ACS Code of Conduct

Someone pointed out that Environmental Science & Technology, which published a scurrilous attack on us, was published by the American Chemical Society, whose Code of Conduct online here says that it “expects its members to adhere to the highest ethical standards.” One clause states:

Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.

It doesn’t seem to me that Thacker’s comments on us meet this code of conduct.


  1. John M
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 6:26 PM | Permalink


    I believe you’ve found the member code. There does not appear to be a staff code of conduct. As a long time member of the ACS, I was upset by the tone of that article. I joined ACS because it was a “Professional Organization”. There is room to disagree, but I don’t think a Professional Organization ought to provide a forum for personal attacks, either directly or within quotes.

    By the way, were you ever given a chance to respond to those quotes before the article was published? Such strong language usual leads most ethical journalists to double back. But I guess there’s always “deadline pressure”.

  2. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 7:58 PM | Permalink

    Re #1: We have not been interviewed by Thacker. Thacker has never given us the opportunity to respond to the denigrations from the authors he quoted, nor did he try to pin down Mann on what exactly he thinks is “garbage” about our work, etc; which is why his articles crumble into shrill one-sided rants. It’s unclear if he even quoted his sources correctly since they seem to deny saying what he claims they said.

    It is ironic that Thacker complains about ES&T not getting responses to their emails to WSJ. Before the article attacking Regalado and the WSJ, Thacker wrote an attack piece on Barton on July 6 2005, in which he took several swipes at us. I wrote the following email to ES&T ( in response.

    From: Ross McKitrick
    Subject: Article on Barton Letters, July 6, 2005

    There was an article in the July 6 on-line edition of EST

    in which my work is discussed. The article author made no attempt to contact me while preparing this article and has made some misleading statements. For instance, he does not list my position (I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Guelph), and when he mentions my Fellowship at the Fraser Institute he insinuates that I receive funding from Exxon, without mentioning that my Fellowship is unpaid.

    He suggests that our protests against the unavailability of the hockey stick data are moot since it is archived on the Nature web site. What he fails to mention is that the archive was only put up in the Summer of 2004 in direct response to a detailed Materials Complaint which we submitted to Nature and which the Editorial Board upheld. Mann was instructed by Nature to publish a Corrigendum (July 1 2004) acknowledging a list of data errors and explaining, for the first time, key methodological steps that were undisclosed in his original paper. Mr. Thacker also says “they also claim that Mann will not release the computer source code used in the hockey-stick paper” insinuating this is merely our “claim”. If he had read the Wall Street Journal article he would know that Mann freely admits he refuses to release his code; the refusal of Nature and the NSF to intervene is also a matter of public record.

    Mr. Thacker also cites work by Caspar Ammann that he claims backs up Mann’s conclusions. Had he contacted me or Steve McIntyre, we could have shown him that Ammann did not succeed in reproducing Mann’s results, instead he reproduced McIntyre’s results, and showed exactly the same sensitivity to minor methodological changes that we had already demonstrated in our articles. Ammann’s paper is not under review at Geophysical Research Letters as Thacker’s article claims, it was rejected a month ago.

    May I submit a short letter for publication to clarify these matters?

    Yours truly

    Ross McKitrick

    I have never received a reply.
    On July 15 2006 I got an unrelated email from Thacker asking to contact me about an article he was writing. I told him I had no comments to make on the Barton letters, but if he was interested in correcting the imbalance in his other articles by discussing the substance of our work he could contact me. Later he left a voicemail saying he planned to write an article, then he left another one saying he was under the gun with a deadline and wouldn’t contact me until August. There was no subsequent contact from him. At no time after that did he phone or email with any questions or undertake any fact-checking with me, nor has ES&T ever contacted me about submitting a response to their original article. Thacker did not ask me about how Steve got involved in this issue or whether he gets paid by the ‘fossil fuel industry’, he did not ask any questions about the technical matters under debate, he failed to discover or mention that two of the four comments submitted to GRL have been rejected (based on our responses), etc. In other words he did not ask me about any of the things he was supposedly investigating, even though I was in a position to provide the information.

  3. John M
    Posted Apr 18, 2006 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    The article Steve linked to must have been the Barton one (Aug 31). In that, he quotes Steve (or at least he has words within quotation marks implying he spoke to Steve—I know from personal experience that journalists treat quotation marks differently than the rest of the planet does).

    It seems to me, if Thacker had in his possession those quotes from Steve’s critics, the harsh nature of those quotes should have led him to directly ask Steve about them. As I said earlier, if he got those quotes later, a follow-up would have been the professional thing to do.

  4. John A
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 1:41 AM | Permalink

    Re #3

    ACS is another organization currently suffering from a dose of apocalyptic fever. When the world’s about to end, journalistic integrity to report fairly and accurately goes out of the window.

    The only way to wake the ACS up is to write a letter of complaint by multiple signatures.

  5. TCO
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    ACS has a bit of a left slant, in particular the journalists and adminstrator types who are employed and de facto run it. In some cases, the membership (the academic side) can be a bit left-leaning also. You will see this in the opinion peices and editorials and in some straight reporting articles in C&E News. They have had a pro-AGW bent in that widely circulated journal.

    I actually think your case/issue is quite topical and you should give the guys at C&E News a chance to write about the hockey stick kerfuffle. Given how things are swinging towards you, I would not be surprised to see the peice more balanced and open than it would have been a year or two ago.

    All that said, the GRL article is the only thing that holds water to me and holds my attention. Fighting battles about editorial comments in news articles is a distraction from building real street cred: finishing arguments and publishing them in the cited, abstracted, peer-reviewed, for history, literature.

  6. John A
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

    Fighting battles about editorial comments in news articles is a distraction from building real street cred: finishing arguments and publishing them in the cited, abstracted, peer-reviewed, for history, literature.

    Somehow I begin to wonder whether getting properly done science through all of the firey hoops, mantraps and giant rolling balls of peer-reviewed scientific journalism is worth the hassle. It might be better for Steve to write “I have a marvellous disproof of this multiproxy study that this margin is too small to contain” and leave it at that.

  7. jae
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    This behavior of ACS shocks me. The ACS always had (until now) a good reputation for factual reporting. Think I will not renew my membership. This AGW thing is really adversely affecting a lot of people’s judgment.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 9:34 AM | Permalink

    #5,6. I don’t spend a whole lot of time on an individual editorial skirmish and they don’t interfere with the process of journal submitting. TCO, the main things that interferes with journal submitting is 1) there’s some piece of data or information that I have to litigate for; 2) that I get interested in new things and don’t finish things that are in inventory. This excuses some but not all things. I’ll post up on the Polar Urals some time, as this has progressed but then got interconnected with Esper and Briffa access issues, which are still pending.

  9. John Hekman
    Posted Apr 19, 2006 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    If Steve was an academic in a climate-related field, he might have grad students to co-author articles on a lot of the ideas he comes up with and to do more of the leg work. If there are grad students reading this blog, they would be smart to pick up on some of these ideas for a thesis. Even if they want to prove Steve wrong, fine, but do a competent job with the statistics.

    A similar story is that of Robert Fogel, the economic history Nobel winner. He was a labor radical (Communist) in the 1950s who decided he would study economics and write, as he tells it, “the definitive labor history” from a Marxian point of view. He studied at Hopkins under Fritz Machlup,a major economist of the Austrian school, and was converted to the principles of economic freedom. Fogel was the most entertaining as well as inspiring teacher I had in graduate school.

  10. Mark
    Posted Apr 20, 2006 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

    I am actually steering my PhD dissertation the way of component analysis, though I prefer independent component analysis, a.k.a. blind-source separation. I begin studying the concepts shortly (done with classwork this semester), and intend to take the “comprehensive” exam this September.

    Oh, and I too could be considered an Austrian in terms of my economic beliefs, though I cannot say I am versed enough to talk turkey in such a subject. I’ll stick to the component analysis. 🙂


  11. John M
    Posted Nov 14, 2006 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

    Well, after many months, e-mails, and tooth pulling, I’ve succeeded in getting a Letter to the Editor published in Chemical & Engineering News on the subject of this thread. I put it in the context of some “peer-reviewed” work in an ACS publication on analysis of platinum in the blood of some breast plant recipients. There appear to be a few chemists that frequent this blog, so if you’re an ACS member, check out the Oct 30 issue of C&E News. For the rest of you, I simply pointed out that the ACS should not be participating in a name-calling campaign against Steve McIntyre, especially when some truly controversial and questionable work is treated with fairness and almost reverance. (Steve has a text version of the Letter and C&EN’s response, which seems to focus on this “peer-reviewed” fetish they have. Maybe he can make the text file available, I don’t think I can link to a file myself.)

    Anyway, the big news is this shocker (unrelated I’m sure to my complaints).

    It seeems that Paul Thacker has been terminated by the ACS, and his cause has been taken up by PBS and some other news outlets, which you can see here and here.

    It seems he might have been muck-raking in one too many places, and even the ACS finally realized that they can’t be a boarding school for Woodward and Bernstein wannabees. I wish him well in his new job with I’m just glad my dues are no longer supporting his investigative reporting aspirations.

  12. John M
    Posted Sep 10, 2007 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

    Looks like the ACS now grudgingly acknowledges Steve M’s work. Rudy Baum, editor of C&E News published this editorial today.

    The context is a bit of a non-sequiter (the “case in point” really doesn’t follow from the previous part of the editorial), but he has this to say about the recent brouhaha:

    Case in point: In August, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies revised the average annual temperature of the 48 contiguous states for the years 2000 to 2006 downward by 0.15 °C. The change corrected an error made when meshing two data sets. It was discovered by Stephen McIntyre, a retired Canadian businessman with a bent for mathematics who tirelessly combs NASA climate data looking for just such errors.

    His main problem seems to be with the Wall Street Journal’s coverage. He also raises a few red herrings about “skeptical” arguements, but all-in-all, this beats how ACS publications have covered Steve’s work in the past.

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