The BEST whopper ever

I was over at Judy Curry’s place, reading her update to the Mail on Sunday story, and noticed she referenced URLs to the updated FAQs at the BEST website. I followed and was totally shocked to read this FAQ: (bold mine)

Why didn’t Berkeley Earth wait for peer review?

Some people think that peer review consists of submitting a paper to a journal and waiting for the anonymous comments of referees. Traditional peer review is much broader than that and much more open. In science, when you have a new result, your first step is to present it to your colleagues by giving presentations, talks at local and international conferences, colloquia, and by sending out “preprints.” In fact, every academic department in the sciences had a preprint library where people would read up on the latest results. If they found something to disagree with, they would talk to or write the authors. Preprint libraries were so popular that, if you found someone was not in the office or lab, the first place you would search would be in the preprint library. Recently these rooms have disappeared, their place taken over by the internet. The biggest preprint library in the world now is a website,

Such traditional and open peer review has many advantages. It usually results in better papers in the archival journals, because the papers are widely examined prior to publication. It does have a disadvantage, however, that journalists can also pick up preprints and report on them before the traditional peer-review process is finished.

Perhaps because of the media picking up on talks and preprints, a few journals made a new rule: they will not publish anything that is distributed as a preprint or that is discussed openly in a meeting or colloquium. This policy has resulted in more attention to several journals, but the restrictive approach had a detrimental effect on the traditional peer review system. Some fields of science, for example String Theory, objected so strongly that they refuse to publish in these journals, and they put all their papers online immediately.

The best alternative would be to have the media hold back and not report preprint material. Unfortunately they refuse to do that. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that many of the media misreport the content of the preprints. For that reason Berkeley Earth has tried to answer the questions given to us by the media, in hopes that our work will be more accurately reported. The two page summary of findings is also meant to help ensure that the media reports accurately reflect the content of our papers.


I call absolute total BS on that. Why?

Because BEST contacted media in advance of the release of their papers and provided preprints. The October 20th release by BEST was planned and coordinated with media, such as the Economist, Guardian, NYT, New Scientist, and Nature, all of which contacted me before the release on October 20th. This FAQ on peer review was added sometime after that date, I don’t know when, but the FAQ headline obviously refers to past tense.

Remember the ethical quandary I wrote about on October 15th? I wrote then:


Imagine, if you will, that you are given a complete draft copy of a new paper that has just been submitted to a journal, and that paper cites your work, and it was provided as a professional courtesy before it has been peer-reviewed and accepted.

There’s a caveat attached to the email with the paper which says:

“Please keep it confidential until we post it ourselves.”

OK, fine and dandy, no problem there. Happy to oblige. I sent along a couple of small corrections and thanked the author.

Imagine my surprise when I get this email Friday from a reporter at a major global media outlet. I’ve redacted the names.

Dear Mr Watts

I’m the [media name redacted] new environment editor. I’m planning to write a pretty big piece next week on the [paper preprint name redacted], and wondered whether you might be able to give me your view of it. I think you’ve been sent the  [paper preprint name redacted] paper… If you did happen to be able and interested, I’d be enormously grateful for a word about this on Monday. Might that be possible?


I objected to being put in an untenable position with confidentiality on the paper. I was asked for my confidentiality about one of the papers, but then they gave the paper to media, and the media came calling me asking me to comment on it. I had no warning they would do so.

The Economist was first and that’s the email from reporter James Astill above, and I had to ask permission from Dr. Richard Muller before I spoke with Astill, as I mentioned in my report on October 20th.

Elizabeth Muller told me herself that “this is coordinated for October 20th”. Dr. Richard Muller says he sent it to one outlet, but I got requests from other media outlets before October 20th release. How did that happen?

—–Original Message—–

From: Richard A Muller

Date: Friday, October 14, 2011 3:35 PM

To: Anthony Watts- ItWorks

Subject: Re: Our paper is attached

We sent a copy to only one media person, from The Economist, whom we trust to keep it confidential.  I sent a copy to you because I knew you would also keep it confidential.
I apologize for not having gotten back to you about your comments.  I particularly like your suggestion about the title; that is an improvement.

I have all my notes and emails from these exchange with BEST and media outlets who made request, so this isn’t a matter of recollection.

For example this from the WUWT contact form:

Jeff Tollefson

[Watts Up With That?] Contact

Subject    interview query from Nature magazine

2011-10-18 @ 12:05:13 PM
Hello Mr. Watts, I’m preparing a story about the formal release of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis on Thursday, and I was hoping to get your thoughts. Their embargoed release says they specifically looked at the temperature stations you flagged as suspect (as well as the urban heat island effect), and they say the trends hold true. Of course they already reported much of this unofficially back in May, but there you go. Would you have a moment to chat? My number is 212-451-xxxx. If I don’t hear back, I’ll see if I can’t track down your address through other means. Best, Jeff Tollefson US Correspondent Nature magazine

I wrote October 20th when the media blitz happened:


Readers may recall this post last week where I complained about being put in a uncomfortable quandary by an author of a new paper. Despite that, I chose to honor the confidentiality request of the author Dr. Richard Muller, even though I knew that behind the scenes, they were planning a media blitz to MSM outlets. In the past few days I have been contacted by James Astill of the Economist, Ian Sample of the Guardian, and Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times. They have all contacted me regarding the release of papers from BEST today.


Now BEST is telling us it is the media who refuses to hold back on reporting preprints? Give me a freaking break.

Either the Muller team is grossly incompetent at public relations, or they are playing a unbelievably stupid game of CYA after the fact due to the negative reactions they are getting to the “press before peer review” fiasco they brought on themselves.

Either way, it’s gobsmackingly unscrupulous of them to now blame the media.


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William McClenney

Too much smoke and too many mirrors for me. BESTgate anyone?

So, if they can’t be honest about this, what would bring the public to believe they were honest about their assessment of the temps?
The short answer is, there isn’t any impetus to believe this stuff. Look at their global app. It is incredulous. They have total Antarctica coverage in the 50s? Or, look at the 1890s. They claim total Africa and South American coverage. I wrote about it here…. , but the thought didn’t seem to gain much traction. Perhaps it will now.

Either the Muller team is grossly incompetent at public relations, or they are playing a unbelievably stupid game of CYA after the fact due to the neative reactions they are getting to the “press before peer review” fiasco they brought on themselves.
I’m leaning toward “both”.
Does Dr. Curry fully support the Berkeley EST rationale on “Why didn’t Berkeley Earth wait for peer review?”

Al Gored

BEST = Blatant Effort to Sabotage Truth.

Bill Hutto

I think it was a brilliant sting to expose the gullible media!
…or maybe Dr. Muller is an incompetent boob.

The media is always at fault… 😎
Seriously, Muller and daughter tried to ride the media tiger with apparently non-brilliant results. But I wouldn’t discount them yet. At the very least, they are now known as generators of readership-increasing copy.

Gail Combs

Lets just hope that Muller keeps tripping himself up. The public is not nearly as dumb as a lot of people think. They may not be able to follow the fancy math but they CAN follow lies and scandal.

Gail Combs

OH, and I want my Whopper with cloud cover and a side of sea level fall.

David Falkner

Maybe they didn’t count on Dr. Curry to speak up?

One “FAQ” is: “It appears that Berkeley Earth’s analysis shows a temperature rise greater than others had previously published. Is this so? Can you explain?”
Note, they point out that since they only have analyzed the “land only data”, and ” Land warms more than oceans, so when we include the ocean we expect the total global warming to be less.”
OK, that sounds reasonable, but then why in the next “FAQ”: “Has Global Warming Stopped?” don’t they continue that line of reasoning and state that with only the land data included so far, as discussed in the previous FAQ, it is not possible to make any conclusions regarding the overall global trend?
But nooo, they then show a graphic with “95% confidence” that might appear to some to show that based on their admitted incomplete, land only data, “Global Warming” continues.
Bias anyone?

Harry Bergeron

Death of a Dilemma:
A paper given to you as “confidential” and soon after given to the press
is instantly and permanently NOT confidential.
You are thereby released from your promise. QED and Voila!
Mueller’s manipulation is worthy of a third-rate politician.
Next time, ask the journalist if s/he were held to confidentiality, LOL.


it leaves you with only two choices….
A top climate scientist is stupid
A top climate scientist is crooked

James Allison

[snip – even though I’ve been treated badly by Muller et al, this is a bit over the top] – Anthony


It’s not like peer review works at the best of time. William Briggs discusses a peer review failure over at his blog:
“A Case Of Failed Peer Review: Dust And Death”
“The distance between what civilians think peer review is and what it actually is suffers from the same failing as that evinced by Han Solo—rare pop culture reference!—when he boasted to Obi Wan Kenobi that the Millennium Falcon could do “the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.” Let him that readeth understand.”


I don’t see that BEST is being inconsistent at all.
If the media refuse not to report on pre-review prints, it is quite within the keeping of the described MO (“For that reason Berkeley Earth has tried to answer the questions given to us by the media, in hopes that our work will be more accurately reported. The two page summary of findings is also meant to help ensure that the media reports accurately reflect the content of our papers.”) to make a press release prior to the pre-review copy being circulated.
So I think that sober analysis of your calling BS on that, is that you could be mistaken.

Doesn’t it raise even tiny little questions in your mind to discover that Dr Muller’s side business will financially cash in from his so-called “sober analysis”?
It’s not like Muller has displayed any professional ethics to date.


Your vituperative backlash continues. A far cry from “I’ll accept whatever result they produce”.
REPLY: So, BEST is allowed to change the rules, play games, skirt convention, trash process, and post fabricated blame, but I have to adhere to what I said when they put on the air of false professionlism for me in March?
Yes, I was duped, I trusted them. How’s the weather in Chile? -Anthony


I agree. They should have taken inspiration from your own oh-so-coy-and-quiet behaviour in the couple of years before you actually published your own paper.
( 🙂 )
REPLY: The difference was that I had to advertise here to get the project done, I had to solicit volunteers and show progress. They got hugely funded. – Anthony

Michael D Smith

Individuals who lie are liars.

Michael Jankowski

I thought the next FAQ was just as noteworthy:
“Is it time now to end global warming skepticism?
Our study addressed only one area of the concerns: was the temperature rise on land improperly affected by the four key biases (station quality, homogenization, urban heat island, and station selection)? The answer turned out to be no – but they were questions worthy of investigation. Berkeley Earth has not addressed issues of the tree ring and proxy data, climate model accuracy, or human attribution…”


I don’t see the scandal here. Knowing they couldn’t get the kind of preprint release that would be best for the scientific process, they decided to manipulate the release to the press to achieve the best effect they thought they could reasonably get. I may have missed something, but I don’t see anything wrong with that or contradictory with the FAQ. On the other hand, it does appear that they did try to “hide the decline” in the rate of temperature increase over the last decade.

Somebody please hand stevo and toto a hanky. They don’t like that Dr Muller is exposed for what he is: a self-serving guy whose side company gets payola according to the alarmism they promote.

“Latitude says: October 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm
it leaves you with only two choices….
A top climate scientist is stupid
A top climate scientist is crooked”

Which top climate scientist?

Dave Springer

I understand Muller’s pants caught on fire just now.

Joe Romm at ThinkProgress already responded to the Curry analysis. I bet you can guess the kinds of things ol’ Joe had to say. LOL.
It does seem the arguments FOR global warming are getting narrower and narrower as they lose focus and reality contradicts the so-called “studies.”


Muller’s alleged “open preprint peer review” shtick is something I’ve never heard of as “traditional”. Usually real scientists should already know how to do a study, have the right professionals available as needed – instead of having to rely on “open preprint peer review” – then submit the study for possible publication, right?
So what were/are Muller’s alleged “open preprint peers” doing, anyway, voting on the “new result” or something? Climate Science often doesn’t even use professional statisticians, much less reveal their data and methods after publication. [It sounds like Muller is projecting by telling us about the way Climate Science often develops its not so open “preprints”.]
But moving on, why did “open preprint peer review” cease to exist in Climate Science? Too hard to keep a big scoop like BEST’s from the Press with its ‘misinterpretations’, eh?
So in order to prevent the defects of “open preprint peer review”, Muller decides to replicate them again, by doing exactly what the ipcc does in publishing its pre-AR Press Releases with all of their “smoking guns”, prior to releasing the AR’s, then not delivering? Which has always instead been a smoking gun actually pointing back at them, insofar as not following the practices of real science where the conclusions of a study are almost never published before the science behind the conclusions are published.
So Muller’s “narrative” stinks and even worse than usual, as Anthony and Dr. Curry, and others, have shown.
But on the bright side, if “open preprint peer review” was allegedly a big part of the past standard for practicing real science, why doesn’t Climate Science resume “post-publication peer review” involving anyone who wants the data and methods, just like the good old days of real science since that’s just about what Muller is claiming used to happen in the good old days of “open preprint peer review”.


Good Stuff Anthony!!!!! Muller V Curry. This will be interesting.

Leon Brozyna

The BEST spin is burning out my gyros.
If they wanted to go the pre-print route and send the papers to interested scientists for comment – fine. If they wanted to put the papers and all supporting data up on the website – also, fine. They should also have placed a caveat on those papers that they were very rough drafts subject to major revision. They should have just left it at that and said nothing to the media. Only if members of the media start showing up at your doorstep should you then respond by cautioning them that the work is very raw and could yet see major changes. Going to the media in advance of having a fully peer-reviewed paper is an invitation to disaster, as Dr. Muller is now finding out.
Now let’s see how his meeting with Dr. Curry goes.


“How’s the weather in Chile?”
Interesting question. Why do you ask?
REPLY: If you have to ask, well then you don’t get it. No comment then on the duplicity from BEST, blaming the media for their own PR disaster? Instead just blame me for being “vituperative” because you are incapable of assimilating the DK moment?
– Anthony


I agree with JPeden, I worked as a researcher in one of the UKs leading research Universities for 8 years and we never had open preprint Peer review. To be sure we discussed the results with others in the field to make sure they were “comfortable” that the results could be explained, but our expectation was that the Peer Review Journal system would identify any whoppers in our results. As for conferences, we generally considered them to be a second level means of review.


Gee, physicists with the CERN neutrino experiment get a result that was unexpected so they ask the community to help them figure out what they may have missed. Climate science blast their results all over the place and don’t even inform the other authors (Curry for example). You would at least think their would be an internal review before they started blabbing all over the place. Whether their results are accurate or not, their professionalism stinks.

William McClenney

In the hip new academic world we have this:
Post-peer review papers posted for online discussion. After this cycle we have such papers as this:
just sayin.

it was all preplanned. if they were really concerned about Journalists writing things up out of context – a ‘conditions of usage or reprint’ could be plastered across the top of the preprints putting conditions on publication that would require explicit notification in print of the preliminary and therefore unverified nature of the research.
But of course if you do that – such publication would have no media value what so ever,,,
“An unverified, none peer reviewed and preliminary preprint discussion paper by the BEST team says global warming is continuing…”
Sort of ranks in significance with ‘dog bites man’ in news value…


stevo says:
October 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm
Your vituperative backlash continues. A far cry from “I’ll accept whatever result they produce”.
You mean the result which shows no land warming over the past 10 years? And, stevo, do you accept that result? Which Dr. Curry has dubbed another “hide the decline”?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

stevo said on October 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm:

Your vituperative backlash continues. A far cry from “I’ll accept whatever result they produce”.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your new career threadbombing, using any post on this site mentioning BEST in any way whatsoever, or even just mentioning any old temperature record, as an opportunity to throw Anthony Watts’ naive initial statement back at his face. It must be very rewarding to you, and quite demanding with the many hours you devote to constantly searching this site every day. Hopefully the pay is commensurate with the dedication required and the effort exerted. You deserve to to receive the rewards you have rightfully earned in this endeavor.
Best of luck, glad to see you here.

Tom in Florida

Let’s not forget that the State of California Air Resources Board was scheduled, that’s right scheduled, to announce their “vote” on the cap and trade law on Oct 20.
See WUWT report here:
How convenient that the Best media blitz was scheduled for the same day. Could if be a feeble attempt to help justify the Air Resources Board decision?

Crispin in Waterloo

You are fooling no one, big boy. “Vituperative”??? You are sounding desperate in your lame attempts to divert attention from the weaselly Muller to Anthony. It is amazing to see the academic squirming about pre-print and media and all that jazz, really epic stuff, and you are still trying to blame the victims (don’t forget to blame Dr Curry too – she is not a warmist either). With talent like that you should consider running for public office.

William McClenney

Tom in Florida says:
October 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm
No, we, apparently in California, took the AB-32 exit 5 years ago…….

When did “preprint libraries” become “popular”??? That sounds like science by Penthouse Magazine (the former Omni). Peer review was ALWAYS “submitting a paper to a journal and waiting for the anonymous [sic] comments of referees” where I came from…where you sweated bullets until the review comments came back, then you addressed them, resubmitted, and sweated bullets again. Having a klatsch of merry commentors lining up at the check-out desk sounds, well, like members of an “Occupy” protest reading the Village Voice over Starbuck’s latte. Whopper indeed.


Bill Hutto says:
October 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm
I think it was a brilliant sting to expose the gullible media!
or maybe Dr. Muller is an incompetent boob.

OK, still laughing over that :). As long as the last sentence was delivered in the voice of Hedley Lamarr…


maybe polygraph tests of the whole CAGW team, incuding their MSM ennablers, are in order:
28 Oct: UK Independent: Michael McCarthy: Climate change scientist faces lie detector test
This week Mr Gleason was interviewed intensively by investigators and asked if he would take a polygraph (lie detector) test; he responded that he would only take such a test if the agent interviewing him took one as well.
“There appears to be kind of a desperate, almost fierce nature to pursue this until they find something,” said Mr Gleason’s lawyer, Jeff Ruch, of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Mr Ruch accuses the investigators of taking issues raised during the normal scientific peer-review process and acting as though they constitute evidence of wrongdoing…

Theo Goodwin

Wonderful article, Anthony. You nailed them totally.
A “preprint” is not something that one would submit to a journal and, conversely, something that one submits to a journal is never offered as a preprint.
Peer review exists to serve journal editors and for no other reason. Peer reviewers are volunteers who give freely of their time and genius to support a journal and an editor. Just think what such a volunteer would think if he were sent a “preprint” to review? He would ask the journal editor why the editor wants him/her to do a careful analysis of a paper that has been talked to death for weeks. The very idea is preposterous.

Stevo doesn’t get it…
Try Chilly in Chile


stevo says:
October 30, 2011 at 6:40 pm
“How’s the weather in Chile?”
Interesting question. Why do you ask?

Obviously because he’ll accept any answer you produce? Stay on message, stevo, repeat, repeat, repeat!


These peers who review AGW papers are peers in the formal sense of the word. Something of equal quality. They all believe in the same thing. Usually the politics of having too many people consuming too many goods that the peers reckon is a bit too presumptuous.
There are too many peasants in the world for their taste.


The weather at Chile is quite cold. Based on my records it had been the coldest year in the past 10 years. The La Niña effect will be quite interesting to watch. If the forecast are correct we are going to face a very dry summer.
The central part of the country is already facing a 50% precipitation deficit, and from now on the southern part will start to feel the effect of the current La Niña.

Timo Kuusela

I just can not help thinking that the whole thing is intentional; first one author gets media attention by giving pro-warmist opinions, then the co-author gives an opposite opinion of the results.
Media attention is guaranteed, and ,if everything goes as planned, the final result is pro-sceptical.
Brilliant, if that is(was) the original idea.Media was just too eager, now we will see if they can (dare)publish the correction.At least The Mail did.


Noting the email from Nature,

Hello Mr. Watts, I’m preparing a story about the formal release of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis on Thursday, and I was hoping to get your thoughts. Their embargoed release says..”

What does ’embargoed’ mean in this context?
Trying to imagine this without personalities being involved…
BEST is going to release pre-reviewed work to the public, on the premise of transparency, and also to garner comments and criticisms that might help alter/improve their final submission (who knows, they may include the 30-year analysis that has been called for in line with data). This is completely in line with Muller’s stated preference for how work progresses, and is not far off how I imagine skeptics would like things to be, not completely trusting peer-review. (Let’s see what you came up with before anonymous pinheads decide to give their imprimatur, demand alterations, or reject it. The logical conclusion of this position is that all peer-review should no longer be anonymous, to remove the taint of potential ‘pal-review’. We have seen this scenario clearly stated by skeptics in very recent history.)
So BEST will release their papers prior to peer-review. nothing wrong with that per se, but what about the news media? If BEST do nothing, the news media will report the results however they want. And the news media are not known for reporting the science accurately, which anyone who knows anything about the subject can attest. Everyone complains about media distortion of the science. So BEST decide they will try to ensure accurate media reports by sending embargoed pre-release copies of the papers and having a conversation. They don’t want the work going online and being misrepresented by the media eager for an angle to make a juicy scoop. So they have to walk a journo or two through the science.
This all seems like a reasonable sequence of events to me. Where did BEST go wrong?
REPLY:What a humorous rationalization. I love the “anonymous pinheads” description, which coming from you, one who demands anonymity so you can diss from the shadows, while at the same time ignoring the simple fact that Dr. Muller lied to me in saying “I sent it to one media outlet”, is quite telling about you. FAIL – Anthony

step 1 make press releases with misleading conclusions
step 2 complain the media reports what you’ve told them
step 3 earn every bit of humilation you’ve sown


The puppeteer in this crazy play seems to be Liz Muller. Her manipulations have created a circle of discontent across the climate scam community, sucking in all sides from Anthony, Judith, and the Boyz from GISS, to the blogosphere regulars, all now finger pointing in time to Team Berkeley’s fiddlers. Liz seems to be the real brains in Berkeley’s BEST where no publicity is bad publicity. I have no doubt the IPCC is watching and rolling their eyes. Who will be first to issue a primal scream heard ’round the cooling troposphere?