In 2000, Keith Briffa, lead author of the millennial section of AR4, published his own versions of Yamal, Taymir and Tornetrask, all three of which have been staples of all subsequent supposedly “independent” reconstructions. The Briffa version of Yamal has a very pronounced HS and is critical in the modern-medieval differences in several studies. However, the Briffa version for Yamal differs substantially from the version in the publication by the originating authors (Hantemirov, Holocene 2002), but is the one that is used in the multiproxy studies (though it’s hard to tell since Hantemirov is usually cited.) Studies listed in AR4 that use the Briffa versions include not just Briffa 2000, but Mann and Jones 2003, Moberg et al 2005, D’Arrigo et al 2006, Hegerl et al 2007, as well as Osborn and Briffa 2006.
Of the 8 proxies shown in the proxy spaghetti graph (as opposed to the reconstruction spaghetti graph), 3 are from the Briffa 2000 study (called NW Russia, N Russia and N Sweden) but demonstrably the Briffa versions of these sites.
An important characteristic of tree ring chronologies is that they are sensitive to the method used. Chronologies can be quickly and easily calculated from measurement data. Rob Wilson, for example, will nearly always run his own chronologies from measurement data so that he knows for sure how they were done and so that they are done consistently across sites.
Osborn and Briffa 2006 was published in Science, which has a policy requiring the availability of data. It used Briffa’s versions of Yamal, Taymir and Tornetrask. At the time, I requested the measurement data, which had still not been archived 6 years after the original publication of Briffa 2000, despite the availability of excellent international archive facilities at WDCP-A (www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo). Briffa refused. I asked Science to require Briffa to provide the data. After some deliberation, they stated that Osborn and Briffa 2006 had not used the measurement data directly but had only used the chronologies from an earlier study and that I should take up the matter with the author of the earlier study, pointedly not identifying the author, who was, of course, Briffa himself. I wrote Briffa again, this time in his capacity as author of the 2000 article in Quaternary Science Reviews and was blown off. (See here for my last account of efforts to get Briffa data via Science mag.)
So years later, the measurement data for key studies used in both canonical multiproxy studies and illustrated in AR4 Box 6.4 Figure 1 (along, remarkably, with Mann’s PC1), remains unarchived, with Briffa resolutely stonewalling efforts to have him archive the data.
But has Briffa, after all these years, finally made a misstep?
Recently Briffa published Briffa et al 2008 in Phil Trans Roy Soc, a journal with a long history, and with a life outside IPCC. A reader drew my attention to the fact that Phil Trans Roy Soc has a clear and forthright policy. As I reported a little while ago, I
wrote to them observing that Briffa had not observed their requirements on data availability and that their editors and reviewers had failed to require observance of a data archiving policy that would require provision of a url as a condition of publication. My letter was as follows:
Your policy on data availability as stated at: http://publishing.royalsociety.org/index.cfm?page=1684#question10 states:
“As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article.
Supplementary data up to 10Mb is placed on the Society’s website free of charge and is publicly accessible. Large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission. The accession number should be provided for inclusion in the published article.“
Briffa et al failed to comply with your requirement that “large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission” and your editorial staff and reviewers failed to ensure that the article included an accession number for such deposit.
In particular, Briffa et al. 2008 discussed the following tree ring measurement data sets which have not been archived at the International Tree Ring Data Bank or other public domain data base (other than a small subset of the Tornetrask data set.) Would you therefore please provide me with either a URL or the complete tree ring measurement data sets in digital form for all data sets discussed in Briffa et al 2008, including Yamal, Tornetrask, Taymyr, Bolshoi Avam and Finnish Lapland, together with digital versions of the individual reconstuctions referred to in Briffa et al 2008, including, without limitation, the reconstructions for each of the above sites and the composite regional reconstructions referred to in the article. This informaiton is necessary to “verify the conclusion of the article”.
Last week, I received a cordial replying undertaking to look into the matter and stating:
We take matters like this very seriously and I am sorry that this was not picked up in the publishing process.
Imagine that. A journal that seems to have both a data policy and that takes it seriously. Unlike, say, Science or Nature, which have refused to make similar requirements of IPCC authors. On the face of it, a real science journal. That’s right: Real. Science.
However, Briffa is a wily data stonewalling veteran and may yet outwit the editors of Phil Trans Roy Soc. We shall see.
I suspect that Briffa won’t be able to pull off the same stunt that he pulled at Science, where he was able to use the prior publication of the data elsewhere as a pretext for not archiving the data in accordance with Science’s policies. Look at what Phil Trans Roy Soc says about publishing data in more than one place:
It is important to ensure that research work is only published once. If it is published more than once, the scientific literature can be unjustifiably weighted by the appearance that one study has been replicated. It might also mean that the study is inadvertently entered twice into a meta-analysis, for example, or cause problems in systems which use the number of publications to assess an individual’s or an institute’s research output.
There may be situations (e.g. review articles) where previously published work can be included in summary form, but it must be made clear to the Editor on submission that this is the case.
Imagine if that policy were applied in paleoclimate. How many times have we seen the same proxies re-cycled as a supposedly “independent” result. Look at the above sentence:
If it is published more than once, the scientific literature can be unjustifiably weighted by the appearance that one study has been replicated.
Precisely. If that were applied to the Team, they’d be out of business.