This is a scathing and revealing comment from another scientist regarding the Marcott et al affair. The context of it all has an odor of hydrogen sulfide about it.
There are a few bad eggs, with the Real Climate mafia being among them, who are exploiting climate science for personal and political gain. Makes the whole effort look bad.
-Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. in a comment (#6) on his blog
The larger posting is also quite interesting where Dr. Pielke suggests that “misconduct” might be an applicable term.
Dr. Pielke writes:
In 1991 the National Research Council proposed what has come to be a widely accepted definition of misconduct in science:
Misconduct in science is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reporting research. Misconduct in science does not include errors of judgment; errors in the recording, selection, or analysis of data; differences in opinions involving the interpretation of data; or misconduct unrelated to the research process.
Arguments over data and methods are the lifeblood of science, and are not instances of misconduct.
However, here I document the gross misrepresentation of the findings of a recent scientific paper via press release which appears to skirt awfully close to crossing the line into research misconduct, as defined by the NRC. I recommend steps to fix this mess, saving face for all involved, and a chance for this small part of the climate community to take a step back toward unambiguous scientific integrity.
The paper I refer to is by Marcott et al. 2013, published recently in Science. A press release issued by the National Science Foundation, which funded the research, explains the core methodology and key conclusion of the paper as follows (emphasis added):
Peter Clark, an OSU paleoclimatologist and co-author of the Science paper, says that many previous temperature reconstructions were regional and not placed in a global context.
“When you just look at one part of the world, temperature history can be affected by regional climate processes like El Niño or monsoon variations,” says Clark.
“But when you combine data from sites around the world, you can average out those regional anomalies and get a clear sense of the Earth’s global temperature history.”
What that history shows, the researchers say, is that during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit–until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F.
The press release clearly explains that the paper (a) combines data from many sites around the world to create a “temperature reconstruction” which gives a “sense of the Earth’s temperature history,” and (b) “that history shows” a cooling over the past 5000 years, until the last 100 years when all of that cooling was reversed.
The conclusions of the press release were faithfully reported by a wide range of media outlets, and below I survey several of them to illustrate that the content of the press release was accurately reflected in media coverage and, at times, amplified by scientists both involved and not involved with the study.
Let me be perfectly clear — I am accusing no one of scientific misconduct. The errors documented here could have been the product of group dynamics, institutional dysfunction, miscommunication, sloppiness or laziness (do note that misconduct can result absent explicit intent). However, what matters most now is how the relevant parties respond to the identification of a clear misrepresentation of a scientific paper by those who should not make such errors.
That response will say a lot about how this small but visible part of the climate community views the importance of scientific integrity.
Read his entire essay here: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2013/03/fixing-marcott-mess-in-climate-science.html
Given this concession in the recent Marcott et al FAQs:
20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.
It seems there is a lot of walkback to do not only for the people who did the study and pushed the press release, but those who reported on it as if that uptick was valid, when clearly if has been demonstrated to be nothing more than an artifact of statistical methods and data manipulations.
It seems a clear case of noble cause corruption by “the team” for “the cause”. Will the NSF do anything about it? I doubt it, as their herd circling has already begun over at Real Climate. Being institutionalized science, they’ll worry more about how to spin it up and down the climate food chain than to come clean about the issue in my opinion.
Perhaps the best way for regular folks like us to counter the damage done is that anytime Marcott et al is mentioned, to always refer to the Marcott et al graph as this version below, along with the quote from their FAQs since the uptick “is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes”:
I have to wonder, given the fact that Marcott’s thesis paper didn’t contain such an uptick, and then after being welcomed into the “climate syndicate” (or as Pielke Jr. calls them, “Real Climate mafia”) with all of the features, upgrades, and connections that membership provides, maybe this is simply a case of them making young Mr. Marcott an offer he couldn’t refuse.