date: Fri, 16 May 2003 16:11:04 -0400
from: "Michael E. Mann" <mannatXYZxyzginia.edu>
subject: Re: Climate Research and adequate peer review
to: Mike Hulme <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
Did anything ever come of this?
Clare Goodness was in touch w/ me indicating that she had discussed the matter w/ Von
Storch, and that DeFrietas would be relieved of his position.
However, I haven't heard anything. A large segment of the community I've been in contact
with feels that this event has already done its damage, allowing Baliunas and colleagues to
attempt to impact U.S. governmental policy, w/ this new weapon in hand--the appearance of a
legitimate peer-reviewed document challenging some core assertions of IPCC to wave in
congress. They appear to be making some headway in using this to influence U.S. policy,
which makes our original discussions all the more pressing now.
In this context, it seems important that either Clare and Von Storch take imminent action
on this, or else actions of the sort you had mentioned below should perhaps be strongly
considered again. Non-action or slow action here could be extremely damaging.
I'll forward you some emails which will indicate the damage that the publication has
Thanks very much for all your help w/ this to date, and for anything additional you may be
able to do in this regard to move this forward.
At 06:47 PM 4/16/2003 +0100, you wrote:
Dear Co-Review Editor,
You may or may not have seen/read the article by Soon and Baliunas (from the Harvard
Smithsonian Astrophysics Lab) in the Jan 31 2003 issue of CR (vol.23,2). A variant of
this analysis has just been published in the journal Energy and Environment. The
authors/editor made a big media campaign to publicise this work, claiming it showed
clearly the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century and that the IPCC (and
other) analysis claiming the 20th century was the warmest in the last millennium was
plain wrong. In the UK, the Sunday Telegraph ran the story.
I have followed some email discussion about this amongst concerned paleoclimate experts
here at UEA, in the USA and in Oz and NZ and their is overwhelming consensus that the
Soon and Baliunas work is just crap science that should never be passed peer review (for
a flavour see Mike Mann, Phil Jones and Barrie Pittock below). These paleo-experts have
decided it is not worth a formal scientific response since the story has not run that
widely in the mass media (although is now used by sceptics of course to undermine good
science) and that the science is so poor it is not worth a reply.
The CR editor concerned is Chris de Freitas and I have followed over the years papers in
CR that he has been responsible for reviewing. [Wolfgang Cramer resigned from CR a few
years ago over a similar concern over the way de Freitas managed the peer review process
for a manuscript Wolfgang reviewd].
Whilst we do not know who reviewed the Soon/Baliunas manuscript, there is sufficient
evidence in my view to justify a "loss of confidence" in the peer review process
operated by the journal and hence a mass resignation of review editors may be
warranted. This is by no means a one-off - I could do the analysis of de Freitas's
manuscripts if needbe.
I am contacting the seven of you since I know you well and believe you may also have
similar concerns to me about the quality of climate change science and how that science
is communicated to the public. I would be interested in your views on this course of
action - which was suggested in the first place my me, once I knew the strength of
feeling amongst people like Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Mike Mann, Ray Bradley, Tom
Crowley, etc. CSIRO and Tyndall communication managers would then think that a mass
resignation would draw attention to the way such poor science gets into mainstream
Of course, we would need to be sure of our case and to argue on grounds of poor conduct
of peer review (I can forward a devastating critique of the Soon/Baliunas method from
Barrie Pittock if you wish) rather than on disagreeable content of one manuscript. CR
does of course publish some good science, but the journal is not doing anyone a service
by allowing crap science also to be published.
FROM MIKE MANN
Phil relayed this message to me--this echos discussions that others of us here have had
as well, and at Phil's request, I'm forwarding some of these (Phil seems to have deleted
them). I am encouraged at the prospect of some sort of action being taken.
The "Energy and Environment" piece is an ad hominem attack against the work of several
of us, and could be legally actionable, though I don't think its worth the effort. But
more problematic, in my mind, is the "Climate Research" piece which is a real challenge
to the integrity of the peer-review processes in our field.
I believe that a boycott against publishing, reviewing for, or even citing articles from
"Climate Research" is certainly warranted, but perhaps the minimum action that should be
taken. A paper published there last year by a University of Virginia "colleague" of mine
who shall remain nameless contained, to my amazement, an ad hominem attach against the
climate modeling community, and the offending statement never should have seen the light
of day (nor should have any of the several papers of his which have been published there
in recent years, based on quality and honesty standards alone).
A formal statement of "loss of confidence" in the journal seems like an excellent idea.
It may or may not be useful for me to be directly involved in this, given that I am a
primary object of attack by these folks. However, I'm happy to help in any way that I
can, and please keep me in the loop.
FROM PHIL JONES
There have been a number of emails on these two papers. They are bad. I'll be seeing
Hans von Storch next week and I'll be telling him in person what a disservice he's doing
to the science and the status of Climate Research.
I've already told Hans I want nothing more to do with the journal. Tom Crowley may be
writing something - find out also next week, but at the EGS last week Ray Bradley, Mike
Mann, Malcolm Hughes and others decided it would be best to do nothing. Papers
that respond to work like this never get cited - a point I'm trying to get across to
We all have better papers to write than waste our time responding to drivel like this.
FROM BARRIE PITTOCK
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I hope the co-editors of 'Climate
Research' can agree on some joint action. I know that Peter Whetton is one
who is concerned. Any action must of course be effective and also not give
the sceptics an excuse for making de Freitas appear as a martyr - the charge
should surely be not following scientific standards of review, rather than
publishing contrarian views as such. If a paper is contested by referees
that should at least be stated in any publication, and minimal standards of
statistical treatment, honesty and clarity should be insisted on. Bringing
the journal and publisher into disrepute may be one reasonable charge.
'Energy and Environment' is another journal with low standards for sceptics,
but if my recollection is correct this is implicit in their stated policy of
stirring different points of view - the real test for both journals may be
whether they are prepared to publish refutations, especially simultaneously
with the sceptics' papers so that readers are not deceived.
On that score you might consider whether it is possible to find who de
Freitas got to review various papers and how their comments were dealt with.
I heard second hand that Tom Wigley was very annoyed about a paper which
gave very low projections of future warmings (I forget which paper, but it
was in a recent issue) got through despite strong criticism from him as a
Professor Michael E. Mann
Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903
e-mail: mannatXYZxyzginia.edu Phone: (434) 924-7770 FAX: (434) 982-2137