John Mashey has released an updated version of Strange Investigations at George Mason University [SIGMU PDF at DeSmogBlog], which tells the story of GMU’s slow-as-molasses misconduct inquiry of Edward Wegman through various email exchanges between paleoclimatologist Raymond Bradley and GMU. Mashey now includes correspondence involving one Donald Rapp, retired engineer/physicist turned climate contrarian author. Rapp has been complaining far and wide about the indignity of plagiarism complaints lodged at the University of Southern California and at his publisher Praxis/Springer, even going so far as to exhort USA Today reporter Dan Vergano to spread one email exchange “all over the internet”.
All this will no doubt prove fascinating reading and provide fodder for weeks to come, as it has in the past. (Highlight from early 2009: “But the donkeys on deepclimate.org are the Taliban of climate change – and just as dangerous”). But for now I want to focus on two emails from Wegman himself, both forwarded by Rapp. Wegman has some choice comments about the “totally unsavory” blog of yours truly, claiming it to be – wait for it – “developed in retaliation” for enquiries into the “obvious misconduct made clear” by climategate. But the problem is not just some obscure Canadian blogger; according to Wegman, even Bradley’s complaint to GMU itself is nothing more than “a smear campaign that attempts to deflect scrutiny from the real misconduct revealed by the climategate emails”.
When the story of the Wegman misconduct inquiry first broke in USA Today, Wegman plaintively protested “We are not the bad guys”, leaving one to wonder just who the “bad guys” might be, at least in Wegman’s fevered imagination. Now, we have the answer in Wegman’s latest outrageous and unsubstantiated accusations against climate scientists.
Wegman’s eventual entanglement with Rapp resulted from a plagiarism complaint that was apparently lodged with University of Southern California, just as Rapp’s part-time adjunct position at the Space Engineering Science Center (SERC) was up for renewal. In the email exchange forwarded by Rapp to USA Today’s Dan Vergano we see how SERC director and noted climate contrarian Joseph Kunc went to bat for Rapp, urging outright dismissal of the complaint, and enlisting Edward Wegman’s support. Kunc had been involved in the anti-science petition kerfuffle at the American Physical Society, ably exposed by John Mashey. (Astonishingly the standoff continues, as SERC continues to list Rapp as “participating faculty”, while showing Rapp’s private email along with a phone number in a different area code from USC’s location).
Here is Wegman’s reply to Kunc (all the emails and Mashey’s commentary are covered in SIGMU, p. 11-15):
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010 09:23:19 -0400
Subject: Re: Question from Prof. Kunc
From: [WEGMAN EMAIL (NOT AT GMU)]
To: [KUNC EMAIL]
Dear Dr. Kunc,
The web blog deepclimate.org is, in my opinion, a totally unsavory operation. They have developed conspiracy theories and have consistently made charges of plagiarism not only against Dr. Rapp, but against me and my colleagues in our report to Congress. They have never spoken with me and have jumped to wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality. Interestingly enough, they have posted copyrighted material from my website on theirs without acknowledgement. What is even worse is that they hide behind anonymity. It is my opinion that Dr. Rapp has not plagiarized anything and I hold him harmless. This web blog seems to have been developed in retaliation for the enquiries associated with the climategate email releases and the obvious misconduct made clear by those email releases.
As noted before, we have here the supreme irony of Wegman’s dismissal of ever-mounting evidence of misconduct as “wild conclusions”, while blithely charging “obvious” (yet utterly vague) misconduct on the part of climate scientists. And, as I mentioned just a couple of days ago, I’ve been blogging regularly on climate science disinformation since early 2009, and started the blog back in 2008.
The copyright comment was somewhat mystifying to me, until Google led me to this statement from the home page of George Mason University’s statistics website:
This page and all pages on this server (www.galaxy.gmu.edu) are copyright (c) 1996-2010 Edward J. Wegman and the Center for Computational Data Science, George Mason University.
Oh, I see: “Le centre, c’est moi”. So Wegman may have in mind Yasmin Said’s 2007 presentation that told the inconvenient truth about Barton staffer Peter Spencer’s hands on involvement in the Wegman et al report – a presentation that mysteriously disappeared from GMU’s website the same week that the GMU inquiry committee finally met for the first time.
As for Wegman holding Rapp harmless, neither one of this hapless pair seems to realize that copying something without attribution does not confer the right to let someone else copy it too. Quite the opposite, in fact. Not only that, but the case against Rapp includes far more than just the material appropriated from Bradley via Wegman. My cursory examination showed a large swathe taken from the Oak Ridge Laboratory web site and even careful removal of several Bradley citations from a Willie Soon block quote. (Perhaps Rapp could contact Soon to get his blessing as well). Even Rapp has allowed that this supposed inadvertant copying without attribution may have happened “10 times, or 20”. Then again, I only looked at part of Chapter 1.
At any rate, here is the second email a week later, this time in response to Rapp himself. Wegman allows that the “zealots” have also targeted him with a plagiarism complaint, just like Rapp.
From: Edward Wegman
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2010 13:36:10 -0400
To: Donald Rapp
Subject: Re: Charges of Plagiarism by the Climategate Folks
Dear Dr. Rapp,
Thank you for your recent email. It is at least some comfort to know that the zealots aren’t targeting me alone. My Dean and Vice President for Research have asked my not to comment until the charges leveled against me have been resolved. However, the official definition of plagiarism involves copying the ideas or words of someone else and presenting them as your own. Of course, in the so-called Wegman report, we make it clear that we were not trying to represent ourselves as the inventors of paleoclimate reconstruction via tree rings as Bradley implies. Indeed, we explicitly say that these materials were included so as to give the Congressional audience a balanced picture of the area. The deepclimate website is full of crackpot conspiracy theories. I avoid reading it in order to keep a semblance of normalcy. I believe the GMU inquiry will vindicate me and my co-authors. (Rice University has already concluded that the charges against David Scott have no merit.) In any case, I have been in touch with counsel and subsequent to the GMU resolution, perhaps we can meet and decide further actions. I do agree that this is a shabby attempt at a smear campaign that attempts to deflect scrutiny from the real misconduct revealed by the climategate emails.
All the best,
Once again, Wegman appears to misunderstand the concept of plagiarism. Interestingly, though, at this point Wegman didn’t acknowledge the obvious copying of social network analysis material in the Wegman report and the follow up Said et al. He rectified that later by expanding the list of fields he was not claiming to have invented:
… we have never intended that our Congressional testimony was intended to take intellectual credit for any aspect of paleoclimate reconstruction science or for any original research aspect of social network analysis.
Wegman also took comfort from the quick exoneration of co-author Scott, while neglecting to mention that it came only after Wegman himself assumed responsibility for the sections forming the basis for Bradley’s complaint.
I do wonder, though, whether Wegman still wants to meet with “loose lips” Rapp and “decide further actions”, despite all they have in common. After all, even before this latest batch of revelations, Rapp had already aired various private statements from Wegman at ClimateAudit and WattsUpWithThat. With ever so discreet friends like that, who needs enemies?