Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 22, 2010

IF CLIMATE DENIERS WANT TO TALK ABOUT SCHOLARLY INTEGRITY.... For all the conservative hysterics targeting evidence of global warming, this seems like a fairly significant, ignominious development.

An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.

Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases.

Skip Garner, a plagiarism expert at Virginia Tech, told USA Today, "It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others' integrity when you don't conform to the basic rules of scholarship."

Yep, it kind of does.

The whole point of the original report, called the Wegman report for George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, was to cast doubt on the quality of the scholarship used by climate scientists. It was quite effective -- Republicans and other deniers seized on the findings in 2006 to attack scientists and raise public doubts about the climate crisis.

But a closer analysis of the Wegman report found that 35 of the report's 91 pages "are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning."

When USA Today showed the findings to other plagiarism experts characterized the evidence of wrongdoing as "fairly obvious" and "fairly shocking."

The Wegman report was requested by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Congress' most ardent pro-pollution member, who relied on the document to go after climate scientists publicly.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Republicans will not hold additional hearings on the quality of the Wegman report's scholarship. Call it a hunch.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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No, they'll just conveniently ignore this and make up some MORE crap.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, Republicans decry the use of Celsius thermometers in Climate Change Study, citing a "European Bias."

Also slammed was the rampant use of millimeters, instead of "good old American inches."

Posted by: DAY on November 22, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

This report came out in 2006 and we are hearing about the plagiarism now? A little late in the game don't you think?

Posted by: Flash on November 22, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I second the comment by Flash. After all, polls showed that the most significant drop in the public's support for climate change legislation occurred in 2007.

Where the hell were the people fighting against the Wegman Report when it came out? That no-one apparently did their due diligence against the opposition is telling in the extreme.

Kudos to USA Today for this huge game-changer.

Posted by: Kiweagle on November 22, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going out a limb and guessing that Democrats won't be holding any hearings either.

Rather than constantly whining about how the "media" never repeats the democrats' message, sone dems would be wise to note the many missed opportunities to attack denialists.

Posted by: Square1 on November 22, 2010 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

USA Today is actually fairly late to the party on this one. See e.g., deepclimate.org.

Posted by: Mike Lamb on November 22, 2010 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody should tell the GOP that Fahrenheit was a German.

Republicans are only concerned about these kinds of things when their political targets are accused. When it's their hitmen doing it, it's just so much water under the bridge, old history.

Posted by: Raimo Kangasniemi on November 22, 2010 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

There's much more to this. Wegman's confirmation of McIntyre and McKitrick was bogus. Their replication was running the same code. Not independent at all.

All of this was uncovered by blogger DeepClimate and John Mashey, who both have done the heavy lifting. Good for Vergano for picking this story up.


Posted by: Deech56 on November 22, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

There were numerous criticisms by the real science community of the Wegman Report when it came out and in the months after. They mostly addressed the bad science and statistics. Nobody would think to look for plagiarism in a report for Congress, that's just too crazy.

Experts don't look very hard at basic introductory material that seems to have the right terms, they go on to the supposedly-new findings. [I've run technical Program Committees, and this is quite typical, I am afraid.] The only people who read the intro material carefully are those who would never realize its sourcing or that the Bradley tree-rings discussion was heavily distorted, not just plagiarized.

DeepClimate originally found the Wegman->Rapp plagiarism, and only after that found that the WR had come from Bradley. I takes a lot of work to *find* a source like that, and DC spent a lot of time finding the sources for 10 pages of plagiarism (WR pp.13-22). The 25 pages I found in the Summaries were much easier, because it was obvious where to look.

Posted by: John Mashey on November 23, 2010 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Serious money's on the fact of the report's plagiarism will probably NOT be reported by the news media. The MSM has become a constantly regurgitating machine which only presents the day's news. There is no follow-up, no context, no education.

Posted by: Darsan54 on November 23, 2010 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sending an e-mail to the Virginia Democratic party. We need to alert our intrepid state AG to this. GMU is a Virginis state university.

Posted by: John Dillinger on November 23, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK



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