Wegman and Said leave Wiley journal and Said disappears from GMU

The saga of statistician turned climate science critic Edward Wegman and his protege Yasmin Said has taken yet another strange turn. The pair’s tenure as editors-in-chief at the Wiley journal they founded three years ago quietly came to an unceremonious end recently, while  release of the hard-cover encyclopedia based on the journal also appears to have been delayed. Not only that, but it now seems that Yasmin Said’s stint as research assistant professor at George Mason University ended at the same time.

CHANGES AT WIREs COMPUTATIONAL STATISTICS …

Wiley Interdiscplinary Reviews – Computational Statistics (WIREs Comp Stat) began in 2009 as one of a series Wiley interdiscplinary journals (the WIREs stable has now reached eleven strong and includes WIREs Climate Change). Although WIRES Comp Stat itself is completely unrelated to climate studies, the original trio of editors – Wegman, Said and Rice University statistician David Scott – had collaborated earlier on the highly controversial congressional report on paleoclimatology known as the Wegman Report.

Wegman and Said also penned two major overview articles for the WIREs Comp Stat journal. Last year, I documented extensive copy-and-paste scholarship in Color Theory and Design and, even more shocking, in Roadmap for Optimization, the featured article in the journal’s inaugural issue. That continued a pattern of dubious scholarship seen in the Wegman Report itself, as well as in a followup paper on climate science social networks that was retractedtwice!

Wiley received complaints concerning both WIREs articles, and dealt with them in a most peculiar way: Wegman and Said were allowed (or allowed themselves) a complete “do over” of each article in turn. Dozens of citations were added, while all traces of previously evident copy-and-paste were scrubbed away. Here’s a small sample comparing a section on linear programming in the original version of Roadmap to Tom Ferguson’s Linear Programming: A Concise Introduction, with the large swathe of identical wording highlighted in cyan, and trivial differences in yellow .

That brings us to the current WIREs Comp Stat lineup, where all of a sudden David Scott is alone at the top of the masthead. That’s reflected in the latest  author style guide,  dated June 30, which also confirms that the change was very recent indeed.

It’s also noteworthy that the editorial board is down to only six members.

  • Jerome H. Friedman, Stanford University
  • Michael Friendly, York University
  • Genshiro Kitagawa, Institute of Statistical Mathematics
  • Carlo N. Lauro University of Naples “Federico II”
  • Jae C. Lee, Korea University
  • James L. Rosenberger, Pennsylvania State University

Back in 2010, there were almost double that number, but five have left in the last year or so. They include:

  • Jianqing Fan (Princeton University)
  • Xiao-Li Meng (Harvard University)
  • Luke Tierney (University of Iowa)
  • D. Michael Titterington (University of Glasgow)
  • Antony Unwin (University of Augsburg)

WIREs Comp Stat, like all the WIREs journals, was conceived from the start as a “serial encyclopedia”. But as far as I know,  only the  Encyclopedia of Computational Statistics was also slated for release as an actual hard-cover encyclopedia, with a planned publication date of July 13, 2012 – today!

The Amazon U.K. website still shows the July 2012 publication date, but there is no indication as to when it will actually be released. (Google Books goes one better, happily showing a publication date of October 2010). Nevertheless, Amazon still has  the original description.

The Encyclopedia of Computational Statistics (EoCS) draws together material normally identified under the rubric of computational statistics. This includes material drawn from computationally intensive statistical methods such as bootstrapping; data visualization; machine intelligence; density estimation; data mining; pattern recognition; clustering and classification; and computational Bayesian methods such as Markov chain Monte Carlo. …

And Amazon UK is still taking orders, as they have for more than a year, although at £1,108.65 a pop (more than US $ 1700), one wonders how many pre-orders there could possibly be.

Wiley’s placeholder cover

In contrast, the Wiley.com page for the Encyclopedia of Computational Statistics has no release date or description whatsoever but merely notes: “This product is not currently available for purchase from this website”. I can’t even find the front cover anywhere (although Wiley does show the compelling graphic at right).

Not all parts of the Wiley empire have gotten the memo though. Wiley’s Iranian subsidiary, like Amazon UK and other booksellers, still has a release date of July 2012 and the original description.

… AND CHANGES AT GMU

Meanwhile, interesting changes are also afoot at George Mason University. It seems that barely over a week ago, Yasmin Said disappeared completely from the GMU online ‘People Finder” directory, as well as the full GMU directory. Her erstwhile post as Research Assistant Professor in GMU’s School of  Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences could be seen in the Google cache from June (but even that is gone now).

Wegman and Said had ended up in SPACS after last year’s merger of their former “home” department of  Computational and Data Sciences. Said’s departure also leaves the Wegman-led research unit Center for Computational Data Sciences (confusing, I know) down to Wegman  and six other professors (each of whom also has a primary “home” posting).

And, unlike last year, this year’s directory listing shows that the Center no longer even has an online presence; indeed, there is little evidence of much recent activity there on the entire GMU website. All this is in contrast with the heady days of 1997, when the Center had no less than 20 GMU “regular” research faculty, as well as eight “corresponding” research faculty from other institutions, such as Wegman Report co-author David Scott and Wegman Report “reviewer” Enders Robinson. Unlike the global surface temperature record, the Center for Computational Data Sciences has clearly seen a severe decline in the last fifteen years.

In fact, not only has the Center gone dark, at least on the web, but the erstwhile GMU statistics “Galaxy” server itself has  disappeared. Only a year ago, it was billed as the server for “Statistics at George Mason University”. It hosted not only the Center (albeit with badly of date information), but served as a portal to all statistics-related departments at GMU, as well as linking to professional organizations and conferences.

But as of the beginning of this month, the Galaxy front page just had a list of four courses (mostly associated with Wegman in the past), before finally going dark a few days ago.

DEVELOPMENTS AT THE INTERFACE SYMPOSIUM

And that brings us to yet another significant change involving Wegman and Said.

The Interface Symposium on statistical computing dates back to 1967, and George Mason University (and Wegman in particular) have played a leading role since its reorganization as the expanded Interface Foundation in 1988. That involvement included hosting the Interface website at GMU.  So when the GMU Galaxy server went offline, the Interface Symposia website went down too. Fortunately, we can trace its  much of its recent developments via Google cache and Archive.org.

Over the years, Wegman was a constant presence at Interface and many of his former students participated in various ways (a detailed chronology can be found in Appendix A.6.2 at p. 75 in John Mashey’s magnum opus, Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report) .

That culminated in the 2010 Seattle conference where Wegman and Said served as co-chairs. Two Said-organized sessions on climate science and policy saw participation from contrarians Fred Singer, Don Easterbrook, Jeff Keuter (of the Marshall Institute) and Said herself holding forth on Climategate. Mark Berliner of Ohio State provided the sole “balance” from the mainstream.

As I noted at the time, this travesty was financially suppported by the computing and graphics sections of the American Statistical Association, as well as the National Institute of Statistical Sciences.

[O]ne 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 …

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

Well, perhaps in the end, the ASA couldn’t, although Wegman and Said did return to co-chair the 2011 edition held at the SAS campus in Cary, NC.

In any event, the 2012 edition of Interface was notable for the complete absence of Wegman for the first time in many years; nor was there anyone else from George Mason University. As he did at WIRES Comp Stat, David Scott was there to pick up the pieces, co-chairing a fine program committee, and hosting the conference at Rice University. By all appearances, the  result was a compelling event with the theme of Future of Statistical Computing: Internet Scale Data, Flexible Modeling, and Visualization.

AN EVOLVING STORY

To be sure, one can only speculate as to the full context and significance of  Wegman and Said’s departure from Wiley, Said’s exit from GMU, and all the other changes. That will likely remain the case even when those organizations finally respond publicly to these developments. Nevertheless, it does seem that there are starting to be consequences for Wegman and Said, whether Wiley and GMU care to admit it or not.  And perhaps the coverup attempts will also start to unravel.

Still, the impact of Wegman and Said’s efforts on the politicization of climate science has yet to be addressed.And here, once again, Wegman’s longtime collaborator David Scott has a responsibility to step up once and for all.

True, Scott may well have had nothing to do with the unacceptable scholarship in the background sections of the Wegman Report, or the manifestly biased and deeply flawed analysis at its core. But that is all the more reason for him to finally do the right thing and remove his name from the report.

This story is far from over and I’ll await developments along with everyone else. Meanwhile, I’ll also be focusing future efforts on revisiting Wegman and Said’s benighted analysis of paleoclimatology and the McIntyre-McKitrick “hockey stick” critique, beginning with the ever-shifting and confused definitions of “red noise” within the Wegman Report. Stay tuned.

27 responses to “Wegman and Said leave Wiley journal and Said disappears from GMU

  1. One wonders if and when that encyclopedia will appear, or if it will join an earlier phantom book by Wegman & Said for Wiley., that DC found. See SSWR, pp.65-66

    Several booksellers claimed to have that in stock. Whenever I tried to order it in 2010, online status changed to “not yet available” or equivalent. However, my curiosity does not extend to $1500+.

  2. Sydney Bridges

    It reminds me of a story I heard in Prague about ten years ago. In 1967, the Stalinist Novotny regime finally woke up to the fact that Stalin was not the nicest person in history, a mere eleven years after Krushchev denounced his crimes. There was a large statue of the late unlamented “Comrade” by the Vlatava River. So they decided to simply “disappear” it one night and a large work crew was sent to remove it. Unfortunately, the statue was extremely well built-who would risk offending “Uncle Joe” with a shoddy statue?-and took several days to demolish, leaving everyone in Prague well aware of what was going on.

    I am glad that you are illuminating the weasel attempts to “disappear” Wegman and Said. I think their exit should be as public as the damage their dishonest scholarship did to scientists of far greater talent and integrity than themselves. Not to mention the rest of us and generations to come, who will pay for the extra global warming these people helped to facilitate.

  3. Bravo DC, I too wait with interest at reading your latest findings.

    As some people like to say of those who engage in no good, “the wheel turns”. It seems in the case of Wegman and Said that the wheel is slowly beginning to turn, I sincerely hope that it gains momentum and takes the likes of McIntyre and McKitrick with it.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but shouldn’t they be feeling just a tiny bit anxious right now in light of the latest developments?

    • To me it looks like everyone is trying to deal with this mess quietly, in the hope the problem will go away. Both Wiley and George Mason University need to be held accountable for not dealing forthrightly with clear evidence of problematic scholarship, and then later covering up their lack of diligence.

      Plan B for Wiley and GMU may well to be scapegoat Said.

      I don’t think these particular, specific developments threaten McIntyre and McKitrick. But certainly renewed scrutiny of the Wegman Report’s content and underlying process would not be helpful to them.

    • DeepClimate,

      With regards to McIntyre and his side kick, I guess I was thinking that for several years McIntyre essentially touted the Wegman report as “God’s truth” and something that vindicated him and justified his attacks on “The Team”. But in doing so McIntyre and McKitrick (M&M) effectively tied themselves to a sinking ship ;) And just how did a self-styled “auditor” miss the rampant plagiarism in the Wegman report?

      Given M&M’s contribution to the plagiarized (and falsified?) Wegman report (e.g., providing code and technical support, and didn’t they also meet with Barton et al. in Washington D.C.?) the ongoing damning revelations surrounding the Wegman report surely cannot bode well for M&M and their already tarnished credibility.

      I’m not holding my breath, but one can hope that more digging and investigations with further implicate M&M in dubious goings on. I for one would be very curious to see the emails shared between Wegman and said and Barton, for example.

    • The only code Wegman et al got for sure was arhived at GRL. McIntyre did help them run it (there was a severe file path bug in McIntyre’s original code). Any other support likely went through Peter Spencer, but it’s hard to know how much there was. The Wegman et al analysis is so deeply flawed, it’s entirely possible they got it wrong all by themselves.

      I think a lot of people missed the copy-and-paste, simply because non one bothered to read those parts very carefully, until much later.

      But McIntyre did miss an extreme howler in the core section 4 of the Wegman Report, where Wegman claimed that M&M had demonstrated extreme bias in PC1 of the N.A. tree-ring PCA data reduction step, using AR1(0.2) red noise as input. This statement at the core of Wegman’s analysis was utterly wrong, and McIntyre has never admitted that. And I really wonder how he could have missed it, especially after the issue was raised by David Ritson.

      There are also valid questions about the May 2005 M&M presentation on Capitol Hill. This may have been arranged by the George Marshall Institute and/or Competitive Enterprise Institute (on the same day as the public press club presentation), but even that detail is unknown. No one knows who was there, or whether it was open or “invitation only”. However, I’m pretty certain that M&M did meet with Barton staffer Peter Spencer on that trip, and he was most likely at that meeting.

      My point above, though, is all this is a little peripheral to the current mess at Wiley and GMU (other than continued demonstration of Wegman’s and Said’s abysmal scholarship). But one can hope that these issues will emerge with renewed scrutiny of Wegman Report’s “analysis”, as well as the underlying process.

    • It’s salient to note that less than a week ago McIntyre was using the Wegman report as a defense against claims that his analyses were in error:

      I try to write accurately and, to my knowledge, have not “promulgated misinformation” about Mann’s research, let alone done so “repeatedly”. Together with coauthor Ross McKitrick, I published criticism of Mann’s work in the same peer reviewed journal as Mann et al 1999. We published these criticisms in good faith. In my opinion, not only have the specific criticisms not been refuted in subsequent commentary, but, if anything, our findings have been confirmed even by adversaries. For example, our finding that the verification r2 of the Mann et al reconstruction was not only not significant but ~0 was confirmed by the very adversarial Wahl and Ammann article. While some topics remain in controversy, I note that neither the National Research Council Report nor the Wegman Report in 2006 identified any errors in our work; that the Wegman Report, in particular, strongly endorsed our work and that Gerald North, the Chairman of the National Research Council report, when asked, stated that he agreed with the conclusions of the Wegman Report. While such endorsements do not ensure that our findings are correct (though I believe our findings to be correct), the failure of these panels to explicitly identify errors speaks strongly against your allegation of promulgating “misinformation”.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Bernard,

      Isn’t it amazing that he is still repeating his r^2 nonsense?

      For example, our finding that the verification r2 of the Mann et al reconstruction was not only not significant but ~0 was confirmed by the very adversarial Wahl and Ammann article.

      If he had actually read the article with comprehension, he would have learned that r^2 isn’t even interesting as a verification score, as it bears no relationship to the “goodness” of the reconstruction in any common-sense sense. Wahl and Ammann even included an appendix demonstrating this graphically.

      McIntyre may know a lot of statistics; he sure understands a lot less — assuming that he is honest about this. That is starting to look like a big assumption.

  4. Instead of trashing real climate scientists who study nuclear winter as stooges of KGB manipulation, maybe the FBI should see if the Wegman fiasco might be an actual example of their observation that “foreign researchers may be under pressure to make their research conclude what their government wants it to conclude, or they may be ordered to write completely fabricated studies.”

    [DC: I vehemently disagree that there is any evidence to support that second part i.e. that Wegman et al were “ordered to write” a “completely fabricated” study. Any comments repeating that accusation or suggestion will be deleted.

    I do think Joe Barton and his aide Peter Spencer could be reasonably sure that Wegman would deliver a report friendly to the M&M critique of paleoclimatology without addressing the real issues, for instance in a skewed set of background material. There is also evidence that the Wegman team sought comments from their own social network, but did not take these comments into account. That could be reasonably construed as “pressure to make their research conclude what their government wants it to conclude”.

    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/counterintelligence/higher-education-national-security

    The FBI could even write about Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; this Virginia tyrant puts scientists under pressure to make their research conclude what the AG’s office, and outpost of the fossil-fuel industry, wants it to conclude.

    [DC: I would say that Cuccinelli (like Barton) was aiming to intimidate scientists. Barton went one better by commissioning a report that would support his position. ]

  5. Cuccinelli cites Kremlin mouthpieces for his fake climate science,

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/10/attorney-general-cuccinelli-ties-his.html

    and he uses Bolshevik political tactics such as the big lie and purges of legal organizations by oppressive regulation.

    If Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a conservative, then what is he conserving? He’s not conserving our educational, legal, or scientific institutions? He’s not conserving our environment. He is trying to wreck our institutions so that his fossil-fuel sponsors can have total power over our people.

    [DC: This is getting off topic, and repetitive as well. I'll allow this one, but keep on topic from now on. Thanks! ]

  6. On the one hand: good riddance. On the other: expect some people to use this as evidence of a grand conspiracy.

  7. Cuccinelli cites the Kremlin organ RIA Novosti to “prove” that western climate scientists are LYING about global warming, but during the 2010 forest fires, Andrei Areshev, a lunatic attached to a Russian Foreign Ministry drunk tank, even claimed right in this same RIA Novosti that those sneaky U.S. climate scientists were CAUSING global warming by beaming secret climate weapons at Russia!

    Since the FBI cites a KGB defector who claims in a book that nuclear winter is a KGB hoax, someone should tell the FBI that Russian scientists are experimenting with ways to cool the climate by geoengineering a little nuclear winter.

    When we have droughts and floods, probably some people will be suspicious that these new technologies are being used as weapons. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate our efforts on renewable energy?

  8. Anybody checked for Said at Oklahoma State? /snark

  9. 1) It is very clear from the history, SSWR pp.28-29, 31, esp items 12-13, that Jerry Coffey was used to recruit Wegman, using the May 2005 M+M presentation.

    2) People might want to reread pp.16-17 of the PDF @ Strange Tales and Emails, about the materials Wegman+Said got from Spencer (and their disagreements over how much).
    This clearly establishes that they were in frequent contact.

    3) HOWEVER,I know of no public evidence that Barton (via Spencer) told Wegman what to do. There is a great deal of evidence that Wegman was carefully selected, and given the M+M material, which was an obvious blueprint for the WR. There is already plenty of evidence of the manufactured/fake nature of the WR.

    We don’t *need* to claim that Barton/Spencer was explicitly telling Wegman what to do, although if someone actually has any evidence that can be made public, please do.

    All Barton/Spencer needed to do was have Coffey talk to Wegman with M+M presentation, find him receptive and sign him up, then feed him materials. (I still wonder where the absurd Tom Valentine MAGNETS reference came from – see SSWR p.180 )

    4) Meanwhile, people might want to read Ed Wegman Promised Data to Rep. Henry Waxman Six Years Ago – Where Is It?

  10. Rob:
    I don’t know where she is, but I’m sure the one place she is not, is OSU.

    • Nor Oklahoma State. Just to clarify.

    • John Mashey

      Yes, I certainly meant Oklahoma. OSU is one of the most ambiguous, given {Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio} State U’s.

    • Google on the “OSU” controversy (results for search on ‘OSU “Oxxxxx State University” ‘, where Oxxxxx is one of {Ohio, Oklahoma or Oregon}.

      Ohio State U: 22.3M
      Oklahoma State U: 8.3M
      Oregon State U: 8.0M

  11. Ted Kirkpatrick

    I want to know who was the editor of record for the colour theory and roadmap articles. As authors, Said and Wegman ought to have recused themselves. That leaves only David Scott to organize the reviews and give final acceptance. And what did the reviewers say? Of course those two articles were reviewed, right? Right?

    A note about the book edition of WIREs:CS. In their “WIRES is a WINNER” editorial, celebrating an award given to the WIRES series, Wegman, Scott, and Said related that they originally approached Wiley with an idea for a handbook of computational statistics. Wiley was just setting up the WIREs product line and proposed they launch WIREs:CS instead. So the book version may have been in fulfillment of that original discussion. The other WIREs titles may not have had that history.

    And while we’re listing people looking over their shoulder, let’s not forget McShane and Wyner, with their “Quarternary” and “speleotherm” tells.

  12. Look for Ed Wegman to retire from GMU and join a think tank, maybe the one on campus.

  13. To be somewhat less cryptic. From the sound of all this it looks like Wegman’s center lost funding and that took out Said who had a soft money position. Depending on how much of his salary came from teaching relief supported by the center, he might be better off retiring and taking a pension.

  14. Pingback: Of Geese and Ganders – A Few Things Ill Considered

  15. Which one? On or near are at least Mercatus, Institute for Humane Studies and STATS.

  16. Who’s more responsible for higher alochol wines: Mother Nature, Wine Critics, or Winemakers?”> notes that the world is warming.

    This attracts the attention of Bob Webster, who had not posted there before. (Google Alerts helps drive-by posters) His blog hosts folks like Alan Caruba, Joe D’Aleo, Paul Driessen, Steve Milloy, John O’Sullivan, Viscount Monckton.

    Follow the amusing thread that results:
    a) Bob Webster drops into an innocent blog, starts pontificating with great certainty, repeating the usual memes, I’d guess expecting a naive audience.

    b) Surprise! David Graves, not only a good Napa vintner, but knowledgable enough to work with researchers and give talks at Stanford., and who occasionally posts on that blog, pops up and politely refutes Webster again and again.

    c) Webster finally declares victory and say he will post no more, but not before delivering a fine line earlier:

    ‘At the behest of the US Congress, , Dr. Edward Wegman arguably the world’s leading statistician, headed a panel of top statisticians to review Mann’s work. When the Wegman panel corrected Mann’s (elementary) statistical mistakes, the “hockey stick” vanished. The Wegman panel repudiated Mann’s work.’

    He also wrote:
    ‘ Your attempt to besmirch the reputation of Dr. Wegman is reprehensible.’
    Hmm, I recall that Judith Curry used that term in reference to DC…

  17. On the other hand that paper she links to by Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac makes very interesting reading.

  18. By t he way, for a really good discussion of misconduct & plagiarism, here’s one at Office of Research Integrity. Both GMU and Wiley have acted rather far outside this zone.

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