Wegman one of The Scientist's top five science scandals

The Wegman scandal has made The Scientist's list of the top 5 science scandals of 2011:

A controversial climate change paper was retracted when it was found to contain passages lifted from other sources, including Wikipedia. The paper, published by climate change skeptic Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Computational Statistics and Data Analysis in 2008, showed that climatology is an inbred field where most researchers collaborate with and review each other’s work. But a resourceful blogger uncovered evidence of plagiarism, and the journal retracted the paper, which was cited 8 times, in May.


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Obviously faked but since Deltoid simoply censor anybody niot "on message" no statement by you can ever be taken seriously.

I was wondering how Phil Jones and the team and the lancet fraud missed out on a guernseys?

Eight times? It was cited just eight times? I could write a paper on dishwashing liquid that could get more cites.

A life style blog ranks scandals in science? Indeed funny. :-)

In case I go into Christmas mode I would like to wish all you sheila na gigs of climate scare a Merry Christmas!

No psychological problems there, then...

Gotta say that that article drew in quite the interesting list of cranks: an evolution denier, a HIV/AIDS denier, and of course several AGW deniers.

Reading the list it's hardly been a vintage year for science scandals. A couple one the list look like honest but very sloppy work rather than evil naughtiness.

By localhost (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

Olaus can't tell the difference between life sciences and life style.

By Tim Lambert (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

I agree with localhost@5 that items 3 and 4 on the list appear to be cases of honest error rather than fraud. But good on The Scientist for noticing that something's up with Wegman. That case should be getting some attention, as much for GMU's inaction as for anything Wegman has done. However, it's hard to argue against putting Stapel and Mikovits in the top two slots.

plum @1: Citation practices vary widely from one field to another, and even between subfields within a field. Eight citations in three years is quite respectable in some fields (I don't know whether statistics is one of those fields). A report I saw in the mid 1990s of publications in all fields from Ivy League universities in the US reported a median citation count five years after publication of zero. I haven't seen anything more recent, but I would not be surprised if this is still true (i.e., a few papers are highly cited while most remain obscure).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

*Olaus can't tell the difference between life sciences and life style*

That's not the only thing he can't tell the difference between. Just as alarming is the fact that he can't separate sound science from the shoddy variety.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

Don't worry Jeffie, from a neutral point of view you are The sheila na gig of deltoid - always ready to flash your sectarian mind and megalomaniac personality.

Regardless, Merry Christmas Jeffie!

*Don't worry Jeffie, from a neutral point of view you are The sheila na gig of deltoid - always ready to flash your sectarian mind and megalomaniac personality*

If you say so, Olaus. Whatever. If it makes such a sad sack as yourself happy. Go with it.

It seems a bit rich, though, this coming from someone who ostensibly worships a super-troll on another thread. The same troll who obfuscates, lies, distorts, boasts of their great wisdom, and yet has no pedigree at all in any relevant field in which they superficially dabble. And this same troll seems to think that their view trumps 95% of the experts in the field. Yes, this is the troll whose ego Olaus attempts to inflate at every opportunity. Go figure.

BTW, a great article, Tim. Rounds out my year nicely.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

FFS Jeff, let's keep it on the Jonas thread eh?

Good will to all!!

Note how Olaus, incapable of staying on topic, throws in a weak attempt at an insult instead.

No surprise, of course, when the topic is about the exposure of a denialist touchstone as dishonest trash.

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

Just looking at that list of five scandals, I'm wondering why the Sebastiani paper on longevity was judged to be a scandal at all.

The results couldn't be replicated, scientists figured out why (just an error in a sequencing chip, not a fraud), different results were published, science moved on.

Isn't that how science is supposed to work? Since when is making a mistake a scandal?

Similarly, with the paper about supposedly arsenic-based life, maybe the original analysis was less than first-rate, but subsequent worked showed the conslusions were not supported and explained why.

Again, how science is supposed to work. How is that a scandal?

It has been a long, strange trip since Deep Climate started this, just 2 years ago. Way to go, DC!!

GMU: 21+ MONTHS AND STILL COUNTING since Ray Bradley's first complaint in March 2010.

Wegman and his lawyer Milton Johns, who turns out to have been Ken Cuccinelli's law partner, still say Wegman And Said have never plagiarized.

See a graph of alleged plagiarisms involving Wegman and/or students.
As it happens, Walid K. Sharabati is no longer active in the statistics department @ Purdue. (He was 4th author on retracted paper.)

WILEY WIREs:CS is edited by Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, and David Scott.

1) Wegman & Said (2011) was plagiarized from various sources, discovered and exhaustively documented by Canadian blogger "Deep Climate." Of course, near-verbatim plagiarism is easily demonstrable, and he has done a detailed analysis, posted publicly at:
It includes a 22-page side-by-side analysis of the paper with the antecedent texts:

More detail appeared in:

This plagiarism chain started in 2002, with material used in lectures, an Army ACAS course, and finally in Wegman and Said (2011).

2) Said & Wegman (2009) was almost entirely plagiarized from various Wikipedia pages, although with many errors.
This has been discussed starting in April, but a thorough analysis is in:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/10/more-w… USA Today

3) From its inception, WIREs:CS masthead has listed:
"Yasmin H. Said, Professor, Oklahoma State University, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Fellow, George Mason University Professor, Oklahoma State University.

She is actually a Research Assistant Professor at George Mason University, has never had the rank of Professor and never worked at Oklahoma State University. This finally got fixed in September 2011, changed first to Professor and then to Assistant Professor at George Mason.

Now this is fairly peculiar: exactly what peer review is going on when 2 of the 3 editors publish such papers in the journal they edit. Did Scott ever see any of this? The optimization paper was obviously bad to anyone with even the slightest background. Andrew Gelman whacked away multiple times.

A new issue of WIREs:CS just appeared, making it the 3rd or 4th since complaints were filed.

From first complaints, WILEY is now 8+ MONTHS AND STILL COUNTING.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

21 months!!?!

Intrade should start offering odds on just how long they can drag this out.

Olaus Petri:

Merry Christmas to you too Tim! :-)

What does Christmas have to do with your ignorance and arrogance?

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

I foresee that this thread may need a reminder:
Firefox + Greasemonkey + KILLFILE works here.

re: 16: yes, errors are not really scandals.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

It was a pity about the the plagiarism, the thrust of the Wegman paper holds regardless,
climate science has destroyed the reputation of science as a whole. This was revealed in the Wegman paper, the plagiarism does not remove this truth, only the paper, he should rewrite the paper, quote his source's and resubmit the paper.

Is plagiarising the truth worse than perpetuating the CO2 lie ?

( http://www.climategate.com/german-physicists-trash-global-warming-theory )

Wally: the 'respected' physicist referred to in your link is basically saying that if I wear a sweater under my parka on a cold day, I am violating the second law of thermodynamics by causing a net flow of energy from a colder place (my parka) to a warmer place (me). He's a bit of a chump really, isn't he?

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

*Dear Chris, you missed the important part, ergo that the CAGW is a creation of non-science (blogs, journalists, politicians, GONGOS, ecologist, computer-techs, etc)*

Olaus, you are getting more ridiculous with every post. Since when is ecology a non-science? Next thing you'll be repeating the vacuous musings of the Duffer by claiming that biology isn't a science.

Let me guess... you've never been near a university science lab in your entire life...

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink


I assume this is the Gerlich that you are referring to:


Isn't it amazing how climate change deniers are routinely referred to with complete and utter deference on denialist blogs? In the article Wally links, Gerlich is referred to as a 'respected' scientist. You'll never hear those words used to describe much more published and cited scientists like Michael Mann or James Hansen, who are routinely smeared.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

I am afraid Wally has a serious D-K problem, but that is curable if someone is willing to learn.

1) The thrust of the paper was wrong, it seriously mis-used social network analysis techniques and was bogus ... and that's not me saying it, but 3 serious SNA researchers, of whom 2 were identified and quoted, and the 3rd quoted. I traded emails with all of them. Even without the plagiarism, none of them though it would survive peer review in a serious SNA journal.

2) It was only accepted because the Editor Stanley Azen was an old friend of Wegman's ... i.e., did exactly what Wegman accused the climate scientists of.

3) All this is well-documented in detail, including Wegman's pathetic letter trying to blame a grad student, in Strange Tales and Emails.
Note that Elsevier didn't buy all this and thus forced retraction.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

(Thanks Tim - those nongs really are best kept in their enclosure!)

'Wally' is eponymous, don't you think?

I'll give Olaus credit for one minor thing - he's introduced me to the phrase 'sheela na gig'. A very fascinating petroglyphic phenomenon.

Of course, the fact that he seems bent on using it as an insult doesn't say anything complimentary about his attitude toward female genitalia.

By Mithrandir (not verified) on 22 Dec 2011 #permalink

29 Mithrandir,

Also a great early song by PJ Harvey. I've got in on vinyl and heard it live a couple of times.

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 23 Dec 2011 #permalink


Most people I know who have a fascination with mediæval (and earlier) history and/or archictecture (and I know many such folk!) would find Olaus Petri's repeated and vacuously unsubtle use of Sheela-na-gigs in an insult to be peculiar at best. In fact, they'd probably almost to a person suggest that Petri's behaviour is more likely to be pathological.

It's certainly a strong hint of the prepubescent purility that inhabits that troll's mind.

I'm sure that you are aware of some of the good archæological resources on the subject. I won't link to any, in case the troll is overly excited by a subject so obviously dear to his heart...

Doh - I think that I just said "Ni"!

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 23 Dec 2011 #permalink

I knew sheela na gig, but I have to admit, I didn't know "hunkypunk", which would have been the name of my teenage garage band if I had. Even worse, my phone spell-check prompted me for "hunky punk".

By Ezzthetic (not verified) on 23 Dec 2011 #permalink

@Gaz (#16)
The aresenic-based life case is a good example of "science by press conference." Had the authors simply made a mistake that was discovered and corrected by subsequent work- no harm, no foul. That wasn't what happened though. There were several major errors in the paper that completely undermined the conclusion and were apparently so obvious that they were spotted by multiple people literally within hours of publication. These sorts of obvious errors and unsupported conclusions are exactly the kinds of things that the peer review process is supposed to catch. The fact that they weren't caught prior to publication raised a lot of questions about the quality of the review the paper faced. To add further fuel to the fire, the results were announced via a nationally televised press conference, which very few people felt was appropriate given the preliminary nature of the work, even if it had stood up to post-publication scrutiny.

Back to the original topic?

Actually, while the Said, Wegman+students paper in CSDA was a scandal, I'd suggest it was far exceeded by others:

a)CSDA Editor Stanley Azen accepted it in less than a week, bypassing peer review, for a paper on a topic outside his expertise (SNA).

b)When asked about by USA Today, he claimed he must have done peer review, but had lost the records in an office move (the "dog ate my reviews" defense), in contradiction to the clear evidence of published dates and emails.

c) A simple apology and promise not to do it again might have been sufficient, but he wouldn't do that, and even the retraction notice was done by Elsevier, not him. His preference was to let Wegman fix the article by inserting a few citations.

d) But Azen is still EiC of CSDA, and remains Assistant Dean for Research Integrity at USC.

2) Of course, GMU is 21+ Months and still counting.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 23 Dec 2011 #permalink

Personally I was rather impressed that he had heard of Sheela-na-gigs at all, they are a somewhat obscure subject, much beloved of some dippy hippy types.

>But Azen is still EiC of CSDA, and remains Assistant Dean for Research Integrity at USC.

And IMHO thus remains a blight on both institutions, as well as a stain on scientific procedure in general.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 23 Dec 2011 #permalink