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Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas) authorized the report attacking climate change research that was recently found to have been plagiarized.  (Source: Alex Brandon/AP)

Edward Wegman's report attacking the "hockey-stick" model has been shown by several sources to consist substantially of plagiarized passages.  (Source: George Mason University)

Ironically the man whose research the report attacked, Penn State University Professor Michael Mann, was recently implicated in academic misconduct himself. He was shown in leaked emails from the CRU, appearing to suggest subverting the peer review process to push his global warming viewpoint.  (Source: Penn State University)
The climate change debate these days is looking less like intellectual debate and more like dirty politics

These days the climate change debate seems to have devolved into a scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber.  Everyone seeming has an agenda and an axe to grind.  Unfortunately many involved in the debate on both sides seem to see little need to conduct themselves with integrity, commonly resorting to hyperbole and fakery.

The latest controversy is that a leading report touted by climate change skeptics has been found to be partially plagiarized.  Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), a leading climate change skeptic in Congress, had requested the report in 2006 to counter assertions that man was causing climate change.  Rep. Barton contracted George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman to produce a report looking at the research for flaws.

The result was a report that attacked leading Paleoclimatologist Michael Mann's so-called "hockey-stick graph" that showed temperatures over the last thousand years.  The "hockey-stick" model was used in the UN International Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2001 report.

Despite acknowledging that the report by Professor Wegman correctly identified flaws in Professor Mann's study, the National Research Council concluded in 2006 that its criticisms were irrelevant due to the fact that more reliable later studies confirmed its conclusions.

Now Professor Wegman's report has been dealt another setback.

In a report in 
USA Today, three leading plagiarism experts -- Cornell's Paul Ginsparg, Ohio State's Robert Coleman, and Virginia Tech' Skip Garner concluded that significant passages in the "study" were lifted from "textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report" without proper citation.  They call the academic misconduct, "actually fairly shocking," "inappropriate," and "fairly obvious".

Others have also noticed and complained about the plagiarism.  According to
USA Today:

[I]n 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. 

George Mason University is investigating the charges.  In the past Professor Wegman had responded to rumors that part of the report might have been plagiarized, calling them "wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality."  Rep. Barton also appears to be standing behind the report.

Of course the plagiarism does not invalidate the report's criticisms, it just showcases the bias and incompetence that's marring the arguments of both sides of the climate debate.  It also represents a major black mark on the record of Professor Wegman.

Proponents of the theory that man is causing climate changes were recently caught up in a similar debacle when emails leaked from the Climate Research Unit in England.  While those emails seemingly implicated CRU director Phil JonesProfessor Mann, and others in clear and blatant academic misconduct and subversion of the peer review process, subsequent investigations largely exonerated those involved.  Professor Jones and Professor Mann were among those chastised, though, by various panels for their indiscretions in the scandal.  And they're lucky they didn't get worse -- given the seemingly damning nature of the emails, one has to wonder whether a bias wasn't involved in those exonerations.

At the end of the day the CRU scandal and the new scandal surrounding the Wegman report show off the embarrassing and disturbing state of climate research today.  

Understanding and reacting to the Earth's climate is absolutely critical and is a worthy topic of research.  However, with impassioned observers on both sides of the climate change debate seemingly willing to compromise their integrity to fallaciously promote their point of view, one has to wonder how this critical, yet broken field of research can be fixed and restored to honor.



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