As one “gate” opens, another closes. Wegman given a letter of reprimand, keeps job, no further investigations expected.

George Mason University

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WUWT readers may recall “copygate” surrounding the Wegman report and all of the accusations of plagiarism from the man behind the curtain “Deep Climate”, and John Mashey. This item from Wednesday got lost in all the opening furor over Fakegate.

Bishop hill reports that:

The accusation of plagiarism against Edward Wegman, author of one of the Congressional reports into the Hockey Stick, appears to have been upheld, but I think it’s fair to say the university hasn’t treated it as a capital offence, presumably because the passages in question were background material.

In a statement to GMU faculty, provost Peter Stearns said that one investigation committee unanimously found that “no misconduct was involved” in the 2006 Congressional report. “Extensive paraphrasing of another work did occur, in a background section, but the work was repeatedly referenced and the committee found that the paraphrasing did not constitute misconduct,” he said, in the statement.

A second university committee found unanimously, “that plagiarism occurred in contextual sections of the (CSDA) article, as a result of poor judgment for which Professor Wegman, as team leader, must bear responsibility.” Wegman will receive an “official letter of reprimand”, Stearns said, as sanction for the plagiarism.

The Chronicle of Higher Education says:

George Mason U. Professor Reprimanded Over Climate Paper

February 23, 2012, 2:43 pm

George Mason University has issued a reprimand to Edward J. Wegman, a professor of data sciences and applied statistics, after more than a year of investigation into accusations that Mr. Wegman included plagiarized material in a 2006 report that congressional Republicans used to challenge scientific findings about global warming. The reprimand followed the unanimous vote of a faculty committee that plagiarism occurred and that it was the result of “poor judgment” attributable to Mr. Wegman, USA Today reported. A second faculty committee also reviewed the matter and concluded unanimously that Mr. Wegman’s report contained “extensive paraphrasing” but no misconduct, the newspaper said.

One committe says some plagiarism occurred in backup material (probably due to lack of citations) while a second committee says “poor judgement, but no misconduct”.

According to USA Today,  Mike Mann’s hockey team member Bradley is upset:

“This is an absurd decision,” Bradley says, noting the university committees split on essentially similar instances of copied text. “It must give lots of encouragement to students at GMU who think that copying somebody else’s work without attribution is acceptable.”

Despite filing the complaint, “I have not been told about this decision by GMU directly — I was notified by others,” Bradley says. “Pretty shabby.”

In the phone interview, GMU’s Stearns [said]:

Stearns says the university is not investigating any other complaints.

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37 Responses to As one “gate” opens, another closes. Wegman given a letter of reprimand, keeps job, no further investigations expected.

  1. tallbloke says:

    Bradley has no room to beef about this, he misattributed the figures and text he copied from Fritz in the first place. Apart from not including co2 in the list of variables that affect tree growth (fancy that!). An sin of omission Wegman corrected in his version IIRC.

    Climate audit has the details:
    http://climateaudit.org/2010/10/18/bradley-copies-fritts/

  2. Henry chance says:

    Had the carbon activists envisioned him at Gitmo?

  3. Kaboom says:

    So copying is considered worse than making shit up from scratch. Noted.

  4. Disko Troop says:

    Rather funny that Gleick has ruined the warmistas moment of glory as I am sure that this would have been trumpeted up and down the boulevard as a win for the forces of Goreland. Rather a damp squib by comparison with fakegate. Some unattributed material got into a report..crisis..calamity.. end of the CO2 exhaling world as we know it. (Please add additional commas and parenthesis to taste)

  5. Havasu says:

    Plagarism is a serious offence in academic terms, but at most universities citing a work is enough to show attribution. So far as i can work out from a brief reading of this, Dr Wegman did cite references, but failed to attribute exactly those passages he used, including them in the main body of the text, rather than within quotation marks or indented in a separate paragraph. This is shoddy undergraduate stuff, but as the work was referenced i don’t think it’s evidence of intent to plagarise, just poor and rushed editing.

  6. u.k.(us) says:

    I’m sure I’m missing something, but how does knowledge progress without building on previous ideas, should the fear of a lack of attribution be holding back science.
    I just don’t get it.

    Nor, do I want it explained to me.

  7. John M says:

    Kind of ironic that a member of “The Team” (Bradley) is upset about the results of an internal investigation at a University.

    Shocking!

  8. Alan Watt says:

    I confess ignorance of citation practices in academic publications, but isn’t the essence of plagiarism that you pass off as your own significant work actually done by others? As I recall the details, the copied sections were background material on dendrochronology, or some similar field dealing with tree rings. Wegman is a statistician who has never claimed expert or even hobbyist first-hand knowledge of tree rings. It should be blindingly obvious that any background material on dendro-whatever in a report he authored would have been copied or summarized from another source. Given that Bradley’s work was repeatedly referenced in Wegman’s report, just how many guesses would a diligent reader have to make to figure out the original source for a dendro-whatever discussion?

    In context, there is absolutely no chance an objective reader would take the dendro sections as original Wegman work. The only charge against Wegman would be if sloppy or inadequate citations made it difficult or impossible to check his references. This may be substandard scholarship, but I don’t see it as plagiarism.

    If Bradley felt Wegman had summarized his material in a way which distorted the original meaning, that would be grounds to demand a correction. If he merely felt one or more sections were not clearly attributed, he should have simply requested a proper citation, or an acknowledgement in an addendum.

    This all sounds incredibly petty if I’m inclined to be generous, vicious otherwise. Is this sort of behavior common in academia?

  9. small says:

    This all sounds incredibly petty if I’m inclined to be generous, vicious otherwise. Is this sort of behavior common in academia?
    “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” (see Sayre’s Law)

  10. Dave L. says:

    So, regarding the most important matter, there was nothing factually wrong in the report and its conclusion: Mann’s statistics were flawed.

  11. Smokey says:

    Dave L., exactly. Wegman’s results have withstood all attempts at falsification. And the ‘crime’ amounted to a missing footnote.

  12. TomRude says:

    Deep Climate will take his guitar and sing the desmog blues in Horseshoe Bay… LOL

  13. evilincandescentbulb says:

    And all of this because he put an “e” on the word potato… Sheesh!

  14. David A. Evans says:

    DaveL & Smokey…

    Exactly, they couldn’t fault the report, so went for the diversionary tactic.

    Now where have I seen that before?

    DaveE.

  15. Poptech says:

    Will Dave Clarke play a farewell melody?

    Who is Deep Climate?

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2011/05/who-is-deep-climate.html

  16. Will no-one insist that the full GMU investigation be released? No-one interested in it at all? How very… incurious of you.

  17. Sean says:

    The fact the report was public and very high-vis for several years and no-one spotted the “offence” suggests the offence was not that offensive. Looks like Badley only was “wronged” when some-else pointed out the “wrong” could be used to prevent the work being cited.

  18. son of mulder says:

    All this dancing on the head of a pin has not affected the statistical / mathematical / scientific validity of Wegman’s work.

  19. > All this dancing on the head of a pin has not affected the statistical / mathematical / scientific validity of Wegman’s work.

    I see you don’t take plagiarism seriously. But you’re absolutely right about the quality of the work – it remains invalid.

  20. tallbloke says:

    TomRude says:
    February 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Deep Climate will take his guitar and sing the desmog blues in Horseshoe Bay… LOL

    I’ve been writing a song about ‘Deepclimate Dave’. I’ll put it up on youtube once it’s done.

    “Well m’name’s Deepclimate Dave
    an’ I like to rant’n’rave
    ’bout the sceptic bloggers clogging up the net”

    “On ma site we do some snivellin’
    ’bout the drivel that they’re drivellin’
    but we ain’t got round to beatin’ them just yet”

    help me out with some more verses. :)

  21. MarkW says:

    William M. Connolley says:
    February 25, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Mistakes happen. If it was indeed plagarism, it quite clearly was not intentional. I love the warmistas declare that any mistake, regardless of how innocent disqualifies not only the paper, but the author. Yet there side routinely committs much worse sins while declaring that even reviewing their papers is the equivalent of destroying academic freedom.

  22. [snip]

    REPLY: Mr. Connolley, you don’t get to choose who says what on this blog, so I suggest you go back to Stoat and Wikipedia where you can force your demonstrated controlling tendencies on others. Taker a 24 hour timeout – Anthony Watts

  23. Bill H says:

    WOW i got a letter…..big deal…. just more to copy and paste…..

    there are deeper issues than plagiarism.. how about the potential for fraud?.

  24. G. Karst says:

    I think the world has more to worry about than missing quotation punctuation. Does “intent” not figure into our deliberations… anymore? GK

  25. son of mulder says:

    “William M. Connolley says:
    February 25, 2012 at 5:01 am
    I see you don’t take plagiarism seriously. But you’re absolutely right about the quality of the work – it remains invalid.”

    My statement says nothing about my view of plagiarism it merely indicates it is irrelevant to the technical validity of Wegman’s work. And I certainly don’t imply that the work is invalid. Surely that is pretty clear from the context and the words I use. You would benefit from plagiarising my words to assure logical consistency as opposed to pathetically twisting them.

  26. MarkW says:

    If GMU found Wegman guilty of plagarism as you claim, why was the penalty so light.
    The truth is they found him guilty of being sloppy. The only dishonest here is yours.

    The reason why the paper withdrawn has more to do with the power of those opposing it, than any problems with the paper itself.

    All the evidence points to an honest mistake. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
    As others have pointed out, Wegman is a statistician and the paper was about statistics. The content in question regarded biological questions that Wegman had never claimed expertise in and were from a paper that was being extensively quoted throughout the paper.

  27. Pamela Gray says:

    Hmmm. Connelly is correct about plagiarism. I am sure that he guards the halls of wikidom for such instances and strikes down entire articles as invalid due to such lack of citations.

  28. Pamela Gray says:

    Typing from my phone sucks. My apologies to Connolley for misspelling his name.

  29. Roger Knights says:

    William M. Connolley says:
    February 25, 2012 at 6:38 am

    > If it was indeed plagarism

    GMU found him guilty. The journal editor had already retracted the article due to plagiarism. There is no room for doubt.

    Not of plagiarism, but of poor judgment:

    A second university committee found unanimously, “that plagiarism occurred in contextual sections of the (CSDA) article, as a result of poor judgment for which Professor Wegman, as team leader, must bear responsibility.

    I.e., he condoned the plagiarism of one of the other authors. I think, from what I read in another thread in the past, that was Said.

  30. wermet says:

    REPLY: Mr. Connolley, …. Taker a 24 hour timeout – Anthony Watts

    Thank you, Anthony!

    You must have the patience of a saint! You repeatedly allow Mr Connolley to enter your internet home and spout his tired rhetoric and invective CAGW religious views as though it were the acme of scientific thought, rather than its nadir.

    I would like to add one quote that seems appropos to the current warmist agenda:

    When in Trouble, or in Doubt,
    Run in Circles, Scream and Shout!
    –author unknown

    Mr. Connolley should be grateful to you for only giving him a 24 hour time out. I have invited others to leave my physical home for less serious offenses.

  31. Brian H says:

    WTF was GMU doing involved in this in the first place? The report was for Congress, not a journal. Wegman should have been totally exonerated.

  32. S Basinger says:

    Sounds like a balanced response from GMU. No whitewash, for his poor judgement he was found to have committed plagiarism and recieved a letter of reprimand, which will hang over him the remainder of his academic career.

    As opposed to the shameful whitewashes for hockey team members…

  33. Allan MacRae says:

    Dave L. says: February 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm
    So, regarding the most important matter, there was nothing factually wrong in the report and its conclusion: Mann’s statistics were flawed.

    Smokey says: February 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    Dave L., exactly. Wegman’s results have withstood all attempts at falsification. And the ‘crime’ amounted to a missing footnote.

    Agree Dave and Smokey.

    This plagiarism nonsense is a shameful smear – a slimy smokescreen intended to discredit the Wegman report, which correctly detailed the fatal flaws in the Mann “hockey-stick” papers.

    As the Wegman report clearly showed, Mann’s work was mathematically flawed – worthless at best, and in reality highly misleading.

    The objective of Mann’s “hockey stick” was to eliminate from the historic record both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. This was a bold falsehood, that was then widely promoted by the IPCC to scare the public about manmade global warming. The IPCC has since quietly dropped the Mann hockey stick. When even your close friends drop you, that says something is terribly wrong.

    Furthermore, it took eight years before the “Divergence Problem” was revealed, also in testimony. Mann grafted modern surface temperature data onto older tree ring temperature proxies to produce his upward-sloping “hockey stick” graph. Grafting together two different datasets is usually NOT good scientific practice. Why did Mann do this? Because if he had exclusively used tree-ring data, the blade of the hockey stick, instead of showing scary warming in the last decades of the 20th Century, would have shown COOLING.

    The scientific conclusion, in my opinion, is that using tree rings as a proxy for temperatures is not sufficiently accurate for the major conclusions that were drawn from the Mann study.

    The sociological conclusion is that one should never believe anything written by global warming alarmists – their predictive track record is perfect, but in the NEGATIVE. Every one of their scary global warming predictions has failed to materialize!

    Mann and the IPCC were clearly wrong about the hockey stick – the only remaining question is not one of error, it is one of fraud.

    For more on the Divergence Problem, see
    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1530
    and
    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=899

    Footnote:
    I first wrote much of this text myself, several years ago, and edited it this morning – just in case anyone accuses me of plagiarism. :-)

  34. Taphonomic says:

    evilincandescentbulb says:
    “And all of this because he put an “e” on the word potato… Sheesh!”

    That was one Vice-president (Dan Quayle).

    The current Vice-President, Joe Biden, has admitted to receiving a failing grade for plagarism in law school, as well as perpetrating other instances of plagarism.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2008/08/the_write_stuff.html

  35. Brian H says:

    Allan MacRae says:
    February 26, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Footnote:
    I first wrote much of this text myself, several years ago, and edited it this morning – just in case anyone accuses me of plagiarism. :-)

    Self-plagiarism! The worst kind, because it’s so hard to resist altering and corrupting the text. For shame!
    >:-(
    ):-Q

  36. Keith says:

    Those sceptical of the potential of human-induced climate catastrophe tend to point out the scientific errors and omissions of the proponents, while presenting scientific evidence and data supporting non-GHG causes of climate variation.

    Those proposing the potential of human-induced climate catastrophe tend to obfuscate over the scientific evidence and data they present in support of GHG causes of climate variation, while failing to engage sceptics on the scientific merits of contrary evidence and data. Instead, every logical fallacy going is committed in order to discredit sceptics.

    Whenever I see one side of a debate being open with their case and engaging on the substance, while the other side pulls every trick in the book to avoid doing so, I usually suspect the motives of the latter.

  37. Art Thomas says:

    Keith,

    I drew the same conclusion after reading authors on both sides.

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