Journalist thinks world climate science publications are controlled by cabal

By Grant Jacobs 15/01/2010 66

(A poke at a silly claim by a journalist for late on a Friday night, not my usual style. Please see footnotes.)

Journalist “poneke” writes:

The emails reveal that the entire global warming debate and the IPCC process is controlled by a small cabal of climate specialists in England and North America. This cabal, who call themselves ’the Team,’ bully and smear any critics. They control the ’peer review’ process for research in the field and use their power to prevent contrary research being published.

[My emphasis added.]

Y’know one of my very favourite (mis)quotes is “Don’t criticise what you can’t understand”.

“Poneke” clearly doesn’t understand.

The idea that some small cabal is able to control the entire world’s climate science publications is such utter bunk it’s hilarious.

Great joke, Poneke.

It’s like something out of a Dan Brown novel.

You don’t have to be a climate scientist to figure it out. I’m not, it’s not difficult to work out.

The smallest passing knowledge of how scientific publishing works–in any area of science–would more than suffice.

Let’s make that least of efforts.

How many climate journals are there?

Here’s a starter list. There will be more journals, quite likely many more, but it’ll do. I count in excess of 60.

How many scientific journals could a small group of researchers have any real influence on? Enough influence to control what is published.

It’d be impossible for it to be more than a handful as it’s the editors that have the call to accept/reject papers, not the referees, and there is no physical way for any one scientist to have time to be the editor of more than a few journals, at most. (Few would take on more than one.)

Unless these people controlled all the editorial boards of all the climate journals in the world–an obvious nonsense–they couldn’t possibly control the world’s science literature on climate change, even if they wanted to.

Certainly the likes of Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) wouldn’t put up with people telling them what to publish. I can’t imagine John Maddox liking being played for a fool during his stay as editor of Nature, for example.

Note, too, that top journals don’t have just one editor, but an editorial board.

Methinks that Poneke doesn’t understand (properly) that referees’ comments aren’t the final say on what’s published. If true, and it seems to be the case, then he [doesn’t] understand the scientific publishing process at all. Editors don’t just fall over backwards because of what a referee says, they expect referees to be critical; they’re supposed to.

Furthermore, this “cabal” would have to referee every paper ever published that was contrary to their views for this conspiracy to work.

In any event, as a practical matter, bullying editors would only put the editors’ backs up. That’s common-sense.

You see, if editors don’t think particular referees are useful, not impartial or just an ordinary pain in the neck, they just stop using them. The referees aren’t in control.

It would behoove those pushing these “conspiracy” ideas to ask themselves honestly what they really know of how the science industry works.

No point in criticising what you don’t understand.

(On the other hand, perhaps they don’t care what’s correct and asking them to understand first is moot? Runs contrary to what you’d want a journalist to be doing though, doesn’t it?)

I didn’t read past the second paragraph of Poneke’s article, the one I cited above as my interest is with the highlighted sentence. Given the the standard Poneke set with the first two paragraphs, I had no inclination to read further. A brief skim suggests strongly that he maintains the conspiracy line.

[Correction added. Surprised no-one pointed it out sooner!]

Footnotes: (added Wednesday 20th January)

The link to the older (or newer) comments is a bit hard to spot. It’s in light blue writing, smallish font, to the bottom left of the comments immediately before where you sign in to comment. At the time of writing there are two pages of comments (fifty on the first).

For all those throwing stuff about climate science at me, this article is not about climate science. It is about the scientific publishing industry. You’re welcome to talk about climate science amongst yourselves. Climate science isn’t addressing what I’ve written, so it’s besides the point in lobbing climate science at me! :-)

I would encourage readers interested in the climate science aspects to read the Hot Topic article, or relevant posts at Open Parachute both of who who cover climate science. I’d be very skeptical that the overall claims of global warming are wrong (there’s simply too much science and too many scientists involved), but I don’t have time to learn the background to comment on it directly. I have a day job, one that goes “all hours” already…

(I am familiar with the scientific publishing industry, of course, that’s essentially unavoidable if you’re a scientist!)

One of the key reasons I picked up on this point is that you don’t need to know climate science in order to check this, you “just” need a knowledge of the scientific publishing industry and a little common-sense. It lets you look at poneke/David’s claim independent of all the hubris about the science.

Despite poneke/David’s making out this to be a personal attack, it is not. I am not attacking him, I am “attacking” the claim he made. The difference is important. As a former journalist, he will know that claims in public are open to criticism.

If you wish to reply to me, as opposed to other commenters, I would encourage you to read my comments below first. It’ll avoid me having to repeat myself! (Search the web page using control-F (or command-F for Apple Mac users) on ‘Grant Jacobs’.) I will be up-front in saying I may not have time to reply. This post is quite a few days old and I have to keep moving forward and in any event I have more important priorities.

One more! (This is getting almost as long as the article!) Read around. There’s over 25 bloggers here, writing on all sorts of subjects. My recent posts have been on a protest against homeopathy (it’s got a great video hosted by Richard Dawkins) and how deleting a single gene can turn ovaries into testes in adult mammals.

66 Responses to “Journalist thinks world climate science publications are controlled by cabal”

  • Actually, if you read on, you will find 4400 words giving the supporting evidence, backed by links to every one of the Climategate emails, which are a treasure trove from the hidden heart of the IPCC process.

    The Netiquette is also to give a link to postings you attack like this, so people can make up their own minds about your opinions. This is the link you left out:

  • He appears to be completely untroubled by the need to supply accurate context, or accuracy in general. Poneke “jumped the shark” on climate over a year ago, and is now content to parrot denialist claptrap.

    Actually, I think there might be an interesting bit of stylistic analysis to be done. His normal posts are well-written and considered, although often about trolley buses. His “climate” posts are very different – rabid rants, for the most part.

  • Here’s a tip for you and others that have these conspirational bents to help you avoid embarrassing yourself: think of the ordinary, boring answers first.

    Take your reply to me for example. The ordinary boring answer would be that I made a simple ordinary garden-variety mistake. People do. Especially late on Friday night 😉

    But, on no, it has to a “beach of netiquette”.

    Wouldn’t good netiquette be that when you see an error, you just point out the correction needed without comment and let writer just fix it, instead of accusing them of something they’re very unlikely to have done? 😉

    As for “4400 words”: a larger count of words isn’t more evidence that you’re right. That it’s long doesn’t mean diddly-squat. It can just be more rubbish 😉

  • (My previous post crossed over Gareth’s. WordPress keeps comments in order they arrive, not in order of acceptance by the moderator…)


    It’s a shame, eh? He’s generally OK on most other topics, although the odd bit that doesn’t stack up to me, harsh critic that I am 😉 He seems fairly open to being corrected on these. I liked his Wellington posts and the trolley bus bent (obsession?!) was fun.

    I was hoping that maybe if he could see where he’s taking himself, he’d take stock, and that it might be a good head’s up for others.

    I see he has removed the link to my blog article under my name from my comment on his blog. (As is convention when linking a post, I put in under my name so that I wouldn’t be guilty of “promoting”.) I suppose he’s thinking “tit-for-tat” in response to my accidentally leaving out a link, except that I never left out the link to his blog in my article intentionally. Sigh. It was just your “average” late-night blooper.

    I’ve replied to his response (i.e. a second comment from me on that thread), but you won’t see it until it comes out of moderation.

    You’re right about the style. I sometimes wonder if he’s got his buddy Ian Wishart under pseudonym writing those climate posts! Ian would be a far more likely person to try read all those emails… after all Ian does write the odd—how can be put it politely—”non-mainstream” book and writing a book would be a better justification for reading that many emails!

  • Interesting to note, perhaps, that Wishart is starting to promote a new “Climategate” edition of Air Con at his blog… 😉

  • Gareth,

    We can get our own (rather small) conspiracy theory going here… :-)

    While the style of the climate posts does remind me of Ian’s writing, I can’t really imagine Ian hiding behind aliases or other nonsense. Perhaps “poneke” is a hired hand to do Ian’s slog work for Ian’s new book? Hmm… :-)

    (I’m just kidding around, as I hope is obvious.)

  • Mr McLoughlin’s scepticism (and to him his rationality) in general is something his always been somewhat prideful of, I think the whole AGW thing has become very personal to him and with that he’s just lost his ability to approach the topic rationally, and of course, because it’s so personal to him, pointing out where he is wrong (from his perspective) just makes such criticism a personal attack .

  • I disagree about him being similar to Ian, Ian is a politically partisan man with strong religious beliefs, he knows that having faith and being partisan is part of his make up, and I think he sees the AGW debate as all part of the political game and not personal, he ties his ego to the bigger picture, not to the specifics, so if you point out his mistakes he can shrug it off, and because it’s more about politics to him, he doesn’t have a problem with stretching the truth a little (I’d say that to him it’s not even about “truth” as such but rather perspective), that’s how politically motivated people see things.
    To Ian it’s a game, and hyperbole is part of the game and part of what makes it fun to play played with humour.

    Mr McLoughlin on the other hand doesn’t see the AGW debate in that way, he sees himself as rational and objective and the “warmists” as scheming and dishonest, to Mr McLoughlin, there’s no room for genuine humour, how could there be with opponents of such character?

  • Andrew,

    It’s a fair point from one perspective, but remember that he has been in journalism a long time and he knows that if you publish something, you’re open to having it criticised or used as an example. (Same goes for us writing here.)

    It’s a good thought that his pride might be getting in the way of him seeing it rationally. That’s an understandable enough and an human enough thing.

    I probably should write a separate post on this, but an excellent tip my Ph.D. supervisor gave me was that once you have your idea, treat it as if it were the idea of your arch-enemy, and spend time attacking it. Part of the point is to not get too personally attached to your own ideas.

  • “I disagree about him being similar to Ian”

    I didn’t say he was. I referred loosely to the writing style (not the person or their background), following from Gareth’s lead.

    I also was writing tongue-in-cheek if that’s not already clear enough! e.g., “(I’m just kidding around, as I hope is obvious.)” Don’t take everything I write too seriously! :-)

    I’m sure they come from very different perspectives, as you say. You sound as if you’ve “done a lot of time” with them or their blogs.

    I’m not personally interested in the particular people involved for what it’s worth, other than I guess I feel it’s a bit of a pity that “Poneke” is writing such an odd mix of otherwise good stuff, then this almost bizarre stuff on climate change in the middle of it all. I’m really mainly interested in the claim itself. (That’s me all over. I focus on the claims, not the people.)

  • Hi Grant,
    Have you read the emails? Given the enormous responsibility Jones, Mann, Hansen and co have they are very disturbing. Unfortunately there are many in there which do point to manipulation of approval of papers and submissions and the black listing of some scientists work. It certainly does shake your faith.

  • Dianne,

    I wrote about one thing and one thing only: the publishing system and that the numbers involved that mean his claims of a small “cabal” controlling it don’t stack up.

    There is no read [need] to “read the emails”: they can’t change what I pointed out. (There aren’t going to be more or less journals or a different publishing business because of what someone wrote in an email.)

    In fact, you could even suggest that pointing at them is to be pointing at a red herring.

    I could equally—and more relevantly in context of what I wrote—ask you if you have considered the nature of the scientific publishing system?

    Look at it another way: conversations occur in contexts. If you don’t (or won’t) consider accurately the context in which they occur, you’ll be very likely to “read” the conversation wrong [correctly]. If the conversation is about scientific publishing, then you’ll need to know how that works first.

    Have you tried to understand how scientific publishing works first?

    Just food for thought.

    [Excuse all the errors: I juggled replying to this with trying to follow the ScienceOnline conference and seem to have scrambled my writing!]

  • I was amazed that almost 20% of the article, which Poneke describes as “…the longest and most important article I’ve yet written for this blog”, is devoted to nominations for Fellowships of the AGU. Hradly the stuff of global consparcies. It is revealing though – Michael Mann, who according to Poneke controls everything that gets published in climate science, can’t wrangle his own nomination for a Fellowship. Go figure.

  • A old fellow I knew once was absolutely convinced the Americans did not land on the moon. It wasn’t because he thought it was a conspiracy. It was just because mentally he was already an old man when it happened. For him, it was one bit of change to far, he was being asked to absorb and adapt to a new thing once to often in a life that had seen so much change from his birth isolated West Coast settlement in the late nineteenth century.

    He simply stopped processing change, and denied the Apollo missions could ever have happened.

    I can guess from his blog Poneke is now an old man, and in his desperation to deny climate change he reminds me in his manner and language of that other old man, denying Apollo, of my youth.

  • Tom,

    Personally I prefer to just deal with the claims made myself, although if you do understand the reasons why they’ve ended up with the claims they do it can help provide a way to explain where they’ve gone wrong.

    In Poneke’s case, I don’t think you’re right, but then who am I really to know?

    What is a shame—regardless of the reason behind it—is that he won’t even look at the point made. In particular, if he’s going to suggest (or, in his case, flatly state) something like that, it has to have a plausible means of being possible.

  • Surely you don’t still believe that catastrophic climate change is just around the corner ?

    Al Gore’s vision for the world evaporated at Copenhagen with the side-lining of the EU and the IPCC by China, India and the USA. See…

    People simply don’t believe the IPCC line any more. Instead they believe Poneke’s assertions, that science has been politicised and corrupted, and an illusion of scientific consensus has been maintained by fraud. The investigation at PSU of Michael Mann may well reinforce that belief.

  • “As for “4400 words”: a larger count of words isn’t more evidence that you’re right. That it’s long doesn’t mean diddly-squat. It can just be more rubbish ;-)”

    You mean just like a larger number of scientists or a larger amount of evidence?

    That could all be rubbish too…

  • Ayrdale,

    I already pointed out that I didn’t write about climate science, I wrote about the scientific publishing system. Your first sentence poking at me is pointing at something that is besides the point. What I “believe” is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that there doesn’t seem to be a means for poneke’s claim to work in real life. Anyone can state ideas, as poneke has, but if they don’t have a means to work, they’re not much use.

  • peteremcc,

    The number of scientists—in and of itself—doesn’t matter (any more than the length of an article would), but a larger amount of evidence certainly does.

  • I haven’t done the full analysis that Poneke did, but from what I did research myself I certainly believe that Nature were politicised enough to only publish what the Hockey Team approved of. In fact IIRC from the emails often the Hockey Team would be the ‘peer’ reviewers of dissenting articles.

  • Sheesh! Talk about playing the man rather than the ball. All I see here is an attack on Poneke’s character, age, length of article etc. What I don’t see is any rational, factual debunking of the messages contained in the released emails. I suspect this is because deep down most of the contributors to the “play the man” responses are deeply embarrassed by the message contained in Poneke’s blog and this is the only tactic left to them.

    If you lot are educated people of scientific bent then read the emails and lets see a measured response to the information they contain.

  • Poneke certainly seems to have bought out a lot of deniers – and they are demonstrating the lynch mob mentality.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if he is starting to censor – my last 2 contributions have not appeared yet (and didn’t even show as under moderation). Perhaps because I had pointed out he had been wrong about the “hockey stick” graph and asked him to acknowledge this.

    However, Poneke has now joined Wishart in an open attack on sciblogs and The Royal Society – typical McCarthyism/Stalinism?Maoist/Pol Potism!

    To hell with the science – attack the scientists – just because they are scientists.

  • Old Cromwell – fair point, but I suspect people are weary of relitigating climategate after it has been hashed over so much already by people with much more time on their hands. I think Monbiot summed it up best in this column he wrote soon after the CRU hacking news broke when he wrote (

    “It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.”

    I’ve read all the emails that have been quoted. Indeed they are damaging and some of the scientists involved don’t come out of it looking good, but they do not suggest that the world’s climate scientists are involved in a conspiracy to dupe the masses into believing in global warming. The evidence simply isn’t there as much as some sceptics desperately want it to be.

  • TM: I certainly believe that Nature were politicised enough to only publish what the Hockey Team approved of. In fact IIRC from the emails often the Hockey Team would be the ‘peer’ reviewers of dissenting articles.

    The irony is that the perversion of the peer review process was not by Mann et al, it was by a rogue editor at Climate Research, one Chris de Freitas. CdF was giving papers of a sceptical bent a hand through the peer review process. Eventually a paper so bad that it could not be ignored (the Soon, Baliunas paper had major methodological issues) ended up in the journal, and required rebuttal. Eventually, editors at the journal resigned – not because of the actions of Mann et al – but because the journal’s publisher refused to let an editorial from Hans von Storch appear. You can read an insider’s account of the affair here:

    That’s a small part of the context that’s missing from Poneke’s analysis of the emails. If you don’t know the background, you might leap to a conclusion – especially if you want to make some kind of point…

  • In response to peter Griffin I would say this – if the climate change supporters (if that is the correct term) want others to reconsider their views, particularly in light of the emails released, this will only be done by basing arguments.discussions on facts. the tirades I have read here and on Poneke’s blog leads one to believe there are no facts that support this point of view and the default position becomes one of discrediting anyone with a contrary point of view.

    All this tactic does is to reinforce the belief that AGW is just a con. I would invite some of the contributors to the comments here and on Poneke to settle down and then re-read their and others comments. They might feel a little uncomfortable about the fact that rather than logically defending their position, all that have dome is fan the flames. I would have expected reasoned judgements and scientific opinion rather than personal denigration.

  • Old Cromwell,

    I presented the number of journals, that referees don’t control what’s published, etc. They’re facts 😉

    I haven’t seen anyone address how poneke’s claim is supposed to work in the light of these. (Poneke hasn’t.)

    If he’s to present a claim he wants taken seriously, he should show how it might be plausible by showing how it might work given the existing facts (as you say), like those I present. How is a small “cabal” to control a large number of journals, or a large research field. By what mechanisms? Is this consistent with how the system actually works? They’re things he needs to do, it’s his claim.

    A count of the number of journals and pointing out that referees don’t make the decisions, etc., says it’s most unlikely (I’m being polite) unless science goes “boink”, for those that know the cartoon.

    If the person is sincere, the onus is on the person making the claim—poneke in this case—to understand the contexts their claims work in—scientific publishing in this case; you could add grant review—before making the claims.

    Otherwise, at best, they’re just hopeful guesses. (Without first understanding the context, they’re likely to make misguided guesses at that.)

    Please note, too, I did not “attack” poneke (the person), but his claim, a very different thing. I can’t held to what others comment; many of them won’t be scientists, either.

  • “I would have expected reasoned judgements and scientific opinion rather than personal denigration.”

    So did I until I came across New Zealand’s climate change sceptics, who if you hadn’t noticed, have made an art form out of “personal denigration”. It is this group after all who have tried to dismantle the reputations of some of the country’s most senior scientists many of whom, I should add, have responded with reasoned scientific opinion only to have it thrown back in their faces.

  • It is largely your condescending attitude, Grant, that annoys those of us who do not work as scientists. Anyone who has followed this scandal knows that there is ample evidence that tenuous and indeed blatantly untrue statements have come to be characterised as “settled science” and that anyone questioning these received truths has been mocked. But you and your friends are so much more intelligent than the rest of us, aren’t you?

    Why don’t you turn your great minds to explaining to the rest of us how the peer review process and the IPCC authorship process has so completely and utterly failed?

  • How is a small “cabal” to control a large number of journals, or a large research field. By what mechanisms? Is this consistent with how the system actually works?

    Among many other things, the Climategate emails demonstrate the Team’s control of the relevant literature. You can always read them. Here is a disturbing account by David H. Douglass and John R. Christy regarding the trouble they had getting a paper published in the International Journal of Climatology even after it was initially accepted by the editor:

    In their account, they say the Climategate emails finally revealed the cause of the 11-month delay they encountered. They found that Mann and the Team worked for months to discredit it:

    “The CRU emails have revealed how the normal conventions of the peer review process appear to have been compromised by a team of global warming scientists, with the willing cooperation of the editor of the International Journal of Climatology (IJC), Glenn McGregor. The team spent nearly a year preparing and publishing a paper that attempted to rebut a previously published paper in IJC by Douglass, Christy, Pearson and Singer (DCPS). The DCPS paper, reviewed and accepted in the traditional manner, had shown that the IPCC models that predicted significant ‘global warming’ in fact largely disagreed with the observational data.

    “We will let the reader judge whether this team effort, revealed in dozens of emails and taking nearly a year, involves inappropriate behavior including (a) unusual cooperation between authors and editor, (b) misstatement of known facts, (c) character assassination, (d) avoidance of traditional scientific give-and-take, (e) using confidential information, (f) misrepresentation (or misunderstanding) of the scientific question posed by DCPS, (g) withholding data, and more.”

    They are just two of many scientists who have tried to have research that does not follow the party line published in the relevant journals, whose eyes have been opened now these emails have revealed the chicanery happening behind the scenes.

  • FredB,

    I prefer to deal with claims, not caricatures or stereotypes, which I don’t think help. If you have anything to say about the subject itself, please go ahead. Y’know I’m quite open to someone showing I’m wrong, but you have to show me!

    You might also want to remember that poneke is, by his words, an experienced journalist; he will know that if he claims something in public it’s open to challenged.

    I didn’t write about “the IPCC authorship process”, but about the scientific publishing industry. Poneke referred to “the “peer review” process for research in the field”, not the IPCC specifically. I’ve already pointed out I’m not writing about “climate science”.

    I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find individual errors (fellow scibling Tiwari gives one example: Given how much material is involved and the number of people involved it’s be almost to be expected (as much you’d wish it wouldn’t happen and that more care would be taken).

    By contrast, I was responding to the sweeping statement Poneke made that a small group of people could control a complete field’s publishing industry.

    I did consider writing a more formal explanation of how scientific publishing works, but decided against it pretty quickly. It’d be too much of a “lecture”, especially for late on a Friday night!

    It’s a pretty dry subject! I can’t imagine many will find it very interesting. I’d still consider it few people here are responding to what was actually written, so I suspect it’d be a wasted effort.

  • Take the example you quote.

    * The claim that a majority of Himalayan glaciers will be melted dead away by 2035 was always completely ludicrous. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that.

    * The claim was not a minor or insignificant one. It is the sort of dramatic claim that has been picked up by the public and leads a demand for political action.

    * The claim was nodded through to the IPCC report without the slightest scientific scrutiny or analysis.

    * The claim has been vociferously defended by the IPCC.

    Had you deigned to read Poneke’s article you would be aware that this is not an isolated example. To interested observers it now appears that the whole edifice of AGW is composed of nothing but similar nonsense claims.

    If you don’t like Poneke’s “cabal” hypothesis, how about you put your thinking cap on and come with a more sophisticated explanation for how such claims get widespread exposure. You might like to explain why the peer review process for research in the field of climate change completely failed to knock this bizarre claim, the one about the glaciers, out of contention.

    And you might want to carefully consider how the process by which the stupid claim was finally isolated and shown to be without foundation. You might then observe that it owes much more to fellows like Poneke than it does to the Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

  • David,

    (Just to fill people in, David’s reply is cut’n’pasted from his blog.)

    I’m not interested in going around in a loop: I’ve already tried to explain why this isn’t going to help.

    What I’m looking for is a mechanism that would allow this unnamed, unquantified small group of people to control a whole field, not selected cases.

    As a simple thought experiment: try assuming for the exercise that your example here is correct and expanding your example to cover every climate article in every journal carrying climate articles, bearing in mind the time involved for this small “cabal”.

    Give a few hours for each—let’s call it “interference”—then multiple it up by the number of articles in the number of journals per year. However you tweak the numbers, it’s lot of time for people that already have full-time jobs, have families, sleep, etc… more time than they physically have. Do you get my point?

    And after all that, the call is the editors, not the referees.

    Can you see why I’m saying you’re not addressing what I wrote and why the emails aren’t relevant? It’s about the numbers involved in working at that scale, the time, the number of journals, the number of articles, etc.

    My point was about your sweeping claim that they controlled a whole field: “They control the “peer review” process for research in the field and use their power to prevent contrary research being published”.

    I don’t doubt there are individual mistakes (I linked to an account of one earlier) or what-you-will, or emails that can be construed that way. (Let’s face it, no-one here or on your blog—you included—has the full context of them and ignorant of that it’s easy to read what you like into them.)

    It’s not about “example this, example that”, it’s a about means for it to work on the scale you claimed. You’re going to have show people how the very large amount of time need is somehow accounted for. In a small “cabal” of thousands—if you can excuse the lame joke—I could see it, but not in a small “cabal”. They physically would not have the time, even if they (somehow) had the means.

  • FredB: You’re missing the point of why I cited it, see my reply to David (aka poneke). Unfortunately there’s no way to link to individual comment here, it’s the one below your comment. Regards “the process by which the stupid claim was finally isolated”: the linked post says that claim was raised by a climate scientist. It’s not for me to explain why gossip spreads!; I think most of us know the answer to that!! :-)

    All: I’m going to have to let this run without me for a while. Please feel free to chat amongst yourself.

  • It’s all very well asking for reasoned debate, but the fact is that much of the detail is going to beyond the grasp of those of us who aren’t experts. In such a situation, a large proportion of people will say, “oh well – this is very complicated stuff, I’ll leave it to the experts”.

    However, many of us will instead rely on confirmation bias to help us deal with very complex issues. If anthropomorphic global warming fits in with our picture of the world (forgive the stereotype, but green party voters), we pick out threads of evidence that supports this bias best. If it doesn’t suit our world view (e.g. ACT party voters), we again pick out the evidence that supports our bias.

    In the global warming debate, confirmation bias is causing the sort of damage that we bend over backwards to avoid in jury trials.

    To avoid it, one has to think critically. The validity of the “hockey stick”-graph is not something that many of us will be able to make reasoned judgements about. It’s just too technical. Worse, because it relies on statistical analysis you’ll be able to cherry-pick bits of data that support either point of view.

    Instead, as much as it might rankle, in situations like this you have to put yourself in the hands of the expert, who can assess the weight of evidence statistically rather than cherry-pick. But in this case there is another problem. Should you rely on Poneke’s analysis of the “hockey-stick” graph (, or should you rely on that of the US National Academy (

    Unfortunately, confirmation bias may also influence which “expert” you will trust, so no matter what, you should always ask yourself, “who is telling me what I want to hear?”. Both sides of any debate should make their best efforts to get a grasp on their own bias. In this case, one would have to exhibit a rather large bias not to take the findings of the US Academy very seriously indeed.

  • Your rebuttal of Poneke is a joke. Of the 60 plus journals ( I got 70) you cite over 3/4 are published by 5 publishers.
    American Geophysical Union – 15
    Elsevier – 15
    Springer – 5
    Wiley – 4
    American Meteorological Society – 4
    Control the editorial boards of those publishers and have strong influence over the primary scientific societies and it would be quite possible to “own” the mainstream and ensure that few articles rebutting the “consensus” were able to pass peer review. That certainly appears to be what happened. I do not believe that anyone has stated that NOTHING got past peer review, merely that it was exceptionally difficult.

    If you are looking for confirmation of incorrect science previously suppressed and revealed by the emails then try
    Hockey stick doubts within “the Team”
    Briffa Yamal data set distorted to the point of lies
    Bristlecone pines as an inadequate proxy

    In addition the IPCC statements that Himalaya glaciers will disappear by 2035 has revealed the inherent bias. Ten year old unsupported speculation supporting the case made the IPCC in 2007. Well documented papers rebutting the “consensus” were suppressed.

    You appear willing to exist in blissful ignorance.

  • phil,

    Editorial boards are set per journal, not per publisher. Editors are recognised senior researchers in the in the research field the journal covers. They’re chosen to be people that researchers in the field look up to, and who know the field well, i.e. are able to judge the science well.

    By contrast, publishers cover every area of science you can think of. Each journal will cover a different field and will have a different editorial board. The publisher’s job is the production and distribution side of things. The don’t decide the content.

    I didn’t write about climate science and I’ve explained why pointing at “the emails” isn’t addressing what I’m looking at earlier. I didn’t write about the IPCC either; I’ve pointed that out too.

    Papers do get turned down, of course. Essentially this has to happen: if nothing got turned down, the peer review wouldn’t be doing much would it?! If people hold dear to the science that was turned down, then I guess they’d say they’ve been “rejected”. Perfectly human reaction, but more important to understand (that word again) why they were turned down. Just because a paper is turned down in and of itself doesn’t mean a lot. Likewise, that it differs in opinion from other papers doesn’t mean a lot either.

    The most likely reason for a paper being turned down is that their science wasn’t considered up to scratch. (Simple answers before conspiracies!)

    Another relatively common reason would be a poor choice of journals for the work, e.g. submitting a research paper to a journal that aims for a higher standard of science that the submitted paper has will almost certainly result in rejection. Just as not all scientists are equally good*, some journals are able to be much pickier than others and just take the top drawer stuff. Many, possibly even a majority, of scientists have sent papers to “better” journals in hoping to get their work into a better journal than it really deserved only to get it back in short order!! People are wishful creatures…

    Sending a paper to a journal that doesn’t really cover the specific research area the paper is about will get turned down too. (They may not feel your work fits their particular readership.)

    I should point out, I’m not interested in looking at particular cases, etc.: it’s not addressing what I wrote. I’m only filling you in here for your benefit.

    *Another reality is that good funding and infrastructural support matters too; perfectly good scientists can be held back by a lack of decent support.

  • This is in moderation at Poneke’s:

    Two examples have been sited of “The Team” trying to influence the publication of peer review papers. In one instance they believed the paper was of such poor quality that the only way it managed to get published was because the editorial process of the journal had been captured by people with a political agenda. They were right, the paper was rubbish and the ructions of it being passed for publications included the resignation of several members of the staff in protest at the political motivations of those that approved the paper.

    In the other example given, “The Team” didn’t fight to stop publishing of the paper, but rather they managed to delay it’s publication so they could get their response published simultaneously.

    Poneke claims the emails “conclusively show that the Team control the peer-reviewed literature” so the two examples given should be just that, two examples of many, many, more instances of “The Team” having such influence.

    Where are the thousands of emails showing that scores of other papers have been affected??

    Poneke has not provided evidence of a vast conspiracy, he’s implying these are just examples of such a vast conspiracy, that the thousands (!!) of emails over thirteen (!!) years are are proof of more wrong doing in same nature as the instances he gives when in reality there are no more examples that exist.

  • I’m going to have to leave you to it I’m afraid (too busy), but a quick heads’ up on a few things:

    1. I hope people realise (by now!) that I have little interest in climate change science itself. Look over my blog you’ll see my posts are mostly lighter science-related entertainment pieces (there’s some fun stuff there if you browse around; look in the other blogs too!), science communication, bioinformatics and the odd post on medical or health-related topics and a few other random things. Not once in well over a hundred posts have I written about climate change… self evident that climate change doesn’t really interest me, right?!

    Although it’s not interesting to me, I don’t mind if you want to chat about it amongst yourselves, but I’m not snubbing anyone in saying I’m not interested in the specific papers, etc. They’re just not my thing and they’re not relevant to what I wrote about.

    ‘Hot topic’ ( is a blog entirely devoted to that topic; you probably will find little but climate science there! Ken also writes about it occasionally (

    2. A key reason I wrote about this claim was that it can be looked at without knowing any of the science, or “the emails” and all the messing thinking that involves. You only need to consider the publishing system and a bit of common-sense. (It has become clear to me just how little people know about the scientific publishing system, yet they still are prepared to make judgements that really need an understanding of it!) As I wrote before, writing about individual examples isn’t addressing what I’m after.

    3. I did not write the post to start some sort of a blog war! I’m surprised anyone commented at all, in fact. I wrote late on a Friday night about a sweeping statement that tarred everyone in a field, good and bad alike. I’ve got no personal interest in the field itself, but sweeping statements are rarely good things and this one is no exception.

    4. Science doesn’t take sides in the same way that media debates do and quite a few people are doing here! (I’ve written about this earlier in one of my science communication posts for what it’s worth.) Trying to peg me to a “side” just isn’t me, it’s making a straw man version of me to throw darts at.

    4. The moderation is not because I’m trying to control the discussion, it’s how this site is set up. If nothing else, be grateful that I’ve kept the open commenting trial going: if I hadn’t you’d have to sign up and register to comment. [ This one is mainly in response to phil remarking about it at poneke’s blog. Phil might be interested to learn that my comments at poneke’s were (sometimes) moderated. I’m guessing phil’s comments aren’t being moderated there 😉 ]

  • I think what some people are missing here is the fact that the Scientists involved with CRU have been acting in a manner which in entirely inconsistent with good science.

    Science is all about trying to independently analysis data and results of tests while minimising potential bias. The e-mail exchanges that Poneke has blogged about, (if taken to be accurate), are pretty damning that the CRU was neither independent or unbiased in it’s approach to this subject.

    This wouldn’t matter if the CRU was just a small part of the wider Scientific community investigating Climate change. However it is a key component in that group of people and in fact it’s raw data, (which it has been accused of cheery picking to support it position), is used as the source by many other Scientists doing research in this area.

    Whether or not you believe in AGW it is not the e-mail exchanges are still worthy of the sort of analysis Poneke performed on them and do paint a disturbing picture that is not what these Scientific professional should be doing.

  • Hi Grant
    Thanks for your response.
    I would be interested in you and your fellow scientists thoughts on the information in the following links.
    It does concern me that very poor raw data is being used to support GW theories. If the data is inadequate, where does that leave those theories? I have heard it said that “science can only be disproved” and these links throw great doubt on the accuracy of the data used to support the theory.

  • Dianne – a couple of us did an analysis of the report attacking NIWA (mine is New Zealand’s denier-gate). I have been in contact with the people behind that report and found that Vincent Gray (their main science person) admits it was a mistake.

  • Dianne,

    See my earlier comments! :-) (I hope you’re familiar with smileys!)

    There are other blogs that discuss climate science, which I’ve linked above (these people have now replied to you).

    Scientists tend to stick to areas they have some background in, as there is a lot of background needed to make sense of any subject at hand. By contrast, what I wrote about—scientific publishing—every scientist understands, it’s unavoidable! Climate change isn’t a pet topic of mine, but others here have that covered.

    My latest post is about how deletion of a gene can turn an ovary into a testis in an adult mammal, so that a genetically female animal can end up with testes. This is startling, you’d think that once an animal is an adult the ovaries would be committed to be being ovaries. It may have impacts on people with premature ovarian failure or other disorders of sex development.

  • […] smc Jump to Comments I’ve noticed something interesting from my site stats. Yesterday, an astonoshing 85 clicks were made from a link in a comment blogger Grant Jacobs wrote under my Climategate emails story. Grant’s link was to an article he wrote an article he wrote critical of me on the taxpayer-funded Sciblogs blog. […]

  • […] smc Jump to Comments I’ve noticed something interesting from my site stats. Yesterday, an astonoshing 85 clicks were made from a link in a comment blogger Grant Jacobs wrote under my Climategate emails story. Grant’s link was to an article he wrote an article he wrote critical of me on the taxpayer-funded Sciblogs blog. […]

  • […] smc Jump to Comments I’ve noticed something interesting from my site stats. Yesterday, an astonoshing 85 clicks were made from a link in a comment blogger Grant Jacobs wrote under my Climategate emails story. Grant’s link was to an article he wrote an article he wrote critical of me on the taxpayer-funded Sciblogs blog. […]

  • The problem is really one of ‘span of control’ over access to data. If the CRU had been a group just acting alone and publishing results, it would be of minor incident; but as well as publishing research they have been gathering global measurements, cleaning up the measurements and making them available for download by other climate scientists. Given the gravity of action resting on such data, this needs independent investigation; if they have indeed been ‘warming’ things up a bit, then all the dependent research is at risk of being invalid. Have a look at my weblink for more context.

    Also the questions around NASA GISS and their selection of probably ‘warmer’ stations makes me think there has been some form of common agenda going on, perhaps not co-ordinated, but definitely leaning the same way.

  • Grant, you are way too concilliatory. You really need to go for the throat more and mercilessly put the boot into this conspiracy nonsense. It’s been an acceptable start though, I’ll be back to see how you are progressing.

  • Grant – you need to take a different view of the world.
    A little history here. In 1999 we were told (yes as always via the media who exaggerate and misconstrue – but that’s how information is substantially distributed these days) that the world would come close to ending at midnight on Dec 31 1999. Lifts would stop, airplanes would fall from the sky, cars wouldn’t run, etc, etc – all because computers couldn’t handle 4 digits in the year. All anyone had to do was reset their computer to a 2000 date and one could see that it kept on running, but no one in the news origins did that.
    Then we had SARs (we would have to isolate every country to stop this), then
    Bird flue – again isolation will be required, then
    H1N1 – we would almost certainly have streets full of bodies, then
    Pig Flue (maybe that’s another name for H1N1) – again, street full of bodies,
    Finance company disasters – which all seeme to be caused by supposed smart people doing dumb things and telling lies.
    And the hanging axe thru all of this is run-away climate change.

    Now – the various disasters we have been promised in the last 10 years have all come to nothing. A serious level of mistrust exists about these stories of looming disaster.
    Most people in society aren’t capable, let alone even slightly interested, in poring over the various pages of incomprehensible script that is what best describes the various papers that make up the group of papers that you and other refer to. These papers mean nothing to most people.

    What the unwashed public do know though is that: (in regard to climate change)
    1. Emission trading schemes seem to be but a mechanism to send money to someone else via a taxation scheme.
    2. The chances of getting China and India to reduce energy production is less than zero.
    3. The release of the East Anglia Polytech emails simply confirms in many peoples minds (keep in mind the recent economic crash and the dishonesty behind it) that the so called “Science is settled” claim is about as reliable and true as claims one would hear from the financial institutions – eg: Enron.
    4. The failure of Copenhagen (and it was in hindsight destined to be a terrible failure) confirms in many peoples minds that the politicians don’t believe there is a problem, so why should I?

    You see, 99.99% of the population couldn’t give a rats arse about the 5 year averaged temperature anomaly at some remote weather station in the outer Hebrides. Nor do they care about, or are interested in, the degree of confidence that one can put in the apparent historical data or the margin of error in many of the historical records.

    All they know is the leaked emails shows that there is something shonky going on (in a group of people who were previously thought to be above that sort of thing), that Copenhagen was a flop, and the government wants me to send money to Somewhere-isstan in return for carbon credits.

    And they think it’s a load of bollocks. There not criticising the idea – they just simply don’t believe it anymore.

    Your starting comment on this page says – in just a few words – that ‘Poneke is a dumbarse who isn’t a scientist and believes the silliest thing”

    When Mr and Mrs Joe and Mary Public hear this reaction – it simply confirms in their mind that you are protecting something that is really shonky – about as reliable as a used car salesman.

  • Readers: please see the footnotes added to the article.

    Andrew: Only one person (phil) has responded directly to what I wrote. While good on them for at least trying, they didn’t realise that editorial boards are set per journal, not per publisher.

  • So what are you saying Barry, that because climate change is complex and potentially expensive to tackle and because the public is disillusioned after Enron, SARS, the financial crisis and climategate, we just put it in the “too hard” basket and write the whole thing off as a scam?

    I think that you’re right,, most people don’t give a rat’s arse about the mechanics of climate change and how it is measured, but they expect the scientists to tell them straight-up what the problem is and what the solution might be, however unpalatable.

    Whatever way the CRU emails are sliced and diced, there’s still a massive body of scientific evidence suggesting we are having a significant impact on the atmosphere and that the longer we defer doing something about it, the bigger the problem we face. The question is how science goes about tidying up its shop to get the public back on board in its attempts to tackle it.

  • Gareth blushes??

    Just kidding, just kidding…

    Well I beat you to it! :-)

    In my previous comment ‘Andrew’, should have read ‘John Lorimer’… (Trying to juggle too much at once…)

    And I’m not blushing! :-)

    PS: The list you give is the one I linked in my article. 71 journals, then. I’ll take your word for it :-)

  • I see that Poneke/David continues to throw accusations at others, myself included. I trust that readers coming this way from his blog will have the good sense to put his remarks aside and read my article for what it is, independent of what he is claiming.

    He should be grateful that I have not written a series of articles attacking him, in the way that he has directed at myself and colleagues. It’s doubly odd as I haven’t been near this issue for some time. “Blogs wars” are not my style.

    With that in mind, and as a matter of accuracy, I would like to point out that I have not written articles, or even comments, to “counter every article I [poneke] write on the issue”, as his latest post claims. The article above is the only I have ever written referring to his blog. Poneke has been writing in this fashion about climate science for some time (~2 years). I’ve rarely responded on his blog and only once here. I have never written on climate science (the above article is not about climate science itself), as I have previously explained to him. My article takes issue with just one of the many claims he made—hence not reading further in his earlier post—as I make clear in the article itself (e.g. as my interest is with the highlighted sentence).

    I’m also curious as to why he’s pointing at me and colleagues when surely he’d be more concerned at what the The Standard wrote:

    I would think that The Standard is much more widely read.

    I would respectfully suggest that Poneke stop throwing brickbats at me: he has little to complain about from this quarter.

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