Redefining Peer Review — Editor Resigns
Posted by Jeff Condon on September 2, 2011
UPDATE: Roger Pielke Sr. has his own take on the issue here. An excerpt from his take is quite similar to my own. A single paper referenced with no specifics regarding the critique, my red bold below.
My Comment: Wagner is not an expert on the subject of the Spencer and Braswell paper, so he must have relied on input from individuals who were critical of their paper. He cites one reference (in addition to weblogs)
Trenberth, K.E., Fasullo, J.T., O’Dell, C., Wong, T. Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2010, 37, L03702
but presents no specific scientific information as to how that paper refutes Spencer and Braswell. Moreover, if there is a fundamental flaw in their work, than publishing a Comment in Remote Sensing would have resolved the issue. That is how science is supposed to work. As it is, Wagner has further politicized climate science.
Wolfgang Wagner, editor of Roy Spencers climate non-sensitivity paper has resigned. The editorial explaining his decision is here. WUWT has a discussion here, Bart Verheggen discusses it here, and Roy Spencer has his take. I’m not concerned about others yet but this is more than a small resignation considering that there isn’t any published evidence refuting the paper to my knowledge, there isn’t even a good blog post refuting it, yet its conclusions which were approved only this year, are SO poisonous that the editor needed to resign. AR5 couldn’t have any influence on this could it?
I would urge readers to review the resignation letter as we should discuss this for a while and it holds several important keys to what is going on.
So why, after a more careful study of the pro and contra arguments, have I changed my initial view? The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature (cf. ), a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.
The argument is that the new paper didn’t address the critiques of reference #7 which happens to be:
7. Trenberth, K.E., Fasullo, J.T., O’Dell, C., Wong, T. Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2010, 37, L03702.
Now Wagner doesn’t say which particular critiques are the critical ones, but since it is a Trenberth article there are a few other clues as to what these unaddressed problems are. First there is this post by Trenberth at Real Climate, where political science often trumps reason. Considering that ugly post, we know how the consensus operates after climategate and shouldn’t forget the infamous Dr. Phil Jones email —
Phil Jones (8/7/2004): “The other paper by MM is just garbage – as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well – frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
Kevin of course being Trenberth himself. Now the believer crowd will see it as a cheap shot but Trenberth deserves this when he is centrally involved in an editors resignation. He may be correctly involved, but he has been caught over the line of reason in the past. The point here is, that for a senior editor to resign over an issue of disagreement indicates what is likely a huge amount of behind the scenes pressure on the editors to prevent publication. Even if the paper is truly horribly flawed, a resignation!!??? Come on. Why not wait for the retractions and publish those?
Trenberths 2010 paper is here.
Spencers recent 2011 paper is here.
I have no solid opinion on the matter other than people have already made up their minds from what is clearly very noisy data. I have begun requesting some of the background information from those involved. I am, however, thoroughly unimpressed by the RC blog post on the matter which concludes everything the IPCC seemingly wants without true foundation. Feel free to correct me on this.
Trenberth at RC:
Even so, the Spencer interpretation has no merit. The interannual global temperature variations were not radiatively forced, as claimed for the 2000s, and therefore cannot be used to say anything about climate sensitivity. Clouds are not a forcing of the climate system (except for the small portion related to human related aerosol effects, which have a small effect on clouds). Clouds mainly occur because of weather systems (e.g., warm air rises and produces convection, and so on); they do not cause the weather systems. Clouds may provide feedbacks on the weather systems. Spencer has made this error of confounding forcing and feedback before and it leads to a misinterpretation of his results.
Imagine the certainty he must have. This is far from the beginning on this matter as flux observations continue to come in. The post could be called the chicken and the egg (causality), the politics of belief, the carbon curtain and etc….∞.