Henry Markram

Henry Markram

Henry Markram, a chief editor at Frontiers, the journal that recently retracted (resulting in multiple resignations of editors from that journal), inappropriately, an important paper on climate change denialism, just made the following comment on a post on that journal’s blog.

My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study. They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study. The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything? Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.

Shall we Fisk?

My own personal opinion:

I’m not sure if this being his own personal opinion gets him out of trouble here. As an assistant field chief editor that is.

The authors of the retracted paper

Please avoid the passive voice. “As the authors of the paper I supervised the undue retraction of.” There, I fixed that for you.

and their followers

Oh, I see, you think is a cult or something. Interesting.

are doing

Actually, I think it is you who is doing something here. They just wrote a paper in their field of expertise, published it in a peer reviewed journal, etc.

the climate change crisis a tragic disservice

No, this research is important in understanding the astonishing and critically important fact that there is a virtually 100% consensus among scientists that climate change is real, human caused, and important in contrast to something closer to a 50-50 distribution of belief among the general public that it is even a thing. This discordance is one of the most important facts of our age, because a) climate change is one of the most important things happening on this planet right now and b) humanity seems entirely unable to address it. There are reasons for this and one of those reasons is the behavior, strategy, and tactics of the denialist community. Recursive Fury was a scholarly study of an important aspect of that. Which you published. Then, the denialist community pressured you into retracting it. That, good sir, is a tragic disservice. You are the perpetrator of a tragic disservice.

by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study.

Writing about and analyzing public comments without referring to the source is unethical. You have this backwards, It is generally accepted by the research and publishing community that you have this wrong.

They made a monumental mistake,

Well, you got that right. They should have picked a different journal. Generally, I think it would be a good idea henceforth for people to pick a different journal.

refused to fix it

Even though the paper is fine the way it is they did not “refuse to fix it” but rather worked with the editors of Frontiers (perhaps you should meet them some time!) to follow one or more paths to addressing this issue. So, that’s just a lie, apparently.

and that rightfully disqualified the study.

Disqualified the study? That you published?

The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians?

Since you are acting as a hobgoblin of the climate science denialists, I’m a little surprised to see that you accept the reality of climate change so readily. But that’s good, good for you. As to why there should be an academic study of denialism, there are two answers to that. a) academics traditionally study whatever they want, and b) see above.

If scientists think there is a debate,

They don’t, yet there is one and that debate is hampering our efforts to do something about it. This is worthy of study and investigation. Somebody should do that!

then why not debate this scientifically?

There isn’t a valid debate, but there is a debate nonetheless. THAT issue is worthy of scientific study. Lewandowsky et al. did that. You have repressed the study.

Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand?

Exactly. Let’s address this faux debate. In this case, we need to understand it better. Academic study of the debate is a good thing. Which the authors did. Which you agreed to, published, then under pressure from the denialists, retracted.

Why not focus even more on the science of climate change?

This is a very interesting question. Lewandowsky is not a climate scientist. Others involved both in this paper and other projects are also not climate scientists. For that matter the vast majority of denialists are not climate scientists either. But the issue of climate change has many aspects, including denialism, which was the subject of an academic study that your journal accepted, published, then under pressure from science denialists, retracted.

Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared?

Get prepared? Oh, I see. You actually ARE a denialist! There are many kinds of denailists, including those who think there is nothing we can do about climate change. This statement seems to suggest that this is your position. That is very interesting. This may be the most important statement I’ve seen coming out of Frontiers. This could explain the whole retraction thing. Huh.

Is that not what scientists do?

What scientists do is they study stuff and write papers and put the papers in peer reviewed journals, and part of that is the process of editorial oversight and review. That is what Lewandowsky et al did. They did what scientists did. You, and Frontiers, did something else, something that editors should not do about the science in their journals. Repress it.

Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything?

Most people believe that study of denialism is important. Most people believe that public lynching of scientists who study climate change or climate science denialism does not help advance anything. Did I answer your question correctly? :)

Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.

Did you just call the authors of the paper you repressed nutters? Wow.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan Andrews
    April 15, 2014

    Excellent response. Markram should have had the sense to keep quiet.

    Hmm but if he had that kind of sense he wouldn’t have retracted the paper in the first place, I suppose.

  2. #2 Dan Andrews
    April 15, 2014

    Excellent response. Markram should have had the sense to keep quiet.

    Hmm but if he had that kind of sense he wouldn’t have retracted the paper in the first place, I suppose.

  3. #3 Dan Andrews
    April 15, 2014

    Oops. iPad double posted, or did I double tap submit comment button?

  4. #4 anthrosciguy
    April 15, 2014

    Markram does projection, over and over, in his comment.

  5. #5 Eric Lund
    April 15, 2014

    Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared?

    Markram seems not to have heard. There is a series of reports published by the IPCC that attempts to do exactly that.

    If scientists think there is a debate

    As you say, there isn’t one in the science community. It’s rare to find anything close to this degree of unanimity on a cutting-edge topic. But some people want to have this debate, because they are afraid of having the debate we should be having, about what we should do about the problem.

  6. #6 DAS
    April 15, 2014

    So now someone who states “The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate” is a denier. LOL We have reached a tipping point!
    DAS

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    April 15, 2014

    Yes, actually.

  8. #8 Sou
    April 15, 2014

    Excellent.

    Henry Markram signed his blog article as “Editor in Chief, Frontiers” implying he is the top dog on the editorial team and therefore speaking with some authority? But what is he “Editor in Chief” of? He’s listed as an “Assistant Field Chief Editor” whatever that means. He’s not listed on the editorial team of Frontiers in Psychology.

    Then he comes out with his “own personal opinion” comment, which you’ve picked to bits rather neatly, Greg.

    I doubt Henry had any authority to write his blog article. I reckon it was all his “personal opinion”. It was quite devoid of the facts of the matter. I’m wondering if he was just pretending to be writing his blog article as “Editor in Chief, Frontiers”.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    April 15, 2014

    I believe that Henry Markram is not the “editor in chief” of anything. He is not affiliated with Frontiers in Psychology. He is an assistant chief field editor (one of four) for Frontiers in Neuroscience.

    Also, he seems to be the husband of the CEO of Frontiers, Kamila Markram, or maybe sibling, based on this: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10202290244971894&set=pb.1664271035.-2207520000.1397585250.&type=3&theater

  10. #10 metzomagic
    April 15, 2014

    Excellent take on this, Greg. It seems that the editors at Frontiers are in uncharted territory (for them anyway), and they collectively can’t figure out how to deal with it. They don’t even seem to be talking with each other.

    And… dare I say, it seems like they are taking an almost Facebook-like approach to the situation. Not professional.

  11. #11 dean
    April 15, 2014

    Where does he explain why they suddenly claimed there were tons of problems with the paper after it was initially stated none existed?

    And why, in that picture, is he posed like David Hasselhoff?

  12. #12 metzomagic
    April 15, 2014

    Lest my comment above regarding Facebook be misconstrued, I meant that their blog posts contradict things they said earlier in the official retraction statement, and there’s no apparent attempt to coordinate their efforts. Much like a bunch of teenage friends posting comments on Facebook in response to a random viral video. I did *not* mean to imply that they were acting like the management of Facebook, the corporation, in response to a PR problem. Although…

    But anyway, as dean said, how could they possibly even contemplate publishing the paper in the first place in light of what they claim about protecting the identity of the ‘subjects’?

  13. #13 Badger
    Bolton
    April 16, 2014

    Is “nutter” a scientific term? Is it an academic term? Is it even a term a professional editor of an academic journal should use? Is Markham properly professional is the real question? Not judging by the quality and tone and linguistic choices of his “personal” response.

  14. #14 UKIndian
    April 16, 2014

    Slightly off topic but readers of this blog might find the discussion about deniers in the comment section at http://climatenuremberg.com/2014/04/13/update-dr-kampen-defends-himself/#comments intersesting.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2014

    Badger, I’m a little behind in following the current discourse about the use of terms like “crazy”, “mental”, “nutter” and so on, but I’m pretty sure there is a movement afoot to clean up our collective act WRT the use of terms that imply mental illness or issues in common parlance. As I say I’m not up on the current thinking, but I’m not sure how we might want to view a neurobiologist using the term “nutter” in reference to a paper in a psychology journal. At least if feels like, perhaps, a geologist using the term “missing link” in relation to a paper in a palaeobiology journal.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2014

    UKIndian: Indeed. As a scientist who is a science communicator working much of the time these days at the farther end of my own venn diagram (my science includes paleoclimate, but I am certainly not a climate science) I found that discussion amusing at several levels.

  17. […] Greg Laden ne fa polpette… Come nota lo spiritoso lagomorfo, forse perché Markram vive a Losanna, sembra non avere la minima idea del “linciaggio pubblico” inflitto ai ricercatori dalla testimonianza di Jim Hansen al Congresso nel 1988 in poi, proprio perché  si ”concentrano sul cambiamento climatico” e “sviluppano scenari potenziali” ecc. […]

  18. #18 John Mashey
    April 16, 2014

    See cvomments</a..
    Henry Markram and his wife Kamilia (the CEO) founded Frontiers, of which
    NPG bought a controlling interest in 2013.
    “Like the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and other open-access publishers, Frontiers charges authors a fee – in this case €2,000 (US$2,500) – to publish. But 40-55% of this fee is subsidized by the Frontiers Research Foundation, a not-for-profit Swiss charity of which Markram is president, meaning that authors pay at most €1,200.
    The company has already published some 2,000 papers, which, multiplying by author fees, suggests that it has brought in some €2 million or more. To become financially sustainable, says Markram, the company will need to find additional sources of income, such as advertising.”

  19. #19 John Mashey
    April 16, 2014

    Argh, sorry for broken html
    That was comment at STW and a quote from Publisher seeks patent.

  20. #20 G
    April 17, 2014

    1) Item to add to Fisking: make him spell out his standards.

    What, exactly, are the standards that Markram would uphold and live up to, for publishing social sciences research based on internet content?

    Describing one’s methodology enables readers to replicate it for themselves, e.g. “we searched the terms ‘blah’ plus ‘blah’ for the year 2012…” enables anyone to find the original material and thus the online identities who posted it. Quoting or even closely paraphrasing the subject material enables laypeople to search the quotes and find the original identities.

    Minus being able to describe methodology and cite data, you don’t have a publishable paper. Catch-22.

    So, Mr. Markram, how do you propose to deal with that? Be specific, and we expect you to live up to your own standards by accepting papers that meat them.

    2) Time for a “JCB campaign”?

    Markram appears to be digging himself into a hole, deeper and deeper with every word he writes. One can respond to such cases by emailing the person a picture of a JCB (hydraulic excavator) with a message to the effect of, “You appear to be digging yourself into a hole that will eventually reach China. Have a nice JCB, it’ll make the work go faster.” When lots of people do this, it’s a “JCB campaign.”

    3) The “If not now, when?” factor.

    A 50% disparity in public opinion over a scientific finding with something like 97% consensus in the field, is automatically a significant “anomaly,” not quite at the level of spacecraft landing in Central Park, but darn close. That makes it a viable subject, a downright urgent subject, for social sciences research.

    To put it slightly differently, if a disparity of that magnitude _isn’t_ deserving of ferocious research attention, what the hell is?

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    April 17, 2014

    Yes, but also, in academia you simply do not tell people what to do their research on. Not ever. Ethics always apply, of course, but that is not an issue here. It is outrageous that he presumes to judge the validity of a fellow academic’s research program. That is a mixture of hubris and ignorance that makes him a very very bad candidate for the job of “editor in chief” for any journal of any kind.

  22. #22 G
    April 18, 2014

    Greg, you’re right of course, and I’m with you on that.

    I missed the implications of Markram’s comments “Why debate X? Why not debate Y and do Z instead? Why not do something else?”, those implications being “you should not conduct research X, you should conduct research Y and Z.”

    Though, his tone in his blog entry comes off as anxious; one can almost hear him asking “why oh why did this happen to me?” I’m inclined to think there’s something else going on that he isn’t talking about, and the likely candidate is some type of credible threat: of violence, of lawsuits, of funding cuts, or possibly a threat to “dox” him (release his “documents” i.e. private information: “see, now you agree with us, don’t you?”). Or I’m misreading him (again) and his tone is more accurately characterized as defiant?

    In any case, we’re at war for the future of humanity, so what we need in this battle is a conclusive victory such as the reinstatement of the paper along with an apology, plus or minus Markram finding other employment.

    In the end, the denialists themselves are merely pawns and shills, whose purpose is to distract our attention and waste our time. The real target, the root cause and core of the entire issue, is the financial value of undeveloped fossil fuel assets worldwide. The necessary goal is to develop, apply, and succeed at a well-founded and realistic strategy to keep those assets in the ground, permanently or until there is truly viable carbon-capture technology.

  23. #23 corrector
    May 1, 2014

    Temp paused for how many years?

    17, right?

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    May 1, 2014

    NO, actually. Depending on which year you pick to start a period, you get various different results. Climate science denialists such as your self pick a year that make it work for them, but that is not how science works.

    Also, “corrector,” we know that way over 90% of the total added heat goes into the ocean, that heat is not counted in the “surface temperature,” and it has been increasing in recent years.

    So no, not right. Wrong.

  25. #25 f
    July 14, 2014

    ” It’s rare to find anything close to this degree of unanimity on a cutting-edge topic.”

    It’s all in your mind.
    Moron.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    July 14, 2014

    f: Ha. Eric is not even a little bit of a Moron.