Tag Archives: Dan Vergano

GMU contradictory decisions on Wegman: Plagiarism in CSDA, but not in 2006 congressional report

[Updates, Feb. 23-24: I have added extensive discussion “below the fold”, starting with the section entitled GMU Process. The summary has been updated with additional links to side-by-side comparisons  to enable readers to make their own judgments.]

Dan Vergano of USA Today reports on an “all faculty” announcement from George Mason University concerning the outcome of two faculty committee  investigations of plagiarism charges against GMU statistics professor Edward Wegman.

One investigation concerned a 20o8 article by Wegman protege Yasmin Said, Wegman himself and two others in Computational Statistics & Data Analysis (CSDA). The committee upheld CSDAs previous plagiarism finding; as “team leader”, Wegman was found to bear responsibility and has been asked to retract the article and apologize to CSDA’s editor. GMU has also issued an official letter of reprimand confirming that finding of research misconduct.

A separate GMU committee investigated the 2006 congressional report commonly known as the Wegman Report, a critique of the Mann-Bradley-Hughes “hockey stick” reconstruction. That investigation held that “no scientific misconduct was involved”,  only “extensive paraphrasing of another work” that was “referenced repeatedly”.  [That finding holds that there was no plagiarism in Wegman Report background material derived from Raymond Bradley’s Paleoclimatolgy; readers may judge side-by-side comparisons of the passages on tree-rings and ice core and coral proxies for themselves].  However, in a bizarre twist, it appears that the committee did not even consider side-by-side comparison of the Wegman Report’s long and unreferenced background section on social network analysis, part of which was reused in the later CSDA article and gave rise to the plagiarism finding in the other GMU case!

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Retraction of Said, Wegman et al 2008, part 2

Early climate contrarian reactions to the retraction of Said, Wegman et al 2008 have grasped at straws, holding that this does not affect the findings of the paper and the earlier Wegman report alleging inadequate peer review in climate science.

Now USA Today’s Dan Vergano, who broke the the retraction story, addresses exactly that contention in a follow up piece. Social network analysis expert Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon calls Said et al “more of an opinion piece” that would have required “major revision” to render it fit for publication in an SNA journal.

And it gets worse. Computational Statistics and Data Analysis chief editor Stanley Azen “personally reviewed” the paper and sent Wegman an acceptance notice within days of submission.  Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s Skip Garner enumerates the potential consequences of the research misconduct finding, including the possible need to investigate “ethical issues such as conflict-of-interest, haste vs. scientific rigor and bias”.

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