Team Policy on Acknowledgements

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 ( 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.


  1. Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    If Mr T makes a fool of himself emulating Gavin’s childish behavior, a collective THANK YOU KEVIN is in order

  2. S. Geiger
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Permalink

    minor point…..perhaps one too many ‘himself’s in the final sentence. 😉


  3. EdeF
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    “Trenberth moved quickly to cooper up his presentation against plagiarism allegations by inserting citations to Hasselmann 2010 in each of the incidents reported at CA.”

    I think some dues are owed to the International Coopers Union.

  4. Frank K.
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for reminding me of Hansen’s “contemporary jeremiad.”

    It does, however, contain the following “acknowledgment”:

    “My apologies if the quick response that I sent to Andy Revkin and several other journalists, including the suggestion that it was a tempest inside somebody’s teapot dome, and that perhaps a light was not on upstairs, was immoderate. It was not ad hominem, though.”

    Perhaps Jim Hansen should work for Hallmark, writing equally eloquent words for their “Thank You” cards…

    Steve: yes, Hansen did have a unique style of conveying his appreciation.

    • Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

      Perhaps Jim Hansen should work for Hallmark

      A card is in the post to you for this suggestion.

    • Harold
      Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

      “perhaps a light was not on upstairs, was immoderate. It was not ad hominem, though.”

      Attacking a person isn’t an ad hominem argument? That’s news to the non-scientific world. Words seem to be redefined for convenience.

      • Robert S
        Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

        Harold wrote
        Attacking a person isn’t an ad hominem argument?

        No, simply attacking a person is NOT ad hominem. Straight from wiki

        An ad hominem (Latin: “to the man”), also known as argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to link the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise

  5. Jeremy
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

    Regardless of how well-intentioned you are; Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your behavior. Consume you it will!

    I grew up in a cult. I know what it’s like to visit an echo chamber each week and be surrounded by very well-intentioned people who are horribly misled because they put their cause before their curiosity. On any regular day these people are just like you and me, they get up, they go to work, they try to get something done, and they come home to relax. They are us, and that is the most horrifying thing, these people *are us*. Some of my best lifelong friends came from that, most of them I haven’t spoken to in over a decade at this point. Most have moved on and left the cult, some didn’t.

    The entire team is demonstrating classic turf-defense behavior where no intellectually rational defense exists (nor sometimes, any reason to be so vocal in defense), but the cause and the importance of it demands a defense. This behavior is further magnified, quite unfortunately, by the position these men hold within this segment of the population that holds the beliefs that have been constructed. You see cults have an heirarchy just like anything else. This means that the plebes in the pews do not enjoy any of the privileges of the tithes coming in (or very little), but if one of them leaves, the organization continues, and only those close to that person even bat an eye. The leaders, on the other hand, are in the unique position where they get nearly all of the benefits of the attention paid to them by the believers and along with that they cannot be seen to be wavering in any way.

    The cult that I was in disassembled itself precisely because of such wavering from the leaders. I was, in fact, quite fortunate. I likely wouldn’t have seen the true extent of my lack of critical thinking without backtracking from people much older than me who lived in cities far away. The leaders of the CAGW bandwagon are in precisely the same position, and their responses to all challenges are classic cult-leader behavior when a serious challenge has been presented.

    I’m sorry if this sounds antagonistic and in many ways insulting to the Team. I truly am. I realize these men have dedicated their lives to being scientists. Whatever path they’ve taken to lead them to this point, they did likely start out their careers with genuine inquisitiveness. That consolation expressed, coming from where I am coming from, their behavior is *OBVIOUS*. They haven’t been acting like scientists much for a very long while, at least not publicly. Perhaps in private or with their graduate students they apply the scientific method normally, but their public behavior is so clearly mitigation of reality. It is getting quite sickening to watch. Not just because of the misinformation that gets distributed, but because we’re really watching career scientists at their very worst, defending the indefensible. If career scientists can so thoroughly subscribe to noble-cause-corruption, no human living, dead, or even all future can/could/will resist the sweet song of deception when presented in the right way. It speaks to how truly fragile human understanding really is and how important it is to defend not our abilities to investigate, but much more basically, our abilities and in fact NEED to question all that surrounds us.

    What does it say of the future if those who have spent their entire lives trying to come up with the right question (as that is true science) can so easily be led down a path wherein they now publicly abuse their standing as pillars of human understanding to convince others, even other scientists not to question?

    Many people have wondered throughout history where humanity will end up. Some have even more appropriately questioned whether humanity will have any end to speak of. I personally think that if anything, humans have a great shot at not ending per se, but losing their humanity to their own imaginations. We seem to have a greater ability to imagine than see what is right in front of our face. In my opinion, it is that which will trip us up. We’re watching cherished fantasies prevent open questions from being voiced every time a member of the team says anything.

    • Bad Andrew
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Permalink

      An excellent observation of evidence, Jeremy. I usually don’t read long comments, but yours was worth it.


      • Robert Christopher
        Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

        @Bad Andrew: Agreed! (Even if I do read some long comments.)

        @Jeremy: “Curiosity before cause”; it would make a good motto!

    • j ferguson
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 5:11 PM | Permalink


      Thanks you for this excellent and informative comment – well worth the reading. But as Steve has noted, some of it transgresses a rule which makes a lot of sense in the context of what happens at this website. How could anyone expect to fairly moderate religious content – better that there be none.

      On the other hand, the conflict between “faith” and “reason” is of long standing, and as we see, not without ebb and flow.

      I would very much like to read more of your observations. Maybe there is a more suitable venue, Briggs’, or E.M.Smith’s for example.

      • Jeremy
        Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

        I have moderated comment boards on the internet before. I’m fairly experienced on what must be done to keep things on topic. I can accept that occasionally my words will get cut due to an understood policy so long as my words aren’t cut due to an arbitrary preference driven by fear. Steve made it easy to shake hands on this issue, he explained what he was going to do and why.

        Also, if there’s one thing I’ve learned on internet comment boards it is to take my writing less seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a comment half done or nearly done just to decide that what I was going to say is poorly thought out anyway, and someone will assuredly say it better.

        • Jeremy
          Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

          oops, that was meant as a reply to j ferguson.

      • Kevin
        Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Permalink

        Isn’t Jeremy’s comment really about critical thinking and self-awareness in the sense of being aware of our influences? Even if his points are narrated from a specifically “religious” perspective, aren’t we talking about interpretation here? As far as I am concerned a philosophical hermeneutic is not that different from the scientific method. Hermeneutics helps us hash out a method for our thinking skills and presuppositions, pre-understandings and prejudices to find the best interpretation. Not sure how different this is from the scientific method.

        I can read past the “religious” layers of Jeremy’s post to get to the kernel of what he means to say.

        Aren’t we really talking about human inventions? Ideology?

  6. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

    No surprise here. Trenberth wrote a political article and he reacted like a politician – US style anyway. I would never expect a politician of one party in the US to recogonize a member of another party who might have critiqued their actions – except perhaps to imply the person criticizing was lying.

    I think it is proper and informative for Steve M to point out these sloppy/lazy actions by climate advocates/scientists. I think that sloppiness/laziness stems from the scientists getting too far away from the science and thinking that in his advocacy role he is not under the same constraints he would expect in his science role – also less lose of professional respect since he was in a different role. The problem is that that sloppiness can and has spilled over into the science.

    • Harold
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

      I disagree about the sloppy / laziness stemming from getting too far afield from science. Laziness is a personal trait, so I’ll dismiss that, but the sloppiness clearly was there in many scientific works.

      • See - owe to Rich
        Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

        Well, when I first read of this plagiarization issue, I wondered whether there might be some standard Team text that Trenberth and Hasselmann were both quoting from. You know, they might like to have convenient materials to use.

        However, Trenberth’s belated acknowledgement of Hasselmann seems to deny that. Unless, of course, he has acknowledged Hasselmann because the Team doesn’t want the existence of a “Team Text” to be revealed.

        I wonder if the Team has started using enciphered email yet?


        • Doug in Seattle
          Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 2:22 AM | Permalink

          This is what I was thinking too. They had announced earlier this year that would be working together to counter the “deniers”, so it logically followed in my mind at least that they would have a script to use.

          This is much more like a political campaign that it is a science debate. Bullet points might be a better way to do this though, as it keeps lazy speakers from quoting verbatim from the agreed upon script.

  7. JD Ohio
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 12:12 PM | Permalink


    He discovered it on his own, and his correction was just coincidental with your post. 🙂

    • Harold
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

      Hmmm – congratulations, Steve, Climateaudit is now an international man of mystery…

      This is one of the few logical positions I’ve seen these scientists take – don’t give credit to those you wish to discredit. Since I wager they would howl at not being given credit for some error by a critic that they caught, this is pretty clear tribalism. Trust in the elders, they’ll prevent the disasters.

    • stephen richards
      Posted Jan 20, 2011 at 6:59 AM | Permalink

      I think that this is the first scientific proof of ESP. Steve realized that Trenberth was going to correct what he had not corrected before Trenberth knew that he DrT was going to correct it. So, Steve wrote the post while Trenberth was beginning to think that he would correct the text and by the time Steve had posted the errors DrT had corrected it.

      See ESP. The proof. Well done Steve Mc another first!!

  8. KnR
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    Frankly ot may have been better to wait until him made the speech and they hit him with his ‘word nicking’ for that real red face look, after all its a mad enough speech if it had come out after where the words actual came from it could have only have made it llok worse .

    • mpaul
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

      Our side is advocating for openness. Let’s leave those kinds of tacicts to the Team, where such approaches will surely fail.

  9. Stuart Lynne
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    Assuming that Trenberth NOW belatedly adds an acknowledgement, it will need to acknowledge both the original problems AND the subsequent need for a second emendation to add the acknowledgement again as suggested by etc etc etc…

    Recursively your’s..

  10. Vorlath
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

    In my experience in Academia (TM), references and acknowledgements are often required not because information doesn’t live in a vacuum (though that is often stated as well), but rather to build and recognize the work of others. Disagreeing with previous work was sure to get you marked down as this was considered worse than no references at all. Readers may disagree with this all they want, but opposing views get a LOT of pushback. So it’s not surprising that there is no credit given to Climate Audit in this case. It’s pretty much an unwritten rule that opposing views or those on the other end of the spectrum get no recognition at all.

  11. Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    There will be no acknowledgement, because Trenberth knew quite well what he was doing. He wasn’t informed of an error, he was caught red handed.

    U. Colorado fired Ward Churchill just a couple of years ago for plagiarism far less blatant than this.

  12. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 8:36 PM | Permalink

    Why does it take a crisis, real or plausible, to bring out the worst in some people and organizations?

    The Governor of the State of Victoria, which has moderately severe flooding in the west, has just attributed present and recent unusual weather conditions here and there to global warming; and has stated that Governments should assist people to be able to claim insurance despite difficulties arising from fine print definitions of “flood”. Both of these statements are unacceptable from a Head of State. One is opinion on a subject on which he is not expert; the other is interference in contract law between person and insurer.

    The Team reluctance to publicise and acknowledge new scientific evidence affects people in persuasive high places; they can then affect the citizen and put undue strain on people already under stress coping with emergency. If you were are farmer in difficulty, would you not be made unhappy by a pronouncement from on high that you are going to have such problems more often?

    The Team reluctance also offers politicians an easy way out of culpability for bad planning decisions in past times. You can bet that some politicians are working this angle as hard as they can. “Don’t blame me, blame Global Warming, which we did not know about when we were planning. BTW, we’ll be increasing taxes to help pay for the repairs”.

    • ianl8888
      Posted Jan 17, 2011 at 8:46 PM | Permalink

      snip OT editorial

      • Ken Mival
        Posted Jan 19, 2011 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

        Being a resident of the State of Victoria and having just returned from Queensland where my son lives in the flood affected city of Ipswich, I was distressed to see a prof of earth sciences (karoly) attributing the floods to ‘warming of the waters around Australia’.

        This is only a half truth as the cause of the flooding rains is the extremely deep La Nina we have experienced since mid last year – with cooling of the pacific to our west by as much as 4 degrees. That does not get a mention at all.

        I quote from another paper – Andrew Bolt of the herald sun who quotes what is being stated as follows:

        “Scientists such as Professor Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at Britain’s Met Office, and Dr Kevin Trenberth from the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research have pointed to the evidence showing a warmer world is a wetter world, due to increased water vapour and energy in the atmosphere leading to more frequent and intense storms.

        In The Age this week, Professor David Karoly from Melbourne University’s school of earth sciences was quoted as saying that the wild weather extremes were in keeping with scientists’ forecasts of more flooding and more droughts as a result of high temperatures and more evaporation.”

        No mention there of La Nina

        Go to Andrew Bolt’s blog for the full expose:

  13. Steven Mosher
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 4:23 AM | Permalink

    6/26/2007. 12:10pm

    “Does the Congressman[Linder] know what he is asking for? I’m afraid the answer is yes and no.
    Yes: I personally expect the Congressman knows exactly what he is asking for:
    he is asking for all the information that we use so that the climate skeptic folks at can try to find problems with our methodologies and results…..”

    Guess who wrote that mail? You won’t find it in the climategate stack of stuff.
    No this isn’t a tease for more better stuff to follow.

    Answer: Peterson.

  14. jaffa
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 4:43 AM | Permalink

    The last few posts seem petty to me, is anyone surprised that yet another ‘climate scientist’ is a hypocrite. They treat CA and Steve with contempt because he’s exposing them, I would prefer to see more of that.

  15. pyromancer76
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the consistent scientific method, good cheer, and dogged pursuit of the evidence. Can’t comment much because the material is above my pay grade, but I read almost all. I hope thousands of others do, too. Just sent my “subscription”(donation). I also hope others show similar appreciation for such fine work.

  16. j ferguson
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 12:36 PM | Permalink

    People puzzled by my comment and your rejoinder should know that your second comment, the one we’re discussing is gone pursuant to the rules. I might add, though, that the additional detail you provided in the now-gone comment did contribute.

  17. j ferguson
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    My 12:36 comment should have followed Jeremy’s 10:44 comment.

  18. Yancey Ward
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Once you begin to deny truth in trivial matters, it is only a matter of time before you start denying it in nontrivial ones. It is so easy to redraw that line where you decide, “I will lie about this, but not that.” This is how corruption works, a bit at a time.

  19. Manfred
    Posted Jan 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    Isn’t the insertion of changes suggested by Steve without acknowledgement another and this worse because deliberate act of plagiarism itself ?

  20. Peter Puusa
    Posted Feb 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    I would think, given what I’ve read recently, that Trenberth may now be in danger of being sued for plagarism by John Cleese et al. As the Team has taken turns playing the part of the Black Knight over @RC, Kevin has taken the show onto the world stage. His Noble – sorry – I mean, Global Quest for the Holy Grail – sorry – I mean, his global quest to find the missing heat has me in stitches. Who all will fall in as the quest continues should be fun to watch, particularly who’ll be seen making the clippity-clop noises as they go. Perhaps some smaller tree X-sections would work . . .

    Happy Trails,

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