When Science Becomes Politics by Other Means

This blog is about the social and political dimensions of the climate wars. As a trained social scientist, that is my main interest and proper subject matter. I have no insight to offer on the quality of the science but I recognize that the science is what really matters.

Unfortunately, the science — truth, facts, evidence, and their interpretation — have been hijacked, at least in the blogosphere and some MSM, by the political battles. This most recent “gate” — O’Donnellgate –– is just another example to go along with the others – blog wars over the science in which innuendo replaces fact, accusation replaces truth.

As Hiram Johnson said in 1918 in response to the Sedition Act — and as we know from recent wars and WikiLeaks — “the first casualty of war is truth”.

Which brings me to the proper subject of my blog and this post.

In On War, Clausewitz, who inspired the title of this post, argues that “war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means.”



Usually, a public policy war would be fought in the political realm, where opposing sides battle it out over conflicting values to determine which were supreme and end up entrenched in policy. This particular policy war involves scientific evidence, the implications of which are inconvenient to certain economic interests.  Because science has a degree of legitimate authority over science matters — although not complete authority in policy matters — it could over-ride other concerns, including those of policy players with political or economic interests. To put it plainly, science has a lot of weight with the public. Because of science’s natural authority over matters of science, those other policy players know they can’t just outright ignore science. They wouldn’t win the argument in a direct confrontation. Instead, they must try to attack science’s authority on the issue. The tobacco wars are a prime example of this at work. Environmental policies to protect the public and regulate industries that pollute are other examples.

Lest anyone imagine that I am dreaming this climate war, or imagining that there are forces aligned in an attempt to discredit opponents in political battles, this new post up at Think Progress is clear evidence. The Chamber of Commerce hired a private spy company to investigate the families, spouses and children, of political opponents. They also planned  on using fake identities and manufactured articles in the hopes of discrediting them:


Have no doubt that similar ploys have been used in the climate wars.

This current skirmish between Steig and O’Donnell is just more of the same. A war over science that is really politics by other means.

Some deniers claim that they are interested in the truth or in the best science, but I am not convinced. “Sound science” was a meme that the tobacco lobby concocted in order to give their propaganda activities legitimacy among the unknowing public.

Michael Tobis sums it up quite well in his post “One Step Ahead of the Shoeshine”:

“…suppose I am interested in getting the right answer. I am not a top-notch statistician, but I don’t consult one anyway because the statistician will ask me to provide a rigorous prior which in fact I lack. I massage the data more carefully than has been done in the past, using a half dozen methods that occur to me. I also do the same with synthetic data. When I come up with something that appears robust to the sorts of phenomenology I expect across several methods, I choose one of those methods, polish it up, and publish.

Suppose to the contrary I am interested in casting doubt on the previous answer. I massage synthetic data more carefully than has been done in the past, using a half dozen methods that occur to me. I find a dataset that is consistent with observations that yields results very sensitive to observations in the method proposed by the climatologist. I drum up uncertainty and doubt.

In the O’Donnell case, he has succeeded in adding to the arsenal of methods. Steig offers an an interpretation consistent with the totality of evidence AS IF O’DONNELL WERE SERIOUS.

This constitutes an excellent test of whether O’Donnell is interested in science or in McIntyrism. The results of this test are unambiguous to say the least.”

Science progresses by finding errors and improving methods and questioning conclusions. It appears to me that the O’Donnell and crew are interested in doing what McI has specialized in — looking for mistakes in order to insinuate something is wrong with science, and with the scientists, not to push the field forward. If anything, they have expressed contempt for it.  If they were not so interested, if that wasn’t their goal, they would not allow the kind of smearing and speculation that takes place in their blog commentary, not to mention the tone of their own posts.

As I see it, there are [at least] three main fronts on this particular battle: in the peer reviewed literature (the proper domain of science) in the blogs (a new domain of opinion, ignorant or otherwise) and in the halls of government (the proper domain of politics). The main points of contention in this particular climate skirmish are both scientific and ethical. Besides the issue of appropriateness of methods and what they imply for our understanding of Antarctic climate trends, climate skeptics have raised the issue of ethics and professional standards.

I can’t really address the methodological issues and will leave it to others to analyze them. However, I am as qualified as others to discuss the ethical questions O’Donnell and co-authors — and the denizens of CA and the skeptic blogs — raise.

O’Donnell and others in the skeptic camp question the appropriateness of having Steig act as an anonymous reviewer. They argue that he is in a conflict of interest and should not be able to review their paper. They claim that Steig set O’Donnell up by insisting on a method that he later criticized. They argue that he gave O’Donnell the runaround, demanding countless changes to the manuscript that were more about interference than quality.

Here’s a sample:

Craig Loehle
Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PermalinkReply

It is striking to me how Team members hold everyone else in the world in contempt compared to their own (assumed) brilliance. This attitude makes them unable to appreciate being corrected and makes them oblivious to contradicting themselves.

I am again struck by the inexplicable situation of allowing Steig to be the main reviewer for a critique of his own work. Gatekeeping? Nahhhh….

Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PermalinkReply

…the primary anonymity considerations are so that the referees can be frank about shortcomings when rejecting a paper, and so that the author will not feel obliged to reciprocate an acceptance when reviewing future submissions by the referee(s).

The fact that it was Steig who identified himself after acceptance suggests that perhaps pal review is the norm today in climatology.

Shub Niggurath

Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PermalinkReply

You guys were lucky for a few reasons:

1) You got to know that Eric he was reviewer A.
2) Eric tried his trick rebuttal, out in the open

Important papers and entire careers have been ruined because people pull these types of tricks behind their adversaries’ backs in the pages of subscription journals.

Reviewing replies to one’s own papers without letting authors know, and setting up authors along argument tracks that would make rebuttals easy – if these tricks are pulled under the cover of anonymity and behind paywalls – the results can be devastating sometimes. Anyone in small fields with celebrity scientists would be familiar of this ‘nest of vipers’ effect.

Dave Andrews
Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PermalinkReply

How can an author of a paper that is being critiqued be asked to review that critique? He is not going to be impartial in any respect.

Why wasn’t he just asked, after publication, to submit a reply? That’s how ordinary folk would expect the process to progress, surely?

Seems like there is a big pile of ordure at the heart of climate science review.

Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 5:54 PM | PermalinkReply

I have just skimmed all three of the reviewer a files that you have put up and am astonished at the many ploys used by Steig to delay and it also seems prevent publication of your paper. I have published in both physics and finance journals and have never seen or even heard of such shabby behavior. While his reputation for scientific ability has been knocked, his reputation for integrity is in tatters.

Even Jeff Id gets in on the accusations including speculation that the “team” did the review, not just Eric Steig:

jeff Id
Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 7:18 PM | PermalinkReply

I would like to add that during the review process, we all suspected (basically knew) that it was the RC team reviewing our work. Steig, Mann and probably others. The comments matched RC comments and the tone changes in the individual reviews were strong clues. Ryan kept to his word and I was unaware that Steig had admitted to the situation until today. Dr. Broccoli (the editor) must have been under extreme pressure to fall in line, yet he simply found another reviewer and allowed the paper through.

I’m not sure the reasoning for his original decision to include Steig, but he still made the right call in the end. IMO it was a bold and strong statement that he wouldn’t allow false claims to manipulate the results. Hopefully, it doesn’t adversely affect his own funding or future. He’s shown guts in the face of a bad situation created by those playing politics.

As far as gatekeeping, IMO there was plenty of deep searching for silly reasons to stop the paper. The reviews are proof of that but I’ve seen far more egregious stuff for Steve M’s Santer rebuttal. Way way over the top.

In other words, we didn’t suffer that badly compared to what has been done and is still being done to others not included on the team.

The funny thing is, we had quite a long email discussion about including Steig as a coauthor before work became deeper. We decided it probably wouldn’t work out. [my emphasis]

Here’s O’Donnell:

Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 8:10 PM | PermalinkReply

I do not think Steig was ever attempting to “block” publication of the paper. I also think that when he said that he thought the paper overall contributed to the discussion that he was being honest.

Rather, what I feel he was trying to do is control the message by requesting editorial changes that could be interpreted later in multiple ways. I’m as yet undecided if this was intentional, or if his paper was simply so personally important to him that he could not see what he was doing. He’s human, after all.

The most difficult thing to reconcile in all of this is the difference between Eric Steig in emails (professional, friendly, helpful, and honest) and Eric Steig at RC (snarky, pompous, and condescending). Perhaps he played me for a fool – though I doubt it – but I think the former is closer to Eric Steig’s true persona than the latter.

I’ve read many of his papers, and I’ve found them to be well-written and entirely plausible (though parts of most are above my head). If all you had from Eric Steig were his past papers and his emails between Jeff Id and myself, you would have a very different impression of him than what you have now. Even so, there is only so much of Eric’s public misstatements that I will tolerate before I go off-shift.

However, I think this is best resolved here – in the open – than what I think you are implying. Bad judgment? Sure. Dishonest tactics? You bet. Professional misconduct (where, I am assuming, the implication is that some sort of official action should be taken)? No, I don’t wish that.

What this shows is that most posters at the skeptic blogs have no idea of the way science works or the peer review process works. They have some fantasy of it based on some reading of Feynman quotes or just their own sense of how it should work. because they are ignorant, they feel personal affront and feel empowered to take it to a personal level. As a result, they opine in ignorance and spread all kinds of misinformation about science and scientists.

Here’s some good old conspiracy theory that attempts to discredit the Team:

Posted Feb 7, 2011 at 9:58 PM | PermalinkReply

“The most difficult thing to reconcile in all of this is the difference between Eric Steig in emails (professional, friendly, helpful, and honest) and Eric Steig at RC (snarky, pompous, and condescending).”

My opinion is that RC is the PR firm managed blog that protects the money that flows to the Team in the form of grants, and the source of MSM publicity that does the same. A Team member is subject to the rules of the game on the web site when Team members and the PR managers are watching. Private conversations are subject to different rules, but maybe not so much going forward.

The Team simply cannot afford to have anyone stray from the message. Any admission of error could be the one that pulls down the whole house of cards. I read that over $500K was spent protecting Dr. Mann’s emails at U VA. Why and who would come up with that kind of money? It will only take one person with insider knowledge and maybe a few more emails to seriously damage the credibility and reputations of the whole Team. Likely their professional reputations will never recover.

This is so false as to be laughable. This is reversal — a trick denialists have discovered and have used in other skirmishes. Of course, the reversal makes no real sense and more properly applies to denialists, but logic is not necessarily part of propaganda and misinformation. This is directed towards a public trained to distrust and suspicion by a diet of “Maury Povich” and Rush Limbaugh and Faux News, hence they are primed for scandal and intrigue.

I think that on all points, the skeptics can be shown to be incorrect.

First, it is apparently common for the author of a paper being criticized to be a reviewer, according to at least one journal editor and many other more rational commenters even at CA and places like The Blackboard and Air Vent. While the author is in a conflict of interest, it is manageable and in fact, can be fruitful for the author of the paper being criticized is often an expert and most able to judge the value of the critique.  The editor’s responsibility is to ensure that he or she receives other opinions without conflict of interest and weighs them accordingly.

Of course people use this episode as proof that “peer review is broken” and that there exists an effort to keep skeptic papers out of the literature or to give them a hard time. The problem is not that good papers are kept out of the peer reviewed literature — rather than opposite. That is more of a threat as the whole Von Storch resignation episode suggests.

Here’s Louis Derry, editor of the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, in a Dot Earth column:

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of comments here and at ClimateAudit and Realclimate that misunderstand some basics. No shame on misunderstanding, but it’s just not right to make accusations of dishonesty on that basis. Very briefly (to keep this post readable):

1. Editors make final decisions. Reviewers make recommendations only.

2. It is common for a submission that critiques previous work to be sent to the author of the critiqued work for review. 2a. That emphatically does NOT mean the reviewer has veto power. It means that his/her opinion is worth having. Such a choice is usually balanced by reviewers that editors believe are reasonably independent, and the review of the critiqued is weighted accordingly. Suggestions that asking Steig to review O’Donnell was somehow unethical are utterly without support in normal scientific practice. Obviously, Steig did not have veto power over O’Donnell’s paper.

3. The fact that O”Donnell’s paper went through several rounds of review is absolutely unsurprising and unexceptional. Many papers on far less public topics do the same.

4. Some have questioned why Stieig 09 got “more” visibility than O’Donnell 10. The answer is simple. Steig had a “result,” O”Donnell had a technical criticism of methodology. As O’Donnell has repeatedly written he wasn’t trying to address the question of whether Antarctica had warmed, but only argue that Steig’s methodology was wrong. Whether Steig’s result is robust or not, it is often the case that papers with a “result” get more public visibility that technical discussions of statistical significance. If you accept O’Donnell’s work, it still sheds very limited light on the question of whether Antarctica is warming. It really only discusses how well a particular methodology that does try and address that question works.

Finally, Revkin’s point that the Steig vs O’Donnell debate is not unusual in the progress of science and does not have much of anything to say about the majority of the evidence is correct. Disagreement about how to model the flight of a Frisbee correctly doesn’t imply that basic aerodynamics are wrong. Disagreement about how many EOFs [ empirical orthogonal functions] to use to model Antarctic [temperature] changes doesn’t imply that climate physics is wrong.

This is the problem with “citizen science” — with the “extended peer” notion —  an unfortunate if understandable ignorance of how science works leading to misunderstanding and false accusation, which is cynically played up by those who ought to know better. This leads to misplaced mistrust that harms climate science in particular, and science in general.

What this suggests to me is that we have a woeful ignorance of science in society, what it is and does and how it works.  We’re great at promoting its findings in news and entertainment fora but not for educating the public in how it works.

Besides arguing that Steig should not have reviewed O’Donnell, climate skeptics argue that O’Donnell had every right to violate the peer review system of anonymous reviewers by asking Steig if he is in fact Reviewer A. Further, even though O’Donnell promised to keep this in confidence, they argue that O’Donnell was justified in breaking that promise because Steig was “duplicitous” in his criticism of O10.

I have known that Eric was, indeed, Reviewer A since early December.  I knew this because I asked him.  When I asked, I promised that I would keep the information in confidence, as I was merely curious if my guess that I had originally posted on tAV had been correct.

Throughout all of the questioning on Climate Audit, tAV, and Andy Revkin’s blog, I kept my mouth shut.  When Dr. Thomas Crowley became interested in this, I kept my mouth shut.  When Eric asked for a copy of our paper (which, of course, he already had) I kept my mouth shut.  I had every intention of keeping my promise . . . and were it not for Eric’s latest post on RC, I would have continued to keep my mouth shut.

However, when someone makes a suggestion during review that we take and then later attempts to use that very same suggestion to disparage our paper, my obligation to keep my mouth shut ends.

In other words, his word is only good so long as Eric plays nicely.


The smearing continues at The Blackboard, comparing Steig to Blogojevich:

Reading Steig’s recent article at RC, the thought that came to mind was “Steig and Blago! Some men have some real testicular fortitude!” It really takes something to try to spin a paper that shows yours up so badly as supporting your results. But.. more later.

Now it seems Steig may have even more testicular fortitude than Rod Blagojevich. Ryan O’Donnell just crossposted at both Climate Audit and The Air Vent...

If Eric Steig was reviewer A and he wrote that deceptive mealy mouth comment he is truly the Rod Blagojevich of climate science.

There’s more smearing to be had for those with the stomach:

Here’s Jeff Id, who complains that the authors were forced to rewrite the paper:

jeff id (Comment#68298) February 7th, 2011 at 4:06 pm


We all suspected it already because the wording of Reviewer A was very close to some RC comments. Ryan didn’t tell me he had confirmation at any time before this. It actually was a team review IMO with Mannian commentary interspersed throughout. I recall on reading the first reviews that it seemed like several personalities and writing styles. Now that they are posted, people can see for themselves.

We basically had a group of reviewers so hostile that we were forced to not use the originally submitted methods. The whole paper was re-written to avoid certain unfair criticisms.

No doubt in my mind that Reviewer A wouldn’t have let S09 through.

One is forced to wonder why, if the authors had such faith in their methods, that they didn’t stick to their guns and insist on using their “originally submitted methods” — or were they more interested in getting published at any cost? Surely not.

And more from Lucia’s place, that proves once again the paucity of sense in the denialosphere, and why this PNS notion of “extended peer communities” is so bankrupt. It’s mostly fantasy, purient fantasy.

jeff Id (Comment#68326) February 7th, 2011 at 7:01 pm


“Eric said that Review A was entirely his, and, in retrospect, I have no reason to disbelieve him.”

I believe he submitted the review 100%, if Cuccinelli subpoenaed Steig’s emails, I would bet some big cash that there were copy-pastes from Mann. Admittedly it is just a guess though, there was too much Mannian style hostility and phraseology.

Maybe that’s my next blog–phraseology, this climate stuff is too anti-science.

Guesses, bets — that’s all it amounts to in the blog-audit world. Too ignorant to tell the difference between climate “stuff” and their own anti-science.

Here’s John Nielsen-Gammon on anonymity in the peer review process and breach of trust on a thread at Stoat:

Announcing the identity of the anonymous reviewer was wrong in and of itself. The seriousness of the offense deepens to the extent that the author also reveals some of the content of the review. Revealing the identity of the reviewer while simultaneously publishing the complete content of the reviews makes this particular ethical violation as bad as possible. [my emphasis]

O’Donnell and co-authors are new to the whole publishing world in science. McI has whined endlessly about the hard time he has received when trying to get published — as if he should just enter this field and after reading a few papers, expect the publishing world to let him in without the usual — or an understandable extra close  — review of his work. McI should know better by now, but even so, he has very little publication experience under his belt.

O’Donnell responds in the petulant post on CA like a child on the playground who discovers he’s not quite up to playing with the big boys yet. When he felt he’d been unfairly criticized he so over-responded that his original blog post had to be snipped and he later offered a public apology.  How big of him! He apologized,  not for insulting Steig or accusing him of duplicity and betraying a trust to keep Steig’s identity as Reviewer A confidential — but for mistakenly claiming that Steig had received the last revised draft, which he hadn’t.

Not much of an apology…

I am not qualified to judge the quality and relevance of Steig and other reviews, but I read them. What struck me, in my ignorance, is that in both his anonymous reviews and in subsequent blog posts, Steig repeatedly praised O’Donnell. In his reviews, he argued that it would be a significant paper that would be referenced a great deal and provided improved methods. That he critiqued it upon publication does not surprise me — turning a critical eye to each work, even one that is an improvement, should be encouraged and is the whole essence of scientific progress. Nothing is ever finished or perfect and is beyond critique.

This episode is just another example of this effort to prove science wrong by players who claim to care about “science” and who claim to accept the reality of global warming. As Michael Tobis so aptly put it:

This constitutes an excellent test of whether O’Donnell is interested in science or in McIntyrism. The results of this test are unambiguous to say the least.

To say the least.

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87 Responses to “When Science Becomes Politics by Other Means”

  1. Well there’s obviously lots and lots of things going on with this issue so I’ll just go with the one that jumps out at me the most:

    O’Donnell and co-authors found something they wanted to publish, discovered that getting a peer reviewed paper published is extremely difficult and took that difficulty both personally and as an affront to their beliefs

    They appear to be operating as if it’s much much easier for say Steig or Mann to get their papers published or that it’s easier for someone reaching more “agreeable” conclusions concerning global warming.

    I’m not a scientist, I’ve never had to publish paper but the process has always been presented to me as something of a nightmare. This is basically the way it’s meant to be, you better be ready to defend your work from multiple forms of attack and you better have the perseverance to see it through.

    Of course this strength gets “reversed” into a weakness and presented as the rules of peer review being subverted to keep disagreeable conclusions and individuals out. This of course lapped up by an audience not knowledgeable enough to know better and prejudiced towards already thinking this is the case.

    • You’re being far more generous than me. I would suggest that O’Donnell and crew looked until they could find something they could challenge “the team” with on math/stats grounds and in the safety of the blogs where they are surrounded by the ignorant who cheered them on. When challenged, they published something much less significant than their original charges. This without actually having to do any science and without having to go through the hard slog of being a scientist. To continue a metaphor, it’s guerilla warfare of a sort. Not real soldiers, no uniforms, no training, and no laws of war. Perhaps very effective, but not really honourable.

      • ” in the safety of the blogs where they are surrounded by the ignorant who cheered them on. “

        This is the problem with “blog science” and it’s always going to be a total culture shock for those used to it to step into the real science arena. Consequently I’m generally not that keen on the “Peer to Peer” or post-normal stuff these people tend to propose since it seems a lot like “But lots of people agreed with me on my blog! That makes it real!”

  2. shewonk
    My field of research is more fast-moving compared to climate science.

    The issue is not merely whether or not Steig ought to have been a reviewer to O’Donnell et al. It is his criticism of O’Donnell et al’s results arising from a method he had a hand in, being incorporated in their paper.

    O’Donnell et al challenged/questioned Steig et al. For good or bad, Ryan asked Steig whether he was the reviewer and Steig affirmed it. Imagine a situation where this does not take place.

    Imagine a fresh paper, that inadvertently challenges an existing paper of a prominent researcher. Journal editors are likely to send such papers to prominent members in the same area, and this means such papers can land on the desk of those who wrote the original paper. Such scientists, acting as anonymous reviewers can, and do extract significant changes in the paper under review, delay its publication, get their own rebuttals lined up, perform more experiments, blunt the paper’s criticism by insisting on changes in language and tone.

    They then publish their own papers providing solutions to the resulting impasse, keeping their own nose ahead.

    The authors sometimes never know that this has transpired, sometimes for years.

    These things happen all the time in science. I am speaking for first-hand experience, having observed such phenomena. Lots of scientists just shrug their shoulders and accept all this as a part of the politics of academic publishing and the cut-throat of competition.

    Eric Steig did the same thing. He did nothing ‘wrong’, but he made two tactical errors.

    Firstly, Steig could have confined himself to a criticism of O’Donnell et al’s results in a more abstract sense, than declaring Steig et al’s results were superior, having himself had a hand in the methods of the former paper. I do think he is well within his rights to point out limitations arising from use of this ‘new’ method (iRidge), as a scientist, but he could not have done it without coming clean that he was a reviewer of the said paper himself. Not doing so resulted in Steig’s criticism of using the new method being in the public domain, but the fact that was not unfavorable to its use, in the private domain (in his reviewer comments).

    The second tactical error, of course was that Steig chose to air this criticism, publicly, in a blog. Why would he expect that his ‘adversary’ in the Antarctic temperature field not return the favor in kind – i.e., make details available publicly as well, that support his paper’s position?

    In the end, Eric tries to wear three hats – Eric the reviewer, Eric the suthor of Steig et al, and Eric the Realclimate blogger. The conflict arises from this situation, not merely by the fact that Eric reviewed O’Donnell et al. Anonymous peer-review is abused and has its weaknesses – everyone knows this.

    • “Why would he expect that his ‘adversary’ in the Antarctic temperature field not return the favor in kind “

      Where “in kind” means “Attacking Steig’s character, professionalism and competence”?

      The defining aspect of this incident isn’t the minutia of iRidge or how favourably you can interpret “perhaps” to equal the application of “Or else face the thumbscrews” it’s that O’Donnell and others immediately went for the jugular.

      As an interested observer I’ll say this: You can say Steig made “errors” in relation to criticising iRidge in public rather than as a reviewer however it really seems like if it wasn’t that then it would have been something else. The nature of the attack was so savage and frankly so organised (by the usuals) that it looks spring loaded and ready to pop once the appropriate trigger was found.

      If you try hard enough you can find things to criticise in Steig’s actions albeit the “errors” you highlight are obvious only hindsight just as Gavin Schmidt “obviously” should have been more clear lest people sit around at dinner reading it aloud and then publishing their interpretation of it. If I must find individuals to criticise then I find it very hard to avoid looking in the O’Donnell camp.

    • Interesting that both Steig and O’Donnell datasets were examined and cited in a new paper by Schneider et. al. 2011 and interesting that O’Donnell is just one more bit of information alongside Steig 09for those interested in the actual science of Antarctic temperature trends.

      Here’s Schneider 2011:

      Large and statistically significant winter warming trends in the Peninsula, and insignificant but positive winter trends in West Antarctica were reported by O’Donnell et al. (2010) for 1958–2006. While showing more cooling over Marie Byrd Land and the Ross Ice Shelf in the austral autumn and winter than Steig et al. (2009), the O’Donnell et al. (2010) reconstruction shows negligible differences for austral spring, with positive spring temperature trends in West Antarctica twice the magnitude of any other season. Thus, the spring warming trend of West Antarctica is a robust result, evident across a wide range of datasets. The seasonal and regional characteristics of the Antarctic temperature datasets make them useful for interpreting the physical mechanisms that drive Antarctic climate variability, and for informing future interpretations and model evaluations of Antarctic climate change.

      • I don’t have time to get into details, but this is a nice break from my personal salt mines 🙂 …

        Shewonk, you, like almost everyone (apparently including Schneider’11 and his reviewers!) have missed the point of S’09 vs O’10!

        It is not about to variant reconstructions or datasets. They are not just two opinions.

        It is about math. Correct math vs incorrect math. S’09 got the math wrong. Are his results correct? We don’t actually know! Nor can we answer that about O’10… because the data itself is pretty awful.

        What we do know is that S’09 got the math wrong, while O’10 got it right. Nobody should be referring to S’09.

        AFAIK, S’09 is simply a complicated way of resurrecting (very pretty–google the term!) Chladni Patterns at the south pole. This was shown immediately (in 2009 right after the paper was written), but it took all this time to get the response through the journal mill and into print.

        Anyone who claims this is about better or worse data or reconstruction results is pulling your leg.

        It’s about learning to do the math right, and not fool ourselves because a pretty wave pattern happens to match a result we expect to see.

        You’re the social scientist. What does it mean when scientists allow a desired result pattern to blind them to the fact that they got the math completely wrong?

        And what is society to do (what should YOU do?!) when the herd goes along with “we like this answer, who cares if the underlying science is junk?”???

        There’s plenty of copies of a fun proof out there: using S’09, if you modify the data in one place, the analytical result changes somewhere else instead. Using O’10 math, change the data somewhere, the result changes where the data changed.

        The underlying math may be complicated, but this is pretty easy to understand if we’re willing to step back and let go of preconceived notions!

        • Mr Pete, I am a layperson. I don’t have the chops to evaluate whether Steig or O’Donnell are right or wrong, whether it’s a case of mere refinement or outright refutation and nothing you or McI or others say can change that. Just can’t do it. Neither can I disprove String Theory or the Standard Model and I don’t try to read papers in either field and arbitrate between scientists arguing one or the other theories. Same applies in climate science. That’s the unavoidable consequence of our advanced industrial societies with its highly specialized division of labour.

          As a result, I turn to the old standby — peer review, science education and the scientific method to do the best possible job at separating out the chaff from the wheat. It’s not always perfect and it’s not always nice, polite or without personality and external influence. But in general, it’s all I have as a layperson. because I can’t judge the maths or stats. I don’t trust skeptics because by the same token I can’t judge which of their hare-brained theories is right or wrong, but I do trust scientists, the scientific method and scientific peer review – in general. One paper may be right or wrong or off, but in the end, I’m sure my trust is better placed there than on blogs and with skeptics, real or alleged.

          As a social scientist, I look to the political, economic and social context to uncover why the findings of climate science are being disputed in public. The past behaviour of other denialist movements, such as the tobacco and chemical industry, is a model that is useful in understanding climate science denial, but even without those examples, it is pretty straight forward. Even a layperson can understand. No math required except the 1+1=2 variety.

      • Mr Pete writes:

        >”What does it mean when scientists allow a desired result pattern to blind them to the fact that they got the math completely wrong?”

        Completely wrong Mr Pete? Remind us exactly how different the warming rates are between S09 and O10?

        Mr Pete your game has been called out:

        >”Science progresses by finding errors and improving methods and questioning conclusions. It appears to me that the O’Donnell and crew are interested in doing what McI has specialized in — looking for mistakes in order to insinuate something is wrong with science, and with the scientists, not to push the field forward. If anything, they have expressed contempt for it.”

        • Shewonk and jakerman, allow me to provide a very simple analogy.

          Data: John=4.0, Pete=2.0

          Model 1)
          Age(John) = 2.0 * Age(Pete)

          Model 2)
          Age(John) = 2.0 + Age(Pete)

          Both models are correct! We only discover the problem when we perturb the data. Then we discover that one model is simply nonsense.

          In the case of S’09 and O’10 of course, the underlying math is rocket science. Yet the outcome is not…unless one is quite dedicated to hanging onto a particular result or preferred course of action.

          In this case, it isn’t about “warming rates” or even what the pretty maps look like. It’s whether the science moved forward. S’09 did not. Wrong math is simply wrong. Even if we like the “answer.”

          O’10 moved the science forward, because it both showed the errors in S’09 and also provided a correct method.

          Shewonk, your statement “I don’t trust skeptics” is disconcerting because you contrast skeptics with scientists. Good science is all about skepticism. All about disproof. Every time someone takes the time to (graciously) tear into a paper, we ought to be applauding!

          Shewonk, one of the dimensions I would personally urge you to consider more, is the dimension in which I have some significant expertise: the effect of computer technology on our trust and belief in various initiatives.

          There is a tendency to believe that because we have a computer model, we have learned something. Sometimes that is true; sometimes models are quite helpful (even if not perfectly correct!)

          However, and particularly in arenas where the uncertainties are huge, we also can easily fool ourselves. And the sad history of environmental interventionism is that we really don’t understand the environment well enough to reliably intervene very well. (I’m married to a dedicated environmentalist, who also has the humility to realize we need to be careful with this planet…and are more likely to make things worse than better with many of our proposed “solutions.”)

          Go look up LOSU (Level Of Scientific Understanding) in the IPCC reports and see for yourself how confident the scientific community is about all this.

          Of course, I’m honestly assuming this blog is really about science and not advocacy.

        • Fallacy of the false anallogy Mr Pete. You have not liked S’09 with your fabricated error by anything but assertion.

          S’09 move science forward by applying a method, combining data and producing a result. The D’O’10 paper builds on that. The anti science attacks on Steig do not. They are politics dressed up as science.

          Your anti-science appraoch of asertion that Steigh is “completely wrong” falls under the later rather than the former.

      • As opposed to Mr Pete’s anti-science approach of Steig got it “completely wrong”, here is the pro-science approach:

        Recently, a number of methods have been used to address the sparse observational coverage of West Antarctic climate, including analysis of remote sensing data, interpolation of data from the sparse station network, and merging of insitu records. Steig et al. (2009) combined satellite-derived temperature
        data with station data to produce a gridded reconstruction of Antarctic temperatures spanning 1957–2006.
        They reported an annual warming of West Antarctica of 0.18_C/decade for 1957–2006, maximized in the austral winter and spring. Chapman and Walsh (2007) used a distance- weighted interpolation of station and oceanic records to produce a 1_ 9 1_ gridded reconstruction for 1950–2002.
        Their maps showed warming across most of West Antarctica. Monaghan et al. (2008) used a kriging method to produce a 1_ 9 1_ reconstruction for 1960–2005. They reported generally positive trends for most of West Antarctica, but none were statistically significant. However, the Monaghan et al. reconstruction updated for years 1998–2007 using a new record for Byrd station (80_S, 120_W) exhibits larger and statistically significant temperature trends for West Antarctica (Bromwich et al. 2008). The updated reconstruction shows warming of West Antarctica in all seasons, significant in the austral spring and summer, and is in better agreement with the Steig et al. (2009) reconstruction than the
        Monaghan et al. (2008) version was. Recently, O’Donnell et al. (2010) proposed alternative methodology for the Steig et al. (2009) reconstruction, suggesting an annual warming trend for West Antarctica of 0.06_C/decade or 0.10_C/decade for 1957–2006, depending on the algorithm used to account for spatial and temporal relationships of the station data and satellite data.

        Click to access fulltext.pdf

        • So jakerman,

          If Steig’s reconstruction was done with invalid math, how is what you quoted “pro science” and mine “anti science?”

          In my illustration, you are suggesting that we should accept

          Age(John) = 2.0 * Age(Pete)

          because it produced a result that matched our expectations and/or one data set?

          It is always interesting to me that people would rather accept a provably incorrect answer over “we don’t know yet” (let alone a provably better calculation)… apparently because we all have an in-built attraction to any kind of pattern, right or wrong.

          By the way, I’m saying this to myself as much as anyone else. I have to be careful not to do this myself! People just love puzzles, love to find patterns. And as soon as we find a pattern, we think we have learned something.

          (OK, gotta return to my Real Life. I hope I can find some time to come back here. Looks like some interesting discussions!)

        • Mr Pete asks:

          “If Steig’s reconstruction was done with invalid math, how is what you quoted “pro science” and mine “anti science?””

          Try demonstrating that Steig’s approach was invalid rather than asserting it? Then defend O’D’10 against the allegations of invalid math that they depend on.

          In doing so you’ll need to shift your understanding from you black and white simplicity, to nuanced understanding that statistics has many methods that hardly ever provide perfect answers. Rather tools provide answers that improve our understanding of complex data.

          • Try demonstrating that Steig’s approach was invalid rather than asserting it?

            That’s exactly what O’10 does.

            “Perfect answers” is gonna be impossible with these data sets. Huge volumes of missing data. (My specialty BTW.)

            In many ways, the data is not “complex” so much as “messy due to gaps.”

            I urge you to go learn a bit about Chladni patterns. That’s the actual underlying issue here. Not hard to understand in reality if you have any background in even high school physics. WHY S’09 produces such patterns is way complicated and I don’t pretend to understand that.

            I gave an analogy already. If you don’t want to go look at the evidence, it’s no skin off my teeth. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I have very minimal confidence that anything I can possibly say would be influential here.

            [So why bother: I’m the eternal optimist if there ever was one 🙂 🙂 ]

          • As I suggested, when you try and defend your claims that S’09 was completely wrong, and defend O’D’10 against its flaws you are forced to see my point:

            ““Perfect answers” is gonna be impossible with these data sets.”

            As I said O’D 10 built on the ground work of S’09, that is how science progresses.

            Science does not progress with denialist chumming where you fabricate claims about authors, you make the worst assumption about motives to create a false narrative.

  3. There is a difference between disagreeing about science and going for the man. Over the past week the bloggers have gone for the man, two feet, over the ball, studs showing.

    • Worthwhile post to quote from Derry over at The Blackboard:

      lderry (Comment#69400) February 13th, 2011 at 8:57 am
      I wasn’t still up, but it’s morning and the coffee is here.

      Reviewers all have biases, explicit or not. In many cases, for someone to be truly disinterested they probably don’t know the subject mater that well. I don’t really see how, on a practical basis, you could come up with a system in which reviewers with a somehow defined conflict of interest had to be identified but others not. The shades of gray there would certainly be beyond my ability to navigate. Further, as an editor, one receives submissions in fields you don’t know well, i.e. you don’t know the players and who doesn’t like who etc. And then there are other issues.

      For example, there is some truth to the notion that young scientists tend to be more critical, but of different things, than more experienced ones. It’s often just impossible to know who might take an initially negative view and who might be inclined to be positive. Puffball reviews are in many ways less helpful than dissections. Hopefully, if everybody is doing their job, the content of the ms will be the main issue, but I don’t believe that we can make this system “bias free”. So you make your best attempt at getting technically qualified reviewers, expect professionalism, and hope for the best. It can sometimes be hard to get reviewers, because good people are very busy. If authors and reviewers don’t agree, it’s up to the editor to navigate disputes. In the end, his/her judgment matters. But it’s a judgment, and so others might do it differently.

      Furthermore, if a reviewer is especially nasty or unfair, it can backfire in the long run. Credibility and reputation matter in this business. People know this and typically moderate their behavior accordingly. Professionalism matters. It is also not uncommon for an author to rebut a criticism rather than change the ms. If, as editor, I’m reasonably satisfied that the author’s point is sound I don’t ask for changes on that point. In most cases, the changes requested by reviewers result in improved manuscripts, often very much improved. But peer review is certainly imperfect – no argument there. What’s important is that, in the long run, boring papers will be ignored, interesting papers will spur further work, and over time, a better understanding almost always emerges. But the process behind the review of any given paper is a series of compromises and judgments – sometimes easy and sometimes hard.

      I honestly don’t think that new rules on reviewer disclosure would substitute for judgment. We expect reviewers to behave professionally, and almost all do. Open review is often touted as the solution, but in my experience it doesn’t always work very well. Our journal actually tried an open review system, in which anyone could comment on a paper, but we dropped it for lack of success. Others have had the same experience. I sort of look at the current peer review system the way Churchill looked at democracy – it has flaws, but I haven’t seen a better system.

      In this particular case (O’Donnell), it is my opinion that the system worked about as well as one could hope, and I don’t see anything to criticize in either Reviewer A’s comments or the job the editor did. It all seems pretty normal to me, well within the range we see for other papers. The paper as published is measured in its language. Of course most papers don’t have legions of bloggers eager to pass judgment on them (or, having passed judgment a priori, say something anyway). It seems that the amplification of the remaining (and entirely normal) differences between the authors on the web has resulted in an enormous flap over not much. If the authors were left alone, I suspect this would have never escalated the way it did.

      Much of the commentary trying to establish detailed time lines of who knew or said what when seems just pointless to me, and many of the third party accusations are over the top. I think everybody needs to go back to their day jobs. The relentless attacks on motives, personalities, and process details are a sad and destructive distraction. What matters is what is happening with Antarctic climate, not all the rest of it. [my own paragraph breaks inserted for appearance and readability]

      • What an extraordinarily overblown kerfuffle this whole blogo-incident is! I heartedly endorse Derry’s last 2 paragraphs here.

  4. Where “in kind” means “Attacking Steig’s character, professionalism and competence”?

    Regarding competence, JeffID has said, over at BartV’s place:

    Sou commented that I’ve not read at RC. My comments were made to the first post before the big blowup and were extremely reasonable, correct and of very careful tone.

    They were snipped.

    The boys ain’t qualified to snip my comments so I don’t go back.

    The boys ain’t qualified …

    This is pretty much the attitude, the kind of self-assured sense of superiority so famously written about by D-K, and I think ought to make clear the *real* reason why The Scrubs were pissed that Steig was a reviewer (and remember, they went on and on about their believing it was “Piltdown Mann” hiding behind Steig’s skirts who was doing the reviewing).

  5. Shub’s off blaming the victim, once again …

    • Steig’s a big boy and he knows what he is doing.

      He wants to defend his paper by blog science, then he shouldn’t complain about playing by blog rules, no?

      • Straw man. There are no such things as “blog rules”.

        • There are, Bowers.

          These allow you to say things like “straw man”.

          Incidentally, “there are no such things as blog rules” happens to be an accurate characterization of ‘blog rules’.

          Steig took things to the blogs first, but expected details of what transpired during the review of O’Donnell et al – things that were damaging to the case he was making on the blogs – locked out of the blogs, bound by anonymity rules of the journal world.

          Not a bright idea.

          • > Steig took things to the blogs first, but **expected** […]

            Speculation about motive is a blog trick that might appear often as this story unfolds.


            Notice also the other trick:

            > Steig should play by Big Boys Blog rules.


            > Calling strawman belongs to blog rules.

            Equivocation is also a blog trick.

            It appears now that even PHDs use these tricks.

          • Shub Niggurath :
            There are, Bowers.

            That’s Mr. Bowers to you.

            • You are a commenter here, in blogland, Bowers. You can ask your French maid to address you the way you want.

              I don’t address my comments to who you are, but to what you say.

              I think you have managed once more to be suficiently obscure enough for your understanding of what I said above, to be undecipherable.

              My point was that Steig was the first one to take one limb of the Steig vs O’Donnell debate into a forum (blogs) where the rules of engagement are different from the previous, but expected his opponent to remain bound by rules that applied there, even as he attacked him in the new forum.

          • Steig took things to the blogs first


      • “He wants to defend his paper by blog science, then he shouldn’t complain about playing by blog rules, no?”

        Whereas if he’d published his criticisms in a journal he’d be attacked for using the machinery of scientific publishing against plucky sceptics and being too arrogant to engage real people in the blogosphere.

        The implication of “blog rules” from your statement is that coordinated personal attacks on an individual in order to discredit their criticisms is not only something that happens but part of the “rules”. In also seems you support this.

        • sharper
          Your characterization of ‘coordination’ is mere speculation, and yet it is mainly this speculation that adds any substance at all to your argument above.

          By blog rules, what is meant is fairly straghtforward – arguments are presented out in the open, everyone can view them and respond, there is no requirement of review by your peers constraining how opinions are characterized.

          • So there are no blog rules, but there are peer review rules.

          • “Your characterization of ‘coordination’ is mere speculation”

            No speculation is necessary. Posts appeared simultaneously on WUWT and CA, there was no attempt to hide it. It’s a very clear coordinated effort.

  6. Sharpoo,

    “The nature of the attack was so savage and frankly so organised (by the usuals) that it looks spring loaded and ready to pop once the appropriate trigger was found.”

    Well. Time line. Paper accepted End of November 2010 with headline “O’Donnell et al 2010 Refutes Steig et al 2009”. O’Donnell confirms Steig is reviewer early December. Around same time, McItyre emails Nielsen-Gammon to ask about releasing reviews and names. NG says no. Three months of stewing. Steig criticizes some parts of paper Feb 1, 2011. A week later, it starts.

    • I also wonder why it took McI so long to clip the comments that violated “blog policy” and then only when directed to by O’D.

      • It strikes me as being a way of both saying something without saying it and of course laying claim to the high ground (I’ve often heard it said McI is simply too nice)

        I’d have a lot of respect for O’Donnell if he said “I’m very sorry I attacked Eric Steig in that way, I was angry, frustrated and jumped to conclusions I can now see are wrong”.

        Instead we see the usual doubling down and ever finer parsing of statements as if you can find any meaning you want in any sentence if you just look hard enough. People keep saying Steig “insisted” on iRidge and there’s the word “Insist” right at start of the paragraph! Most people see no reason to read further.

        Same goes for the 88 pages malarkey.

        • Hmmmm….maybe my question was a bit rhetorical. LOL.

          Interesting that you brought up parsing, sharper00 – they put middle school students to shame.

          It’s funny that a little while ago people were even talking about a Steig-O’D collaboration. I suppose that idea’s shot. So what does this episode tell us about bridge building? Be cautious. Be very, very cautious.

          • “Be cautious. Be very, very cautious.”

            Well remember, next month climate scientists will be scolded for their “bunker mentality”.

            If a group are attacking you in different ways then a defence against one attack which enables a different one isn’t effective.

  7. A week later, it starts.

    Well, if The Team isn’t qualified to snip The Scrubs’s comments at RC, as JeffID claims, certainly they’re not qualified (or allowed, without retribution,) to criticize their work, eh?

  8. Gavin Schmidt has a not entirely irrelevant post up at RC.

    From blog to Science

    • And McI does the usual wordplay in his latest post at CA. I’ve only skimmed it, but there are lots of Moncktonian assertions of things being clear, when they’re clearly not. You have to do lots of back and forth between what he says, the full versions of O’Donnell’s comments, Steig’s review comments, the O10 submissions, the kitchen for coffee to keep the eyes open, all during a first skim.

  9. Shewonk,

    Perhaps you as a sociologist could team with a historian of science like Oreskes to dissect the history and role of Mosher and Fuller in the climate science wars.

    I have followed the blogs now for about five years. Mosher is ubiquitous across the intertubes. He was front and center in the original controversies over Mann and the hockey stick–his main claim to fame being the “Piltdown Mann”. He’s even proud of it.

    He has postured all over the blogosphere as some sort of major code warrior–critiqueing the code and insistently demanding that the code be freed and the data be released.

    He was one of the first to break the take from HADCRU. Somehow he and Fuller formed an unholy alliance to synthesize the Crutape stuff into a dummy’s guide to the perfidy of climate scientists.

    Fuller is a johnny come lately to the wars and a light weight. I love his self appointed role as the defender of Dame Judith from the onslaughts of the Black Knight, Tobis.

    These two–particularly Mosher would make fine fodder for a study in the pathology of the climate wars.

    Paul Middents

      • The lead in to this post is:

        “This blog is about the social and political dimensions of the climate wars.”

        I’m just trying to broaden the discussion beyond the talmudic parsings of Steig and O’Donnell to a couple of the more interesting and malevolent denizens of blog denial-land.

        Shub, as a an even more johnny come lately to the blog wars, has not yet risen to the level of being interesting.

        Willard on the other hand is endlessly fascinating.

  10. “McIntyrism”

    Love it.

    “‘Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity, er, I mean, between Sound Science and Climate Science…’ No, that’s not quite right…
    “‘I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were made known to the Boehner Committee as being members of the National Academy of Sciences…’ No, gotta do better..
    “Got it! ‘Mann has lighted the spark which is resulting in a moral uprising and will end only when the whole sorry mess of twisted warped thinkers are swept from the scientific scene so that we may have a new birth of honesty and decency in science.’ That’ll have them beating their palms bloody at the next Heartland do.”

  11. ## 2010-12-06, 10:25? Ryan O’Donnell sends an email to Eric Steig:

    > Engineers are a curious lot, often too curious for their own good. At the risk of saying something in very bad form, I will explain why. Part of the reason I believe your thanks to be sincere this is the wording introducing each of what I believe to be (and here comes the very bad form) your three reviews. […]


    ## 2010-12-06, 11:54? – Eric Steig sends an email to Ryan O’Donnell:

    > You are correct that I was a reviewer, but I think it would be quite inappropriate to publish these reviews, nor to mention that you know whom the reviewer was.


    ## 2010-12-06, 23:15 – Steve McIntyre publishes **Andrew Weaver Praises O’Donnell et al 2010**:


    ## 2010-12-07, 00:15 – An exchange in the comments of **Andrew Weaver Praises O’Donnell et al 2010**:

    > [Alex Hayworth] Maybe he was one of the reviewers.

    > [Steve] obviously not Reviewer A.

    • O’Donnell puts Steig in an impossible position, where silence will be taken as an affirmative, denial will be fodder for accusations of lying, and we now know where Steig’s confirmation led to.

      Catch-22 all the way for Eric. These people cannot be trusted.

  12. My diagnosis of the ‘skeptics’ is that they lack an ethical framework. It’s all about attacking climate science, and the ends justifies the means.

    The absence of scruples sees them routinely ‘fouling’ the opposition.

    If this was football/soccer, they’d have been red-carded ages ago.

    • Unlike academics or those with careers to maintain livelihoods from, they suffer little to no consequences for their actions (even receive admiration) and seem to fail to grasp that there are real consequences for those they target.

      • @ J Bowers – From where I sit, McI et al know full well there are real consequences for those they target, which is the very reason they do it. And it’s not professional consequences they are mainly wanting (which have little hope of success) – they want the scientists they attack to become a target for any crank out there. Why do some of the more vituperative posts appear on crank-attracting sites like WUWT?

        There are Australian climate scientists who have become much quieter since receiving threats. Scientists are much more careful these days. The world is a dangerous place.

  13. McIntyre

    Aside from the oddity of a reviewer being “totally surprised” that heed is paid to his comments, these statements are inaccurate on other points.

    Irrelevant.  McIntyre’s foray into Steig’s brain about what surprises him is hand-waving.

    Steig says “I said that *perhaps* iridge is better, as YOU suggested”. At the time of Steig’s suggestion/proposal/request, we had only reported iridge results as an experiment. We had not then “suggested” that they were “better”.

    Here is what was written by ODonnell in the response to review 1

    Testing by infilling ground stations using ridge regression with the ridge parameter for each time step determined via generalized cross validation yields validation statistics, spatial patterns and West Antarctic trends (~0.11)  comparable to our main results, and performing RLS reconstructions after offsetting stations based on periods of mutual overlap (i.e., no infilling) yields validation statistics, spatial patterns and West Antarctic trends (~0.10) also comparable to our main results (¶4.C – U, 4.Y – AE).  These additional tests – which form the basis for a future work –have now been incorporated into the main text.

    Parsing the words “better” and “suggest” is just more hand-waving away from the real issue, which is they have nothing to affirm that the reaction to Eric’s criticism on RC from Feb 1st was accurate or called for.   They made mistakes.  They released names and reviews. They accused or inferred that Steig was using peer-review to his own advantage. They are using tidbits of emails and avoiding the real points. This is rather disgusting.

    Nor is the following true: “In the same paragraph I alerted you to the problems with iridge”. Steig suggested/proposed iridge in his Second Review; the supposed “problems with iridge” were not mentioned until the Third Review – after we’d done the major revision.

    This appears to be either a mixup by Stieg or he is now referring to review 3, where he says:

    * The use of the ‘iridge’ procedure makes sense to me, and I suspect it really does give the best results.  But O’Donnell et al. do not address the issue with this procedure raised by Mann et al., 2008, which Steig et al. cite as being the reason for using ttls in the regem algorithm. The reason given in Mann et al., is not computational efficiency — as O’Donnell et al state — but rather a bias that results when extrapolating (‘reconstruction’) rather than infilling is done.  Mann et al. are very clear that better results are obtained when the data set is first reduced by taking the first M eigenvalues.  O’Donnell et al. simply ignore this earlier work.  At least a couple of sentences justifying that would seem appropriate.Nor do we think that Mann and coauthors have actually demonstrated that there are problems with iridge that do not also apply to TTLS – an observation also made by Smerdon and Kaplan 2008. Ironically Mann himself vehemently denounced TTLS relative to iridge in 2006 in as Reviewer 2 here.

    At worst, Steig didn’t do his diligence to check which review he was discussing before writing the personal email that McItyre reproduced in an effort to win an argument in which he still hasn’t produced a lick of evidence to charge Steig with these peer-review sins being bloviated through the blogs.  And nobody cares ODonnel et al re-wrote their own paper.   Revert to the original!

    Again, the record speaks for itself. In his Second Review, Steig obviously suggested iridge and argued that there was no “compelling reason” why it should be deferred for “future work” as Ryan had proposed in his Response to the First Review. Far from arguing in his Second Review with the EDITOR and THE KNUCKLE-HEADED REVIEWERS that iridge should not be used, Steig, at a minimum, suggested it.

    Here is Eric is saying didn’t argue against it.  So what? Again, just regressing back to “suggest” in order to pin something on Eric, or make him look bad, both misses the point entirely.  When Eric says that word in the (personal, not meant for public consumption) email, he is obviously saying he didn’t suggest it, as in being the first one to “suggest” it.  Yeah, that makes a difference.

    However, the record clearly shows that the originally submitted work “relied solely on TTLS” and “the choice of iridge (instead of TTLS) [was] in response to comments from a reviewer of the paper” as the reader had stated.

    McIntyre says this about a response Steig made to commenter

    O’Donnell and his coauthors argue that the choice of iridge (instead of TTLS) in response to comments from a reviewer of the paper. This, at least, seems to be a somewhat weak point upon which to critique their approach if their originally submitted work relied solely on TTLS.

    [Response: How can I put this succinctly? How about this; I have pointed out the facts of the matter to O’Donnell et al. They have not changed what they have written. They are therefore now lying to their readers. It’s actually about that simple. -eric]

    This is again, blaming Steig for it, still without providing any proof, just repeating the claim, and if it did exist, McItyre doesn’t addressing another problem that should be addressed if he wants to go down that road. And that is — “it’s not Eric’s paper, but I digress.   Eric’s response is obviously a non-response, having nothing to do with or directly confronting what the commenter said.

    Let’s not look away from what’s happening in the Big Picture.

    • The recent CA post very much reminds me of the Bradlet/Fritts one.

      In that series of posts he started with an incorrect/deceptive premise – redefine what “without attribution” is and conflate “copying” with “coping without attribution”. Hence he was able to write multiple posts with point after point of Bradley “copying” Fritts but since the starting premise was wrong it doesn’t matter how well supported it is. The average reader there was unwilling to question the premise so thus it appeared it was “proven” that Bradley did the same/was worse than Wegman.

      I don’t know if there’s a name for this type of argument, perhaps it’s new. Just as above the entire rests entirely on the interpretation of “Perhaps, as the authors suggest, kgnd should not be used at all, but the results from the ‘iridge’ infilling should be used instead.” along with a strong desire to apply the “Insist” from the previous sentence to it. Everything else seems to be a distraction.

      • I think the term you are looking for is “argumentum ad fibbium”, argument by lying.

      • What’s really frustrating is they’ve got something on the science end. And they can’t just say “oops yeah, those wild accusations have absolutely no merit unless we begin to read minds and parse words into oblivion. So let’s get on to the science now.”

        No they’ve got to go for the jugular. Refute Steig and destroy his character. Enough. Just move on.

  14. Speaking of vandals:

    Fine Young Cannibals. Suspiscious minds. Valentine Day.


  15. The theme of this post reminded me of of the quote attributed to Metternich when he heard news of the death of his devious arch-rival Talleyrand: “I wonder what he meant by that.”

    Similarly, when McIntyre hears that Andrew Weaver has praised the O’D et al article, rather than acknowledge the compliment graciously, he instead blows his dogwhistle and wonders where Weaver got a copy of the preprint from.

    I guess that what must gall O’Donnell and McIntyre is the acknowledgement that they have successfully laid a brick in the wall of knowledge of climate science. They have been co-opted as contributors to Kuhn’s normal science, whereas they imagined they were being revolutionary, undermining the whole structure. What a let down this must have been.

    It’s perhaps no wonder that they quickly reverted to their more reliable tactics.

    • Hear hear! Pretend you’re writing a new paper on Antarctic warming (not that I would recommend it, given the current level of rhetoric…). The results of O’Donnell et al. simply provide another bounds on the previously estimated warming. A footnote in the scientific process. In my introduction I might write, for example: “Previous estimates of Antarctic warming trends, estimated from a variety of methods, have ranged between xxxx and xxxx (van Den Broeke 2000, Steig et al., 2009, O’Donnell et al., 2011).”

      Frankly, I have to give O’D et al. credit for turning blog science into “real” science. But to feel insulted and victimized by the peer review process, and to publicly (and viciously) criticize a reviewer (!) demonstrates that O’Donnell et al weren’t really interested in the result, only in discrediting a member of “the Team”.

  16. I think this is largely a matter of confirmation bias on steroids. Once you presume that somebody is dishonest, devious, nasty and unworthy of your consideration or respect then you will -naturally- view everything they say, do or write as dishonest and untrustworthy. Unsurprisingly, when every trivial action or written post-it note is viewed through this distorting prism, you find lots and lots of evidence confirming your original presumption.

    Then you add in a large dose of moral nonsense. That is, you decide that you will *not* take the moral high ground and refuse to ‘sink to their level’. You take the other person’s assumed moral turpitude as the basis, and you behave in the way you have made up your mind that they behave. Hey presto! Bedlam.

    What many observers overlook is that it really shouldn’t matter if people view the world through such a distorting prism. What does matter is how they deal with others regardless of that view – especially if the view is negative. Taking the moral high ground and treating others’ statements and behaviour as if they are fully considered, well meant, or at least honest, gives freedom to criticise or contradict later statements which are inconsistent.

    This is the real failure of the complaints emanating from the O’D camp.
    a) Presume bad faith, b) Respond with bad faith, c) Fail to work out that a) does not require b).

    • This goes both ways of course.

      The interesting thing in my experience that while painful, it is possible to function in an environment where others are untrustworthy. Takes a TON more effort, and partnership is close to impossible.

      The modern scientific method appears to be designed for just this eventuality: in essence the process of scientific advancement is very mercenary… everyone tries hard to tear apart one another’s results. The results that stand are assumed to be well-tested.

      Even then, one must regularly go back and check assumptions. A friend sensed something was peculiar about the data/methods underlying his thesis, so he went back and re-checked. Discovered that there was a significant un-caught error one more layer back (ie Paper A had an error that propagated to Paper B, his Paper C was based on B.) Apparently this unraveled quite a bit of work 😦 …

      This is why I tend to think it is bad enough that scientists have to deal with the scientific method, let alone policy/political pressures.

  17. So these are the people Fred Pearce has been bigging up since the middle of last year. Misunderstood ‘data libertarians’.

    No agenda then, no siree . And we are all expected by him to walk to Canossa for them.

  18. AMS on anonymity for reviewers: Reviewers’ Guidelines

    “…If you do not wish to be anonymous to the Author, please so advise. If you wish to be anonymous to the author, check the document properties and delete any identifying tags.”


  19. As shewonk says:

    Unfortunately, the science — truth, facts, evidence, and their interpretation — have been hijacked, at least in the blogosphere and some MSM, by the political battles

    As if to demonstrate, Dr. Curry wades straight into the mire with a post on Hiding the Decline (yes, that decline) and promptly shoots herself in the foot by flinging accusations of dishonesty at Mann, Briffa, Jones “et al” (implying, presumaly, other members of the RC crew).

    Gavin Schmidt calls Curry on this, saying:

    to ascribe a difference of opinion to dishonesty is to remove yourself from any sensible discussion on the topic. Perhaps if I was to find a graph in one of your papers which I thought didn’t show some aspect of the data I was interested in, and then accuse you of dishonesty? Would you react well to that? This is exactly the same. How can you claim to be building bridges, when you are so busy burning them?

    Seems Prof Schmidt has taken Sir John Beddington’s advice to heart. Watch this space…

    • I don’t know why anyone bothers to visit Curry’s blog or waste time responding to her. She does not appear to have a grasp of the science when she discusses it, and her sole intent in regard to science appears to be to sling off at other more successful scientists. Jealousy in action.

      When she posts on other topics it’s a lot of rubbish. She ‘discovers’ psychology and then proceeds to misapply it. Her ‘philosophy’ meanderings might be fun on a blog, but do not rate as far as education discussion goes. Her politics are almost transparent, though I believe she doesn’t explicitly state them. Finally, the most prolific posters seem to be the likes of Oliver K Manuel and Shub, about the calibre of the typical WUWT commenters.

      Still, there may be other readers so comments from people like John N-G and Gavin are worthwhile from that perspective – to inject some rationality into an otherwise invective-filled irrational discussion.

      • Agreed Sou. Stay away– it is not a science site, never was. It was probably not a smart move for Gavin to go over there, they’ll just bait him into saying something stupid. It is impossible to reason with her or her fan club.

        I’d just let them have at it and then slap her with a libel suit when she goes too far oner day soon.

        What a spectacle. It is going to be interesting to watch them implode.

        And pretty sad that she had to call for help from the anti-science crowd. Why not Climate*****? Probably protecting McIntyre from Gavin and Mann and others in the know.

        • I think Gavin did the right thing – he showed up, tried to engage the topic politely, mostly ignored all the various slander thrown his way, noted the deficiencies in the responses given and left.

          Forming a decision is left as an exercise for the reader and we know the type of conclusion people who think C02 cools the Earth will reach. However those who are sensible will have seen what “reconciliation” really means.

          • Thanks sharper00,

            You are probably right. I did have a peak, and saw all the high-fiving and people telling curry that she is doing the right thing and it made me sick.

            Going by her comments made at WUWT, she thinks this is “fun and games”. I’m appalled. Truly appalled.

            How do you think climate etc is going to play out– self destruct or become another WUWT (if it is not already)?

        • The high-fiving etc is unavoidable just like the WUWT non-nonsensical declaration that Gavin was unable to manage the exchange is, it’s necessary to repeatedly assert the opposite of reality and support it when that’s what you’re doing.

          I don’t think it’ll self-destruct in any sense. It’s already positioned at the Bishop Hill level of discourse and I don’t expect that to change despite attempts to attract working scientists to comment there. You can’t spend 80% of your time attacking science and then expect scientists to fill the 20%.

    • I know what you mean Sou, I don’t want to add to her trafic, because she uses her trafic as justification for her being on the right track.

      But I do find reading Gavin’s point to her and her response to Gavin an interesting specticle. I’m not sure what a good balance is. What would happen if Gavin didn’t add to her blog?

      Did she at one stage in the past complain about tribalism and barracking? That thread if full of examples of sheer empty barracking.

      • because she uses her trafic as justification for [confirmation of] her being on the right track.

      • Did she at one stage in the past complain about tribalism and barracking?

        That was before she involved herself in the debate and discovered the use of tribalism in building support.

        Just like she didn’t discover the futility of “explaining” the greenhouse effect to cranks until she tried it.

        Some people just have to make their own mistakes.

        I find it’s a lot better to read the posts there after they’ve attracted a number of comments, it’s only when the usual suspects show up and add their replies to almost every single comment that you remember the discourse is almost non-existent.

        • I have to say it’s fun to see Bart in a feisty mood.

          • I only just spotted that Curry went over to WUWT to call in reinforcements to help deal with Gavin.

            Of course WUWTobliged declaring “Gavin’s having a little trouble managing in a format that he doesn’t get to manage”

            The whole narrative here is of course the “bunker mentality” of scientists when they should be opening up their code, data and “engaging” the sceptics – what happens when a scientist shows up to engage an issue? The blog owner immediately runs to draw in others to attack him.

            • I didn’t think she could stoop any lower – my mistake.

            • By now it is pretty clear which is the target audience of Climate Etc.

              • The strangest thing about Curry’s site is the disconnect between her scientific output and her blog opinion. The former is firmly in the mainstream,the latter is fringe stuff and invokes things that her science doesn’t touch.

                I guess it’s much easier to do a quick blog-post than slave away over a journal submission on uncertainty or stats methods.

              • I guess it’s much easier to do a quick blog-post than slave away over a journal submission on uncertainty or stats methods.

                She’s said before that a technical post takes hours of her time and gets very few “hits” whereas posts which take almost no time get lots of “hits”.

                Of course then she and others then went on mock RealClimate as irrelevant because it doesn’t get as many hits as WUWT and others. Apparently the connection was lost on them.

  20. (apologies for cocking up the html tags above)

  21. In the light of the obvious concern that Gavin and other climate scientists have about stopping the spread of pseudo-science, and particularly with the recent emphasis by Beddington (at last), I think Gavin is doing the right thing in this case.

    It’s probably not worth pulling her up on every bit of pseudo-science and libellous accusations she writes and/or allows on her blog (you’d end up doing nothing else) but in this case it’s an old meme that she’s resurrected. I suppose it’s because it’s about the only bit of climate science that she is aware of (given the number of times she alludes to it). You’d think by now Curry would have got a better grasp of the IPCC’s various documents and their purpose by now, even if she has a persistent mental block when it comes to paleo-climate science.

    • > I think Gavin is doing the right thing in this case.

      I’m not sure. Engaging in “debate” on a forum where there is incompetent or hostile moderation, is usually a bad idea.

      But I agree Gavin is leaning over backward to try do the right thing.

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