Pal Review in Climate Science
To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal [partial published 11/19/11]
by Charles Battig, MD
The WSJ August 10, 2011 “Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge” provides a sobering look behind the scenes of contemporary medical research. Practicing physicians look to peer-reviewed articles appearing in renowned scientific journals such as Lancet to guide them in the latest, best-practice medical therapies. Patients are entitled to trust the judgments of their physicians; physicians are entitled to trust published clinical data. When “getting published” becomes an end in itself, the integrity of the scientific process risks being compromised, as this article so clearly documents. Lancet editor Richard Horton’s quote “the apparent rise in scientific fraud is a scar on the moral body of science” is recognition of the results of such corrupting influences.
The accompanying chart “Spurious Science” lists ten fields of science. Notably absent is a category for “Climate Science.” The examples of scientific misconduct mentioned in this article are mirrored in the revelations of the 2009 “climategate” scandal. Trusted scientific journals were shown to be actively suppressing scientific papers not in accord with the views of a small cabal of think-alike editors. Trusted scientific societies were shown to be mouthpieces for their leadership, and espousing positions not reflecting the wider views of their members. Manmade climate change related to fossil fuel usage was the official leadership view. Peer review became known as “pal review.” Academic success and grant funding came to those claiming to establish this link; little funding and derision was the fate of those wishing to explore alternate hypotheses.
One example of this process continues to play out in the case of Professor Michael Mann and his disputed “hockey stick” portrayal of global temperature, and elimination of the “Medieval Warm Period.” For ill-defined reasons, the University of Virginia has actively fought producing the documents generated by Mann while employed there. Over $350,000 has been spent by the university on legal maneuvers and on fighting numerous FOIA requests. After many months of legal stonewalling, the University began to produce some of the documentation this past May. The climate scientific community awaits the results of these revelations to see if this is an instance of “scientific misconduct.”