Nature Blog Withdraws Invitation

Yesterday I mentioned that we had been invited to make a post at the Nature blog. The invitation was withdrawn today. On May 10, we received the following invitation:

As you know, there was a recent post on our Climate Feedback blog by Hans Von Storch that discussed the hockey stick, without discussing your work co-authored with Ross McKritik.

Although many of the comments highlighted this oversight, we wish to invite to respond to this with a post on our site, to clarify the point for readers who may not have read through those comments.

We sincerely hope that you will be willing to respond to this crucial issue in climate science. I realize that this issue has been well discussed within the climate science community and on other blogs in the past. However, the readership of our blog includes the scientific public, some of whom will not be familiar with the details of the hockey stick. Your contribution would therefore be of great value in explaining the significance of this work to climate science and to where climate science is at today,

We immediately accepted the invitation. On May 11, von Storch and Zorita posted more personal criticism, to which I did not respond, because of the apparent opportunity to post our view of the matter in more temperate terms. On May 14, I mentioned this invitation on the blog yesterday. One day later on May 15, I received the following message:

As you know, it was decided last week that we should allow both you and Michael Mann and co-authors a right to reply to Hans Von Storch’s post.

Now, in light of the fact that this issue has been hashed out at length elsewhere and is beginning to dominate discussions on our blog, we will not proceed with these posts, though we will leave the comment thread open.

We will, however, post a statement on how we will be going forward on the blog over the next couple of days to clarify this. I apologize for any inconvenience arising from this change of decision.

The curious viewpoint of von Storch and Zorita in this blog entry has hardly been “hashed out” at length elsewhere. There have been only two posts to the von Storch thread during the past week, which have hardly “dominated” discussion at their blog. Since the issue has not “dominated” discussion at the blog, it is hard not to wonder whether someone higher up in the Nature organization specifically intervened to ask the blog editor to withdraw our invitation and to further wonder whether Nature received any communications urging that this invitation be withdrawn.

50 Comments

  1. Jeff Norman
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 5:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It seems to me Nature is just being consistent with their past behaviour in that they are limiting the number of words in your response. In this case any response less than one word is acceptable.

    I wonder if they have applied a similar limit to Mann et al. Time will tell.

  2. T J Olson
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 5:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Or, if not limiting words as Jeff suggests, then perhaps editors at Nature are reasserting their pro-ACW stance, consistent with past positioning – as Pat Michaels and Robert Balling noted in 1999 (see The Satanic Gases).

  3. Posted May 15, 2007 at 7:30 AM | Permalink | Reply

    To borrow an expression from the 70′s, looks like the “Mann” is keeping you down!

  4. John Lang
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 7:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Send the comment anyway.

    Maybe they will change their minds again.

    Maybe they will have to go through the same process again (which resulted in this decision) and, perhaps, science will prevail this time. If not, the person or persons who called in their chips on this issue will be forced to do so again.

  5. Ken Fritsch
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 8:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Developments like this one make it very difficult to take the decision making behind the accessing processes seriously. Nature did not surprise and particularly so in their “reasoning” behind the changing of their minds.

  6. tc
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 9:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Why does Nature start a blog if Nature is not going to allow robust discussion of issues like the Hockey Stick issue?

    Unlike a journal, a blog allows for the most current and open discussion of important issues. A blog also provides the opportunity to bring in relevant, substantial information that a journal’s policies (such as a 500 word limit) would not allow.

    Nature’s first excuse that “this issue has been hashed out elsewhere” could be applied to virtually any global warming issue. Indeed, the “consensus science” crowd claim that the global warming issued is settled. If so, there is no need for Nature to publish anything on global warming in Nature’s blog or in the journal Nature.

    Moreover, Nature’s excuse is completely contradicted by Nature’s May 10 invitation to Steve McIntyre, as follows:

    We sincerely hope that you will be willing to respond to this crucial issue in climate science. I realize that this issue has been well discussed within the climate science community and on other blogs in the past. However, the readership of our blog includes the scientific public, some of whom will not be familiar with the details of the hockey stick. Your contribution would therefore be of great value in explaining the significance of this work to climate science and to where climate science is at today..

    Nature’s second excuse that it “is beginning to dominate discussions on our blog”, even if true, is not believable because 1) a blog, especially a new blog, normally welcomes increased traffic, 2) Nature’s May 10 invitation states that this is a “crucial issue” that they want to expose to a broader scientific public.

    With its complete about-face and indefensible withdrawal of the May 10 invitation to Steve McIntyre, the Nature blog has lost credibility. Nature could restore its credibility by acknowledging growing pains at its new blog and restoring its May 10 invitation to Steve McIntyre.

  7. Mark H
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 9:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Typical of a host of elites used to shaped discourse, nature is surprized at the degree plain talk from the informed public. Nature would have been far happier with two replies, both complimentary but one politely objecting to some minor aspect of von Storch’s statement.

    Heaven forbid a lively and informed debate break out – how untidy.

    My suggestion is that Steve reply in the comment section, as has von Storch and Zorita. I expect a flood of thread starters will be posted to drive the issue down the page so that any further replys will go unnoticed.

  8. jae
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 9:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    That kind of nonsense will definitely cost Nature some credibility, even among the faithful. Any scientist with integrity has to raise his eyebrows on this kind of game.

  9. John A
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 9:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Nature has credibility? That’s news to me.

  10. Gary
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Grudging admiration is a little better than none at all and a lot better than outright abuse and slander. Its plain that Steve isn’t a member of the club because he hasn’t paid dues in the publishing jungle – a handy but fading means of keeping good ideas from challenging the establishment – so he wouldn’t deserve any hearing at all except that too many people are now banging on the door looking for answers. Now actually may be an advantageous time to publish in the establishment journals because they will have a harder time rejecting a paper without looking even more foolish as the controversial issues just keep getting hotter.

  11. kchua
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I have submitted the following for posting on Nature’s blog:

    “I understand from Climate Audit that Steve McIntyre was earlier invited to respond to posts by Von Storch and Zorita about the infamous Hockey Stick. That invitation was subsequently withdrawn.

    If you subscribe to the spirit and principles of due process, then you must give Steve the opportunity to respond. Not to do so would call into question your commitment (if any) to fair dealing.”

    It is not clear to me if they will post it.

  12. John A
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Anyone like to bet against Mann being instrumental in getting Nature to change their minds?

  13. Ron Cram
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    A few days ago I posted on the Nature blog and wondered when or if they would publish it. It appears they have chose not to publish as a posting dated May 15 is now on the blog. Here is the posting they chose not to publish:

    Dear Drs. von Storch and Zorita,

    I was amazed to see your posting on “The Decay of the Hockey Stick” and your follow up posting on the contributions of McIntyre and McKitrick. In the first you claim your 2004 journal publication a “remarkable event” because the Hockey Stick was such an unassailable icon in the science community. However, the shine on the Hockey Stick had already been removed by the 2003 paper published by McI and McK in E&E.

    You also claim that McI and McK were correct when they showed that Mann’s statistical method produces hockey stick shapes from trendless red noise but then you write “they would have a valid point in principle, but the critique would not matter in the case of the hockey-stick.” This is an extraordinary claim. Are you unaware that McI has published a response showing why it does matter in the case of the hockey stick? Since you have not publicly replied, I was forced to presume you had conceded the point. If you have not conceded the point, please do publish a response.

    You also claim that McI and McK only looked at statistical problems with Hockey Stick paper and that you looked at methodical problems. Speaking only as an interested layman, I do not think your claim obtains. McI and McK criticized Mann’s selection of the bristlecone pine series, an issue you agree may be valid but have not researched yourselves. But you then go on to make the strange claim that no one else has researched the issue either. This is hardly accurate since the U.S. NRC published a report (at the request of Congress) agreeing that bristlecone pine series is not a temperature proxy and should not be used.

    You also proclaim yourselves satisfied with what has been achieved ‘€” an open debate. I find this most surprising of all, because I am completely unsatisfied. The temperature reconstructions in 4AR all continue to use the bristlecone pine series.

    Perhaps most unsatisfying to me is the lack of accountability in the science community. As you know, Dr. Mann withheld results of validation tests in a subdirectory called “BACKTO_1400-CENSORED” that were contrary to his conclusions. According to published reports, the folder showed Mann knew his method did not get a hockey stick shape without the bristlecone pine series. Despite this knowledge, Mann made claims that his method was robust and not dependent on any particular proxy. If the science community does not have any ways to insure honesty in science, what credibility does anyone’s work really have?

  14. Ron Cram
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I cannot post and do not know why.

  15. Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Great post Ron. They can’t handle the truth about human (N)ature.

  16. Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve: it was a strategic error to blog that you’d had an invitation. My guess is that Nature doesn’t want to expose so much of their thinking process behind what is and isn’t published. They want the finished copy to appear as if by magic like it was the result of one big happy family or a single group mind. When you expose “Nature told me this” sort of details, it invites bickering and dissent and second-guessing over their process. They probably had 50 scientists write in to whine about why Nature didn’t ask *them* to submit a comment on the subject at the same time they asked you.

    If you’d kept silent until the piece was submitted and published, they wouldn’t have had so much occasion for second thoughts.

  17. Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Firstly, why don’t you write to them and ask them whether they can give you a written assurance that they have received no representations from third parties asking them to withdraw the invitation.

    Secondly, you could ask whether they would consider allowing you to write a post on some other topic that hasn’t been “hashed out at length elsewhere”. This is the least they could do, given the “inconvenience” they have caused by withdrawing the invitation.

    And lastly, you might also ask why they think that their blog was becoming dominated by Hockey Stick comments, when there were a maximum of three such comments between their issuing the invitation on the 10th and withdrawing it on the 15th.

  18. beng
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    RE 14:

    Ron Cram, I’ve posted several times recently & got a “reply rejected” html page. But the replies did show up after alittle while.

  19. Michael Jankowski
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Maybe it wasn’t Mann…maybe it was “Anonymous Reviewer #2″ from way-back-when :)

  20. Armand MacMurray
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I agree with Mark H (#7): go ahead and post your piece in the VS comments. They’ve said they’ll leave the comments open — test them.

  21. Jaye
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Agree with #16

  22. crosspatch
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “That kind of nonsense will definitely cost Nature some credibility, even among the faithful. Any scientist with integrity has to raise his eyebrows on this kind of game.”

    I don’t believe that Nature has any credibility in the area of climate. But the sad part is that nobody (in a relative sense) is ever going to know about this. You can rest assured that the major media that provides information to the general public will never pick up the story that Nature quashes any dissenting view. I would guess that 99.999% of the population will never even know this happened. It is counter to the “consensus” agenda.

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 1:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Some readers may got annoyed with Nature, but it has lots of credibility and remains the most esteemed publication. Yes, it was a mistake for me to have mentioned the invitation on the blog. I’m sure the Team (either narrow or wide) got news of this invitation and did what they could to spike it.

    #19. Was this an ironic comment or not? ? Do you know who Anonymous Reviewer #2 from the first review (who was #3 in the second) is? I’m not going to say who it is (or confirm or deny any guesses), but it’s possible to make a very good guess if you re-read the review.

  24. Posted May 15, 2007 at 1:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s true that Nature carries a high level of public esteem, but from where I sit it does appear that they may be playing fast and loose with their professional reputation. They’re meant to be the umpire, not one of the players.

  25. John Baltutis
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 3:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve M:

    Post your reply in this blog for posterity and completeness, whether or not Nature posts it.

  26. Jaye
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 3:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Looks like they have shutdown that blog or are at least screening each entry with extreme prejudice.

  27. Posted May 15, 2007 at 3:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “All censorship exists to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existng institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progess is the removal of censorship”. GBS

  28. John Hekman
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 4:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Maybe I have a very low standard of expectations, but my reading of the comments on the blog were that they allowed quite a number of commenters to say that M&M should have been mentioned. there is a lot of criticism of the hockey stick. And there is a noticable absence of commenters slinging mud at Steve and trying to dismiss critics of the hockey stick as shills for the oil industry.

    Is this not progress of a sort?

  29. gladys
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 4:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    For what it is worth, I tried to put up a post on the “Cities: key players in the climate change arena” thread at Nature Blogs that read:

    ‘Doesn’t most of the global warming occur in cities?’ (note, words may not be precisely accurate since I am doing it from recollection).

    Sadly, no cigar.

  30. Armand MacMurray
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 1:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re# 26,29
    They DO screen the submitted posts, and presumably are keeping London hours, so wait a day or two before giving up hope.
    Perhaps the “dominate discussions” complaint referred to submitted posts, as the staff is only now coming to realize the magnitude of the time investment required to maintain strict control over blog content?

  31. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 5:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “Nature”? Who cares. They don’t make decisions, nor do most of the readers.

    Here’s what we woke up to in Australia today (Herald Sun newspaper):
    Quote starts:
    Climate change threatens state

    May 16, 2007 12:00am
    Article from: AAP

    BASIC services in Victoria including electricity, water, transport and telecommunications could be threatened by climate change, a report has found.

    The report, commissioned by the Victorian Government and obtained by Fairfax ahead of its release, said water supplies and major infrastructure would be “acutely vulnerable” to climate change in coming decades, even if greenhouse emissions were drastically cut.

    If pollution levels remained static, the report said Victorians could expect a host of changes by 2030 including:

    - higher water, energy and telecommunications charges to cover the cost of damaged infrastructure;

    - worsening water shortages as higher temperatures reduce rainfall;

    - power blackouts and deaths from heatwaves;

    - storm surges that would damage coastal buildings and ports;

    - less water to drive power stations;

    - storms that could interfere with telecommunications.

    Scientists predicted in the report that temperatures in Victoria will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, compared with 1990 temperatures, and by up to 5 degrees by 2070.

    Project leader Paul Holper said Victoria’s climate was likely to change dramatically over the next few decades, and “we have to plan as if we’ll be living in a different country”.

    The report, Infrastructure and Climate Change Risk Assessment for Victoria, was prepared by the CSIRO, consultants Maunsell Australia and lawyers Phillips Fox.

    “What this report shows is that it’s not only obvious areas like water that will be affected, but that there are also a whole range of other industries from telecommunications to transport that also need to be concerned,” Acting Premier and Environment Minister John Thwaites said.

    END of quote.

    That’s how Australia’s peak science Government body gets heard. It reports to the Premier, not Nature, via big PR consultants and BIG lawyers….. all of whom we scientists implicitly trust.

  32. John A
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 5:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

    A Freudian slip?

    As you know, there was a recent post on our Climate Feedback blog by Hans Von Storch that discussed the hockey stick, without discussing your work co-authored with Ross McKritik.

  33. bender
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 8:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

    McKritik & McIntiresome, those tiresome critics from nowhere.

  34. Jon
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    In our submission to the nature-weblog, we have presented how we have perceived the fate and responses of our paper to science about the methodical problems behind the hockey-stick technique. In this account we have not mentioned many other articles, which have been critical to the hockey-stick result.

    The framing of the matter here is amazing. They’ve managed to insinuate that Steve’s papers should be discounted because it is critical of the “hockey-stick conclusion” and does not raise “methodical problems [with] the hockey-stick technique”. i.e., it is irrelevant because it is only an incremental achievement that purports to be sweeping.

    I believe this is a misstatement of Steve’s work. The argument has been that Mann and others should stop suggesting that they have demonstrated that we’re in an unprecedented warm period. S&Z smear this into the suggestion that Steve has argued that we are in fact NOT in an unprecedented warm period–which is a quite different suggestion. He hasn’t tried and that’s a hard task in one go.

    S&Z leave me the impression that they want to have it both ways. They admit that the analytical technique is wrong but insist that the conclusion is nonetheless correct (by other means). But thus far those other means have not been apparent. Much of the work on this blog has discussed whether the same conclusion by other means is as of yet supported.

  35. tc
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 6:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The S&Z statement (quoted in #34), when applied to M&M’s work on the hockey stick, is demonstrably false. M&M’s work on the hockey stick deal, first and foremost, with the flawed methodology of the hockey stick. M&M show that the flawed methodology does not support the results. It is an unconscionable deceit for anyone to imply or claim that M&M’s work does not deal with the methodical problems of the hockey stick.

  36. T J Olson
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 6:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Could there be change coming to Nature? Even if not yet on ACW and our present topic? The thought occured to me on reading this recent piece in the London Times.

    Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature,…says, we need to consider “going the extra mile” to find [fraudulent scientific reports]. He is considering whether some studies, especially ones that make headlines, should be replicated before going to press.

    Hmmm. Scientific claims ought to be “replicated.” All those here who’ve heard that cry before and agree, raise your hand!

  37. gb
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 6:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re # 36: Read the whole comment. He says some studies should be replicated before going to press. Of course it should be possible to replicate a study. However, the normal practise is that you publish your results (after peer review) and describe the method. Then other scientist can decide whether they want to try to replicate it or not.

  38. James Erlandson
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 7:22 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Changes at Climate Feedback, the climate change blog.

    Apparently the blog isn’t working as expected and will be changing — something about too much controversy. Or too much diversity of opinion.

    … our intention … is to offer a wide range of interesting, if controversial, views and in doing so, to represent a diversity of expert opinions over time … we found that some researchers who had previously offered themselves as willing bloggers no longer wished to make that offer …

    Although we had considered it, we will not be taking “right to reply” posts in response to the initial post on the hockey stick, though the comments threads remain open. We feel this has been discussed widely elsewhere and that continuing to post on it will not serve our readers well.

    In most publishing endeavors, controversy sells.

  39. PaulM
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 8:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    There is now a slightly awkward and confused attempt at the Nature blog to explain themselves, under ‘teething troubles’.

    “Although we had considered it, we will not be taking “right to reply” posts in response to the initial post on the hockey stick, though the comments threads remain open. We feel this has been discussed widely elsewhere and that continuing to post on it will not serve our readers well.”

    The phrase “considered it” is quite remarkable in comparison with the enthusiastic tone of the original invitation. The question of who bullied them into this U-turn remains open.

  40. bruce
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 3:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The whole incident seems to me to suggest that Nature flirted with a real and open discussion policy, before coming under pressure to adopt a more partisan stance. Note that the objections they cite come from William Connolly (“noted” link) and Eli Rabett (“unnoticed” link) who would, it seems, have affiliations with RC.

    It also appears that some contributors who had earlier expressed a willingness to contribute have pulled out. William Connolly identifies those that have pulled out as John Vandecar, Jo Thorpe, Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Vranes leaving Patricia Romero Lankao, Hans Von Storch, Heike Langenberg, Olive Heffernan, Oliver Morton and Roger Pielke Jr as listed contributors. I don’t know the affiliations of those who pulled out, nor is any reason given as to why they pulled out.

    The partisan nature of the Nature Climate Feedback blog is suggested by the blog roll which omits CA and Climate Science.

    It would be nice if Nature were to adopt a more open scientific basis through encouraging rational discussion of the different viewpoints, but that apparently is not going to happen.

  41. Gerald Browning
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 3:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve M.,

    I am completely disgusted with von Storch and Zorita, although not surprised. For them to have the nerve not to mention all of the work you have done is ludicrous. I apologize for all of the legitimate scientists that know the contributions that you have made. There are still some of us left that have a sense of morality.

    Jerry

  42. Pat Frank
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 5:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #41 — I second that.

    Also, I wonder whether Nature’s initial enthusiasm (PaulM #39) was tempered not from bullying but from Nature’s own chagrin at discovering the cogence of the opposition to the Hockey Stick. Nature, in the past, has revealed itself partisan on the issue. It may not need bullying to restrict criticisms it does not like and cannot answer.

  43. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 2:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Ross and I submitted a comment to the Nature blog today. It was rejected. They said that we had to shorten it to 500 words. Sound familiar?

  44. bender
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 2:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Toldja.

  45. Bill F
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 2:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So shorten it to 500 words by including links to supplemental posts that lead readers to CA posts on various topics. Kills two birds with one stone…gets your comment posted on their blog AND gets a link to CA that somehow wasn’t included in their blogroll.

  46. bender
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 2:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Circulate it among regulars and we’ll take a stab at editing it down. Then you choose your favorite edition. Distributed massively parallel processing, it’s all the rage.

  47. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 3:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    We’re at about 1500 words. We’ll try splitting it up in 3 bites. I’m a little tired of editing down for NAture’s benefit. They also insisted on the deletion of some specific content (the part they wanted us to delete is sarcastic.) I’ll discuss this on another occasion.

  48. David Smith
    Posted May 29, 2007 at 4:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Bill F’s suggestion on supplementary link(s) sounds good, which would provide detail and elaboration on various points.

    I imagine Nature would frown on any early release of content – like all press, they want the first shot.

    The article may be the first exposure many people have to you and Ross – as a general rule, sarcasm doesn’t make a good first impression, light humor does.

  49. Posted Jan 12, 2010 at 7:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

    thanks for sharing this useful and informative posting with us its so good and nice.

    • bender
      Posted Jan 12, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

      No miracle file associated with this one. Just junk. One never knows.

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