Team ugliness – a call to get a skeptics PhD thesis revoked

Guest post by Dr. Patrick Michaelsoriginally on Forbes, reposted here at the request of the author.

Climategate II: An Open Letter to the Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research

To: Dr. Roger Wakimoto

Director, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Boulder, Colorado

Roger, you are the head of what is perhaps the most prestigious atmospheric science laboratory on the planet, and, as such, I presume that you will always go the extra mile to protect the reputation of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its related University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

I’m sure you have seen and discussed with your staff many of the “Climategate” emails released first in November, 2009, and then more recently, earlier this month.

Everyone agrees that the tone and content of many of them is a bit shrill and occasionally intolerant (kind of like University faculty meetings), but there is one repeating thread, by one of your most prestigious employees, Dr. Tom Wigley, that is far beyond the pale of most academic backbiting.

The revoking of my doctorate, the clear objective of Tom’s email, is the professional equivalent of the death penalty. I think it needs to be brought to your attention, because the basic premise underlying his machinations is patently and completely false. Dr Wigley is known as a careful scientist, but he certainly was careless here.

The global circulation of this email has caused unknown damage to my reputation. Also, please note that all communications from Dr. Wigley to his colleagues on this matter were on the NCAR/UCAR server.

The relevant email was sent to Rick Piltz, a UCAR employee at the time, and copied to Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University, James Hansen and Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Benjamin Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,the late Steven Schneider, Stanford University, and several other very prominent climate scientists. The influence of these individuals is manifest and evidence of a very serious attempt to destroy my credential.

What Dr. Wigley wrote to this group of individuals was:

“You may be interesting [sic] in this snippet of information about Pat Michaels. Perhaps the University of Wisconsin ought to open up a public comment period to decide whether Pat Michaels, PhD needs re-assessing?”

As I said, revoking the doctorate of a scientist is the equivalent of imposing a professional death penalty. Unfortunately, Wigley’s rationale for organizing this effort was based upon a pure fabrication.

Wigley’s call for a “re-assessing” of my dissertation stems from his contention that I either misled my academic committee or my committee was guilty of professional malfeasance, both very serious charges. (His email is reproduced in its entirety at the end of this note.)

My 1979 dissertation was a model relating interannual and interseasonal variations in the shape of the atmosphere, as reflected by the surface barometric pressure field, to variations crop yields across the United States.

In this type of model, one usually factors out the technological component of crop yields (which, incidentally, explains much more variation than any climate component) and then models the remaining variation in yield with the climate factor, in order to “isolate” the climate component. The explained variance of this residual yield by climate is generally about 50%, which is very close to the average I found for corn, soybeans, and winter wheat.

Wigley said in his email that I claimed to have explained 95% of the variation in crop yield, which he said “would have been a remarkable results” [sic]. In fact, there is no such statement, nor anything related to that, in my dissertation. He went on to state that I did this by simultaneously modelling the technological, spatial and climate components of agricultural yield, instead of separating out technological components first.

Despite his claimed familiarity with my dissertation, I did no such thing. Table 2, beginning on page 154 of the dissertation, is labelled “DETRENDING FUNCTIONS”, and gives the equations that were used to remove the technological component. All subsequent analyses were on the detrended data.

Wigley then alleged that either I lied to my examination committee, or that they were buffoons. It is worth noting that the committee included the famously tough Reid Bryson, father of the modern notion that human beings could change the climate.

“Apparently, none of Michaels’ thesis examiners noticed this. We are left with wondering whether this was deliberate misrepresentation by Michaels, or whether it was simply ignorance.”

This came to my attention with the release of the first East Anglia emails in November, 2009. This email and other, new statements by him about my dissertation have surfaced with the recent release of additional emails, and his letter about my dissertation is again being circulated around the web.

I think you will agree that it is time for Dr. Wigley to state that his attempt to generate a movement to remove my doctorate was based upon clear errors on his part, errors that he should have known about, and yet he has let the record stand for over two years. What he “discovered years ago” was certainly not in my dissertation.

Roger, I don’t think you would put up with this, and I think Wigley must be compelled to come forth. Remember that he did this on NCAR’s (and the taxpayer’s) dime.

Thank you very much.

Patrick J. Michaels

Cato Institute and

George Mason University

From: Tom Wigley [EMAIL REDACTED]

To: Rick Piltz [EMAIL REDACTED]

Subject: Re: FYI–”Phil Jones and Ben Santer respond to CEI and Pat Michaels attack on temperature data record”

Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2009 19:45:45 -0600

Cc: [E-MAILS REDACTED]

Dear folks,

You may be interesting in this snippet of information about Pat Michaels. Perhaps the University of Wisconsin ought to open up a public comment period to decide whether Pat Michaels, PhD needs re-assessing?

Michaels’ PhD was, I believe, supervised by Reid Bryson. It dealt with statistical (regression-based) modeling of crop-climate relationships. In his thesis, Michaels claims that his statistical model showed that weather/climate variations could explain 95% of the inter-annual variability in crop yields. Had this been correct, it would have been a remarkable results. Certainly, it was at odds with all previous studies of crop-climate relationships, which generally showed that weather/climate could only explain about 50% of inter-annual yield variability.

How did result come about? The answer is simple. In Michaels’ regressions he included a trend term. This was at the time a common way to account for the effects of changing technology on yield. It turns out that the trend term accounts for 90% of the variability, so that, in Michaels’ regressions, weather/climate explains just 5 of the remaining 10%. In other words, Michaels’ claim that weather/climate explains 95% of the variability is completely bogus.

Apparently, none of Michaels’ thesis examiners noticed this. We are left with wondering whether this was deliberate misrepresentation by Michaels, or whether it was simply ignorance.

As an historical note, I discovered this many years ago when working with Dick Warrick and Tu Qipu on crop-climate modeling. We used a spatial regression method, which we developed for the wheat belt of southwestern Western Australia. We carried out similar analyses for winter wheat in the USA, but never published the results.

Wigley, T.M.L. and Tu Qipu, 1983: Crop-climate modelling using spatial patterns of yield and climate: Part 1, Background and an example from Australia. Journal of Climate and Applied Meteorology 22, 1831–1841

There never was a “Part 2″.

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Enormously ugly. I’m no lawyer, but if anybody made similar claims about my own Ph.D., even in a supposedly private forum (but one that obviously could have an enormous impact on my career) I wouldn’t talk to their boss, I’d sue their ass. Let them attempt to defend their statements in a courtroom.

pat

Ahhhh. The cause above all.
Rather blatant.

Matt Carver

Emails and attitudes like this keep innovation from happening. No one wants to push science (or anything else for that matter) in the public forum for fear of ridiculous reactions like Wigley. The field of education (from elementary to doctoral programs) will continue to suffer from actions like this.

Eric Anderson

Robert Brown says: “I wouldn’t talk to their boss, I’d sue their ass. Let them attempt to defend their statements in a courtroom.”
I’m not a bit fan of suing, but I’d have to say that he probably has a much stronger case than Mann does with his silly “State Pen” suit.

Bernie

I would bet that this is but the first shoe. I can see a boatload of FOI requests to the named government institutions. Michaels can look after himself.

Gerald Wilhite

I’m an addicted WUWT lurker — not a scientist, just a citizen. What Wigley has done is a heart-breaking insult to all of science and all scientists. It deserves the equivalent of what the NCAA must surely be considering at this very moment for Penn State — the death penalty.

Jenn Oates

This is really really bad. When I was in grad school I was naively surprised by my inability to slip into the cool kids clique and my incredulity at some grad school antics must have shown on my face way too often for my own good, but this…this is beyond the pale. I agree with Robert below.

Happy to put a few bob in the pot if he wants to hire a good lawyer.
The sooner these buggers are on the stand the sooner the truth comes out.

Scott Covert

Why not contact the author or publish a rebuttal?

Coke

Oh, I’m quite sure the email was taken out of context 😉

jaypan

Suggest that Wigley joins the Ethic seminar at Penn State

Dave L.

NCAR seems to be a hotbed of climate activism. In addition to Wigley, Trenberth also resides at NCAR. I would not hold my breath regarding an apology being issued.

Wigley is a coward. There’s no doubt someone will mention this article to him, and of course he will read it because it exposes him as either a deliberate fabricator, or completely ignorant. But being a PhD it is hard to believe that his libel is based on ignorance. A coward would hide out and not respond or apologize for these documented misrepresentations. Time will tell if Wigley will man up and apologize, or cringe in the safety of his ivory tower like the rest of his climate alarmist pals.
As we see in their emails, all of those involved in the global warming scare have little in the way of professional ethics or basic honesty. There is only a difference in degree regarding which ones are the most dishonest and ethics-challenged. And as I read the Climategate emails, Wigley is one of the less reprehensible scoundrels. Others are worse.

Chris

He should have started it with the words “Formal Complaint” – those usually start “official” type processes up and running without needing lawyers – yet…

Timo Soren

OMG…personal attacks as this are beyond academic freedom. I believe his must be curtailed via either a lawsuit or institution ethics investigation.

crosspatch

“Misrepresenting the work of scientists is a serious offense.” — Michael Mann 23 October 2009 4666.txt

Vince Causey

When I started reading Wigley’s email, I thought it was a joke. You know, like when Jeremy Clarkson said that striking public sector workers should be shot. And that caused a big outcry from the usual suspects, let me tell you.
But as I read on, I realised that he wasn’t joking at all. He started giving all kinds of reasons why the thesis was flawed, and it sounded like he was seriously trying to organise a campaign to discredit Michaels, using the attack on his thesis as weapon (I assume even Wigley isn’t so arrogant as to believe he could actually get the phd anulled – but you never know).
First Chris de Frietas, now Pat Michaels.

GeologyJim

Yeah, but Tom’s son did a tree-ring science project right in NCAR’s back yard that showed the tree-ring/temperature relationship is questionable.
Maybe Tommy’s lashing out at others because he can’t control his own kid.

Well written, Mr Michaels. You have reason for a clearly non-frivolous law suit. The other side has lot’s of money but is finally beginning to lose it. We’d all love for you to sue. Your winning would start to show that selling out science for politics will now start costing more than just prestige or even embarassment. A example can be made of Wigley and NCAR. Losing a multi-million dollar suit would be the right message. It doesn’t trash all NCAR, just gives organizations an additional, financial reason to maintain their integrity. Good luck.. Be careful!

gnomish

please, Dr. Michaels, force the issue until you have public contrition.
make the paper. assert a demand for relief. get orders issued.
because they are what they are – they’ve defined themselves by their deeds.
be the vector or be the treatment – that’s your choice with this disease.

Louis Hooffstetter

Sue Wigley and in the process depose Mann, Hansen, Schmidt, Santer, and every other “prominent climate scientist” copied on this email. Force them to tell the truth under oath, but be sure to wear your toughest foul weather gear. Depending on how arrogant or trapped they feel, it’s sure to be either a BS festival or a poop slinging contest.

JKB

The value of a lawsuit in this case, is not in winning, it is in discovery. If someone could fund this suit and discovery, well, who knows what might be found in the email dumps from the various involved institutions.
Or you might get a quick high dollar settlement.

Neo

Obviously, Tom Wigley is a lousy gumshoe

I think I will buy a FIAT!!!

Wigley’s letter is unprofessional plus any number of other adjectives, none complementary. This kind of thing draws the man’s and by association his colleagues and institution’s ethics into question. They must distance themselves from this kind of thing or live with a taint

Duster

Scott Covert says:
December 2, 2011 at 9:10 am
Why not contact the author or publish a rebuttal?

Until the emails were released, the entire episode was between Wigley and his correspondents. The current post here at WUWT constitutes the first rebuttal opportunity Michaels has had. The only reason Michaels would have to contact Wigley would be to demand he appear publicly in sack cloth and ashes and admitting his guilt, or expect law suit to be filed that would preclude any future trips to Tahiti.

There are three issues here.
1 There is an unsuported assertion which makes absolutely no attempt of replicate the study and see if the same conclusions are apparent.
2 This insults the men doing the oral exam for a dissertation or thesis.
3 In directly, having
Mann’s name on an oral review and or Dissertation is going to be considered a blemish.
This “incident” tarnishes the school and makes one want to choose another program which isn’t swirling with controversy.

I appreciate these open letters on WUWT, they are public declarations that require publiuc answers. By their nature they have to have been thought about before they are put up ,which make them the more remarkable and newsworthy. Has Phil Jones responded to Willis’ open letter where he calls him out as a serial liar? Perhaps he believes saying nothing will reduce the publicity and he can ride it out.
I know I am being boring and repeating myself, but I believe these sorts of posts should be accomapanied by a press release sent to maybe thousands of journalists and blogs. I do think such a method would accelerate media interest in the scandals that are now emerging as we get to know the climategate emails better.
This would be a lot of work, however I feel so strongly about this that I would be willing to sponsor anyone with funds to employ a secretary for a fews days to help set up a database of journalists which could then be used in a pilot scheme to find out if my suggestion would work.

More Soylent Green!

OT: Today’s Wall Street Journal features the difficulty medical researchers have in replicating academic studies:
Scientists’ Elusive Goal: Reproducing Study Results
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203764804577059841672541590.html?mod=WSJ_hps_RIGHTTopCarousel_1
Some quotes from the article:

This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced.

There is also a more insidious and pervasive problem: a preference for positive results.

“Among the more obvious yet unquantifiable reasons, there is immense competition among laboratories and a pressure to publish,” wrote Dr. Asadullah and others from Bayer, in their September paper. “There is also a bias toward publishing positive results, as it is easier to get positive results accepted in good journals.”

Dr. Begley suggests that academic scientists, like drug companies, should perform more experiments in a “blinded” manner to reduce any bias toward positive findings. Otherwise, he says, “there is a human desire to get the results your boss wants you to get.”

Adds Atlas’ Mr. Booth: “Nobody gets a promotion from publishing a negative study.”

Solomon Green

“…all communications from Dr. Wigley to his colleagues on this matter were on the NCAR/UCAR server.”
Dr. Wigley’s address has been redacted but if it is an NCAR address and if Dr. Wigley does not withdraw and apologise does not Dr. Michaels have a good case to sue his employer, NCAR? There appear to be precedents in English law for such an action but I am not a lawyer..

Phil.

crosspatch says:
December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am
“Misrepresenting the work of scientists is a serious offense.” — Michael Mann 23 October 2009 4666.txt

Indeed, unfortunately it’s something that Michaels engages in!

Wil

I’m with Robert Brown on this one. This doesn’t read like a man fighting for his professional career nor his reputation in any serious way. It reads more like a minor nuisance at best or perhaps a minor disagreement at worst. In fact this is the exact type of thing in the climate “science” field where the lads on the AGW side play hardball and play for keeps. Exactly like it is our here in the real world – we play for keeps.
And its not very pretty – Billions upon BILLIONS of dollars are at stake here, entire nations and their wealth squandered on fairy tale ideology at the expense of real working families and massive loss of jobs in energy sectors virtually bringing nations into destitution. Its nasty out here – common for fists and boots and what have you – turning neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, family against family, entire nations against itself. Ultimately turning nation against nation.
This isn’t some academic exercise anymore where niceties are the rule of the day – this is real out here. You wanna hold on to your reputation then FIGHT for it man. You have the tools to fight in the very internal emails YOU printed in this article. Believe in your work ENOUGH to stand UP and fight like I have to do our here on the street everyday. I ask for no quarters and I give NONE. The stakes are so high we MUST have scientists who are willing to fight for the TRUTH – nothing less is acceptable. History WILL judge everyone of you guys – and at this stage of affairs HISTORY is NOT going to be very kind to many of you.

@Wil “This isn’t some academic exercise anymore where niceties are the rule of the day – this is real out here. You wanna hold on to your reputation then FIGHT for it man. You have the tools to fight in the very internal emails YOU printed in this article. Believe in your work ENOUGH to stand UP and fight like I have to do our here on the street everyday. I ask for no quarters and I give NONE. The stakes are so high we MUST have scientists who are willing to fight for the TRUTH – nothing less is acceptable. History WILL judge everyone of you guys – and at this stage of affairs HISTORY is NOT going to be very kind to many of you.”
But litigation is a fool’s game unless you have very deep pockets and a lot of time to burn. This behaviour is dirty and disreputable and a stain on all scientists. It is up to the profession at large to stand up for Dr Michaels. Enough is enough. These guys need to pulled out by their peers and asked to explain themselves or apologise and make amends..

This is exactly why I could never see myself as a part of modern Academia and dropped out 3/4 through my PhD. to become a journalist and freelance writer. Today’s universities, dominated by irredeemably corrupt leftists, are hotbeds of intellectual dishonesty and socialist conformity. Sorry, not going to become part of that machine. I want to throw monkey wrenches in it.

Hey Bernie, you’re exactly right! It’s hard to believe, given the recipient list, that it wasn’t forwarded everywhere.
Be nice if a bunch of you forwarded the forbes link to Drudge.
PJM

Gail Combs

JKB says:
December 2, 2011 at 9:45 am
The value of a lawsuit in this case, is not in winning, it is in discovery. If someone could fund this suit and discovery, well, who knows what might be found in the email dumps from the various involved institutions…..
______________________
Just what I was thinking.
A lawsuit is a must with full page ads taken out in all the major newspapers…..

geronimo

“I’m with Robert Brown on this one. This doesn’t read like a man fighting for his professional career nor his reputation in any serious way. It reads more like a minor nuisance at best or perhaps a minor disagreement at worst.”
True in real business life there are always people trying to get other people thrown out of their jobs, and probable for reasons as equally venal as the Team’s. However in the “real world” we live in those kicked out of their jobs they get appropriate compensation and keep their reputations.
Dr. Michaels if you want to set up a fund to sue the ass off those who tried to destroy your career, let us know, it would be a pleasure to contribute a few $$ to the fund.

Ex-Wx Forecaster

Even if I didn’t question the science of the Globalwarmists, their tactics for dealing with skeptics prove the unethical nature of “The Cause”.

David L

RogueGovt on December 2, 2011 at 10:40 am said:
This is exactly why I could never see myself as a part of modern Academia and dropped out 3/4 through my PhD. to become a journalist and freelance writer. Today’s universities, dominated by irredeemably corrupt leftists, are hotbeds of intellectual dishonesty and socialist conformity. Sorry, not going to become part of that machine. I want to throw monkey wrenches in it.
———————–
I had the same feeling in grad school but suffered through the entire ordeal. Against the wishes (or rather threats) of my advisor I fled to corporate America upon completion. Academia is a sick, juvenile, pedantic cult. However the behavior of these so-called climate scientists makes my experience of academia look tame.

Ex-Wx Forecaster

To Geronimo: I agree. I’d contribute to a fund that would get the Globalwarmers into court. They’d have to perform their dog and pony show in an adversarial, public forum that would allow the other side to be heard. I keep waiting…

Fred from Canuckistan

This goes way beyond Kyoto Ugly.
This is Kyoto Libelous.
Time to pull the funding from these idiots.

R.S.Brown

Patrick J. Michaels is yet another person who would have a claim
to know exactly what e-mails were circulated among the
American contingent of the Team in reguard to his reputaion and professional
standing.
These should, by numerous state and Federal laws, be available for his personal
review as government-held documents in the University of Virginia’s Prince
County court case involving the Mike Mann e-mails the were on the UVa server(s).
Mike Mann is trying to say they’re his e-mails and doesn’t want anyone
else looking at them !!

R. Shearer

The “Team” has created a hostile work environment (the world) for any scientist that disagrees with them. Legal action can be brought against them and their employers.

Phil. says:
“Indeed, unfortunately it’s something that Michaels engages in!”
Phil., don’t be an ass.

theduke

I believe that Mr. Wigley is squirming right around now.
Look for a disavowal soon. Less than heartfelt, of course.

Please contact:
Roger Wakimoto, NCAR Director
Public Email: {lastname} at UCAR dot edu
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
Main Phone: 303-497-1000
Maura Hagan, NCAR Deputy Director
Public Email: {lastname} at UCAR dot edu
Tom Wigley
Public Email: {lastname} at UCAR dot edu
(Now retired.
See: Tom Wigley Symposium 19 June 2009)

crosspatch

Academia is a sick, juvenile, pedantic cult.

It isn’t the only place. I had the opportunity to work in another field populated by very intelligent prima donna types. The same sort of backbiting went on there, too. If one could not directly advance their stature in the group, they took to trying to tear down that of the others they were “competing” against (even though it wasn’t a competition at all). The idea is to attempt to discredit another in the hopes that what they might say in the future will carry less weight with the recipient of that communications. We even see it in our regular lives with political affiliations. I can show you an example that is very easy to do.
Take two groups of friends that lean toward either the right or the left. Find a wire service news story (AP, Reuters, AFP, UPI, doesn’t matter) that is interesting but is carried on both Fox’s and MSNBC’s websites. Send one group the Fox link and the other group the MSNBC link. You will generally get an immediate response that the story is not to be believed from people on the left who get the Fox link or people on the right who get the MSNBC link even though the content is the identical wire service output. Much effort is invested in “shooting the messenger” so to influence people’s perception of a message.
What we see here is not so much the fact that an attempt to have someone’s PhD withdrawn was made as it taints the minds of those who received that train of messages when it comes to receiving future communications from that source. It is a matter of influencing how information will be weighted in the future. It is a sick and twisted game and it is not limited to academia.

Robert Stevenson

Bearing in mind this a sceptic website or science blog, it seems to me there are a lot of warmists posting on it (not necessarily in the above posts but certainly in many others ). Yet Al Gore who has influence with Google attempts to block it. How many warmists sites are there and why are they so inferior when compared with Wattsupwiththat.

Skiphil

Unbelievably vicious back-stabbing politics from the supposedly noble climate czars….. the usual quotation attributed to Henry Kissinger that “academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low” needs to be recast for the Climategate crew:
[me]: “Climategate politics are so vicious because they imagine the stakes are so high AND their pompous self-righteousness knows no bounds”
If anyone can think of a pithy way of stating this the world will be in your debt.

Skiphil

how about (channeling The Team’s mentality):
“climate politics are so vicious because WE are self-appointed to save the world, right NOW”
Sincerely,
The Team