warmer, (3) lying about Himalayan glacier retreat, (4) deliberate suppression of data that doesn’t support CO2 as the cause of global warming.

How can the ASA allow itself to be associated with, let alone give financial grant support to, such a symposium?


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38 responses to “What have Wegman and Said done … lately?

  1. It seems to me that you are missing the obvious. The so-called statisticians in the climate field have proven to be less than competent and have made simple errors that have been caught fairly easily by outsiders. Until that improves the field will lack credibility.

  2. My god, what I would’ve given to have a peek into those conference rooms!

  3. Previously Prof. D. Climate found that many strikingly similar passages in the Wegman Report are in the background sections. These passages are characterized by minor alterations to large blocks of text copied from other sources together with insufficient attribution. With this in mind, I had a quick look at Said’s Ph.D. thesis, “AGENT-BASED SIMULATION OF ECOLOGICAL ALCOHOL SYSTEMS” and observed a similar pattern of strikingly similar text. (If you want to see how a mid-level research university deals with an outbreak of Ph.D. thesis plagiarism, have a look at ohiouniversityplagiarism.blogspot.com. The response of the administration is depressingly predictable.)

    Section 1.1 of Said, which provides background material on alcohol, follows both the structure and phrasing of “Chemical of the Week: Ethanol” by Prof. Shakhashiri (www.scifun.org/CHEMWEEK/PDF/Ethanol.pdf) extremely closely. Shakhashiri is cited five times in this section (four times at the end of paragraphs and once for Figure 1) However, Sec. 1.1 a minimal rewrite of Shakhashiri and therefore would likely be considered to be an example of plagiarism by those who understand western academic norms.

    For example, on p. 8, Said writes (no citations in this paragraph):
    After swallowing an alcoholic beverage, ethanol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and distributed throughout the body entering body tissues in direct proportion with their water content. This results in more ethanol being distributed to the blood and brains rather than muscles or fat tissue. Because ethanol is significantly diluted by body fluids, a one-ounce shot of 100 proof distilled spirits, which is composed of a half of an ounce of ethanol, is diluted by a factor of 5000 in a 150-pound human, resulting in an approximate blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent.

    From Shakhashiri, we have:
    When an alcoholic beverage is swallowed, it passes through the stomach into the small intestine where the ethanol is rapidly absorbed and distributed throughout the body. The ethanol enters body tissues in proportion to their water content. Therefore, more ethanol is found in the blood and the brain than in muscle or fat tissue. The ethanol is greatly diluted by body fluids. For example, a 1-ounce shot of 100-proof whiskey, which contains 0.5 fluid ounces of ethanol (about 15 mL), is diluted 5000-fold in a 150-pound human, producing a 0.02% blood alcohol concentration.

    • terry,

      Do go on, please. DC has already noted two potential instances of plagiarism by Wegman, et al., so now there is potential plagiarism in Said’s thesis? Wow.

      BTW, not all universities handle thesis plagiarism as poorly as Ohio University. Many will revoke doctoral degrees retroactively. That would suck, so to speak.

  4. re: terry
    Interesting.

    But really, this surely cannot be true.
    GMU Center for Computational Statistics/Computational Data Sciences Outstanding PhD Dissertation Awards
    lists:
    * 2009 Hadi Rezazad*
    * 2008 Walid K. Sharabati*
    * 2008 Elizabeth Leeds Hohman*
    * 2005 Yasmin H. Said*
    * 2004 Salem Reyen
    * 2003 Angel Ramon Martinez*
    * 2002 Thomas Sullivan
    * 2001 Rida E. A. Moustafa*
    * 2000 Robert E. Zarnich
    * 1999 Julia Corbin Fauntleroy
    * 1998 Jonathan G. Levine
    * 1996 David J. Marchette*
    * 1995 Jeffrey L. Solka*
    * 1995 Wendy L.Poston (Martinez)*
    * 1994 Winston Chow*
    * 1993 Carey Priebe *
    and
    Center for Computational Statistics Outstanding M. S. Thesis
    * 2005 John Thomas Rigsby*
    * 1999 Andrea Boyer Zucker
    * 1994 Paul Seckar

  5. Vangel:

    The so-called statisticians in the climate field have proven to be less than competent and have made simple errors that have been caught fairly easily by outsiders.

    You’re talking about McIntyre and Yamal I presume?

  6. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Doesn’t look good for the home team. All that Heartland Institute shmoozing. Ick. Singer is old, old old. Bad juju.

    Weg’s not doing cutting edge stuff in the climate field (in publishing). He’s no Von Storch or Zorita.

    He never sent Ritson the data. Nor does he respond to my email back in the day. nor did he/does he respond to blog comments. And he didn’t just wander off into doing more basic stats for biologists.

    He hasn’t waded into the science and established himself (like taking his analyses firther, adding theory to the field, etc.) Just worried that he’s not the knight we skeptics need.

  7. The statistical methods employed by the hockey team get short thrift from proper statisticians, so in responese the hockey team dismisses proper statistics.

  8. terry:
    I checked.
    I would say: pp.6-10 indeed are a rewrite of Shakhashiri, in a style to which I’ve seen lately, cut and paste with some reword.
    Again, one finds a bunch of technical detail, easily referenceable, and mostly irrelevant to the real work.
    Sigh.

  9. PolyisTCOandbanned

    I donno on all the plagiarism stuff. If he cites stuff, it seems like a lot harder. I mean how is he supposed to convey the information? Yes, I realize you can cite and still plagiarize, but would just be careful, you all are not overreaching. If you run these tests on some independent guys or guys on your side, would you see the same things? I’m not trying to excuse anthing and I have not parsed the words, but would just ask to be careful and fair in accusing people of sins.

  10. TCO,

    Yasmin is a girl name. You have no reason, this time ;-)

  11. I tend to agree with PolyisTCOandbanned. If we take Wegmann’s quoting of large chunks of Bradley’s work for example this was done to provide background information, the key questions it raises for me are not about whether it constitutes plaigiarism but whether a) the wording was tweaked in order to support claims made by Wegmann elsewhere in his report and b) whether the reason Wegmann had to quote so much from Bradley was that neither he or anyone else in his team had sufficient knowlege of the subject to provide the background themselves, in which case how could they be qualified to conduct a proper analysis of Mann’s work.

  12. You’re talking about McIntyre and Yamal I presume?

    Not just Yamal. The paleaofools have made a number of errors that kept getting missed during the peer review process. It took McIntyre just a few hours to find the Antarctica data problem with Harry and Kill while Steig, Mann, Schneider, Rutherford, Shindell, Comisco and the reviewers missed it. They were so busy trying to use statistical tricks to create warming where there wasn’t one that they missed that the obvious data errors that were there to be found for anyone with a brain. Then there is the Mann Tiljander sediments fiasco, where he assumed up was down and down was up but refused to admit his mistake even when others who had improperly used the proxies had admitted their errors.

    Then there is the problem with the Polar Ural proxies. Early on in the game the data was used to make all kinds of claims that are now no longer being pursued. This happened because the full data set shows no trend that is of interest to the warmers, just as the full Yamal data set does. People who understand statistics know that they should not cherry pick, use upside-down proxies, or use limited data of questionable quality. MBH were discredited by the Wegman review. There were many opportunities to deal with the findings when Wegman testified in Congress but the warmers could not manage to make MBH seem credible. So what they did was wait a while and use the community blogs to attack Wegman’s credibility just as they used them to attack Judith Curry when she had the gall to disagree with them.

    From where I stand, the warmers are losing credibility in the scientific community, which sees them as a large threat to the respect that natural scientists have worked so hard to earn. Already we have seen respected engineers and scientists, who understand the process point out that Mann and company have done a great deal to science by becoming more interested in being activists than honest researchers.

    [DC: Please, no more diatribes, unfounded accusations and distorted narratives. Try to confine your remarks to the topics at hand. You have been warned.

    To help you focus, consider the quality of the three invited speakers (Singer, Easterbrook and Keuter) I mention above, who are on the fringes of climate science and have little discernible statistical expertise. Now look at real conference of experts in both climate science and statistics - the 2007 ASA/NCAR workshop, "A Statistical Consensus on Global Warming". There, Wegman was a standout - for his utter lack of domain knowledge.

    By the way, you have missed dhogaza's point. Thanks!]

  13. Most of this is not statistical deduction but argumentum ad hominem! Whenyou get a grip on your bias, start over objectively.

  14. “the key questions it raises for me are not about whether it constitutes plaigiarism but whether ”

    Shall we check what plagiarism is?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism

    Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

    No citation and the work claims to be his.

  15. After reading DC’s post, the words nepotism and hypocrite come to mind.

    Wegman and Said et al. are indeed quite the “team”. Oh, the irony….

  16. re: andrew adams
    I believe you are correct.
    In this case, the plagiarism is primarily important to:
    - universities
    - Office of Research Integrity, funding agencies
    - publishers (for copyright)

    and it is the easiest thing to see, in this case, pretty cut-and-dry,

    but the broader issues are indeed a) and b).
    Based on what’s out there now [a tiny fraction of that which is to come], the best example is to look at the tree-rings part of More dubious scholarship in full colour, i.e., the specific tree rings side-by-side.

    Of the ~10 pages covered, much of it seems like garden-variety plagiarism of the sort undergrads do, including Trivial Changes of the sort used to evade plagiarism checkers. Plagiarism is normally done from:
    1) laziness or
    2) in the hope of claiming nonexistent credibility

    Most of those 10 pages is of that sort.

    The tree-rings part is different, and the colored side-by-sides make this stuff much easier to see, which is why DC and I have spent enormous amounts of time doing them (and I do wish Word had a general color palette for highlighting, and other appropriate features for global changes :-))

    When you study this, the cyan in effect disappears so you can focus on what’s left, and there are many cases where the changes introduce:
    1) errors
    2) changes of meaning [like weakening or inversion]
    3) biases

    of varying nature from accidental/minor to clearly purposeful / major. The silly errors show that the writer didn’t understand, but inverting Bradley’s conclusion shows something else.

    I won a copy of Bradley. It’s 600 pages that in effect is explaining all the difficult issues in extracting signal from noisy data. It describes the numerous confounding factors in gory detail.
    When Bradley writes of impediments to using tee-rings, then spends 40 pages explaining how to handle them, and if handled, the data can be used, backed by exhaustive literature references…

    and someone who makes basic errors whenever they depart from the text, inverts Bradley to say tree-rings can’t be used, and then sprinkles “confounding factors” and equivalents everywhere, serious people are not impressed…. but it can sound good to someone unfamiliar with all this. In testimony, Wegman said he didn’t talk to any paleoclimate people … despite fact that the WR cites (but does not actually reference) Thomas Cronin’s “Principles of Paleoclimatology.”
    I have that also, it’s credible, and I’m told Cronin is certainly credible … and he was (or had been) an Adjunct Professor at George Mason, so it’s not like there was no one around to ask. of course, had they done so, he likely would have told them things that would have contradicted the WR.

    So, that’s in the 2 pages of the WR on tree-rings…
    but there is another 25 pages of “Summaries of Important Papers” yet to be seen … but soon.

  17. PolyisTCOandbanned

    AndrewAdams: yep. I was kinda reaching for that.

    willard: [DC: edit - TCO, let's not go there. ]

  18. An OT post, but I felt worth giving it a go here. After numerous tete-a-tetes with Poptech (of the hundreds of sceptical papers list) which began over at The Guardian, KingInYellow has been going through the list with a fine toothcomb, and is now halfway through the list. He’s asking if anyone has any spare space so he can publish his findings. I thought I’d ask around as his efforts are certain to deserve much attention. Jo Nova has mysteriously decided to reinforce Poptech’s list, I see. I wonder why.

    So, if anyone can help KIY out, here’s the Greenfyre post where he makes the request.

    http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/poptarts-450-climate-change-denier-lies/#comment-8658

    Do read the thread for a flavour of what should be coming if he can put it all somewhere.

    Sorry for the OT, DC.

  19. Recall also that Wegman PhD Sharabati’s dissertation also contained the same “social network” background material, again without citations, as in the Wegman rport and Said et al (2007). So that’s two …

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/04/22/wegman-and-saids-social-network-sources-more-dubious-scholarship/#comment-3371

  20. Dikran Marsupial

    I am amazed that any conference/symposium accepted an abstract that makes explicit accusations of fraud, lying, faking and supressing data. If nothing else a symposium is not the forum for that sort of thing, especially if those accused are unlikely to be their to defend themselves.

    If I were an ASA member, I would be writing a letter expressing my concerns.

  21. PolyisTCOandbanned

    On abstract, yep. Especially that Eeasterbrook abstract comes across like Watts style junk. At least Singer and Jasmine kind of try to sound like scientists. So much for he science of Hotelling and Tukey. :(

  22. Speaking of the ASA, please note the following update above (Aug 5):

    The Interface 2010 home page lists an alphabet soup of co-operating organizations, but the leading one of those is clearly the American Statistical Society. In fact, grant support is listed as follows:

    * ASA Section on Statistical Computing
    * ASA Section on Statistical Graphics
    * NISS (National Institute of Statistical Sciences)

    Remember that one of the conference co-chairs, Yasmin Said, accused climate scientists of “the willingness” to “bend the peer review process” and “destroy data”. And one of the invited presenters, Don Easterbrook, goes further and accuses climate scientists of outright scientific fraud:

    The fraud is (1) faking data, (2) changing climate data to make it appear warmer, (3) lying about Himalayan glacier retreat, (4) deliberate suppression of data that doesn’t support CO2 as the cause of global warming.

    How can the ASA allow itself to be associated with, let alone give financial grant support to, such a symposium?

  23. John Mashey,

    Yes the comparison of the section on tree rings is interesting – thanks for pointing me to it. As you say it’s not the similarities between the two documents which are most significant, it’s the differences.

    I look forward to more from you and DC on this.

  24. Someone call Judith Curry!

    [DC: Not me. ]

  25. Wegman was involved is SDI (Star Wars) work early in his career. (Look up his vitae.) His connection with the Marshall Inst. is not surprising.

  26. We already knew that the entire field of economics has been discredited, due to the antics of Lomborg. Now we have statisticians butting in on a discussion that they know nothing about, following in the footsteps of mathematicians like McIntyre and Dyson.

    What’s wrong with the climate scientists figuring all this out?

    • “What’s wrong with the climate scientists figuring all this out?”

      Climate scientists have shown that they do not understand mathematics very well. That makes it hard to take them seriously given the nature of science.

    • Thank God, Vangel, that we don’t need complex mathematics to understand that a heat wave not seen in Russia in at least 1,000 years is worrisome.

      Or the 17 national high records (not day/date records, highs for any day in the year) have been set this year.

      So climate scientists can be thrown under the bus, if you wish, because they don’t really understand why we’re warming … just as they predict.

  27. following in the footsteps of mathematicians like McIntyre and Dyson.

    Putting these two people in the same sentence clause is cruel. Dyson would wipe McI on the floor with one billion neurons tied behind his back.

    Equally wrong, of course, but please! Don’t equate them.

  28. Easterbrook, chuckle. He’s a retired retread who stopped following geological advancements before the Greenland ice core was analyzed in the 90s. I spent an hour or two on his website looking at his stuff. He has links to many presentations. All of which were given at dinky 15 minute conferences talk session (none were invited) or to captive audiences. I didn’t see any based on his own scientific work – just cut and paste denier fare.

  29. Interesting thread. Mostly irrelevant, but interesting. I’ll try to express this as briefly as possible. “He cannot see the forrest for the trees.” There is a fundamental flaw in most of the advocacy of man-made global warming that occurs also among its critics, (though the latter appear less dependent on it.) It is the belief that scientists are best qualified to evaluate science, or in this issue that climatologists are best qualified to evaluate climatological science and statistical analysts best qualified to evaluate statistical analysis. The result is the kind of muddle one sees above. My expertise is psychology and philosophy, not climatology and relatively little statistical analysis and absurdity of this whole debate is readily apparent to me. Climatologists will be unable to be objective regarding any grand theory of climate and statisticians will inevitably be able to find flaws in any complex application of their techniques when these have potential impact on their beliefs about the nature of existence or the best human adaptations, personal or social, to a similar belief. Fundamentally, global warming is not an issue of science it is a political issue. It is a political issue that involves a debate about science, but it is still 99.99% a political issue as this thread demonstrates.
    Just look at this debate or any other on the subject. It devolves almost instantly into citations of authority, comparative valuations of authority and attacks upon the authority of someone who disagrees with … whomever.
    What we really have going on here is a contest between ontological assumptions, not really science at all. I don’t know what they teach in all of the institutes that teach science, but it certainly isn’t any sophisticated understanding of the philosophical foundations of science. If they did, this debate would be in its proper venue and conducted at a more mature level. Climatological modeling and prediction, (I’m sorry to break this to you), is not science. It is an application using elements of scientific and other information to develop, modify and support a belief system. What you are doing is “working magic.” Just as your ancestors did when they developed theories to support their beliefs and reinforced them with the best information available to them at the time, you are creating totems of power with which you endeavor to smite the unbelievers and their false gods.
    True science cannot be applied to issues so complex that you cannot account for their variables. That is the case with human influence on global warming. So it is a political issue, though you may find individual elements that can be studied scientifically. But by all means, we have freedom of religion and you’re free to worship as you choose.

  30. Mr Edwin Loftus. Nice Rant. May I have another helping of your b*****it, and your whine is excellent I must say. Bravo! Heckava job, just a heckava job!

  31. Edwin,

    Stick to psychology.

    It is true, as you note, that you don’t know science.

  32. Edwin Loftus,

    ….My expertise is psychology and philosophy, not climatology and relatively little statistical analysis and absurdity of this whole debate is readily apparent to me….

    Perhaps you have heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Now consider its ramifications to your above post.

  33. Pingback: Wegman and Said leave Wiley journal and Said disappears from GMU | Deep Climate

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