"Blog-review": Journal editor resigns because of "internet discussions"

Where's the process?

Is this a new low? The death of scientific integrity and the scientific process, happening right before our eyes. A journal editor resigns because he dared to publish a sceptical paper (Spencer & Braswell 2011 – see here), which challenged the “consensus”. Why did he resign? Because internet discussion sites said the paper should not have been published. His resignation statement is astonishing:

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 [1] 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.

“Various internet discussion fora”? Is this guy for real? So a few trolls on warmist sites, such as RealClimate and Climate Progress, convinced the editor of a peer-review journal to step down because he published a paper which challenged the consensus? “I agree with the critics of the paper”? Is that how peer review works? Editor of journal decides that the trolls are right and that’s that? No, if there were problems with the paper, they should be refuted by further peer-reviewed papers, not by the whim of one editor who chooses to fall on his sword to make a point.

And this:

In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal. (source – PDF)

As Roy Spencer points out in his response to this bizarre sequence of events:

But the paper WAS precisely addressing the scientific arguments made by our opponents, and showing why they are wrong! That was the paper’s starting point! We dealt with specifics, numbers, calculations…while our critics only use generalities and talking points. There is no contest, as far as I can see, in this debate. If you have some physics or radiative transfer background, read the evidence we present, the paper we were responding to, and decide for yourself.

If some scientists would like do demonstrate in their own peer-reviewed paper where *anything* we wrote was incorrect, they should submit a paper for publication. Instead, it appears the IPCC gatekeepers have once again put pressure on a journal for daring to publish anything that might hurt the IPCC’s politically immovable position that climate change is almost entirely human-caused. I can see no other explanation for an editor resigning in such a situation. (source)

I would like to see more evidence for the link to the IPCC that Spencer claims, although it is well known that there are “gatekeepers” at the main climate journals to make sure that anything that challenges the consensus is filtered out – clearly the system failed here. But this shows the extent of the corruption of the peer-review process, that an editor resigns (possibly under some external pressure to do so) rather than following the proper procedure for challenging or rebutting a scientific paper.

At this point it’s Warmists 1, Sceptics 0. Another sad day for the integrity of science.

UPDATE: Roger Pielke Sr responds to the story here  (with links to crowing articles at the BBC and Guardian), but makes the same point as above:

“The place to refute a published paper is in peer-reviewed papers, not in blogs (or the media). If the paper is not robust, it appropriately should be responded to by paper, not by the resignation of the Editor. In my view, he made a poor decision which has further damaged the scientific process of vetting new research results.”


  1. Dexter Berger via Facebook says:
  2. A quite amazing development that further politicizes science, just watch the ABC and The Con go gaga.

    Roger Pielke Snr states:

    I have read the Spencer and Braswell paper in detail, and while I agree that some of the media exposure has been exaggerated and misplaced, the science in their paper appears robust. I certainly can be wrong, but I do not see a fatal flaw in what they did (i.e. an error such that the paper should have been rejected).

    The place to refute a published paper is in peer-reviewed papers, not in blogs (or the media). If the paper is not robust, it appropriately should be responded to by paper, not by the resignation of the Editor. In my view, he made a poor decision which has further damaged the scientific process of vetting new research results.


  3. Will we also now see Nature editors resign over Steig et al’s flawed paper on Antarctic temps?

  4. I am not doubting your claim, but where is the evidence that this was the result of pressure from RealClimate? If this is true, them this is a scandal almost at the level of climategate.

    I believe you, but to repost on this it would be nice to read some links. I am not as au fait with the inside gossip as maybe I should be.

  5. Ryan Clark via Facebook says:

    cant wait to pay my tax so I can breath

    • Respiration contributes no net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, because it ultimately comes from ingestion of plants (who take-up carbon) or animals who eat plants.

      In any case, humans exhale only about 0.9 kg/day CO2; Americans emit about 50 times that from burning fossil fuels. The latter is carbon that has been sequestered for tens of millions of years.

  6. Another sad day for the integrity of science.

    Indeed so, but it’s surely another sign of desperation by the climate establishment damned by Brendan O’Neill in to-day’s The Weekend Australian. His is an outstanding opinion piece. More and more I like this Marxist firebrand.

    HAS any intellectual current ever been so disparaged and demonised, so ferociously harangued by the chattering classes, as climate-change scepticism?

    Every slur in the book has been hurled at those who dare to question climate-change orthodoxies.

    So there you have it: questioning climate change is the moral equivalent of being racist. Doubting the science of climate change or its many political spin-offs, from the idea that man should live more meekly to the demand for an end to development, is akin to hating a group of people on the basis of their skin colour.

    And therefore it is incumbent on greens not to engage these science-denying, Klan-like toe-rags in actual debate but simply to say to them: “Don’t talk that way around me.”

    O’Neill refers also to the criminalisation of sceptics.

    As Margo Kingston argued following Irving’s arrest in Austria on charges of Holocaust denial: “Perhaps there is a case for making climate-change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.”

    The idea that climate scepticism is not only immoral but potentially criminal is gaining ground. British green Mark Lynas has fantasised about “future international criminal courts” handing down sentences to “those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths”; that is, climate-change sceptics. “I put [their words] in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial.”

    Here, sceptics have been subjected to similar mindless insults. Take, for example, Nick Champion’s rant Climate changes sceptics a threat to national security.

    Surely such feral behaviour is the desperate sign of a dying breed of which the shameless episode at Remote Sensing is yet another example.

  7. New scientific process: “blog-review”. Editor of journal makes decisions on papers based on what’s said in internet discussion sites… a new low for scientific integrity?

  8. Bob in Castlemaine says:

    One more step in the implementation of IPCC demigod, Rajendra Pachauri’s voodoo science. The peer review system, as applicable to consensus non-compliant findings, has been extended to include bonafide, alarmist, journalists.

  9. Little wonder all publications are pro “the science is in “

  10. Sure wish this article was “Shareable”.

  11. @James, sorry about that… Anyone know why the “share” link is missing??

  12. The Loaded Dog says:

    He resigned huh? Good riddance.

    Gillard should do the same…

  13. Don’t contrarians (including Roy Spencer) frequently take to the Internets to express their doubts about scientific papers, instead of publishing peer-reviewed rebuttals in the literature?

    Aren’t we now living in a new era? Are we supposed to wait for months and years to know the truth about scientific findings when the greatest communication network ever invented is at our fingertips?

  14. papertiger says:

    Aside from ignoring all the other observational data sets (such as the rapidly shrinking sea ice extent and changes in the flora and fauna) and contrasting theoretical studies, such a simple conclusion simply cannot be drawn considering the complexity of the involved models and satellite measurements.

    A couple things that are important to remember, shrinking sea ice extent and changes in flora and fauna aren’t evidence of the AGW theory. For that matter the sea ice isn’t shrinking at this particular time, rapidly or otherwise.[1]
    This guy is talking about Roy Spencer. The same guy who computes the UAH satellite-based world temperature. If there’s anybody in the world who isn’t cowed by the complexity of satellite measurements it’s Roy Spencer.
    I’m sure, without ever meeting either of these gentlemen, that if some thorny question about satellite measurements came up it would be Spencer schooling Wagner, rather than the other way.

    Another thing that caught my eye, and you probably noticed it too, according to Wagner three expert reviewers drawn out by random sample from the brackish pool of climate science all “probably share some climate sceptic notions”.

    What happened to 97% of scientists support the IPCC conclusions? You calculate the odds.

    All in all, this might be bad news for climate science integrity as Spencer suggests (personally I take this information as old news) , but it sure is good news for the rest of us. We who have to live in the regulator’s hell these charlatans would saddle us with.

    Reference (1): http://www.real-science.com/uncategorized/new-ice-starting-form

    • Arctic sea ice volume has been shrinking for decades, and the rate has been accelerating in recent years. See the PIOMAS web site for a startling graph.

      • papertiger says:

        Computer models are not evidence.
        Arctic sea Ice volume is an unknown, hence the PIOMOS computer model guesstimate which can be neither confirmed nor validated.
        The link I gave was to direct observation of a commodity that can be confirmed; ice extent.
        And even that is not evidence for the AGW theory.

        How repulsive and hateful does a person have to become to point at wish casting in order to condemn his fellow man.

  15. The corruption of science by IPCC continues.

    • There is still not the slightest shred of evidence that the “IPCC” was in any way involved in this editor’s resignation.

      Do you have any?

      • This point is dealt with in the main article.

        • I don’t see anything in the post that qualifies for blaming this on the “IPCC.” Read the editor’s resignation letter. He writes:

          “After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper.”

          He was alerted by Internet discussions (and no doubt some personal emails), and then he studied the situation for himself. And found that he agreed.

        • It’s so funny that a warmist (who writes an hysterical warmist blog) cannot bring himself to admit that this conduct is unscientific and unacceptable, and instead tries to defend the indefensible with hilarious results.

  16. @tony the ipcc is political, not at all about science…

  17. I don’t often comment but your readers are the cream of the crop when it comes to understanding the underhanded methods employed by the warmist. Science truth and real facts will always bubble to the top of the scum pond, no matter how they spin it, history will judge these climate crooks harshly!

  18. It seems that there is now an unwritten rule that there will be zero tolerance by most science journal editors for any article that dares to question any aspect of the AGW theory. How hard it must be for any scientist who has some doubts to exspress them publcally or even privately. I guess it is not surprising that people who align themselves with General Al Gore should equate expressing climate change skepticism as the same as expressing racist views and therfore should be banned.

    • Hardly — the editor’s resignation letter makes clear that the problem wasn’t the paper’s conclusions, but its methodological flaws.

      • So? The proper procedure is to submit a paper rebutting it – not for the editor to meekly resign.

        • Rebuttals are for other scientists to make. The editor is taking responsibility for what he clearly sees as his personal failing of allowing a seriously flawed article to be published in his journal. He’s making the most powerful statement he can; clearly he cares about the journal’s reputation and well-being.

          PS: A rebuttal by Andrew Dressler is said to be coming out in GRL very soon.

        • See my previous comment.

        • Since when do methodological flaws equal seriously flawed articles?
          I always see papers with methodological flaws, which are then later addressed in subsequent papers.
          Steig et al for example. Serious methodological flaws addressed in O’Donnel et al. Perhaps the editor of Nature, Philip Campbell should resign?

          Is there a statute of limitation on green lighting bad papers?

  19. Firstly, the IPCC “conclusions” were all based (as the IPCC and the University of East Anglia have admitted) on a “whay if” and “how much money can we rake in from those who will support us ?”.
    Then, considering the pressure on so may “sceptics” to shut up and stop writing on the subject, it becomes clearer all the time that the AGW believers are as determined as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to impose their views on all of us – and they will doubtless (if they gain sufficient power) adopt the same policies and means of “instructing” us as did those two.

  20. peaceandlonglife says:
  21. peaceandlonglife says:

    The article ‘Majority report: why the consensus is all the rage’ by Michael Bachelard with Deborah Gough (The Age, Sep 11, 2011) addresses a question posed by a blogger from the Australian Climate Madness website.
    The question had two parts:
    A scientific part related to the uncertainties of climate prediction and of ‘a number of key natural climate drivers and feedbacks’.
    And a non-scientific question about biased reporting by Fairfax.

    A treatment of the scientific issue has been posted here:

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