Sunday, July 20, 2008

Frightening the horses

Further to my last AGW post, and once more via The Englishman, it seems that there is a bit of a brouhaha brewing over at the American Physical Society.
Maybe because the skeptics overstated the "consensus has broken" line the American Physical Society alleged that Lord Monckton’s paper Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered was not peer reviewed when Monckton in fact thoroughly revised his paper in response to APS peer review.

The Editor of the Applied Physical Society’s Forum on Physics and Society launched a debate on global warming, inviting Lord Monckton to submit a paper for the opposition. After news that a major scientific organization was holding a debate on IPCC’s global warming, someone at the APS posted an indirect front page disclamation plus two very bold red disclamations in the Forum’s contents, and into the paper itself:


The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

Monckton immediately demanded retraction, accountability and an apology.
... This seems discourteous. I had been invited to submit the paper; I had submitted it; an eminent Professor of Physics had then scientifically reviewed it in meticulous detail; I had revised it at all points requested, and in the manner requested; the editors had accepted and published the reviewed and revised draft (some 3000 words longer than the original) and I had expended considerable labor, without having been offered or having requested any honorarium.

Please either remove the offending red-flag text at once or let me have the name and qualifications of the member of the Council or advisor to it who considered my paper before the Council ordered the offending text to be posted above my paper; a copy of this rapporteur’s findings and ratio decidendi; the date of the Council meeting at which the findings were presented; a copy of the minutes of the discussion; and a copy of the text of the Council’s decision, together with the names of those present at the meeting.

If the Council has not scientifically evaluated or formally considered my paper, may I ask with what credible scientific justification, and on whose authority, the offending text asserts primo, that the paper had not been scientifically reviewed when it had; secundo, that its conclusions disagree with what is said (on no evidence) to be the “overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community”; and, tertio, that “The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions”? Which of my conclusions does the Council disagree with, and on what scientific grounds (if any)?

Having regard to the circumstances, surely the Council owes me an apology?

Yours truly,


I think that tells them; and it shows how frightened the scientific community is of anyone who steps out of the consensus view.

Hattips Watts Up and Uncommon Descent

I apologise, my dear Englishman, for quoting your post at such length, but it is important to stress what pressures are brought to bear on those who refuse to toe the line of the most massive potential funding the scientific consensus.

Far be it from me to suggest that the APS is scared of losing any potential funding from the billions and billions of dollars that the US federal government pours into AGW research every year. I am sure that they have been entirely motivated by the science and nothing but the science.

Yeah, right...

P.S. Need I point out that this incident brings the whole peer-review system into disrepute? No, I don't need to: Watts Up With That has done it instead.


Jones said...

Having read the highlights of Lord Monckton's paper, no wonder someone panicked and put up the 'This has not been peer reviewed' notice.

It's pretty damning of the IPCC, dodgy computer models, the lot.

Pogo said...

As to "peer review"... I've said it before and I'll say it again - "In many cases, peer review is little different from allowing GCSE students to mark their friends' exam papers".

Anonymous said...

I have just used the APS's site search engine and I can't find any mention of Lord Monckton's paper on it.

Anonymous said...

Peer review has never been the objective and unbiased exercise that the reviewers would have us believe.

Submit the same paper to three different journals and you'll often enough get three completely different interpretations of the paper's worth based, first, on whether or not your paper contradicts work already done by the reviewer(s) and, second, on the ideological stance held by the reviewer(s).

I do think that we treat this kind of behaviour as part of the landscape of the humanities (and, indeed, as an integral part of the social sciences) while assuming incorrectly that the soi-disant "hard sciences" are completely above this sort of behaviour. As Monckton's experience shows, ideology has as much of a role in the sciences (as always has, cf. Lysenko) as in any other field of study.

I recently had a paper rejected with much derision by a review panel made up of the girlfriend of the person whose work I was contradicting and a junior colleague of the person I was contradicting. Another review panel, at a different journal, found that the paper was wholly worthy. Each review panel contradicted the other because one made its decisions largely on the paper's merits and other largely on whethet the paper would be good or bad for their friend's reputation. I wish that this was a unique occurrence but it's so common that it barely merits notice.

As an aside, I have long noted that British-authored articles submitted to American publications can often fall victim to the inverse snobbery of insecure American scholars and editors.

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