Several years ago, there was a great controversy at the journal Climate Research regarding the publication of an article by Soon and Baliunas. Three editors, including Hans von Storch, felt that the peer review leading to acceptance of this article was flawed and resigned in protest. I want to compare some of these events to some events in progress at GRL, where the most powerful climate research corporation in the U.S. appears to intervened at GRL, causing them to abandon their usual procedures, after an article by one of its scientists was rejected.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a corporation carrying out climate research with $200 million in annual revenue. It is a powerful force in the climate research industry. The Technical Support Unit for the IPCC Working Group 1, the working group which authored IPCC TAR featuring the hockey stick graph, is housed at UCAR. In fact the IPCC Working Group 1 website goes so far as to include UCAR as part of its name http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/
Given the prominence of the hockey stick in IPCC TAR and the close connections between UCAR and IPCC Working Group 1, it is perhaps no coincidence that the most vociferous counterattack on certain hockeystick critics (other than Mann himself) have been sponsored by UCAR.
On May 11, 2005, on the day that Ross McKitrick and I were presenting in Washington, UCAR issued a press release announcing that one of its scientists, Caspar Ammann ( a former student of Raymond Bradley) and one of its former post-doc fellows, Eugene Wahl, had supposedly demonstrated that our criticisms of the hockey stick were "unfounded". The press release announced that they had submitted articles to Climatic Change and GRL.
Unfortunately for UCAR, on June 6, 2005, GRL rejected the submission by Wahl and Ammann. This was never announced. The rejection by GRL was not mentioned in two letters to the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Mann and the European Geophysical Union, which cited this press release.
The Comment by Ammann and Wahl was one of four Comments submitted to GRL on our work. Two Comments, one by von Storch and Zorita and one by Huybers, were accepted and, together with our Replies, will be published in the near future. One other Comment, by David Ritson, was rejected.
I can’t imagine that UCAR was very happy about the rejection of Ammann and Wahl, especially with the press release hanging out there. There have been some strange events. In late August, the editor-in-chief of GRL, James Famiglietti, told a reporter at ES&T that he had taken over the Comment file pertaining to our article.
In the last week, a couple of curious events occurred. On Sep. 27, 2005, Famiglietti told us that the rejected Ritson Comment had now been accepted. In breach of AGU policies which require that both a Comment and Reply be sent together for refereeing, Famiglietti had sent the previously rejected Ritson Comment out without a Reply; after getting the Comment accepted, Famiglietti invited us to reply.
On Sept. 29, 2005, someone inquired at realclimate.org about the status of the Ammann submissions, which had gone silent since the May 11, 2005 press release. Mann replied:
[Response: Rumour has it that both manuscripts are pending final acceptance from the respective journals. - mike]
On Oct. 1, 2005, one of our posters noticed that the UCAR webpage for the Ammann and Wahl submission to GRL had been changed – it now showed that the article had been resubmitted on Sept. 25, 2005. So the article had made remarkable progress through the system by Sept. 29, 2005, when Mann reported that it was "pending final acceptance". We have still not seen a copy of the re-submission.
I’m providing here some details of the chronology. The tone that I’m trying to capture (and I may have to edit some more) is irony. Think back to the shrieking by climate scientists about the peer review of Soon and Baliunas. Now let’s see how many climate scientists speak up about Famiglietti directly taking over editorship, rescuing of the UCAR submission from the garbage can saving face for them and completely breaking AGU policies on Comments in order to expedite acceptance of the previously rejected Comments.
Soon and Baliunas  and the Climate Research Flap
Let’s start off with the controversy about the Soon and Baliunas article. This article was published in Climate Research in 2003. Shortly thereafter, Mann and various other colleagues (including Raymond Bradley and Caspar Ammann) published a criticism of Soon and Baliunas  in EOS. At the time, hearings were scheduled at the U.S. Senate in connection with McCain-Lieberman. Hans von Storch, the editor-in-chief of Climate Research was contacted by Sen. Jeffords’ staff, who were preparing for the hearings, where both Soon and Mann were scheduled to appear. A contemporary article by Antonio Regalado of the Wall Street Journal said:
After hearing from Sen. Jeffords, Dr. von Storch says he decided to speed an editorial into print criticizing publication of the paper. But publisher Otto Kinne blocked the move, saying that while he favored publication of the editorial, Dr. von Storch’s proposals were still opposed by some of the other editors. "I asked Hans not to rush the editorial,; Mr. Kinne said in an e-mail.
Von Storch and 2 other editors then resigned. Another contemporary report says :
“They submitted a flawed paper,” said Hans von Storch, editor-in-chief of the journal, Climate Research. He said that the journal’s peer review procedure failed to identify methodological flaws in the study.
Their resignations were actually announced in the Senate hearings:
Jeffords announced Von Storch’s resignation, as well as that of another Climate Research editor, Clare Goodess, in the middle of a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing called in part to air the views of one of the Harvard authors, astrophysicist Willie Soon.
There was lots more fall-out in the von Storch story – not least of which was that it rose to the attention of the Wall Street Journal article. The article was not particularly favorable to the "skeptics" and serves as a counterpoint to any suggestion that Regalado might be "soft on skeptics"
Fast forward to 2005. UCAR’s budget was cut from $207 million in 2003 to $192 million in 2004, with most of the decrease coming from reduced NSF grants. Support came almost entirely from federal sources – $105 MM from NSF, $16 MM from other agencies, $56 MM from other government awards. Expenses were $118 MM for science programs, $58 MM for science support and $17 MM in overheads and administration.
By 2005, UCAR had become host to the IPCC Working Group 1, whose website is at the UCAR server http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1_org.html. The Working Group 1 Technical Support Unit (TSU) is headed by a UCAR employee, Martin Manning.
Not surprisingly for a corporation essentially reliant on a single customer for over $200 million in revenue (and nearly 100% of its revenues), and given its vulnerability to any reductions (such as occurred from 2003 to 2004), UCAR has an active Office of Governmental Affairs.
UCAR’s Office of Governmental Affairs sponsored a presentation on April 6, 2005 in Washington, discussed here as UCAR Webcast of Bradley, Crowley, Ammann. The presentation was given by one of its scientists, Caspar Ammann, hockey stick author Raymond Bradley, Ammann’s former Ph.D. supervisor and Thomas Crowley, another multiproxy author. I’ve commented on this presentation on this site previously.
Ross McKitrick and I were invited to make a presentation responding to the UCAR presentation and did so on May 11, 2005. On the very day of our presentation, on May 11, 2005, UCAR issued a press release announcing the submission of two papers by Ammann and Wahl:
Their results appear in two new research papers submitted for review to the journals Geophysical Research Letters and Climatic Change.
Was the timing a coincidence? Not at all. UCAR referred to that presentation in the press release as follows:
Caspar Ammann, a paleoclimatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is available to comment on the so-called hockey stick controversy discussed by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Linked to the press release was the following abstract for the submission to GRL by Ammann and Wahl.
The practice of press releasing submissions has been denounced by Nature for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that papers are sometimes rejected. I have been unable to locate any other press releases by UCAR in which they announce the submission of papers, although they have issued many press releases upon acceptance or publication of papers. So UCAR’s behavior in this instance was both worthy of denunciation under Nature’s policies and inconsistent with their own practices.
Ammann and Wahl 
Ammann and Wahl was immediately proclaimed by Mann and others as being "independent verification" of MBH. There are issues as to whether it is "independent" and exactly what it differs.
First how "independent" is Ammann from Mann and Bradley? (See for example Crichton’s testimony on independence in medical trials.) Ammann took his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts under Raymond Bradley. He has coauthored a number of articles with both Mann and Bradley, jointly and severally, including the 2003 denunciation of Soon and Baliunas. Ammann is obviously not "independent" in any usage of the word outside climate science.
Did it "verify" MBH as claimed? For example, do Ammann and Wahl show that MBH passes cross-validation R2 statistics? Of course not. Ammann and Wahl have withheld the cross-validation R2 statistic, as Mann did before them. It was one thing for Mann to get away with this. It would be pretty farcical for any journal to acquiesce in this a second time – but hey, this is the Hockey Team. Likewise, did Ammann and Wahl show that MBH is robust to the presence/absence of bristlecones. Of course not. They move the pea under thimble like magicians, but try watching the bristlecones. They are always there. I posted up some comments and Ammann and Wahl in May.
Ammann and Wahl submitted their Comment to GRL in May. AGU is the publisher of Geophysical Research Letters and has the following explicit policies concerning Comments:
AGU journals will consider for publication Comments on papers that have previously appeared in the journal. The Editor of the journal determines whether a Comment meets the standards for publication and may elect to decline a Comment without further consideration or require revisions before further consideration. If the Editor decides to go forward with consideration of a Comment, a Reply by the author of the paper commented upon will also be considered for publication.
A Comment will first be sent to the author of the original paper, who will be given the opportunity to write a Reply. ..If a Reply is submitted in a timely way, the Editor will have both the Comment and Reply reviewed… The referee will be asked to prepare separate reports on the Comment and Reply…Upon receipt of the referee’s reports, the Editor will forward the Reply, along with the referee’s report on the Comment, to the author of the Comment. The Comment may be revised one time in response to the Reply and the referee’s report. The revised Comment will then be sent, together with the referee’s report of the Reply, to the authors of the Reply. One revision of the reply will be allowed.
At this point, a final decision will be made whether or not to publish the Comment and the Reply. If it is decided to proceed with publication, both the Comment and Reply will appear in the same issue of the journal (i.e., will be posted online on the same day).
In accordance with these policies, we were provided with a copy of the Ammann and Wahl Comment in mid-May 2005.
At this time, there were a total of four Comments in play. One of the problems we’d faced with some of the Comments was misrepresentation of what our actual claims were. In some previous Replies, we had replied to these mischaracterizations. Our editor, James Saiers, made it very clear that he did not want to have this type of argument under his watch. He instructed us to present any concern over mischaracterization directly to him and he would assess it editorially, rather than having a needlessly rancorous exchange in the article itself.
This presented a real problem when the Ammann and Wahl Comment arrived. They were so bilious that they could barely see straight. You’ll eventually see why "mini-Mann" is not merely a term of sarcasm. Aside from the bile, their GRL submission is essentially a pyramid scheme. The conclusions in their GRL article are not supported or based on any analyses in their GRL article, but on their other submission. The conclusions of their other study are cited in the text, carried forward to their Summary and quoted in their Abstract. But there was nothing in the four corners of their GRL submission to support their Abstract. We pointed this out to Saiers on May 24, 2005, shortly before he rejected Ammann and Wahl. I’ve reproduced our cover letter to Saiers below (there is a link to a detailed schedule).
May 24, 2005
Dear Dr. Saiers,
RE: AMMAN AND WAHL
In preparing our reply to Amman and Wahl (A&W), we have encountered some matters which appear to fall into categories where you have previously intervened editorially. We would like to bring them to your attention and obtain some guidance and/or rulings before going further. We are first bringing these matters to your attention informally, rather than through the GRL online submission system. But if it is your preference not to deal with anything raised herein other than through the GRL online submission system, please advise and we will proceed that way.
· Much of the A&W submission pertains to issues not raised in our GRL paper. It is difficult to reply to such comments while confining attention to the material in our GRL paper.
· We are troubled what we see as a “pyramid scheme”‘? in which the key arguments and findings as stated in the A&W summary and abstract are themselves unsupported in the paper but instead are based on an unpublished submission by Wahl and Ammann to Climatic Change, which has not been accepted. These findings are stated in paragraph 8, levered up somewhat into the summary paragraph (para. 9) and then into the main conclusions of the Abstract; hence they are central to the conclusions made by the Comment. We are hardly in a position to respond to unpublished findings. To make matters worse, the conclusions in question all pertain to issues presented in MM05 (EE), but not in our GRL article. It’s almost as though the GRL article is simply used to provide a platform for discussing these other topics. Within the four corners of a GRL response, it is obviously very difficult, if not impossible, for us to defend our EE results against criticisms arising from a separate, unpublished article. Our view is that any points which rely on unpublished arguments submitted to another journal about points made in EE should be excluded and we request that this be done prior to our submitting a Reply, so that we can focus on the GRL-related topics. In this case, it would involve the exclusion of para. 8, sentences 2,3 and 5 of the summary paragraph (para. 9) and the exclusion of the last 2 sentences of the Abstract (which would then be replaced by a claim, such as sentence 1 of para 9 which is actually argued in the running text and which relates to our GRL article.
· In your editorial response to our first Reply to Ritson, you stated that you would deal with concerns about being misquoted at an editorial level by requiring revision of the Comment and that such points did not need to be considered in a Reply. This was an important but minor issue in Ritson, but is a big problem in Ammann and Wahl. We have no idea how to cope with the numerous misquotations and mischaracterizations in the limited scope of a Reply and we doubt you would wish us to get involved in this sort of commentary. We have parsed the A&W submission and, as you will see, the problems are pervasive. We apologize for the length of the attachment but we want to spell out our concerns thoroughly now so we don’t go off on a tangent in our reply. If you asked A&W to use or demonstrate actual quotations from our articles, and preferably from our GRL article, it would certainly reduce the problem. We request that you advise us whether you prefer to deal editorially with misquotation issues so that we can avoid these matters in a Reply and, if so, which items we can avoid.
· There are many points where A&W present calculations or results as if they were novel when they are, in fact, already given in our own papers. The issue is not simply that we are not cited but that A&W phrase their paper so as to insinuate oversights or omissions on our part.· There are several assertions made by A&W for which no argument or source is provided and which appear to be merely unsupported speculations.
· There are numerous instances where key terms are not defined. We can deal with these in our response but you should look at them to see if the statements are simply extraneous and ought to be taken out.
· In important cases, several of these issues interact.
A full listing of problems is attached as Schedule A.
Our overall impression is that when the “pyramid scheme”‘? assertions in paragraphs 8 and 9 are set aside, the next most important point in the A&W article is that the hockey stick shaped PC series [of the bristlecones] occurs in PC series of different order depending on the standardization “€œ the PC1 under MBH98, the PC4 and PC2 under other circumstances. This is not a new observation: we made equivalent points in connection with principal components calculations using a covariance matrix (PC4) and using a correlation matrix (PC2). Since Huybers brought up the exact same issue we have made a detailed reply on this matter already (though we are certainly able to do so again if needed).
Ammann and Wahl are at best making a portion of the argument that Huybers already spelled out with greater clarity and depth. But at the moment, to the extent that they have made any comment on our GRL material, it is overlaid with a lot of extraneous, unsupported and inaccurate material, so we are seeking advice on how to focus our response.
We apologize for the trouble, but think that it is better to deal with this earlier rather than later. Thank you for your attention,
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick
Shortly thereafter, on June 6, 2005, our GRL editor, who had the authority to "determine whether a Comment meets the standards for publication and may elect to decline a Comment without further consideration" sent us the following notice:
I have decided not to proceed with the review of the Ammann and Wahl Comment; therefore, you need not compose a Reply to this manuscript.
Editor, Geophysical Research Letters
Meanwhile, at GRL, by the end of July, the dust had pretty much cleared. Of the 4 Comments which had been submitted on our original article, one other comment (by David Ritson) had been rejected. Two Comments (one by von Storch and Zorita and one by Huybers) were well on their way towards acceptance, together with accompanying replies.
As for UCAR, although UCAR had issued a prominent press release, they did not announce the above rejection by GRL nor did they remove the abstract from their website until late September (when it was replaced by the abstract of a re-submission). As someone with experience with mining speculations, I am dumbfounded by this. UCAR has an ongoing duty of integrity. Having taken the risk of announcing the Ammann and Wahl submission to GRL, they were stuck with the problem of announcing its rejection. They failed to do so. This would not be acceptable in a mining promotion and I see no reason why UCAR should adhere to lower standards than mining promotions.
UCAR’s failure to comply with ongoing full, true and plain disclosure requirements has had an unfortunate knock-on effect. Both Mann and the European Geophysical Union cited the UCAR press release in submissions to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as though the GRL article had not been rejected.
I suspect that this rejection by GRL did not rest easily with UCAR, especially after its grandiose press release. Would it surprise me to learn that pressure was brought to bear on GRL? Well. it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Coup at GRL
Later in the summer, I read in an article at Environmental Science & Technology here or here that the Jay Famiglietti, the editor-in-chief of GRL, had decided to personally assume control of this file. ES&T:
Famiglietti, editor-in-chief of GRL, says that because the McIntyre paper generated a total of four letters, an abnormally high number, he will personally supervise their acceptance. He says that the letters differ in their specific criticisms and adds that he is ignoring the political controversy and focusing on the science.
Notice the phrasing. At that time, two comments were in play and two were in the garbage can. The Huybers and von Storch comments were both proceeding nicely. There was no apparent reason to replace Saiers on the file. So why was there a coup at GRL?
The pennies began dropping towards the end of September. On Sept. 27, we received an email from GRL that the rejected Comment by Ritson had been pulled out of the garbage can, re-submitted and accepted. We were advised that we had 3 weeks to submit a Reply, if we wished to do so. We were thunderstruck to say the least. The Ritson Comment was goofy, as will become apparent. He seems to have no idea that MBH98 uses the hockey stick shaped PC series in a regression analysis and purports to show that the flawed MBH98 PC method has minimal impact on calculating the column mean of the data set as approximated by the first few PCs. It’s a goofy comment. My inclination right now is to write about a 500-word Reply. It’s hard to see why Famiglietti would break AGU Comment policies in order to pull the Ritson Comment out of the garbage can
Yet it had been sent out for review without notifying us, without an accompanying Reply, on and on, all in breach of the AGU Comment policy. Needless to say, we were irritated – not because of the Comment, we can live with that, but because of the GRL editor putting his hand on the scale. We sent the following letter to Famiglietti, copy to John Orcutt, president of AGU.
Dear Dr Famiglietti,
We are concerned about your handling of Comment 2005GL024359 by David Ritson.
A virtually identical Comment was submitted to GRL in April 2005 as 2005GL023538. In accordance with AGU policies regarding Comments, as stated at http://www.agu.org/pubs/comments_guidelines.html, GRL editor James Saiers sent us the Comment and we submitted a Reply. The Comment and Reply were considered together by referees. On July 7, 2005, based on reviewer reports, the Comment by Ritson was rejected by GRL Editor James Saiers, who informed us:
I sent Dr. Ritson’s Comment and your Reply out for review several weeks ago. I received a review on Dr. Ritson’s Comment, and, based on this evaluation, I decided to decline his manuscript for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. Because this Comment will not be published, your Reply will not appear in the journal.
It appears that, despite Saiers’ "final decision", the Ritson Comment was re-submitted about a month later (with only microscopic variations) as a "new" Comment and was given file number 2005GL024359. However, in this case, you handled the file instead of Saiers. In your handling of the file, you have not complied with AGU policies regarding Comments:
- you did not notify us of the "new" Comment by Ritson;
- you did not ask us to prepare a Reply for reviewers to consider in conjunction with the "new" Comment;
- you did not submit the Comment and Reply to referees so that they could be considered jointly;
- in fact, you made a decision to publish the Comment before you even notified us of the existence of the "new" Comment.
It is hard to imagine a more thorough disregard for AGU policies on Comments. We will submit a Reply, but we object in the strongest possible terms to this handling of the matter.
We are particularly concerned over this disregard for editorial policies in light of some recent remarks attributed to you by Environmental Science & Technology. In the article, you are quoted as saying (in a discussion of our GRL paper):
"If I had a student come to me and say, "I found this one paper that proves that climate change is hogwash," I’d say, "Well, that’s one paper out of how many? In science, you never look at [only] one paper."
Our paper does not state that "climate change is hogwash" nor does it express any views on climate change. Our paper was limited to statistical issues. We are accordingly concerned that you may hold certain ideas about our work that are inconsistent with what we have actually published.
The ES&T article also stated you had decided to take over editorial oversight of our file. We all rely on an impartial refereeing process in order to ensure that the publication record is as sound and objective as possible. It is still in the public and professional interest that the rules of the process be followed. We are concerned that you have circumvented these rules in this case, to our detriment, and your public comments on our work suggest that you do not approach this file with impartiality. Therefore we request that you assign another Editor to handle the file.
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick
We were promptly contacted by Famiglietti, who asked to discuss the matter by telephone. We arranged a conference call, including Ross McKitrick, which Famiglietti insisted be off the record. Famiglietti has not provided on the on-the-record response to the above letter other than allowing us to make the following comment in respect to his comments to ES&T:
We have spoken with Dr. Famiglietti about this. He has assured us that he was not expressing any views on our paper in particular. His point was a general one, namely that an individual paper should not be evaluated in isolation but in the context of the literature of which it is a part. He did not imply any disagreement with the original decision of GRL to publish it.
We are circumscribed by Famiglietti’s insistence on confidence with respect to our telephone conversation, but one doesn’t need to be a brain surgeon to have realized that something was up with Ammann and Wahl. Following the news on Ritson, we requested a copy of any Ammann re-submission, but have not received one yet.
Thanks for your summary of the "usual suspects"; in reviewing them, I followed the link for the third rebuttal ("yes, they have"), but only found a description of a press release about the submision of two papers about five months ago. Is there any news on when these papers will be available to the general public (e.g. are they now "in press" or are the articles posted somewhere)?
[Response: Rumour has it that both manuscripts are pending final acceptance from the respective journals. - mike]
I looked at the UCAR website and it was still the same. On Oct. 1, one of our posters here pointed out that the webpage discussing the GRL submission had changed and now contained a new abstract, referring to a re-submission on Sept. 25.
So there it stands as of today. Now let’s compare to Soon and Baliunas. It passed peer review at Climate Research; three of the other editors thought that it shouldn’t have and resigned amid a blaze of publicity. Here two papers were rejected, including a paper by scientist at the most powerful climate research corporation in the U.S., which was hanging out with a press release. Shortly thereafter, there was a coup at GRL; the editor handling the file was replaced. The editor-in-chief took over the file and instituted procedures for the rejected papers, which were in breach of AGU policies.
I predict that no climate scientist will protest the coup at GRL.