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I have been interested in scientific misconduct recently – partly as a result of the Hauser scandal. Consequently I was reading about a recent conference on the subject. The documents included plagiarism right up there with the more commonly accepted forms of misconduct like falsification of evidence.

Plagiarism is the use of text from others’ writing without attribution. Now I realised that this was a big issue for student assessment at universities but apparently it is also an issue for scientific journals. Many journals now use a computer programme to check out submitted papers for plagiarized content.

Just imagine, though, there is a whole field of scientific publishing where such things would not be routinely checked. I am referring to popular science articles, newspaper articles – and reports to clients, including governments.

Well, the proverbial seems to be hitting the fan for one such report – the Wegman report. Gareth at Hot Topic briefly reports this in his article Wegman investigated for plagiarism, ’skepticgate’ looms.

What is the Wegman report?

This report is frequently quoted by climate change sceptics, contrarians and deniers. It is central to the “Hockey Stick Controversy” they promote*. This refers to climate change sceptics/deniers attempts to discredit the work of Michael Mann and his co-workers on historic trends in global temperature. In fact the claim that Mann’s work has been discredited is one of the central myths deniers use. See my post  Climate change deniers’ tawdry manipulation of ’hockey sticks’ which was a response to a local manifestation of this myth by blogger Poneke (13 years of Climategate emails show tawdry manipulation of science by a powerful cabal at the heart of the global warming campaign). Poneke even claimed, at the time, that the IPCC had dropped Mann’s work.

Climate change skeptics managed to get the US House of Representatives to hold Committee hearings on Mann’s ’hockey stick.’ As part of the political maneuvering some republicans formed the Wegman Committee to investigate and report on Mann’s work. Hence the Wegmann Report.

Incidentally around the same time other members of the House asked the authoritative  National Research Council to do their own investigation. This resulted in the report  Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years. Its very thorough, authoritative and was itself thoroughly reviewed. It basically supported Mann et al’s findings (with some criticisms), so you don’t often find deniers mentioning it* (although they will sometimes selectively quote extracts in a distorting way).

I have read both reports, was impressed with the National Research Council report but found Wegman’s report biased, and actually disingenuous.

Plagiarism found

For a while now the Canadian blog Deep Climate has been uncovering aspects of the political maneuvering behind the Wegman Committee. It has also been reporting a very detailed analysis of the Wegman report which found extensive and crude plagiarism. One of the persons plagiarised, Raymond Bradley a co-author of Michael Mann’s,  formally complained to Wegman’s employer which began an investigation (see University investigating prominent climate science critic).

Deep Climate has also released an analysis by John Mashey which exposed extensive plagiarism by Wegman and his students in other publications. Including some Ph.D. theses by students. (See Strange Scholarship - pdf file).

The Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (a political climate change denier) is currently carrying out a witch hunt against Michael Mann and the University of Virginia (see Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to embarrass Virginia). Ironically, one of the documents he relies on is the Wegman Report. Perhaps he should be directing his legal attentions at Wegman and his employer George Mason University – which after all is in his state.

This story is going to be interesting so keep an eye open for the results of the investigation.

The story has been picked up by several blogs and newspapers (see below) – strangely most of the usual critics of climate change science are so far silent.

*In my review of Ian Wishart’s book AIR CON, for example, I noted that he quoted extensively from the Wegman report and ignored completely authoritative National Research Council report (see Alarmist con).

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