Critiques and responses
Sep 3, 2011
Bishop Hill in Climate: Sceptics, Journals

There is still huge interest in the Remote Sensing affair and quite what this means for the climate debate is still unclear.

One aspect of the story that has attracted a great deal of comment is the fact that Remote Sensing has not retracted the paper. As Retraction Watch puts it:

We are not in a position to critique the claims. But we are curious: If Wagner feels he published the article in error, why not simply retract it? Was it really necessary to fall on his sword to make the point that he now feels he made a mistake in publishing the paper? It’s a noble gesture, and not unprecedented for editors of climate journals, but is it best for science?

Remote Sensing has now made it clear that they will not be retracting the paper.

It seems clear from Wagner's resignation letter that his understanding of the alleged flaws in Spencer's paper came from blog posts like the one at RC; there is, as yet, no formal critique of the paper in the literature. It therefore seems fairly clear that Wagner's resignation was prompted by blog posts and perhaps word of mouth from Spencer's rivals. If so, this is extraordinary and quite an indictment of climate science.

Apparently there is going to be a formal critique of the paper, which will be published in GRL in the near future. This will be interesting for sure, but one has to wonder why a critique of a paper in Remote Sensing would be published in GRL; of course the suspicion will be that the authors will expect an easy ride from the editors there. We know that prominent climatologists have expressed their satisfaction with the "plugging" of the "leaks" that had been seen at that journal in the past. Remote Sensing, on the other hand, is presumably much more of an unknown quantity to them.

And if GRL publishes a critique, what then? Will Spencer be allowed to respond? Let's hope that new editor-in-chief Eric Calais has a better grasp of the journal's rules than his predecessor, Jay Famiglietti.

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