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+++Journal editor resigns+++

Wolfgang Wagner, editor of the open access journal Remote Sensing, has resigned over the journal's publication of the Spencer and Braswell paper.

Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

This is quite extraordinary. Can it really be believed that Wagner heard "in various internet discussion fora" that the paper was wrong and on that basis has resigned?

A little later he says this:

If a paper presents interesting scientific arguments, even if controversial, it should be published and responded to in the open literature. This was my initial response after having become aware of this particular case. So why, after a more careful study of the pro and contra arguments, have I changed my initial view? The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some [extent] also in the literature (cf. [7]), a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers.

Something being questioned "to some extent" in the literature does not represent a resigning matter. This really doesn't look very good to me.

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Reader Comments (96)

Lysenko lives.

Sep 2, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I read the letter. Wow.

I really don't want to be a part of the climate debate.

Sep 2, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Spencer's papers don't get dealt with much in the literature because they are such crap nobody bothers to waste time over them.

Sep 2, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterbigcitylib

This is a worried man. He is bailing out in order to discredit the paper. Now that may be an honest reaction or not but there are many other ways to do this. Except, if he bails out like this he can jump back in soon after without objection from the green inquisition.

So was he pushed or did he jump ........................ the river

Sep 2, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

But bcl, someone clearly has been spending lots of time with Spencer's latest paper, in making sure the editor had to resign. We saw some of this backchat in the Climategate emails. Now once again we see the effect. Why all this effort, if the paper is so easily refuted?

Sep 2, 2011 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Well - if that paper was so awful that, in Mr Wagner's opinion, he shouldn't have published it, then of course his resignation is appropriate! For reasons of severe scientific ineptitude: Mr Wagner's, that is, of course: he should have rejected it straightaway! And the 'peers' who reviewed it should also be named and shamed, right? Perhaps even lose their jobs, right?
After all - if The Team can't keep inconvenient papers out of the public domain, what will AR5 look like!

Frankly, this resignation is another shameful example of the backstage arm twisting going in Climate Research. Lysenkoism if alive and kicking: so far people only are made to give up their jobs and have their reputations smeared. We can count ourselves lucky that there are no GULAGs as of yet.

I hope someone can get the background to this extraordinary resignation and publish it.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Probably nothing in it but:

Received: 1 September 2011 / Accepted: 2 September 2011 / Published: 2 September 2011
File created: 02/09/2011 11:06:22
Modified 02/09/2011 19:11:33

Bod Ward tweets at 02/09/2011 ~17:09 (UK).

It might be interesting to know the time zone in which the letter was authored.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

On the paper itself, I'd noted with interest a month ago that not only Richard Lindzen (who hasn't always agreed with Spencer) but Isaac Held had not only read a draft but understood and supported its central finding. Held is by no means a sceptic - but he knows his climate dynamics. Did Wagner get the chance to talk to him before falling on his sword? I very much doubt it.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

So he'll have a £200K with Greenpeace lined up then!

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandy

WOW! What a coward. Instead of calling upon prominent climate scientists to actually refute the paper in the normal peer reviewed way, he runs away.

OMG! The 3 reviewers may have sceptic tendencies (which I keep hearing from CS. that is a pre-requesite to the scientific way), yet one wanted major revisions.

Reading the letter I came away feeling that he knows that the paper is appropiate, and should have been published, but he doesn't have the BALLS to back up his own team.

Yeah, like I want him in my foxhole - NOT!

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeo G

I am absolutely staggered by the reasons Mr Wagner proffers for his resignation.
He says that the authors and other sceptics 'exaggerated' the findings in the MSM - as if no other paper by any supportive of AGW has ever been exaggerated in press releases in the MSM!

Then he complains that 'the sceptics' were so successful in their 'campaign' that in a month the paper was downloaded 56,000 times! That's gotta be a really bad sign for people being unscientific.

He then has the effrontery to say that three scientists invited to review this paper by the managing editor gave the paper their thumbs up.These scientist were from 'reputable US universities', and suggested only one major and a minor revision, which was complied with. Wager agrees the acceptance was formally justified - but!!!! The big but: these reviewers were somehow somewhat sceptics themselves!!!
The horror!

While I still would like to know who twisted is arms behind the scenes, the arguments he brings show exemplary what 'peer review' means in the context of 'Climate science'.

I find this absolutely sickening.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

The paper should have been kept out of the journal, even if it required changing the definition of peer review. This well-settled Phil Jones doctrine, on which wide consensus exists, was sadly ignored by the editor in chief, who had to be forced to resign in disgrace.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector M.

It reflects very badly on the editor and on the journal. The editor's duty was to respond to critics of the paper, pointing out that contributions to blogs, however forceful, cannot be considered as equivalent to peer-reviewed papers (there's surely an irony there). He should then have invited a "reply" - and it looks as if there would have been no shortage of authors. This should have been put out for review and at the same time comments invited from S&B. He might even have given them the right to add a "rebuttal", if they had one. That's the iterative process you go through to arrive at the truth.

There is absolutely nothing in the paper or in the critical comments referenced that should lead to the resignation of the editor. Science isn't done that way. But then, this is probably not science.

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kennedy

"Probably nothing in it but:

Received: 1 September 2011 / Accepted: 2 September 2011 / Published: 2 September 2011
File created: 02/09/2011 11:06:22
Modified 02/09/2011 19:11:33"
Jonathan Drake

Wow! emails rely do move fast these days!

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Like in Inquisition times! Only difference wad they burnt the skeptics then...

Sep 2, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcotretas

These people make real scientists sick. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Lets hope more of these people resign.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadthesailor

In his resignation letter, Dr Wagner states,

So why, after a more careful study of the pro and contra arguments, have I changed my initial view? The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature (cf. [7]), a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is... that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents.

"already been refuted in open discussions" is not footnoted. Dr Wagner is presumably alluding to certain blog posts at RealClimate or elsewhere. But the reader cannot know which ones, or evaluate their arguments.

"already been refuted... to some extent in the literature" is accompanied by reference [7]. This is KE Trenberth et al, "Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation," Geophys. Res. Lett. 37: L03702 (2010). The PDF is here.

This paper is a criticism of the work of Lindzen and Choi. No work of Spencer or Braswell is discussed or referenced.

Trenberth et al.'s abstract makes two main claims against LC09. (1) that the largest perturbation in top-of-atmosphere radiative fluxes (1985-1999) was the Pinatubo eruption, and models which do not include that forcing will not simulate [its] effects. And (2) that regressions of radiation with sea surface temperatures in the tropics may have nothing to say about climate sensitivity.

It is not clear to me (because I don't know the field) that either criticism is devastating to Spencer and Braswell, who are not Lindzen and Choi. SB11 doesn't mention Mt. Pinatubo, but it's hard to see how discussion of that eruption would fit with the analyses shown in either of the two figures of the paper.

On the second point, SB11 offers the disclaimer that "since we used tropical oceanic satellite statistics to constrain our model runs to realistic ranges, our estimated feedback errors are not necessarily applicable to extratropical regions." So it is hard for me to see the shortcomings of SB11's reviewers or the paper itself as necessarily egregious on this point.

But there could be issues that are so basic that Dr Wagner didn't think to mention them, and that I am missing.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterAMac

"Methinks there is something wrong in the state of Denmark" The Bard.
Interesting use of the conditional tense, "Iwould like to take etc"
As opposed to present perfect, " I have taken etc"
Or even, I take etc.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Very strange the real meat of Wagners objections to this paper doesn't exist to my layman eyes. However, I think any layman can see that Wagners political instincts seem surprisingly finely honed to work outside the realm of science. His focusing on blog and media that he claims has come to his attention stands out here.

Who are the hapless 3 reviewers who are painted as so bound by scepticism that their views cannot be trusted? I wonder how they feel compared with the now obviously virtuous and noble Wagner?

The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature (cf. [7]),

So overall what he has seen in the media and blogs and to some extent the literature has persuaded him to selflessly go?

It all screams out tactical not principled.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Professor Judith Curry seems to have given a most reasonable response to the situation here:

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

We know from the Climategate emails that the Team puts massive pressure on journals to have editors resign if they dare publish anything that questions their work. They didn't like Von Storch, who, though warmist, was too fair minded and wouldn't play the Team's game. So he had to go.

These guys on the Team just think it's part of their remit, either to block publications through peer review, or get editors fired, or encourage others not to submit to journals who publish materials with different findings from theirs. They have a watching brief to stop anything they can from Soon, Lindzen, Michaels, Spencer etc. This way, they can keep themselves on the gravy train and keep the money flowing their way. They will use Wagner as an example to threaten what they can do to any other editor who stands in their way and seeks to act fairly.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Given the awful rubbish seen in journals ,some of which not only is poor science but defines common sense , this seem to be a bit extreme .After all if this was normal there be no one left to work on the 'Teams' favorite journals. Their to be counter paper to Spencer and normal procedure is that you wait to see what this says before you go as OTT as Wagner has.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Spencer's own response to this here:

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Extract from a thoughtful comment at Watts UP:

But Wolfgang elaborates on the point in his letter as follows:

“The use of satellite data to check the functionality of all sorts of geophysical models is therefore a very important part of our work. But it should not be done in isolation by the remote sensing scientists. Interdisciplinary cooperation with modelers is required in order to develop a joint understanding of where and why models deviate from satellite data. Only through this close cooperation the complex aspects involved in the satellite retrievals and the modeling processes can be properly taken into account.”

Now, this is a truly novel step in the history of science and the history of peer review. Data that contradicts some model cannot be accepted for publication in an article whose authors are not modelers because only modelers understand the “complex aspects” involved in “modeling processes.” In plain English, what this means is that data that contradicts model results must be pre-approved by approved modelers before it can be submitted for publication.

So, in the case of this one journal, it is clear as a bell that modelers have succeeded in suppressing all criticism of their work that is based on data. You must think about this for a while and let it sink in. It is a clear, robust, and successful example of some scientists acting to suppress criticism of their work. If you had any doubt that publication in climate science has been corrupted by power, then you have clear evidence to remove that doubt.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The Guardian has an article on this
with a quote from the Climate Rapid Reaction Force’s resident drone John Abrahams. The whole article is remarkably well informed for something rushed out at 6.30 on a Friday evening, including the information that a peer-reviewed refutation of Spencer and Braswell is on the way. Wagner’s resignation is an excellent bit of prepublicity for that.
It’s odd that the Graun should choose to draw attention to the real science. They normally like to pick on the Bookers and Moncktons. Odd also to see so many trolls here.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Report by Leon Hickman here -

Some of the comments about Dr. Spencer in the article tend towards the 'courageous' in my opinion.

Sep 2, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

John Abraham an associate professor at the University of St Thomas's school of engineering in Minnesota who criticised the Spencer paper upon its publication, told the Guardian

The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions

If open discussions = Real Climate they are really scraping the barrel.

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Report by Leon Hickman here -

Some of the comments about Dr. Spencer in the article tend towards the 'courageous' in my opinion.
Sep 2, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Chuckles

Interestingly, the Graun are not risking "Komment Macht Frei" (c. Delingpole) exposure on this article.

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

@geoffchambers, Ithink we say 'Snap!' here? I note that Roy Spencer is less than impressed by the Hickman article. Update on his blog

An interesting or possibly illuminating comment by Eli R at Roy Spencer's blog -

FWIW, Wagner objected to two things.

First that Spencer and Braswell did not deal with objections to their previous work and the ideas they set forth. OK, that’s a technical, but the red flag was how Dr. Spencer and his allies exploited and exaggerated the publication in the general public.

Note the 'red flag'

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

This is similar to the reaction to Soon&Baliunas, and I think one other paper that was seen in the ClimateGate e-mails. There was a group of people engaging in a coordinated attack on the paper, and trying to get editors to resign.

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

One could read this as the new kid on the block got a pasting behind the bike sheds for 'dissing' the big guys. Being new, he is still unsure exactly what he did wrong so gives a broad range of apologies, queers the pitch for the next incumbent and runs away to lick his wounds.

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

'but the red flag was how Dr. Spencer and his allies exploited and exaggerated the publication in the general public.'

Team puts boot in.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

One could read this as the new kid on the block got a pasting behind the bike sheds for 'dissing' the big guys.

He may very well be the new kid. Maybe he didn't know the unspoken rules. See
Wagner's Bio

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason Lewis

One wonders what has motivated this man?

"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary" - Brendan Behan

As nobody has died, not even the paper I wonder how many distributions of the paper there will now be:-

"Unfortunately, their campaign apparently was very successful as witnessed by the over 56,000 downloads of the full paper within only one month after its publication."

Quite amazing that you are labelled as part of a "campaign" if you have downloaded this paper. There is some very interesting positioning going on.

A well known, whilst I don't like the term troll, in this case it is the most polite description gleefully announced at JD's "Wolfgang Wagner regignation letter" - quite right I too would like to know where he will turn up next?

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

he is probably trolling for a liucrative job with Nasa or some Antarctic survey ....why edit a scientific journal if you can reap the global warming gold? How much does the braindead Stoat earn these days?

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

If the reality is that as a result of having published a poor paper , taken this for granted , the editor feels he need to resign . If this was the norm there would be no one working on any journal for long as its not at all unusual . Indeed you could say the 'Teams' favorite journals should have the personnel turn over of a call center if this was the case . That he should cite the problem is the coverage other areas have given this paper, with these having nothing to do with this journal and making no claims to be peer reviewed but news organization, seems odder still. While I would bet his claim the paper authors where behind this would not stand up to much questioning .

What may make things very interesting is if the paper reviewers get involved, if one or all of them call Wagner out over this and demand to be told what was wrong with their review or in what way they where not suitable to review the paper , it could get very nasty . Whose hoping that is will be the case ?

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Richard Black points out that Spencer is a committed Christian. Thank you, Richard, that makes the issues much clearer.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Compare and contrast this outrageous cowardice with that of Richard Horton the erstwhile editor of the Lancet whose publication of the MMR paper by Andrew Wakefield could be said to have resulted in a number of unnecessary measles outbreaks and a small number of deaths. Horton quite correctly did not feel it necessary to resign after publishing that peer reviewed paper.

However, we've seen the mendacity of the so-called climate science community before writ large in the ClimateGate e-mails. Where is RC when we need him/her to spill the beans on this.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

on Judith Curry's blog...Mr Brown has some interesting things to say:

R.S.Brown | September 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Reply


The data gathered by NASA remote sensors included in the Spencer
& Braswell paper is unchallenged as to it’s authenticity and accuracy by
the former editor-in-chief of the journal Remote Sensing .

The summary and plotting of the data gathered by NASA remote
sensors included in the Spenser & Braswell paper is unchallenged
by the former editor-in-chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

The techniques used to summarize the data gathered by NASA remote
sensors, used in the Spenser & Braswell paper, and compared with
various climate model prediction runs remain unchallenged by the
former editor-in-chief of the journalRemote Sensing.

The general conclusion in the Spenser & Braswell paper that there is
a large divergence between the reality based data form NASA
and many/most researcher-programmed computer climate models is unchallenged by the former editor-in-chief of the journal Remote
Sensing .

He doesn’t like the media summaries of the what the Spenser & Braswell
paper conclude, even though 56,000+ copies are in circulation as direct downloads from Remote Sensing and easily accessible to the
media to see exactly what the paper is really about.

What did he think the scientific applications of remote sensing involved ?

If remote sensing has no practical real world applications when
used to investigate topics germaine to the data remore sensors have
gathered, why does Remote Sensing exist in the first place ?

The resignation smells as fishy as the docks at low tide.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Breaking News:
'The peer-review' process is broken says ex-Editor-in-chief of the 'Remote Sensing' journal, Wolfgang Wagner.
"Götterdämmerung !" he ejaculated. "If the peer-review process can't even come up with the right answer, then what's the point?"
Top climate-scientist and Consensus gatekeeper, Gavin Schmidt of the highly-respected RealClimate web-site congratulated Wolfgang on his stance.
" I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." he told our reporter.
"There is no place in Science for the questioning of the true Faith" he added.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

have tried numerous times to post this on WUWT just now, but post won't go thru. WUWT had Peter Gleick thread a couple of days ago, so figured Anthony would want to see this. will post it here for now:

2 Sept: Forbes: Peter Gleick: Paper Disputing Basic Science of Climate Change is "Fundamentally Flawed," Editor Resigns, Apologizes
There is a famous saying in science: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” In this case, the arguments for climate change are backed up by such an astounding degree of science and evidence, that one, or even a few, papers that claim to refute the science of climate change deserve careful scrutiny...
The Spencer and Braswell paper fails in these requirements. But this is also the way science works: someone makes a scientific claim and others test it. If it holds up to scrutiny, it become part of the scientific literature and knowledge, safe until someone can put forward a more compelling theory that satisfies all of the observations, agrees with physical theory, and fits the models...

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

This is truly bizarre, and just shows how profoundly warped the climate science community has become. I make no judgement here on the correctness of the paper, but editors just don't resign because of things like this.

Nobody resigned at Science when they published that utter drivel about bacteria replacing phosphorus with arsenic; they just published seven comments (IIRC) back to back with a rather desperate defence from the original authors.

Nobody resigned at Phys Rev Lett when I trashed a paper (on the evaluation of Gaussian sums) they had selected as one of the leading papers of the month: indeed nobody has formally ever accepted that I was right, but remarkably all the later papers on this subject follow my line.

I have been up to my neck for over a year in a huge row with Iannis Kominis about the underlying quantum mechanics of spin sensing chemical reactions, and either his papers or mine (or just possibly both) are complete nonsense: but nobody has resigned over Koniminis's paper in Phys Rev B or mine in Chem Phys Lett.

Sure, my two controversies above never hit the popular press, but the arsenic stuff was discussed all over the place, far more than Spencer and Braswell.

What sort of weird warped world to climate scientists inhabit? How have they allowed themselves to move so far from comon sense? What is wrong with these guys?

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jones

Why the worry about the resignation? I am sure that Phil Jones could nominate a suitable person to take over as editor of the journal.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Pielke Snr. has a useful piece:

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

@Barry Woods
"it is clear as a bell that modelers have succeeded in suppressing all criticism of their work that is based on data." You've lost me. Which modellers? point me to their acts of suppression please.

Sep 2, 2011 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Pielke Jnr. also has a short, but very practical view.

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

This is very unusual. As John Ioannidis notes here, research papers with errors are nothing new to the peer reviewed literature. If we had editors resigning every time a bad paper got published, we'd have no editors left.

The only reason I could imagine would be if a mistake was made in the review process, but it doesn't appear there was. If the fact that the reviewers shared a common mindset with the authors was the problem, we'd see multiple resignations over the temperature reconstructions.

None of it makes any sense to me at all.

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

Chuckles 8:09 PM:
Well-spotted on Eli R’s comment about the Red Flag - the clearest possible admission from the warmist camp that it’s not the science which counts, it’s the propaganda use you make of it. The message seems to be: “you’re free to publish, but be careful not to test our patience by getting your message into the mainstream media” (and wasn’t the message from CERN rather similar?)

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Hi Hengist, not my words, it is an extract from a comment at Watts Up With that that I found interesting, please go back follow the link and read the full comment..

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Sep 2, 2011 at 8:09 PM by Chuckles

"Note the 'red flag'"

Took me a beat or two...☺

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevYYZ

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