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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)

Richard Black at
describes Remote Sensing as an “off-topic” journal because “its core topic is methods for monitoring aspects of the Earth from space” and adds a comment from Bob Ward to the effect that “publishing in off-topic journals” is a "classic tactic of scientists dismissive of man-made climate change” and calls it “thoroughly disreputable”. Ward also calls for Spencer and Braswell to resign.
The photo caption of Spencer notes that he is a “committed Christian”. Funny that they didn’t note that Lindzen is a Jew, and Choi doesn’t sound very kosher.
Can the BBC sink any lower?

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Ahhhh. I'm reminded of our old friend Phil Jones:

On Horizon:

"The basic science is in the peer-reviewed literature, and I wish more people would read that than read the emails."

, in CRU email:

"Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is ! Cheers, Phil"

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

The words rattle and pram come to mind.

It sounds like someone couldn't force his will on others and decided to "push the nuclear" button and resign, presumably expecting others to come begging on bended knee.

Obviously they didn't, hence the note!

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

"The basic science is in the peer-reviewed literature, and I wish more people would read that than read the emails."

At $30 plus a shot, how would I ever manage to pay my gre'nargy bills?

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Jonathan Jones: thanks for the examples of other bad papers where the editors stayed put. I'm sure there are many. This episode is indeed bizarre.

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


thanks for the POV from the flat earth society. It is always so consistent.

By the way, he resigned due to Peer Review Pressure!

Sep 2, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterkuhnkat

Seems to me the big crime Wagner committed in the eyes of those who have forced his resignation is that he didn't keep Spencer and Braswell's paper on ice long enough for the 'rebuttal' to be published at the same time.

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Interesting to see that Roy Spencer's Wikipedia page has already been updated with paragraphs citing the "Remote Sensing" editorial refuting Spenser/Braswell article'.

So, where do we stand in Climate 'science':

Bizarre resignations = refutation
Media messaging = proof
Corrupting data to resemble expected result = 'a good way to avoid a problem'
Intimidation = peer review
Email deletion to avoid FOI requests = standard practice

etc., or in short, a climatology is a sickening cesspit

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

i'm not a scientist (never could dumb down & tie myself down in their simplistic treadmills) but it occurs to me false not to publish papers which are contested, even refuted, before.
The human experience and prior art does not learn from stacking successes in a mute sycophant environment like The Team exudes . It learns from failures and intellectual discourse. If this is a problematic paper and gets 55k downloads , this is GOOD.

Anyways : scientific papers are going the dodo's way.
Wikipedia has more features now. And it is a bit cheaper.
The only thing in the waiting is responsible politicans who turn the spigots OFF.

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

the only thing that shld be peer reviewed is scientific reports that go to Westminster
it matters if they ge a paper under their noses from someone who wants cannabis legalised no matter what, or indeed a paper that is reviewed in a way so that more scientific opinions are present.

the ipcc papers need to be peer reviewed.
and they weren't they simply ignored all criticism.
otherwise we wld not have read about the 2030 all himalaya glaciers meltdown
people protested about that line months in advance and it was ignored by that team.

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

Rog T

"Rapid publication: accepted papers are immediately published online."

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

geoffchambers "Richard Black at
describes Remote Sensing as an “off-topic” journal because “its core topic is methods for monitoring aspects of the Earth from space” and adds a comment from Bob Ward to the effect that “publishing in off-topic journals” is a "classic tactic of scientists dismissive of man-made climate change” and calls it “thoroughly disreputable”. Ward also calls for Spencer and Braswell to resign."

Oh, what a load of hypocritical humbug. Sceptics aren't allowed to publish in 'on topic' journals are they, thanks to the Team. Just look at the trouble the mighty Lindzen has getting his papers published.

Yes, we can all see what's going on here. The Team decide which journals are the important ones and make sure they are the gatekeepers and have editors on side. They keep out papers even if they have to re-define what the peer review process is. Then they can point to the peer reviewed literature and state that it is filled with papers supporting their case; oh, and the other points of view are so rubbish that they can't get accepted by the important journals, and idiots like Ward can pitch in that it is 'disreputable' to find a way of getting published outside the control of the Team. What nasty, nasty behaviour and politics. By the way, exactly the same has been going on for a lot longer in astronomy and astrophysics.

Let's hope some folk can see it as it is and ask the question why it is that the Team have to resort to such behaviour.

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

The strange thing is that Spencer and Braswell 2011 has not been formally criticised.

Following this I'm expecting a mass resignation from Nature for publishing and promoting Steig et al 2009.

Politics at play; it seems no one has learnt from climategate mark1.

Sep 2, 2011 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarcH

This is a nonsense resignation. Presumably the man has other duties, other funding. Someone with purse strings doesn't like goalies who let one by.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

This at the end of Richard Black's hatchet piece:
"He is also on the board of directors of the George C Marshall Institute, a right-wing thinktank critical of mainstream climate science, and an advisor to the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an evangelical Christian organisation that claims policies to curb climate change "would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in costs" and "could be implemented only by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life"."
It's fair to say that Black is suffering from sceptiphobia:
[noun] "An extreme and irrational aversion to people critical of [climate change] dogma."

Sceptiphobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards critics of anthropogenic global warming theory, and in some cases libertarians and religious thinkers and their behaviour. Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear. Sceptiphobia is observable in critical and hostile behaviour such as media hatchet jobs, peer-review discrimination, insulting associations, undermining accusations and even death threats on the basis of a perceived sceptical sympathy or in some cases luke-warmist commentary…

In the Bishop Hill blog, September 2011, and anonymous poster coined the term sceptiphobia, and likened it to other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a significant minority, to deny their voice, their dignity and personhood… With a nod of thanks to Coretta Scott King and the vast resource that is the wikipedia.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJuatin Ert

Update at RetractionWatch:

Update, 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 9/2/11: Remote Sensing’s editor Wagner tells us the journal is not considering retracting the study.

No, neither the publisher nor I have so far considered this. On the one hand, as I wrote in the editorial, formally everything was correct with the review. On the other hand we believe that it is much better to treat this issue in an open and scientific manner. Therefore the publisher is already working on inviting the science community to respond to this paper.

Somebody is trying to make Wagner look like a complete buffoon, alright.

Sep 3, 2011 at 12:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Dr. Floyd Ferris and Lysenko live and prosper.

What a dork. If the paper is bad, pull it. You don't resign you idiot

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

I've got it guys...this will be remembered as "The Twilight of the Team Gods".

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

@ Maurizio Morabito Sep 3, 2011 at 12:56 AM

Somebody is trying to make Wagner look like a complete buffoon, alright.

That's definitely one way of looking at this rather ludicrous situation. Here's an "alternative hypothesis" I just posted in Roger Pielke Jr's thread on this issue:

Well, I suppose the alarmist/activist "climate scientists" had to do something to give Bob Ward material on which to opine ... otherwise he might have been forced to justify Al Gore's recent descent into disastrously desperate "dialogue"!

So the "in-crowd" - lacking any scientific rebuttal of S&B that could hold up to serious scrutiny - decided that Wagner, the new kid on the journal editing block, should be the multi-purpose diversionary scapegoat.

Apart from the flurry of MSM and blog coverage this has generated, look at the precedents his "resignation letter" has established:

1. An unsubstantiated "most likely problematic" will be sufficient for critics to point to in lieu of any substantive arguments against S&B's work.

2. An establishment of the "principle" that if the results of a paper are such that there is any indication that the "modellers'" prognostications should be found wanting then the former must be tarnished at all costs (including that of the reputation of the reviewers should their names ever come to light)

3. While the alarmist/advocates have long adhered to the "principle" that no critique of their work should be taken seriously until accepted in a "peer reviewed" journal, it would seem that this lofty "principle" is henceforth to be considered as a one-way street.

Mind you, it is interesting (albeit highly irrelevant to S&B or the currently non-existent "published" rebuttals thereto) the impact of the press release regarding of S&B's paper should be of such concern.

Particularly when one considers the recent controversy over the IPCC's May SRREN SPM release. The fanfare accompanying this particular work emphasized that the SPM had been "reviewed line-by-line" and "approved" by all 194 governments.

The Guardian's Damian Carrington had made much ado of this in July. Yet the IPCC's own numbers indicate that less than 50% of the "national delegations" actually participated in this "line-by-line review" and "approval" process. [Pls. see Of IPCC reports ... and press releases in which they "hide the declines"]

Oh, well, I guess when it comes to "climate science" there's a double standard for press releases, as well.

Sep 3, 2011 at 1:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Lysenko lives.

I am afraid that that says it all, Richard Drake. You summarized it brilliantly.

And the black helicopters will soon be dropping by to take the non-believers off to the GULAG in the now tropical Arctic which is surrounded by hungry polar bears. There they will be retrained in thinking Green as they manufacture mercury laden "green" CFLs as part of their "re-education"

Really a very sad day for science.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Maybe Wagner did it in a fit because the Stalinist Football Club, used the paper and its media popularity, to hang a question on his integrity. If I am not mistaken, Wagner's peer circles includes the German Aerospace Agency - DLR. Wagner did a stint at NASA GISS.

If that is so, then Wagner's resignation is a sort of an ultimate comeback - people are left waving his resignation when the paper itself remains. How funny is that.

If I am not being fanciful, I think Wagner is 'sending a message' with his letter. Maybe he is just 'young' and when one is 'young', one is likely to do a lot of 'cut the nose to spite the face' sort-of-things.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I wonder if the 3 reviewers can sue Wagner and/or the journal for reputational damage. I would certainly consider it if I were them.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Deacon

Wagner says in his letter:

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.

Two things spring to mind:

1. I wonder if Wagner would support interdisciplinary mingling between, say, statisticians and dendro-climatologists...

2. Wagner stresses that co-operation is required in order to understand where and why models and observations separate. For the 'why' perhaps buy not for the 'where'. The projections are out there. The data has been collected. Compare the two. What it sounds like is more a case of wanting to explain away divergences with carefully choreographed hand waving lest someone get the peculiar idea that the models are getting things wrong. Yet that is not necessary. Kevin Trenberth has been happy to point out that the models are not predictions but projections.

Sep 3, 2011 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Probably some good 'Climategate' emails in here. When one day the truth really, unequivically comes out, we need to tar and feather these bastards.

: ) : )

Sep 3, 2011 at 3:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn fuck-all Climate Scientists

There is something Wagnerian about all this :)

I do think you may onto something Shub. We'll see.

Sep 3, 2011 at 4:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Gavin's response to comment #155 (2 Aug) on RealClimate's “Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedback” thread is a little presage to these events:

Most journals ask that submit possible referee names, and the editors who are on top of the subject will be able to tell immediately if they are suitable or cover enough range of views. Editors who are less familiar with the material have a harder time, and might go with the authors suggestions more often (this might be worth investigating). But we do know that the people most familiar with the data or issue were not consulted.

Sep 3, 2011 at 7:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterHAS

Wagner states “But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three
reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors”

Apart from the obvious comment that reviewers sharing the alarmist views of authors has never presented any apparent problem – indeed, it is deemed essential by the Team– the proposition that, by random chance the editors may have selected 3 sceptics strongly contradicts the widely circulated claim that 97% of climate scientists agree with CAGW. Surely finding 3 sceptical scientists, and no alarmists, in a random (or any) sample of 3 should be next to impossible if only 3% of qualified scientists are “sceptics”

Sep 3, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

I thought there was an overwhelming agreement on the global warming in the scientific community. How can it possibly happen that three rather randomly selected reviewers 'shared some sceptic views' (resignation letter) - a miracle? :-)

Sep 3, 2011 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterjk

What are the chances the Team sweetened his severance package with his editorial?

Sep 3, 2011 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Grubb

From a comment above:
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.”
So why didn't this apply to the infamous Hocky Stick paper.

Sep 3, 2011 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

The Team does have form in sticking their big foot in it when developing their convoluted reasons for rejecting sceptical papers. This one seems no different looking at the points from above posts.

1. The paper was about modeling of the climate but included no modellers.

As others have pointed out this has been used numerous times against Team papers using Statistics but never including Statistitians.

2. The reviewers had views likely to be supportive of the authors.

Again all Team papers are Pal reviewed and passed without question, Dr Jones has testified he had never been asked for data by a reviewer.

They really do need to work out a better strategy as this is bound to end up as an own goal.

Sep 3, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Normal service has resumed. I consider this to be a success for the sceptical cause.

This will not be seen as a refutation of a paper but as another example of bullying of editors by the CAGW faithful.

Wagner has plainly mispoken about his reasons for resigning. I suspect that his resignation letter has probably been written and vetted by others of the CAGW faith.

"Repent your sins, recant your heresy you sceptics", Wagner clearly did not have the mettle to withstand the pressure.

Wagner is just another casualty in the CAGW debate. He will not be missed.

Sep 3, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Climate scientists have destroyed the Peer Review process by their unprofessional and dubious behaviour. It now means nothing to have a paper peer reviewed. If you are part of the "Team" it gets an easy ride, if you are not it is passed to friends of the "Team", fiercely criticised and hugely delayed to allow a counter attack.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadthesailor

Paul Deacon I wonder if the 3 reviewers can sue Wagner and/or the journal for reputational damage. I would certainly consider it if I were them.

In scientific reviewing, the identity of reviewers is not normally disclosed, so an action for libel would not be possible.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

People are being very unfair, both to Wagner and to Lysenko. Lysenkoism was real science, with consequences in the real world. Until it was falsified by reality the decision as to whether to accept it or not was a matter of life and death. None of that applies here.
If one believes Wagner’s explanation, he was right to resign, since he clearly has no understanding of the job of an editor. But he may be lying, in which case he deserves our sympathy and support.
The German-speaking countries seem to be more tolerant of dissenting opinions. When the astronomer Halton Arp was pushed out of the University of California, he found a welcome in Germany. Wagner’s removal may be a warning that such Teutonic openmindedness has no place in English-speaking science journals.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

the identity of reviewers is not normally disclosed

OTOH reviewers here have been accused of doing an awful job. Given there ain't too many of a sceptical attitude, I presume everybody in the industry knows their names already. Now, do they want to be considered big jokes by their own colleagues?

If I were one of them I would "out" myself and find an Austrian libel lawyer. Or a British one for that matters.

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Shub said:

If I am not being fanciful, I think Wagner is 'sending a message' with his letter. Maybe he is just 'young' and when one is 'young', one is likely to do a lot of 'cut the nose to spite the face' sort-of-things.

Wager accepted the paper and found three reviewers. The reviewers suggested revisions. The paper was published. The paper is not being retracted.

If Wagner is sending a message is it 'You must not go against the consensus' or 'Help! I'm trapped by the consensus'?

Sep 3, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Perhaps the next editor appointed [by whom?] will be of the persuasion, or will be persuaded that retraction is a good idea.

Sep 3, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Inexplicable ... if next week Dessler "debunks" Spencer why didn't Wagner wait until then and resign on the basis of published research?

Sep 3, 2011 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Roger Pielke Sr has an update on his e-mail exchange with Gleick.

Matt Briggs has his own thoughts

"In one of the most asinine, self-promoting, sniveling, absurd, nakedly political moves Wolfgang Wagner has resigned, with trumpets blazing, his editorship of Remote Sensing.

Why? Because the journal under his command dared follow its editorial guidelines, and follow them properly.


Wagner probably caught hell from “the” consensus


It takes a man to stand up to this kind of barrage. Wagner was in danger of not being invited to meetings, of being a pariah, of even—it hurts to say this—losing future grants. He had to do something to distance himself from his own journal, a journal he helped create, using rules he helped devise.

Wagner took the path of self-aggrandizing cowards

Sep 3, 2011 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Journal editor resigns because of internet gossip. Hope it was peer reviewed gossip.
I'd be interested to see in Wagner's next career move...

Sep 3, 2011 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterandymc

davidmhoffer has a comment over at WUWT that is worth reading:

I was inspired to do a bit of research on my own:

To get an idea of the sort of pressure that might be applied, I urge readers to take a quick look at one of Dr. Wagner’s listed publications A New International Network for in Situ Soil Moisture Data (available here: , a two page article requiring seven co-authors. The article makes the observation:

The importance of soil moisture in the global climate system has recently been underlined by the Global Climate Observing System (a joint undertaking of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations, and the International Council for Science), which in 2010 endorsed soil moisture as an “essential climate variable.”

It is basically announcing a new data management network for soil moisture observations and is based at Dr. Wagner’s university. It is funded by the European Space Agency and is responsible for the data management of space-platform devices that were conceived through the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). It sounds a bit like the arrangement and mandate Dr. Spencer and UAH has with NASA.

The GEWEX website is located here: You will note that the header describes GEWEX as: ”a core project of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), is an integrated program of research, observations, and science activities ultimately leading to the prediction of global and regional climate change.

The article concludes with “The success of these efforts will depend upon long-term financial commitment. Fortunately, the positive contributions from international organizations such as WCRP/ GEWEX, the support of space agencies, and voluntary contributions from numerous individual networks are widespread, raising confidence in the scientific community’s willingness to realize an integrated soil moisture observing system.”.

A quick skim of the web sites and publications suggests that SB11 is a direct threat to the organizations and projects Dr. Wagner is associated with.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

I cannot believe these people. Wagner is chairman of group, who has sponsored a network, that depends on the support of a group chaired by Trenberth! No wonder the apology was to Trenberth!

And Wagner is no climate agnostic, either, going by his associations. Its a wonder the Spencer paper was published.

Sep 5, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

The reason that the editor of Remote Sensing resigned was that the paper he published was inadequate.
1 No argument is advanced to support the claim that clouds are the cause, not the effect, of surface changes.

2 his model "has no realistic ocean, no El Niño, (ocean current cycle) and no hydrological cycle, and it was tuned to give the result it gave." (Trenberth) In using simple models, the SB11 is using the central skeptic technique of cherrypicking - taking a partial, not complete, view of the data.

3 SB11 do not supply error margins on their figures. This is an astonishing fundamental error of method.

4 When the data is re-worked using more relevant timescales and error margins, there is a better fit between the observations and the models, particularly the model that factors in the ocean current changes.

These are the substantive reasons for the editor's resignation.

Sep 5, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Lawson

Richard Lawson - please try to be serious. Papers are retracted when they are bad, without any grand gesture by the editors. This point has surely been beaten to death by now.

Sep 5, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

The Hokey Team put the sqiz on Wagner to retract the paper. RS refused. Wagner protected his home turf and Team support by resigning.
Good for RS! P on Wagner.

Sep 5, 2011 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian H

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