Monday, November 22, 2010

Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized

Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized
By Dan Vergano
Nov. 22, 2010

An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.

Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases.

..."It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others' integrity when you don't conform to the basic rules of scholarship," Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner says.

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Led by George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, the 2006 report criticized the statistics and scholarship of scientists who found the last century the warmest in 1,000 years.

"The report was integral to congressional hearings about climate scientists," says Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. "And it preceded a lot of conspiratorial thinking polluting the public debate today about climate scientists."

But in March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate "clear plagiarism" of one of his textbooks.

Bradley says he learned of the copying on the Deep Climate website and through a now year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey's analysis concludes that 35 of the report's 91 pages "are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning." Copying others' text or ideas without crediting them violates universities' standards, according to Liz Wager of the London-based Committee on Publication Ethics.

Allegations under review

"The matter is under investigation," says GMU spokesman Dan Walsch by e-mail. In a phone interview, Wegman said he could not comment at the university's request. In an earlier e-mail Wegman sent to Joseph Kunc of the University of Southern California, however, he called the plagiarism charges "wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality."

The plagiarism experts queried by USA TODAY disagree after viewing the Wegman report:

• "Actually fairly shocking," says Cornell physicist Paul Ginsparg by e-mail. "My own preliminary appraisal would be 'guilty as charged.' "

•"If I was a peer reviewer of this report and I was to observe the paragraphs they have taken, then I would be obligated to report them," says Garner of Virginia Tech, who heads a copying detection effort. "There are a lot of things in the report that rise to the level of inappropriate."

•"The plagiarism is fairly obvious when you compare things side-by-side," says Ohio State's Robert Coleman, who chairs OSU's misconduct committee.

The report was requested in 2005 by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, then the head of the House energy committee. Barton cited the report in an October letter to The Washington Post when he wrote that Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann's work was "rooted in fundamental errors of methodology that had been cemented in place as 'consensus' by a closed network of friends." ...

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