Do the leaked emails show that Phil Jones and others corrupted the peer review process?

One of the allegations made against the CRU’s Phil Jones and others mentioned in the emails such as Michael Mann, is that they corrupted the peer review process. Below I consider several of the emails mentioned in this context:

  • Jones said that he and a colleague would keep two papers out of the IPCC report even if it meant redefining the peer review process. The first point to note on this is that both papers were cited and discussed in Chapter 3 of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report, on page 244. Jones and his colleague are the 2 coordinating authors out of a group of 12 for this chapter, yet it seems they didn’t keep the two papers out in the end. Of course if they attempted to redefine the peer review process on the IPCC report the fact that they failed does not exonerate them. However, the evidence that they did is a most probably flippant comment in an email. Even if Jones and his colleague were trying to keep these papers out of the IPCC report, if they were doing so on the grounds the papers were of such poor quality they should never have been published in the first place, then they were doing what they should be doing, namely exerting quality control over what material goes into an important scientific report.  Without further evidence, I consider this part of the charge therefore to be unproven and evidence for it weak.
  • In another case, an email discussion involving Tom Wigley and Michael Mann (cc’d to Jones and others) has Wigley musing about trying to get Jamie Saiers, an editor at Geophysical Review Letters (GRL), ousted. A later email from Michael Mann talks about a leak at GRL being plugged. As Bishop Hill notes, Saiers is no longer an editor at GRL. However it’s not clear that Saiers left due to the efforts of Wigley or Mann. Saiers stepped down as editor of GRL in 2006 (according to the CV available at his webpage at Yale) over a year after Wigley’s email and some months after Michael Mann’s comment about the GRL leak being plugged. Moreover Saiers himself says his standing down as editor had nothing to do with attempts by anyone to get him sacked. There is however some question as to why the editor in chief took over handling the paper concerned from Saiers. At this point, it seems to me that we simply don’t know why he did so. The emails suggest a possible line enquiry but that’s all. It’s quite possible it had nothing to do with Wigley, and that Wigley’s suggestion was never acted on by Wigley himself or by those to whom he suggested it. The evidence here is contradictory and circumstantial.
  • In another email exchange, Michael Mann and Phil Jones discuss their concerns about the journal Climate Research and a paper by Soon & Bulianas. They both regard the work accept by Climate Research as being of low quality that wouldn’t pass muster in other peer-reviewed journals and Mann suggests ignoring Climate Research, whilst Jones indicates he will write to the to tell them he’ll have nothing to do with them until they get rid of “this troublesome editor”, namely Hans von Storch. Now, it turns out that there was a storm over the Soon & Buliunas paper that led to several of Climate Research’s editors, including von Storch, resigning.  However von Storch’s account of his resignation makes it clear that he thought the publication of Soon & Baliunas was an error, that the paper was severely methodologically flawed and that the peer-review process had broken down in the case of that paper. Clare Goodess’s account of the resignations is also worth a look. From what I’ve read of this affair it seems clear to me that von Storch and others resigned because of a dispute amongst the editorial board of Climate Research, over a paper that was widely regarded as methodologically flawed (as evidenced by numerous complaints, the fact some editors came to this view themselves and a rebuttal of the paper), and a peer review process that seems to have broken down at the journal concerned. Phil Jones et al’s role in this was simply to be part of the cacophany of complaint over the paper and to have contributed to the rebuttal of the paper. Criticising and/or boycotting a journal over allowing poor quality work to be published is hardly dishonest or unscientific.

None of the three emails above come close to proving the peer-review process had been corrupted by Phil Jones, Michael Mann et al and they seem to me to be the emails most supportive of this allegation that I’ve seen.

However I am aware that many regard the leaked code as exposing fraud and also that there are some issues about “hiding the decline” that my earlier post about “Mike’s Nature trick” did not address. I will turn to these topics next.


2 Responses to “Do the leaked emails show that Phil Jones and others corrupted the peer review process?”

  1. gravityloss Says:

    Nononono not the editor von Storch, the reviewer de Freitas!

  2. jahammerton Says:

    What exactly are you claiming happened to de Freitas at Jones et al’s hands?

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