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« A blast at Nordhaus | Main | Stocker in Oxford »
Saturday
May122012

Peiser on journal and media bias

Benny Peiser's review of the way scientific journals and newspapers cover global warming is a must-read:

The integrity of the science media will depend on whether they will encourage critique and fault-finding analysis by consensus sceptics - or whether they will continue their course towards unbalanced campaign journalism. Given the well-documented reluctance of mainstream science media to accept submissions by critical scientists and the aversion to report on critical papers published elsewhere, I remain unconvinced that science journalism will moderate its blinkered attitudes in the near future.

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Reader Comments (37)

A quote in the article: "When models about the future climate are in agreement, it says more about the self-regulating group psychology of the modelling community than it does about global warming and the economy.” (David Orrell)"

Comparing model results and declaring that agreement has validated the latest model is one of the notable symptoms of the sickness of "climate science".

May 12, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

A 'must-read' to be sure. Superb work. Thank you for bringing it back to our attention - I for one had not seen it before.

May 12, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

This article appears to be 5 years old, but is currently posted on the GWPF site, although little seems to have changed in the media in the meantime. Perhaps the more relevant link today is the Curry link also on the GWPF

http://thegwpf.org/science-news/5700-is-bias-destroying-science.html

May 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

So far as I can see. climate scientists (see the CG1 emails) and Nature, by their gatekeeping and exclusion of work questioning "the concensus" have devalued the term "peer reviewed" below the point of worthless for work in their field. I think that, for anyone who has watched things from the sidelines for the last few years, it has become a pejorative term.

I had never come across the term "peer reviewed" before I started to take an interest in climate science. In engineering, one simply uses the term "refereed" or "reviewed". I've done my share of reviewing for engineering journals and I have had work of my own reviewed prior to publication.

The process, in engineering, never seemed to me to be intended as a validation of the conclusions of a paper. Conversely, I had not come across the idea that a report that had not been "peer reviewed" was not to be taken seriously.

I had always understood that the purpose of a review of a paper submitted to a journal was primarily to maintain the standards of the journal. So the reviewer would be asked:

- To confirm that it is non-trivial - it is not something that could be done by any competent person by following standard methods.

- To confirm that the work is not obviously erroneous, based on misconceptions or fundamentally wrong.

- To confirm that the work appears to be original and has not previously been published (otherwise, it will be rejected, with references to previous work that covers the same ground).

- To confirm that the paper makes adequate reference to previous or related work, with suggestions of additional references that could - or should - be cited.

- To confirm that it is in the area covered by the journal and will be of interest to its readership (if not, it will be rejected perhaps with suggestions of where it might be more appropriately published).

- To point out areas where the paper could be significantly improved in presentation, in addition of material to clarify or removal of material that adds little value.

May 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I was chatting to a gardener recently and cautiously asked him what he thought about the global warming scare predictions. He said he didn't believe any of it. He also said his friends thought all the press hype was nonsense and that it was simply a way for politicians to make people pay more for electricity and fuel.

The more they shout 'fire' when there is no fire the less the public, using common sense, will believe it.

May 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermfo

As Sarewitz states, “A biased scientific result is no different from a useless one.”

I would say it is much worse, since it has plausibility.

May 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

a Paul Nurse and his acoolytes in various positions will NEVER admit they were wrong of course.
They'll keep mending and mending distorting and stuck in their tread mills.
Their own status pay and rich conditions depend on it.

this is why we should come to change our institutes and make sure such little clans are impossible in the future.

the 19th century french and german universities were far freer and open minded than we have now. Most lecturers were freelancers. Now its encrusted clubs of freeloaders everywhere.

May 12, 2012 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

The flimsy quality of 'peer review' is increasingly known. But it is a double-edged sword, as work that doesn't align with the 'consensus' comes up. The issues with 'Nature' and 'Science' have been exposed, but gaining credibility for non-alarmist research will be tough.

May 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

a lot of currency is stolen away from higher priorities to fatten the pension pots of Al Gore & co.

There are far higher priorities: we should ensure our competitiveness, improve our R&D markets and access, we should become better in biochemistry chemistry and physics and engineering, we should tackle pollution build high speed trains under the ground

all this money goes to more tits replacements and other kowtowing in the free NHS, windmills, and institutes like media-science and J-Zay studies.

this is what is called decadence and degenration.
what we have now at the top are prime examples of it all.

May 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Martin A is quite right. My experience, with engineering reviewing, is broadly similar to his, and the conclusion of the review process is "OK to publish" emphatically not "this paper is correct/good". OK to publish may well mean its trashed post-publication, but thats the author's, not the reviewer's concern. What the reviewer is not doing is validating the work, he's simply assessing it in the check box way Martin describes.

To a degree, in medical publishing, standards are more rigorous, and some journals do re-work authors statistical submissions, but I don't know of this being done in other fields. I would be very surprised if Climate Sci, which is a newish and apparently somewhat amateurish discipline, had higher standards than medicine. And given some authors disinclination to hand over data, its hard to see how reviewers could re-do their work in a way which does validate it.

Given what we know of the politicisation and integrity issues surrounding ClimSci, it seems most likely to me that the proponents of the argument "peer-reviewed=good/correct" knew quite well this was an essentially untrue argument, but it was good enough for fooling the fools.

May 12, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

http://www.epicdisasters.com/index.php/site/comments/the_ten_deadliest_us_hurricanes/

Media just waiting for the next Kattrina

May 12, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-04/census-finds-post-katrina-new-orleans-richer-whiter-emptier.html

Bit O/T Looking for stuff about New Orleans population found this -How true or just Lefty Patronising White Guilt Wet liberal PC bias
Google New Scientice Did Climate Change cause Kattrina

This time they might build the flood defences a bit higher for the next one
What they should have done at Fukishima

May 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

May 12, 2012 at 1:37 PM bill

Given what we know of the politicisation and integrity issues surrounding ClimSci, it seems most likely to me that the proponents of the argument "peer-reviewed=good/correct" knew quite well this was an essentially untrue argument, but it was good enough for fooling the fools.

It has also been used as a means of belittling critical work. "McIntyre's rubbish (unlike our rubbish) has not been peer reviewed and therefore should not be taken seriously. If he wishes it to be taken seriously, he should submit it to a peer-reviewed journal where, undoubtedly, it will be sent to members of The Team for peer-review and we will do what's appropriate even if it means calling for the editor's resignation." (My own words, but similar sentiments are there in the e-mails.)

I'm not sure that the opportunity will ever arise where it would be useful to make the point that Bill has made but maybe it's worth keeping in mind.

May 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Integrity?
Climate Science?

Two very unlikely bedfellows.

May 12, 2012 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Martin, indeed, "peer review = good/correct" was a way of slapping down un-peer reviewed critiques, but it was also used as a means of defending their own work, the quite false implication being made that 'peer-review' did in fact imply rigorous analysis, re-working, checking of the paper by reviewers, so there couldn't be anything wrong with what was in the peer-reviewed literature. Anyone making such a claim is being - let us be generous - disingenuous.

Of course, back to your point, for years the 'Team' made the false claim that E&E was not peer reviewed, in order to smear M&Ms work, and their evidence for that was the equally false claim that all peer reviewed journals were in ISI, E&E was not, therefore it was not peer-reviewed. No-one involved in scientific communication at any level would honestly put forward such an argument. E&E is now in ISI, so that line of 'argument' is closed to the great dissemblers.

May 12, 2012 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

the better way treatting the goebbels crowd is : dump the TVL tax, buy a harddisk, watch all their TV programs with a delay. Perfectly legal savings a year: 130-. all radio is free of license.

May 12, 2012 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Well, if Richard Black had an ounce of integrity in him he would have been all over the Mcintyre/O'Donnel vs Steig affair like a fat chick over a packet of smarties! Just that one example of interference being run by unscrupulous climate scientists should have been enough to generate gigabites of news articles on the corruption of climate science by the BBC.

However as the BBC and Richard Black have no integrity what so ever when it comes to their pet loves (in the case of the BBC its Islam, multiculturalism, the EU, Palestinian rights and Mann Made Global Warming) of course you never read one single word about the games "The Team" played to try and keep McIntyre and O'Donnell's demolition of Steigs Antarctic armageddon.

Par for the course sadly but thats the way things will change until the BBC is FORCED in to the real world.

Mailman

May 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

May 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Mailman :

Well, if Richard Black had an ounce of integrity in him he would have been all over the Mcintyre/O'Donnel vs Steig affair like a fat chick over a packet of smarties! [ ... ]
-------------------------

In Australia we have the following terms ... "all over it like a cheap suit" ... "all over it like a rash" ... "at it like a seagull after a hot chip" :)

May 13, 2012 at 2:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

The more they shout 'fire' when there is no fire the less the public, using common sense, will believe it.

I once made a similar comment at a noted Warmist blog, and one of the regular denizens fired back with "What do you mean by common sense?"

Well, if you have to ask.......

May 13, 2012 at 4:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Media love alarmist end-of-the-world style headlines because such stories sell. Imaging a newspaper headline that says "There are no problems on this planet", then nobody would want to buy the newspaper, or watch the 8 o'clock news.. It's boring. They'd watch a good movie instead.

May 13, 2012 at 6:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Alex (May 13, 2012 at 6:52 AM)

Media love alarmist end-of-the-world style headlines because such stories sell.
They also love stories about ordinary blokes finding out that the world’s top experts are wrong. They love to see politicians and university professors made to look foolish, and they love stories revealing how billions of taxpayers’ money is being wasted. All these scoops and more are freely available here and elsewhere on sceptic sites, yet most journalists won’t touch them.
Calling it groupthink and castigating the BBC doesn’t get us far. The fact that the article is five years old and nothing has changed is a sobering thought.
(One new development was of course the BBC Trust’s report on science reporting, which specifically named Andrew Montford and Benny Peiser as people whose voices should not be heard).

May 13, 2012 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

While web searching on Climategate issues I came upon a fascinating review of one thread of Climategate misbehavior which does not seem to have been discussed on BH previously (at least I did not find it here via searching from the nav bar). Ben Santer, Tim Osborn, Phil Jones et al were determined to counter and discredit a paper already published online by the International Journal of Climatology, so they went to extraordinary lengths behind the scenes to abuse the journal's own procedures and the vaunted "peer review" process. Evidently they considered it crucial NOT to allow any standard "comment and reply" on the paper in IJC, because they sought to deny the article's authors the normal peer review opportunity to defend their work (this according to words expressed by The Team themselves in the Climategate emails) reviewed at link below):


[Douglass and Christy reflecting upon the sordid revelations in Climategate emails]: "We will let the reader judge whether this team effort, revealed in dozens of e-mails and taking nearly a year, involves inappropriate behavior, including (a) unusual cooperation between authors and editor, (b) misstatement of known facts, (c) character assassination, (d) avoidance of traditional scientific give-and-take, (e) using confidential information, (f) misrepresentation (or misunderstanding) of the scientific question posed by DCPS*, (g) withholding data, and more."


*DCPS refers to authors Douglass, Christy, Pearson, and Singer who were targets of this malicious campaign by Santer, Osborn, Jones, et al.

May 13, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Well, if Richard Black had an ounce of integrity in him .......

Mailman
May 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM

He doesn't - he's an environmental activist pure & simple.

On May 11th, long after the rest of us were giggling about the Australian "death threat by gun licence" fiasco - he was still pushing the fake story.

https://twitter.com/#!/BBCRBlack/status/200885813486157825

May 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

First class article!

Interesting, he throws up the paradigm of "numerology". I think it's the correct one. In times gone by many scientists, who were also alchemists, used sophisticated techniques drawn from Talmudic hermeneutics to prophesy doom and death based on numbers and letters. As it was a secret closed society where one needed to be initiated to be given the knowledge, outsiders just had to "believe".

Sounds very familiar. Computer modelling = modern numerology

May 13, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterShona

Slightly OT - but touching on media bias, I was having a look at the state of the current Yamal controversy on Climate Audit and Real Climate and made a fascinating discovery which I posted at CA;-

Following Law of Nature’s comment above, I went to RC and read the “Borehole” posts for the last few days.

An extraordinary paradox emerges – where the “mainstream” thread is mainly a series of science-free rants, pile-ons and ad homs while the comments in the “rejected” thread generally add up to a serious attempt to define and argue the issue in polite and rational terms.

Reading the two threads in parallel is an instructive primer in the current state of the climate debate and the ethics of Real Climate’s position.

May 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

May 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Foxgoose

Reading the two threads in parallel is an instructive primer in the current state of the climate debate and the ethics of Real Climate’s position.

Hmmm ... seems to me that perhaps the powers that be at RC have taken it upon themselves to exercise climatic licence in order to "redefine" ethics.

May 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Martin A; 10.46: 'Comparing model results and declaring that agreement has validated the latest model is one of the notable symptoms of the sickness of "climate science"'

We’re dealing with a shared mental illness, the belief that the greater good will be achieved by following the mantra, even if wrong than by accepting it is wrong. Hansenkoism’s switch to ‘extreme weather’ was expected, as was the overt political takeover of scientific institutions like the RS. Cameron has joined the Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia to implement UN Agenda 21: http://www.examiner.com/article/indonesia-uk-liberia-charge-of-un-s-agenda-21

The intention is to slash UK living standards to Third World levels using carbon as justification; if implemented this will kill 10s of millions as winters get much colder. A year ago Cameron praised Gillard’s carbon tax; Aussies want science under State control: http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/the_totalitarian_instinct_in_finkelsteins_report/

An academic committee will jail owners of blog sites which permit non-approved science to be discussed. The critical hit rate will be 41/day. Vaclav Havel has warned of the revival of totalitarianism. It's important free scientists stop Web censorship.

The publication of the Shakun paper by ‘Nature’ shows an attempt to revert to ‘CO2 causes the end of ice ages’, presumably because the hockey stick fraud is soon to be proved. The urgency may be because new work will show real ice age ‘forcing increase’ doesn't involve CO2: end of Agenda 21.

May 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Yes - "climatic licence" indeed.

Here's a link to the RC "Bore Hole" ("A place for comments that would otherwise disrupt sensible conversations" - according to them - "sneer, sneer") - 'cos it's a bit tucked away:-

http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=6013

If a new reader turned up at RC - from the "mainstream" comments they'd have no clue that the argument was about anything more than "bad guys are attacking hard working scientists".

The only attempts to address the issue have been removed to "prevent them disrupting sensible conversations".

Truly Kafaesque.

May 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

In 2006, Alan Kendall, a geologist at UEA, wrote this article: Science never used to have a consensus, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/dr-alan-kendall-science-never-used-to-have-a-consensus-419742.html

At the time he was criticising the Royal Society: "The Royal Society is using the power of authority rather than reason and judgement when they condemn the research funded by oil companies. Science never used to have a consensus. I hope I teach my students to exercise their own judgement."

May 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

DennisA

He's an old school geologist. His students should consider themselves privileged.

May 13, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

<p>Here in Australia the media aren't taking a critical approach to official climate gloom and doom. Today’s “impact statement” from the climate commission. Local media reactions have been predictable</p>
<p>Heatwaves, bushfires predicted to hammer NSW -ABC

Climate Change to Bring Heat, Bushfires to NSW -BRW

NSW is getting hotter: climate report -SBS</p>
<p>None of the guardians of the public record has made the slightest effort to look into the data that allegedly supports the report. I spent maybe 30 minutes looking at the source of the data for one particularly scary graphic, Fig.3. This purports to show the trend rainfall over NSW.</p>
<p>What it actually shows is the difference between rainfall in two years, 1970 and 2010. Why pick those years? The source is the BoM. Try changing the period selector. See which map has the least green on it. The one from 1970 to present.</p>
<p>Attempting to judge a trend from two points is hazardous (especially when the points are chosen by someone else). If forced to do so, you maximize the chance of picking up the trend by choosing the points maximally far apart. Doesn’t look so scary, does it?</p>
<p>A better way is to look at the whole time series. Here are the NSW rainfall anomalies with a 5 year smoothing line. This is just my qualitative take on the data, but it is my impression as a statistician that there is no significant downward trend in NSW annual rainfall over that period.</p>
<p>I don’t believe that the presentation of data in that impact statement meets basic levels of scientific integrity.</p>

May 14, 2012 at 1:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterKirk Lazarus

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate, with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

My Dog GNN: “the intention is to slash UK living standards to Third World levels using carbon as justification…..”

I think not. It’s not an intention; it is seen as inevitable. And over the last 40 or more years I have come to agree.

However, the cause is wrongly identified. It is not going to be global warming; it is political failure to provide leadership to the bureaucracy. The current EU and past Soviet Union as noted by AC1 in the Nordhaus thread are perfect examples. The EU and UK are busy following Russia’s lead..

No more pay for politicians: they have failed us in their main job of directing the bureaucracy. Let’s have some accountability. And we might get ‘conviction’ politicians instead of the careerists we have at the moment.

May 14, 2012 at 4:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Someone upstream mentioned the egregious Al Gore, who has been spreading the porky (and I paraphrase it for brevity) 'Pacific Islanders have had to flee to New Zealand as their islands become inundated by rising seas'. I reside in West Auckland, NZ, an area which has a very high Polynesian population: they have migrated here over generations for many reasons, mostly perceived economic self-betterment, best defined as paid work. Nobody in that community mentions climate change as a reason for their immigration.
My antecedents emigrated to NZ from the UK during the 19th century and their reasons for doing so were very similar to all later waves of immgrants to NZ - personal economic advantage. My mother's antecedents were mostly Scots from the Highlands and, having visited Scotland a few times and experienced quite extreme weather conditions there, I would not have been surprised if they had been 'climate refugees' but no, they were driven by opportunity - just like the Polynesians Al Gore tells porkies about.

May 14, 2012 at 5:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

He Ecclesiastical: the reduction of UK living standards to third world levels is not inevitable, it is the deliberate aim of Agenda 21 as a form of punishment for the West for its claimed climate crime.

May 14, 2012 at 7:37 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

May 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM DennisA

In 2006, Alan Kendall, a geologist at UEA, wrote this article: Science never used to have a consensus, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/dr-alan-kendall-science-never-used-to-have-a-consensus-419742.html

May 13, 2012 at 8:12 PM Pharos

He's an old school geologist. His students should consider themselves privileged.

I think he was mentioned in the CG emails - but the concensus was that, since he was due to retire soon, it was not necessary to do anything about his unacceptable views.

I think he posted once or twice here at BH. He said that Acton, the UEA VC, had once spoken to him in a kindly fashion, therefore it was unreasonable to mock Acton for the whitewash enquiries that he commissioned.

May 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Hilary, to "re-define" something you need to have been able to define it in the first place.
Or at the very least recognise it when you see it!

May 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate, with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

My Dog GNN:

Thank you! My ignorance is almost unbounded. I’d never heard of Agenda 21. However, having looked it up, now I have.

(I also know why I didn’t previously know about it: it’s a worthless piece of UN garbage that’s been too trivial for even this moderately unoccupied old bureaucrat to make time for.)

Back to the thread: OK, my wording clearly could have been better. Obviously, there now is ‘an intention’. But why? The answer is, I believe, the belief that poverty in the UK is inevitable. And this arose, and has been puffed up, because of the electoral advantage of providing leadership to the large number of folk who love to feel guilt.

But that does not make the belief right. Inept and bureaucratic government that pokes its nose into places it shouldn’t is a far more plausible reason why standards of living in the UK will decline to Third World standards. Past ones, that is, because while standards in the UK fall, in the Third World they are rising fast.

May 15, 2012 at 3:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

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