Accusations of ”false claims” in anti-global warming paper unresolved after three years

Three years after receiving a complaint about extensive plagiarism and major errors in an anti-global warming paper, Elsevier says it’s still reviewing the allegations.

In 2014, readers complained to the Elsevier journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews about plagiarism and technical flaws in a 2013 paper questioning mainstream climate change science.

When we first began reporting the story last year, a spokesperson for Elsevier told us:

The journal is currently undergoing a transition from the outgoing Editor in Chief to Professor Aoife M. Foley, who will be sole Editor in Chief from January 2018. Professor Foley with review these allegations in full as soon as possible.

Ari Jokimäki, a computer engineer who also researches climate science, wrote about his experience dealing with Elsevier over the past three years for the blog Skeptical Science. In his post, Jokimäki outlined the timeline of events from the initial complaint he lodged with Elsevier in June 2014 to the last email he received from the previous editor-in-chief, Lawrence Kazmerski, in May 2017. (We’ve seen the emails to confirm details, but were asked not to quote from them.)

The 2013 paper, “Reviewing the effect of CO2 and the sun on global climate,” first caught Jokimäki’s eye because it contradicts mainstream climate science. When Jokimäki examined the paper more closely, he found that the paper made false and misleading claims about global warming science and the authors had plagiarized significant portions of the paper from several book chapters, blogs, even Wikipedia. (The paper has been cited five times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, all after September 2014.)

In September 2014, an Elsevier spokesperson drafted a letter to the paper’s corresponding author, Georgios A. Florides at Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol, informing him of Jokimäki’s allegations and asking him to respond. The spokesperson sent the letter, dated Sept. 10 2014, to Jokimäki and the journal’s then-editor-in-chief, Kazmerski, to sign. (We do not know if Kazmerski ever signed or sent the letter to Florides.)

More than three years later, the journal has still not taken action.

The email saga

After Jokimäki’s September 2014 exchange with Elsevier, he heard nothing from the publisher or journal for 10 months.

In July 2015, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Kazmerski, told Jokimäki he had conferred with the authors and the reviewers of the paper, who agreed “some action was needed.” Kazmerski proposed a solution: Jokimäki would write a commentary on the paper, to which the authors could respond. Kazmerski said he would publish Jokimäki’s comment regardless of whether the authors wrote a rebuttal. In August 2015, Kazmerski invited Jokimäki and corresponding author Florides to start the process.

In March 2016, Jokimäki sent Kazmerski his detailed commentary on the paper. Jokimäki co-authored the comment with John Mashey, a computer scientist who also writes for the blog Skeptical Science and has raised concerns about another controversial anti-climate science paper, which was ultimately retracted. The comment took about seven months to complete, Jokimäki explained, because he and others “are doing this as a hobby,” which meant that writing the comment paper “had to be done on our free time.”

Over the next year, Jokimäki says he heard nothing from the journal.

In March 2017, Kazmerski emailed Jokimäki explaining he had sent the authors’ rebuttal to Jokimäki 10 months ago. Jokimäki, however, says he never received that May 2016 email.

In May 2017, Kazmerski sent Jokimäki the authors’ comments, which Jokimäki describes in his blog as making “hand waving type arguments,” and saying it would be “too much work” to submit a formal response.  

Kazmerski then proposed a new plan: Instead of publishing Jokimäki’s critique as initially agreed, he and Mashey could write an entirely new paper, exploring how climate issues have been misrepresented in the literature, using Florides paper as one example.

Jokimäki declined the offer.

Case isn’t closed

We recently checked in with the new editor in chief, Foley, who told us she was unable to comment, and suggested we contact Elsevier for an update on the article. When we did, the spokesperson reiterated that the publisher and editor are continuing to examine the case.

Mashey, who co-authored the official complaint with Jokimäki, told us that he believes the paper should never have been accepted in the first place. The authors had little expertise in the field, Mashey said, and, as a result, ended up plagiarizing substantially and writing “a paper with many technical flaws.” And “one way or another,” Mashey said, “a bad article slips through the review process.”

Update, 1700 UTC, 01/15/18: Florides responded to a request for comment:

As the subject is purely scientific and as it has already gone through the specific appropriate channels, we do not feel that there is anything else to add.

In the case anyone, academic/scientist or not, is of a different opinion and wishes to criticize the paper, they can follow the regular academic route and explain their position in an article that will undergo the scrutiny of peer reviewing. This is the normal scientific way that leads to a better understanding of any subject and serves science as a whole.

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7 thoughts on “Accusations of ”false claims” in anti-global warming paper unresolved after three years”

    1. I don’t know if there are examples of pro-climate change errors getting deliberate protection, but I recognize the general format of your comment. It’s called Tu Quoque. The “You do it too” defense. If someone gets caught red-handed their knee jerk reaction is to accuse others of the same or worse, in this case a conspiracy.

  1. Thank you for following up on this story. I would be very interested in knowing what the Authors rebuttal was, which was characterized as “hand waving arguments” – but which would take to much time to respond to, so they bagged it.

    continue your great work.

  2. Did anybody notice they published in the wrong journal? Observing and explaining the changes in the atmosphere and ocean during industrial times is one topic. Technology for producing energy and growing food with lower GHG emissions is a completely different topic. Different scientific disciplines inform each. And, like Ricka said, keep up the good work John Mashey.

    1. Yes. This of course is one of the ways that poor papers slip into print in otherwise credible journals, I’ve seen other examples, like the one referenced earlier:
      although that had other issues as well.
      I.e., this is the “should have been “not for this journal” reply, but slips through.

      Thanks for the kind words, however, Ari Jokimaki really drove this effort, with help from me & comments from others.

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