McLean et al respond and the saga heats up

Following this weeks earlier revelations of data fudging, the authors (John McLean, Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter) have responded to the debunking of their paper by Foster et al (Grant Foster, James Annan, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Jim Renwick, Jim Salinger, Gavin Schmidt and Kevin Trenberth).  The paper was shown to be rubbed and a good example of statistical trickery nearly immediately after it was published (more on the background at Climate Shifts and Skeptical Science).

Oddly, the response was posted to the ICECAP website (click here for a direct link to the pdf) and not on either authors hompages. In fact McLean’s web site still says “The informal nature of the Foster et al critique makes it inappropriate for me to respond in detail to it here, but should the criticisms be published in the normal manner we authors will respond as appropriate”.

The document is titled Censorship at AGU: scientists denied the right of reply”. Is there a “right of reply” in academic science?  No.  There is a tradition to allow authors whose work is being criticized to respond – a tradition that was followed in this case. However, the response has to go through peer review; you don’t have any kind of right to publish in any journal.

The McLean et al response was peer-reviewed and was rejected.  Looking at it, or at least what they claim was what they submitted as a response, we can see why.  The response contains the same errors as the original article. The point of a reply isn’t simply to repeat the statements in your original paper. McLean et al largely miss the nature of the debunking by Foster et al 2010. Contrary to blog science, this is not a mere difference of opinion; the original McLean at al 2009 paper was shown to be fundamentally flawed and the analysis was likely intentionally skewed to produced the desired result. The paper should be retracted by the authors. In scientific publishing, when your work is show to be flawed (and in this case probably fraudulent), there is no automatic “right of reply”.

One thing worth noting: this whole affair is hosted on the “IceCap” blog; AKA International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project. Interestingly, the people listed on experts page include de Freitas and Carter, and wait, also Sallie Baliunas of the notorious (and debunked) Soon and Baliunas paper. Wasn’t de Freitas the editor of that much-maligned paper?  Sure enough. So he edited Baliunas’ paper even though they are members of the same small ideologically-oriented organization?  Isn’t that a conflict of interest?  Yup. And it is ironic given McLean et al‘s complaints about Foster et al suggesting a reviewer whose name shows up in an (illegally obtained) email of one of the authors:

In response to this request, the Foster et al. group suggested the following persons as possible reviewers for their submitted critique: Ben Santer, Dave Thompson, Dave Easterling, Tom Peterson, Neville Nicholls, and David Parker (with Tom Wigley, Tom Karl and Mike Wallace also mentioned but regarded as doubtful). Phil Jones commenting “All of them know the sorts of things to say – about our comment and the awful original, without any prompting.”

A search of the Climategate emails for each of the names suggested above shows that all six of these persons were reasonably well known to Phil Jonesm

At the end of the day, the truth of the matter largely rests with AGU and we look forward to their perspective on all this.

Despite all the song and dance about how:

Science is best progressed by open and free discussion in which all participants have equal rights of contribution.

(which is complete nonsense: all participants, don’t have equal right of contribution in any science),  McLean et al seem to have spent more time documenting how they were wronged by AGU and criticising the scientific process than they did trying to rebut and correct the errors highlighted out by Foster et al (which are still valid).

6 thoughts on “McLean et al respond and the saga heats up

  1. … And they’re still pushing their dodgy Figure 7 with their “trick” of changing the baseline between panels to hide the incline…

  2. Ove,

    Great work, as usual, but is it McLain or McLean? Might need to correct your title. The same goes for ‘idiologically’. Should be ‘ideologically’, unless this is a Freudian slip, combining illogically, ideological idiocy that we’ve come to expect from this bunch. If that’s the case, good one Ove.

  3. What’s the problem with your comprehension, Ove? As our response said, the derivative method was only used to determine the period of the time-lag, a period that was very similar that determined by Phil Jones, one of our critics. Once we’d established the time lag, the Discussion and Conclusions are based only on applying that time lag to the raw data.

    It’s quite true that our response didn’t spend a lot directly rebutting Foster et al. That was because those criticisms were misdirected and on some issues downright mendacious.

    • John, Regardless of how you justify the data filtering you used, the fact remains that it washed away long-term temporal correlations and greatly exaggerated short-term (year to year) co-variance. Everybody knows ENSO has an influence on global weather and temperatures, but your technique greatly exaggerated this effect.

      But most importantly, you incorrectly interpreted your results as indicating a majority of the longer-term observed global warming was driven by ENSO, which is obviously not the case. You can dither about all you want about why you did what, who said what to who in private emails you have illegally obtained, who posted their manuscripts in their web site, etc. But the only fact the world cares about is that the conclusion of your manuscript is wrong, has been proven so, and the more you refuse to accept this, the more your meager credibility shrinks.

  4. Nothing wrong with my comprehension, John. I’ve read your paper and the Foster et al paper, and am quite shocked by either your poor understanding of how to analyse climate data or your complicity in deliberately hiding what you didn’t want to find. The latter would be consistent with your membership of the ideological group, the Australian Climate Science Coalition.

    Putting that aside, and seeing that you have not been able to counter the fatal errors found in your paper by Foster and colleagues, can you answer the following questions:

    1) Will you and Bob Carter retract the paper and admit the errors publicly?

    2) Given that Bob Carter has actively spread these errors and misinformation far and wide, will Bob Carter now apologise to Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Nick Minchin and the many other politicians that he has misled.

    (I note that Bob Carter was featured talking about this study on the recent Four Corners episode)

    3) Given that Bob Carter wants to “Kill the IPCC” because it made a couple of relatively minor errors (out of 3000 pages), do you think that Bob Carter should be made to resign from James Cook University? Afterall, this is not the first time that adjunct Professor of Bob Carter has been caught out perpetrating a misinformation campaign on the issue of climate change.

    4) Do you support a full investigation of you, Bob Carter, Ian Pimer and other sceptics/denialist scientists that have been found to be in such serious error? Or should different standards be applied to these individuals as opposed to the IPCC?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *