Was a scientific journal canned for disagreeing with the IPCC?

January 20

Copernicus Publications, “the innovative open access publisher,” recently announced it was terminating one of its journals, Pattern Recognition in Physics due to concerns about the journal’s editorial practices.  PRP was not even one year old.  It seems the problems began when the journal’s editors agreed to a special issue on “Pattern in solar variability, their planetary origin and terrestrial impacts,” in which the issue’s editors had the temerity to “doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming as claimed by the IPCC project.”(*)According to the original explanation offered by Martin Rasmussen of Copernicus Publications, as reported by JoNova, the expression of this conclusion was a motivating factor for the “drastic decision” to terminate a journal. A letter to one of the editors also expressed “alarm” that a paper in PRP would question the IPCC.

If Copernicus indeed shuttered a journal because of disagreement with the conclusions expressed in a published paper, it would be quite shameful.  But is that what happened? In a revised statement, Rasmussen notes “the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing and not in accordance with our publication ethics we expect to be followed by the editors.” Whatever the merits of the papers at issue (and even some climate skeptics were unimpressed), it appears that PRP did violate accepted peer review norms in producing the special issue — as Anthony Watts details here — and concerns were raised about the journal last year.  So it appears Copernicus did have sufficient grounds to reconsider its production of PRP.  Given the wording of Rasmussen’s initial statement, however, questions remain about what prompted the publisher’s decision.

[* The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-sponsored, intergovernmental entity that produces periodic reports on climate change.]

[NOTE: When the Volokh Conspiracy blog first migrated to its new home here at washingtonpost.com, the introductory portions of a few posts were copied over with explanatory notes and links to the full post at the prior Volokh.com site.  The note attached to this post was apparently unclear to some readers, so — now that the transition is largely complete — I’ve reproduced the full post above.

Joe Romm of Climate Progress, in particular, complained that this post was truncated on this site. In his post, Romm complains that due to Ezra Klein’s departure, the Post is “dropping . . . one of their only consistent sources of science-based coverage of climate change.” Yet as a quick look reveals, the vast majority of Wonkblog’s climate change coverage is by Brad Plumer, not Ezra Klein, and Brad Plumer has not left, and I can’t imagine that the nature of his climate reporting will change.  

Romm further takes issue with my claim, in this January 2010 post, that the disclosure of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka “ClimateGate” ) revealed “unethical and illegal conduct,” and claims “multiple, independent investigations found otherwise.”  Romm’s claim is false.  The post about which he complains quoted British officials’ conclusions that the UK’s freedom of information laws were violated, but that any prosecution for such violations was time barred.  The British government’s subsequent report, released in March 2010 (two months after my post), found, among other things, that there was “prima facie evidence that CRU has breached the Freedom of Information Act 2000,” while also noting that no formal investigation of this point was made because prosecution was time-barred. The same British report also noted that there was a “culture at CRU of resisting disclosure of information.”  The July 2010 Independent Climate Change Email Review, published in July 2010, was also critical of how CRU responded to FOI requests. I have consistently maintained that while the “ClimateGate” disclosures revealed inappropriate conduct on behalf of some scientists and institutions, particularly in the UK, the disclosures do not in any way undermine the basic scientific case for anthropogenic global warming. Mr. Romm may think this makes me a “confusionist.” So be it. In my view, believing in global warming does not, and should not, entail closing one’s eyes to the occasional misconduct by climate scientists. 

Finally, Romm writes:

It is alarming that the Volokh Conspiracy doesn’t seem to understand the basis for the overwhelming scientific judgment that we are warming and will keep doing so absent sharp cuts in GHG emission.

Whether or not I am a “confusionist,” I am certainly confused by Romm’s conclusion here.  I blog on climate change more than any other Volokh contributor, and I have frequently written — on the blog and elsewhere — that human activity is contributing to global warming and will continue to do so without either dramatic emission reductions or some other means of reducing global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. I have further published numerous academic papers  making the case for action on climate change and discussing various policy options.

Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in constitutional, administrative, and environmental law at the Case Western University School of Law, where he is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation.
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=false, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=false, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=false, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=false, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=false, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=false, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=false, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=false, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Next Story
Washington Post | February 17, 2010