Tag Archives: George Mason University

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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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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