Friday, February 11, 2011

Two, Four, 88, O'Donnell Gate

In which Eli (perhaps among others) discovers the mighty game of climate telephone. Word has been going around the blogs that Eric Steig wrote an 88 page criticism of O'Donnell, et al in his first review.

As ‘Reviewer A’, Stieg made 88 pages of comments about O’Donnell’s paper.
Funny how SM's comments about an 88 page critical review have to "ring hollow" for Andy's trumpeting of the scientific method & peer review to stand on solid ground. I'm more inclined to take SM's word that.
Since the reviews are available, Eli wondered where that came from. Indeed, the Google is mighty.

Jeff Id started it on December 1 2010,
The total number of pages dedicated by just that reviewer alone and our subsequent responses – was 88 single-spaced pages, or more than 10 times the length of the paper.
and Steve McIntyre wrote on December 2 thusly
Ultimately, the reviews and responses totalled 88 pages!
So the 88 is not what Seig wrote in his first review (14 pages which is quite long) but the total of all the reviews and replies of by, from and to Reviewer A. Of course, Steve or Jeff had been on the phone to Tony Watts, who did the first mangle
The review process was difficult, with one reviewer getting difficult on submitted comments [and subsequent rebuttal comments from authors ] that became longer than the submitted paper, 88 pages, 10 times the length of the paper they submitted!
Not quite wrong, at least technically, but guaranteed to confuse, and Ryan himself, who was guest posting put in the boot
The review process was difficult, with one reviewer getting difficult on submitted comments [and subsequent rebuttal comments from authors ] that became longer than the submitted paper, 88 pages, 10 times the length of the paper they submitted!
but one of the commenters, Rational Thought (well Eli is a bunny, so a commenter named Rational Thought at WUWT is not a reach) picked up the inconsistency
Anthony, summat trivial here, but what appears to be an inconsistency. In your write up it sounds as if the ‘sticky’ peer reviewer submitted 88 pages, where in the author comments following the abstract (did I miss where it said who actually wrote that bit?), it looks as if there were 88 pages total including both the peer reviewer comments AND the author replies….
and Watts replied
REPLY: yes, that was just clarified by Ryan O over at the air vent in comments, I’ll make an adjustment to the text to correct this mistake. – Anthony
and the box score



Team O’Donnell


Review A1


Reply A1


Review A2


Reply A2


Review A3


Reply A3


Review B1


Reply B1


Review B2


Reply B2


Review C1




Review D1


Reply D1


To be fair a lot of TO'D's replies included quotes from the referee's report, and Eli trimmed a page or two where there was a hanging sentence, but the handy dandy calculator says that Reviewer A wrote 24 pages of stuff, Team O'D wrote 64 pages of replies. Eli thinks that maybe they need a copy editor.


Holly Stick said...

There are several excellent posts at Deltoid explaining how useful detailed criticism by a reviewer can be, starting at comment #47 (there may be earlier ones there too, I forget):

Phil Clarke said...

Hmmmmm. I wonder how many carbon-eating trees would have to be felled, and how many pages would be consumed if all the words vomited into cyberspace over this sideshow were committed to print? Rather more than 88, I surmise.

Apropos of nothing I left a comment at Anthony's crib (yeah, yeah I know, I was bored and have you seen British TV these days?) speculating that a commenter had not read the reviews he was pontificating about ....

You haven’t actually read the documents you are describing have you? The ‘essay’ runs to 45 pages and the Steig’s first response was 16. Review is an iterative process and reviews 2 and 3 added another 10 pages. All perfectly unremarkable. Steig was not involved in round 4 which is why he requested a preprint of the final published paper, in case it had been further revised. The only ‘duplicity’ in this affair was in O’Donnell posting the reviews online after he had explicitly given his word he would not do so.

My interlocuter replied to the effect that actually, y'know, these days reading documents was entirely superfluous. I bring this up only because that interpreter of interpretations James Delingpole reckons that ...

The future is “peer to peer” review, at which WUWT excels. It has become a forum for experts from all scientific disciplines to assess various aspects of climate science rigorously and without the grotesque bias we’ve unfortunately seen so often among the “consensus” scientists at the IPCC.

We're hosed, aren't we?

seamus said...

For Horatio, here's the gist of it, in haiku form:

while denialists
back-slap and high-five and gloat
the ice is melting

Steve Bloom said...

Nice work, Eli. It's good to see fuzzy little bunnies continuing to add value to reality.

On a related topic, I saw a claim in a comment over at Revkin's that Tom Crowley, who had doubted the 88-page figure when it was claimed to be from a single reviewer, had subsequently apologized to McI for that. The latter claim now seems counter-factual, but can anyone shed light on this business?

Anonymous said...

Slowly melting ice
though nary a death has caused
pointed to with fright


Holly Stick said...

Steve Bloom, this looks like what you were asking about. It is an apology he made to Steve McIntyre at CA. The commenters gave the apology mixed reviews:

There are a lot of links there, if someone has the energy to look at them.

seamus said...

"... in a couple years temperatures in West Antarctica will probably have reached such an extreme that none of our 'reconstructions' will matter." -ES

jyyh said...

One reason not to pursue a career as a scientist on a contentious subject.
subarctic bunny jyyh

dhogaza said...


"One reason not to pursue a career as a scientist on a contentious subject."

Surely part of the strategy over the last several years.

Publish anything they don't like, and you'll get totally smeared, your employer will be subjected to demand that you be fired, you'll be hauled in front of Congress, etc.

Steve Bloom said...

Holly, that was an apology regarding some other kerfuffle from a couple of years ago, not the 88-page business. It appears from the context that Crowley's provisional willingness to express outrage on O'D et al.'s behalf regarding the length of the review evaporated hwen he discovered the breakdown Eli described in this post.

Even in that thread, though, Condon (Id) tries to keep the ball in the air by stating the following without copping to the complete picture:

"As to the 88 pages, I read em, they exist and it was a very clear lesson for me."

This was before the information became generally available. Quite the little propagandist, isn't he?

But anyway, having read all of that I now feel all icky. The paranoia is really quite thick on the ground over there.

Steve Bloom said...

oh idiocy
however are you yclept?

jyyh said...

dhogaza, I meant even 14 pages to respond to is quite much, if one gets an @*%&7# reviewer let alone an auditor... but you're probably right...
subarctic herbivorous bunny jyyh measuring the height of snow in respect to braches during a Lappish cold spell with temps nearing -40 C

J Bowers said...

Let's not completely loose sight of one of the most important aspects to "the debate":

Jan. 31, 2011 - Public belief in climate change weathers storm, poll shows

"Events of past 18 months have little effect on Britons' opinion, as 83% view climate change as a current or imminent threat
A large majority of people think that humanity is causing climate change, with 68% agreeing and 24% choosing to blame non-man-made factors,...

Sep. 8, 2010 - Large Majority of Americans Support Government Solutions to Address Global Warming

"Large majorities of the residents of Florida, Maine and Massachusetts believe the Earth has been getting warmer gradually over the last 100 years (81 percent, 78 percent and 84 percent, respectively), and large majorities favor government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions...
Majority believe warming due to human activity

Mirroring the national survey, the statewide research conducted in July shows that very large majorities think that if the world has been warming, it has been due primarily or at least partly to "things people do" - 72 percent in Florida, 76 percent in Maine and 80 percent in Massachusetts compared to 75 percent nationally.

Jan. 5, 2011 - Scientific American -"Bulge" in Atmospheric Pressure Responsible for Cold Winter Amid Global Warming

"But Jon Krosnick, a professor at Stanford University, said the only group affected by cold weather in terms of belief about climate change is the 30 percent of the population who distrust scientists. And then they only consider how the most recent season compares to the previous three years in terms of worldwide temperatures, he said.

If this winter is unusually cold, he said, you would expect to see a "small drop" in the percentage of people who think global warming is happening.

"People don't use their local temperatures as a benchmark," he said. "They are not dodos."

Horatio Algeranon said...

The Speculator on Speculations.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Regarding the paranoia at McFraudit and WTF: Basically, you have folks who are convinced based on ideology that climate change cannot be a problem. And yet, the evidence keeps piling up against them--more and more each day. And they are utterly incapable of amassing any evidence in favor of their own position. From their point of view, the only solution to their cognitive dissonance is a global conspiracy.

Of course, this raises questions as to why none of the other scientific disciplines dissent from the consensus, why the national academies of over 70 countries (including the US) support it and why they can't even agree among themselves on the details of the conspiracy. But hey, that's the wonderful thing about conspiracy theories: Each wingnut can project whatever whipping boy he wants into the center unimpeded by the need for empirical support.

Now here's my question: Why don't we just laugh the wingnuts right out of the Overton window?

Hank Roberts said...

Why we don't just laugh
He who laughs has not yet heard

quasimodo said...

I guess ignoring double spacing and font size for factor of 2 bloat in the O'Donnell comparison is too much accuracy to hope for when point-scoring is the objective?

EliRabett said...

FWIW, the page count whining came from Team O'D, Eli is merely pointing out that 64 of the 88 pages came from them. Anybunny who wants to is welcome to do a word count.

lderry said...

Another aspect of the peer review process that has received a lot of attention on the blogosphere is the claim that Steig wrote an 88 page review of an 8 page paper. This claim was made by Id and Watts in separate blog postings. It turns out that examination of the data show the following, as partly discussed above in #26. The three reviews were 14, 6 and 4 pages long in each successive version. There never was an 88 page review. What's more, the final pre-publication, non-formatted article as posted by J Clim is 52 pages long. Submitted versions are generally 6-10x longer than the final printed version, because submitted versions are expected to be double spaced in at least 12 pt font etc. Published versions cut down the page numbers drastically, an entirely normal process. The comparison of the inflated "88 pages" of review with the purported "8 pages" of manuscript is completely misleading and wrong. I don't wish to pass judgement on either paper in this post, merely point out the way that "page statistics" were manipulated by bloggers to give a decidedly false impression. Those "facts" were then echoed in many postings, but apparently very few checked to see if any of it was actually true. It wasn't.

dhogaza said...


"I guess ignoring double spacing and font size for factor of 2 bloat in the O'Donnell comparison is too much accuracy to hope for when point-scoring is the objective?"

just in case Eli's response wasn't clear, what you're telling us is that double-spacing and a double font-size bloat tells us that the 40++ page response was only really about 10 pages.

And, as Eli points out, it's The Scrubs complaining about the page count.

You're claiming they should've said "50+ pages" rather than "80+pages".

So, reading closely, you're saying The Scrubs are being ... disingenuous?


Anonymous said...

Follow the dialogue between jeffid and Mapleleaf over at BV's blog, where JeffId is caught telling fibs.’donnell-peer-review-solid-scientific-basics/