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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Climate skeptic” journal shuttered following “malpractice” in “nepotistic” reviewer selections

with 46 comments

prpThe publisher of a journal apparently favored by climate change skeptics has shuttered it, saying that the editors changed the aim of the title and committed malpractice by using a peer reviewer selection process based on nepotism.

Here’s the notice:

Copernicus Publications started publishing the journal Pattern Recognition in Physics (PRP) in March 2013. The journal idea was brought to Copernicus’ attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.

Recently, a special issue was compiled entitled “Pattern in solar variability, their planetary origin and terrestrial impacts”. Besides papers dealing with the observed patterns in the heliosphere, the special issue editors ultimately submitted their conclusions in which they “doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming as claimed by the IPCC project” (Pattern Recogn. Phys., 1, 205–206, 2013).

Copernicus Publications published the work and other special issue papers to provide the spectrum of the related papers to the scientists for their individual judgment. Following best practice in scholarly publishing, published articles cannot be removed afterwards.

In addition, the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing and not in accordance with our  publication ethics we expect to be followed by the editors.

Therefore, we at Copernicus Publications wish to distance ourselves from the apparent misuse of the originally agreed aims & scope of the journal as well as the malpractice regarding the review process, and decided on 17 January 2014 to cease the publication of PRP. Of course, scientific dispute is controversial and should allow contradictory opinions which can then be discussed within the scientific community. However, the recent developments including the expressed implications (see above) have led us to this drastic decision.

Interested scientists can reach the online library at: www.pattern-recogn-phys.net

Martin Rasmussen
January 2014

Journal guest editor Roger Tattersall — known as Rog Tallbloke online — tweeted:

Copernicus clearly didn’t like the climate science related nature of the special edition. I sought peer reviewers..

But scholarly librarian Jeffrey Beall noticed some…patterns in the journal back in September July:

The journal’s editor-in-chief, Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, who works for the Algerian Petroleum Institute, started publishing his research in journal articles around 2010, but he’s only been cited a couple times, not counting his many self-citations.

Co-editor-in-chief Nils-Axel Morner is a noted climate “skeptic” who believes in dowsing (water divining) and believes he has found the “Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in Sweden, among other things. These beliefs are documented in Wikipedia and The Guardian. Morner has over 125 publications, but pattern recognition does not appear to be among his specialties.

Moreover, speaking of “pattern recognition,” my analysis revealed some self-plagiarism by editor Ouadfeul in the very first paper the journal published, an article he himself co-authored.

We’ve contacted Ouadfeul for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 10:45 a.m. Eastern: Here’s a new blog post from Tattersall including a letter sent from Copernicus to the journal’s editors, and another with background from BigCityLib.

Hat tip: Ben Lillie via Gavin Schmidt

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Written by Ivan Oransky

January 17, 2014 at 10:31 am

Posted in climate change

46 Responses

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  1. Tattersall is an all arounder who does not much believe in a lot of things including relativity, either general or special. Has not published much if anything at all either. As honey to flies.

    Eli Rabett

    January 17, 2014 at 11:41 am

    • The comments on that item are breathtaking. “I would think that Mercury’s orbit is eccentric because it passes between the Sun and Jupiter four times a year”? If the effect of Jupiter’s gravitational field is that strong, why hasn’t the perihelion precession *synchronized to the orbit of Jupiter*? (Hint: The LRL vector is a constant of two-body motion.) The synodic period of Venus, which is larger and closer, with respect to Jupiter, viewed from the Sun 236.92 days, so it passes between the Sun and Jupiter 0.65 times a year, or four times every 6 yr. This, apparently, is insufficient to have had any detectable effect whatsoever, even though the gravitational attraction is 17 times stronger and the window of heliocentric conjunction is longer.

      Narad

      January 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm

  2. My guess is nepotism is used here not according to the dictionary meaning of the word: employment of nephews.

    Phil Jones – “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !”

    littlegreyrabbit

    January 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    • Well, yesm, there were a bunch of bunny families there, but you might want a look at the mathematics geneology project for a broader sense of nepotism, although perhaps incest would have been a better word.

      Eli Rabett

      January 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      • This is an important issue.

        Let’s start at the top. A few definitions to get the definition straight.

        1) from Dictionary.com: “nepotism (ˈnɛpəˌtɪzəm) —n: favouritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power or influence [C17: from Italian nepotismo]
        2) from Mariam-Webster: “NEPOTISM : favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship ”
        3) From dictionary.com: “Nepotism describes a variety of practices related to favoritism; it can mean simply hiring one’s own family members, or it can mean hiring and advancing unqualified or under-qualified family members based simply on the familial relationship. The word nepotism stems from the Latin word for “nephew,” especially the nephews of the prelates in medieval times.” A nice succinct background discussion here: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Nepotism.aspx

        Definition 3) supports the definition provided by littlegreyrabbit.

        I see the term in a modern context closer to definition 1) than to the traditional medieval definition 3).

        And I also see it on two planes. Sensu stricto (in a strict sense) as favoritism towards friends and relatives. Friends could be family, business, work or professional (e.g., science) friends. After all, sensu lato (in a broad sense), science is one form of a family. Then I see nepotism in a broader sense (sensu lato) as being favoritism towards one over another, or bias.

        Is there any journal, or journal editor, that is not biased to some degree? In some ways, editors-in-chief try to push, as the Portuguese would say “puxar a sardinha a sua braza” (literal translation: pulling the sardine towards one’s own fire), implying that one would want to get the best “roast” or “grill” through manipulation.

        I am of the opinion that there is serious bias taking place in several top-notch biological journals published by some equally top-notch publishers. Editor bias, or nepotism, in lower, unknown journals is not uncustomary, but should still be frowned upon. But when editor bias, or nepotism, takes place in journals that carry an Impact Factor (IF), then there is a serious reason to worry, because the already gamed system, the IF, is being further gamed, perhaps even to boost the IF.

        I will personally be compiling a list of instances in my career of publishing in which I have felt that rejections and decisions by editors or publishers have been biased, unfair, or illogical. This is to further demonstrate that the editor and peer system currently in place in many traditional journals continues to be imperfect, and plagued with bias… and nepotism. I strongly recommend all scientists to compile similar lists so that we can begin to examine how wide, and how deep, this problem has been over the past decade or so, when e-mails and electronic submission systems have been the basis for decision-making.

        JATdS

        January 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        • “Nepotism Watch”

          omnologos

          January 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

          • The GWPF can start its own house journal of nonsense. They have more than enough money. Tallbloke was trying to sail under a flag of convenience, hoping no-one would notice. Hey ho. Start your own journal, fly the Jolly Roger and be proud.

            jsam

            January 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

    • The nephew comment is a bit disingenuous: the first and widely-accepted definition of nepotism is this: “Nepotism is favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives.”

      HarryWiggs

      January 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    • Yeah, but that was a joke – this is reality: “Co-editor-in-chief Nils-Axel Morner is a noted climate “skeptic” who believes in dowsing (water divining) and believes he has found the “Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in Sweden, among other things.”

      nskeptic

      January 18, 2014 at 7:10 am

  3. A strange tale.

    The first issue sets the tone for a new journal, and the editors were ill-advised to start with a topic that is peripheral to the stated aims.

    The publisher was ill-advised to appoint editors who make such basic mistakes, and to not mentor inexperienced editors.

    The decision to close the journal is strange. If something is wrong with the papers, they should be retracted — but they have not been. A single issue is really not much of a basis to predict the future of a journal.

    Richard Tol (@RichardTol)

    January 17, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    • “The first issue sets the tone for a new journal, and the editors were ill-advised to start with a topic that is peripheral to the stated aims.”

      but far from peripheral from the research agenda of at least one of the editors, of which the publisher appears to have been aware beforehand and discussed with the editors:

      “Copernicus Publications started publishing the journal Pattern Recognition in Physics (PRP) in March 2013. The journal idea was brought to Copernicus’ attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.”

      starting with a special issue on a particularly contentious topic of climate research, a favourite topic in the “debates of climate skeptics” is pretty much thumbing their nose at the publisher (appointing a climate skeptic blogger as editor doesn’t help to dispell this impression). In this case, one special issue seems sufficient to predict the future of the journal was not too hopeful.

      dikranmarsupial

      January 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      • but if you have concerns about an editor, you mentor or replace him — you don’t pull the journal

        and if you are worried about a set of papers, you retract them — you don’t pull the journal

        Richard Tol (@RichardTol)

        January 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

        • If the entire editorial board, is let us say, not fit for prime time, and they were the ones that pitched the journal at you, and their product was clearly an attempt to use the journal to jack horn their obsessions into the published literature, and your business model was going to take a hit because of that. maybe not.

          Eli Rabett

          January 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

        • Papers very rarely get retracted simply for being incorrect; they are only generally retracted due to malpractice on the part of the authors, and I don’t think anybody is claiming that.

          Secondly, if an editor breaks a specific agreement over the content of the journal reached beforehand with the journal, then I don’t think any mentoring is going to make a difference.

          Thirdly, I think you need to investigate Copernicus’ publishing model (http://publications.copernicus.org/launch_your_journal.html). The statement made by Copernicus implies that this journal was initiated by the EiCs, and that the journal belongs to them. In that case, Copernicus cannot simply replace them as they do not own the journal. The only thing they could do would be to cease to publish it, which they have done. If this is the case, the owners could in principle start up the journal again elsewhere. However I think that is somewhat unlikely as no serious scientist is going to want to publish there after this (I work in pattern recognition and would love to see a really good journal on this topic, but I wouldn’t publish in a journal where the EiCs do not have a strong track record in pattern recognition).

          dikranmarsupial

          January 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

          • Tallbloke writes

            “… However the Chief Editor plans to move the journal elsewhere. Once it has a new home we will of course welcome and respond to comments on and rebuttals of our work, as this is part of the normal process and progress of science. ”

            which confirms that the journal was owned by the EiCs, not by Copernicus, so Copernicus could not have simply replaced them and had little option other than to cease publishing the journal.

            Prof. Tol, do you accept this explanation?

            (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/17/the-planetary-tidal-influence-on-climate-fiasco-strong-armed-science-tactics-are-overkill-due-process-would-work-better/#comment-1539594)

            dikranmarsupial

            January 18, 2014 at 9:48 am

          • Thanks, Dikran, I now see that Copernicus was not the publisher but merely the printer. That makes their decision to interfere with the editorial policy even stranger. If they do not own the content, why do they bother? And if they decided that they would no longer facilitate the publication of this journal, why do they get into a discussion about contents? The contract between publisher and printer is a purely commercial one.

            There are printers, though, who refuse porn, racism, blasphemy. There are people who think climate change is on par.

            Richard Tol (@RichardTol)

            January 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

          • Prof. Tol Perhaps you ought to find out a bit more about Copernicus, they are not merely a printer, but also provide other services to the editors of the journal. They do also have a model where they ARE the owners of the journal, so the quality of science in the journals published under their aegis does affect their reputation, which they have to defend.

            They have not, as far as I can see interfered with the editorial process, the statement they have posted suggsts they had a prior agreement with the editors of the type of content they were happy to publish. If the editors violate that agreement, the publisher has a right to ceace publishing the journal. This is not editorial interfeerence, Copernicus have not change the content of any paper published by the journal, or affected the decsion to accept or reject any paper, unless you have evidence to the contrary.

            If you take tme to read the statement, the discussion of the content was held BEFORE the journal was established.

            dikranmarsupial

            January 18, 2014 at 11:36 am

          • Dikram: What you say is that Copernicus has a bad business model. If you mix publications with editorial control and without, you should split your brand — Copernicus for the publisher, Nicolaus for the printer.

            Richard Tol (@RichardTol)

            January 19, 2014 at 2:12 am

          • Prof. Tol, no, Copernicus’ business model is perfectly reasonable. However IMHO they made a grave error in judgement in agreeing to publish a journal where the Editors in Chief were clearly not qualified or unsuitable for the topic. If the EiCs did indeed violate a prior agreement with Copernicus on the purpose of the journal, that would underline the unsuitability of the editors. The business model is fine, they just need to be more careful in negotiating the agreement in future.

            dikranmarsupial

            January 19, 2014 at 7:53 am

        • How does one explain, I wonder, the sudden discontinuation of an Elsevier mathematics journal, one of the premier ones? Mathematical and Computer Modelling:

          http://www.journals.elsevier.com/mathematical-and-computer-modelling/

          No explanation. No apology. Dig, and you will find.

          JATdS

          January 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm

  4. lgr: Phil and Kevin were indeed talking about a problem in which lax editorial practices allowed individual editors too much control, and there was a rogue editor. The situation was actually worse than they knew at the time, but more came out later in Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003.

    In fact, it is up to good scientists to try to keep peer-reviewed journals credible, and in that case, the incoming E–ii-C and several other editors quit in protest at having their names on a jounral that wa allowing junk in.

    John Mashey

    January 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

  5. I second Tol’s comment. As usual when climate science is involved very many strange things happen.

    Axel-Moerner’s beliefs and reputation cannot be germane to the closure of the publication as they were well known beforehand. The point about the agreed scope having been breached looks moot too, as it might’ve applied if climatology were to become the focus of the journal, something we’ll never know as we’ve only got one issue to look at.

    There’s also the singling out of one sentence in one paper against the IPCC. If Rasmussen has found it important to mention, then that sentence surely is among the main reasons for PRP’s death, considering we have afaik no information regarding the nepotism accusation.

    All in all this episode reminds of poor Wagner’s resignation from the editor’s post of a journal for the sin of publishing a peer-reviewed article that hasn’t been retracted.

    Does this happen in other scientific fields? I know it doesn’t in psychiatry genetics or in astronautics. Unfortunately climate science is still marked by emails revealing how willing some scientists were to make trouble to prevent some articles from being published (something we’ll never even know if actually happened), so when these curious episodes happen it’s inevitable to smell the whiff of possible foul play.

    Ps I don’t think PRP was favored by anybody apart from its editors and maybe authors as nobody’s got the time to appreciate it 8)

    omnologos

    January 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    • Seems quite simple to me:

      1- Skeptics approach publisher, promising that they’ll play nice and be all reasonable and stuff.
      2- Publisher is wary, but gives them the benefit of the doubt, because scientists are naive like that.
      3- Skeptics predictably engage in massive crackpottery from issue 1.
      4- Publishers get annoyed and pull the plug.

      I note that Copernicus did the right thing and owned up by not formally retracting the papers, in stark contrast to whoever published the Seralini stuff.

      toto

      January 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

  6. The Journal Subject Areas of PRP are still available via google’s cache. They were:

    Geophysics/Geology;
    Earth Sciences;
    Robotics;
    Artificial Intelligence (AI), Neural Network and Machine Learning;
    Speech Recognition, Music Analysis and Multimedia Systems;
    Biometrics;
    Biomedical Pattern Analysis and Information Systems;
    Special Hardware Architectures;
    Software Packages for Pattern Recognition;
    Social/Economical Applications of Pattern Recognition;
    Image Processing;
    Signal Processing;
    Complex (Dynamical) Systems Methods for Pattern Recognition;
    Text/Document Processing.

    The content of the first issues leaves out the vast majority of these subjects.

    With regard to the self-plagiarism noticed by Jeffrey Beall the Publication Ethics page of PRP (google cache) is interesting: quote Plagiarism means the use of any material and ideas developed or created by another person without acknowledging the original source. To avoid any form of plagiarism, each manuscript newly submitted to the Copernicus Office Editor (our online editorial support system) will be checked regarding plagiarism using iThenticate. The decision on whether a manuscript should be rejected because of fraud or should proceed to the peer-review process belongs to the handling editor. The similarity reports are also made available to referees. unquote

    bluegrue

    January 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    • Not only were most topics left out of the first issue, but most papers have nothing to do with the field of pattern recognition. Seeing a pattern in something is not “pattern recognition” as the term is used in the journal description. The field deals with statistical methods to analyse data, teach computers to recognise patterns, if you will. I see 3 papers that do match the journal description (judging by the titles). Editor in Chief #1 works in this field, the other doesn’t.
      I wonder how this journal ever came into being!

      J. Dengo

      January 18, 2014 at 5:56 am

  7. @toto

    Seems quite simple to me:

    1- Skeptics approach publisher, promising that they’ll play nice and be all reasonable and stuff.
    2- Publisher is wary, but gives them the benefit of the doubt, because scientists are naive like that.
    3- Skeptics predictably engage in massive crackpottery from issue 1.
    4- Publishers get annoyed and pull the plug.

    If that’s so, then there are still some major questions to answer.

    The primary reason given for pulling the entire magazine was that it published a paper rejecting the IPCC hypothesis. The ‘nepotism’ charge was actually added as an afterthought – the first communications to the editors are reported not to have mentioned it at all.

    By all accounts, the offending paper is not a good one, and the editors seem to have some controversial ideas. However, that is not the issue. If the magazine was funded on the promise that controversial ideas would NOT be published that in itself is a very worrying concept. But at least the funding company could have cited breach of that agreement as a reason for pulling the magazine.

    They did not. Instead, they cited one paper – didn’t complain about its accuracy or scientific merit – just said that it disagreed with the IPCC and so they were closing the magazine.

    This may well be a poor magazine and one of little scientific merit. OK – close it for that reason. The paper may be rotten – OK, let it be rebutted in the normal way. But don’t indicate that publishing one paper which disagrees with the current establishment view is a valid reason to pull a magazine. If that won’t produce the classic ‘chilling’ self-censorship result across the entire scientific field I don’t know what will….

    dodgy geezer

    January 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

    • Therefore, we at Copernicus Publications wish to distance ourselves from the apparent misuse of the originally agreed aims & scope of the journal as well as the malpractice regarding the review process

      I think this is rather clear.

      bluegrue

      January 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

      • not at all, bluegrue – the aims&scope of a journal cannot be told from one or two issues. And the alleged malpractice is still empty of details.

        As per countless previous posts on RW, a retraction isn’t done until the real reasons are spelled out for all to see.

        omnologos

        January 18, 2014 at 9:13 am

        • “not at all, bluegrue – the aims&scope of a journal cannot be told from one or two issues.” You missed – I suspect strenuously – the full phrase “the ORIGINALLY AGREED aims & scope of the journal”.

          As Copernicus put it, “The journal idea was [...] taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, .the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.”

          1 – ‘Skeptics’ approach publisher, who observes that they are, in fact, ‘skeptics’.
          2 – Publisher says, ‘OK – you can have your journal, but don’t abuse it for climate change denial.’
          3 – ‘Skeptics’ – ‘Oh, no, no! Of course not! We’d never do /that/! It’s gonna be about “the full spectrum of physical disciplines”! Honest!’
          4 – ‘Skeptics’ abuse the journal for climate change denial.
          5 – Journal is canned.

          Does /that/ read a little more clearly?

          Zibethicus

          January 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

      • It seems odd to specify ONE PAPER and then pull the magazine. Especially when the ‘aims and scope’ of the magazine do not seem to have been stated publicly.

        But if they really were pulling the magazine because they had an unpublicised agreement that publishing anything contradicting the IPCC would be grounds for immediate termination with no discussion, I think that my other point has relevance:

        If the magazine was funded on the promise that controversial ideas would NOT be published that in itself is a very worrying concept.

        dodgy geezer

        January 18, 2014 at 10:20 am

        • It was part of the homepage, still available in the google cache as of now (Follow this search, look at the cached version of appropriate link)

          QUOTE
          Aims and Scope

          Pattern Recognition in Physics (PRP) is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes the latest research on the theoretical, experimental and applied aspects of pattern analysis, extraction, classification and clustering in all branches and disciplines of physics. The journal gathers new research, novelty and case studies of theories, methods and applications of Pattern Recognition (PR) in physics. The journal will also publish special issues dealing with pattern recognition applied to a specific area of research or related to a new technology/method of PR.

          Submitted papers will be subjected to rigorous review; at least two referees will review the papers.

          PRP will focus on theory, methods and applications of Pattern Recognition in the following areas and other relevant research related to physics:
          UNQUOTE

          It goes on to list the subject areas that I have listed above already.

          Note the meaing of pattern recognition in technical contexts. It is not “I recognize a pattern.”

          bluegrue

          January 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    • The problem with denialists speculations is that in almost every line of work it simply isn’t made public in full detail as to why someone was sacked/ their paper was denied publication/ why the decision was made. Usually this is to save some blushes and maintain a facade of niceness.
      Of course this does not stop people claiming foul, even when the anti-science papers are nonsense, and I look forwards to the likely blog posts explaining why they are.

      Also disagreeing with the IPCC isn’t a bad thing to do; dismissing known physics on the basis of curve fitting and no possible mechanism certainly is.

      guthrie

      January 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm

  8. There is an amazing exchange between Scafetta and Benestad in three articles in Pattern Recognition in Physics. Irrespective of whether you believe Scafetta or Benestad, it is clear that peer review at Pattern Recognition in Physics did not catch a large number of blatantly false statements that were subsequently published in the journal.

    The relevant articles are online at http://www.pattern-recogn-phys.net/1/issue1.html

    Given this exchange, Jeffrey Beall’s post and other issues highlighted above, could the publisher have been aware of more issues at the journal than just those discussed in their letter?

    Michael Brown

    January 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    • so the question becomes…why would the (quasi-)publisher be reluctant to spell things out?

      omnologos

      January 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      • Because people just don’t? A lot adhere to ideas of professional niceness, which means not publicly calling people incompetent and laying out the evidence for them being so. When was the last time you read a statement from an organisation, say a company, about why some senior manager has been let go? Did it say “Mr smith was let go because he fiddled his expenses and was rubbish at his job”? No, of course not. It says “Mr Smith no longer felt he was in tune with the company core values and has decided to take early retirement to ocncentrate on his other interests.”

        guthrie

        January 19, 2014 at 7:13 am

  9. WUWT has now a new, detailed and no-holds-barred post on the topic:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/19/the-copernicus-prp-fiasco-predictable-and-preventable/

    omnologos

    January 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    • Watt’s is very much a “sceptic” but his summary is pretty blunt about the problems at PRP:

      While the idea of a special edition is fine, and certainly what science was presented in it should stand or fail on its own and have the opportunity for due process, but now that has been made next to impossible.
      The papers are still available at this link. I urge readers to examine them and draw their own conclusions not only about the science, but about the review and publishing process.

      The public perception problem of pal-review could have been prevented had either the journal itself or the people in the PRP Special Edition universe recognized and corrected the pal-review appearance that their small PRP universe presented to outsiders.

      At multiple blogs, including WUWT and Tallbloke’s Talkshop, some people are now defending the process of pal-review as a “more productive form of collaboration to produce a better result”. I’m sorry, that’s just not only wronger than wrong, it’s FUBAR.

      Copernicus and Rasmussen appeared to be indifferent to the appearance of a pal-review issue until they started to get pressure from “the team” spurred on by James Annan. They panicked, and in their panic, presented a sloppy argument for closure, which had to be revised.

      Knowing of the increasing sea of science journals and choices, Copernicus did what they thought they had to do to protect their brand, but they did it ham-handedly, and invited the Streisand effect.

      Copernicus and Rasmussen aren’t newcomers to this arena, they are considered professionals by the science community. They should have recognized this problem and acted on it long ago. Had they done so, we’d not be reading about it today.

      That said, with warning signs present that we’ve seen before in Climategate, and with the people in the PRP universe aware of those things, they should have been able to see the problem and make corrections themselves. Ideally, they never should have fallen into the trap in the first place.

      When warned about the problem, Tattersall and Wilson should have done something to head it off. They may have, I don’t know, but I see no evidence of it. Likewise it seems almost certain Copernicus/Rasmussen would have been made aware of the problem in July 2013 by Beall, and should have done something if they were aware. If Beall did nothing, he’s culpable.

      The coverage of the affair paints all climate skeptics unfairly, since only a small group of climate skeptics operated within the PRP universe, mostly unknown to the larger body of climate skeptics.

      Skepticism is about asking skillful questions to examine if a claim is true or not. In this affair we have a small group of people who think they have the answer, and they browbeat people who think their answer isn’t accurate or representative. A good skeptic (and scientist) practices doubt, and should embrace criticisms, looking to see where they may have gone wrong.

      This fiasco pretty much dashes any chance of any sort of climate skeptic or citizen science based journal coming into existence, because should such a journal be started, no matter how careful, no matter how exacting, no matter how independent, this fiasco is going to be held up as an example as to why nobody from the larger science community should participate.

      It’s a real mess, and instead of apologizing for creating it, what we are seeing from the PRP Special Edition universe is indignant rhetoric because nobody is paying attention to their ideas.

      All around, a tragedy, and a wholly preventable one.

      Michael Brown

      January 20, 2014 at 5:10 am

      • Watts not Watt’s!

        Michael Brown

        January 20, 2014 at 5:12 am

        • I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that quite a few climate-related research is being published as special issues or regular papers in other Copernicus Publishing journals?
          Advances in Scientific Research

          http://www.adv-sci-res.net/volumes.html

          ANGEO also covers such topics:

          http://www.ann-geophys.net/recent_papers.html

          Climate of the Past:

          http://www.clim-past.net/recent_papers.html

          etc.

          Could this be perceived as an additional conflict of interest with another journal and thus revenue stream, or perhaps with other competing editor boards who may have launched a complaint? This link and possibility needs to be explored by the climatologists on this blog. Maybe there is more than this nepotism-insinuated claim.

          Another odd inconsistency I noted was the fact that Beall criticised Copernicus Publishing on one hand, claiming to have detected plagiarism, something that would have made him include other OA publishers on his list, but fails to notice that they are a member of OASPA, a society that Beall himself ironically praises as being the ideal or model industry standard: http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/01/09/bogus-new-oa-publisher-association-attempts-to-compete-with-oaspa/#more-1149 In that blog post, particular attention is drawn to Beall’s wording of the criticism of what could very well be a valid and honest effort by others to level the playing field and create viable alternatives to OASPA, namely OAJPA: “The few publishers behind this bogus effort have created a false, industry self-regulation association. It is a dishonest attempt to add a mark of legitimacy to a bunch of predatory journals.” In the original blog on the now retracted journal, a blogger named Andrea aptly writes on July 16, 2013 “What is interesting to me is why you do not include this one in your list. Have you made any changes in your policy? You used to be much harder on OA startups!”

          Regarding climate change, and not commenting in any way as an expert, only as an observer of this ridiculous feud, is that it is a perfect topic to manipulate science because the amount of evidence in favour of or contradicting the existence of the phenomenon is equally strong. Climate has always changed, but it is just radically those changes have taken place that seem to be the center of debate. In addition, radical climate change may have taken place hundreds of years ago, but there were no scientific methodologies to measure, examine or record such events. So, this is a grossly manipulated topic in science. Worse yet is the political maneuvering of climate change to suit specific agendas. A nice veiled criticism of this here:

          http://www.masterresource.org/2014/01/climate-change-political-term/

          “People use ideologies as covers for economic conflicts, although such conflicts are not the sole driving force of history.” Karl Marx

          JATdS

          January 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      • Michael, I don’t understand why anyone would wish to create a “climate skeptic” journal. What does that actually mean? After all, scientific advance is constructed upon good faith assessment, interpretation and reporting of theoretical and empirical evidence (RetractionWatch highlights the tiny proportion of examples of a dubious “contrary” philosophy). There is a large number of science journals in which climate science can be published. The idea that there should be a journal for “climate skeptic”ism seems to me to be about as meaningful as the idea of a “chemistry skeptic” journal or a “protein folding skeptic” journal or an “AIDS skeptic” journal. If someone has valid, justifiable evidence on climate-related matters then it should be published in one of the large number of relevant scientific journals.

        I don’t think this is a “fiasco” at all. I find it very encouraging that a publisher is able to recognise when the assumption of good faith that permeates the entire scientific enterprise is being manipulated, and takes action to address the problem. Less a “fiasco” and more of an enlightening learning experience!

        chris

        January 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        • I’ve studied this some (see earlier post or this taxonomy), but it is self-defeating to publish a journal called a climate skeptics journal, but rather create a journal that looks like a real science journal that publishes material unlikely to be accepted at any other.

          For instance, the Journal of Scientific Exploration is not called the Journal of Dog Astrology, ESP, UFOs, Reincarnation, Sheep Suffocation and Other Topical Research. For climate, the best-known “journal of last resort” is Energy and Environment, happy to publish an incompetent analysis of climate abstracts by Lord Monckton’s endocrine surgeon, months after it had been widely debunked.

          Ideally, it’s done with enough reasonable material to make it look OK.
          In this case, doing a special issue, essentially devoted to “climastrology” was probably a bad move,as was the interlocked small group of people who were editors, authors and reviewers.

          For example, in that list, Morner edited all but one, but Solheim was one of the reviewers. Jelbring had been Morner’s PhD student, and he reviewed 4 for Morner, including 3 by the other editors Tattersall or Solheim, and he wrote 2 papers,edited of course by Morner.
          Those 4 wrote 7 of the 10 papers/

          John Mashey

          January 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm

        • I actually agree with many of your points Chris, but find it interesting that a prominent “skeptic” believes PRP was a very flawed enterprise.

          I suspect we agree that a “climate skeptic” journal (i.e., taking a position against anthropogenic climate change) is flawed as it lets the conclusions come before the data, methods, results and analysis. The most prominent “climate skeptic” journal is Energy & Environment, and its reputation is very poor.

          That all said, I think “fiasco” is appropriate. Some of the editors / guest editors have minimal publishing experience, so it is surprising that these editors were acceptable to the publisher. It was correct to shut this journal down (e.g., for the incestuous review of papers), but this was done in a very clumsy fashion by the publisher.

          Michael Brown

          February 1, 2014 at 12:43 am

  10. Much worse offenses have been justified at BAMS read How the American Meteorological Society Justified Publishing Half Truths http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/21/how-the-american-meteorological-society-justified-publishing-half-truths/

    Jim Steele

    January 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm


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