A thoroughly disreputable approach

Oh honestly. Bad scientists, no cookie.

The editor of a science journal has resigned after admitting that a recent paper
casting doubt on man-made climate change should not have been published.

The paper was outside the journal’s field.

Publishing in “off-topic” journals is generally frowned on in scientific
circles, partly because editors may lack the specialist knowledge and contacts
needed to run a thorough peer review process.

“The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted…, a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers.

“In other words, the problem I see with the paper… is not that it declared
a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public
media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its

“This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I
perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.”

Mr Ward described the tactic of publishing in off-topic journals as a
“classic tactic” of scientists dismissive of man-made climate change.

“Those who recognise that their ideas are weak but seek to get them into the
literature by finding weaknesses in the peer review system are taking a
thoroughly disreputable approach,” he said.

How tacky is that?! They ignored the scientific arguments of their opponents and they submitted the article to an off-topic journal. Tacky tacky tacky – and the editor is falling on his sword.

Note the caption under the conspicuous picture of one of the authors.

Dr Spencer is a committed Christian as well as a professional scientist.

Zap. For once the BBC connects the dots.


  1. chigau (™) says

    I hate it when They™ describe someone as a “scientist”.
    What is that supposed to mean?

  2. tuibguy says

    Why do journals even consider articles outside of their focus? Something else is happening there. Like maybe they want to get subscribers from global warming deniers? I have no clue and any conspiracy theory is welcome.

  3. says

    I’ll take a slightly different position.

    There ought to be an outlet for well written well argued alternative views. However, ideally, the outlet would be a public journal (Internet Journal) with a title such as “Journal of controversial science”, and it ought to accept peer commentary (something like the way Brain and Behavioral Sciences handles such commentary, but all online).

  4. Chrisj says

    Neil Rickert says:

    There ought to be an outlet for well written well argued alternative views.

    There is; it’s called science. Scientific journals publish well argued (if not always well written, alas) alternative views all the time. That’s how the idea that peptic ulcers are (generally*) caused by H Pylori got from one person to the whole scientific community. It was published in a scientific journal, and people did science at it by trying to prove it was wrong; when all the evidence supported the idea, rather than contradicting it, it became widely accepted. The problem with these people was that they wrote an article putting forward an idea that had already been refuted – it had already been tested and shown to be wrong. They didn’t care about science or accuracy, they just wanted to get their claim out in public.

    *I’m not an expert, but I believe some have other causes

  5. Chrisj says

    (“They” in the last two sentences of my previous comment are Spencer and Braswell, since I failed to make that unambiguous. Oops.)

  6. slc1 says

    It should be noted that Roy Spencer is a young earth creationist, in addition to being a climate change denier.

  7. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says

    There ought to be an outlet for well written well argued alternative views.

    Science is not the Law Review. You cannot make a scientific point better by writing it better or arguing it better. There’s the little matter of what the evidence of the real world has to say about it. See: polishing a turd.

    Creationists have much experience with publishing in inappropriate journals. The infamous 2004 paper by Stephen Meyer was justly criticized for this (see: Meyer’s Hopeless Monster). Another example is Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues by Michael Behe & David Snoke, Protein Science, 2004). Protein Science, is about, well protein science: peptide chemistry, protein structure, etc. Not really the place you would expect to find a paper about population genetics.

  8. invigilator says

    I’m waiting for the first climate-change deniers to shout that this resignation just proves their contention that those who do not hew to the false doctrine of anthropogenic global warming change are persecuted by the great climate-change conspiracy. “See what happens to dissenting voices in the so-called scientific community?”

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