Category Archives: Scientists hit back

Keeping the climate catastrophe message on track: a friendly warning from a colleague

Given the issues raised by the Nature Communications blacklist fiasco last week, I thought it might be useful to show readers who don’t work in science an example of the kind of not-so-subtle dissuasion that can be used by scientists-with-a-climate-message to keep their colleagues in line.

Sea_ice_near_coast_of_Labrador_-b_wikimedia_sm_26 March 2007

A male colleague I know from work in another field of biology recently sent me a cordial email that I’m sure he thought was simply helpful advice to a like-minded associate. I doubt he realized how outrageously patronizing and presumptuous he was being.

If I were a female scientist with less confidence and experience, a note like this might have intimidated me into silence. The fact that he thought it was an appropriate thing to do is one of the reasons we have such a problem in science right now. See what you think:

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Blacklist by Nature follows defamation by BioScience: journals reject ethics of science

Along with hundreds of other people – 385 to be exact – I have been blacklisted [#181] by the science journal Nature Communications in a recently-published abysmal paper by three authors from University of California Merced, after I and a number of others were publicly defamed by a squadron of authors in a similarly-stupid paper less than two years ago in the general interest journal BioScience. This obsession that scientists-with-a-message have about silencing peers with other viewpoints (rather than constructing and communicating a winning argument themselves) is vile and utterly counter to what real science is about. Not surprisingly, they positively fawn over media stars like Al Gore and Greta Thunberg who have no science background but willingly repeat the accepted message of climate-change-doom.

Stupidest paper ever final

Now we have two stupid papers that purport to uphold the sanctity of one particular view of climate change: the Harvey et al. “absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published” (Curry 2017) – which we all truly thought could not be matched – and now the Petersen et al. “worst paper published in a reputable journal” (Curry, 2019).

Judith Curry: “Apart from the rank stupidity of this article and the irresponsibility of Nature in publishing this, this paper does substantial harm to climate science.

Jo Nova: “Skeptics get banned, rejected, blocked and sacked from the mainstream media yet somehow Nature has a paper on Skeptics getting too much media. Believers don’t have to be an expert to control the news agenda, just a Greenpeace activist, or a teenage girl. Skeptics on the other hand, can be Nobel Prize winners, but the BBC won’t even phone them.”

UPDATE 18 Aug. 2019: Additional commentary on this new paper (new or previously overlooked in my initial story); do cruise the comments, some additional gems of analysis there:

Visibility and Invisibility (15 Aug 2019)

A thin bench (15 Aug 2019)

Nature Defamation (16 Aug 2019)

The Nature Communications hate list – a fast-moving story (17 Aug 2019)

Inside The Sausage Factory 18 Aug 2019

ADDED 20 Aug 2019: See this scathing letter to the Editor of Nature Communications by President of the National Association of Scholars, Peter Wood. (15 Aug 2019). In part, he states:

“Nature Communications has published an article which forwards the technology of censorship in pursuit of political activism, but which does not even pretend to forward scientific knowledge.”
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Harvey et al. paper becomes the poster child of the reproducibility crisis in science

Josh’s ‘stupidest paper ever’ cartoon is 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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