The Ritson Comment: An Update

In August 2005, the new editor-in-chief of GRL, Jay Famiglietti of UC, Irvine, took over control of our file after two comments, including one by Ammann (UCAR) and Wahl had been rejected by the previous editor. This is discussed here . He gave an interview to Environmental Science & Technology here in which he was reported as follows:

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.

At the time, two of the four comments had been already rejected. Both were taken out of the garbage can. Famiglietti then dealt with them outside AGU policies for comments. I posted our Reply to Ritson here . There have been some further developments regarding the Ritson Comment, about which Famiglietti informed us in a reply marked as confidential. I’m not sure that merely marking the reply as confidential makes it confidential, but that’s a different issue. We asked Famiglirtti for an on-the-record response, pointing out that he already commented to ES&T . His reply was as follows:

Sorry, I will decline making any comment for the record regarding the Ritson comment.

If he doesn’t want to comment on the record, you’d think that he would have thought about this before talking to ES&T. At some point, people will draw their own conclusions about the state of the Ritson Comment.

In my opinion, the revival of the Ritson Comment was, to some extent, a stalking-horse for reviving the rejected Ammann and Wahl comment, where UCAR has been hanging out with their press release, which announced the submission, but not the subsequent rejection. This has reared its ugly head again. This is very unlike the von Storch-Zorita comment or the Huybers comment, where the authors disagree in good faith. I think that their criticisms are wrong, but everyone seems to behave like human beings and we’ll be seeing one another at AGU.

I haven’t seen the Ammann-Wahl GRL re-submission yet. I assume that they have again withheld the adverse cross-validation statistics, as they did in their Climatic Change submission and their previously rejected GRL submission. I find their continued and intentional withholding of cross-validation statistics to be extremely objectionable. It irritates me that any journal would proceed with reviewing their Comments as long as they withhold this information. It was bad enough the first time when Mann withheld the information from Nature, but it’s farcical for GRL to even think of acquiescing in this a second time or to proceed with a review as long as this information is withheld. We’ll see what happens.

I also don’t think that Ammann and Wahl will find that it is professionally a good idea to re-submit an article where they have intentionally withheld relevant and adverse cross-validation statistics, but that’s their decision. I can’t imagine that they have fully thought through the consequences of this decision, which are not going to be pretty, or else they wouldn’t have done it. I would certainly urge them to immediately and publicly report all cross-validation statistics, including the R2 statistic.


  1. TCO
    Posted Dec 4, 2005 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    What’s the update? He sent you a letter marked confidential on this topic? And you’re considering publishing it? That’s the update? When did he send it? Sheesh. What’s the new information?

  2. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 4, 2005 at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I think that people in official positions should stay on the record. I’m simply recording that he has updated us on the status of this comment, but refused to do so on the record.

  3. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Dec 4, 2005 at 1:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It sounds to me that Famiglietti is consulting with attornies on this. This leads to the obvious question; why?

    If someone is doing their job and following organization procedures, what is to be feared about making comments about one’s professional activities on the record?

    This is getting even stranger.

  4. Posted Dec 5, 2005 at 9:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Surely you would have needed to sign a confidentially agreement with the editors to the effect that all correspondence will remain confidential. Nature has this, though I am not sure they had it before you blew the whistle on the trashy way they treated you there. If you have not agreed to confidentiality then it would be more of a request, I would think.

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