Monthly Archives: April 2010

Open Thread # 3

Here’s another open thread for general discussion. Comments not related to specific posts should be posted here. (If there’s enough interest, I’ll have a new open thread every month).

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Wegman and Said on social networks: More dubious scholarship

Today I continue my exploration of the dubious scholarship in the contrarian touchstone known as the Wegman report, this time focusing on the report’s background section on social network analysis. As many readers may recall, Wegman et al used a simplistic analysis of co-author relationships to speculate about supposed lack of independence between researchers in paleoclimatology, accompanied by lapses of rigour in the peer review process. This, of course, echoed similar accusations by self-styled climate auditor Steve McIntyre.

In both the original Wegman report and a subsequent follow-up paper by Yasmin Said, Wegman and two others, the background sections on social network research show clear and compelling instances of apparent plagiarism. The three main sources, used almost verbatim and without attribution, have now been identified. These include a Wikipedia article and a classic sociology text book by Wasserman and Faust. But the papers rely even more on the third source, a hands-on text book that explores social network concepts via the Pajek analysis software package – the same tool used by the Wegman team to analyze “hockey stick” author Michael Mann’s co-author network.

Not only that, but the later Said et al paper acknowledges support from the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as well as the Army Research Laboratory, raising a host of new issues and questions. And chief among those questions is this: Will George Mason University now finally do the right thing and launch a complete investigation of the actions and scholarship of Wegman and Said?

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McKitrick gets it wrong on IPCC

The latest climate contrarian meme appears to be (baseless) accusations of scientific “gatekeeping” and “censorship”. Ross McKitrick provides an example of this unmistakable trend, with a blow-by-blow account of difficulties encountered in publication of his  upcoming paper on the supposed contamination of the surface temperature record. The new paper purports to debunk a single statement in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, one denigrating the conclusions of a previous paper by  McKitrick and Patrick Michaels.

McKitrick criticizes the IPCC assertion that “locations of greatest socioeconomic development are also those that have been most warmed by atmospheric circulation“. He  claims that other sections cited to support that statement do no such thing. But it turns out that McKitrick himself has it completely wrong, as he cites a passage concerning regional warming over the 21st century, instead of the actual relevant passage  concerning the period 1975-2005.

Moreover a review of the relevant scientific literature reveals substantial flaws in the previous analyses of McKitrick and Michaels. That, rather than any close-mindedness or “censorship”, is the real reason why McKitrick’s analyses have become increasingly marginalized in the scientific literature, if not in the right-wing press. Continue reading