Wegman exposed: Experts find “shocking” plagiarism in 2006 climate report requested by Joe Barton (R-TX)
"Wegman exposed: Experts find “shocking” plagiarism in 2006 climate report requested by Joe Barton (R-TX)"
Meanwhile, evidence grows that recent global warming is unprecedented in magnitude and speed and cause
An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.
Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases.
The evidence has become overwhelming that recent global warming is unprecedented in magnitude and speed and cause (see “Two more independent studies back the Hockey Stick and below). Indeed, as WAG notes, within a few decades, nobody is going to be talking about hockey sticks, they will be talking about right angles or hockey skates (see chart above).
The disinformers (and the confusionists who Curry favor with them), however, are not merely oblivious to the multiple, independent lines of scientific investigation that lead to that conclusion. They have for over a decade tried to discredit one small piece of that underlying analysis, the Hockey Stick graph developed by Michael Mann, Raymond S. Bradley & Malcolm K. Hughes — continuing their obsession even after that analysis was largely reaffirmed by a 2006 report from the National Academy of Sciences, the “Supreme Court of science.”
A cornerstone of the disinformer’s ultimately self-destructive attack on climate science is a 2006 report, commissioned by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and led by George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, who is now himself under investigation by GMU. You can find all the details you could want about the shoddy analysis of the report at Deep Climate — including his “methodical demolishing of any hint of statistics” in the report, as John Mashey puts it in the comments.
Here’s more from the stunning USA Today piece:
“It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others’ integrity when you don’t conform to the basic rules of scholarship,” Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner says.
Led by George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, the 2006 report criticized the statistics and scholarship of scientists who found the last century the warmest in 1,000 years.
“The report was integral to congressional hearings about climate scientists,” says Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “And it preceded a lot of conspiratorial thinking polluting the public debate today about climate scientists.”
But in March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate “clear plagiarism” of one of his textbooks.
Bradley says he learned of the copying from a year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey’s analysis concludes that 35 of the report’s 91 pages “are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning.” Copying others’ text or ideas without crediting them violates universities’ standards, according to Liz Wager of the London-based Committee on Publication Ethics.
“The matter is under investigation,” says GMU spokesman Dan Walsch by e-mail. In a phone interview, Wegman said he could not comment at the university’s request. In an earlier e-mail Wegman sent to Joseph Kunc of the University of Southern California, however, he called the plagiarism charges “wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality.”
The plagiarism experts queried by USA TODAY disagree after viewing the Wegman report:
“¢ “Actually fairly shocking,” says Cornell physicist Paul Ginsparg by e-mail. “My own preliminary appraisal would be ‘guilty as charged.’ “
“¢”If I was a peer reviewer of this report and I was to observe the paragraphs they have taken, then I would be obligated to report them,” says Garner of Virginia Tech, who heads a copying detection effort. “There are a lot of things in the report that rise to the level of inappropriate.”
“¢”The plagiarism is fairly obvious when you compare things side-by-side,” says Ohio State’s Robert Coleman, who chairs OSU’s misconduct committee.
The report was requested in 2005 by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, then the head of the House energy committee. Barton cited the report in an October letter to The Washington Post when he wrote that Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann‘s work was “rooted in fundamental errors of methodology that had been cemented in place as ‘consensus’ by a closed network of friends.”
The Wegman report criticized 1998 and 1999 reports led by Mann (Bradley was a co-author) that calculated global temperatures over the last dozen centuries. It also contained an analysis of Mann’s co-authors that appears partly cribbed from Wikipedia, Garner says….
A 2006 report by the National Research Council (NRC), which examines scientific disputes under a congressional charter, largely validated Mann, Bradley and the other climate scientists, according to Texas A&M’s Gerald North, the panel’s head. The NRC report found the Wegman report’s criticism of the type of statistics used in 1998 and 1999 papers reasonable but beside the point, as many subsequent studies had reproduced their finding that the 20th century was likely the warmest one in centuries.
Indeed, the Nature article on the report was headlined, “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph.”
The Wegman report called for improved “sharing of research materials, data and results” from scientists. But in response to a request for materials related to the report, GMU said it “does not have access to the information.” Separately in that response, Wegman said his “email was downloaded to my notebook computer and was erased from the GMU mail server,” and he would not disclose any report communications or materials because the “work was done offsite,” aside from one meeting with Spencer….
Here is an example of passages Bradley believes were plagiarized with “substantially close” wording from his textbook, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary. Sentences in bold italic represents sections he believes were paraphrased:
“¢Bradley text: “A cross section of most temperate forest trees will show an alternation of lighter and darker bands, each of which is usually continuous around the tree circumference. These are seasonal growth increments produced by meristematic tissues in the tree’s cambium. When view in detail (Fig. 10.1), it is clear that they are made up of sequences of large, thin-walled cells (earlywood) and more densely packed, thick-walled cells (latewood). Collectively, each couplet of earlywood and latewood comprises an annual growth increment, more commonly called a tree ring. The mean width of a ring in any one tree is a function of many variables, including the tree species, tree age, availability of stored food within the tree and of important nutrients in the soil, and a whole complex of climatic factors (sunshine, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and their distribution throughout the year). The problem facing dendroclimatologists is to extract whatever climatic signal is available in the tree ring data and to distinguish from the background noise.”
“¢Wegman report: “A cross section of a temperate forest tree shows variation of lighter and darker bands that are usually continuous around the circumference of the tree. These bands are the so-called tree rings and are due to seasonal effects. Each tree ring is composed of large thin-walled cells called early wood and smaller more densely packed thick walled cells called late wood. The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem is to extract the temperature signal and to distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.”
Bradly tells USA Today: “They should just retract or withdraw the report as you would any scientific publication that has these sort of problems.”
Michael Mann, in an email to ClimateProgress, says
I thank John Mashey and “DeepClimate” for their hard-nosed investigative work that ultimately led to this news piece. I also thank veteran USA Today science reporter Dan Vergano for making sure that this deeply troubling story is heard by a wide, mainstream audience. The photo that appears with the article shows an iceberg. I wonder if it’s a metaphor–for, indeed, I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far with this story. I expect there will be more developments to come.
While it’s good to see attacks on climate science discredited in the media, the most important job is communicating climate science. In this regard, the real story is how many independent analyses have supported (and expanded) the original Hockey Stick analysis.
Regular CP readers can skip the rest of this post, but I want to end with a focus on the science, not the discrediting of the disinformers.
There are now more studies that show recent warming is unprecedented – in magnitude and speed and cause “” than you can shake a stick at!
As with a pride of lions, and a delusion of disinformers, perhaps the grouping should get its own name, like “a team of hockey sticks” (see “The Curious Case of the Hockey Stick that Didn’t Disappear“).
- GRL: “We conclude that the 20th century warming of the incoming intermediate North Atlantic water has had no equivalent during the last thousand years.“
- JGR: “The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1600 years.” [figure below]
Reconstructed tropical South American temperature anomalies (normalized to the 1961-1990AD average) for the last ˆ¼1600 years (red curve, smoothed with a 39″year Gaussian filter). The shaded region envelops the ±2s uncertainty as derived from the validation period. Poor core quality precluded any chemical analysis for the time interval between 1580 and 1640 AD.
Yes, the 39″year Gaussian filter appears to wipe out over half of the warming since 1950 as this NASA chart makes clear:
The rate of human-driven warming in the last century has exceeded the rate of the underlying natural trend by more than a factor of 10, possibly much more. And warming this century on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions is projected to cause a rate of warming that is another factor of 5 or more greater than that of the last century. We are punching the climate beast “” and she ain’t happy about it!
The evidence mounts every year that unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions threaten multiple catastrophes (see “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice“).
For the record, even a moderate MWP (even if it were global, which remains unproven) does nothing whatsoever to undermine our understanding of human-caused global warming. The temperature trend in the past millennium prior to about 1850 is well explained in the scientific literature as primarily due to changes in the solar forcing along with the effect of volcanoes, whereas the recent rise in temperature has been driven primarily “” if not almost entirely “” by human activity (see Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 “” but not the sun “” “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850 and a post to be named later).
The Geophysical Research Letters paper, “Twentieth century warming in deep waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence: A unique feature of the last millennium” concludes:
“¦ irrespective of the precise mechanisms responsible for the temperature variations reconstructed from core MD99″2220, it is unquestionable that the last century has been marked there by a warming trend having no equivalent over the last millennium.
For those keeping score at home, here are a few more members of the team of hockey sticks (although the last two aren’t actually independent, as discussed here).
And from McShane and Wyner (2010):
And yes, McShane and Wyner has been debunked in the blogosphere “” see I went to a statistician fight and a hockey stick broke out “” and is currently being eviscerated in the original journal itself.
John Mashey answers that question in his 250 page dissection of the Wegman Report. Please view the six page Executive Summary and the full report. Arthur Smith has an excellent summary of Mashey’s Report on his blog:
Among Mashey’s findings:
- Of 91 pages, 35 are largely plagiarized text, often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning. 3 pages are a mathematical appendix that seems to be the only contribution of the report’s 2nd author (David Scott). 7 pages are a padded bibliography (see below). That leaves barely half the report as actual original material from Wegman and Said.
- A sketch of central England temperatures for the past 1000 years from the first (1990) IPCC report was highlighted in the Wegman report, but the report’s version was altered, at least by shifting the time axis and truncating the recent temperature rise (already truncated at 1975 in the original). An unaltered version of the same sketch can be found in the NAS report; until now nobody seems to have noticed that Wegman (or a source or associate) had distorted the graph.
- Of 80 references in the bibliography, 40 are never cited in the report.
- Many of the science papers in the remaining 40 are, while cited and sometimes summarized, otherwise ignored in the analysis
- Wegman sent the report to a few statisticians; all known to him. Some were given only a few days to comment. Some gave strong advice that was simply ignored. This was claimed as peer review by Representative Whitfield
- Some commenters were surprised to be listed as reviewers
- Wegman and Said promised to publish their analysis in the peer-reviewed literature, but other than one paper in a journal where Said was associate editor (accepted 6 days after receipt), none have appeared
- Incriminating documents associated with Said have disappeared from websites in recent weeks