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« The ERL reviewer's report | Main | The bigotry of the consensus »

Scientivism Media Centre on Bengtsson

The Science Media Centre has entered the fray on the Bengtsson affair, publishing one of its usual "expert reaction" pieces. Readers will recall that after the Oxburgh affair nearly every expert the SMC quoted was among those accused of wrongdoing regarding Climategate. It's a similar story today, with the SMC choosing to quote Bob Ward (an expert in what way?!), Myles Allen (who sits on the editorial board of the journal involved) and Simon Lewis, who can bring nothing to the party except a penchant for green activism. Only Tim Palmer might pass muster as a neutral.

This disclaimer at the bottom of the piece intrigued me:

Myles Allen is on the Editorial Board of Environmental Research Letters but played no part in the review of or editorial decisions on the Bengtsson paper.  He states: “I wasn’t even aware of it until yesterday, and still haven’t seen the paper — nor do I wish to see it, since rejected papers are meant to be kept confidential.”

Environmental Research Letters is the journal that is accused of rejecting Bengtsson's paper on political grounds rather than scientific ones, but it is better known as the organ chosen by John Cook for the publication of his infamous 97% consensus paper.

Take a look at ERL's editorial board:

  • Myles Allen University of Oxford, UK
    End to end climate change, from emissions to impacts, and its implications, global climate simulations of the future, human and natural influences on climate contribute to observed climate change and extreme weather risk, climate change mitigation and remediation policy, including geoengineering
  • Michelle L Bell Yale University, USA
    Air pollution, ozone, climate change, environmental health, epidemiology, climate policy
  • Peter H Gleick The Pacific Institute, Oakland, USA
    Climate and water, freshwater, human right to water, water-use efficiency, conservation, water supply and sanitation, water conflicts, soft path to water
  • José Goldemberg Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
    Nuclear physics, environment and energy
  • Giles Harrison University of Reading, UK
    Physics of atmospheric aerosol particles, development of instruments for physical atmospheric measurements
  • Tracey Holloway University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
    Air pollution chemistry, atmospheric models, energy use, public health assessments, climate policy
  • Jakob Mann Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
    Renewable energy, wind energy, turbulence and modelling
  • Stefan Rahmstorf Potsdam University, Germany
    Climate change, past, present and future climate change, role of oceans in climate change

It seems to me that Allen is the member of the board with expertise in climate sensitivity, the subject of Bengtsson's paper. It's therefore surprising to me that he wasn't even aware of the submission. I wonder which editor it was.

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Reader Comments (23)

whilst Bob has no expertise in the are, he has made a very good comment

"In the interests of transparency and informed debate, Professor Bengtsson’s paper should be made public along with reports from the referees and editor. Only this will prove that his paper was rejected by the journal for sound scientific reasons rather than politics. The peer review process is always susceptible to inappropriate comments from referees, but it is up to editors to ensure the integrity of the process.” - Bob Ward

May 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Barry Woods - I guess that would be possible if the referees gave their consent. It's normal for referees reports to be kept confidential, in the interest (in other fields - dunno about cli-sci) of enabling their reviews to be as complete and objective as possible.

May 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"it is up to editors to ensure the integrity of the process" and Peter Gleick is on the editorial board.

May 16, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

@Martin A
No. The identity of the referees is confidential for their sake. Review reports are confidential for the authors' sake, so Bengtsson is free to publish them.

May 16, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

"I wonder which editor it was."

I would vote for Rahmstorf of Potsdam University.

As for Allen not being aware of the submission, that is feasible. Papers are meant to be confidential before publication. Editors are paid peanuts (reviewers nothing), they usually are in several journals' editorial boards, and normally there is no time to worry much about other departments of the journal.

I guess Bengtsson is free to make public the manuscript, rejection letter and reviewers comments.

May 16, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

Article in The Times:

Scientists in cover-up of ‘damaging’ climate view
"Research which heaped doubt on the rate of global warming was deliberately suppressed by scientists because it was “less than helpful” to their cause, it was claimed last night.
In an echo of the infamous “Climategate” scandal at the University of East Anglia, one of the world’s top academic journals rejected the work of five experts after a reviewer privately denounced it as “harmful”.
Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading and one of the authors of the study, said he suspected that intolerance of dissenting views on climate science was preventing his paper from being published.

Extra, from the front page:
“The problem we now have in the climate community is that some scientists are mixing up their scientific role with that of a climate activist,” he added. Professor Bengtsson’s paper challenged the finding of the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the global…"


May 16, 2014 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Looking at the make-up of that editorial board, it seems possible that Bengtsson has committed "suicide by cop". He must have known that a group containing Gleick and Rahmstorf would not tolerate any divergence from the consensus.

May 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Matt Ridley has an article in The Times:

This bullying of climate-science sceptics must end

When did demonising your opponents become so acceptable?

Lennart Bengtsson is about as distinguished as climate scientists get. His decision two weeks ago to join the academic advisory board (on which I also sit, unremunerated) of Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation was greeted with fury by many fellow climate scientists. Now in a McCarthyite move — his analogy — they have bullied him into resigning by refusing to collaborate with him unless he leaves.
The GWPF aims to ensure that the climate-change debate is more balanced. Its members are not “deniers”, yet as Lord Lawson said in a recent speech: “I have never in my life experienced the extremes ..."


May 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

One of the reviews has now been published by IOP

The reviewer was correct in his final assessment LOL:
"I have rated the potential impact in the field as high, but I have to emphasise that this would be a strongly negative impact."

May 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


"The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low..."

So they won't be publishing any *other* review papers any time soon?

As for insisting on the Bengtsson et al. offering reasons for the wide divergence in previous estimates of climate sensitivity - frankly I'd accept 'the authors are guessing and actually have no valid reason for any of these baseless assumptions'.

And the referees caps his/her drivel by claiming that does not clarify anything but puts up the (false) claim of some big inconsistency, where no consistency was to be expected in the first place.

A 'false' claim of big inconsistencies when we actually shouldn't have consistency in the first place? So how is this ever a false claim? Frankly this referee is the one whose output needs rejecting. Cognitive dissonance in print.

May 16, 2014 at 1:25 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

This comment from Prof Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial

“The outcome in this case is probably a reflection of the ‘us and them’ that has permeated the climate science debate for decades and which is in part an outcome of – and reaction to – external pressure on the climate community.

You see, it is all about external pressures.

May 16, 2014 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

I think Bengtsson would have been stronger placed chucking this hand grenade from inside the GWPF...

I think the heat he is about to feel is way beyond what he has felt over the last couple of weeks.

There are motives and facts that we can't even guess at bubbling under lid...

May 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterclovis marcus

The referees report looks to me like it was just one person that reviewed the paper, which seems a bit odd, especially in a subject area with no end of experts. I think we need to see the paper, to see if the referee was adequately covering all of it, rather than just taking a dislike to part of it.

May 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

I believe the American phrase is 'plausible deniability'. If the person in charge hasn't seen the facts they can't be accused of lying about them. Supply back up of a slick mouthpiece and they're good to go to the media.

On a brighter note. The Times headline was read out on the Wright Stuff and I think I detect substantial doubt creeping in. Unfortunately the elections and real manmade disasters are swamping the news so I fear this will sink beneath the radar quite quickly.

May 16, 2014 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Review reports are confidential for the authors' sake, so Bengtsson is free to publish them.
May 16, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Yes, of course. I had in mind that the journal could not publish them off its own bat.

I was surprised that the journal is reported as saying that the rejected paper had errors, rather than simply saying "we can't discuss confidential matters".

May 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Re the SMC 'expert' comments - I guess Bob Ward with his failed PHD would know all about rejected papers.

May 16, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBceeb

I hadn't realised that Haigh was in the pay of the Grantham Institute. That explains a lot.

May 16, 2014 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat


I suspect you give Ward too much credit. To have tried and been rejected is far preferable than to have quit spinelessly.

I'm only guessing though.

May 16, 2014 at 1:55 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

an aside: Peter Gleick is still on the Editorial Board of ERL after what he did with false representation to steal confidential documents, forging a document, etc. So such kinds of extreme unethical (and illegal) actions cannot diminish one's standing among climate scientists. Gleick's unethical behavior is the type of activity which should get someone removed from such a trusted and honored position in leadership of a journal.

Yet, Dr. Bengsston, who by all accounts is an exemplary and ethical scientist, is the one facing widespread opprobrium merely for joining an "academic advisory" council.

The climate science "community" is truly sick and depraved in its double-standard standards.

May 16, 2014 at 2:16 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I think a huge part of what is going on with the IPCC and all these models is the same intentions of getting theories into practice as social science, not physical science. There is also a name for it-action research. Acknowledging that though is a declaration of the real game afoot. It's why real scientists are not legitimately to align with skeptics. It impedes the Convergence "Facilitating the Transdiciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond" as the US NRC report announced this week.

If you read the actual report the Beyond includes the humanities, education as the primary means and the social sciences such as psychology and sociology. Believe it or not, it also relates to this UK education research report that just came out in the UK.

You have to go to the Appendix to get the euphemism "enquiry-based research" translated as the better known "action research" that tracks back to John Dewey, the Frankfurt School, Chris Argyris, and Donald Schon, but the ties are there. In the name of School Improvement the UK is about to get schools devoted to changing what students believe, value, feel, and how they behave the whole point.

That kind of emphasis, which is also going on in US that I monitor, will quickly make the whole discussion of science reality of facts a moot point. Reality gets adjusted via education to be constructed from contrived perceptions. Physical reality is to never even make it on the perceptual radar.

Bengsston is in the way of the designing a society via education and digital data revolution that is also in earnest in both the UK and the US. Unfortunately.

Related to all this, but insufficiently perceived as the coordinated effort it is among government officials, NGOs, universities, and Big Business that just loves public/private cronyistic economies.

May 16, 2014 at 2:33 PM | Registered Commenteresquirerobin


I read that review as well and agree. For example, the reviewer quotes Cowtan as a reference and as if that analysis was fact! I said this before on a discussion page: if you present theory as truth you also must add your caveats (assumptions). Often this invalidates the use of theory as truth. Much like the Cowtan paper which is basically if we invent data and then infill the result it gives must be correct.

Reading that review it seems they need an education in the scientific method.

Plus I've actually been involved in some IOP careers stuff - I was one of the featured people in a space careers event a few years back - and was a member some time ago. In fact it was bandied about that I could be on the IOP board as a representative of the field where science, engineering and industry collide.

Wish I had have taken it now.

May 16, 2014 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

The so-called Science Media Center cannot be about science or ethics as long as Peter Gleick has any role, public or private, in the decision making of the organization.
That they have kept Peter Gleick on their board makes it abundantly clear they are anti-science and unethical in everything they say or do.

May 16, 2014 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

What else should one expect, if Stefan Rahmstorf is member of the editorial board. He is a fellow of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), an IPCC lead author and one of Germany’s most influential climate scientists, well-known as ultra-alarmist, who acts as sort of a gatekeeper and watchdog when it comes to guarding the global warming hypothesis. Journalists and scientists who express doubt over man-made climate change or criticism over the science and the IPCC often found themselves attacked by the Potsdam professor via the press or his Internet blog. This happened to German science journalist Irene Meichsner, when she published an critical article about
the IPCC and some errors and false assumptions in its Fourt Assessment Report in the German Newspaper
Frankfurter Rundschau. He asserted at his blog that the journalist had been dishonest, sloppy, had never read the IPCC report, and that she even lifted text from another source. Meichsner took the case to court and won. As if that were not enough, Rahmstorf didn't shy away from urging the editors to distance themselves from Meichsers critical piece two months after they had published it. See here for the full story
It is hard to imagine that he would allow approval to an article which disagrees with his ultra-alarmistic view.

May 16, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterKarloskar

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