Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Peer Review

Lots of folks are following the Roger Pielke/Andy Revkin/Joe Romm/Michael Tobis Goreathon complete with walk on from one of Al's staffers. The thing was touched off by one of Roger's patented, passive agressive, tutt-tatts which Andy swallowed whole. Michael was not amused

If Revkin came up with this noise himself, he should think long and hard about what he has done and issue something beyond a feeble justification.

If Revkin was pushed to write this he should quit. Period.
It then went nuclear and thermonuclear

The base issue is the question about whether storm damage will increase because of climate change, an issue that a certain someone feels he owns, in particular what science says about this issue. Roger starts by saying no. Joe Romm (Eli has a day job, and the bunny was too slow. The cycle time on climate blogs is approaching CNN speed) points to Pielke being quoted in Nature (2006) saying yes
Previously sceptical, Pielke says that he is now convinced that at least some of the increased losses can be blamed on climate: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change has shaped the disaster loss record.”
Romm even shows Pielke weaseling away from this at the place where Ethon dines. Back Roger against the wall and he says there is no peer reviewed scientific evidence for this. Romm points to an article by Evan Mills in Science (2005)
Global weather-related losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non–weather-related events (Fig. 2D). By some estimates, losses have increased by a factor of 2, after accounting for these factors plus increased density of insured values (23, 24).
Pielke and Mills had a go around in the letters a bit later on. Mills was not convinced

How do we explain rising economic losses (e.g., those to crops in the heartland or physical infrastructure built on melting permafrost) that are only weakly linked to oft-cited demographic factors such as populations clustering around coastlines?

Lastly, why would rising numbers of events (10) not translate into rising costs?

Assuming that only socioeconomic factors--rather than rising emissions--influence losses may yield ill-founded policy recommendations that focus exclusively on adapting to climate change while dismissing energy policy as a legitimate part of the toolkit for responding (11). . . .

In a narrow sense, it would be a relief to learn that the only cause of rising losses is that people are moving more into harm's way. That conclusion would, however, be premature and scientifically indefensible given the paucity of data, limitations of available analyses, and consistency between observed impacts and those expected under climate change. Nor should we make the opposite mistake of attributing the observed growth in losses solely to climate change. Rather than "proof " by vigorous assertion, the constructive approach is to better understand the compounding roles of increasing vulnerability and climate change, and take affordable precautionary steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes rather than waiting for unaffordable consequences.

Eli couldn't really add anything civil, but this plays right into the everygreen what the hell is peer review. Sort of like pornography in the words of Justice Holmes, hard to describe, but you know it when you get shoved into the barrel to do one.

The Lab Lemming has about as good a walk through as the Rabett has seen
In between irate meetings, technical emergencies, slipping deadlines, and normal workload, you get an unsolicited email from a total stranger. Assuming it doesn’t go directly to the spam bin, opening it reveals that it is Professor Joe Blogger, associate editor of the Journal of Acceptable Results, and he’d like you to review a paper.

Hopefully the paper is on a topic with which you are actually familiar. . .

As far as I can tell, there are two basic approaches. These are ideally similar but in practice can be opposite. The first is imitation of reviews that one has received. The second is the golden rule.

For me, the first option would involve some combination of non-specific pleasantries, attacks based on a misunderstanding of the literature or techniques used, or multi-page lists of specific minor points which are not related to each other or the using-whole-sentences part of the review. So when asked to review, I tried the second method, but without any real sense of guidance or idea what I was working towards. My inability to find a type specimen of a quality review is probably due to the lack of transparency that surrounds peer review. So in order to illuminate this mysterious process, here is my reviewing experience.
RTFL

Comments?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now Eli, the Justice I think you mean is Potter Stewart, not Mr. Justice Holmes. Dr. Pielke Jr. certainly led poor Andy into a swamp of false equivalence...

Anonomaus

Anonymous said...

"Lots of folks are following"

Some of us aren't. I'm glad it kicked off while I was busy. RPJr has an anti-Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to tedium.

Anonymous said...

RPJr has an anti-Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to tedium.

That's putting it kindly.

RP,Jr is "King Detritus".

Everything he touches turns to (hurricane) debris.

King Midas hoarded money.

King Detritus hoards flotsam and jetsam (and media attention, of course).

Anonymous said...

The base issue is the question about whether storm damage will increase because of climate change, an issue that a certain someone feels he owns, in particular what science says about this issue.

Yes, RP seems to actually be under the apprehension that he originated the idea that "building on the beach leads to increased hurricane damage" ("TM", "R", Patent Pending")

Until RP educated us, the rest of us simply had no idea!

Anonymous said...

"As the non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths shows, the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain has many willing silent collaborators." -- RP, jr

yes, as we all know, every scientist who does not keep track of and speak out on all of Al Gore's rants is a "willing collaborator" [in spreading "in-your-face untruths"].

Please tell me RP, jr doesn't REALLY have a professorship at one of the better state universities in this country.

Then again, RP, jr got his degree from U of Colorado.

That does not say much for the school, in my opinion.

Arthur said...

Eli, on the thermonuclear side of things, what I would love to see is exactly *who* forwarded the completely out-of-context bunch of Michael Tobis' comments around, managing to get them all the way to an email from Morano?

After Michael made his heart-felt moral argument, Roger cruelly responds only with "These sort comments give far more ammo to your political enemies than anything I could ever say or do." and then further goads his buddies with the "Anyone care to give him an answer?" question.

Only hours later we have Pielke himself posting the out-of-context quotes on his own site, with the bare excuse that somebody none of the rest of us had ever heard of did it first.

I think this has just one person's fingerprints all over it, and it's not Michael Tobis.

Anonymous said...

Nice wrap up post.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

After Michael made his heart-felt moral argument, Roger cruelly responds only with "These sort comments give far more ammo to your political enemies than anything I could ever say or do."

RP may not be much of a scientist (more "political scientist" than (real) scientist, at any rate), but he is a better than average rhetoritician.

If you are going to mess with him on the latter, you had better have all your ducks in a row (and ready to do battle).

Arthur said...

But why is the battle about rhetoric?

Michael was trying to honestly understand where Roger was coming from. As an example, he reposted his own statement of principles, and added further thoughts on why he thought the Revkin piece was an issue of morality, assuming knowledge etc.

Roger responds in character, not in kind. Ugly ugly ugly.

He may be a great rhetorician, but this shows a correspondingly great lack of character. Another moral failing, clearly on the part of Roger this time.

Anonymous said...

What Arthur said. Some folks (e.g., Michael Tobis) are struggling with how to make a difference in the face of what sure looks like a looming global catastrophe. Other unnamed parties appear to be struggling with how to ratchet up their reputations, by whatever means possible (and one means is making sure that anybody who doesn't lionize them gets mugged).

Anonymous said...

The climateaudit folks have found another ankle to chew on.

This time, it's a paper that was just published that purports to show a declining trend in specific humidity in the mid/upper troposphere. It then follows that water-vapor feedback is negative rather than positive.

A major focus of the discussion over at climateaudit is a very unkind remark made by one reviewer.

Details here: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=5416#more-5416

--caerbannog the anonybunny

coby said...

What comes after thermonuclear?

EliRabett said...

Throwing rocks....

Anonymous said...

Arthur asks
"But why is the battle about rhetoric?"

Good question.

I was not excusing Pielke above when I made the comment about his being good at rhetoric.

I was merely making an observation.

Anyone who has ever "debated" Pielke on his blog understands that rhetoric (ie, word games) is very important (at least to him).

it should not be an important aspect of the debate on climate (or anything else, for that matter), but unfortunately, here in the real world, it is.

Except in the scientific lab where nature does not give a damn what we think, "rhetoric' usually wins the day (the girl, the Presidency and the million dollar a year CEO job)

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, Michael Tobis acknowledges his failure in the "rhetoric game".

He has given the game set and match to Pielke.

As I said above, if you want to play this game with Roger, you had better have all your ducks lined up.

Arthur said...

Speaking of peer review, or lack thereof, anybody notice this piece of trash actually got published (as a review, no less):

http://www.worldscinet.com/journals/ijmpb/23/2303/S021797920904984X.html

Now I think it might be wise to talk to some university libraries that still subscribe to this journal and suggest, in these lean times, that paying for that sort of garbage is a bit of a waste, no?

EliRabett said...

It's called the journal of last resort. Did you read the thing to see if they made any changes. It was in review for a long time.

Arthur said...

Don't have a subscription, and I'm not shilling out $25 for it!

But I downloaded their latest "version 4" from arxiv (dated January 9), and it looks hardly at all changed from the previous version many months back.

kT said...

Roger Pielke is a liar.

Is that tactful enough?