Posts Tagged ‘wolfgang wagner’

Spencer and Braswell fundamentally flawed, journal editor resigns

September 2, 2011

Wolfgang Wagner, editor-in-chief of the journal Remote Sensing, resigns over the publication of a fundamentally flawed paper:

[peer review is] supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. (…) the paper by Spencer and Braswell that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.

Peter Gleick has a good rundown of the story.

Wagner points out that minority views are and should be welcomed in the scientific literature. But he adds that that does not mean that long refuted arguments should be able to keep being published:

The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature, a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.

What Stoat reads this to mean is that

Yes, novel and interesting challenges to the established view should be published – perhaps even get given a slightly easier ride, if they are novel. But No: just saying the same old thing again isn’t any good.

Quite predictably, Roy “Conspiracy” Spencer is complaining about the IPCC gatekeepers trying to silence dissenting geniuses like him.

Update: Dan Satterfield observes that

They [“skeptical” papers such as Spencer’s] are not published to further the science, but as a piece of meat to those who find the science very incompatible with their world view.

Dutch translation of this post on my NL klimaatblog.

Update 2: Robert Grumbine reminds us of how Spencer sees his own role:

“I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

In the comments, Bob Brand makes several astute observations on the course of events and on Wagner’s apology to Trenberth (and the role of cultural differences therein). Re the apology, I see Wagner’s resignation as an apology to the scientific community and don’t find personal apologies to Trenberth necessary, though BB provides some rationale for this.

William Connolley provides some insights:

people are using short-cuts to try to evaluate who is correct. This is inevitable; if we restricted discussion to those who understood the issues, there would be far less debate.

(…) the obvious explanation for Wagner’s explanation, the one he actually gave: personal morality. He doesn’t want to be associated with this paper, and has used the only means available to free himself.

I would sum up Wagner’s reasons for resigning as follows:

  • the lack of considering (previously published) contradictory evidence.
  • the (in Wagner’s words) problematic issues w.r.t. “fundamental methodological errors or false claims.”
  • Spencer’s exaggerations and over-interpretations of his results (which made Wagner feel that he had been taken for a ride).
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