“Climategate” — the CRU Hack or Leak — whatever it is, sucked me back into the whole climate debates. I left it after a few months and moved on to other matters, but still occasionally read at various blogs although I rarely posted. After the release of the emails and documents, I couldn’t help but peek at the response on both sides and wasn’t at all surprised at what I saw. Pretty much entrenched positions on both sides, if not a hardening of them.
I do find CA to be pretty unprofessional in tone at times but then, it is a personal blog and Steve McIntyre has quite the history with the principles in the CRU “event”. I have to admit I understand his barely suppressed glee at the emails and data, although I do think that he loses a lot of credibility — whatever credibility he had — with those who are not his aficianados by his response to them. Not that I imagine he cares — it’s pretty clear to me from the tone of the blog how he feels towards “the Team”.
To people used to CA, and some who seem to be Steve’s disciples, I suppose it is just the Master talking, but to an outsider, his recent blog posts smack of motive hunting and insinuation, speculation and overreach. But that’s just my opinion. For example, the latest blog post focuses on one line of text taken from a Jones email sent around the time Nature rejected his comment. Talk about speculation on motives in that thread! It’s quite breathtaking. Why, some of the posters are ready to call a grand jury based on the “evidence”. He seems to enjoy this whole schadenfreude and it smacks of revenge despite his assurances that he’s not “complaining“.
Innocuous enough on the surface. What makes this sentence interesting (and I noticed it because I looked for something like this) is that, in my opinion, the sentence is sufficient to identify the paper in question. Further, there is convincing evidence that Jones did in fact carry out the requested review (after May, as he says here) and, even though the review is not in the Climategate documents, it is nonetheless accessible and, together with other Climategate Letters, leads on to many backstories.[my emphasis]
Yes, the backstories — another chance for McIntyre to complain about his treatment by “the team” or to rehash old complaints in order to rouse the rabble…
What gets me is that he then takes to referring to the “Jones comment” as if it is pretty much a given that Jones was the author of the review. Now, if he knows Jones is the author, he should just tell us and if he doesn’t know it, he should find out before posting such speculation on the internet if he wants to maintain credibility. The scary quotes don’t excuse it.
It’s this tactic of his — posting a leading comment with a disclaimer that he does not mean to speculate or do something verboten, but all the while wording his posts so that readers “get the drift”. He then lets the commenters to the dirty work — they’re not concerned with appearances, but in cheering on from the sidelines. When people bring it up, he complains he’s too busy to police all the posts, etc. I thought he was semi-retired? Note that he rarely replies to comments. Well, that’s actually pretty easy to understand since most of the commentary is just one big love fest.
Responses in the comments section are to be expected. There are a few more reasonable people who identify it as pure speculation, but others seem to buy into the little mind game uncritically:
I don’t disagree with the decision to allow Jones to comment. There is some logic to preventing the publication of a blatantly incorrect comment, and an involved reviewer would be more likely to point out a gaping flaw in the argument.
It would seem that the issue, rightly considered, is whether jones was allowed to be ananonymous commenter, and given equal or greater weight than the two approving commenters. Had they openly allowed Jones to reply, it would have been a different question.
Jones, Nature, Mann et al appear to have kept the existence of the conflict of interests secret and/or denied one exists so that they can violate and/or avoid confirmation with the accepted standards for fair and impartial peer review.
Even when some takes care not to assume it was Jones, the amount of motive speculation about Jones and what it would mean if Jones did in fact do the review is amusing.
Isn’t that the whole point, Jones didn’t decline (if he was asked that is) because it is clear from the other emails that the team spent a good deal of time trying to muzzle articles that were critical/had different conclusions to their agenda. I would agree with you that without the participation of Nature in this discussion to confirm or otherewise that Jones was a reviewer no jury would find that Jones was the reviewer. However the fact that the reviewer cited an unpublished Jones paper, along with his habit of self-aggrandisment in reviewing would lead any prosecutor to believe he had and try to get proof.[my emphasis]
A final note based on a post by Steve McIntyre below:
Steve: As I said in the first comment, I’m not trying to re-litigate the process but to examine the Jones Review. (For what it’s worth, Zorita subsequently expressed his regret for his 2nd review, explaining that he had not fully understood the Mann situation at the time.) Once again, I discern somewhat of a cultural difference to the handling of conflicts of interest. Academics attempting to justify acting in a conflict seem to look for whether it was possible to get to the same answer in a different route. And in many cases it is. As I noted before, in a business/legal situation, this sort of argument isn’t permitted. In the case at hand, Nature cited the reasoning of the “Jones Review” in their rejection and thus it is reasonable to deduce that the Jones Review affected their decision. This isn’t to say that they couldn’t have got to the decision a different way; on the other hand, with just the Jolliffe and Zorita reviews, they could also have proceeded. One doesn’t know – because the Jones Review proved to be the one that they cited in their reasoning. While the business/legal framework is a bit foreign to academics, I urge that some thought be given to it, if it’s not natural to you, because conflicts of interest have been thought about and litigated much more in business/law than in academics.[my emphasis]
I really like this anti-academic stance of McIntyre’s. Note how he often comes back to it, claiming that the way things are done in science or academia is so inferior to that in business, lauding their standards and ethics and controls over those of scientists and those in academia. It’s laughable, especially in light of the recent world recession caused by the ethics and controls and practices of the business world… But I digress.