A Few Things Ill Considered

Guilty until proven innocent

At least this is the standard if you are Roger Pielke Jr and the accused is a member of Real Climate. When pressed as to how he knew an accusation of plagarism he was leveling was really true, in his own words:

if the authors provide evidence [] I’ll stand corrected. [] Meantime, I am perfectly comfortable with the views expressed in this post.


This is how he defends his very serious accusation of plagarism against a commenter who expresses surprise at Pielke leveling such a charge with admitted lack of anything more than circumstantial evidence.

maybe they were alerted by one or more other people before or after Feb. 28, but my point is its surprising you think its OK to make grave charges against other academics without knowing such facts. Most academics I know would be very careful about make such claims.

In a nutshell the issue is over an error in the calculation of a confidence interval in a recent paper on Antarctic temperature trends. A commenter on Climate Audit described this error on that blog and emailed the authors. Steig et al submitted a correction. Roger does not have any knowledge as to whether or not this fellow was the only person to notice it, nor whether or not the authors noticed the error on their own. The comment and letter came over 5 months ago, the correction last week. That is pretty poor correlation for such a harsh accusation.

I also have some trouble accepting that this would consititute plagarism anyway, even if the burden of proof that Pielke is so unconcerned with were met. “Hey, that’s a good idea, let’s do the calculation correctly!” So even if things did play out as Pielke unjustly claims, I think we are dealing with etiquette not ethics and at worst we are talking about a personal snub, not serious academic misconduct.

Pielke is no stranger to stretching reality to suit his spin.

It seems that the title of his post has the irony meters over at Things Break cracking their glass covers!

Comments

  1. #1 Vernon
    August 13, 2009

    Coby,

    Cool how you pulled comments out of the comment section to completely reframe what was said:

    “Knowing some of the authors, I sincerely doubt that they intended to plagiarize, but rather they could not bring themselves to rise above their pride to even acknowledge one of their “enemies.”

    That is a little different than what you presented. Basically, Steig(2009) had an error, someone else caught it and emailed Dr. Steig and the team. He also posted it on Climate Audit. His work shows up in the last release for Steig(2009) with out getting credit.

    It will be interesting to see how Nature and Dr Steig handle this since it will have to be shown that someone on the team identified the error prior to the eamil send by Dr.McCulloch. If Stieg and Nature cannot, then that is plagiarism.

  2. #2 coby
    August 13, 2009

    Vernon, please. Are you trying to say that I have been unfair to Roger and he did not really accuse Steig of anything? How do you reconcile that with the paragraph immediately preceeding the one you pulled:

    What did the authors do? They turned around and submitted the correction to Nature as their own work, and then had it published under their own names without so much as an acknowledgment to the Ohio State professor who actually did the work and made the discovery of the error. In academia this sort of behavior is called plagiarism, pure and simple.

    Who’s the one reframing here?

    Plus, I see you wholeheartedly endorse the idea that one is presumed guilty until proven otherwise. I mean seriously, we are talking about an uncomplicated error and a five month timespan. How can you and Roger be that certain that Dr. McCulloch is the one and only person to have noticed? And also how is it plagarism?

    “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

    So it was Steig’s idea to do the calculation incorrectly and they stole McCulloch’s original idea to do it correctly?? c’mon. We are talking about at worst an inconsideration, a failure to say thank you.

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    August 13, 2009

    Last I saw the guy in a thread about this over at CA said all he has to show for a receipt is an automated extended absence bounce — which warned that email accumulating during the absence likely would be discarded unread, and for anything wanting to send anything important to wait until the scheduled absence ended and resend it.

    Oops.

    Always read those mailer bounces if you want to know for sure.

  4. #4 Joseph O'Sullivan
    August 13, 2009

    RPjr is at it again. This time it’s with Mann’s recent tropical storm paper.

  5. #5 Brian Schmidt
    August 14, 2009

    Roger:

    “In academia this sort of behavior is called plagiarism, pure and simple.

    Knowing some of the authors, I sincerely doubt that they intended to plagiarize….”

    I think I’m reading Glenn Beck saying Obama hates white people but doesn’t dislike them.

    To be fair to Roger for some reason, the way to contort his stuff back to pseudological sense is to say he believes Steig knew he was stealing the idea but didn’t consciously label it as plagiarism. Which is still accusing him of plagiarism.

    However, I think there’s a tiny kernel of a point buried somewhere that Roger misses. If you’re correcting your own paper, and you know that someone elsewhere has already published their version of the correction first, I think you should acknowledge that first publication even if you also state you were already aware of the issue. I don’t think that’s the existing scientific etiquette (so it’s not an accusation of etiquette violation by Steig), but it probably should be the etiquette.

  6. #6 Curious
    August 14, 2009

    RealClimate has published a comment on it:

    McCulloch accuses Steig et al. of appropriating his ‘finding’ that Steig et al. did not account for autocorrelation when calculating the significance of trends. While the published version of the paper didn’t include such a correction, it is obvious that the authors were aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper it is stated that this correction was made. The corrected calculations were done using well-known methods, the details of which are available in myriad statistics textbooks and journal articles. There can therefore be no claim on Dr. McCulloch’s part of any originality either for the idea of making such a correction, nor for the methods for doing so, all of which were discussed in the original paper. Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make Steig et al. aware of the error in the paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of the Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him and the authors would have been happy to do so. Lest there be any confusion about this, we note that, as discussed in the Corrigendum, the error has no impact on the main conclusions in the paper.

  7. #7 hiphop
    August 15, 2009

    McCulloch accuses Steig et al. of appropriating his ‘finding’ that Steig et al. did not account for autocorrelation when calculating the significance of trends. While the published version of the paper didn’t include such a correction, it is obvious that the authors were aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper it is stated that this correction was made. The corrected calculations were done using well-known methods, the details of which are available in myriad statistics textbooks and journal articles. There can therefore be no claim on Dr. McCulloch’s part of any originality either for the idea of making such a correction, nor for the methods for doing so, all of which were discussed in the original paper. Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make Steig et al. aware of the error in the paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of the Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him and the authors would have been happy to do so. Lest there be any confusion about this, we note that, as discussed in the Corrigendum, the error has no impact on the main conclusions in the paper.

  8. #8 Brian Schmidt
    August 16, 2009

    I’m a little unclear about this part:

    “it is obvious that the authors were aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper it is stated that this correction was made.”

    Reading the corrigendum it seems the correction wasn’t made. In other words, the authors knew they needed to make the correction and thought they had done so, but hadn’t. I think.

    The key question would be whether McCulloch was the first to point out that they hadn’t made the correction they thought they had. I think they’re saying he wasn’t.

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