Trenberth and Lifting Text Verbatim #2

On January 14, 2011, I reported here that Trenberth’s AMS presentation had lifted text verbatim or near-verbatim from Hasselmann 2010 with no citation in most cases and, in the one case where Hasselmann 2010 was cited, the citation was insufficient under standard academic practices given the lengthy near-quotation. Trenberth’s original presentation is here.

This post has obviously been brought to Trenberth and/or AMS’s attention, as they have deleted the original version of Trenberth’s presentation and replaced it with an amended version, without a change notice.

The amended version picks up most of the problems raised in the previous CA post. Here are the points raised in the CA post and Trenberth’s changes:

Trenberth originally stated:

Scientists make mistakes and often make assumptions that limit the validity of their results. They regularly argue with colleagues who arrive at different conclusions. These debates follow the normal procedure of scientific inquiry.

The amended version:

Hasselmann (2010) further notes that scientists make mistakes and often make assumptions that limit the validity of their results. They regularly argue with colleagues who arrive at different conclusions. These debates follow the normal procedure of scientific inquiry.

Trenberth’s originally statement about tactics to use against “deniers”:

It is important that climate scientists learn how to counter the distracting strategies of deniers. Debating them about the science is not an approach that is recommended.

The amended version:

It is important that climate scientists learn how to counter the distracting strategies of deniers (Hasselmann 2010). Debating them about the science is not an approach that is recommended.

Trenberth originally stated:

The main societal motivation of climate scientists is to understand the dynamics of the climate system (both natural and human induced), and to communicate this understanding to the public and governments.

The amended version:

The main societal motivation of climate scientists is to understand the dynamics of the climate system (both natural and human induced), and to communicate this understanding to the public and governments (Hasselmann 2010).

Trenberth did not feel obligated to restate everything that Hasselmann had stated. For example, Trenberth did not repeat Hasselmann’s observation that:

Individually, most climate scientists have the goal of establishing a scientific reputation and, if possible, attaining more public funding for climate research.

Trenberth originally stated:

They [climate scientists] have faith in the scientific method and the efficacy of the established peer-review process in separating verifiable scientific results from baseless assertions.

The amended version:

As Hasselmann (2010) further notes, they have faith in the scientific method and the established peer-review process in separating verifiable scientific results from baseless assertions.

As to the lengthy introductory paragraph which was lifted near-verbatim from Hasselmann, but with no indication that large sections were verbatim: the original Trenberth version was:

Three investigations of the alleged scientific misconduct of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia — one by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, a second by the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Royal Society, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, and the latest by the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review, chaired by Sir Muir Russell — have confirmed what climate scientists have never seriously doubted: established scientists depend on their credibility and have no motivation in purposely misleading the public and their colleagues. Moreover, they are unlikely to make false claims that other colleagues can readily show to be incorrect. They are also understandably (but inadvisably) reluctant to share complex data sets with non-experts that they perceive as charlatans (Hasselman 2010)

The amended version is:

As noted by Hasselmann (2010), three investigations of the alleged scientific misconduct of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia — by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and by the Lord Oxburgh and Sir Muir Russell reviews — have confirmed that established scientists depend on their credibility and have no motivation in purposely misleading the public and their colleagues. Moreover, they are unlikely to make false claims that other colleagues can readily show to be incorrect. They are also understandably (but inadvisably) reluctant to share complex data sets with non-experts that they perceive as charlatans (Hasselman 2010).

Note here that Trenberth removed the absurd Hasselmann characterization of the Oxburgh inquiry that had passed muster with the editors of Nature Geoscience – that it was the “Scientific Assessment Panel of the Royal Society”. A point also raised in comments in the CA post.

Trenberth did not submit a comment to Climate Audit thanking us for enabling him to mitigate the problem prior to the actual formal presentation of his speech or otherwise thank us at the AMS webpage at which the changes were made.

Even as amended, Trenberth’s use of extended near-quotations without quotation marks must surely still be at the edge of acceptable practice, if not over it.

In appraising whether inadequate citation rises to being academic misconduct, it seems to me that one needs to consider whether there is a claim or implied claim of originality and how such incidents are handled in the field. Trenberth’s speech was not the same thing as a master’s thesis. Trenberth had lifted text, but AMS appears to have decided that the situation could be more or less coopered up by providing more citations to Hasselmann; that the inadequacy of the citations did not entail that the entire speech be withdrawn; or that AMS was obliged to file a complaint against Trenberth for academic misconduct.

It’s also interesting what Trenberth chose to change and not to change. Plagiarism is an issue that is uniquely central to the academic world and Trenberth moved quickly to erase any evidence of plagiarism. The non-academic world would be less concerned about plagiarism and more concerned about Trenberth’s use of the offensive term “denier” and whether Trenberth’s Empire Strikes Back attitudes are a useful contribution to the post-Climategate debate. Although Trenberth was also criticized on these counts, Trenberth made no concessions or changes to this aspect of his speech.


47 Comments

  1. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:31 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Trenberth has added references which saves his skin a bit. However, the light bulb is almost burnt out as he (and his friends?) still recommend not discussing or debating their so-called “science”. Still not much class there.

  2. Publius
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This is literally classic cognitive dissonance behavior. See L. Festinger et al, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of A Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 1956) http://www.amazon.com/When-Prophecy-Fails-Leon-Festinger/dp/1578988527/ref=pd_cp_b_0 As disconfirmations of the end of the world mount, adherents become more shrill, prosletyze more aggressively, and circle the wagons ever more closely. Unfortunately such behavior will worsen before it gets better.

  3. ianl8888
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Despite his obvious credentials and accomplishments, Trenberth does not show grace under prsssure

  4. Andrew Russell
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Are there any CA readers who are going to be at this conference and will report on what goes on? Is there anyone with any integrity left in the AMS who will challenge Trenberth on his behavior?

  5. PJB
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Shows that they are paying attention.

    Now, do we really want to help them that much?

    Perhaps waiting for them to make the errors first…still, they even have trouble getting your corrections done “correctly” so it does show up their additional incompetence.

    • Michael Jankowski
      Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 5:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Oh they’re paying attention. They just don’t want to admit it and thereby provide credibility to ClimateAudit.

  6. Shub
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So, Trenberth wont discuss science with the ‘deniers’, but he will steal their suggestions?

  7. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 5:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Maybe he didn’t get it from ClimateAudit. Maybe it was the “Mystery Man” who alerted him to what was at Climateaudit, and therefore the thanks would go to Gavin.

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 8:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

      That had occurred to me as well, as I read that changes had mysteriously deposited themselves into Trenberth’s speech, bringing it curiously into line so as to ameliorate Steve M’s evidences of lifted text.

      Perhaps there is an International Editor of Mystery, able to suss out abridgments of textual ethics by means of inchoate reportorial teleconnections. Able to inhale the content without actually contacting the source.

      Misunderstanding the relationship between correlation and causation is rife throughout AGW climate science, and we see that habit here: the changes in Trenberth’s text correlate strongly with Steve McIntyre’s evidence, but obviously there’s no causal link.

      Clearly, in standard climate science practice, especially wrt Steve McIntyre, no need for thanks or citation there.

      That it happens unashamedly, right on the AMS site, is yet more clear evidence that the corruption is institutional. It’s not just one or another radically politicized scientist.

  8. John Norris
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    re: “Trenberth did not submit a comment to Climate Audit thanking us for enabling him to mitigate the problem prior to the actual formal presentation of his speech or otherwise thank us at the AMS webpage at which the changes were made.”

    It would be problematic to label skeptics as deniers if he acknowledged that the most notorious climate gadfly is adding value.

    • Mark T
      Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 5:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Indeed.

      Mark

  9. GTFrank
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This article briefly summarizes my views that have formed in recent years on communicating climate change in the light of first hand experiences in so-called “climategate”.

    Perhaps one or two more modifications are now in order.
    This article briefly summarizes Hasselmann and my views that have formed in recent years on communicating climate change in the light of reading his paper Hasselmann 2010 and my experiences in so-called “climategate”.

    and a postscript
    I wish to thank Stephen McIntyre and the helpful commenters at http://www.climateaudit.org for their auditing of this speech and offering civil and pertinent editorial suggestions.

    • DC Hammer
      Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Should he add those modifications verbatim? ;-)

  10. henrythethird
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 7:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If Trenberth’s AMS presentation had lifted text verbatim or near-verbatim from Hasselmann 2010, why didn’t they just invite Hasselmann and avoid the middle-man?

    Have dueling presentations…

  11. DEEBEE
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So you point out trivial content issues that the scientists quickly correct and you still complain. Steve is there no satisfying you. MAN(N) UP!!

    • KnR
      Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 7:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

      But he as left in the insults and silly comments so you should be happy , but they were not ‘mistakes’ he has been caught red handed uses someone elses words but given them no tribute. Frankly the real mistake was pointing this out before he made the speech , it may have been better to give me more rope to play with as it could only have ended one eay.

  12. Gary
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Scientists make mistakes and often make assumptions that limit the validity of their results.

    Like:
    1. Believing they can get away with sloppiness.
    2. Thinking ungracious behavior doesn’t matter.
    3. Acting like they are superior to their critics.
    4. Pretending pre-change versions disappear from cyberspace.

    Wish these guys would grow up…

  13. Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Trenberth’s fundamental error, in my view, is thinking that the endless repetition of excuses and accusations, and even of other people’s ideas (as here), constitute anything of scientific interest. Why not simply prove their hypothesis?

  14. mpaul
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

    According to Wikipedia: “The five-second rule states that food dropped on the ground will not be contaminated with bacteria if it is picked up within 5 seconds of being dropped.”

    I imagine the Team has a similar rule for plagiarism. We’ll call it Trenberth’s 2 day rule.

    Nothing to see here. Move on.

  15. Fed Up
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    ODE TO KEVIN TRENBERTH

    Yet another
    Onerous climate disagreement
    Universal rancor everywhere

    As we
    Raise our
    Environmental concerns

    Always and forever like this?

    Can’t we get along?
    Love one another?
    In spite of our differences?
    Murder
    Ad hominem is
    Tasteless,
    Evil!

    Ah!
    Sorrowful day
    Sorrowful climate of science
    Have we no hope?
    Our reserves of integrity
    Lessen
    Everyday.

  16. Brian G Valentine
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Mr Trenberth will neither debate nor discuss anything with anyone whom he has concluded is a “denier.”

    I sent him about 15 emails asking him about things he had written on behalf of the IPCC. Mr Trenberth never answered any of them.

    If anyone has corresponded with Mr Trenberth about anything that he or the the IPCC has promoted, I would be interested to learn about it

  17. Brian G Valentine
    Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    By the way, it takes some chutzpah to conclude that a presentation for the AMS won’t be scrutinized for things like “plagiarism.”

    Or naivete, or just plain out to lunch or don’t care, I’m not sure which.

    I’ve had students copy things whole cloth as homework answers without reference from “Wikipedia.”

    I ask myself – what were they thinking?

    The answer is, they weren’t thinking at all, and it is hard to believe that Mr Trenberth’s mental faculties completely collapsed when he did this

  18. Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    AMS Preprints are not peer-reviewed literature but count as conference papers when putting together your CV. Indeed, it is possible for conference papers to be cited in the peer-reviewed literature. It is sorta like “to be submitted” or “submitted” or “under review”.

    This is clearly embarrassing for a senior scientist of Trenberth’s stature. He should issue an official statement — or someone should send a FOIA to NCAR to learn about correspondence — otherwise I will assume sophistry at work.

    • Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Ryan N. Maue (Jan 16 23:23), Additionally, the use of the word “denier” if used against me by a senior scientist personally and/or in print — would necessitate a libel lawsuit since it is a pejorative designed to damage one’s scientific reputation. The loaded Holocaust imagery matches only too well with Dr. Hansen’s coal-death trains. I will haul your ass into federal court if that type of personal vitriolic language is used against me.

      • Brian G Valentine
        Posted Jan 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Well, I identify myself as a “Professional Man-Made Climate Change Denier” in a lot of my correspondence, which would make it difficult for me to sue anyone who called me a “denier,” but your case would be easier if you haven’t called yourself that.

        Actually I would prefer to use the term “denialist,” because I think it has a more sneaky, unsavory feel to it

        - and thus justify suspicions that I take money from petroleum companies to mock and harass climate “scientists” with lies and deceit

        • DeNihilist
          Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

          Dr Maue, good to see that you value your rep.

          It seems that as some other poster on another blog said (can’t remember whom) it appears that the Climate Science fraternity is doubling down on their bet that raising the rhetoric is a good bet.
          [ryanm: they will fail spectacularly]

        • Ryan Maue
          Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

          Re: Brian G Valentine (Jan 16 23:53), “Let me be clear” I am 100% okay with the theory of AGW and am convinced the earth has warmed a few hundredths of a degree C over the past 20-years, but we are not adjudicating that here…I’m more concerned about understanding natural climate variability, so I guess I just don’t care about AGW right now since it’s effect is a pittance at least for another 30-50 or maybe 100-years. I care about explaining the 90%99%+ of the climate variability puzzle, not the 10%1% which may be AGW.

          Thus, I would like to be referred to as an atmospheric scientist that focuses on natural climate variability including tropical and extratropical cyclones, numerical weather prediction, and interannual/interdecadal variability. A denialist or skeptic is a pejorative term that would affect my reputation and/or ability to get a job or future funding. As such, that label — if used in the context to do such damage to my reputation — would necessitate a federal lawsuit.

        • LC
          Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 8:26 AM | Permalink

          Dr Maue

          But they will never actually call you a “denier”. What they will do is “debunk” your work and then stand back while the echo chambers take over. That’s where the “denier” label will be permanently fixed to your name.

    • mark t
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 1:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I do not think these guys have a grasp of such legal implications regarding the language they use in public messages.

      Mark

  19. Mike
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 12:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The link is clear that it is version 3. Your “original” is apparently version 2. But, he should have thanked the people who pointed out the oversight.

    I’m sure the folks dying in Brazil and Australia are glad this matter has been resolved.

  20. JRR Canada
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I sure would like to see some science from Dr T, the hand waving and excuses are a real turn off. That said perhaps commenting on the address prior to its delivery was too gracious an act on Steves part. As in let the desperate hang themselves, the recurring use of denier sharpens the shrill tone of the speach and will go nowhere with sensible people and reversing the null hypothesis is great for exactly the same reason.

  21. Charlie A
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 2:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    As an engineer used to basic document controls, such as noting revision levels, the changes without noting the revision is striking.

    This seems to be common problem in climate science. The AR4 went through several revisions before they started to do any sort of documentation of revision level and changes.

    Amateurish. Except most amateurs aren’t that unprofessional.

  22. Demesure
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

    If Trenberth papers are as “original” as his current verbatim lifted text, which I strongly suspect given his lack of scrupule, Bradley would have plenty matters to complain about plagiarism.

  23. Scarface
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    It is obvious that these climate scientists are desperate and scared, but…
    nothing of their intriges and up-side-down science makes it to the MSM.

    Although I see that people in my surroundings are climate-tired,
    the politicians and the green industry go forward full speed.

    To me it’s unbelievable that CAGW got so far,
    but hardly anyone I know did some searching for him- or herself.

    Do you have an idea how the public will ever know what really is going on?
    Do you have the feeling that the scientific community will be able to solve this by itself?

    I would really like to know your opinion on this.

    Kind regards,
    Scarface

  24. LearDog
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:50 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I want to read someone else’s paper as my own speech, too! That sounds like fun and an easy way to gain some credibility – present others’ ideas (heavily referenced) and agree with them !

  25. LearDog
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Seriously – I presume that Trenberth had Hasselmann’s permission / concurrence? And even so – isn’t AMS somewhat obligated (given the prominence of the speech) to check?

    Have we heard from Dr Hasselmann on this topic?

  26. Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 4:39 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve:

    The non-academic world would be less concerned about plagiarism and more concerned about Trenberth’s use of the offensive term “denier” and whether Trenberth’s Empire Strikes Back attitudes are a useful contribution to the post-Climategate debate. Although Trenberth was also criticized on these counts, Trenberth made no concessions or changes to this aspect of his speech.

    “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.”

  27. steveta_uk
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 5:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Ben at WUWT got this email from Dr. T.

    I will be on travel in Europe until 19 January 2011. [Bern ISSE 9-14; Grenoble ECRA 15-18] I will have only limited access to email. Please contact my admin asst, Lisa Butler (lbutler@ucar.edu) or x 1366for further information or if this involves travel.Your mail regarding “xxx” will be read when I return.RegardsKevin

    which left me wondering if Dr. T might not have written any of this – perhaps he left the job to an assistant and so wasn’t involved in the original or the corrections.

  28. joshv
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 8:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Mr. McIntyre, one wonders if tangling you up in interminable detailed arguments over minor speeches, and over what was or wasn’t posted on some website somewhere, at some point in time, isn’t another fairly successful means of dealing with your dissenting viewpoints.

    You seem to spend an awful lot of time doing this sort of thing, and none of it appears to be very productive in terms of actually auditing the work of climate scientists.

    Steve: actually this sort of post can be done pretty quickly. Other work takes a very long time and often leaves me without material for long stretches.

    • Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s hardly a minor speech. But you prompted a very helpful insight from Steve, so thanks.

    • Ron Cram
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve,
      I want to thank you for this post and others like it. It helps us stay up with what the Team are doing. Of course, we all look forward to the more substantive posts but please continue posts of this type as well.

  29. Ron Cram
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,
    I notice that Trenberth has retained the incorrect portion about Jones not having been an IPCC author before, even though you pointed out that Jones and Trenberth had the same experience. I would have expected Trenberth to correct that very blatant error as well. I guess this just proves plagiarism is more serious than being wrong.

  30. Shallow Climate
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 6:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I will add here that in fact Trenberth’s “coopering up” is still WOEFULLY insufficient. All he has done is insert references, leaving everything else as is: in other words, he has not enclosed his direct quotes in quotation marks.(!) This HAS to be done with any direct quote from another, not just giving a reference. As they now stand, Trenberth’s coopered up revisions are saying that the thoughts/insights/findings are Hasselmann’s, but that the WORDING OF THEM is Trenberth’s. This, of course, as SM has so carefully demonstrated, is totally false. Nor will it do for Trenberth to change one or two inconsequential words here and there in the quote and thus pass it off as his own wording. Why is he trying to get away with this junk? Frankly, I find that merely adding citations, but without the quotation marks, is actually no better than before, or even worse: it adds insult to injury. Sadly, apparently, this is “normal” in Teamville.

  31. EdeF
    Posted Jan 20, 2011 at 4:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Reads like the Team has written their Climategate narrative and the plan is to get out there and tell the story to the media, at AMS meetings, etc. Can’t they even change the wording just a little from one guy to the next? I
    would feel weird in parroting what someone else wrote. Why the use of heavily charged words such as deniers and lies? Why the great fear in engaging in debate?

  32. Interested N-S
    Posted Jan 22, 2011 at 6:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The striking thing about Dr. T, and confirmed by this speech, is that as a scientist, he has decided the outcome from the start, and will defend that position regardless, including refusing to debate it. Time therefore to stop referring to him as a scientist. His position and actions are clearly political advocacy.

    Also, if he’s comfortable calling people ‘deniers’, how about applying the phrase ‘deceiver’ in return.

  33. Posted Jan 27, 2011 at 6:50 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Any word on how Trenberth’s talk went last in Seattle last weekend?

9 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Read all about it here over at Climate Audit here [...]

  2. [...] http://climateaudit.org/2011/01/16/trenberth-and-lifting-text-verbatim-2/ [...]

  3. [...] McIntyre Climate Audit January 16, [...]

  4. [...] verbatim from another scientist and for its use six times of the word “denier”. (Thanks to some kindly advice proferred by Steve McIntyre, Trenberth has now significantly altered his speech. “Deniers” has been altered to [...]

  5. [...] verbatim from another scientist and for its use six times of the word “denier”. (Thanks to some kindly advice proferred by Steve McIntyre, Trenberth has now significantly altered his speech. But not – as I incorrectly reported earlier [...]

  6. [...] Trenberth’s presentation to the American Meteorological Society earlier this year (see here here here), Trenberth et al 2011 was not [...]

  7. [...] and ‘poor attribution’. But lack of attribution seems common enough in climate science. Kevin Trenberth was caught out by Steve McIntyre and quietly added citations, while Anthony Watts handled [...]

  8. [...] and ‘poor attribution’. But lack of attribution seems common enough in climate science. Kevin Trenberth was caught out by Steve McIntyre and quietly added citations, while Anthony Watts handled [...]

  9. [...] and ‘poor attribution’. But lack of attribution seems common enough in climate science. Kevin Trenberth was caught out by Steve McIntyre and quietly added citations, while Anthony Watts handled [...]

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