Tag Archives: Edward Wegman

The Wegman report sees red (noise)

By Deep Climate

The recent focus on George Mason University’s investigation into plagiarism allegations concerning the Wegman “hockey stick” report and related scholarship has led to some interesting reactions in the blogosphere. Apparently, this involves trifling attribution problems for one or two paragraphs, even though the allegations now touch on no less than 35 pages of the Wegman report, as well as the federally funded Said et al 2008. Not to mention that subsequent editing has also led to numerous errors and even distortions.

But we are also told that none of this “matters”, because the allegations and incompetence do not directly touch on the analysis nor the findings of the Wegman report. So, given David Ritson’s timely intervention and his renewed complaints about Edward Wegman’s lack of transparency, perhaps it is time to re-examine  Wegman report section 4, entitled “Reconstructions and  Exploration Principal Component Methodologies”. For Ritson’s critique of the central Wegman analysis itself remains as pertinent today as four years ago, when he expressed his concerns directly to the authors less than three weeks after the release of the Wegman report.

Ritson pointed out a major error in Wegman et al’s exposition of the supposed tendency of “short-centred” principal component analysis to exclusively “pick out” hockey sticks from random pseudo-proxies.  Wegman et al claimed that Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick had used  a simple auto-regressive model to generate the random pseudo-proxies, which is the same procedure used by paleoclimatologists to benchmark reconstructions. But, in fact, McIntyre and McKitrick clearly used a very different – and highly questionable – noise model, based on a “persistent” auto-correlation function derived from the original set of proxies. As a result of this gross misunderstanding, to put it charitably, the Wegman report failed utterly to analyze the actual scientific and statistical issues. And to this day, no one – not Wegman, nor any of his defenders – has addressed or even mentioned this obvious and fatal flaw at the heart of the Wegman report.

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David Ritson speaks out

By Deep Climate

David Ritson, emeritus professor of physics at Stanford University, has updated Steve McIntyre and the rest of the world on a key controversy concerning the Wegman Report, namely Edward Wegman’s ongoing failure to release supporting material related to the analysis within the Wegman report, more than four years after his promises to do so.

Here is Ritson’s complete comment, addressed to McIntyre at ClimateAudit.

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Wegman under investigation by George Mason University

By Deep Climate

[Update, Oct. 11: George Mason University spokesperson Doug Walsch has clarified that the complaint against Wegman has moved past the preliminary “inquiry” phase and is now under formal investigation. ]

[Update, Oct. 15, 19: I have added pointers to my previous discussions and updated side-by-side comparisons relevant to allegations of plagiarism forwarded to George Mason University last March and April. The allegations concern not only the Wegman report, but also the federally-funded  Said et al 2008  (published in Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, with Wegman and two other Wegman proteges as co-authors). ]

George Mason University has acknowledged that statistics professor Edward Wegman is under investigation for plagiarism. As related in USA Today, the investigation followed a formal complaint by paleoclimatologist Raymond Bradley, co-author of the seminal (and controversial) 1998 and 1999 “hockey stick” temperature reconstructions.

But a letter from Roger Stough, GMU’s vice-president responsible for research, indicates that the pace of the initial inquiry has been slow. And it appears that a promised date for resolution of the inquiry phase of the proceeding has been missed.

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John Mashey on Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report

Guest post by John Mashey

Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report (SSWR)
A Facade for the Climate Anti-Science PR Campaign

This report offers a detailed study of the “Wegman Report”: Edward J. Wegman, David W. Scott, Yasmin H. Said, “AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION”(2006).

It has been key prop of climate anti-science ever since. It was promoted to Congress by Representatives Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield as “independent, impartial, expert” work by a team of “eminent statisticians.” It was none of those.

A Barton staffer provided much of the source material to the Wegman team. The report itself contains numerous cases of obvious bias, as do process, testimony and follow-on actions. Of 91 pages, 35 are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning. Its Bibliography is mostly padding, 50% of the references uncited in the text.  Many references are irrelevant or dubious.  The team relied heavily on a long-obsolete sketch and very likely on various uncredited sources. Much of the work was done by Said (then less than 1 year post-PhD) and by students several years pre-PhD. The (distinguished) 2nd author Scott wrote only a 3-page standard mathematical Appendix.  Some commenters were surprised to be later named as serious “reviewers.”  Comments were often ignored anyway.  People were misused.

The Wegman Report claimed two missions: #1 evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph,  and #2 assess potential peer review issues in climate science.  For #1, the team might have been able to do a peer-review-grade statistical analysis, but in 91 pages managed not to do so.  For  #2, a credible assessment needed a senior, multidisciplinary panel, not a statistics professor and his students, demonstrably unfamiliar with the science and as a team, unqualified for that task.   Instead, they made an odd excursion into “social network analysis,” a discipline  in which they lacked experience, but used poorly to make baseless claims of potential wrongdoing.

In retrospect, the real missions were: #1 claim the “hockey stick” broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “think tanks” and allies, underway for years.

Most people can just read the 25-page main discussion, but 200+ pages of backup text are included to provide the necessary documentation, as some issues are potentially quite serious.

For a quick download, read the Executive Summary (first six pages). Then, here is the complete report, including the main discussion and 200+ pages of appendices.

Wegman report update, part 2: GMU dissertation review

By Deep Climate

Several posts in past months have highlighted highly questionable scholarship in the 2006 Wegman report on the “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction (and revelations of much more will come soon, with  the imminent release of John Mashey’s massive analysis). Today I present yet another analysis of background material of “striking similarity” to antecedents, this time found in a trio of dissertations by recent George Mason University PhD students under the supervision of Edward Wegman.

Wegman Report co-author Yasmin Said’s 2005 dissertation on the “ecology” of alcohol consumption  appears to presage some of the questionable scholarship techniques employed in the Wegman Report.  And later dissertations from two other Wegman proteges, Walid Sharabati (2008) and Hadi Rezazad (2009), both have extensive passages that follow closely Wegman Report’s social networks background section, which in turn  is based on unattributed material from Wikipedia and two widely used text books. Thus, as in the case of Donald Rapp, there appears to be serial propagation of unattributed, “striking similar” material. Astonishingly, all three Wegman acolytes were honored with an  annual GMU award for outstanding dissertations in statistics and computational science.   However, a closer look betrays not only scholarship problems in the work, but clear failure in the PhD supervision process itself.

It may also be that some heat is being felt behind the scenes. For one thing, Said’s 2005 dissertation was recently deleted from the George Mason University website. And around the same time, most traces of Said’s eye-opening presentation on the Wegman panel process [PDF] were also deliberately removed. That appears to be a clumsy attempt to cover up embarrassing details about the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee 2005-2006 climate investigation, including the key role of Republican  staffer Peter Spencer, Representative “Smoky” Joe Barton’s long time point man on climate change issues. (These disappearances were pointed out to me by the ever-vigilant John Mashey).

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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!

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Wegman Report update, part 1: More dubious scholarship in full colour

This is the final instalment in a series of posts documenting dubious scholarship and unattributed sources in the background chapter of the touchstone of climate contrarians known as the Wegman Report. That report has been touted as Exhibit A proving the “destruction” of Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph by self-styled climate auditor Steve McIntyre.

Previously, I found extensive passages bearing “striking similarity” to a classic text by the distinguished paleoclimatologist (and “hockey stick” co-author) Raymond Bradley in the background sections on tree rings and on ice cores. Subsequently, the background section on social networks was found to contain material apparently drawn without attribution from a variety of sources, including Wikipedia and several text books.

This time, I’m looking at section 2.2 (see Wegman Report PDF at p. 15), which gives the background of key statistical concepts, including Principal Component Analysis. Astonishingly, even this section appears to contain a significant amount of unattributed material from other sources, although quite a bit less than the other sections. Again, Wikipedia appears to be a key source, along with a couple of text books.

I’ll also introduce some refinements to the text analysis, based largely on John Mashey’s recent innovations. Those refinements allow a better characterization of the relationship between various passages in Wegman et al and their apparent antecedents, as well as permitting a quantitative analysis based on word counts.

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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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Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, part 2: The story behind the Barton-Whitfield investigation and the Wegman Panel

[Updated Feb. 8: (editing and extension of summary and document list update)]

Perhaps the most disturbing episode in the “hockey stick” controversy was the investigation of climate scientists by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee under Republican representatives Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield, and a subsequent report for that same committee  by an “independent” panel led by George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman. In light of various renewed “skeptic” allegations of scientific misconduct against Michael Mann and Phil Jones, and my recent revelation of possible plagiarism and other questionable scholarship in the Wegman report, a complete review of the events of 2005-2006 would seem to be in order.

In short, the Energy and Commerce Committee refused the offer of a proper scientific review from the National Academy of Sciences in favour of an investigative process that was ad hoc, biased and unscientific. And the report resulting from that process  is tainted with highly questionable scholarship.

I can now fill in important gaps in the timelines of the initial investigation and the Wegman panel. But more importantly my review has led to some startling conclusions:

  • Not only was the original Barton-Whitfield investigation (in the form of intimidating letters) inspired by the allegations of “climate science auditor”  Steve McIntyre, but the defining impetus seems to have been a little known Cooler Heads Coalition-Marshall Institute sponsored presentation by McIntyre and sidekick economist Ross McKitrick in Washington barely a month beforehand.
  • Energy and Commerce Committee Republican staffer Peter Spencer played a key but hitherto undisclosed role in the investigation and the subsequent Wegman panel report, and  apparently acted as the main source and gatekeeper of climate science information for the panel.
  • Steve McIntyre was in communication with the Wegman panel, at least concerning technical questions around replication of his work. The full extent of McIntyre’s communications or meetings with Spencer or other staffers, as well as Wegman panelists, is still unknown. However, the record shows there were at least two intriguing opportunities for face-to-face meetings in Washington during the Wegman panel’s mandate.

All this, along with new information about the circumstances of the Wegman panel’s formation and mandate, raises serious doubts about the supposed independence of the Wegman panel.

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Wegman and Rapp on proxies: A divergence problem, part 2

Recent posts on the Wegman Report and Donald Rapp’s Praxis-Springer text book Assessing Climate Change have generated much comment. In A Divergence Problem, part 1, I noted  that the sub-section on dendrochronology (tree ring-proxies) in Rapp’s book was based in large part on nearly verbatim material found previously in the Wegman Report. That in turn was a somewhat distorted summary of material found in Raymond Bradley’s seminal text book, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary.

In this follow up post, I”ll examine the Wegman’s treatment of other proxies, which were also derived from Bradley.  I’ll also take a closer look at the three proxy sub-sections in Rapp that are derived in turn from Wegman. In all three cases,  divergences are slight, but do include some interesting changes in the references.

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