Category Archives: Scientists hit back

Harvey et al. paper becomes the poster child of the reproducibility crisis in science

You can now own an awesome mouse pad featuring Josh’s ‘stupidest paper ever’ cartoon, as a reminder of the depths to which some people will descend to silence the voices of rational scientific debate just as the authors of the 2018 Harvey et al. BioScience paper qualifies it for the honour of poster child of the reproducibility crisis in science.

Poster Child of the reproducibilty crisis in science

By insisting — repeatedly and as recently as this month — that the information they released as supplementary data (find it here) was all that was used to construct the two figures in the paper (see Rajan and Tol 2018), the authors tacitly admit:

1) the data used to construct the figures were not derived from the methods they said they used

2) the work is not replicable

In other words, it is not science. That surely qualifies the Harvey et al. (2018) paper for the honour of poster child of the reproducibility crisis in science, discussed here and here (Baker 2016; Nosek et al. 2015). It’s an example the public will readily grasp, since the data said to have been used are easily accessible (and understood) by anyone who uses the Internet.

Below is the letter outlining the data release issue sent more than a week ago (18 May 2018) by Dr. Richard Tol, University of Sussex, to the president of the university highest academic authority in the Netherlands, where Jeff Harvey, lead author of the Harvey et al. 2018 BioScience paper, is employed as an academic [h/t R. Tol for the correction]. While Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [KNAW] in Amsterdam has a clearly stated data sharing policy, it is clearly not being upheld for the Harvey et al. paper — which nullifies the point of having a policy at all.

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Polar bear specialist Mitch Taylor on accountability in polar bear science

Polar bear specialist Mitch Taylor emailed me and others his response to the New York Times article that appeared Tuesday (10 April) about the Harvey et al. (2018) BioScience paper attacking my scientific integrity. Here it is in full, with his permission, and my comments. Don’t miss the footnote!

Mother with cubs Russia_shutterstock_71694292_web size

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Steve Amstrup is lying to the media about my critique of his 2007 model

Until now, my scientific paper post at PeerJ Preprints for review, about the failure of Steve Amstrup’s 2007 USGS polar bear survival model (Crockford 2017), has been formally ignored by Amstrup and his colleagues. But now Amstrup and his colleagues have taken to lying to the media about my analysis because he can’t refute it in a scholarly manner.

Mother with cubs Russia_shutterstock_71694292_web size

Amstrup was quoted by Erica Goode in her New York Times article on the Harvey et al. (2018) BioScience attack paper published Tuesday (10 April 2018: “Climate Change Denialists Say Polar Bears Are Fine. Scientists Are Pushing Back”):

“Dr. Amstrup, however, said that according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the average September sea ice extent for the years 2007 to 2017 was 4.5 million square kilometers, “nowhere near the low levels projected it would be by the middle of the century.”

“To say that we already should have seen those declines now when we’re not early [sic] to the middle of the century yet is absurd,” he said.” [my bold]

And over at the online outlet Mashable (11 April 2018: “Climate scientists fight false polar bear narrative pushed by bloggers”), reporter Mark Kaufman quoted Jeff Harvey, lead author of the BioScience paper on the issue, although Harvey is hardly an authority:

“(Harvey noted Crockford misunderstood and then mischaracterized this prediction).”

Amstrup also presented a lame critique of the portion of my Financial Post 27 February 2018 op-ed that dealt with his 2007 predictions, published 2 March 2018 by Climate Feedback (self-proclaimed “fact checkers”), that is easily refuted because it’s a blatant lie. He’s saying 2015 sea ice models are relevant to his 2007 predictions that used 2005/2006 sea ice models.

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Correction notice for Harvey et al. BioScience paper retracted due to error

You just have to laugh: the promised miniscule changes were finally made to the embarrassing Harvey et al. 2018 BioScience paper last week but today were retracted.

Retraction Watch headline 3 April 2018

The corrigendum was erroneously published 28 March 2018 at the journal Neurosurgery. And that blunder attracted the attention of the folks at Retraction Watch.

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An embarrassment to science: BioScience editor formally rejects retraction request

After four long months of waiting, late last week I finally received an official  response from the editor of BioScience regarding my retraction request for the Harvey et al. paper (Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy), which I sent 5 December 2017.

Crockford 2017_Slide 12 screencap

From the sounds of it, the wait took so long because the paper went through a tedious process of parsing words just so among the 14 co-authors (akin to that used by the IPCC in constructing the Summary for Policy Makers), to convey the authors meaning and retain as much of the original insult as possible. In reality, we know the decision was made barely two weeks after I sent the request (16 December 2017) because that day, BioScience editor Scott Collins told a reporter he had no intention of retracting the paper.

In the end, the authors were compelled to make two small word changes. The editor insists that:

“…prior to publication, the article was peer reviewed by highly reputable scholars with expertise on the topic as per our standard procedures.”

So he says.

But all we can do is judge by the results the reviewers approved: a paper with two prominent spelling errors (“principle” component analysis; “Refereces” cited) as well as several serious errors in the supplemental material that were brought to the editors attention (which does not even break the surface of the statistical errors described in detail by others or the additional errors found after my retraction request was filed, including a case of plagiarism of my blog content by a so-called “science” blog used in the paper).

Harvey et al. hardly needed much analysis for savvy folks to judge its quality: on the day of release, climate scientist Judith Curry’s scathing remark on twitter said it all:

“This is absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published.”

Among the co-authors of the paper are polar bear specialists Steven Amstrup and Ian Stirling, as well as Stephen Lewandosky and Michael Mann (who now writes for children, competing with my popular polar bear science book for kids):

The online version available today (26 March) did not contain the changes described by the editor in his 23 March 2018 email nor were the spelling errors fixed (pdf here). Errors in the supplementary data file remain (here), although these were identified months ago.

The entire fiasco, start to finish, is an embarrassment to science but apparently, the editor does not care. As I’ve said before, this paper says more about the editor of the journal, the journal’s publishers, and the authors of the paper than it does about me or any of the bloggers discussed within it.

If published as is by the journal, it will go down in history as a low point for science and BioScience will have the dubious honor of being complicit in its production, as will all 14 co-authors. I encourage you to read the paper and see for yourself.

The same morning I received the response from the BioScience editor (text below), Dr. Richard Tol received a rejection notice for the critique of the Harvey et al. paper he and co-author Anand Rajan submitted 25 January 2018 (“LIPSTICK ON A BEAR: A COMMENT ON INTERNET BLOGS, POLAR BEARS, AND CLIMATE-CHANGE DENIAL BY PROXY”), with two reasons given:

“First. author guidelines state that letters are limited to 500 words and must be considered to be constructive. Secondly, and more importantly, your letter has already been published verbatum on line and therefore does not merit re-publication in BioScience.” [my bold]

Odd timing and a bit ironic, isn’t it? Preprint server publication is damned as ‘prior publication’ even though it is dismissed out of hand by vocal champions of scientific virtue because it hasn’t been through a journal-orchestrated review process (as opposed to simply being reviewed by peers).

Such a “dismissal” has occurred with my paper that shows how and why Amsturp and colleagues 2007 polar bear predictions failed so miserably (Crockford 2017), now downloaded more than 2300 times (see a shorter summary in Crockford and Geist 2018, and here). This is the paper Amstrup and Stirling don’t want the public to read.

I’ll let readers decide for themselves if they agree with Collins on whether the changes agreed to by all parties to this sham of a paper come anywhere close to addressing the insult to science and dedicated scientists everywhere.

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Amstrup & colleages can’t refute my critique of their 2007 polar bear survival model, Part 1

It’s been more than a year since I first published my scientific manuscript at PeerJ Preprints (a legitimate scientific forum) on the failure of Amstrup’s 2007 USGS polar bear survival model (Crockford 2017), a year waiting in vain for the polar bear community to comment. They either couldn’t be bothered or knew they couldn’t refute it – I haven’t known for sure which. But I do now.

Beaufort Sea male polar bear USGS_2005 Amstrup photo

Polar bear specialists didn’t comment because they couldn’t refute it in the scholarly manner required by PeerJ: all they could do is tear it down with derision, misdirection and strawman arguments.

I know this because the damage control team for the polar-bears-are-all-going-to-die-unless-we-stop-using-fossil-fuels message wasn’t activated over my fully-referenced State of the Polar Bear Report for 2017 (Crockford 2018) released on International Polar Bear Day last month, but for a widely-read opinion piece I’d written for the Financial Post published the same day (based on the Report) that generated three follow-up radio interviews.

By choosing to respond to my op-ed rather than the Report or my 2017 paper, biologists Andrew Derocher and Steven Amstrup, on behalf of their polar bear specialist colleagues1, display a perverse desire to control the public narrative rather than ensure sound science prevails. Their scientifically weak “analysis” of my op-ed (2 March 2018), published by Climate Feedback (self-proclaimed “fact checkers”), attempts damage control for their message and makes attacks on my integrity. However, a scientific refutation of the premise of my 2017 paper, or The State of the Polar Bear Report 2017, it is not (Crockford 2017, 2018).

Derocher further embarrasses himself by repeating the ridiculous claim that global polar bear population estimates were never meant for scientific use, then reiterates the message with added emphasis on twitter:

Derocher tweet 2018 Feb 28 quote

Just as the badly written Harvey et al. (2017) Bioscience paper said more about the naked desperation of the authors than it did about me or my fellow bloggers, this attempt by the polar bear community’s loudest bulldogs to discredit me and my work reveals their frustration at being unable to refute my scientifically supported conclusion that Amstrup’s 2007 polar bear survival model has failed miserably (Crockford 2017).

Part 1 of my detailed, fully referenced responses to their “analysis” of my op-ed are below.  Part 2 to follow [here]. Continue reading

BioScience pushback update and plea for a virtual beer

Writing this blog takes a lot of time and effort but it gives me immense personal and professional satisfaction. I get emails from readers all over the world saying how much they appreciate what I do for science. The fact that my colleagues felt threatened enough to publish a malicious hit piece attacking my scientific credibility tells me I’m reaching a wide and influential audience that are convinced by the science I present.Crockford and Polar bear_0245 sm

My books are getting good reviews. I discount the few Harvey et al. supporters that showed up in the days after the BioScience paper appeared in late November to write some Harveyesque comments in the Amazon review section for my Polar Bear Facts & Myths kids’ science book. A thuggish stunt but predictable given the nasty tone of the paper.

I’m not worried, though: book sales over the last couple of months have been very good, even though my university didn’t issue a press release to promote my kids book like Penn State did today for Harvey et al. co-author Michael Mann. I know that folks will head to Polar Bear Facts & Myths for a child-appropriate science book about polar bears, and to Mann’s Tantrum book if they want their kids to be petulant activists before they finish elementary school.

You might be interested to know I’ve decided not to take legal action against the Harvey cabal responsible for the defamatory BioScience paper.  I’m not backing down. I will definitely be pushing back (already started) but doing so will take time away from my paid work.

Beer clipart-3706-freeSo if you’d like to buy me a virtual beer to help defray costs, it would be much appreciated. I’ll keep you posted on progress.  My new donate button is upper right on the sidebar: “Support Polar Bear Science” — it takes credit cards or PayPal.