The climate science credit crunch

Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit has a very interesting discussion on the giving of credit.

climate_creditUpdate: Roger Pielke Jr. blogs on this in rather frank terms:

The short story is that a professor from Ohio State found an error in a paper on Antarctic temperature trends in Nature. He published his analysis of the error on the blog Climate Audit and sent a gracious note to the authors letting them know of his discovery.

What did the authors do? They turned around and submitted the correction to Nature as their own work, and then had it published under their own names without so much as an acknowledgment to the Ohio State professor who actually did the work and made the discovery of the error.

The Steig Corrigendum

by Steve McIntyre on August 5th, 2009

US. federal policy defines plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Here is a discussion of the topic from Penn State, where Michael Mann of Steig et al has an appointment.

In an entirely unrelated development, Steig et al have issued a corrigendum in which they reproduce (without attribution) results previously reported at Climate Audit by Hu McCulloch (and drawn to Steig’s attention by email) – see comments below and Hu McCulloch’s post here.

They also make an incomplete report of problems with the Harry station – reporting the incorrect location in their Supplementary Information, but failing to report that the “Harry” data used in Steig et al was a bizarre splice of totally unrelated stations (see When Harry Met Gill). The identification of this problem was of course previously credited by the British Antarctic Survey to Gavin the Mystery Man.


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Those people are building on the assumption that climate realists don’t have to get credit for anything because no one in their climatological “community” would dare to complain. This is analogous to the “Aryan” scientists not giving credit to the Jews in Germany of the 1930s.
By the way, congratulations to getting scientology ads. They’re visually nice and catchy and may have other advantages, so I hope you will withstand the limited criticism that may expect you, too. 🙂

Those ads are automatic, and I’ve tried listing them as unfavorable, but I think they are changing categories on me. Will try again – Anthony

David Y

This is completely off-topic, but here’s a paragraph from today’s ‘Special Weather Statement at regarding the forecast for Bridgeport CA (eastern side of the Sierras):
Meanwhile, here in Sacramento we’re at 66 degrees w/a forecast high of 76–just ‘slightly’ below our normal high of 93. I know, weather isn’t climate, but our current wind & chill (though bad for the tomatoes) is sure fun for those of us originally from the upper midwest–and anecdotally, it’s seemed like a VERY mild summer thus far (dang–I’ve just doomed us to record highs in September… 😉 )


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Keep plugging away Steve, your credit and credibility is high with us.


Off topic, but, for readers having trouble with adverts, there is always the Ad Blocker Plus application. It really does the job, especially as it stops the RAM getting gummed up with adverts on an eternal loop.


Raining here in San Jose. Very strange for early August.


@ Kristinn (#3)
Thanks, running on a fresh install of Firefox with Adblock Plus, and had forgotten to write an exception rule for WUWT. ABP is great for protecting oneself on random websites, but for those one uses regularly and appreciates, I’d humbly suggest disabling it for the domain (very easy to do).

Douglas DC

About to do MORE rain here in NE Oregon.Cool forcast too.My wife’s Cousin in Brookings called-No Tomato Summer there too and she’s inland…


Cold and wet in England, no summer to talk of.

Steve Fitzpatrick

You need only read over a few interactions of Steig, Mann and their associates at Real Climate with anyone who disagrees with them to understand why they did not properly credit Dr. McCulloch. They are hostile, condescending, and even abusive to anyone who questions the “current understanding” of climate (which is to say, THEIR understanding of climate). I think “obnoxious” is an appropriate adjective. There are more accurate words, but they would be snipped.

I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it sure looks mighty fishy and quite possibly unethical.
No matter what, were I Mann or Steig, I’d send a nice letter of both apology and thanks, explaining that I had missed the email while traveling, but found the error contemporaneously. “great minds” and all that…
Plausible deniability and the appearance of increased civility would likely make the problem go away.
Wanna bet that they can’t bring themselves to do so?

Steve Fitzpatrick

Mark Young (11:30:15) :
I would bet they never say a word about it to McCulloch or to anyone else, and that Nature will probably not reply to McCulloch either. ‘Mannian’ and ‘civil’ appear to be mutually exclusive.

Pierre Gosselin

If it is indeed plagarism, then shouldn’t a respected publication like Nature cease all affiliations with such scrupulous scientists?

Steven Kopits

Cool and wet in New York. 76 deg. No days over 90 yet.

Pierre Gosselin

Perhaps McCulloch should have had confidentiality agreements of some sort, and his work be accompanied with a statement that unauthorised disclosure could upset international relations.
I think Lubos is on the right track actually (and sadly).
When talent and skill are in short supply, then such people make up for it in towering arrogance.

Pierre Gosselin

Maybe it’s their new strategy. They are tiring of always submitting work that gets later discovered as completely erroneous. Now if errors are found, they can now resort to saying that they actually did do it.

Pamela Gray

80% chance of rain tomorrow in Eastern Oregon, where a broad swath of what is SUPPOSED to be dryland wheat still sits in fields waiting to be harvested. It will likely sprout and have to be dumped.

Off… but very, very off topic:
Suggested moto for Watt’s Up With That:
“Scientia Redivivus” (Tr. Reconstruction of Science).

David Ball

I can not wait for these guys to be revealed for what they really are in the eyes of the general public. Most of us that follow WUWT and CA are well aware of their need to silence dissent. The cold light of reality will mockingly cast them into the dustbin of history. Good, honest, open science will win the day.


Just never mind….his hockey stick (all what he had) was broken down many years ago. (as Ian Plimer tells in his book “Heaven and Earth”)

David Ball (13:26:19) :
I concur. I am befuddled by the lack of long term perspective on the part of the Warmists. There is just so long that this charade can last and the comeuppance is going to be severe. When the mainstream media cut bait and turn on the Warmists, many careers and reputations will be left in tatters. And then there will be the legal repercussions…


sorry OT but …
I’m not much of a techie with respect to the abp filter rules. I use the subscription to easylist USA. How would I modify that to allow adds on this and other sites I choose? If you don’t mind explaining I’d appreciate it. I don’t want to keep Anthony from getting his due.


Thunder, Lightning and raining cats & dogs here in rural No. Ca. Same thing yesterday late afternoon.
Place is soaked.


Hey, this is a serious academic crime. Plagiarism is a big no no, and for this one the documentation is airtight. Put the screws to ’em.


Lubos Motl (09:09:25) :
Those people are building on the assumption that climate realists don’t have to get credit for anything because no one in their climatological “community” would dare to complain. This is analogous to the “Aryan” scientists not giving credit to the Jews in Germany of the 1930s.
Godwins Law does not apply to crusades as important as ‘climate realism’.

John Costello

Up here in coastal MA it’s in the 70s, which is warmer than it was a few days last week. Ive been having to use covers at night. Back in the 70s and 80s when I was going to SF Worldcons over the Labor Day weekend we normally had hot summers until I left around Aug 25 or a little earlier (I drove cross-country) and the summer heat had ended by the time I got back around the 10th/15th Sept. ) I plant tomatoes and peppers and my tomato plants are three weeks late in turning red (one just did overniight) while the pepper bush is stunted, about 1 1/2 feet tall.


Taken from the University of Washington’s policy on Cheating.
Whats good for the graduates should be good for the professor.
“What is academic misconduct?
You are guilty of cheating whenever you present as your own work something that you did not do. You are also guilty of cheating if you help someone else to cheat.
One of the most common forms of cheating is plagiarism, using another’s words or ideas without proper citation. When students plagiarize, they usually do so in one of the following six ways:
1. Using another writer’s words without proper citation. If you use another writer’s words, you must place quotation marks around the quoted material and include a footnote or other indication of the source of the quotation.
2. Using another writer’s ideas without proper citation. When you use another author’s ideas, you must indicate with footnotes or other means where this information can be found. Your instructors want to know which ideas and judgments are yours and which you arrived at by consulting other sources. Even if you arrived at the same judgment on your own, you need to acknowledge that the writer you consulted also came up with the idea.
3. Citing your source but reproducing the exact words of a printed source without quotation marks. This makes it appear that you have paraphrased rather than borrowed the author’s exact words.
4. Borrowing the structure of another author’s phrases or sentences without crediting the author from whom it came. This kind of plagiarism usually occurs out of laziness: it is easier to replicate another writer’s style than to think about what you have read and then put it in your own words. The following example is from A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker (New York, 1989, p. 171).
* Original: If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists.
* Unacceptable borrowing of words: An ape who knew sign language unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists.
* Unacceptable borrowing of sentence structure: If the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior.
* Acceptable paraphrase: When they learned of an ape’s ability to use sign language, both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise.
5. Borrowing all or part of another student’s paper or using someone else’s outline to write your own paper.
6. Using a paper writing “service” or having a friend write the paper for you. Regardless of whether you pay a stranger or have a friend do it, it is a breach of academic honesty to hand in work that is not your own or to use parts of another student’s paper.
7. In computer programming classes, borrowing computer code from another student and presenting it as your own. When original computer code is a requirement for a class, it is a violation of the University’s policy if students submit work they themselves did not create.
Note: The guidelines that define plagiarism also apply to information secured on internet websites. Internet references must specify precisely where the information was obtained and where it can be found.
You may think that citing another author’s work will lower your grade. In some unusual cases this may be true, if your instructor has indicated that you must write your paper without reading additional material. But in fact, as you progress in your studies, you will be expected to show that you are familiar with important work in your field and can use this work to further your own thinking. Your professors write this kind of paper all the time. The key to avoiding plagiarism is that you show clearly where your own thinking ends and someone else’s begins. “


Is this not just another example of “Nature” versus “Nurture”?
Nurture is about following the example and behaviour of those you respect. Nature is about survival at all costs but “Nature” needs to balance trendy popularism with scientific objectivity in order to survive!

Robert Austin

OT but Lubos comment about the Scientology ads twigged me to having seen this little Fox interview (saw it through ICECAP). It is Chris Horner vs. Brenda Ekwurzel. I almost fell off my chair laughing when the talking head newsman introduced Ms. Ekwurzel as a Federal Climate Scientologist. Ms. Ekwurzel did not even flinch at the description.

Dave Dodd

These folks constantly finagle the “facts” to fit their hypotheses. It’s only a tiny step from there to plagiarism! Nothing to see here. Move along!

Jimmy Haigh

RoyFOMR (19:54:20) :
I made a nature versus nurture point over at RC last night. I don’t know if it got through the thought police over there.
Robert Austin (21:42:33) :
I saw this on Fox. I thought Brenda Ekwurzel Gummage positively beamed at beihg called a “Climate Scientologist”! I think it made her day.


kim (15:08:11) :….”Hey, this is a serious academic crime. Plagiarism is a big no no, and for this one the documentation is airtight. Put the screws to ‘em.”
Nah, that was years ago…. They give out awards for the best plagiarized work now.
It’s the brave new progressive World, don’t forget…. Everything that was unexceptable, is now De rigour:-(

Pierre Gosselin

Heck, we could wake up in the middle of an ice age tomorrow and Ms Ekwurzel, and all the rest of them, would still not flinch. Ekwurzel by the way was on that team that got their clocks cleaned in that NPR debate in 2007.

UK Sceptic

Scoundrels always find new depths to which they can sink…


Anthony, you dodged the question. Why would a professor make such a discovery and then post it on a blog? Academians “speak” to one another through published papers. Those published papers are then put up for scrutiny and “peer review” by other academics. Not blogs. Remember, one of the problems with the IPCC report is that some of the assumptions were from work that was not published nor peer reviewed. So, for whatever reason, this guy from Ohio State decided his blog was good enough and then decided to tell the authors. It wasn’t nice what the bad guys did and probably unethical, but it’s the Ohio State professors own fault. He should have followed protocal. Not just for “credit” but also to put properly put his “discovery” up for peer review. In essence, one can say that the bad guys simply did what the professor should have done in the first place. Now the academics will determine whether or not the professor’s work has merit and the discussion will move forward. But, posting to a blog does not advance the discussion in academic circles, which again is one of the many flaws in the IPCC report. Now, if you think that the professor’s posting on a blog is the same thing as the peer review process, then one cannot criticize the IPCC (or anyone else) for using non-published material.


Apropos Lubos’s opening comment, why not refer to that flock of fourth-rate physicists and finaglers whom you normally call The Team, or AGWers, the “Climate Scientologists”?

Am I reading the mood on this as more horrified than anything else?
I’m upset that this happened at all. It has horrible implications. I’m even more upset at the prospect that Nature may do nothing.
Normally this crew has a hundred comments. I’m wondering if you’re all feeling like I am.

a jones

If you are going to plagiarise then by all means use the best.
Kindest Regards

symonsezwlky (04:38:39) :
It appears that the traditional peer review process is broken and formerly respected peer reviewed journals have refused to publish credible and valuable papers relating to climate science, because they run counter to the journals’ political orthodoxies. As such the traditional peer review process and journals are being replaced by open forums such as the one you are participating in here. This trend will accelerate as the the farce of the AGW scientific “consensus” becomes more apparent and the traditional peer reviewed journals reap what they have sown. Welcome to the peer review process for the 21st century.


symonsezwlky (04:38:39) :
Follow the link Anthony supplied to Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog comment and take the time to read Hu McCulloch’s e-mail to Nature. Your question will be answered.
BTW Mr McCulloch made the original comment on Climate Audit which is Steve McIntyre’s site not his. It pays to read before commenting.


“Why would a professor make such a discovery and then post it on a blog? Academians “speak” to one another through published papers.”
*People* can “speak” to each other on the interwebs and a professor may post his opinions on a blog because he likes to see people’s opinions.
Acamadamians can “speak” to each other in burps and f*rts, for all it matters.


symonsezwlky (04:38:39) :
Your point re: use of “unpublished” material is noted. However, as we have seen in the last ten or so years, the peer review and publishing process has become highly suspect. Requiring publication of a critique prior to acknowledgment of a problem seems to be avoiding the problem. Writers etiquette and common sense demands that if someone points out a mistake in your work and you accept their critique by amending the work – you acknowledge the critic.
The internet was specifically designed to facilitate communication between academics. To speed the flow of information around the slow and stodgy “publishing” process. A blog is the perfect gathering point for specialized interests to exchange such information. This issue is not about what forum the Professor used to point out the error in Mann. It is about Mann using the Professor’s work and not crediting him. Which further points to the arrogance and condescension common among alarmists and AGW cognoscenti.


I acknowledge that the guys should have credited the professor. It was at best unethical and I think seems to bring their character and integrity into quesiton. Further, I think it also suggests that all of their work should be looked at with extremely critical eyes. But, I have a professor friend who submitted a correction to the American Meteorological Society regarding mathematics error of a previous submission. That opens it up for further scrutiny. Sending a private email was indeed gracious and nice, but it was not typical procedure. If he had submitted it to an academic journal, open for all academics who regularly read the journal, it would have eliminated the problem. Further, it would have been available to those who have better things to do than surf the internet. I have been published and the peer review process included getting totally raked over the coals by academics who disagreed with my work…necessarily so because I was blowing up their entire life’s work since they had no clue as to what they had missed all these years. But, their scrutiny forced me to rewrite the work several times, tighten up the argument and be more clear. It is the formal and accepted process. It has not been replaced by the internet or blogs. Academics then respond with their own published material and the discussion is advanced. Again, this is part of the problem with the IPCC report as some of their data was not put up for scrutiny in the published fashion and instead published by the IPCC as accepted fact. It’s also why one cannot say there is a consensus because the material was not allowed to go through the formal process. While the bad guys deserve total condemnation on this matter, had the professor followed proper procedures, then they would never had had the opportunity to pirate his work.


Hot heads need to study the facts. We need a sun screen.
I like it when they ramp up fear of heat waves and deaths. Then they get hot again when we ask how many people die in arizona because of heat.

symonsezwlky (08:48:40) :
But the peer review process and journals appear to be broken as they relate to climate. An academic peer review process is obviously valuable and necessary, and will continue, but I suspect that the medium i.e. paper versus the internet, and the location, i.e. traditional journals versus a new crop of more open and reputable websites, are going to change due to the erroneous scientific “consensus” on AGW that has resulted from the current peer review process and journals. If the current peer review process and journals can’t be trusted on climate, why should they be trusted at all?
Why should Hu have to publish his thoughts through a broken process and in biased journals?

Kevin Kilty

Just The Facts (10:30:03) :
Why should Hu have to publish his thoughts through a broken process and in biased journals?

Exactly so. The time delay in printed journals could have made his observations moot. A reviewer could have passed the criticsm back to the Penn State group and then sat on the review. Any number of things. He could have gotten tangled in unfavorable reviews forever, etc. etc. One ought to be allowed to choose one’s method of dissemination without prejudice.

Douglas DC

Andrew (08:11:25) :Academicians can “speak” to each other in burps and f*rts, for all it matters.”
Sounds like my days after 3:30 MicroBi lab-on fridays,,,
Can’t even THINK of doing that now…

A Corrigenda is only used when there appears to be deliberate wrongdoing. Otherwise, the publication issues an Addendum, which simply discloses an inadvertent error. Nature was pretty much forced to issue a Corrigenda on Michael Mann, after Mann’s hockey stick was shown to be scientifically inaccurate. From Nature:

The Mann correction was not published as an Addendum, which, according to Nature’s published policy, is done when “Authors inadvertently omitted significant information available to them at the time” but which does “not contradict the original publication.” Nature publishes Corrigenda only “if the scientific accuracy or reproducibility of the original paper is compromised.” Nature’s designation of the correction as a corridengum contradicts the article authors’ claim that the errors in the original paper did not affect the published results. [source]

It appears that Steig is the one who needs a Corrigenda issued on him for plagiarism.


Hey LloydH,
I’m glad you asked; I learned something new today! Looks like they’ve simplified now, and all you have to do is visit the home page of the website you want to unblock, click on the ADP menu button to the right of the ADP logo, and choose “disable on “…””
If that’s not working the way I think it should (I just found out about it) you can always do it the old way, which is to open the ADP menu, pick “Preferences”, the click “Add Filter”, then type in “@@|http://whateverdomainyouwanttobunblock.(com, org, etc.)”, without the parentheses, of course…
Hope this helps.
(sorry for the OTness)

F. Ross

“… Those published papers are then put up for scrutiny and “peer review” by other academics. …”
Sounds nice and tidy, but, man oh man, am I getting tired of the refrain in this song.
[REPLY – Yes. Particularly in our current situation independent review is essential. ~ Evan]


Water seeks its own level. When publishing gateways refuse to present opposing points of view – the information seeks new outlets. By election certain science journals bring about their own demise and new, respected forums arise.