August 16, 2008

Science shenanigans...

A blogger calling himself Bishop Hill has written a fascinating post on the machinations behind the famous and influential "hockey stick" model of historical trends in global temperatures. (Thanks to AOG, who notes, sadly, "...But, then reality set it. The ‘hockey stick’ has been generally discredited for a while, and it’s either used without regard to its provenance, or redacted out of talking points as if it never existed so as to also erase the sordid history behind it. They’ve moved on to some other foundation, which will also be abandoned once it cracks..."

This is just a morsel, to give you the flavor of Bishop Hill's post:

[Please note, dear coz, that I'm not hereby proposing any scientific judgement on whether the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming is true or false. Just pointing out a tiny bit of the miching mallecho that underpins it...]

...In the background, howevrer, much had been happening. Suddenly in September 2007, and with the IPCC report published, the CC paper suddenly appeared, preceded in the same journal by another paper by the same authors. What had happened was that Wahl and Amman were quietly allowed to rewrite their rejected GRL paper and submit it to Climatic Change instead. All reference to the rejected GRL paper in the CC paper could be replaced by reference to the new paper, (which I will call the Jesus paper, in light of its extraordinary resurrection and for lack of any less confusing name). With identical authorship, and a maze of cross-references between them, the two CC papers were carefully designed to make understanding how their arguments relied on each other as difficult as possible.

...The beauty of this approach was that it allowed for retention of the original acceptance date for the CC paper, and hence its inclusion in the IPCC process. It did leave them with the embarrassing problem that a paper that was allegedly accepted in March 2006 relied upon another paper that even the journal itself said was only received until August (and in reality, is was even later than that) Readers should note that this matters because unless the paper was accepted by the journal by the deadline, it should not have been accepted by IPCC for inclusion in the Fourth Assessment Report. But the IPCC needed the CC paper and despite the inconsistency being pointed out to them, the IPCC they waved the objections aside as irrelevant.

The CC paper argument leads from the text, to the appendix and then onto the Jesus paper. At places in the Jesus paper the argument referred back to the CC paper creating a neat, if logically flawed, circular argument. One notable feature of the CC paper and the Jesus paper was that they relegated some of their key argumentation to their Supplementary Information (SI) sections, online appendices to the published papers. In particular, the Jesus paper stated that the statistical discussions and more precisely, the establishment of RE benchmarks could be seen there. To have key arguments in the SI was most unusual and it quickly became apparent why it had been done: the SI was nowhere to be seen. Even the peer reviewers appear not to have had access, and once again, Amman refused McIntyre's request for the data and code. His reply to this request was startling (and remember that Amman is a public servant):

"Under such circumstances, why would I even bother answering your questions, isn’t that just lost time?"

Again, everything fell silent. For the next year nothing more was heard of the two papers. McIntyre pressed from his blog for release of the SI and the politicians were able to quietly take advantage of the political space created by the IPCC report. Then, just a few weeks ago, and entirely unannounced, Wahl and Amman's Supplementary Information suddenly appeared on Caspar Amman's website, some three years after that first press release announcing the refutation of McIntyre's work. With it, and a godsend to McIntyre, was the code used to establish the benchmark for the RE statistic. With no more than a few days work, McIntyre was able to establish exactly what had been done....
Posted by John Weidner at August 16, 2008 9:43 AM
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