Peer Review system in Climate Science:
excluding good science and allowing fraud
I hope to capture here and relay key stories
of what all climate skeptics know: that the peer-review system
in Climate Science has become corrupted, that good science
which challenges Anthropogenic Global Warming gets excluded,
while sub-standard and even fraudulent science gets accepted
by prestige scientific journals, so long as the articles subscribe
Update 7 May 09: Direct links to stories:
- Dr Keenan's allegations of fraud against Wang et al, see
below and also see WUWT
for more recent developments. Wang's paper is important
because it formed a cornerstone in Jones' assessment of
a low Urban Heat Island effect that is used by the IPCC.
With too-low UHI, global temperature rises look more significant
than they may be in reality.
- From Climate
Audit: how Dr Garth Paltridge could not get his evidence
for decreasing humidity published. Why? Because for AGW,
relative humidity is supposed to stay constant so that with
temp rising due to rising CO2, more water vapour also ensues
- which would amplify the greenhouse effect and temperature
- From Chris Monckton, his story "Reviewed
Or Not Reviewed?" of how the National Academy of
Science and the science community handled his paper challenging
the IPCC science on climate sensitivity, and the issues
This problem, while it is at the level of
psychopathology in Climate Science, is an endemic problem
across the board in Science. One of Koutsoyyanis' slides in
of the peer review process in all sciences today.
The unwillingness of journals like Nature to accept good
science that challenges AGW is only equalled by the unprofessional
way they accept material that does support AGW without checking
the data: in the two following cases, there is no other way
to explain the authors than to say that they have knowingly
fabricated data, maths, results: they have committed academic
fraud. The following story is reported by Peter Risdon. Click
to read originals in full.
Doug Keenan is an independent mathematician, based in London.
After I re-published a list of peer-reviewed papers that question
the received wisdom on climate science, I received an email
from Dr Keenan drawing my attention to two peer-reviewed papers
he had written that are relevant. Both are absolutely gobsmacking,
to use a technical word.
The first is titled: Grape harvest dates are poor indicators
of summer warmth. A pdf of the full paper can be downloaded
and an introduction can be read here.
On 18 November 2004, Isabelle Chuine and co-workers published
a research paper on global warming, in Nature magazine.
And it gathered some publicity. Chuine et al. claimed to
have developed a method for estimating the summer temperature
in Burgundy, France, in any given year back to 1370 (based
on the harvest dates of grapes). Using their method, the
authors asserted that the summer of 2003 was by far the
warmest summer since 1370, in Burgundy.
I had been following global warming studies only as a disinterested
outside spectator (and only occasionally). Someone sent
me the paper of Chuine et al., though, and wondered what
I thought of it from a mathematical perspective. So I had
To study the paper properly, I needed to have the authors'
data. So I e-mailed Dr. Chuine, asking for this. The authors,
though, were very reluctant to let me have the data. It
took me eight months, tens of e-mails exchanged with the
authors, and two formal complaints to Nature, to get the
data. (Some data was purchased from Météo
France.) It is obviously inappropriate that such a large
effort was necessary.
Looking at the data made it manifest that there are serious
problems with the work of Chuine et al... ...That is, the
authors had developed a method that gave a falsely-high
estimate of temperature in 2003 and falsely-low estimates
of temperatures in other very warm years. They then used
those false estimates to proclaim that 2003 was much hotter
than other years.
The above is easy enough to understand. It does not even
require any specialist scientific training. So how could
the peer reviewers of the paper not have seen it? (Peer
reviewers are the scientists who check a paper prior to
its publication.) I asked Dr. Chuine what data was
sent to Nature, when the paper was submitted to the journal.
Dr. Chuine replied, “We never sent data to Nature”.
[...] Problems would be obvious to anyone with an appropriate
scientific background, even without the data. In other words,
the peer reviewers could not have had appropriate background.
What is important here is not the truth or falsity of the
assertion of Chuine et al. about Burgundy temperatures.
Rather, what is important is that a paper on what
is arguably the world's most important scientific topic
(global warming) was published in the world's most prestigious
scientific journal with essentially no checking of the work
prior to publication.
Finally, it is worth noting that Chuine et al. had the
data; so they must have known that their conclusions were
unfounded. In other words, there is prima facie
evidence of scientific fraud...
In this case Dr Keenan took no further action. But this experience
led him to look more closely at some of the evidence on which
the ideas about human-caused global warming were based. In
the process, he uncovered something that he felt demanded
further action. He has published a
report about this titled: The fraud allegation against
some climatic research of Wei-Chyung Wang. Here's the abstract
from the pdf:
Wei-Chyung Wang has been a respected researcher in global
warming studies for decades. I have formally alleged that
he committed fraud in some of his research, including research
cited by the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (2007)
on “urban heat islands” (a critical issue).
Herein, the allegation is reviewed, and some of its implications
On 20th February 2008 the University of Albany wrote to Dr
Keenan confirming that they were going to investigate his
allegation. Here are some brief excerpts from the same pdf
report (abridged, emphasis added):
The work of Jones et al. (1990) is a significant paper
in global warming studies. In February 2007, Stephen McIntyre
blogged about evidence he had found showing that it was
“impossible” for Jones et al. to have carried
out their work as they had claimed... The evidence particularly
implicates Wei-Chyung Wang—the lead author of Wang
et al. and a co-author of Jones et al...
In global warming studies, an important issue concerns
the integrity of temperature measurements from meteorological
stations. The latest assessment report from the IPCC indicates
that the global average temperature rose by roughly 0.3
°C over the period 1954–1983. Thus, if errors
in temperature measurements were of similar size to, or
larger than, 0.3 °C, there could be a serious problem
for global warming studies. The papers of Jones et al. and
Wang et al. both consider this issue. The paper of Jones
et al. is one of the main works cited by the IPCC to support
its contention that measurement errors arising from urbanization
are tiny, and therefore are not a serious problem...
Regarding station movements over time, the papers of Jones
et al. and Wang et al. make the following statements.
The stations were selected on the basis of station history:
we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation,
location or observation times. [Jones et al.]
They were chosen based on station histories: selected
stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation,
location, or observation times.... [Wang et al.]
Jones et al. and Wang et al. consider the same 84 meteorological
stations in China. Regarding 49 of those stations, the DOE/CAS
report says, “station histories are not currently
available” and “details regarding instrumentation,
collection methods, changes in station location or observing
times ... are not known” (sect. 5). For those 49 stations,
then, the above-quoted statements from the two papers are
The essential point here is that the quoted statements
from Jones et al. and Wang et al. cannot be true and could
not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated.
...So far, things had run as might be expected. A fraud had
been alleged, the University at Albany looked into it and
decided to hold a formal investigation. Dr Keenan waited to
be contacted by the investigation and asked to put his case,
in line with the university's Policy
and Procedures on Misconduct in Research and Scholarship,
which includes the lines:
III. A. Rights and Responsibilities of the Complainant...
The complainant will be provided a copy of the formal
allegations when and if an inquiry is opened. The complainant
will have the opportunity to review portions of the inquiry
and investigation reports pertinent to the complainant’s
report or testimony... After the final determination and upon
request to the Vice President for Research, the complainant
shall be given access to the full documentation. The
complainant is responsible for making allegations in good
faith, maintaining confidentiality, and cooperating fully
with an inquiry and/or investigation.
Dr Keenan lived up to the responsibility so far as he could.
He had made the allegation in good faith and given Professor
Wang an opportunity to explain how he had reached his results,
an opportunity the Professor had not taken. Keenan maintained
confidentiality. In order to cooperate with the investigation,
though he would first have to be contacted by it. Dr Keenan
Late in May 2008 a communication
arrived from Albany. It said: "After careful review of
the evidence and thoughtful deliberation, the Investigation
Committee finds no evidence of the alleged fabrication of
results and nothing that rises to the level of research misconduct
having been committed by Dr Wang. As the institutional official
responsible for this case, I have accepted the Committee's
findings and the Report. You have fourteen (14) calendar days
from the date of this letter to provide any comments to add
to the report for the record."
That’s astonishing, but here’s where it becomes
The university had initiated an investigation, then
broke its own rules by not involving Dr Keenan. It then produced
a report that carefully avoided mentioning Dr Keenan, so it
could claim he was not entitled to see a copy of this report.
It then asked Keenan to comment on the report. But
Doug Keenan is a tenacious man. In July 2008, after being
refused sight of the report, he submitted a formal
complaint (pdf) alleging criminal fraud. He said:
Wei-Chyung Wang is a professor at the University
at Albany, State University of New York. He has been doing
research for over 30 years. For this research, Wang has received
at least $7 million. The funds have come primarily from the
Department of Energy... I have formally alleged that Wang
committed fraud in important parts of his research. My allegation
was submitted to the University at Albany.
The university conducted a preliminary inquiry. Briefly, Wang
claimed that there were some documents that could exonerate
him. The inquiry concluded that there should be a full investigation,
which should be “charged with obtaining and reviewing
any such additional evidence ... so that a final resolution
may be made regarding the allegation against Dr. Wang”.
Wang had been claiming the existence of such exonerating documents
for nearly a year, but he has not been able to produce them.
Additionally, there was a report published in 1991 (with a
second version in 1997) explicitly stating that no such documents
exist. Moreover, the report was published as part of the Department
of Energy Carbon Dioxide Research Program, and Wang was the
Chief Scientist of that program.
The university conducted an investigation. The investigation
concluded that Wang is innocent. I believe that the case against
Wang is strong and clear, and that the university is trying
to cover up the fraud so as to protect its reputation. Wang
is one of the university’s star professors. The conduct
of the investigation violated several of the university’s
own stated policies... The documents that Wang was relying
on were never produced.
I have only examined a little of Wang’s research; so
I do not know the full extent of the fraud. It is difficult
to examine more, in part because Wang has not willingly made
his data available: when asked for the data from the research
that I later reported as fraudulent, Wang refused. For that
research, though, Wang had a co-worker in Britain. In Britain,
the Freedom of Information Act requires that data from publicly-funded
research be made available. I was able to get the data by
requiring Wang’s co-worker to release it, under British
law. It was only then that I was able to confirm that Wang
had committed fraud...
In October 2008 Dr Keenan was told there could be a wait
of several months while his complaint is investigated.
UPDATE: I did mail
the relevant person at Albany myself, some time ago, asking
for news of the investigation against Professor Wang. I received
no reply. However, within a couple of hours of [this blog]
being posted, someone at Albany came to look at it, from the
host aspmini-cc326.cc.albany.edu (18.104.22.168), having
apparently been sent an email about it. So even if they are
not communicative about this case, it seems someone at Albany
is keeping their eyes open for reports of it.
see new findings on the effect of urban warming.
Updated 18th March 2009