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« Curry and Mandia on Fakegate | Main | Lindzen in London - Josh 152 »

Wegman slapped on wrist

The accusation of plagiarism against Edward Wegman, author of one of the Congressional reports into the Hockey Stick, appears to have been upheld, but I think it's fair to say the university hasn't treated it as a capital offence, presumably because the passages in question were background material.

In a statement to GMU faculty, provost Peter Stearns said that one investigation committee unanimously found that "no misconduct was involved" in the 2006 Congressional report. "Extensive paraphrasing of another work did occur, in a background section, but the work was repeatedly referenced and the committee found that the paraphrasing did not constitute misconduct," he said, in the statement.

A second university committee found unanimously, "that plagiarism occurred in contextual sections of the (CSDA) article, as a result of poor judgment for which Professor Wegman, as team leader, must bear responsibility." Wegman will receive an "official letter of reprimand", Stearns said, as sanction for the plagiarism.


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Reader Comments (18)


Can you explain why it is a logical fallacy?

I would have thought that common sense dictates that you approach with greater circumspection all the work of someone who has been found guilty of such professional failings.

Feb 24, 2012 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam


Circumspection is fine and makes perfect sense. But suggesting that the misdeeds falsify everything else they have done is wrong. Given the support of the NAS panel for Wegman's finding on the statistics and the comments of David Hand, I think we can be quite comfortable with what Wegman said on the Hockey Stick.

Feb 24, 2012 at 5:30 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

As I recall, the work "plaigarised" was shown to have lifted much from an earlier work. Without that being considered I would say this second verdict is harsh.

Feb 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

Yes Wegman's junior assistant copied sections of a textbook that itself was copied from another textbook without the references in both.

Feb 24, 2012 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Wanna bet the second committee is highly political and was looking for an excuse to hurt their colleague?
I think the first review is much more credible and thoughtful.

Feb 24, 2012 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The accusations of plagiarism were always trivial and irrelevant. In providing background material in his report he did not acknowledge the source. He should, of course have done so, even though the source, basic textbooks, would have been immediately obvious to anyone familiar with the field. This mistake on Wegman's part makes not the slightest dent on his reputation as one of the leading statisticians of our time, nor does it take anything away from devastating critique of the methods used in producing the hockey stick graph.

Feb 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Hadley

There are two issues here. The one which matters here is whether the materials in question were valid, and used correctly. He seems to have borrowed/plagiarized good material. Alternatively, would a few more footnotes have had any effect on the conclusion? It seems not. As a recovering academic, I understand the issue of integrity very well, but there is a tendency, especially in this case by the warmists, to conflate the two.

Feb 24, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterTregonsee

Standard Leftist operating procedure: concentrate the attack on a minor issue in order to, by implication, invalidate, undermine, the major issue. Of course it barely matters that Wegman didn't properly reference the background info, but thats not the impression Mashey and Mandia were trying to create. And are they really so childish or dim that they didn;t know they were whipping up hysteria over a triviality? No, like Gleick, they knew perfectly well what they were doing. The amorality of the ineffably ethical.

Feb 24, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill


Spot on. Those guys were very deliberate in what they were doing. The we're purposely indeining Wegmans credibility BECAUSE he challenge their creationism.


Feb 24, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

So we have a net result of investigations on Wegman not being a whitewash.

Now, we see . . . . skeptic being investigated . . . not whitewash.

But consensus CAGW scientists being investigated (I count at least six investigations) . . . all whitewashes.

Balance in treatment? None yet.

But maybe Gleick will be the exception and we finally have a 'cause' supporter that will not be whitewashed. And we also have two Mann/UVa investigations (court cases) that could turn out to not to be whitewashes. : )


Feb 24, 2012 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Perhaps with current events, people will see the poison that has infected debate for what it is. Real people have had real pain inflicted upon them

Feb 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Gray

A person can be slapped on the wrist for an academic issue and still be a respected scholar. I see that.

A person can be a convicted felon and still be a respected scholar. I even see that.

But a person cannot be a convicted felon and respected scholar and president of the NAS or AGU ethics committee chair or top person in Royal Society (of Science) . . . . etc, etc. I definitely see that too.


Feb 24, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Where the parallel fails is that Wegman's alleged plagerism was (A) of factual material, (B) very minot background, (C) accidental or at least done without considering the ethics - whereas Gleicks'a was (A) a pack of lies, (B) the most important part of what he produced, (C) done wholly deliberately by a self syled "ethicist" of science who had claimed the right to pontificate on the ethics of others.

As such Gleick's failings are at least 10s of thousands of times worse that what Wegman is acused of and any alarmist who has made the slightest criticism, if honest must be willing to spend 10s of thousands longer criticising Gleick and any other alarmist noy willing to voice such criticism. I do not expect to see 0.1% of the alarmist community demonstrating themselves thus honest.

Feb 25, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig


yes the second committee did have one individual who drove the outcome, a partisan one.

The SNA article was plagarized, but Wegman should have been found "guilty" of poor oversight. Like the editors after him, he failed to catch the plagarism

Feb 25, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commentersteven mosher

reminds the guys that Wegman's plagiarism could have been corrected by quotation marks, whilst Gleick is always going to be a forger. See the differences?

Feb 25, 2012 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Copying - the highest form of praise.
Making stuff up - well that's different.

Feb 26, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin

It's worth mentioning that the "plagiarism" charge related to background climate-specific material in a paper that was essentially about statistics. Statisticians have often used subject matter from other disciplines in order to illustrate some aspect of statistical methodology. Surely, in the entire statistical literature, Wegman is not alone in having innocently omitted a technical credit?

While the meaning of "plagiarism" can be opportunistically enforced to the very letter by the likes of Deep Climate, there was self-evidently no attempt by Wegman to pass off someone else's work as his own for the purposes of furthering his interests. The material concerned is well-established to the point of ennui; no-one in their right mind would actually try to "properly" plagiarise it.

Obviously this is all about the Team and its groupies desperately trying to neutralise the 2006 Wegman report. Like a parking warden spotting a millimetre of tyre over the line, Wegman's adversaries saw their chance and exploited it mercilessly. That Wegman's underlying analysis of the climatologists' crony networks was and remains wholly accurate (prescient, even, now that Climategate has given us the hard evidence) means nothing to them.

Feb 27, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterigsy
Let me see if I got this right. Gleick claims he got an document from a unknown, presumably, Heartland insider. He, then, conducted a sting operation and obtained confirming documents that he made public.

Nothing at all to do with his “professional integity”. Heck, cops do this all the time and a journalist might have been in the running for a Pulitzer.

Wegman and associates stole material and represented it as their own. Academics win promotion, pay raises, and reputation based on their publication record. Wegman and associates used other people's work to pad one's publication rate is fraud.. And, as Andrew Gelman pointed out, it seems to indicate they didn't know enough about the topic to do their own writing.

Cuo bono?
Feb 28, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterjrkrideau

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