USA Today: Wegman report was plagiarized

Dan Vergano, USA Today reports:

The plagiarism experts queried by USA TODAY disagree [with Wegman’s denial] after viewing the Wegman report:

• “Actually fairly shocking,” says Cornell physicist Paul Ginsparg by e-mail. “My own preliminary appraisal would be ‘guilty as charged.’ “

•”If I was a peer reviewer of this report and I was to observe the paragraphs they have taken, then I would be obligated to report them,” says Garner of Virginia Tech, who heads a copying detection effort. “There are a lot of things in the report that rise to the level of inappropriate.”

•”The plagiarism is fairly obvious when you compare things side-by-side,” says Ohio State’s Robert Coleman, who chairs OSU’s misconduct committee.

More at Climate Progress.


  1. #1 Catsidhe
    November 21, 2010

    Cue the complaints of bias and witchhunts in 5… 4… 3…

  2. #2 Elf Eye
    November 21, 2010

    George Mason is a public university, so no doubt Cuccinelli will now stop harassing Mann and instead launch a fraud investigation into Wegman’s machinations. /sarcasm

  3. #3 Former Skeptic
    November 21, 2010

    The charges of plagiarism don’t negate one of the basic premises of the report — that climate scientists used poor statistics in two widely noted papers.

    Yawn. Anyone willing to bet that the above sentence from the Vergano article will be repeated ad nauseum by the usual denier crowd?

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  4. #4 Bernard J.
    November 21, 2010

    [Former Sceptic](

    With repect to his comment:

    The charges of plagiarism don’t negate one of the basic premises of the report — that climate scientists used poor statistics in two widely noted papers.

    Vergano is incorrect.

    Wegman et al used/pliagarised incorrect and/or dubious statistical methodology as well, as [Deep Climate has shown]( This does negate the basic premise of the report, irrespective of the storm in a tea-cup about short-centred principal component analysis which, in the wash-up, had negligible impact on the outcome of the early analyses.

    I’ve tried to say as much on the USA Today site, but for some reason they won’t let me register.

  5. #5 John Mashey
    November 21, 2010

    Vergano I’d very good and absolutely correct that plagiarism dies not invalidate any results in the WR. How could it? There are no meaningful results there to invalidate, and even those that try to seem like it have bern demolished before, but deep climate right now is erasing the rest.

  6. #6 Rocco
    November 21, 2010

    Bernard J.: I think they were just playing “the both sides” a little bit. They also mentioned the conclusion of the NRC report, so at least they are not promoting the broken stick meme.

  7. #7 frankis
    November 21, 2010

    Good article, kudos John Mashey.

  8. #8 Marco
    November 22, 2010

    Elf Eye: Wegman has been very adamant in describing the work on the report as being done on his own nickel…

  9. #9 John Mashey
    November 22, 2010


    1) Make sure you *really* thank DC, without whom none of this would have happened. DC made the key breakthroughs.
    I had certainly stopped looking at the WR years ago.

    2) I don’t think this is a playing both sides thing at all. This is simply being accurate, and Vergano tries to be very accurate. If people go back and check SSWR, you will find a long list of issues, a lot more problems (like errors, changes of meaning, and biases; some of this is real distortion, maybe falsification/fabrication). I alluded to the fact that plagiarism is more obvious, so didn’t bother with the FF.
    Google: ffp falsification

    Vergano *has* read SSWR (and a lot of other stuff that is not yet public), and has talked to an amazing number of people. Plagiarism may destroy someone’s credibility, but by itself does not invalidate conclusions.

    Note: when going to print, space is limited. There is way too much stuff for one article…

  10. #10 Rocco
    November 22, 2010

    John Mashey: You are right that plagiarism itself does not invalidate the conclusions. It’s just that the way the article puts it can make it seem as if plagiarism is the only problem with the report, and everything else is fine.

    It’s just a minor issue, though. Overall, the article is great.

  11. #11 toby
    November 22, 2010

    At least Vergano quotes one of the investigators:

    “It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others’ integrity when you don’t conform to the basic rules of scholarship,” Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner says.

    I suppose we will now see Fox News and the WSJ take up ths story, right? Equal criticism for climate scientists AND their critics, right?

  12. #12 John Mashey
    November 22, 2010

    Rocco: your heart is in the right place… trust me on this one … I am actually quite happy to have that statement in there … and at a future time I may be able to explain why.

  13. #13 Wow
    November 22, 2010

    However, bad statistics doesn’t make the result wrong.

    Heck, you can guess the right answer and be right, and the “stats” in that case are non-existent!

    The central point of Wegman’s report is that the PCA done by MBH got the wrong answer and TRIES to prove this with the explanation that the stats were wrong.

    But the stats weren’t wrong. They could have used more a rigorous test, but then again, you can get fairly close to a student-t distribution result using plain old gaussian distribution. The answer is right enough except in some specific cases.

    And Wegman didn’t manage to show that the analysis done was in one of those special cases where the answer gotten was wrong.

    In short, Wegman tried to show that MBH “did a Nahle” with their maths.

    And did a Nahle in doing so.

  14. #14 snide
    November 22, 2010

    That is the irony. In making all these pronouncements about the incompetence of climate scientists in the area of statistics and rigor in procedures, they go and break all their own rules in the process. To top it off, the ‘auditor’ find nothing amiss.

    Jones and his colleagues knew years ago what they were up against, lying hypocrites who would stop at nothing to smear them and science in general.

    To add more irony to the pot, other institutions such as Scientific American have found out over time just how they work. WUWT made them look like idiots with their poll on the issue of Judith Curry.

  15. #15 Sam
    November 22, 2010

    This is going to be a long bumpy ride for Wegman and Said. There is lots more to come.

  16. #16 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    November 22, 2010

    > Yawn. Anyone willing to bet that the above sentence from the Vergano article will be repeated ad nauseum by the usual denier crowd?

    Expect the next denialist headline (if any) to read “Warmist journalist at USA Today vindicates Wegman findings”.

  17. #17 SC (Salty Current)
    November 22, 2010

    Thanks, DC, John Mashey, and Dan Vergano.

  18. #18 Marlowe Johnson
    November 22, 2010
  19. #19 Bernard J.
    November 22, 2010


    Mann didn’t ‘break rules’ with his short-centring methodology; he simply didn’t select the best alternative. This is the sort of thing that is rapidly corrected in the subsequent replication phase after publication. M&M, and Wegman et al after them, engaged in a rather more serious error of statistics, not least of which was some egregious cherry-picking that exaggerated their ‘case’.

    If you’re not conversant with statistical process, it can be difficult to explain the difference. For undergraduates I might consider using the example of the choice of post hoc tests for an ANOVA, in order to explain Mann’s short center issue, and compare the M&M cherry picking to doing a hundred t-tests and choosing the ‘best’ dozen, rather than doing a single ANOVA.

    Of course, it’s never as simple or as directly comparable as that, but the fact remains that there is a difference between what Mann did, and what M&MJ&W did.

  20. #21 SC (Salty Current)
    November 23, 2010

    Via Rabbet Run, Wegman responds.

    That’s pretty close to an admission – they didn’t intend it, they were rushed,…

  21. #22 John Mashey
    November 23, 2010

    Wegman digs himself deeper yet. Note that the Sept 2007 Said talk is the one that suddenly disappeared in August 2010, just after Wegman (finally, apparently) was told of plagiarism charge.

  22. #24 chek
    November 23, 2010

    Good to see your and DC’s hard work getting major traction, John.

    We’ll know it’s really getting to the point when the still careful ‘plagiarism’ allegation becomes ‘plagiarism and fabrication’.

  23. #25 MapleLeaf
    November 23, 2010

    Calling George Monbiot…hellooo George!

  24. #26 Jeremy C
    November 24, 2010

    Maple Leaf,

    Don’t blame George, he just reacted early and has already drawn attention to his error of judgement.

    However to John Mashey,

    R u going to need police protection?

    I think Hansen has mentioned that he has had police accompany him to public meetings and now that you have blown apart one of the holy scriptures underpinning denialism then you will receive a denialist jihad, if you haven’t already. Perhaps you should contact Salmon Rushdie for advice on how to avoid hit men.

  25. #27 John Mashey
    November 24, 2010

    re: 26, not yet.
    Friends often ask if I’ve seen any dead rats yet. 🙂

    Meanwhile, keep an eye on USA Today.

    Finally, I do report one more delicious time, which I learned while researching the WR, but was even more applicable to the Hockey Stick Illusion, by HWQDAJ (He Who Quotes Dog Astrology Journal). See The Journal of Scientific Exploration is a Dog, posted for me by the Rabett.

    The most influential reference reference (but not actually cited) in the WR was McIntyre and McKitrick(2005), a talk given for GMI & CEI. SSWR calls this MM05x, and it’s reference #79 on p.168.
    It has its own section W.8.9, because it is so important.
    The red-coded Memes are all found there.
    It was preceded by a few weeks by McK05, McKitrick’s talk in some far-off land, i.e., Australia.

    Both cite Davd Deming’s quote as a key idea that the climate guys were trying to make the beloved MWP disappear.
    Deming’s quote comes from JSE, although by the time it’s in MM05x, somehow the cite has changed from JSE to another journal, Science. (I.e., falsification of reference. Hmm, McI isn’t anybody, but McKitrick is at Guelph….) Anyway, learn about JSE, provider of key quote for the article on which the WR most depended.

    Google: ffp falsificaiton

  26. #29 nothing's sacred
    June 20, 2011

    The charges of plagiarism don’t negate one of the basic premises of the report — that climate scientists used poor statistics in two widely noted papers.

    Charges of plagiarism against an author of a flat Earth article wouldn’t negate the basic premise of the article that the Earth is flat, either, but such an observation is stunningly irrelevant.

  27. #30 nothing's sacred
    June 20, 2011

    I’m sure his next post will point out that, even if you believe that “climate-gate” shows unprofessional behavior, that doesn’t negate the science.

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