A Few Things Ill Considered

Tit for tat

Readers here are probably already familiar with the Wegman report “strange scholarship” scandal but if not read up on it a bit at Eli Rabbet’s place. The mess goes much deeper, but the relevant aspect is an ongoing plagarism investigation into Wegman by George Mason University. The GMU investigation was pushed forward by a formal complaint by Raymond Bradely because passages from his text, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, were copied and placed verbatim, uncited and without quotation marks into Wegman’s report.

Now, to the subject of this post. I don’t recall how I ended up there because I do not follow the machinations at Climate Audit even semi-regularily, but I did, and I found myself reading this post. The usual topic there tends to be impenetrably technical or requires tedious amounts of nit-picking background and/or statistical expertise (why I avoid it) but this topic required no such effort.

What it is, is an attempt to “balance” the plagarism charges against Wegman with a not-to-subtle “Clinton did it too!” defense.

First things first: two wrongs don’t make a right (it takes at least three), my mother taught me that (not that extended version, I confess). So, a pretty weak start. Then again, I am very fond of throwing the “hypocrite” charge myself so sauce for the goose and all that.

McIntyre’s charge is that Raymond Bradley copies another author in his book even as he cries foul that Wegman has done this to him:

In all 12 figures, Bradley copies often lengthy text from Fritts1976 (in the form of captions). In six of the 12 figures, although the language is taken from Fritts 1976, Bradley cites other provenance for the articles. In each such case, the language in Bradley appears to be a paraphrase of the cited article, while it is, in fact, a copy of the uncited version in Fritts 1976.

Since much of Bradley’s dendro chapter is a commentary on the figures from Fritts, Bradley’s text draws heavily on ideas from Fritts 1976, and, in some cases, Bradley’s language tracks Fritts’ rather closely (without specific attribution.) Bradley 1985 included a commendation of Fritts 1976 in its introduction, but this commendation was removed in Bradley 1999.

“copy”, “uncited”, “without attribution”. Got it. Steve kindly presents the evidence which is a bit of a head scratcher, because all the examples are clearly cited! To whit:

Fritts:

Trees growing on sites where climate seldom limits growth processes produce rings that are uniformly wide (A). Such rings provide little or no record of variations in climate and are termed complacent. Trees growing on sites where climatic factors are frequently limiting produce rings that vary in width from year to year depending on how severely limiting climate has been to growth. (B) These are termed sensitive.

Bradley:

Trees growing on sites where climate seldom limits growth processes produce rings that are uniformly wide (left). Such rings provide little or no record of variations in climate and are termed complacent. (right): Trees growing on sites where climatic factors are frequently limiting produce rings that vary in width from year to year depending on how severely limiting climate has been to growth. These are termed sensitive (from Fritts, 1971).

Yes, they are practiclly identical and there is no excuse for including material like that without a citation. But, what was that last bit? (from Fritts, 1971) That is known as a citation. So what’s the point? Well, it seems those words came from another source, Fritts 1976! Every example Steve offers is the same, though in some cases Bradley has cited it with (after Fritts 1976). So the whole charge is less than weak, this is baseless slander blown up from a harmless error.

Kind of like “the hockey stick is a scientific fraud and the MWP was hot” on closer inspection becomes “MBH used sub-optimal statistical methods in otherwise correct and ground breaking research”, here we have “Bradley is a hypocrite accusing Wegman of plagarism when he did it first” becomes “Bradley mistakenly cited Fritts 1971 when he menat Fritts 1976″

Phfft! The comments are what you would expect.

Comments

  1. #1 facepalm
    October 19, 2010

    its just a “tu quoque” argument and therefore a logical fallacy, also a type of ad hominem.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

    Nothing moré than the usual “can´t defend my – or in this case Wegmann´s – position, so I accuse you of something similar, in the hope nobody notices that the position is bullshit nevertheless.”

    Business as usual in the pseudo-sceptic world – distortion and distraction.

  2. #2 John Mashey
    October 19, 2010

    1) nit: “strage” scholarship is strange.

    2) McIntyre somehow also “missed” pp.595-599, which has all the copyright acknowledgements.

  3. #3 Deep Climate
    October 19, 2010

    coby,
    I’ll definitely be pointing to this discussion. I wasn’t sure that McIntyrte’s latest should be dignified with a full head post response, but I’m glad someone has done it.

    “Bradley mistakenly cited Fritts 1971 when he meant Fritts 1976.” That’s a possible interpretation, but even that is probably overstating it. I’m guessing that McIntyre also omitted the citation of the figure in Fritts 1976, which I’m virtually certain was to Fritts 1971 where the figure originally appeared. Bradley (or his editor) likely assumed that the figure caption had not changed.

    So what is the correct attribution in such a case? “Fritts 1971, 1976″? “Fritts 1971, updated Fritts 1976″? We’re not even talking about a mistaken attribution, but perhaps at best an incomplete one. This is supposed to be compelling evidence of plagiarism? What a crock.

    I also agree that Wegman scandal goes much further than “just” the alleged plagiarism. In fact, IMHO my discovery of the Said presentation detailing the role of Barton staffer Peter Spencer as the unseen gatekeeper supplying “research” to the Wegman panel, was a smoking gun. It dispelled once and for all any claims of the supposed independence of panel process.

    But it’s also worth pointing out that the allegations made by Bradley in his complaint to GMU also include the extensive (five pages) of social network analysis background, as well as the corresponding section of the federally funded Said et al 2008 (with Wegman as coauthor). The latter allegations, of course, trigger oversight by the NIH Office of Research Integrity.

    In fact, I first discovered the SNA “striking similarity” at the same time as the Bradley tree-ring issues, although the full elaboration came only last April. Apparently it was brought to Bradley’s attention and he expanded the original allegations accordingly. Yet this compelling evidence has never been discussed by McIntyre.

    All the links to discussion and side-by-side comparisons related to the allegations delivered to GMU last April can be found in my recent post on the GMU investigation.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/10/08/wegman-under-investigation-by-george-mason-university/

    But for your convenience, here are the SNA links.
    Wegman et al 2.3 Social Networks:
    Discussion Comparison

    Said et al 2008 (Computational Statistics & Data Analysis):
    Discussion Comparison (Same discussion as Social Networks above)

    And thanks again for doing this.

  4. #4 J Bowers
    October 20, 2010

    There seems to be an ongoing trend where simple mistakes are being presented as misconduct, malfeasance, or even fraud. It’s downright disingenuous and manipulative.

  5. #5 Chris Winter
    October 21, 2010

    Quite right, J Bowers. McIntyre’s countercharge of plagiarism against Bradley (“other provenance”) turns out to be a different edition of the same book by Fritts than Bradley actually cites.

    It’s much like the claim that the IPCC AR4 is unfounded because at one point it says Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 versus 2350.

    But I always compare such deceitful charges to the incident in James Michener’s Hawaii where the admissions officer for an elementary school on the island disqualifies a Japanese girl who passed all the tests because, when he tears an envelope in half, she says he “broke” it.

Current ye@r *