Free Speech

It hasn’t been long since I changed my comment policy, and already I’m getting complaints of censorship. I’m obviously not too concerned about the validity of these sources, but I thought I should address the issue regardless.

There are two reasons I will moderate a comment:

1) If you make a scientific claim which isn’t common knowledge (ie, you don’t have to cite “humans are causing climate change” or “the stratosphere is cooling while the troposphere is warming”), and don’t provide a citation from a legitimate peer-reviewed source to back up your statement, I will replace your comment with [citations needed].

For example, I would moderate comments such as these (all of which I just made up – nobody actually posted these):

Humans cannot be causing global warming. Volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans, and there have always been volcanoes and they have never changed the climate. The warming is obviously caused by the sun.

Climate sensitivity is very low – about 0.5 C. Read this post by Joanne Nova.

As Sallie Baliunas found, the medieval warm period was much warmer than today. This was very good for the Vikings and their grapes so we shouldn’t be worried about global warming.

The regular readers and commenters of ClimateSight will spend so much time debunking these common claims, which have been repeated endless times, that we won’t be able to move forward in our discussion. For example, compare the level of useful discussion on this post to this post. Whether or not you’re trying to, if you’re posting statements which claim to invalidate anthropogenic global climate change, with no scientific backing, you’re wasting our time. If you’re deliberatly wasting our time, of course we’re not going to include you in the discussion. If you’re genuinely interested and have heard these statements and want to know more, refer to Coby Beck’s How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. It’s by far the most comprehensive list of common misconceptions on the web. We’d just be repeating similar arguments anyway….

If you’re getting into more complicated arguments with lots of math, you still have to cite your basic conclusions. Keep in mind that I am just a lowly high school student who doesn’t know any calculus. I can’t possibly assess people’s arguments on their content – so I trust the “peer-reviewed” credential more than any amount of logic.

2) If you post something which is inflammatory, aggressive, insulting, politically extreme, a personal attack on a respected scientist, a random grumble about Al Gore, etc, your comment will be replaced with [inflammatory]. Here are some examples (again, made up):

Al Gore is EVIL and he just wants to tax us all!!!!!!!!!!!! What about the ice ages where it warmed without anyone driving hummers!!!!!!!! That’s his INCONVENIENT TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Any form of liberal government will never, ever, work, and regulations should never be allowed, no matter what the threat is. All regulations should be suspected as government influence on our lives and incomes.

You are an alarmist and a quasi-religious zealot. You’re just believing what Hansen says because it fits with your preconceived conclusion. Did you know that Hansen adjusts all the temperature data before he graphs it? There’s good reason to suspect that GISS is committing fraud.

When I encounter comments like these, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not interested in having a useful discussion, and just want to yell at people. You’re not helping the quality of the discussion one bit.

There’s a difference between deleting comments like these – which waste everyone’s time and patience – and participating in what we call “censorship”. Censorship is the practice of suppressing ideas and free speech by eliminating someone’s form of communication to the world. I am in no way practicing or endorsing this. You are more than welcome to start your own blog and yell about Al Gore all you want, or to go and comment about CO2 lagging temperature on any other blog you find. A better example of censorship would be how Watts removed Peter Sinclair’s video from Youtube – how else was Sinclair supposed to get his videos out to the world?

There are lots of places to say what you want elsewhere. But here I am the editor, and I am not going to publish comments which will sabotage our discussion. I am going to cater to the requests of those who respect this blog and wish to further the discussion, not those who wish to delay it.

Inflammatory statements are quite obviously inappropriate in a useful discussion. Additionally, keep in mind that science is not built around the pillars of completely free and unrestrained speech, as Brian pointed out. If it was, Nature and Science would have to publish absolutely every submission they received, whether or not it was correct or legitimate. In the real world, however, if a study were to make unusual claims without appropriate evidence or citation, it would go right out the window.

You can say whatever you want. But if it’s inflammatory or lacks citations, and you try to publish it here, don’t complain if it gets deleted.

(Making up all those moderation-worthy comments was kind of fun, though!)

Update: RealClimate has a great quote which sums up my feelings on this issue:

“Comments that accuse as of bad faith, fraud and dishonesty are not ways to move forward any conversation – how can you have a dialog with people who don’t believe a word you say? We choose to try and create a space for genuine conversation, which means weeding out the trolls and the noise. This is an imperfect process, but the alternative is a free-for-all that quickly deteriorates into a food fight. There are plenty of places to indulge in that kind of crap. There are only a few places where it’s not and we are not embarrassed to try to make this site one of them.”

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46 thoughts on “Free Speech

  1. Good for you. Never forget that this blog is your house. Freedom of speech is the right to say what one wishes. It is not the right to say it in someone else’s house.

    Now that your blog is gaining popularity (due to its high quality), you will become a target for those who wish to muddy the waters about climate science, to divert your posts and comment threads from relevant topics, and who simply want to “shoot the messenger” because they don’t like the message. As for insisting on references to scientific claims that are not common knowledge — that’s the least that should be required. Watch how quickly it eliminates the vast majority of claims from denialists!

    As for criticism from the likes of Jeff Id, don’t forget that John F. Kennedy once said that if, as a politician, you don’t have enemies, then you’re not doing your job.

    Stick to your guns.

  2. That’s a standard problem with denialists, it’s like they were bored aristocrats in the 18th century believing that science is still so simple that they can do all the science in his living-room proving any trained specialist wrong. They don’t need peer review, because there’s so much bullshit in the Internet, that they can keep you for years checking their “facts”. And if we are not climate scientists, that task is beyond our possibilities. A scientific reference is the good way to back up your scientific statements in a forum for lay people.

    • If I remember correctly, when I deleted Jeff’s comment – as he linked to his own blog instead of a peer-reviewed source – he said something along the lines of “Why didn’t you publish my comment? I saved it by the way and plan to advertise it if you don’t let me post it.” Then he said “Am I even allowed to have an opinion on here?” I pointed him to the comment policy. So when he asked what needed citing, I wasn’t about to spoon-feed him – if he really wanted to make a point, rather than just bully me, he would have read the comment policy which specifically mentions blogs. Later he said that I was using this policy as a “mask of reason” to eliminate comments that I didn’t like, that I was a liar, and that warmers were all about censorship. Then he called me a dishonest charlatan. That was nice.

      Anyone who actually cares about why I’ve chosen this comment policy will read my most recent post, Free Speech, instead of yelling about Galileo.

  3. If this is any indication, it’s understandable why comments from this Jeff Id fellow are getting clipped.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/on-overfitting/comment-page-1/#comment-125859

    The above link is my response to what was a rant of his on a political blog. There were a few clear ad hominens but my primary issue was with the various strawmen arguments, misrepresentation, red herrings, and generally bizarre statements.

  4. curious @ August 28, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Hi curious – please can you post using a different name? I use “curious” on some climate blogs and it can be confusing to have two posters using the same name. This can be especially so if they hold conflicting opinions. Thanks

    (for info. I have posted the same request on another thread here and these two requests are the only posts I have made or will make here. Kate – email me if you want to check my identity)

    • Curious II, I believe you posted the same comment twice in a row, so I deleted the first one. No worries about your identity. But there is a different gravatar for each of you, so even if you both stay as Curious, we can tell the difference.

  5. curious II,

    I agree that this can be confusing, but I wonder why it should be me that should change the nickname. I also have been using Curious in different climate blogs for a long time. Besides, I usually write the first letter in capitals and, in this forum, we have differnt avatars, as Kate points out. But there’s no problem, I’ll change my nickname to PeterPan from now on (at least in this forum). Though I like my previous nick, I don’t have a name to keep.

    Cheers.

  6. Kate,

    Good on you for setting up a blog, and directly encountering the issues relating to moderation. Its your blog, and you have clearly stated your policies.

    The only concern that I have is that I suggest that you seek advice on your policy that it is OK to delete as irrelevant all peer reviewed papers that appear in E&E. What would Richard Feynman say about that do you think?

    • E&E is not in the ISI Web of Science, and is almost never cited. That alone shows that it isn’t on the same playing field as most journals, and shouldn’t be treated as such. I’d love some of the scientists who read this blog to explain something I’ve heard of called an “impact factor”, eg some journals have 0.5 or 2. What is the impact factor of E&E?

      It also appears to have a very high risk of bias, as the editor admitted that, “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway. But isn’t that the right of the editor?” Does that seem to reflect the philosophy of science?

  7. So challenging the opinions of respected scientists is inflammatory? But challenging the opinions of those you disagree with is OK, because they are not respected?

    I’m curious how you would handle a situation like this:
    I’ll take out the names so as not to be ‘inflammatory’

    A scientist X posted the following on a blog about the peer-reviewed paper Klotzbach et al:
    No scientist really knows everything he or she claims to know from direct experience. Most of what we know as individuals comes from two factors: 1) a network of trust and 2) the test of coherence. . .

    Consider how I got mixed up with the Klotzbach paper. Prominent naysayer Z’s blog alleged that most warming on land was due to a bias in the land surface temperature record, referring to Klotzbach’s paper. Klotzbach’s claim was not consistent with my coherence network. Therefore, I resolved to figure out what the unclear claim really amounted to. The deeper I got into it, the stranger it got. Eventually, one of the authors was compelled to admit that the word “bias” did not actually indicate an error in temperature. Further reading revealed many other flaws in the work, although the key one, which appears to have been reported (somewhat at second hand) by Y, is something I still don’t entirely understand.

    This is where the first principle cuts in. Should I further investigate the key claim, still contested by the authors? Well, I know Y to be an extraordinarily careful and precise thinker, and it’s already demonstrated that his opposition is not. Since boundary layer meteorology is not my forte, and since the rest of the paper is flawed in many ways, I feel satisfied that it’s best to put my attentions elsewhere.

    The main point for present purposes is that I immediately questioned the result claimed by Z on the basis of its incoherence with everything else I know. And my questioning turned out to be justified. The publication, though it passed peer review, probably should not have done so. It looks like science from a distance, but up close it looks like nonsense.

    To point this out, and what it says about X and his confirmation bias, you would say is inflammatory.

    • It isn’t inflammatory to challenge the opinions of respected scientists – I don’t know where you got that from. But it is inflammatory to personally attack them or insult them. If I were a scientist I might be able to assess arguments on their coherence. But I’m not. This isn’t the right place for a truly technical argument, so we have to go by credibility.

  8. Following up on Lucas’ post, notice an exchange in the comments section. This ties back into the “Free Speech” topic of this thread. One sane individual points to some problems with E & E. One comment in this exchange calmly points to some quotes and facts regarding E&E…

    “Giles Winterbourne (09:02:21) :

    Subjective: Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen: “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway,” she says. “But isn’t that the right of the editor?” (http://www.arp.harvard.edu/sci/climate/journalclub/ChronicleEd

    Roger Pielke, Jr “…had we known then how that outlet would evolve beyond 1999 we certainly wouldn’t have published there.”

    One individual’s response:

    Poptech (14:26:48) :

    “Giles Winterbourne is an alarmist propagandist. He spreads lies about anything that does not support his alarmist position. Smearing E&E is vitally important since it is one of the few journals that will even consider pubishing papers skeptical of AGW.

    Your post has been reported – this is not RealClimate.org where that is acceptable.”

    Poptech (04:09:58) :

    “Geoff and Bill, Giles is an alarmist fanatic I have dealt with him before he will go to any length to smear E&E.

    “Anyone who wants to get the truth about E&E should contact Dr. Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen, who is courteous and professional not an alarmist propagandist like Giles.

    Giles cannot afford to lose this (even though he already has) so the smears will continue until Anthony gets a chance to review the comments.”

    Poptech’s comments, laced with ad hominens, remains.

  9. Addendum to my last post: There are 6598 journals on the 2008 ISI list. Sorting by Impact Factor #1 is CA-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians at 74.575, #6598 is Transboundary and Emerging Diseases with no IF calculated.

    Energy & Environment isn’t on the list. [Maybe it has a negative impact factor. -Kate]

  10. I echo Tamino … good for you, and I appreciate the need.

    For myself I found I had to create an idiot zone (Morano has front paged me twice) and a clear statement that ‘comments … blah blah’ may be posted there.

    The Deniers ignore it and I delete them with a clear conscience that they were given a place to make all of their absurd claims and they chose not to use it.

  11. “If I were a scientist I might be able to assess arguments on their coherence. But I’m not.”

    It seems to me that with all your high-powered commentators there’s another option: let your readers assess the arguments on their coherence. If somebody makes a claim that could *conceivably* be supported but you think needs a cite you could leave the claim but just add [citation needed] after the part that needs a cite. Then one of your readers, seeing the claim, could post a cite for or against that point – it no longer depends on the original poster figuring it out or finding it. You could still delete outright if the poster insists on making the same point again.

    An option to control thread drift is to declare the topic in your original post and snip as “[off-topic]” commentary that doesn’t clearly relate to that original topic. If you do follow that approach, though, it’s good to periodically post an “open thread” where people can start discussions on other topics – if something really good shows up there you can use it as the basis for a new parent post.
    [There are lots of other places on the internet for those kinds of discussions – every one of the blogs I listed at the bottom of “How and Why”, for example. Go have fun over there. -Kate]

  12. E&E is not in the ISI Web of Science, and is almost never cited. That alone shows that it isn’t on the same playing field as most journals, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    E&E is, however, listed in Scopus, which is only a little more comprehensive than ISI in terms of the number of titles covered. The Scopus inclusion criteria include that “Overall quality must be high” as judged by their panel of experts; said assessment of quality is based on, among other things: Authority, Popularity&Availability, and a requirement that the title demonstrates a form of quality control (e.g.: peer review). (Source: the “content coverage” pdf found on the Scopus website.)

    Someone who has access to Scopus: does it do a ranking of its journals like ISI does? If so, what is E&E’s rank within the Scopus universe?

  13. Chris: Sure, but the line between “trade journal” and “academic journal” is often blurry; the fact that a journal accepts ads aimed at a specific industry actually doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of its articles. The wikipedia article on “trade journal” gives BioTechniques as one example of an advertising-supported peer-reviewed journal that is nonetheless highly regarded and widely referenced. Regarding your note about “other non-peer reviewed”: E&E is peer-reviewed according to those who have published in it. (I emailed Craig Loehle to get his take on it; he says he had to make a lot of changes to his article in order to pass review.)

  14. Glen, if we’re going to trade cherry-picked journals I’d note that PR Weekly is also listed in SCOPUS as a trade journal – go check it out.

    I’ll also draw attention to your selective interpretation of what makes a trade journal (see, I too can read Wikipedia), and the change in meaning that a brief edit can bring (Wiki: “In some instances”, Glen: “is often”)

    And proof-reading is not peer review.

  15. Firstly, can I apologise for the tenor of my above comment – I shouldn’t respond to stuff I’m reading over breakfast. Now that I’ve had the cobwebs blown away by my cycle to work & my daily caffeine infusion I’ll try to deliver a more nuanced response.

    Glen, why the need to tie yourself in knots to justify E&E? I’ll note that Biotechniques is referenced by ISI, why do you think E&E is not? The main reason SCOPUS exists is to deliver access to journals that Thompson feel doesn’t meet their basic standards (more here: http://isiwebofknowledge.com/benefits/essays/journalselection/ ), it used to be the sole source of conference papers too but ISI now has these.

    Access to trade journals is important in fields like medicine where certain companies tend to publish the results of trials & the like in their in-house publications but in the wider world of academia there are certain connotations associated with them. The first question to ask is “why publish in a trade journal?” If a researcher has important findings why are they not in a proper academic publication?

    I’ll note that in the link I give above the editor of the journal in question has noted in the comments that he reviews every submission. I feel there is a direct line to be drawn between E&E and Medical Hypotheses. As noted above the editor of E&E is on record as saying “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway (…) But isn’t that the right of the editor?” similar to Bruce Charlton’s “…Even probably untrue papers may be judged worth publishing if they contain aspects (ideas, perspectives, data) that are potentially stimulating to the development of future science.” Is it not?

    I’ll repeat for emphasis, if a paper’s findings are noteworthy, why publish them in a journal that is not even listed in the Web of Science? There are plenty of journals listed there (more than 6500 at the last count – a search using Climate Change as a topic found 71 journals with at least two papers in that subject plus a further 187 journals with one ) surely one of them will publish your findings before resorting to E&E?

  16. Chris: I don’t care about E&E per se; what I object to is bad logical arguments. Guilt-by-association is simply not a valid form of argument even when the connections are clearer than you used here. (near as I can tell, you’re trying to imply: “Medical Hypotheses” (a non-peer-reviewed academic journal) and E&E (a peer-reviewed trade journal), are both not listed in ISI so therefore: they must be of similar quality. This claim is silly, regardless of what one thinks of E&E. Thus, it should be objected to.)

    There are literally tens of thousands of journals – both trade and academic – that aren’t listed in ISI. Whether and how well a journal is listed should not be used to assess the quality of published research because journals’ impact factors are determined by technicalities that are unrelated to the scientific quality of their articles. * In some fields the problem is more conspicuous than in others but I like this example: in mathematics, leading publications that were not included in the Sci­ence Citation Index database were cited more frequently than the leading publications that were included. *

    If you think an article is bad, you ought to be able to say why you think it is bad without reference to whether you think it came from “a bad journal”. (Also out of bounds: casting aspersions on a particular scientist because of the company he keeps.) Whether something has been published is a useful distinction; the “ranking” of who published it mostly is not, and always is a poor substitute for reading the actual article.

    * In keeping with local customs, I will provide a source from a very highly-rated, peer-reviewed journal to support my probably controversial claim that the “highly-rated” part shouldn’t matter so much. :-) In full-text pdf format: Why the impact factor of journals should not be used for evaluating research Per O Seglen, BMJ 1997;314:498–502

  17. Glen: “Guilt-by-association is simply not a valid form of argument” that’s not my argument – my argument is: If they (the authors) have anything valid to say, why are they not publishing in a recognised journal?

    I’ve already intimated that medical science is a bit different as the only access to many trials for new treatments is through (unlisted by ISI) house journals of the various pharmaceutical companies.

    I did a quick straw poll around my institute recently, no-one – not even those who work on bioenergy crops – have ever heard of E&E. Again (for emphasis) why publish there if you have something noteworthy?

  18. PS: I did read your reference Glen – your quote regarding mathematics is decrying the fact that BOOKS are not listed in ISI, nothing to do with journals.

    (Preceding sentence to Glen’s quote):

    “In many research fields a substantial fraction of scientific output is published in the form of books, which are not included as source items in the database; they therefore have no impact factor.”

  19. Measuring something sometimes changes what is being measured. If you read my reference, you know that the ISI index was probably somewhat useful and meaningful right up until the point that everybody started treating it as useful and meaningful. As soon as the ISI rating mattered, it became a sort of game. Some journals and academics are better at playing this game than others, but it no longer has much to do with measuring real influence and is arguably a distraction from doing real science. If you are a mainstream scientist who is judged on his publication record you might have no choice but to play this game – it’s what people do in your field – but if you’re not, it’s not clear to me why ISI rating should matter to you.

    A lot of the problem with ISI rating would be fixed if it excluded same-journal citations. Because it doesn’t, journals can encourage articles to include lots of same-journal citations. Which makes the article citation lists less useful – some fraction of recent same-journal references can be assumed to be there as padding to help prop up that journal’s ISI rating rather than because they really help reinforce the article’s conclusions. (This also explains some of that dense interconnectivity in the climate world that Wegman noticed)

    Now that you’ve read my reference, you know some of the reasons E&E would have a low or nonexistent ISI rating might include:
    – it only publishes 8 times a year (instead of, say, weekly), so a lot of its references will fall out of scope (they’ll be older than two years)
    – it doesn’t do a lot of really long articles or “survey” articles (which tend to garner lots of links)
    – it doesn’t have a lot of non-article fluff such as “editorials” or a vibrant letters section (which count towards the numerator but not the denominator of your index ratio)
    – it doesn’t have a strong tradition of same-journal citations

    All of those factors clearly affect ISI rating. Are any relevant to somebody who is outside the system and just wants to get something out there into the discourse? Nope!

    All journal editors have biases regarding the kinds of articles they want to publish. Some journals like longer articles, some prefer shorter ones. Some like lots of math and charts and technical detail, others don’t. Some are heavily invested in defending the status quo, others are less invested and more enjoy challenging the status quo. So I assume people publish in E&E because the type of article they are trying to write seems like a good fit for the type of article E&E currently wants to publish, and similarly for publishing in other journals.

    Given that individual articles published in E&E can have a high impact, be heavily cited, and become part of the scientific discourse, why not publish there? This attempt to declare certain journals off-limits allegedly due to their ISI rating is essentially a No true scottsman argument. The claim “no credible journal publishes papers skeptical of the consensus” will be true by definition so long as you can find some quasi-plausible excuse to define any journal that does publish such papers as “not credible”, but this is a circular argument and not nearly as interesting a thing to argue about as what the papers actually say. So I think we need to add ad journalum(arguing “to the journal”) to ad hominem(arguing “to the man”) in our collection of bad arguments. I’m hoping to nip this in the bud, while all eyes are on E&E, before the same argument spreads to every other journal that is willing to accept challenging articles.

    If we allow as a tactic “You published view X, therefore you are a heretic and must be cast out of Respectable Science”, journals will be less willing to publish controversial views, so we’ll be less able to evaluate the validity not just of the controversial views but of the mainstream ones too.

    P.S.: On the books thing, I had a different interpretation than the one you came up with. I will try to find a non-gated full copy of the source article on which he based his conclusion, but my assumption was that he meant top math journal articles mostly reference books (and/or very-much-older articles) rather than other recent top math journal articles, which would mess with their ratings. The word “publications” is ambiguous, though. I’ll try to find out and get back to you.

  20. Glen,

    My question: If a paper’s findings are noteworthy, why publish them in a journal that is not even listed in the Web of Science? “I assume people publish in E&E because the type of article they are trying to write seems like a good fit for the type of article E&E currently wants to publish” does not cut it I’m afraid – as I noted above, there are 650 journals on the ISI list that have published at least two articles in this field, some of these are crying out for submissions. Why go out of your way to avoid them? Note, I’m placing no importance on impact factor or ‘ISI rating’. Just on the presence (or not) on their list of 6500+ journals.

    I also note given your four bullet-pointed reasons why you E&E would have a low or nonexistent ISI rating that you didn’t read my link to the selection criteria for given by Thompson, I’ll post the link for you again here:

    http://isiwebofknowledge.com/benefits/essays/journalselection

    It may help to give some idea of my approach to accessing research and writing papers – if anyone else with similar or different experiences are still reading this then maybe they could weigh in too.

    I keep close tabs on a handful of journals related to my field – the likes of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment; Economic Entomology; Insect Conservation & Diversity; Outlooks on Pest Management; Journal of Insect Conservation etc. These I check every issue for papers of interest/relevance. In addition there is a suite of journals that I check every couple of months or so for interesting articles – Journal of Animal Ecology, J. of Applied Ecology, Conservation Biology, Climate Change, Annals of Applied Biology etc. These don’t come to me, I pop down to our library to check the recent issues. I also get sent relevant articles by colleagues from journals they look at but know I’m unlikely to (Ibis; Animal Behaviour etc.)
    When researching for a paper I use ISI Web of Science to find other papers relevant to my research topic (the database query system makes this relatively easy) I don’t use SCOPUS as my institute doesn’t subscribe. I will then follow references through the literature if and when necessary (I don’t check every reference of every paper, just those with a direct bearing on my field of research.

    Hopefully the paragraph above will give you some intimation of the importance of publishing in listed journals?

    As an aside, you state: “Given that individual articles published in E&E can have a high impact, be heavily cited, and become part of the scientific discourse”. Could you give an example of an E&E article that is heavily cited in the literature?

    The rest of your comment is, I’m afraid, a man made of straw – e.g. “The claim “no credible journal publishes papers skeptical of the consensus” will be true by definition so long as you can find some quasi-plausible excuse to define any journal that does publish such papers as “not credible””. This claim is not being made – anything listed in ISI WoS is, by definition, credible. Journals – you may be surprised to hear – are quite willing to publish controversial papers (most of course would not be viewed as controversial outside the (narrow) target audience) but they must be based on sound science.

    This is what it boils down to – ISI Web of Science is an internationally recognised indication of sound, credible science. Again I’ll ask – why publish outside this if you have something noteworthy?

    [“Economic Entymology”? The economics of bugs, am I correct? :) -Kate]

  21. Now that I’ve read the Thompson selection criteria, we can add two more reasons why a journal might not be listed that aren’t necessarily relevant to article quality:

    – issues sometimes miss their deadline and come out late (“timeliness” is an important factor)
    – it’s “interdisciplinary”, tending to publish articles that intersect two or more fields rather than articles that are at the core of one field.

    That last one seems key in this case. Under Thompson’s selection criteria, a journal called “Energy” or one called “Environment” would just inherently be more likely to pass muster than one called “Energy & Environment”, assuming the titles are accurate. (I have the sense that E&E got its accidentally high profile because it was better known by – and friendlier to – economists and statisticians than climatologists.)

    Regarding the difficulty of finding articles: an ISI-based search will find E&E articles if they are cited in other journals that are listed in ISI, which many are.

    Could you give an example of an E&E article that is heavily cited in the literature?

    Sure. Here’s Google Scholar’s list of 92 cites for the M&M paper that started it all.

    According to Ian Castles here:


    E&E published a number of papers that were cited in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report: there are six such papers included in the Reference list of Chapter 3 of the WG3 contribution alone.[*] These included two papers by Castles and Henderson; two responses to the C&H critique by teams of, respectively 15 and 18 IPCC lead authors; a further paper supporting some of C&H’s main points by three of Australia’s leading economists (one of whom covered similar ground in a paper subsequently published in ‘Climatic Change’); and a further review paper by David Henderson.

    * you can verify the “six such papers” statement here, pages 241,243,246 (two refs per page). Took me a while to track that one down so I thought I’d pass it along.

    One of the E&E articles mentioned above, Nakicenovic et al (2003), has 42 citations in Google Scholar.

  22. Glen, thanks for that, I’m yet to fully explore all you’ve posted in your most recent comment so regard this as a placeholder for a (hopefully) more detailed response later.

    Three things that occur on first look though:

    1) the McIntyre paper has 26 cites according to ISI WoS, 1 of which is a McIntyre self-cite there are also two by ME Mann. Of the 26, 7 have never been cited, the most cited is one of the Mann papers with 131 cites, of the others only the second Mann paper (53) & the McIntyre paper (20) have 20 or more (three have 10-20 cites). What this means I’ll leave open to interpretation for now.

    2) Did you read Nakicenovic et al. at all? I’d recommend at least skimming it.

    3) I still see no credible reason to aim to publish in a journal outside the ISI list, as far as i can tell there are only two possibilities – that the science is too shoddy to appear in a reputable journal, or there is a political reason to publish there (these two are not mutually exclusive).

    A further excercise if you’re up for it – how many authors who have published in E&E also have papers in ISI journals?

    Apologies for this rather hasty & unstructured response, I’ll try to continue this dialogue soon.

    (Oh, before I forget – @ Kate: Economic EntOmology is the main journal for the study of the economic effects of insects (and other ‘bugs’) – mainly focussed on pest ecology & control but also some stuff on natural enemies (bugs that eat/parasitise pests), apiculture, pollination ecology & the like http://www.entsoc.org/pubs/periodicals/jee/index.htm )

  23. How many authors who have published in E&E also have papers in ISI journals?

    I don’t have access to ISI so I can’t do searches on it, nor for that matter do I have access to full issues of E&E. Off the top of my head I can answer for two. Based on searches done by other commentors elsewhere on this site, Craig Loehle has an excellent ISI ranking; Steve McIntyre has just a few comments published here and there. (It’s probably also safe to guess that the Pielkes and all of the above-mentioned IPCC authors have many papers in ISI-ranked journals, though I don’t have exact numbers at hand.)

    FWIW in the case of Loehle, my understanding is that he initially aimed to publish in Climatic Change, but they wanted something shorter and with more equations or charts in it. He found he couldn’t squeeze that article into the format they liked without doing violence to some of the things he liked about it, so he settled for publishing the original article at E&E (which also required changes to meet peer review, but was more open to publishing that *type* of article) and wrote a new article for Climatic Change that took a more technical look at some of the issues raised in the E&E article. Both were published and I think both were useful contributions to the scientific literature. Do you disagree?

    Have you read the essay “How to publish a comment in 1 2 3 easy steps“? It does a nice job of illustrating the dynamic Steve McIntyre often encounters when dealing with the higher-“ranked” journals. Sometimes articles do get rejected for essentially political reasons.

    I’m not claiming everybody should aim to publish in lower-ranked or un-ranked journals, just that having settled for doing so shouldn’t automatically discredit the work. Are you comfortable with claiming that everybody who publishes in any of the thousands of not-yet-ISI-ranked journals is either doing shoddy science or making a political point? Are you that confident in the ISI ranking procedures that you’re willing to say no publication they haven’t yet ranked is likely to be worthwhile on its merits? I don’t think even ISI would take that position. One of their goals is efficient coverage so if two journals cover nearly the same territory and they happen to pick one first it makes them less likely to add the other one later, right?

    I haven’t read Nakicenovic yet, but I’ll take a look.
    [Craig Loehle has an “excellent ISI ranking”, but based on forest ecology papers. Has he written anything else about climate change? -Kate]

  24. Craig Loehle has an “excellent ISI ranking”, but based on forest ecology papers. Has he written anything else about climate change?

    Actually, forest ecology was the field of expertise most relevant to the two papers I mentioned. Specifically, both papers were in part about whether and why tree rings ought to be excluded from temperature reconstructions and what this implies. His view is that the response of a forest ecology to temperature change should tend to cause averages of tree ring series to be essentially random noise over long time periods despite those same series seeming to contain useful temperature signals over specific shorter periods. (This was a broader and better-defended conclusion than the earlier NAS statement that strip-bark samples simply “should be avoided”; he brings in additional reasons why they should be avoided beyond those previously considered in the climate-related literature.)

    His attempt at a tree-ring-free reconstruction got all the attention but it was his justification of that attempt which – now that it’s in the literature – might yet force a rethinking of the “spaghetti chart” in future IPCC reports. (Or, heck, it might not. But it should.)

    You can browse his papers in Google Scholar here. Based on a brief skim it looks to me like the answer to your question is “yes”. I found some precursors to his latest work, including Estimating Climatic Timeseries From Multi-Site Data Afflicted With Dating Error , Forest ecotone response to climate change: sensitivity to temperature response functional forms, and other bits of light reading… :-)

  25. Your comment policy has come up at rcrejects, if you care to comment.

    [Look, my policy is not that difficult, and I’m not going to spend endless hours justifying it. A few pointers, just in case you really don’t understand it….

    If someone writes a non-peer-reviewed piece communicating science, but all of its statements are common knowledge (like “the Arctic ice is melting”), that’s fine.

    If Roger Pielke writes an editorial about his just-released paper, and you cite the editorial but not the paper, that’s not fine. It isn’t common knowledge (yet), so you need a citation.

    I am very interested in math and modelling, but of course it’s “in the future”. I’m seventeen. I don’t know how to use integrals yet. I am reading this stuff, and trying to understand this stuff, but I refuse to debate it because I would be in over my head right away, and I refuse to allow others to trample all over me with calculus. Therefore, I go by credibility, for now anyway.

    If something is legitimate and well-known, somebody will have published it. If they haven’t, or if it’s a brand-new discovery, then you go publish it, or tell Steve McIntyre to. Personally, I’m not going to trust it until it’s been peer-reviewed.

    The very fact that Energy and Environment isn’t respected by scientists makes it a less credible journal. Most scientists don’t read it or take it seriously. So they don’t look for mistakes and/or write to the journal to fix the mistakes after its publication. Even excluding its content, does this lack of secondary review (post-publication) give it enough credibility to compare to Nature, Science, or EOS? How much easier would it be for a shoddy paper to survive post-publication in E&E?

    There you are. All spelled out for you. No more finding loopholes. -Kate]

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