After CA reported Trenberth’s lifting of text from Hasselmann 2010 verbatim or near-verbatim either without citation or, in the one citation, a citation that was inadequate given the lengthy near-verbatim quotation, Trenberth moved quickly to cooper up his presentation against plagiarism allegations by inserting citations to Hasselmann 2010, responding to each of the incidents reported at CA. Trenberth did not acknowledge Climate Audit.
Question: given that Trenberth considered the problems sufficient to justify making changes, should Trenberth have acknowledged Climate Audit for drawing the problem to his attention?
Let’s review Team responses to a couple of previous incidents (and there are others not considered here.)
In 2009, Hu McCulloch noticed that the Steig et al 2009 confidence intervals did not allow for autocorrelation, reporting the matter in a CA post and by an email to all the Steig coauthors. Steig subsequently issued a corrigendum without acknowledging Hu. In defending the non-acknowledgement, Steig said that he was unaware of the CA post, that he was away in Antarctica and did not receive McCulloch’s email and that he had learned of the problem not from McCulloch but from a Mystery Man (who wasn’t acknowledged either). Steig said that if McCulloch had been the first person to make him aware of the error, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge McCulloch and that the Steig coauthors would have been happy to do so. (See here and here .)
Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make Steig et al. aware of the error in the paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of the Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him and the authors would have been happy to do so.
In another incident related to Steig et al (the Harry station), Gavin Schmidt said that “people will generally credit the person who tells them something”. Problems with the Harry station had been reported (but not yet specified) at Climate Audit late in the afternoon of Superbowl Sunday 2009. The next day, the British Antarctic Survey replaced the data set, initially without notice. Gavin Schmidt said that a Mystery Man had “independently” noticed the problems with the Harry station that afternoon and had notified the British Antarctic Survey. The British Antarctic Survey later credited Gavin Schmidt, who, as it turned out, was his own Mystery Man. See here here. Here is one of Schmidt’s comments from a changing story
Response: No-one should be against better data. It would have been nice had SM actually notified the holders of the data that there was a problem (he didn’t, preferring to play games instead). If he hadn’t left it for others to work out, he might even have got some credit :) .
In each case, Steig and Schmidt conceded that it was appropriate to acknowledge a person for drawing an error to the attention of the original author, but contested the existence of the obligation in these cases, because of the intervening role of a Mystery Man.
Interestingly, Team practices do not seem to require that the acknowledgement last for more than a short period. For example, I notified GISS in 2007 of their “Y2K error” and they changed their data accordingly with Reto Ruedy sending me the following email:
When we did our monthly update this morning, an offset based on the last 10 years of overlap in the two data sets was applied and our on-line documentation was changed correspondingly with an acknowledgment of your contribution. This change and its effect will be noted in our next paper on temperature analysis and in our end-of-year temperature summary.
Hansen’s contemporary jeremiad did not contain an acknowledgement and implied that the recognition of the problem came from internal quality control:
Recently it was realized that the monthly more-or-less-automatic updates of our global temperature analysis (http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2001/Hansen_etal.html) had a flaw in the U.S. data
The acknowledgement was evanescent – it was deleted within a month or so and the “next paper” (the recent Hansen et al 2010) did not contain an acknowledgement.
Let’s apply the principles of Steig and Schmidt to Trenberth. If Climate Audit made Trenberth aware of his “error” in failing to cite Hasselmann, then, in Steig’s language, it would have been “appropriate” to do so. Had the errors been pointed out by anyone other than Climate Audit, a small acknowledgement in the notes would have been made. However, Team policy has been not to do so.
In his comments, Trenberth observed:
Perhaps climategate comes from the somewhat inept response of climate scientists to criticisms from various sources.
Yup. However, Trenberth, as the Climategate letters show, was himself one of the architects of this “inept response” and his AMS commentary merely perpetuates the situation.