Tag Archives: Yasmin Said

Wegman and Said 2011, part 2

I continue the previous discussion of  unacknowledged antecedents in  Color Theory and Design by Wegman and Said (WIREs Computational Statistics, 2011), and examine the second half of the article in detail. There is an excessive (and partially unattributed) reliance on Marc Green’s web page on the subject.  An analysis of the list of references and figures shows a disturbing failure of the authors (who are also two thirds of the editorial team) to follow WIREs own guidelines. In all, at least 10 of 17 references appear to be spurious, and 12 of  the 17 figures are not properly attributed. All told, there are at least 12 different identified sources of unattributed text and figures, including five Wikipedia articles. This pattern raises questions concerning the fitness of the authors for editorial duties.
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Wegman and Said 2011: Yet More Dubious Scholarship in Full Colour, part 1

Previous posts have examined scholarship issues in the Wegman Report and  Wegman et al’s core flawed statistical analysis of the “hockey stick” graph. Now I show that a recent WIREs Computational Statistics overview article on colour theory and design by Edward Wegman and protege Yasmin Said is based mainly on unattributed “flow through” decade-old material from various websites. These have been augmented by further unattributed figures and text from current online sources, including five Wikipedia articles (see figure above right).

The first anniversary of “hockey stick” co-author Ray Bradley’s complaint against George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman has come and gone, but the ensuing proceeding at GMU shows no sign of resolution. Similarly absent is any indication of the release of code and data, promised by Wegman back in 2006, nor an explanation for the obvious problems permeating the Wegman Report’s core statistical analysis.

But through it all there has been one obvious question: if the Wegman Report and the follow up federally funded Said et al  on co-author social networks showed clear evidence of cut-and-paste scholarship, what might a close examination of other recent (or even not so recent) scholarship from the Wegman group reveal? To be sure, there already hints at the answer seen in problems in PhD dissertations from Said and others at GMU, and the insertion of a couple of paragraphs from the PhD dissertation of computer scientist David Grossman into a Wegman et al’s 1996 technical report.

A recent article by Wegman and Said in WIREs Computational Statistics opens up a whole new avenue of inquiry – and reveals a remarkable pattern of “flow through” cut-and-paste that goes even beyond Said et al 2008. Colour Design and Theory (published online in February) is based largely on a 2002 course lecture by Wegman. However, this is no case of simple recycling of material, for most of the earlier lecture material came from obscure websites on colour theory and was simply copied verbatim without attribution. Now much of it has shown up, virtually unchanged, nine years later. And the old material has been augmented with figures and text from several more decidedly non-scholarly sources, including – wait for it – five different Wikipedia articles.

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George Mason University’s endless inquiry

By Deep Climate

A year ago, I first identified scholarship issues in the 2006 Wegman report, the contrarian touchstone commissioned by Republican congressman Joe Barton as part of his concerted campaign to discredit the “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction and the scientists behind it, especially Michael Mann. (The report was produced by lead author George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman, along with co-authors Rice University professor David Scott and Wegman protégé Yasmin Said, although Scott seems to have had little to do with it).  Eventually, I demonstrated apparent plagiarism in 10 pages of background sections in the report, as well as in an obscure (but federally funded) follow-up article by Said, Wegman and two other Wegman acolytes. At the time, it seemed a matter of interest only in the blogosphere, while the mainstream media ignored the issue in favour of the bogus “climategate” scandal.

But it turned out that my work had come to the attention of at least one important player in this drama – paleoclimatologist and “hockey stick” co-author Raymond Bradley. Back in March, Bradley quietly filed an initial complaint with GMU alleging plagiarism by Wegman et al of Bradley’s own work, attaching some of my initial analysis. Two months later, Bradley updated GMU with my further evidence of more “widespread” plagiarism, including wholesale copying of passages from two social network text books and Wikipedia, in both the Wegman report itself, and the follow-up 2008  article by Said et al. Bradley also took special care to point out the discovery of federal funding for the latter, which made the apparent breaches of misconduct policy all the more serious.

None of this was known until the ever patient Bradley went public, notably in recent statements in online and print articles by USA Today science reporter Dan Vergano. Now, a comprehensive report by John Mashey, based on the complete communication between Bradley and GMU research vice president Roger Stough, along with an analysis of GMU’s academic misconduct policy, shows exactly why Bradley finally came forward. Strange Investigations at George Mason University [PDF 2.6 Mb ], presents a shocking picture of foot-dragging and lack of transparency at GMU. Despite the copious evidence presented by Bradley, no substantive action ensued until the belated August convening of the inquiry committee. That committee was supposed to have reported within 60 days of its ostensible nomination in April, and had only to consider the limited question of whether the allegations were substantive enough to warrant a full-blown investigation. Yet even the committee’s belated start only came after the intervention of Elsevier environmental sciences publisher John Fedor. Even worse, GMU’s Stough failed to provide promised progress reports, and the inquiry committee missed Stough’s stated September 30 deadline for delivery of its report. And Stough’s last substantive response in October to Bradley vaguely referred to needing “a few weeks more” to wrap up the inquiry phase, while since then he has stonewalled all further requests for updates.

So more than nine long months after Bradley’s initial complaint, GMU has yet to clearly reach the end of its initial inquiry, a phase that should have been pursued rigorously and resolved easily within GMU’s own timelines. That is especially so given the compelling evidence and the impetus of the serious issue of federal funding, which normally requires resolution of a misconduct inquiry within 60 days as a matter of law. All of this calls into serious question GMU’s misconduct policy and process, and indeed the university’s very commitment to fundamental principles of academic integrity.

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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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