Sunday, October 10, 2010

ScepticGate: The climate scandal you won't read about in the Telegraph

So the so-called 'Climate Gate' scandal has come and gone and left more than a few people wondering about why it was even given the media coverage, out of proportion to the non-scandal it appeared to become in print etc.

But there is another scandal brewing about academic standards; however this is one the Denialists are keeping very quiet about - why because it may well be a huge home goal for them.

Our tale starts with a report known as the Wegman Report, after it's author co-author Edward Wegman. This report was commissioned by two republican politicians. One was Joe Barton who gained notoriety when he apologised to BP after the oil spill because Obama (sort of) went after the company. He's also heavily funded by the oil industry.

Anyway, these guys commission Edward Wegman, who is chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, to look into the famous 'Hockey Stick' graph produced by climate scientists including Michael Mann. Wegman does so and when it gets released it has lots of coverage and denialists point to it over and over and say, 'see, we told you (insert whatever odd position the denialist has here: the world is not warming/it's a conspiracy/the sun is doing it/ec)'.

For example it's currently one of the key documents being used by Republican and Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli in his witch-hunt against Michael Mann.

Except that after the reports release, amongst other criticisms of it, Raymond Bradley complained that about a third of it had been lifted from a 1999 textbook he had written. This is called plagiarism and is a serious charge in academia. Bradley complained years ago and the shrouded process only now seems to be moving. This is in contrast to the so-called ClimateGate investigations which were public and started almost straight away:

When a formal research or professional misconduct complaint is received, universities are required to open an inquiry. This is a less formal procedure, usually conducted by administrative personnel with or without academics taking part. it is very confidential. Only when the inquiry finds strong evidence of misconduct is a formal investigation opened. In this regard what Penn State did with respect to charges against Michael Mann was exceedingly irregular. First, they opened an inquiry without a formal complaint (which can be anonymous) on the basis of the uproar fed by friends of Judy (and no one else). Second they published their report, something that can be done but usually is not. Third they started a formal investigation without the inquiry finding grounds for it.

Now Mann agreed to the irregular way it was done - I guess he was confident that there was - and the findings showed - nothing wrong.

So why does this all matter? First off, if the findings go against the Wegman Report, then a whole plank of denailism falls away. It's hard to complain the hockey stick is broken when your main tool for breaking it, is itself broken.

Second, Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli's second attack on Mann is severely blunted if the accusations are upheld (his first was struck down by the courts for being not 'objective.'

Third it (again) shows us why denialists are denialists; they can happily chat about evidence that agrees with their bias but have trouble processing information that not not agree with their pre-conceived notion.

Fourth it is interesting to see the (lack of) media coverage of a growing scandal of denial, in contrast to the rubbish written about ClimateGate.

Download the report on Wegman from DeepClimate if you want to read more...


Anonymous said...

Surely you mean Edward Wegman... who is Henry? ;-)

anarchist said...

Thanks for that. Typo fixed.

No more 'enry 'iggines!