Regular and "Special Decisions"

A couple of months ago, as I mentioned at the time, Ross and I submitted a paper to International Journal of Climatology discussing Santer, Schmidt et al versus Douglass et al. I just checked the status of the submission at the journal website and learned that the submission is subject to a “Special Decision”.

We hadn’t requested a “Special Decision” nor had I realized that such a service was available. I looked through the sketchy information on journal policies and was unable to locate any description of what’s involved in a “Special Decision” as opposed to a regular decision or what criteria are used to allocate articles between regular and “Special Decisions”. Maybe I’ll write the editor and inquire.

As I mentioned before, the submission reported that Santer used data ending in 1999 in their H2 analysis purporting to show that there was no statistically significant difference between the ensemble mean trend and observations regardless of data set but this conclusion was reversed for UAH T2 and T2LT datasets using data up to 2008 (or, for that matter, 2007, which was said by the authors to be available at the time of their submission.) This analysis seemed pretty straightforward to me and not something that was so difficult or arcane as to require a “Special Decision”. I wonder if Santer et al also received a “Special Decision”.

Maybe I should make a “Special Decision” on how to respond to their “Special Decision”.
Such tangled webs in climate science.

Update: I received the following very reasonable explanation of “Special decision”:

Special decision relates to a decision taken to accept or reject a paper without review and [Available for Special Decision] appears automatically on the manuscript central system when the requisite number of reviews have not been received

57 Comments

  1. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    “Special Decision” sounds like Euro-speak for, ‘How do we unethically but expediently squash this embarassement whilst appearing cultured, polite, and civilized?’

    • Follow the Money
      Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

      Re: Pat Frank (#1),

      sounds like Euro-speak for,

      I resent the implication Americans are unable to imagine new rules and hurdles so. Did we not invent double secret probation?

      • Pat Frank
        Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

        Re: Follow the Money (#20), True – but Americans are less concerned about image. They know no one thinks they’re civilized or fair anyway, and so when they cheat they don’t care who knows. European authorities have their appearances of civilized urbanity to maintain.

        I saw Animal House during a post-doc in Israel. The Israelis thought it was hilarious. And, of course, US colleges are just like that. I’d guess there was a spike in transfer students after that movie.

        • Andrew
          Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 5:58 PM | Permalink

          Re: Pat Frank (#29), A case of correlation equaling causation? Hm, maybe “Special Decisions” are correlated with (caused by, or the cause of) some climate variable!

  2. Not sure
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    Whatever happened to your FOIA request for Santer’s data?

  3. jae
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

    Don’t take it wrong; it’s probably only because you are a “special person.”

  4. Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

    I did a google search and can’t find any other references to special decisions by IJOC. I think that means they like it.

  5. Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    It is sad to be an author in a “climate” where there is active suppression of science because of politics — knowing that the latter exists breeds paranoid thought processes. Having exposed my thinking, I cannot help but think that “Special Decision” means one of two scenarios: 1)That there is a dissenting reviewer(s), but the Editor feels that the article is important and merits bringing before the scientific community; or 2)Publishing the article will be placed on hold until Santer et al can submit a reply. A simple polite inquiry to the Editor is probably in order.

  6. Bob North
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:11 PM | Permalink

    I think contacting the journal and asking what it means by special decision is the most appropriate course of action before speculating too much about what it might mean.

  7. Andrew
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    Probably means the same as getting “special consideration”…

  8. James Chamberlain
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

    agreed with Bob North. It could be bad, as we are all speculating, but it could mean that you are a cover article, etc.

    find out what it means, then we’ll pile on…

  9. Andrew
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

    Tread carefully, even a polite call might be taken the wrong way.

  10. Juraj V.
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    sounds like the predecessor of NKVD – “Chrezvychayna komissia” (Special Committee) ;)

  11. Ivan
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    “Special decision” is maybe administrative way of dealing with “him who must not be named”. :)

  12. GTFrank
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

    “Well, isn’t that special?”

  13. GTFrank
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Permalink

    “Well isn’t that special?”

    churchladyspeak

  14. dennis Boznango
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

    clearly they are deciding on whether the article is worthy of its own After School Special.

  15. Stuart Harmon
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    A bit of pedantry helps:-

    special

    • adjective
    1 better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.
    2 designed for or belonging to a particular person, place, or event.
    3 (of a subject) studied in particular depth.
    4 (of education) for children with particular needs,
    especially those with learning difficulties.
    • noun
    1 something designed or organized for a particular occasion or purpose.
    2 a dish not on the regular menu but served on a particular day.
    3 a person assigned to a special duty.

    Put the above in front of decision and you pays your money and takes your choice.

    I think it is adjective 1 or Noun 1

  16. Stuart Harmon
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

    Forgot me manners

    Welcome back Mr McIntyre you can snip this if you wish

  17. Soronel Haetir
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    In regard to the FOIA, my understanding is that the data was released but that our host was not directly informed of that fact.

  18. Jonathan
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    A special decision at a journal sometimes refers to a case where a submission would normally be rejected automatically on a technicality, but the editors are trying to decide whether the manuscript justifies publication despite this. Examples include manuscripts well over the maximum length and manuscripts not in one of the primary language of the journal. It is possible that Steve’s manuscript breaches a similar rule: for example it might have the form of an article but the content of a comment.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jonathan (#17), I think it’s the second case, not the primary language of the journal since it is written in Canadian.

      • Andrew
        Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

        Re: Craig Loehle (#18), Yup, should have written it in Euro speak-as per Pat Frank above.

  19. dearieme
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    It all sounds just a little Special Olympics.

  20. BarryW
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps because they don’t have “standing” as Climatologists? You never learned the secret handshake.

  21. Jason
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    http://www.springer.com/economics/regional+science/journal/10109?detailsPage=contentItemPage&CIPageCounter=642909

    Papers should not exceed 25 pages after typesetting.

    Longer papers require a special decision of the editorial board in order to be published.

    If a manuscript exceeds this limit, shortening it before submission will increase its chances of acceptance.

    • jim edwards
      Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jason (#22),

      Papers should not exceed 25 pages after typesetting.

      Does this include archived data and code ?

      Now it makes sense why so many irreproducible papers are published !

      Maybe the editors formatted the submission in 60 point typeface…

  22. Patrick M.
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

    Steve, you didn’t forget to genuflect to the hockey stick did you? That’s part of the protocol now.

  23. Alexander Harvey
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

    Chrissie Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott: Brass in Pocket

    cause I gonna make you see
    There’s nobody else here
    No one like me
    Im special so special
    I gotta have some of your attention give it to me

    I suspect you have got there attention.

    Alex

  24. Jason
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 3:30 PM | Permalink

    That’s not the journal that Steve submitted to, and I doubt he ran afoul of the length restriction.

    Its just an example of the term actually being used in the way that Jonathan (#17) describes.

  25. Ross
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    They are deciding whether to submit it as supporting evidence for the next round of Nobel prizes! ;-)

  26. Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    #18 Craig Loehle:

    So I think Santer lost his data for 1999 to 2007 in the chesterfield, eh, maybe it got put in the garburator, eh? Someone get this man a toque and a double-double, eh, his conclusions are reversed when you include the new data!

    • Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 7:56 PM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Olynyk (#31),

      What’s interesting is that they had to go out of their way not to use the full data. It’s not like UAH is difficult to locate.

      Man, Steve’s back and I’m all wound up again.

  27. theduke
    Posted Mar 25, 2009 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

    Steve Mc: Seems to me it would have been more professional of them to inform you via email and explain their decision before making their announcement public.

  28. Jim
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 1:32 AM | Permalink

    Re: #33

    Actually, it is probably not a public announcement.

    Authors can generally check the status of their
    articles by logging into a protected web page.

    For example, some journals required the authors
    to identify,
    (a) The surname of the author, and
    (b) The reference number given to the manuscript
    by the journal
    to access the web page listing manuscript progress.

    Generally, only the authors and journal know both
    (a) and (b).

  29. glacierman
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 8:13 AM | Permalink

    Andrew #30 “A case of correlation equaling causation? Hm, maybe “Special Decisions” are correlated with (caused by, or the cause of) some climate variable!”

    A demonstrated case of teleconnection.

  30. Mike Lorrey
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    Special Decisions are proxies for Normal Decisions when Normal Decisions are unobtainable.

  31. DJ
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

    Steve why can’t you just sit tight like most scientists and wait for peer review to take its course. When you submit papers to IJC you submit to their processes. If you don’t like them then go elsewhere.

  32. Mark T
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    I don’t know, DJ, why can’t climate journals treat all papers equally: base their acceptance/rejection on their individual merits, not on the dogma they adhere to?

    Tell us, DJ, why must everything be different if it does not uphold the “consensus view?”

    Why does it upset you so when Steve takes note of the double standard? Are you worried?

    Mark

  33. DJ
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 5:22 PM | Permalink

    That’s a typical paranoid sceptic response.

    If Steve wants to update Santer’s analysis well good luck to him – that’s the scientific process – something that very very few sceptics involve themselves in. But Steve in one thread has laid bear an unwillingess to allow process and peer review to take its course. There is an obligation that comes with submitting a paper to a journal – why is he above the process?

    • jae
      Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

      Re: DJ (#39),

      I think there is some humor here and you are getting far too serious. :)

    • Alan Wilkinson
      Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 2:11 AM | Permalink

      Re: DJ (#40), your accusation that Steve “has laid bear” is unwarranted. He has not even laid anything bare yet as far as we can see.

    • David Cauthen
      Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

      Re: DJ (#40),
      “…laid bear…” – you Canadians are so… robust! Steve McIntyre, Hockey Stick slayer, bear layer.

    • henry
      Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

      Re: DJ (#40),

      “There is an obligation that comes with submitting a paper to a journal – why is he above the process?”

      I agree – the JOURNAL has an obligation to assess all papers that are submitted, fairly, on their merits.

      Why indeed, are some scientists above the process?

  34. curious
    Posted Mar 26, 2009 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

    DJ above – I think the point of the thread is an investigation into the process:

    I looked through the sketchy information on journal policies and was unable to locate any description of what’s involved in a “Special Decision” as opposed to a regular decision or what criteria are used to allocate articles between regular and “Special Decisions”.

  35. jae
    Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    I think he meant laid bare. Even Squash players are not tough enough to lay a bear!

  36. Eve N.
    Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    A lot of you are seriously presuming far more than is merited here. You ought to cool your jets and wait to see what is actually going on. Just because something looks out of the ordinary doesn’t mean it fits into your neat little image of climate science as a field filled with corruption. There are all sorts of possibilities here and that precludes the jump to thinly veiled accusations of impropriety.

    Come on.

    • Ron Cram
      Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 9:39 AM | Permalink

      Re: Eve N. (#47),

      There is a history here. Perhaps you are aware of it or perhaps not. If there were no history, I would agree with you 100%. I would have hoped that, by now, someone from the journal would have taken the time to link to a published explanation about the process involved with “Special Decisions.” That has not happened. As it is, I am willing to wait and see but I will not criticize those who express their concerns.

  37. Craig Loehle
    Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    “special decision” could even mean that it does not fit into one of their usual categories but they are going to review it anyway. For example, some journals have no usual slot for comments or debates, but might make an exception for a Canadian.

  38. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 27, 2009 at 9:49 AM | Permalink

    As others have observed, there may be a very logical explanation for why I have the privilege of a “Special Decision”. Equally, I’m entitled to be intrigued by being the recipient of such a privilege and to inquire into exactly what the benefits are and what the criteria are. I observed that the published policies of the journal did not describe these benefits and criteria.

    I’ve written to the editor of the journal asking the questions that were asked here and so far, I’ve received no response. It would obviously be very easy for the editor to lay any suspicions to rest merely by explaining the policy. Recall that this journal, like other Royal Meterological Society publications, does not have a data archiving policy, so it’s also possible that there is no formal policy on Special Decisions, but there would still be some sort of “common law” set of precedents governing the criteria and procedures, which would be worth knowing.

  39. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    I received an email from the editor apologizing for the delay and promising to reply when he received reviews, but not explaining what’s involved in a “Special Decision”.

  40. Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    My guess: The whole Santer team has a copy and one of them is a reviewer. Who better to review after all.

  41. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

    One of the nice things about public paper trails is that there’s a post- modernism about all this – to some extent, their review process is under review at the same time as my paper is under review.

    The paper conclusively refutes one of the Santer findings. I’m sure that Team reviewers will think up a “good reason” why this information should not be in print. It will be interesting to see how the editor deals with this.

  42. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

    I received the following very reasonable explanation of “Special decision”:

    Special decision relates to a decision taken to accept or reject a paper without review and [Available for Special Decision] appears automatically on the manuscript central system when the requisite number of reviews have not been received

    Rather than exercising this option, McGregor is reasonably waiting for reviews.

  43. Mike Lorrey
    Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    Thats one way for Team members to keep skeptics from publishing, refuse to review their submissions. Blackballing worked in Hollywood.

  44. Posted Mar 16, 2010 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    What ever hapopened on this “Special Decision”?

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