Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's always the third goddamn reviewer that screws us over

Well, James is having fun with McLean (Part II), deFreitas (Part I) and Carter (Part 0). For those who don't know, a comment on that mendacious nonsense appeared recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, authored by G. Foster, J. D. Annan, P. D. Jones, M. E. Mann, B. Mullan, J. Renwick, J. Salinger, G. A. Schmidt, and K. E. Trenberth, which pretty much takes MdFC apart at the seams. Tamino provides the blog version, showing how MdFC differentiated under the rocks. Still, there was one interesting paragraph in MdFC's response which they put up on Icecap. Supposedly this will be published by Princess Denial in Energy and Environment,

On November 20, a newly appointed, replacement JGR editor informed us that a group of scientists led by Grant Foster had submitted a critique of our paper for publication in JGR. To which a reviewer responded “But as it is written, the current paper [Foster et al. draft critique] almost stoops to the level of “blog diatribe”. The current paper does not read like a peer-reviewed journal article. The tone is sometimes dramatic and sometimes accusatory. It is inconsistent with the language one normally encounters in the objectively-based, peer-reviewed literature.”
Ordinarily McLean would never see the referee reports on the submitted comment, but thanks to the majic theft of Emails from the CRU, we can read all three referee reports (go ahead, you google it, Eli is dirty enough from his trip down into the quote mine.)

The first referee said:
This paper does an excellent job of showing the errors in the analytical methods used by McLean et al. and why their conclusions about the influence of ENSO on global air temperature is incorrect.
The second referee said:
I think this comment on McLean et al can be published more or less as is.
But the f$#$%% third referee said
Accept pending major changes (mainly in style not scientific comment)

The real mystery here, of course, is how the McLean et al. paper ever made it into JGR. How that happened, I have no idea. I can't see it ever getting published through J Climate. The analyses in McLean et al. are among the worst I have seen in the climate literature. The paper is also a poorly guised attack on the integrity of the climate community, and I guess that is why Foster et al. have taken the energy to contradict its findings.

So the current paper (Foster et al.) should certainly be accepted. Someone needs to address the science in the McLean et al paper in the peer-reviewed literature. But the current paper could be - and should be - done better. That's why I am suggesting major changes before the paper is accepted. All of my suggestions have to do more with the tone and framing of the current paper, rather than its content.
and in the fourth paragraph, put in the zinger "
But as it is written, the current paper almost stoops to the level of "blog diatribe"
Eli, of course, is quite fond of blog diatribes, but in further proof of how blogs understand referees (see video above), the third referee closes with
2. Similarly, instead of framing the paper as "Taking down McLean et al.", why not focus more on interesting aspects of the science, such as the frequency dependence between ENSO and global-mean temperature (perhaps cross-correlation analysis would be useful); the importance of not extrapolating results from one timescale to another timescale; or the lack of trends in ENSO. That way, the current paper contributes to the peer-reviewed literature while also doing a service by highlighting the problems with McLean et al.

3. In general, the current paper is sloppy and needs tightening. I don't think the lead author needs 10 pages of text to make the main points.
Well, the third referee didn't much like McLean, de Freitas and Carter and nor did the editor
Reviewer 3 is concerned with the tone on the writing; while I appreciate the value of "taking the high road", I do not object to emphatic statements that conclusions are incorrect. Strong language is needed sometimes when errors must be corrected.
Excuse Eli, he needs to dig his way out of the quote mine.


Chad said...

Wow, Hitler's really mad. That third reviewer must have really gotten under his skin. Though that's nothing compared to how mad he got when he was banned from XBOX live!

Former Skeptic said...

I'm still wiping away tears from watching the video. Thanks, Eli!!

sylas said...

Of all the many loose translations of the bunker scene around, this one stands out as my favourite.

There's a problem with responding to cases -- like MFC -- where really risible nonsense somehow gets past the gate of peer review.

With all due respect to the third referee, it is crucial to underline that responses to such things are not in the normal run of scientific debate. They are pointing out cases where peer review has failed. It would be confusing and misleading to respond as though this was a debate between two alternative scientific perspectives.

I agree that one should remain polite and civil. But responses in this case should leave the reader in no doubt that authors of the response are specifically claiming that the paper to which they are responding is nonsense. Less that this is failing to convey the real content and import of the response.

Civility and politeness should not require one to presume that the work to which you are responding has any value or legitimacy. It should not prevent a response from letting the reader appreciate just how bad the original work was.

This is bound to cause offense, no matter how civilly expressed, and that doesn't matter.

Unknown said...

I really hate to de-rail a comments section, but I can't find how to e-mail Prof. Rabett.

There's a conference I'm going to in May (GeoCanada 2010). As soon as I saw there was going to be a climate section, I thought there might be trouble. The conference is being held in part by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists who are notorious for their denialism of AGW -- Tim DeFreitas (brother of you know who) is an editor of their main scientific journal and dodgy papers have found their way into it in the past.

There's this paper for the conference:

"The Effect of a Doubling of the Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere as Depicted by Quantum Physics" by Norman Kalmanovitch

Can anybody give me a decent rebuttal? It reeks of misuse of physics, but I'm a lowly geologist.

Finally, even stranger, the chair of the climate session is Marianne Douglas, who is pretty well known as somebody who makes no bones that humans are causing unprecedented climate change in the arctic. I'm surprised she'd have let something like this through or at least would have consulted with others about physics she might not have known about.

William T said...

Thanks Eli for digging these tidbits from the carrot patch - I read the MFC diatribe on ICECAP and although I took it with a spoon of salt I did wonder about the comments of the referees. It all becomes a lot clearer now...

And of course, we can be sure that wherever that MFC diatribe is trumpeted, there won't be any whisper of what ELSE the referee said...

Anonymous said...

OMG, I actually laughed so much watching that video that I cried. Hilarious.

On a more serious note, thanks Eli for going down the quote mine to retrieve the complete picture on what the reviewers actually said re McLean et al. and Foster et al. Funny how Mclean ignored the damning comments made by all three reviewers concerning their work.

The analyses in McLean et al. are among the worst I have seen in the climate literature. The paper is also a poorly guised attack on the integrity of the climate community

McLean just opened pandora's box :)

My worst experiences have been with reviewer A; B and C (and sometimes D) are usually quite "light". But A....


EliRabett said...

Miguilito, there is not much right there. Here are two places to start:

1. After a CO2 molecule absorbs a photon, collisions convert the energy to thermal motion (kinetic energy). Collisions also excite CO2 molecules from the ground to excited vibrational states. Not understanding this pretty much labels this clown as a crank

2. Increasing temperature populates higher rotational levels of the ground and excited vibrational states, this widens the band width that CO2 blocks.

See also Eli's simplest explanation.

Anonymous said...

You clown Rabett- McLean et al provide the comment, and the section of the email from the replacement JGR editor, that the replacement editor was providing the referee reports of the comment to them.

Now you say "ordinarily McLean would never see the referee reports on the submitted comment". Apparently the replacement editor believed it was standard practice, as it is.

You cannot get ordinary, uncontested facts right Rabett. I know a Rabett going down the quote mine would only pick the poo he wants to find, but, surely, for a Rabett fact that can be so easily disproved,...some bunnies are really dumb.

And don't call me surely.


William M. Connolley said...

I ripped you off:

Does that make me a great artist?

James Annan said...

Thanks Eli - I had forgotten the full glory...I guess I should also thank McLean et al for dredging it up again.

sylas said...

JohnS... what the? The referee comments in question are comments to Foster et al; NOT to McLean et al. The only reason McLean saw them is that they managed to get into the CRU stolen emails.

Are you under the impression that it is "standard practice" to supply the referee reports to people other than the authors of the paper? You're being silly, surely.

Either that or you've made some kind of attempt at a joke that I don't understand.

Harold Brooks said...

JohnS states that the referee reports of the comment were provided to McLean et al. and says that "McLean et al provide the comment, and the section of the email from the replacement JGR editor, that the replacement editor was providing the referee reports of the comment to them." Can anyone point me to where McLean et al. have provided that e-mail. I certainly don't see anything in that says that the referee's report on the Foster et al. comments were given to McLean et al. In my experience as an editor, I wouldn't have done that, nor have I ever known of them being provided when I've been involved in the comment process.

Anonymous said...

[Duae, Harold: ignore the troll in the room ;-)]

Well burrowed Eli.

Still not sure I agree with the use of those hacked e-mails, but oh what a good read nevertheless; and now FAJMMRSST can sit back and bask in the glory that is the septics' own hoisted petard.

It would now perhaps be good to see the referees' comments on a Comment to appear shortly in IJMP(B), too.

I don't suppose those Comment authors' e-mails were part of the UEA hack were they (not that I necessarily agree with their use in this manner)?

No. Shame.

Never mind, we'll just have to make do with reading the Comment then.

Cymraeg llygoden

EliRabett said...

Eli don't wanna get too blogged down about who showed what to whom, but the fact is that it is not normal practice to show referee reports on comments to the authors of the original paper. They do get to see the final comment and propose a reply. Of course, some mice, not Eli he hastens to add, might think that John S is haggling about what, three words in the post, and if M dF or C would care to step up, Eli would be pleased to see their comment

What would be REALLY interesting would be if Reviewer #3 raised his or her hand here (anonomously of course). However, the review is frank enough

Anonymous said...

Miguelito -

My word that's a bad poster.

First comes the generalised and unreferenced assertion of problems in the surface thermometer record, coupled to the traditional assertion that satellite temperature measurement is free of problems.

Then we have a cherry picked 'trend line'. Don't ask what the statistical significance is for the line as a refusal often offends.

I particularly like the way in which the graph is plotted. Almost as if they were trying to make it look like CO2 and temperature were diverging.

We then have a reference to Einstein. Of course - that automatically makes any scientific statement perfect.

Now he is asserting that 90% of the greenhouse effect is down to water (true value is circa 65%).

Eli has already noted the general incorrectness of the quantum approach. I'd add that he is apparently using a 'sheet pane' model for the atmosphere, taking no account of the change in height of radiative equlibrium that increased GHGs should cause. Indeed, I'm not sure where the actual quantum physics bit comes in.

The only reference is from E&E (where else) where the author thinks that water evaporation is a major part of the Earth's net energy budget, and actually calculates a different percentage for water as a proportion of the total greenhouse effect from that cited.

Perhaps it's there for a good laugh?

Fluffy Bunny

Hank Roberts said...

Just an aside -- kids, when Uncle Eli says "just google it" for something, he doesn't mean "go play in the freeway" or "do you know what's at the bottom of the well?"

Google may attempt to protect you.

Remember, you're going to Google to look for stolen goods. You might find just a simple safe copy. Or you might find a link to someone who steals stuff and puts it out as bait for people to get at them.

If you see a Google warning when you try to find that stuff, DO NOT go farther.

You might be just going to a copy website run by some incompetent. That's probably the case. But how would you know?

You might also be going to a website run by someone who would steal anything you have that they could get their hands on.

Since the information you're looking for here was originally taken by people who _did_ steal it, they might steal yours if you leave yourself open.

If for example you see something like this in a Google warning, back away slowly.

__________________ uses an invalid security certificate.

The certificate is not trusted because it is self-signed.

(Error code: sec_error_untrusted_issuer)


Yes, there is a message here. Be careful who you trust.

Georg said...

I really would like to know what these guys (McL,dF,C) are really thinking. Three reviewers are making fun of their paper discussing just how deep it should be rubbed in. And they still grasping for a defense in the very same reviews. I would like to have sometime a bit of their complete shamelessness. Makes life probably easier.


Anonymous said...

Google may attempt to protect you.

Remember, you're going to Google to look for stolen goods. You might find just a simple safe copy. Or you might find a link to someone who steals stuff and puts it out as bait for people to get at them.

Since the emails have been "out in the wild" for quite some time now, and deniers have been excerpting them to smear climate scientists, I will from time to time excerpt the emails to defend those same scientists.

But I'll google them only from a Linux/BSD box, never from the same user account that I use to conduct any financial transactions, and with all files default protected with the appropriate umask.

Anonymous said...

MarkeyMouse says: Eli. It's the facts that "screw you over". Get used to it, or change your mind.

Holly Stick said...

Here's the lineup for the climate changesection. I guess Timothy Patterson is the denialist. Don't know about the rest.

Holly Stick said...

Oops, here:

Andy S said...

Hi Miguelito

It's nice to hear from a fellow Canadian geoscientist who doesn't buy all the denialism nonsense. BTW, Kalmanovitch has a letter in the latest APEGGA newsletter, which denies that rising CO2 (you know, the stuff that is too concentrated to absorb any more IR) has anything to do with the combustion of fossil fuels. I'll try to get around to rebutting it.

If you, or anyone else, might be interested in participating in an effort to counter the nonsense put about by groups like the Friends of Science, email me at

David B. Benson said...

Eli --- I have some dequotitis I can sell you...

Anonymous said...


The first figure in the abstract that you mentioned is said to prove that in the 1979 to 1999 time period temperatures rose 0.012 C/year but since then the temperature trend has diverged from IPCC expectations. Amusingly, the trend for the UAH&RSS average for the 1979 to 1999 time period is as stated 0.012 C/year but for the whole time period available (1979-2010) it is 0.014 C/year! If he is honest the author should admit that his figure shows no evidence that global warming has slowed down.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Reviewer #1 (Comments): This paper does an excellent job of showing the errors in the analytical methods used by McLean et al. and why their conclusions about the influence of ENSO on global air temperature is incorrect....The only other suggestion is to find a better adjective than "faulty" in the abstract to characterize the analysis.

...and they actually settled on "inappropriate": However, their analysis is inappropriate in a number of ways...

Somehow, "faulty" seems more appropriate to Horatio.

But perhaps "inappropriate" is supposed to make it sound less insulting??

Synonyms for "inappropriate"

"bad form, disproportionate, foot-in-mouth, garbage*, ill-fitted, ill-suited, ill-timed, improper, inapplicable, inapropos, incongruous, inconsonant, incorrect, indecorous, inept, irrelevant, left-field, malapropos, off*, out of line, out of place, tasteless, unbecoming, unbefitting, undue, unfit, unfitting, unmeet, unseasonable, unseemly, unsuitable, untimely, way off, wrong, wrong-number

synonyms for "faulty"

"adulterated, amiss, awry, bad, below par, blamable, blemished, botched, broken, cracked, damaged, debased, defective, deficient, distorted, erroneous, fallacious, fallible, false, flawed, frail, impaired, imperfect, imprecise, inaccurate, inadequate, incomplete, inexact, injured, insufficient, invalid, lame, leaky, lemon, maimed, malformed, malfunctioning, marred, out of order, rank, sick, tainted, unfit, unreliable, unretentive, unsound, warped, weak, wrong"

Dan Satterfield said...

That last subtitle put me on the floor laughing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rabett,your fellow clowns who tried to suggest that McLean did not see the referee comments are typical of the blind who comment at this site.
I know Rabett wishes to play down his own silliness- only a few words, you say, but it confirms level of fact checking, or more your quote mining.

I know all the bunnies like the negativity of the comments, but when Tamino, sorry Foster has his buddies be the referees, its no suprise the comments are negative.

McLean et al was refereed, passed and printed. I know that upsets the folks here-but oh dear, how sad.


Anonymous said...

Of course MdFC saw the referees' comments! They were in the hacked e-mails!!

Cymraeg llygoden

guthrie said...

Oh right, so now it is john s's position that peer reviewed papers are completely correct...

Anonymous said...


Unless the paper happens to be Foster et al.'s reply, at which point peer review suddenly becomes a vast worldwide Soviet conspiracy again.

Denialist 'logic' strikes again...

-- bi

Anonymous said...

Good point Guthrie. However. Rabett's and all the friendly bunnies here seem to share the view that McLean et al was "mendacious nonsense". It seems only refereed papers that question AGW are "mendacious nonsense". So no I don't see all refereed papers are correct and in our post here the McLean paper was good, the Tamino, sorry Foster, comment was garbage, sorry, "mendacious nonsense"

Thanks Frank Bi- a faith warmers logic strikes again- any paper that questions AGW is a Big Oil propaganda.

Anonymous said...


"So no I don't see all refereed papers are correct"

Sorry, JohnS, but you did say so:

"McLean et al was refereed, passed and printed. I know that upsets the folks here-but oh dear, how sad."

So you're saying that McLean et al. are correct because their paper was peer-reviewed and published, while Poster et al. are wrong despite their paper being peer-reviewed and published. Stop trying to weasel out of your own nonsense.

* * *

"It seems only refereed papers that question AGW are 'mendacious nonsense'."

Yeah, some papers are nonsense because, well, they are full of bull. Some scientific hypotheses have more facts and evidence in their favour than other scientific hypotheses. Too bad.

Of course, I realize that you don't like that, because the facts and evidence aren't under your control^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hfreedom. Don't worry, I'm sure Jack Bauer is secretly working in the background to terminate those facts and evidence with extreme prejudice and restore freedom and democracy to the Free World.

-- bi

EliRabett said...

Hell John, That McLean made it into print upset the well known third referee, let alone Eli:
"The real mystery here, of course, is how the McLean et al. paper ever made it into JGR. How that happened, I have no idea. I can't see it ever getting published through J Climate. The analyses in McLean et al. are among the worst I have seen in the climate literature. The paper is also a poorly guised attack on the integrity of the climate community,"

It upset the editors of JGR also. Take it up with them.

Hank Roberts said...

Do we know the names of the editors?

Paul Klemencic said...

I'm not a climate scientist, but read the McLean et. al. paper, and the response, and believe I understand the rather basic error made in McLean et. al.

My question: Were the original three reviewers asked to comment on the Foster et. al. response? It seems apparent that these three 'messed up', particularly based on the purported comments McLean et. al. received (shown on ICECAP). And they messed up in several regards... Not only did the original three reviewers fail to provide the necessary technical review to protect JGR readers from wasting time on superfluous mistaken reports, BUT just as importantly, the original three reviewers failed to provide the necessary feedback to McLean et. al. to catch and prevent their errors and incorrect conclusions from being published. As a result, they bear some responsibility for the current embarrassment caused by publishing McLean et. al.

It would be helpful if we knew:
Do these three reviewers realize that they missed the errors in the original paper; or do they stand by their original reviews? If so, on what grounds?

If any of the original reviewers have changed their opinion on the original paper based on the Foster et. al. response, then JGR stands on pretty firm ground in rejecting further attempts by McLean et. al. to comment on the Foster et. al. response.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the heads up on the GeoCanada conference. IIRC, Norm K has been involved with FoS since the beginning. Tim Ball and Tim Patterson are both charter "scientific advisores".

As for the de Freitas brothers (Chris and Tim) involvement in FoS see this:

I'll definitely be doing a post on this conference and the recent activities of contrarians at CSPG and APEGGA.

Unknown said...

Thanks all for the insights.

Deep Climate: FYI, if you didn't know already, the CSPG Reservoir (their monthly newsletter) ran something like 10 climate denialism "articles" starting in January 2009, written by Dr. Hutton (not a PhD of climate science of course, but a hard-rock geologist) and spouting the normal debunked nonsense. Of course, no rebuttals have appeared nor do I expect their to be any.

Finally, not all is bleak for the CSPG. The Gussow-Nuna Conference of 2008 was focused on climate science and it actually had a good swatch of real experts in the field (David Archer, Richard Pelletier and James White, amongst others) and only a single embarassment of a poster that was contrarian. I still don't understand how that happened other than to think that somehow they didn' pay enough attention to the conference chair (Andrew Miall - a noted clastic sedimentologist and maybe somebody the CSPG thought would be friendlier to their policy statement). Thank goodness he kept in touch with Dick Pelletier (also from U of Toronto) when inviting speakers.

Anonymous said...

Miguelito and Deep climate

The following item was published in the June 2009 issue of the PEGG (an APEGGA publication)
under the heading of "Climate Change And Invitation for debate ...

New to the climate change area right now is a series of articles by Neil Hutton, P.Geol., PhD, on the science of climate change. These articles are being republished online with permission from Reservoir, the magazine of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. Dr. Hutton is a past president of the CSPG.

APEGGA recognizes there are many sides to the debate and looks forward to publishing further submissions online. Our goal is to broaden the discussion without taking sides. APEGGA remains neutral on the matter and does not favour any specific position."

In June and July of 2009 parts 1 and 2 of Dr. Hutton's screed were published on APEGGA's
website but then they disappeared into the memory hole. No explanation was ever given in
subsequent issues of the PEGG. I would like to think that APEGGA came to their senses but
judging from the amount of contrarian nonsense that they have published since in the letters
section of the PEGG I doubt it.

The Orwellian named 'Friends of Science' have published Dr. Hutton's ten part series
on their website in one PDF.

Jim Prall said...

The lineup of speakers is quite the study in "contrasts" - perhaps an experiment to see if the podium (or people's heads?) can stand the incogruities.

Dick Peltier (not Pelletier) is one of our top paleoclimatologists and a strong advocate of policy action to cut GHGs. Tom Pederson is also a leading light; both are AGU Fellows and widely published and cited. If you have time, both of their talks should be worth hearing.

Most of the other names on the agenda are totally new to me. Note that the agenda page has each title linked to either a document or at least an abstract. Babalola, Patterson & Prokoph are evidently giving a paper they previously presented at the Portland GSA AGM last September:

From the abstract, it *sounds* like normal science.

Then there's the last session: again, sounds innocent enough (technical and maybe obscure). Stephen Wickson's only showing in Google Scholar is a paper published through ... 'Friends' of Science (with friends like these...)
The Wickson paper linked in the agenda has Jan Veizer as a co-author - someone trumpeted by Marc Morano as a skeptic, though I found no cases of his having signed any of 16 skeptics' petitions or open letters.

Anonymous said...

No sense of humor department-

“EFF Assails YouTube for Removing 'Hitler Finds Out' Parodies”:

At least this one is still up (for now). Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

arch stanton