Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tim Ball: Peer Review = Censorship

Overheard at the Climate Sceptics Cafe (some excerpts):
The peer review issue became fashionable among the small group identified by Wegman (43 climate scientists) because it appears they were able to control the process by peer reviewing each others work. This gave them ascendancy in climate science even though many of them were specialists in other areas.
The assumption that peer review guarantees the authenticity of a work is foolish. As long as who is doing the peer review is kept secret it cannot be a trusted system. The fact people are afraid to point out problems underlines the competitive and confrontational nature of research today. It also underscores the the smallness of the community involved and the potential for dominance by cliques.
As an aside, Wegman's critique can be found here:
In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus ‘independent studies’ may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface.

And to provide some perspective, Diana Crane wrote in her classic "Invisible Colleges" that, for example, workers in the sub-field of "finite groups" (circa the early to mid 1960s) totalled 102 mathematicians, with a much smaller group within the 102 producing most of the papers, and collaborating with others in the group in co-authoring numerous papers. In fact, by the criteria of that classic sociological study, the researcher interactions within climate science come off looking pretty normal.
But, back to Tim Ball:
I think we should all think long and hard about the problems McIntyre, Beck and others had getting published in 'mainstream' climate journals, whether we agree with what they say or not. It is why I commend what Sonja with E & E has done so much. A measure of the value is, sadly, in the criticisms her work and publication receive from those in the small groups.
As another aside, the problems McIntyre has getting published in mainstream climate journals stem largely, as many of his supporters are willing to admit, from his unwillingness to write something up from the miasma of graphs and charts on his blog and actually submit it.
I know the community of specialist areas and during early days in climate were small that if you received a paper for review you usually knew who had written it. The same was true of research applications. It was and is very easy to select those papers that push a certain theme. Of course, you also have what I call 'editor selected peer review censorship'. Once a clique has established dominance they tend to receive more papers for review. Even if an editor is not involved with a group and doesn't know the details of the subject it is logical to send an article to the 'high priests' of the subject. They, of course, then reject heresy.

Hard to say if Tim rejects peer review per se, as fellow Chris De Freitas seems to here but, once again, from a sociological perspective the structure of the climate science research groups seems more typical than atypical, so his arguments should apply generally if they apply here.

A weird sort of intellectual relativism at work in Mr. Ball's thinking, where the application of standards to incoming scientific work amounts to Oppression. Keep fighting The Man, Tim.


Anonymous said...

"Intellectual relativism"? I doubt it's more than a firm belief in the fundamental principle, 'B.S. baffles brains'.

Anonymous said...

The solution, of course, is to disseminate the rejected papers to the wider community on the internet. If the papers have genuine value, that will be visible. If they are unworthy of publication, their flaws will be pointed out by critics.

So, Dr. Ball, the ball is in your court. Put all your rejected papers on the internet so the world can see the quality of the research.

Anonymous said...

Over at Realclimate, they say something like this: peer-review is a minimum requirement, but usually not by itself enough to ensure the quality of a paper.

So Tim Ball wants the names of the peer reviewers? Well, it's hard to bribe or bully them if you don't know who they are.

Dan Johnson said...

What could Ball know of peer review? What journal editor would send him a manuscript? Reviews are meant to be done by experienced scientists, with demonstrated expertise. It would be pathetic if he imagined that doing a few reviews long ago qualified him to describe what it is. Current graduate student probably have more experience.

Dan Johnson said...

Re: the very astute point by anonymous academic.

Here is a clue as to how many rejected Ball manuscripts you might find...

In the House committee transcripts, first he says he never applied for NRC funding, "I have never asked", and seconds later he complains because they would not fund him, "...I hadn't got funding from NRC or SSHRC when I first applied".

In the first few pages, Ball argues strongly against the evidence that ozone destruction could be related to CFC pollution, etc. He is sharply questions by the chair and MP's on the committee, and asked if he has anything scientific to contribute.

His comments:

"I gave a two-hour presentation on global warming to graduate students and faculty at the University of Alberta. The very first question was 'Is it true you've been denied funding by the major funding agencies in Canada?' The answer is no, because I have never asked. The point of the question was to assail my credibility. If you are not funded by NRC and SSHRC, your research is considered valueless."


"In response to the question, as a historical climatologist – and I referred to the fact that I hadn't got funding from NRC or SSHRC when I first applied because I fall in between the cracks. As a climatologist, I'm classified as a scientist. When I go to NRC they say oh, no, history, that's SSHRC. You go to SSHRC and they say, oh, a historical climatologist. That's climate, that's science."

NRC: National Research Council, now NSERC

SSHRC: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

House of Commons, Issue No. 35, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Standing Committee on Environment Respecting: Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), consideration of the depletion of the ozone layer Third Session of the Thirty-fourth Parliament, 1991-92.


ian said...

No climate change from 2006 year to 2007.
Is it working?
China now starting up 2 coal plants a month.
Most EU countries along with Canada and the US had increased CO2 production
Why no climate change?
The sun expected to cool off in 2012 so you will be able claim success in a few years time

ian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bigcitylib said...

Dan, where did you find that material? I thought hansard only went back to the 35th Parliament.

Anonymous said...

NSERC and SSHRC fund 40% of proposed projects. The 60% of applicants who are unsuccessful all 'fall between the cracks', etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

McIntyre's troubles come mostly from not writing stuff up, secondarily from not writing stuff up carefully (following directions, writing clearly and on topic, labelling axes, making supported assertions and avoiding sideways swipes at opponents, etc.) He seems quite happy with being on the blog and does not put in the effort to get published. He defends this by saying that he doesn't care about his academic CV, but what he misses is that he is not contributing to science when he makes assertions that are not well documented, hypotheses that are not falsifiable, and so much confounds analysis with lower level rhetoric that it is just a pain in the ass to read.

Anonymous said...

Onto the hockey stick article you posted and the dishonesty involved,

see here:

Absolutely stunning how those who profess to be in the search for truth will do whatever it takes to have it avoided being revealed.

When you have to lie and censure you're probably not on solid ground. In fact, the opposite is the case.

Now, rather than judging what the post of climate audit actually contains, I suspect the usual ad homonym will be in order.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you may hate Kate at SDA, but the dishonesty at Real,
is now posted there for all (well, by far the largest internet population in the country) to see and disseminate.

They may be able to excluded dissenting voices from Bali, and from the IPCC report, but the "dissenters" are quickly becoming the mainstream. In fact they may have been the mainstream all along (see 400 scientists in the US senate report, whereas only 60 scientists were ultimately involved in the drafting of the IPCC report).

The problem with the overt dishonesty like that shown at real, is that is tends to turn the tiny cracks in the damn, into fully blown breaches. Once the water starts to break out, there's no stopping it.

Isn't the internet great!!!

Ti-Guy said...

I love how KKKate's minions have to go "anonymous" when commenting here.

What's up, Wingies? Afraid that the rest of us will gauge your credibility by referring to your body of published work on teh Internets?

Dan Johnson said...

"No climate change from 2006 year to 2007."

It helps to look at the graph below, and think about the definition of climate.

Anonymous said...

Tim Ball is one of Canada's premier meteorologists. He doesn't beleive in junk science and doesn't jump to conclusions like your self-described expert "Jay", that opinionated son-of-bitch. Science should be dispassionate. Proof that the Global warming fanatics are engaged in ideology, not science is their over-the-top demonizing of those, such as Tim Ball, who refuse to join their cult-like crusade.

Dan Johnson said...

Dear anonymous:

If you are going to parrot excuses of the deniers, you will be more convincing if you use the right terms. When you say you suspect that "the usual ad homonym will be in order", it seems like you are talking about an argument based not on facts, but on words with the same spelling but different meanings. But, you probably mean ad hominem, which is attacking the qualities of the speaker rather than his or her claim, which is usually a bad thing to do (unless the speaker was using inflated credentials and claims of extensive experience and authority as the basis of his argument).

Anonymous said...

Blair is a hack. Landsea, Christie, Lindzen are willing to publish papers at least. Zorita and Von Storch are willing to publish tests that go either way (supporting AGW or the reverse) they are interested in SCIENCE...not PR dick-suck games like all the liberal and conservative butt-pussies.

bigcitylib said...


You're always one of my favorites. You seem sub-dude, however. Are you just out of rehab?

EliRabett said...

Arxiv is always available

In passing Eli notes that even Ball does not claim to be a meteorologist so he probably is not one of Canada's leading meteorologists. For sure the guy is confused what time zone he is in

Anonymous said...

Dan won't answer this,

but here goes:

Dan, please explain how computer models can't predict the weather 20 days out, but supposedly can predict the collective weather/climate for the entire earth 100 years out, which necessarily involves infinitely more variables, with each variable creating an exponentially greater degree of unpredictability?


Anonymous said...

Follow up:

Dan, if the same computer model told you that, even though the sun rose and set each day previous, that tomorrow, the sun rising would be caused in part due to mankind,

would you believe it?

Anonymous said...

And what do you say about one of the world's greatest scientific minds noting the inherent untrustworthiness of computer models predicting something as complex as climate?

Anonymous said...

Just be glad I don't work for the post office

Dan Johnson said...

Dan won't answer this,

but here goes:

Dan, please explain how computer models can't predict the weather 20 days out, but ... not climate...

Because that is not how climate models work. This is page one and you can read that far yourself. In the same way, forecasters don't predict the price of oil by modelling each and every day and barrel in the coming year.

Dan Johnson said...

Follow up:

Dan, if the same computer model told you that, even though the sun rose and set each day previous, that tomorrow, the sun rising would be caused in part due to mankind,

would you believe it?

12:46 AM

Hey, this is easy. No.

There are skilled and tested computer models, and "less skilled". Man, do you ever have dumb computer models!

Anonymous said...

Do you people not realize that in the days of the Vikings that what is now Newfoundland had vineyards?

Man-made Global warming is a big hoax. And readers of this blog are dupes.

Anonymous said...

Newfoundland had vineyards? I guess andrew is thinking of the documentary showing happy Vikings singing merrily as they tromped grapes in vats and played that grand old winedrinking game, "Impale these grapes on my Viking helmet from 10 feet or I will perform the blood eagle on you." That's the documentary just after the one about harvesting spaghetti from trees.

Review said...

True. A lot of the anti-AGW "science" comes from TV and oft-told stories.

By the way, he was called respected, etc. Oh? To see how the best-known Canadian on the list is viewed by the public and the farming community (who obviously depend on weather), see

"On this winter's meeting circuit, let's hear some real science about global warming, not Tim Ball's "Don't worry; be happy" attitude toward a serious threat to the future of Prairie farming."

To see how newspapers, even in the Oil Patch, view him, see

What is left, after that??

To see how scientists view him, see

and best of all, the summaries such as

His own sad self-assessment:

And this is held up as one of the best on the list?