SCIENCE Magazine: Sloppy Reporting

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

 

fuzzy_thinkingI once ran a web site titled the Bad Science Times —  I wrote about bad and poor science and science journalism.  It was the still the heyday of online bulletin boards and web sites were the “new” thing.  I used it as a proving ground for my burgeoning web skills and my writing skills.  It was a major part of my resume when I applied for a position on the premier web team on the planet at the time — the IBM Olympics and Sports Internet Team.

I mention it because bad, sloppy and ill-reported science is still a major interest of mine.  Much of the bad science reporting comes from the hyping, sexing-up, and exaggeration of research findings not by the researchers, but by their academic or institutional media relations departments via Press Releases (the more modern term now being Media Releases) written so as to garner more attention and, hopefully, headlines in mainstream mass media.  I wrote last week about Dissolving Starfish — something that isn’t happening but makes eye-catching headlines — Google lists eight news outlets carrying the story featuring: [you guessed it!] dissolving starfish.

In that essay, I also referenced a recent study that the media claimed said that “coral reefs will dissolve”.  Of course, the study said no such thing.  The original study involved there is “Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century“  and is really about coral sediments shifting to net dissolution as the aragonite saturation state reaches a projected value of 2.92 ± 0.16.

Can we blame this on lazy or gullible media journalists?  Not really — a Media Release from Southern Cross University, where the lead author, Professor Eyre,  teaches, led the charge misrepresenting the research, but the  “coral reefs will dissolve” story was headlined by Science Magazine in this piece:

Ocean acidification is causing coral reefs to dissolve” written by Matt Warren, who is a news intern with Science and is a professional journalist with some experience.

Warren wrote this wildly misleading line in his brief report: “Writing in Science, the researchers predict that with increasing levels of acidification, most coral reefs will be gradually dissolving away by the end of the century.”   Science Magazine is “the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and one of the world’s top academic journals.” (Wiki)   [Opinions vary, of course.]  The coral reefs story was brought to my attention by a highly respected Reef and Oceanic Acidification researcher who pointed out to me how just incorrect the Science story was and how far the false narrative had spread via the media in so short a time.  This researcher told me, via email, “the paper in science last week regarding coral sediments dissolving was reproduced in many media outlets stating “coral reefs will dissolve”, which is completely different to the findings of the paper.”

[NOTE:  Sea water carbonate chemistry, of which aragonite saturation state is only a part, is a complicated and complex topic, see this essay and the nearly endless argument of several chemists on the subject in comments.]

How, one wonders, does an error of such magnitude happen in one of the world’s premier science journals?  They have professional journalists with science backgrounds,  they have trained editors,  many of the original studies they write about are published in their own publication.

A recent example explains this to some degree.

[TRIGGER WARNING:  This Science magazine article unfortunately is somewhat political and deals with the sitting President of the United States, Donald Trump, but is not really about him at all.  I sincerely hope that readers are mature enough to focus on the intended topic of this essay which is Science Journalism.]

Here is a cropped screenshot of the Science Magazine online article:

screenshot

Now, for non-journalist’s, let me point out the salient features:  At the top is the

Masthead” declaring this to be Science magazine (online) with some navigational links;  on the left are the ubiquitous social-media sharing links; the image is  the featured story “art” (in this case, it is difficult to tell if it is a photograph or an artist’s conception, it is not specified — story art could be a drawing, a chart, even a YouTube) with caption.

The bold-faced larger print below the image is the story “headline”.  “A headline’s purpose is to quickly and briefly draw attention to the story.”  The headline in  this case reads:

“Scientists rally to save research laser that Trump has targeted for closure”

The headline is followed by the “byline”:  “By Dan Clery | Mar. 7, 2018 4:00 PM”. As is true of the Science mag web page, Mr. Clery’s name here is linked to his staff page.

I include in the cropped screenshot the story “lede” [pronounced as is its alternate name “lead paragraph” — lede is more traditional.].  The lede is the first sentence or paragraph of a news story and is expected to, and should, summarize the story and/or contain  “the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story”.  In our example case, the lede is:

“Physicists and politicians are rallying to the defense of the Omega laser at the University of Rochester (U of R) in New York, an iconic facility in the search for fusion energy that President Donald Trump has proposed defunding.”

All the text that follows (see the original Science story here) is the body of the story.

The body of the story is a pretty straight forward report about how this federally financed science lab at the University of Rochester has been surprised by the announcement that the Department of Energy’s 2019 Budget Proposal calls for a ramp-down of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), and its associated Omega laser program,  over 3 years.  Of course, the local leaders of the Rochester-based lab are running down to Washington, D.C., lobbying Congressional representatives and Senators to try to bring political pressure to bear and get the labs funding restored to the budget.

So, what is the real story here?

The short form answer is “Federal Budgeting business-as-usual”.  Whenever a local military base or federal laboratory or federally funded research project is scheduled to be shut down, those affected run to their local politicians and federal congressional representatives begging for relief.  And in this case, to the media.

But, what about the Trump connection?

There is no Trump connection.   The decision has been made by Department of Energy bureaucrats and is buried deep inside the publicly available DOE 2019 Budget Proposal documents.  Only two of the four full chapters are openly available to the general public — over 1,000 pages in Chapters 1 and 4 alone. [I suspect that the other two chapters are classified as they deal with atomic energy research.]

I would personally be surprised if the President has ever even heard the words “Omega laser” or “Laboratory for Laser Energetics” — he certainly has not sat down and read the estimated 2,000+ pages of the Department of Energy’s budget proposal.

However, our professional Science journalist at Science Magazine (International) has told us expressly that “…President Donald Trump has proposed defunding” the Omega Laser, in fact, Mr. Clery told us that “…Trump has targeted [it] for closure”.

Dear readers, anyone who has taken a basics civics class in a United States high school knows that the US Federal government  is divided into three branches:  The Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch.  The President is the nominal head of the Executive Branch.  Which branch establishes the Federal Budget?  The Legislative Branch.  Oops….how then can the President have targeted the Omega Laser for closure?

Each of the branches of government have to apply to Congress for funding.  That means that all the Executive Departments have to submit annual budget requests to the Legislature, via the office of the President. This combined budget request covers the fifteen Executive departments which have a employee base of over 4 million people and a dollar amount of almost 4 trillion dollars.

Who writes the budget proposal for the Department of Energy?  Not the President (thankfully…).   The Office of Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Energy compiles the document; bureaucrats big and small, all up and down the command chain, make all the decisions.  Somewhere in that vast byzantine structure, the following decision was made (I beg your indulgence…):

“The Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield program will transition from NNSA operations at three major high energy density facilities to two – National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), Z Pulsed Power facility at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). As part of rebalancing the ICF Program to strengthen long-term support for Stockpile Stewardship Program efforts, as well as responding to higher NNSA priorities, the FY 2019 Request initiates a three-year ramp-down in NNSA’s financial commitment to the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, including the Omega Laser Facility, resulting in the cessation of the financial assistance agreement.

See Pgs 57,58 here.

What has happened down here is that the Department of Energy, who funds this laboratory and the Omega Laser Facility, has simply decided that three major high energy densities facilities was one too many and is phasing out one of them.  It is unfortunate for the lab that is to lose its financing.

But, what about the Trump connection?

There is no Trump connection.  In fact, because there is no Trump connection, I emailed Dan Clery and asked him specifically:

Is it actually true that the President, Donald Trump, has personally targeted the Omega laser for closure?

If so, can you supply a reference for that — a speech or tweet or something?

Or are you just reporting that the DOE, in its proposed 2019 budget, included the cut backs?

Mr. Clery wrote back:

“Saying that Trump has proposed its closure is just a shorthand way of saying that it is included in the President’s budget request. I don’t know if he personally targeted Omega to be closed, but the budget request is an expression of his desires for federal spending so it’s safe to say he has requested the closure of Omega.”

In other words, Mr. Clery has no idea at all, and no reason to believe, that President Trump ever even knew that this funding change was made in the DOE budget proposal.  Despite this,  Clery has stated explicitly, twice, in the story headline and in the lede, that “that President Donald Trump has proposed defunding” the Omega Laser Facility and “Trump has targeted [it] for closure”.  Neither of which is true — at all.

The simple truth is that the wind-down of the lab “is included in the President’s budget request” — even that is overstating the President’s involvement — he has merely passed on to Congress the Budget Proposal that his office has received from the Department of Energy, along with the budget requests from all 15 of other Executive departments of the federal government.

Clery “doubles down” in his email response with this: “the budget request is an expression of his [Trump’s] desires for federal spending so it’s safe to say he [Trump] has requested the closure of Omega.”

I hate to have to say it so bluntly — this is the worst sort of journalism I have seen in a long time — but sadly not all that uncommon in the current era of unscientific science. If the original article had appeared on some trashy political blog then I would have no real objection — after all, that is what passes for logic and cause-and-effect attribution in the “Bizzarro World of US Politics Today”.

But this article appears under the masthead of Science magazine — “one of the world’s top academic journals” — and the main thrust, the “the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story” is categorically false, a total misrepresentation of the most basic of all scientific attributes:  CAUSE.

Journalism has five Ws:  Who – What – When – Where – Why.

The Dan Clery Science piece badly fails even high school journalistic standards:

  1. It misidentifies the WHO as President Trump instead of the decision makers inside the Department of Energy.
  2. It does not properly identify WHAT. It mentions the three-year wind-down of the Omega Laser facility but does not mention that it is the result of a planned  consolidation of the research efforts of three existing major high energy density facilities into two.
  3. It does not identify the true WHY – it infers personal animas or personal intention on the part of President Trump when in fact it is a pragmatic decision from within the Department of Energy based on need and direction of research efforts.

Dan Clery’s response to my query exposes the apparent disregard for the actual facts of the matter — I had hoped that he would tell me that his editors had written the headline and had supplied or modified the lede, but they did not.   I find it very hard to believe that a professional journalist of Clery’s long experience could be ignorant of the magnitude of national budgeting processes.

Full discosure:  I found Clery’s response so nonsensical that I was embarrassed [on a professional level] on his behalf.  So embarrassed that I emailed him again, journalist to journalist, on the off-chance that he had provided a flip or brush-off reply, notified him that I would be writing this piece, and offered him the chance to supply a new, more carefully considered, answer that would allow me to ignore his first answer.  He has not replied to that email.

It is difficult to state how offensive I find this situation (without ranting on and on]  — if a researcher had misrepresented her experimental findings with a disregard for reality on the same level found in Clery’s report on the Omega Laser Facility, she would be guilty of egregious scientific misconduct.  In this case, were it in my hands, I would report Clery to Science’s review board on a charge of journalistic misconduct — luckily, for Clery, I would not be on that board.  The editors at Science magazine must either be asleep at the switch or complicit in misconduct.

I started out with examples of reporting about scientific studies, and asked:

“How, one wonders, does an error of such magnitude happen in one of the world’s premier science journals?”

From my experience with Dan Clery and his piece, it appears that regard for truth and accuracy is sadly mostly absent at Science magazine — both with their journalists and their editors.

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Author’s Comment Policy:

I know I have hit a public Hot Topic Button by mentioning even just the name Trump.  I ask readers to disregard the Trump-ness of the essay — pretend it is just some President of the US — and concentrate on the violation of journalistic standards in a premier science journal.

I have been a radio journalist — and I assure you, even in the wild days of the late-1960s, my News Director would have pulled my entire show in a minute had I done any report as intellectually sloppy as the Omega Laser report in Science.

Even having finished writing this, I still cannot fathom the mindset that would allow a professional science writer/journalist to commit this sort of illogical, seemingly intentional, misrepresentation or how his editors could allow it be published.

I will have to admit, it really is worse than we thought.

[Title image “modified from original at https://www.flaticon.com”%5D

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93 thoughts on “SCIENCE Magazine: Sloppy Reporting

  1. Well how can you expect journalists to be logical and rational and honest when we don’t hold our Atmospheric scientists to that standard To wit :

    Here are my criticisms of David Battisti, Etienne Tetreault-Pinard, and M.B.Baker’s “scientific paper” called “Impacts of Surface Moisture on Surface Temperature Variability. Submitted, J. Climate, Dec.2015″ Dr. Battisti is one of the top 10 global warming hoaxters.

    In the criticism below and the paper ‘ refers to delta or change in the variable.

    1) Both in the abstract and paper, Battisti and the other 2 authors say
    ” A striking finding is that globally, all land areas belong to one of two
    regimes, defined by the role of surface moisture on temperature variability. In
    ’dry’ regions variations in moisture enhance the impacts of forcing anomalies
    on temperature, whereas in ’wet’ regions, surface moisture variations, acting
    by a somewhat different mechanism, damp the temperature fluctuations.”

    This statement is unbelievable in every way. Figure 7 talks about a green contour line which essentially divides the land areas into 2 types. So basically it turns out that their Wet type is where the soil moisture is greater than the global average and the dry area is less than the global average. However in Appendix B they apply different formulas to each area. So in effect they are creating 2 types of land areas. This is further verified by their statement on page 27 “In summary, the summertime temperature variability in the late 20th century simulated by the HadGEM1 model is much greater than that observed in both central US and eastern Europe. In both regions, the excessive variability is primarily due to errors in the coefficients λ and χ and not in the modeled forcings. In other words, the excess variability is due to the model erroneously representing these regions as land-amplified rather than land-damped. ”

    Climate scientists love it when they only have to consider 2 outcomes of a variable, but this is not reality. Almost lost in a tiny footnote on page 14 is the following “It is somewhat surprising that the critical value of ¯m that divides the two evapotranspiration regimes is very close to the global mean moisture, m¯ global, and it is not clear if this coincidence is simply a function of the GCM parameterizations.”

    I had a good laugh at that one.

    2) Battisti and the other 2 authors have it right when they say that surface temperature variability depends on turbulent heat flux. However he puts together variables and coefficients into equations as if he invented the term heat flux. If he had checked the literature he would have seen that there are no set of equations that can accurately describe heat flux. There are only approximations. At present noone has proved any equations relating Reynolds numbers to turbulence. The Renolds number has a mathematical definition. It is the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces. Dr. Richard Feynmann described turbulence as the most important unsolved problem of classical physics. For Battisti and the other 2 authors to use the word “turbulent” in his study as in his words “turbulent heat flux” is an insult to all the greatest physicists of the ages. Furthermore Not one of Battisti and the other 2 authors’s references were to any general or even specific textbook or paper on heat transfer. They all referenced other climate model studies. For those interested I refer you to the bible “Radiative Heat Transfer” by Dr. Michael F. Modest

    3)The title of the paper should have read ” Survey and computer simulation analysis of climate model variability on the impacts of soil moisture on summertime land surface temperature variability” If you compare this corrected title to what Battisti and the other 2 authors actually ended up naming it you can see how fraudulent this paper really was.
    4) The abstract says that heat flux is a function of surface moisture and this is oberved both in observations and models. Yet the body of report says this is true only in GCMs(General circulation computer models).
    5) line 89 the word “large” should be replaced with “small”
    6) The abstract quotes “Although temperature variance is generally somewhat under predicted by our model” This makes it seem as if he is referring to reality when in fact their model is underpredicting other models. I have come to the realization that climate scientist PhDs sometimes get so lost in their computer simulations that they forget that there is a real world out there.
    7) All through the report Battisti and the other 2 authors refers to ERA40 reanalysis data as if it represents real world soil moisture samples. they say on page 14 “we use soil moisture from ERA reanalysis as a stand-in for the observed soil moisture on a global
    scale because the latter product does not exist.” So they are basically using calculated data from a computer simulation that uses satellite data to calculate soil moisture. I will quote the ERA web site limitations A) Tropical moisture larger than observed from 1991 onwards B)precipitation greatly exceeds evaporation C) Spurious arctic temperature trends. Nowhere does Battisti and the other 2 authors mention these caveats.

    8) The last sentence of abstract says “where warming causes a climatological shift from the moist regime to the dry regime.” Common AGW theory says that increased temperatures will cause water vapour forcing. How that would cause a climatological shift from a moist regime to a dry regime can only be found on Hercules’ bare bottom.

    9) page 6 of the report says that the physical parameters controlling summertime surface temperature variability are not well understood. So how is a computer simulation (that Battisti and the other 2 authors calls his “toy model” that is then compared to other computer simulations) going to improve our understanding?

    10) Equation 6 on page 12 states that heat flux into ground from surface is linear where the coefficient is always positive. However the general standard model of AGM is Heat anomaly = (@ * Temp diff) + IR forcing However Heat anomaly in this equation is fictititious and isnt 0 if the system is not in equilbrium. Therefore If in equilbrium -@ * Temp diff = IR forcing Clearly the coefficient is negative in Standard model and positive in GCM usage. So I guess that the computers to be able to calculate anything have to disagree with the standard model of AGM. Sometimes I get the idea that I am reviewing PhD work from “Alice in Wonderland”

    11) page 7 The 3rd sentence “An
    unexpected and somewhat puzzling finding in our study is that (at least in the world of GCMs) on
    monthly time scales surface moisture fluctuations also have a significant impact on sensible heat
    fluxes, which also modifies temperature variability.”

    Every scientific report should have a hypothesis to which the scientist is carrying out experiments to try to prove the null hypothesis.The sentence
    above is a finding which should be the basis of another scientific study. It should not be included as part of this report’s hypothesis. It seems climate scientists dont even know what the scientific method is all about.

    12) on page 7 the hypothesis should include the word “summer”. The text also crudely defines summer as 3 specific calendar months in Northern hemisphere and 3 others in Southern hemisphere. However in figure 16 they present 5 months as summer in the Northern hemisphere.

    13) All the variable letters and subscripts should be in 1 easy to reference table. The table that is given lists only 7.
    14) Only 15 references are given
    15) The members of the peer review committee are not stated
    16) page 8 The authors mention that they should use the 10cm sil temperature but instead they use the 2 metre air temperature because of ability to compare the results with University of Delaware observations. However they do not compare the error factor that will result from this.

    17) The report often talks of parameterizations. However true parameterizations consist of fitting a curve of an independent variable to a dependent variable variable by connecting data points that represent real world sample data. This report only fits curves to computer produced data points.
    18) Figures 13 and 14 are confusing as to what the fit really is for the “toy” model vs the other GCMs.
    19) LE is defined on page 10 as latent heat yet on page 33 it is split up into latent heat flux and evapotranspiration and on page 9, L is defined as the latent heat of evaporation and E is net flux of vapour to the atmosphere. on this same page 9 in equation 1 , LE is a latent heat flux but how can it be both heat flux and a water vapour amount?

    20) On page 11 the authors say “First, we note that the quantities F’ and P’ are not independent, because both are modified by
    thick (precipitating) clouds. To roughly represent this effect, we let F’ = F0′ −LαP’ (equation 5)
    which defines F0′ , the downward radiative flux anomaly when there are no rain clouds in the sky. LαP is the precipatating radiative forcing.”

    they do not express any error factor for making this assumption. Also how is the latent heat of condensation or evaporation (they are equal) and the amount of precipitation directly going to subtract from the non forcing precipitatation? Battisti always use the neat trick of using coefficients expressed in such a way so that he can add or subtract variables that have different units of measure. However in equation 5 he states” The coefficient α is dimensionless.” Even if all the above made sense, scientists do not pull an equation out of the air (no pun intended); they observe data and graph the data against a dependent variable to parameterize related variables.
    21) on page 11 they say “The coefficient α is dimensionless and in general (with
    the exception of a few very dry areas) positive and is found by the orthogonal projection method
    (see Appendix A)”

    There is no derivation of α in appendix A.

    22) On page 11 they state “In this section, we parameterize the fluxes in Eqs. (3) and (4) as linear functions of the variables T’ and m’.”

    I suppose that since they refer to this model as a “toy” model which is then compared to 4 other GCMs , it doesnt really matter how many assumptions they make EXCEPT for the fact that this is supposed to be a real scientific study of the impacts of surface temperature variability.

    23) On page 12 they explain away the below ground heat flux G’ because they say it makes only a small contribution to T’. However they state that no computer model yet explains more than 50% of the variance of G’.
    24) On page 13 they state “The longwave radiation out of the surface layer is represented by F↑’= γlw T

    where γlw [W m2K−1] measures the thermal ’resistance’ or inverse sensitivity of the soil temperature
    to a radiative flux anomaly.In the simplest case, γlw is the Planck function 4πσP(T cubed).” ?????????????????????????????

    I think Battisti should retake a course in Radiative Heat Transfer.

    25. On page 14 they say “However, the somewhat surprising result that Hs(sensible heat flux) is highly (negatively) correlated with soil moisture holds everywhere in both models and in the ERA reanalysis data.”

    This one sentence gives the whole report away and by their own words shows that the report is a fraud. Battisti knew very well what the GCM’s said about that before he had even thought of turning his attention to the subject matter of this report. Battisti is the chair of the Atmospheric Science faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle and the faculty runs a GCM on a supercomputer. He also has a very good understanding of how the other 100 or more GCMs model the climate. This whole report basically was a development of a simple model to accomplish the goal of the title of the report. All this report is doing is to confirm the model against 4 other models. So how could the result be surprising?

    They also state on page 31 “As mentioned earlier (Eq (10)) both GCMs and the reanalyses reveal strong negative correlations
    between monthly anomalies in surface moisture and in sensible heat flux in all locations, but we
    do not completely understand the physical processes responsible for this effect.” They should have studied that effect before doing this study.

    26) On page 17 they say “As emphasized above, our model (Eqs. 3 and 4) is a diagnostic one, so that parsing cause and effect is not possible.”

    Then I guess the Null hypothesis has to be the conclusion. No. Battisti and all of climate science do not use the null hypothesis method of science. Why do a study if you knew beforehand that you couldnt determine cause and effect?

    27) On page 31 they state “Thus we predict that as the planet warms, temperature variability is likely to increase most strongly in those regions that shift from energy limited to moisture limited regimes, even if there is no change in stochastic forcing.”
    Their use of energy limited actually means a region that is wet.
    If there is no change in forcing why would a region shift from wet to dry ? Even if there was an increase in radiative forcing why would regions become dryer? The whole AGW nonsense is implicit here.

    • all good points and the good question is why did the reviewers miss them or where they not ‘looking’ in the first place as they where to busy starching backs?

    • Alan ==> It might have more appropriate to submit such a long [off-topic] comment as a proposed free-standing essay. There is a Submit Story link in the masthead.

      • I will next time but I cant figure out how Anthony decides which posts are allowed as separate topics and by whom.

      • Alan ==> Start with the Submit Story link.. It gives GUIDELINES FOR SUBMITTING A STORY TO WUWT. The bottom of that page has a Submit Your Story button which leads to a Compose Your Story page, with a form for short submissions and a link for sending .docx Word documents.

        As to what Anthony decides should be published — you best guide is what is already being published. Read a few months worth of posts and get a feel for what is published here — those are the kinds of things he wants. This is the same for any writer’s outlet — you study up on what they accept and publish, then tailor your work to fit their general thing. Anthony doesn’t “allow” as much as “accepts for publication”.
        Good luck.

  2. Clery should have said, “the Trump administration has proposed …” That’s standard terminology. It doesn’t insinuate the president’s personal involvement in micromanaging items in the budget.

    • Yes, it does. “Trump administration” implies a body of people appointed or hired by Trump to run things, and in fact implies that Trump himself is responsible.

      To be objective and neutral, it should reference the controlling board or entity, and that’s all. “Trump administration” implies the reason is further up the food chain and that Trump himself might be responsible. Otherwise there is no reason to even mention the name.

      • Sorry but you’re wrong. The Trump Administration merely identifies the federal government. This is standard journalism practice.

      • Jim ==> Using terms such as “the Obama administration” or “the current administration” are “short-hand” to identify the political part of the government current in power, specifically in the Executive Branch [not normally including the Legislative or Judicial Branches, not considered “administration”].
        It is very seldom appropriately used — as there is almost always a better choice such as a nameable individual, a department, an agency, etc.

      • ““Trump administration” implies a body of people appointed or hired by Trump to run things, …”

        Correct—and that’s why it is standard terminology.

        “… and in fact implies that Trump himself is responsible. To be objective and neutral, it should reference the controlling board or entity, and that’s all.”

        But “the controlling board or entity” did not appoint itself. Some of these entities were appointed by civil servants internally. Others were appointed, in whole or in part, externally, by the current administration or one or more prior administrations. In the case of a budget-writing entity, it was, I assume, staffed largely or entirely by the administration, and perhaps in part (via suggestions to the administration) by members of the administration’s party in congress. They were thus “appointed or hired by Trump to run things, …” They were chosen on the basis that they were in agreement with Trump’s general goals and would defer to whatever specific tweaks he passed down to them in the course of their employment.

        Of course, not every decision administration-appointed make is personally approved by the president, and sometimes they make choices at variance with his wishes. If they do that enough they get rebuked, or overruled, or dismissed, as the Secretary of State was the other day. But usually, in the case of a budget proposal, important members of the pressident’s staff review it before it is announced and debate it among themselves. During this, the president is kept informed of the highlights of whts in it and of any potentially contentious parts of it—that’s standard procedure. Something like the closure discussed in the head post would have been significant enough that staff members would have been aware of it and consciously accepted it. It may even have been their own suggestion to the budget-writers in the first place.

        It is therefore reasonable to attribute closures like this to “the xxxxx administration,” because that’s what made the decision—not the budget-writing clerks at a lower level. If it suggests the possibility that the president himself was specifically responsible, it ia not reaching—it is in fact likely that he was aware of it and didn’t object to it, and it is not unlikely that he DID specifically OK it, even if he didn’t make the initial suggestion. He is certainly generally responsible for it. The buck stops with him, after all.

      • Roger ==> It took me about an hour, searching through the DOE budget to find the portions that dealt with Omega and the justification for ramping it down. The details are buried in a 620-page document.
        If Trump did any more than skim the FY2019 Budget Fact Sheet or FY2019 Budget in Brief (here) it would truly be extraordinary. More likely, he was verbally briefed by the Secretary of Energy.

      • Oops—big oops—I was wrong to claim that the budget was written mostly by Trump appointees. It was mostly a congressional product, with input from the Trump administration. I should have re-read the head post instead of just scanning it.

      • Roger ==> The departmental proposed budgets are written by federal career employees within each department. Congress reviews and fiddles sometimes with details, sends bits and pieces back for changes, etc. Congress finally has to approve a massively confused mess which eventually gets sorted out somewhere in the swamp by denizens of budgetary madness.

      • “Trump”, or “Trump administration” is a bit like using the name of the capital. “Washington …”. Lazy and inaccurate, but extremely common usage.

        And yes, “extremely common” does have a second meaning, which I did intend.

    • On “Trump Administration” ==> In practice, the DOE Budget is prepared by professional federal employees, DOE bureaucrats, none of whom are political appointees. Decisions on these small projects are made way down in the guts of the DOE by men and women who have held their jobs through many administrations.
      The most correct statement would have been something along the lines of “the DOE’s budget proposal for 2019 included the 3-year ramp-down of……”

      • And the DoE budget request doesn’t go to Congress – it goes to the Office of Management and Budget, which compiles the entire budget and sends that to Congress. Sure, budget folks in DoE are in touch with budget folks in the appropriate committees, but the submittal is through OMB, after they have “balanced” the individual agency budgets against administration goals.

  3. Excellent work, Kip. I’ve sent a link to this article to the email address of all 29 Editors at Science magazine … plus the advertising department. Here’s my email to them:

    Dear friends, you likely don’t realize it, but you are allowing your once-respected journal to be used for a crass partisan political tirade … and you haven’t even gotten the facts straight.

    In the process, your misrepresentations are angering approximately half of your US readership, which won’t do either your advertising or your circulation any good.

    Is this the kind of shabby reporting you really want to be known for???

    In friendship and with hopes of improved science journalism,

    w.

    We’ll see how it flies … the amazing thing about the web is that even one person can exert a lot of leverage.

    w.

    • Bravo, but this is about politics, not science. The decision was made a long time ago to liquidate journal reputations for advances in the Warmist/Socialist cause. The Lysenkoist fix is in.

      • Thanks, Jorge, but my motto has always been that it’s better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness … and while they may not care about their reputations, they do care about their advertising revenue.

        w.

      • Willis,

        Yes they care about their advertising revenue. So is it more profitable to be a warmist or not?

        I once wrote for an Electronics magazine and they asked for an article on the wonders of the smart grid. I wrote about the dangers. They wanted to sell advertising to smart grid proponents. That ended my association with them.

        Don’t assume that the profit motive is always helpful. The world is full of crooks.

      • Willis I applaud your efforts but my question is what IS the circulation of Science Magazine and what percentage of those subscriptions are paid with Government and University budgets? Read – faith based Alarmist congregants. Ergo, what percentage of the ad dollars (based upon subscription strength) can be attributed to Jorge’s aforementioned Lysenkoist’s. I fear Jorge is right. The fix is in and only complete economic collapse with turn us back from this centralized government plot.

      • Bill Powers ==> Science magazine has a circulation of 129,559 worldwide print subscribers, many of whom are libraries and universities, whose copies reach more than one individual. It is unusual to find a Public Library in America that does not subscribe, or a University or College library — even High Schools. Its reach is not just to AGW Alarmists — but has deep penetration to all sectors of society interested in Science topics.
        That’s why its failure to follow the foundational principles of science in its journalism have offended me so strongly.

    • …We’ll see how it flies … the amazing thing about the web is that even one person can exert a lot of leverage….

      I suspect that your link might receive more interest and attention if you had sent it to the editors of competitor magazines? As you know, every human has a natural tendency to batten down the hatches and defend or ignore any criticism of themselves, or their organisation – but a natural tendency to believe the worst of competitors or opponents.

      I wonder if it would be much more effective for the editors of Science to first hear this story being passed around by Quanta or Discover journalists at the coffee shop……

    • Ah, Willis, that’s a fine letter, but then you commit the ultimate grammar crime of using a preposition to end a sentence with; the phrase should have been, “Is this the kind of shabby reporting for which you want to be known?”

      That is just the sort of writing that Winston Churchill up with which would not have put!

      • Very silly. Just ask yourself where exactly such a “rule” could have cone from? It is utterly made up by a few frauds producing “how to speak posh” for the aspiring middle classes a few centuries, often based on wholly irrelevant Latin rules.

      • Back in my undergraduate days (a long time ago) one of my history professor’s used to assign Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” as required reading for every single one of his classes. It would greatly benefit the populace for this to be required reading in the public schools. Unfortunately, given that Orwell is a dead white guy, this is but merest fantasy.

      • James ==> Always good to see that there are some careful readers in the mix. Grammatically correctness is a virtue for those who can get away with it….

      • There’s no such rule. Shakespeare said: “To die, to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks
        that flesh is heir to.” Or, as the little boy said to the baby sitter, “What did you bring that book I don’t like to be read to out of up for?”

    • Really, really good work. Sadly I think TDS is so strong they don’t like to have Trump supporters in readers or advertisers. The misleading lede is these days so common is just disregard them as fake news in any occasion there’s no detailed content in the story supporting the lead paragraph. Ingress, is that not the same thing?

      • typo induced by home affairs… *I* just generally disregard any dubious statements in ledes. They’re so commonly BS that I never trust them alone. Yes, misconduct, no doubt.

      • Hugs ==> In proper journalism, the lede is the thing that allowed people like me to buy the Los Angeles or New York Times hardcopy [paper] every day, and read it through in 1/2 hour or so, depending on how many stories I read beyond the lede. The lede should have summarized the story for me – often all I need or wanted to know [Example: There was a hotel fire in Pasadena, four people were killed, suspect arson.] One could absorb the basic information from a hundred stories in a short time, and mentally mark stories to come back to later for an in depth read.
        Very hard to do with the online newspapers.

      • Yes. Many of them often appear to think that their views represent the large majority, even when they don’t.
        Having said that, I suspect the majority of Science readers are not Trump supporters, though I wouldn’t care to guess at the exact numbers. So they probably don’t worry too much about the advertisers either, at least until subscriptions fall significantly. Even then, they probably would never acknowledge the true cause if involved TDS.

      • I think the ledes can often be understood as clickbaits, or just baits. I’m cynical I know, and proper journalists don’t mislead. However, the two common types of misleading are willful misrepresentation with a fig-leaf backing, and friendly bias which causes unwillingness to fact-check and increases gullibility. Telling plain untruths (invented untrue facts) is uncommon, but the mentioned two types appear already above.

        Yellow press uses fig-leafs. The Guardian drops into friendly bias. Both appear randomly in all mainstream medias, but friendly bias is running amok in some political topics, let it be Marine Le Pen, Global Warming, – mitigation, POTUS, you name it. They’re plentiful.

      • “I include in the cropped screenshot the story “lede” [pronounced as is its alternate name “lead paragraph” — lede is more traditional.].”

        Huh. I only started seeing “lede” in the last 15 years. My best friend all through K-16 had been a journalism major & become a newspaper editor. Maybe it is like software development, in which there are multiple “schools” with conflicting notions of “best practices”, and this “lede” notion is held by some “schools” but not others.

    • Good for you Willis. But if you want to see once thought honest reporters fly off the rails of common sense find some way to watch CNN International. I at first tried to send them messages but nothing was acknowledged, so now I just shout at the TV (it’s OK, I don’t wait for, nor do I expect, a reply). Why don’t I just change the channel? Because the only other english language channel available is the BBC.

      • “so now I just shout at the TV”

        That’s what I used to do before Fox News Channel came along. :)

        But it sounds like you have some poor choices. :(

    • Willis…

      Probably not exactly the version you were thinking when you quoted [a quick Google search here…] William L. Watkinson, but couldn’t help sharing this…brought to you by Finland’s finest: https://binged.it/2pbIgUQ

      rip

    • No matter the political bent, did the article clearly state there are two other labs doing the same (similar) work? If not, Science is peddling propaganda.

      • Dave ==> Clery’s article is linked — but no, the Science piece doesn’t give the DOE justification for the defunding of the U of Rochester lab and laser.

      • Thanks, Kip. You have the patience of a saint.

        I did read the article, but thought an observation couched as a question would elicit more thought by the denizens.

        Omission is still conscious deception. Staying alert is mandatory, especially in a fake news world. It is sad that once respected science associations are increasingly run by political ideologues.

  4. Trump has become the lazy Leftist journalist’s “Boogie man from the Black Lagoon” to scare people. This will end badly.

  5. 1 – Journalists need money.
    2 – You get money if you follow the crowd – losely defined as your peer group and colleagues.
    3 – More importantly, if you DON’T follow the crowd, you lose money. And your job. Ask Philippe Verdier….

    QED

    (It’s all in Charlie Mackay’s excellent book: ‘Extrordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’.)

    • Journalists get money if they can attract readers. They lose readers if they confuse and bore them. Click bait, sensational headlines attract readers.

      One of my favorite examples is the dark chocolate ‘hoax’. link It was an actual study. It was properly published. The results of the study were accurately reported. The data wasn’t massaged or changed or adjusted in any way.

      Part of the story is that, if you look at enough factors, with a small enough sample size, you will get significant looking results. The big deal, however, is how the media jumped all over the study. “Dark Chocolate is Good for You”. The story was everywhere.

      Which do you think will get more clicks: “Dark Chocolate is Good for You” or “Scientific Study is Statistically Flawed”?

      The behaviour of journalists is entirely predictable. It’s not because they are evil … unless you think that wanting to feed your kids is evil.

      • Yeah, the incentives just seems to be wrong in journalism. It’s not their job to be objective and careful. Their job is to attract readers, which brings money and which allows the journalists to get paid and produce more content. That’s why it’s good to be always skeptical about journalists. Too many people seem to just blindly believe what they say.

      • The general rule for getting attention to your article is 3-30-3. If you can grab a reader’s interest in 3 seconds they will give you an additional 30 seconds of reading and if you can keep their attention that long they will give you 3 more minutes of attention . So the purpose of the headline, whether it is accurate or not, is to get the reader to the 30 second mark and then use that, whether wholly accurate or not, to get them for the full 3 minutes.

      • Tom ==> I usually include the lede in the first 3 seconds….but opinions vary. Some editors include the art as part of the hook along with the lede.

  6. My AAAS membership will lapse in April. Science mag has gone the way of Nat Geo and Scientific American. Taken over by Liberals with a political agenda.

    I really enjoy many of the biological science articles (my trained area), the hard physics articles, the cosmology/astronomy articles in Science Mag. I think the Editorial staff that handles those submission are still honest and work very hard to ensure comply with all the editorial standards. But they have veered hard Left into the junk science of social sciences, of climate activism in the last decade. Sad.

    The Editorial staff that handles Climate Change manuscript submissions are completely dis-honest. They do not require authors to ensure data and analysis code to be provided. Science Mag allows shoddy, pal reviews ever since Marcia McNutt was Senior Editor. She is gone, but still Science Mag and AAAS senior staff are politically corrupt in allowing junk climate science to pollute Science.

    • ” Taken over by Liberals with a political agenda.”

      I think that explains the inclusion of Trump in the headline.

  7. say it, mr kip!
    truth in the raw can get around the world before emperor clery can find his new clothes.

  8. This would appear to be an issue with the American system of government and in particular the
    three branches of government. Technically Congress is responsible for the budget so it technically
    wrong to say that it is Trump’s budget. On the other hand if Trump demanded a X% budget cut for
    each department and the department followed through on this by deciding to cut the Omega laser
    then is it correct to say that it is Trump’s budget cut or the departments?

    • Germonio ==> If you can stomach it, look at the DOE budget links — you’ll see that the budgets for the DOE activities involved, both Weapons and Science (the two that contain funds for Omega) were increased in the budget — the ramp-down of Omega is not a result of budget cutting — DOE says it is “part of rebalancing the ICF Program to strengthen long-term support for Stockpile Stewardship Program efforts, as well as responding to higher NNSA priorities” (whatever that means…).

      • ” If you can stomach it, look at the DOE budget links — you’ll see that the budgets for the DOE activities involved, both Weapons and Science (the two that contain funds for Omega) were increased in the budget — the ramp-down of Omega is not a result of budget cutting”

        One would think this pertinent information would have been included in the Science article. I couldn’t find the link (404) to the article so I don’t know, but I tend to doubt it since it would go against the political narrative of the headline. I would love to be wrong. Does this information show up in the article, Kip?

      • TA ==> There was a broken link – now fixed. The link on the story screenshot would have taken you to the story as well.

        Thanks for reporting the broken link.

        And, no, the information on the budget increases does not appear in the Science article.

      • Kip,

        You’re probably aware of this, but to offer a tiny clarification here, the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for providing all nuclear-related materials (U and Pu) to DOD) is organizationally part of the DOE, but tends to function independently. It’s been known for the last year that Trump wanted to increase NNSA’s budget, but cut DOE’s overall one.

        Additionally, NNSA has published general calls to industry to help provide…uh…”material” that they find themselves running out of. (Looks like they’re referring to it as Stockpile Stewardship Program.) Frankly, and if I’m reading this and the budget docs correctly, it’s good to see them get the “love” they’ve been screaming for.

        So, shutting down one of three lasers, along with the various other DOE and NatLab programs that have been trimmed, is simply a reflection the necessity to focus limited resources on critical needs. This is definitely at the behest of the chief executive, and is one the good things that the Trump administration has done. I should think we would commend him for it. (Rather than trying to distance Trump from this, I’d say let him own it.)

        But, I understand your point above, and fully agree. Lazy, sloppy, and inexcusable journalism on the part of Science. Just truly horrible.

        So much for the glory of Rome.

        rip

      • Rip ==> Interesting information — as you know, asking DOE to cut wasteful/ineffective spending in general, and even asking them to focus more on the NNSA’s needs, is not the same as micro-managing the DOE budget to the project or lab level.

      • Kip,

        Exactly! Just silliness of the highest order. And to the point made above (by you, or someone), we’d expect this from blatantly partisan outlets, but not serious science journals. “Pathetic” is not strong enough to describe this.

        All the best.

        rip

  9. Climate ‘science’ lives and dies not by its academic validity but by its ‘impact ‘ in the press , so in this area can you easily say although the university and a lazy journalists do play a part , the academic themselves are fully away what it takes to ‘get on ‘ in their area and are more than willing to feed BS process if not create it all by themselves with paper titles which give them ‘impact ‘ and very mind what the data says.

    • knr ==> You may be right about some journal paper titles. The coral reefs paper title is an example: “Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century“. The study actually is about coral reef sediments dissolving — I suspect that someone other than the researchers wrote the final title — which is itself misleading.

    • Ok so it’s a thing and easy to work out .

      3. We then use the N iterations above to estimate Expected Unserved Energy (EUE) as follows:
      ─ EUE = 1 ∑𝑁 𝑈𝑛𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝐸𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑦 𝑁 𝑖=1 𝑖
      4. We next calculate EUE as a percentage of annual demand.
      5. If the percentage in Step 4 is less than or equal to 0.002% then we stop – the Reserve
      Capacity Target will be set by the first component of the Planning Criterion (MR 4.5.9(a)). Note it is highly likely that the Reserve Capacity Target will be set by the first component of the Planning Criterion as it has in the past. This trend is likely to continue as the load factor appears to be reducing over time (with increased summer air conditioning) and plant availability is improving.
      6. If the percentage is greater than 0.002%, then:
      ─ We incrementally increase the reserve capacity (over and above the forecast peak
      quantity determined by MR 4.5.9(a)) and
      ─ Repeat steps 1 to 6 until the percentage in Step 4 is less than or equal to 0.002%.

  10. Let’s be blunt. This is a lie designed to reinforce the claims that Trump is anti-science. It is a lie because Trump did not target this facility and it is a lie because there are other similar facilities that will be funded – note the story does not mention that.

    This is as good an example of fake news as you can get,

  11. Bad science is one thing , corrupt science takes it to a new level. Never thought I’d see the day.

    • The excesses of the RESIST movement will hasten the day when politicized science is recognized and countered by honest people. Get the U.S. out of the UN climate hustle.

  12. The decision to defund this laser program might have gone as high as Rick Perry, the appointed head of the Department of Energy, but I seriously doubt it. I agree, this was seriously sloppy reporting.

  13. Don’t forget “ocean acidification,” whereby the lefty press used scary headlines to convince people that the oceans were becoming an acid bath (driven by more “carbon” in the atmosphere); whereas the reality was that the oceans were becoming slightly less alkali.

  14. “… or complicit in misconduct.”

    No doubt about it. The sorry mixing of ‘progressive’ politics and science in Science has been evident for a long time.

  15. Yes, when you peel back the layer of dishonest science journalism you see there is more stink underneath… the “science” itself.

    Andrew

  16. “Not the President (thankfully…). ”

    Umm, irony alert, you are using Trump in the same way you denounce.
    But, despite your hypocrisy, the article is still good.

    • Bob ==> The worst possible scenario is for any sitting President to become involved in the details of departmental budgeting, particular in these very esoteric science areas. Previous Presidents have involved themselves in such things as the budgeting for specific weapons systems or federal projects such as Yucca Mountain — causing terrific confusion and the waste of millions of tax dollars as projects are cut after huge outlays have already been invested or cut-then-restored.

  17. Kip, for another stark example concerning the theme of this article, see my guest post Totten Glacier over at Climate Etc. And essay Burning Nonscience in my ebook Blowing Smoke.

  18. I knew it was that bad all along. We’ve been heading this way for 40 years. The insane (literally) reaction to our last election was proof enough that we have arrived. People emote and are not very bright. We are heading for another Dark Ages (and not the rewritten version thereof that I find on line) and I see no way to stop it. Read the comment sections on various websites. There’s a huge amount of willful ignorance out there and it’s celebrated.

  19. another great guest essay kip. this does need continual highlighting , for me it is a deliberate tactic used in many spheres, particularly climate science journalism. i note someone mentioned the 3 30 3 rule. i strongly suspect many journalists in certain topics are only focused on the first 3 to get their particular message across. they don’t really want people digging into the bones of the piece.

    the reason why is perfectly evidenced by this very essay here at wuwt. keep up the good fight ,it is a pleasure to come here and read your work.

    • bitchilly ==> “i strongly suspect many journalists in certain topics are only focused on the first 3 to get their particular message across.”
      Nah….journalists, even me, want people to read their stuff — even their boring, didn’t want to write it, just wrote it to get paid stuff. I can’t speak for everyone, but journalism is a creative art for me and its means nothing at all if people don’t read it.
      Today, so far, WUWT has had 16,000 “visitors” averaging over 4 pages per viewer. I write here in hopes of reaching those 16,000 readers with my essays.

      • i think the quality of the science journalism here surpasses that of many media outlets kip. i am glad you have faith in the motives of today’s journalists, maybe i am becoming too cynical as i get older.

  20. I like pedantry as much as the next guy, but this is not the hill to die on. “Trump” is shorthand for “Trump Administration” and is used loosely for the federal gov’t as a whole. Did Obama personally write the CPP rules or WOTUS? Were you opposed to statements about Obama’s war on coal? It may be sloppy, but this is the vernacular.

    What’s egregious here is the plaintive whine for some more sweet, sweet pork. Eisenhower’s never mentioned OTHER caution in his farewell address seems appropriate:

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. … we must … be alert to the … danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite

    • Tsk Tsk ==> Apparently you failed to read the email exchange between myself and Dan Clery — particularly his reply to me.

    • Tsk-tsk by name* and deed!

      Were you opposed to statements about Obama’s war on coal? – Tsk Tsk

      Well, only after he claimed ownership of it! ;-(

      If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them,” Obama said, responding to a question about his cap-and-trade plan. He later added, “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”- President Barack Obama**

      *Meaning, shame on you!
      **January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board.

  21. Epilogue:

    The comments here show, among other things, just how polarized the country is along party lines.

    Also obvious is how much slack people are willing to give journalists these days — not holding them to the professional standards of journalism but rather allowing them to get away with reporting with the same measure of proof and accuracy they would employ if they were chatting at a cocktail party. Worse, there seems to be a ready acceptance of journalists editorializing in a news story.

    Is it any wonder then that the average Western news consumer is so poorly informed on almost every topic imaginable?

    I do appreciate your participation here, even those who don’t agree with my views. Collegial civil discourse is the foundation of a healthy society.

    Thanks for reading.

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