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More climate gatekeeping

Richard Lindzen outlines the steps taken to prevent his recent paper with Choi being published in PNAS.

The rejection of the present paper required some extraordinary violations of accepted practice. We feel that making such procedures public will help clarify the peculiar road blocks that have been created in order to prevent adequate discussion of fundamental issues. It is hoped, moreover, that the material presented here can offer the interested public some insight into what is involved in the somewhat mysterious though widely (if inappropriately) respected process of peer review.

One prominent mainstream climate scientist told me that I knew "perfectly well" that accusations of climate gatekeeping were baseless. It doesn't really look that way to me.

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Reader Comments (15)

In the letter rejecting this paper is the following:

I sympathize with Rev. 4's comments who concludes that the new paper simply has to explain why the opposite conclusions from the same data set by Trenberth et al. are flawed.

So for a paper to pass peer-review, you have to redo the faulty research by the team and explain where they've gone wrong, before you can publish anything which the team disagree.

Jun 10, 2011 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Many thanks for the link. The debate in the comments section about climate scientists typically meaning something different by "feedback" than the accepted definition (even if it's waaaay off topic . . . ) is well worth reading.

Jun 10, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Nobody in a position of power or authority will ever admit to wrongdoing, unless they are ABSOLUTELY FORCED to do so. The "principle investigators" who all play lordlings in their own feudal system of peer-review are no different in this characterless characteristic than U.S. congressman Wiener of recent fame, or infamy.

Jun 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Lindzen is a key witness on such matters because, right or wrong, he is without question seeking to attack the "fundamental issues" in climate science. Thousand year reconstructions based on dodgy proxies aren't that, bad though Team solidarity on all that is. What steveta_uk highlights here is simply outrageous. Such obstacle courses really matter.

Jun 10, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Surely the most important point here is : Were the reasons given for rejecting the paper correct?

I do not have the expertise to tell, but the reviewers all gave apparently cogent reasons. It seems to me the real problem may not be that this paper has been scrutinised intensely and rejected, but that shoddy papers supporting the "consensus" are given no such scrutiny and an easy ride by "consensus" reviewers and then fast-tracked to publication.

How do we know the paper merited publication? Can we definitely infer that, because another journal published it, it did not actually have the alleged problems with it that the NAS reviewers pointed out?

P.S. Prof. L. is one of my heros in the catastrophic AGW debate for his steadfast adherance to his point of view and his refusal to be shouted down. However, I do not think any of us should be blinded by our admiration into believing he can do no wrong.
Can anyone help with an informed analysis? Does anyone here qualified to judge think that the paper ABSOLUTELY merited publication and that all the NAS reviewers were wrong ?

For a layman...this is a labyrinth.

Jun 10, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

It is curious (or should I say downright smelly) that Chou was rejected as a reviewer because of past co publications. Given the same criteria, and their very wide co publishing networks, one wonders who would be considered suitable to review the work of, say Phil Jones or Michael Mann? It would be interesting to know if ANY papers by “Team” members have ever been reviewed by reviewers fulfilling the criteria PNAS insisted on in this case.

Jun 10, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

This is a fascinating 'behind the scenes' look into ClimateGateKeeping. The background is unusual and should perhaps be explained here: PNAS serves almost as a vanity press for members of the Academy (Lindzen is one). Previously, they were able to publish papers there with no formal review. A few years ago, this was changed, to a policy whereby the author him or herself was required to provide two reports from independent scientists, picked by him or herself. A much lower hurdle than normal anonymous review, because the referee knows that the author knows who they are, so this usually cannot lead to rejection - Lindzen quotes only 2% of papers that do not get accepted. I know one member of the academy, who has told me that he was most happy about being elected member precisely because this meant he could get controversial - but in his view important - papers published where normal refereeing might lead to a protracted cycle of negative reports etc. A weird set-up but perhaps one which is justified for some eminent scientists - let them get a hearing for their ideas even if they prove to be wrong, they've earned this right through their previous career. It is a situation different from the one the public has of peer review, but in fact, it is not really a much less rigorous process than ordinary peer review, where some strange things happen in fringe journals but also in more important ones.

Anyway: this is not just any old paper rejection. This is really gross.

Jun 10, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterj


Thanks for the link to the Arsenic bacteria piece. I remember reading this on Rosie Redfield's blog back in December and thinking (not for the first time) "Now whom should I believe, a prestigious scientific journal or a grumpy Canadian blogger?"

Jun 10, 2011 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

I have a post on this over at Climate Etc.

Jun 10, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

Jack Savage writes:

"Surely the most important point here is : Were the reasons given for rejecting the paper correct?"

There is more to it than that. The PNAS procedures for reviewing papers were violated. It is clear that the editor applied to Lindzen's work requirements that are not applied to work of the Warmista. Professor Judith Curry spells it out very clearly on her blog. Find the link in her comment above.

Jun 11, 2011 at 2:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

@Theo Goodwin.
Thank you. I am off to Judith Curry's blog. I was puzzled because the validity of the reviews does not seem to be considered here.
There seemed to be a sort of attitude along the lines of " Prof. L is a good old boy with a distinguished career and he should not be subjected to hostile criticism" and indeed if 98% of the papers submitted usually get published it sounds as though this is the sort of policy usually operated by the NAS. If it is, then it is a pretty poor policy.
Just the sort of policy that I thought the scientific community should be opposed to .
Hopefully all will be revealed over at Judy Curry's.

Jun 11, 2011 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Judith's post is very clear, and makes the point I tried to much better than mine: this is demonstrated unequal treatment. It may or may not be appropriate to have a prominent journal having some features of a vanity press. It may or may not be the case that the paper is completely right (it is surely not abysmally bad). But the unfairness in the present case does not depend on either of those issues.

Jun 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterj

Just back from Judith's blog. The "unfairness" and bias is plain.

However, this, in my opinion, is a very shaky platform indeed upon which to try and make a stand.

Jun 11, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Jack Savage

You are quite welcome, as we say in the USA. Yes, the PNAS policies are those of a Vanity Press. That does dull the topic a bit. However, in my mind, the desperation, the anger, and the common will among the The Team are so clearly evident in this case that I suspect that they will sue the editor for entrapment, once the temporary derangement has passed.

Jun 11, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

in one of those "we don't want anyone disputing this, so we've switched commenting off" articles.

Jul 6, 2011 at 2:07 AM | Unregistered Commentersilver Gucci charm

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