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Alleging 'Malpractice' With Climate Skeptic Papers, Publisher Kills Journal 314

Posted by timothy
from the public-scrutiny dept.
sciencehabit writes "A European publisher today terminated a journal edited by climate change skeptics. The journal, Pattern Recognition in Physics, was started less than a year ago. Problems cropped up soon afterward. In July, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, noted 'serious concerns' with Pattern Recognition in Physics. As he wrote on his blog about open-access publishing, Beall found self-plagiarism in the first paper published by the journal. 'In addition,' says another critic, 'the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing.'"
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Alleging 'Malpractice' With Climate Skeptic Papers, Publisher Kills Journal

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  • Wait- There's More! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:24PM (#45994319)
    It's always interesting to follow the money - The journal’s editor-in-chief, Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, works for the Algerian Petroleum Institute

    http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/07/16/recognizing-a-pattern-of-problems-in-pattern-recognition-in-physics/ [scholarlyoa.com]

    Then again, there is Retraction Watch in case deniers just want to claim that the scientists are sitting on their billion dollar yachts sipping their mojitos, and selectively killing only articles about global warming - hey, might as well add creationism while we are into denialism.

    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/17/climate-skeptic-journal-shuttered-following-malpractice-in-nepotistic-reviewer-selections/ [retractionwatch.com]

  • Oh my God... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nezic (151658) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:33PM (#45994399)

    There were three *entire* sentences that were self-plagiarized? They shouldn't just kill the journal, but the author himself!

    The horror.

    But seriously, it seems to me that the librarian-blogger is full of himself, and that the publisher may be hyper-sensitive to any form of criticism (or might have people making decisions whose virtually religious views on the topic of climate change align with the librarian, and this was used as an excuse to smack down the journal). Of course that is just supposition.

    This instance of self-plagiarism doesn't exactly seem like it was malicious, I imagine it was an oversight that the journal and author(s) would have no problem correcting.

  • by dmbasso (1052166) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:45PM (#45994491)

    Even if it was a single author, just copying from an earlier work is enough to be considered self-plagiarism. You must publish original research.

  • Re:Oh my God... (Score:4, Informative)

    by GiganticLyingMouth (1691940) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:56PM (#45994591)
    And what about the nepotism in the peer review process? Was that somehow by accident as well?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:13PM (#45994815)

    The whole idea of writing a previewed scientific paper is to get your research out there and present it to so that the scientific community as a whole can pick it apart. Call it Darwinian research, if nothing else. And this is done via these journals. But if journals beginning throwing out papers that don't agree with their ideology the entire system starts to go all to shit!

    Apparently you are no scientist or you would know that the point of peer-reviewed journals (not sure what previewed papers are) is to make sure that they are of reasonable quality before they are published. The reviewers, who have experience in the field, review the data collection and analysis techniques used in the paper and look for systemic or logical errors that would lead to incorrect conclusions/reporting. Sometimes the reviewers miss something, limitations of existing equipment and techniques, or an ambiguity in interpretation of the results means further research is indicated, which may invalidate the original paper. The idea is to only waste at most a few people's time (the reviewers') instead of a whole scientific community's, to filter out the the chaff and improve the quality above what would normally found under Sturgeon's Revelation [wikipedia.org]. In theory there's also an earlier filter at the grant submission stage that avoids funding the more obviously flawed proposals, but funding from industry to promote a financially beneficial result bypasses that filter (for prior examples, see research on morbidity caused by tobacco use). Generally climate skeptic papers aren't censored because what they report is unpopular, they are rejected because of blatant or more subtle flaws identified by the reviewers and which the authors are unwilling to correct. Back into the slush pile. Too bad, so sad.

    When you have politically/economically sensitive areas, there can be attempts to manipulate the system to promote certain views. It would appear that there were multiple indicators that this was the case with this journal, starting with an editor with strong petroleum industry ties and choices in reviewers that were likely to be one-sided and leading to substandard peer-review.

    Many publishers make plenty of money selling subscriptions to journals and collecting publishing fees from researchers. They would prefer to publish journals, so when they discontinue a journal like this it's going to be either

    1. - because distribution is so low as not to be economical/profitable, or
    2. - because misconduct within a particular journal's administration risks compromising the reputation (and circulation) of other journals owned by that publisher, affecting profitability.

    The only censorship here is the same kind as that of people who walk away furtively from the loony or the crooked politician haranguing people from his soapbox in the middle of a park.

    Posting as Anonymous because I've already moderated.

  • by bored_engineer (951004) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:18PM (#45994879)

    Apparently, the journal publishes more than just climate articles [pattern-recogn-phys.net].

    I was going to point out that I didn't think much of your conclusion that a geophysicist working for a school that specializes in teaching how to drill for oil should necessarily be viewed as acting in strictly political interests. I also thought that you were being disingenuous in not pointing out that there are two geophysicists, the other from Stockholm, who are co-editors.

    That was until I realized that I recognized the name of the editor you don't mention: Nils-Axel Morner [wikipedia.org]. Apparently, among his other talents, he douses water [randi.org]. Instead, I'm going to pull an "ad hominem" out of my hat and suggest that we should be skeptical of a journal edited in part by a water-douser.

  • Re:Oh my God... (Score:5, Informative)

    by laird (2705) <lairdp.gmail@com> on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:00PM (#45995207) Journal

    The data is published. The reason that you didn't find what you want is that you apparently didn't bother to look.

    Here's a nice data source packaged up so that you can connect to it really easily: http://datamarket.azure.com/dataset/weathertrends/worldwidehistoricalweatherdata [azure.com]

    And here's all the US' weather data: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/ [noaa.gov] .

    The only person hiding data from you is, apparently, you.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:53PM (#45995599) Homepage Journal

    There is no evidence the solar system is warming. There is plenty of evidence the Earth is warming. There is no evidence that GMO foods *in general* are deleterious to human health, although there may well be specific exceptions. It seems reasonable to assume that the safety of any particular GMO depends on the organism itself and the nature of the modifications made.

  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Informative)

    by NatasRevol (731260) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @12:31AM (#45995841) Journal

    That's because there's a LOT of fucking sea water.

    http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence [nasa.gov]

    "The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969."

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @01:16AM (#45996077)

    ...where the pope was the temporal king, and gave the equivalent of a court order during trial (ordering Galileo to make his arguments in learned Latin and not in common Italian until the court/church ruled on the case). G. did precisely the equivalent of defying many a modern judge's orders not to talk about the trial publicly while it was still going on, and not to try and inflame public sentiment while the trial was still going on. Then he insulted the judge as part of it (which would be most analogous to modern day contempt of court). The sentence Galileo got was less severe than in many modern cases. (Look at his house arrest vrs. modern open ended contempt citations).
            The church was also going through the counter-reformation, which was historically an atypically bad part of church history. Galileo would have gotten away with more just 10-20 years before or (probably) 30 years later. This is why using the Galilean trial to prove anything about the relations of science and religion is roughly meaningless, it's like pointing to the story in To Kill a Mockingbird to prove Jury Trials in general are somehow a bad thing.
            Kepler's own residence was certainly a factor, but this different treatment also happened because of his mother. Kepler's semi-SF writing, Somnium seu de astronomia lunari (roughly "Dream Voyage to the Moon"), is allegedly based on tales his mother told him. Kepler's mother was accused of witchcraft at one point, but Kepler was able to successfully defend her. An early move by the family was in all probability to find a political climate more congenial to protestant thinking and general freedom of belief, and when his mother was later accused of witchcraft, this probably paid off. Kepler didn't just live in the Holy Roman Empire, he sought to live in a part of it that was particularly enlightened and tolerant, and that helped immensely during a period when Europe in general, and not just the Papal states, was temporarily regressing towards the middle ages.
     

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @04:04AM (#45996741) Journal

    Where it gets interesting is that large chunks of papers are literally re-telling the same stuff over and over again. ... Obviously trying to re-write this over and over is a completely pointless waste of time, so many academics just copy/paste the same old crap and then get on with the rest of the paper. Is that sort of self-plagiarism bad, and if so why?

    In the "keystone" course I took, (i.e. basic library use and academic writing) which included avoiding both self- and ordinary plagiarism, the main issue was clearly distinguishing among your new work, your new interpretation of others work, and the previous work of others and/or yourself.

    The college uses an automated plagiarism-detection-and-measurement service, which compares newly submitted work against a database of previously submitted work, published work, and crawls of the web. We were warned, not just against using copy-and-paste boilerplate in multiple papers (or papers for multiple classes) but that the tool also tended to false-positive for self-plagiarism due to a person's writing style and word choices resulting in a tendency to put identical multi-word strings of significant length in more than one paper.

    (I made a point of having a discussion with each prof, giving a heads up that I make extensive web posts under handles, consider it fair to use the same research and phrasing both in a discussion here and in a paper, and would be more than a little annoyed if the tool claimed I'd lifted a paper from my own contribution to a forum thread on some hot topic. So far I've had no problems.)

  • Re:Ocean Heat (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @05:46AM (#45997029) Homepage
    Actually, the IPCC models came out for a long time lower as observed (or the observations were close to the upper limit of the models). And even with the alleged pause of globally raising temperatures, we are still way into the predicted range of raising temperatures.
  • by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedgeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:21AM (#45998325)

    Let's build a model of the Earth's atmosphere.

    First let's model the Earth as a point particle with perfect blackbody characteristics. Taking into account the received radiation from the sun, that should get us a global temperature of ~6 degrees C.

    But wait, we know the Earth isn't a perfect blackbody, so we'll factor in an albedo of ~ .3 and get a global temperature of -18 degrees C.

    This isn't a very good model so far, is it? Well, let's model the atmosphere as a layered column of gases, then. Oh hey, funny thing. It looks like if you increase the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, it heats up, and then the atmosphere can hold more CO2, leading to arbitrarily large temperatures. That can't be right. Let's revise the model...

    That brings us to the beginnings of the 20th Century in terms of atmospheric modeling. You can read more about subsequent steps in this textbook [aip.org], or perhaps this one. [harvard.edu] I can particularly recommend the former as it is brief and a good introduction to the problems associated with e.g. where in the atmosphere CO2 is concentrated, and its peculiar vibrational modes.

    All of Science is to some degree wrong. Congratulations on your discovery of this fact. The question is, how wrong? And with these models we try to estimate that. We would all dearly like for there not to be such thing as the greenhouse effect right about now, believe you me. However, since it is trivial to show that an atmosphere with a greater proportion of CO2 will retain more solar radiation, and this has been known since the early 19th Century, we're not holding out much hope for that hypothesis. Wrong we may be, but that wrong we are surely not. I don't know where in your fathomless depths of ignorance and hubris you find the means to dispute apparent fact, but keep in mind that when many others' opinions differ from yours, it's unlikely to be a conspiracy.

    This post brought to you by the Anthropogenic Global Warming Conspiracy. [slashdot.org] Get your membership card today!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:53AM (#45998517)

    Global Climate Change has become the consensus position of Climatologists the same way that Evolution has become the consensus position of Biologists

    No, not in the same way. If Darwin's theory had come from a computer model and it turned out his computer model didn't match real world observations, nobody would believe it. Strangely exactly the same situation is present with catastrophic AGW and everybody seems to believe it. They believe it because it's their politics, not because it's actually true, for the same reason that creationists don't believe in evolution even though it is actually true.

    No, they believe it because Venus, despite receiving 25% of the energy from the Sun, is 70C hotter than Mercury. Why? Because Venus has a 96% CO2 atmosphere, and it has been known since the 1800s that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Equally, it is established fact that CO2 and H2O are the chemical results of hydrocarbon burning, and that if you remove a hydrocarbon source from the ground and burn it, you are going to add to the CO2 present in the atmosphere. Full stop. Any kerfuffling over the accuracy of the models is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    This is not a question 'if' and 'what', the science has been about 'how much' and 'how quickly'. Models are a tool for estimating that. If they're wrong, you don't throw out all the other observations that have been made. The correct thing to do is refine the model. The people offering excuses like 'oh it's just the natural system' and 'we were warmer millions of years ago' are ignoring that we have a civilization to preserve here that's far more sensitive to changes in climate than life in general, and they don't have a fucking clue what they're talking about. And I'd wish they'd stop seeing liberal and eco-conspiracies behind every attempt to explain it.

    And it's not about money, either. The total amount of money spent on climate research by the US govt. between 2007-2011 was just over 2 billion dollars. Contrast that with the Large Hadron Collider, a single experimental device that cost 9 billion UKP to build, and will arguably have far less practical impact than results from climate research. By the by, 2 billion is less that a single quarter's profit for Exxon, yet it's like pulling teeth to get acknowledgment that, hey, maybe Exxon wants to protect that revenue stream, too.

    But I'm wasting my time.

    I used to think that this argument would be sufficient to convince deniers - and I call them deniers, not skeptics, skeptics weigh all evidence before them - but when Bill Nye put out this simple video [youtube.com] to explain global climate change, people debated the simple facts of the matter in the comments(before they were disabled). Frankly, it proves Asimov right, that

    "Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

    So have at it. Scientifically, the debate's been done for years. Politically, I'm no longer interested in debating this. My politicians remain convinced that this will only be a minor inconvenience, at worst. Rather, I'm seeing my way to being personally prepared for the possible consequences of unexpected social upheaval. 'Cause oddly enough, the military and the insurance industry, who's job are to understand future probabilities in their respective domains, seem to be taking it seriously, as well.

  • Re:Ocean Heat (Score:3, Informative)

    by mtthwbrnd (1608651) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:55AM (#46003379)

    "alleged pause"? I don't think that anybody is seriously questioning that there has been a "pause" in the rising global temperature observations. In fact it looks as though that is what will even appear in the IPCC report:

    "Yet the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that over the past 15 years, recorded world temperatures have increased at only a quarter of the rate of IPCC claimed when it published its last assessment in 2007.
    Back then, it said observed warming over the 15 years from 1990-2005 had taken place at a rate of 0.2C per decade, and it predicted this would continue for the following 20 years, on the basis of forecasts made by computer climate models.
    But the new report says the observed warming over the more recent 15 years to 2012 was just 0.05C per decade - below almost all computer predictions."
    "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/Worlds-climate-scientists-confess-Global-warming-just-QUARTER-thought--computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html"

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