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August 20 2012

10:00

See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others

The "Wegman Report", led by Edward Wegman of George Mason University (GMU) got criticized in 2010's Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized.  Experts called it "obvious" even "shocking" plagiarism.  GMU's incompetent handling, mistreatment of complainants and flawed rulings were mostly documented in March, but recent FOIAs expose more untruths.

Is the harsh title fair?  Read on, then study the 69-page attachment.

GMU Provost Peter Stearns' February letter to GMU faculty made claims of non-plagiarism that contradicted not only experts, but themselves.  The process consumed almost two years to assess four (4) pages of text.  

Stearns' letter was even more untruthful than previously known.  It  fabricated an imaginary second investigation committee, seemingly to somehow excuse crucial contradictions.   This seemed an attempt to defend the Wegman Report at all costs, even with potential problems from Federal agencies who expect schools to handle misconduct properly.  They fund much of GMU's actual research, done by faculty that to the best of my knowledge are normal, credible researchers.

However, a few groups in GMU are closely, even uniquely enmeshed with people behind the machinery of anti-science, such as Charles Koch, Ken Cuccinelli, David Schnare, Fred Singer, and Pat Michaels, plus the Heartland Institute and key Washington think tanks.  GMU even has a long history of tobacco connections, oddly relevant.

Following are a few brief summaries to motivate the title's phrases:

See No Evil: Via FOIA, the only investigation committee took 200 days to produce a 9-page report.  It ruled on Ray Bradley's three complaints based on Canadian blogger Deep Climate's early discoveries:

  • 2.5 pages of text mostly from Ray Bradley's book: paraphrasing, not plagiarism although serious plagiarism experts said otherwise long ago.
  • 5.5 pages of near-verbatim plagiarism of social networks text: never mentioned.
  • 1.5 page subset re-used in later paper: plagiarism, likely unavoidable, since the publisher had forced retraction in May 2011. This is an obvious contradiction.

But there was more, found by Deep Climate and others:

  • Another 70 pages of formally-reported plagiarism, 27 in WR alone, in 6 more articles, half Federally-funded, and four PhD dissertations: never mentioned.
  • Alleged falsification in the Wegman Report: never mentioned.

Speak Little truth: GMU VP Roger Stough rarely told complainants much and when he did, he was often wrong or misleading, now seen more clearly by FOIA replies.  Stearns' letter   fabricated committee(s) and processes that never happened, casting doubt on the credibility of anything thereGMU never informed Ray Bradley of any result.  GMU acknowledged receipt of other complaints, which then seemed to vanish into limbo. Complainants got no status reports.

Break Rules: FOIA replies exposed large policy-breaking schedule slips, at best poorly explained, at worst misleading.  GMU ignored its policy of pursuing all significant issues -  Stearns said there were no more investigations.   GMU's seemed to maximize discouragement and stonewalling of external complaints, even from distinguished academics like Ray Bradley or Ohio State's Rob Coleman, an experienced misconduct expert.  One can imagine GMU's handling of internal complaints, especially from junior faculty of students.

Blame Others:   GMU violated its "retaliation" policies by making false or misleading claims about Bradley, impugning his reputation and helping incite vitriolic blog attacks against him.   Universities are supposed to guard complainants from retaliation, repair it if need be, not do it themselves.  GMU owes Bradley many apologies.

Why would they do this? FOIAs have revealed actions far outside GMU's own policies, the norms of academe and possibly Federal rules.  Big universities are expected to know how to follow misconduct policies, so mere incompetence seems an insufficient explanation, especially with experienced administrators who should know better.

We cannot know exactly what happened, but GMU has some unusual connections that might help explain this.  No explicit pressure need be assumed, but a few parts of GMU are deeply involved in climate anti-science activities, so it is no surprise that something like the Wegman Report was written almost entirely by GMU faculty and students.

Funding. Charles Koch is by far the largest single foundation funder for each of GMU Foundation, its Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies (IHS).   His donations to these usually exceeded the research grants of most government agencies. His lieutenant Richard Fink cofounded Mercatus and is a  Director of it and IHS. Koch is a Director of Mercatus and Chairman of IHS

Money comes from other Koch allies, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, Searle Freedom Trust, Earhart Foundation, L&H Bradley and  DONORS Trust+Capital, the second largest foundation giver, which anonymizes the real givers' identities.  The recently-discovered Knowledge and Progress Fund seems to send Koch money only to DONORS.  It is a real money maze.

Governance. Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer is the Vice-Rector of the GMU Board of Visitors. She was a Koch Industries lobbyist and an executive of Americans For Prosperity.  The Board also includes Kimberly Dennis (Searle Freedom Trust, DONORS) and Mark McGettrick, Executive VP at Dominion Resources, a large utility that has donated well to the campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, as has Koch Industries.

Lawyers. Ken Cuccinelli, his Deputy Wesley Russell and his ex-partner Milton Johns (Wegman's lawyer) all got their JD degrees at GMU in the 1990s.  So did David Schnare, of the American Tradition Institute (ATI), well-known for FOIA harassment of UVA, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Andrew Dessler and Katharine HayhoeFOIA has legitimate uses, but can also be employed for harassment.  The reader can decide which these are.

Schnare is also an Adjunct Professor who recently taught a GMU course on how to do FOIAs, use the Data Quality Act, using this outline.  it starts:

'This course is an introduction on how to sue the government when it does what it should not do. Citizens, advocates of small government and Tenth Amendment proponents engage in this kind of litigation practice to address the imbalance between federal authorities and state and individual sovereignties.'

He also offers "externships" to give students practice, via a new 501(c)(3) "public charity," originally (and legally still) the George Mason Environmental Law Clinic.  it is now called the Free Market ELC, consisting of him and Chris Horner, as at ATI.  He was looking for students to file FOIAs against some Virginia university, likely not GMU.

Conclusion. We cannot know whether the strange process and absurd rulings came from overt pressure or implicit GMU culture.  A few parts of GMU form a very large gear in the machinery of anti-science and they defended Wegman at all costs.

Public funding of research depends on credibility, of which little is found in GMU's handling of this case.  Maybe it is time for a first-ever institutional debarment from Federal funding until they rebuiild a track record of normal behavior.  Given the credibility problems of key people, this may require outside teams.

Finally, people might recall the potential felony issues raised here  and wonder if this process might add more obstruction of justice to the mix.  The old saying may apply: "It's not the crime - it's the cover-up."

Image Credit: andere andrea petrlik  / Shutterstock .

AttachmentSize see.no_.evil_.speak_.little.truth_.pdf3.05 MB

March 16 2012

04:55

See No Evil At George Mason University

George Mason University (GMU) has labored for 2 years on simple plagiarism complaints.  It has just written self-contradictory findings that avoided seeing plagiarism in the 2006 Wegman Report (WR) while admitting the same text elsewhere was plagiarism.

In March 2010, climate scientist Ray Bradley complained to GMU of 2.5 pages of plagiarism of his paleoclimatology book by the Wegman Report.  In May he added 5.5 pages of WR Social Networks Analysis  plagiarism  and a 1.5 -page subset in a Computational Statistics and Data Analysis (CSDA) paper.

All were based on the work of Canadian blogger Deep Climate, who kept finding more problems. The known total of 80+ pages has 4 PhD dissertations, some lectures, a patent and 7 papers.

Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said published two largely-plagiarized papers in a “peer-reviewed” Wiley journal they edit with David Scott.  Wikipedia pages they copied were better. 

In May 2011, CSDA publisher Elsevier finally forced retraction of the CSDA paper.

 

 

 

 

read more

June 05 2011

20:27

Wegman Report: Not just plagiarism, misrepresentation

New Mashey Report Drills into Academic Misconduct

The 2006 Wegman Report to Congress, already under investigation for extensive plagiarism, also appears to be guilty of falsifications, misrepresentation and frabrications that could give rise to a charge of academic misconduct, according to a new report by computer scientist and entrepreneur John Mashey (attached, below).

Mashey and the Canadian blogger Deep Climate have analysed Wegman extensively in the past, primarily for the plagiarism of which Wegman is so clearly guilty. But Mashey digs deeper in the current report, questioning whether the numerous errors, oversights and misrepresentations in the report can be explained by inadvertence or incompetence, or whether Wegman and his prinicpal co-author Yasmin Said were intentionally distorting the information they were plagiarizing and, in the process, pointedly misrepresenting science.<!--break-->

The Wegman Report was commissioned by Congress as an "investigation" into a controversial "hockey stick" graph that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had used prominently in an effort to illustrate the reality of climate change. Although Edward Wegman's report was highly critical of that graph, later analysis (mostly by Deep Climate) showed that he had extensively cribbed one of the graphs own authors, Raymond Bradley, in mounting his attack.

What Mashey now demonstrates is that, in addition to misrepresenting Bradley's words as his own, Wegman also twisted, misrepresented or completely changed the meaning of some of Bradley's work, without explanation or reference to any other source that might justify the manipulations.

As Mashey says - showing an extensive analysis of Wegman against the original: "Bradley is methodically weakened, silently contradicted or even directly inverted ...."

 

These errors could have been attributable to "mere serious incompetence and poor scholarship, including inability to understand a textbook well enough to summarize it correctly," Mashey says. But he later adds, "I think most of this is purposeful."

Mashey's analysis is compelling. He reveals minor, but annoying changes, such as when Bradley is talking about a "strong temperature signal" available from tree rings and Wegman, in the midst of a purloined paragraph, amends Bradley's text to add the word "relatively" - as in a "relatively strong temperature signal."

Indeed, having relied overwhelmingly on Bradley's text to present himself as something of an expert on the use of tree rings to create a reconstruction of historic temperatures, Wegman then changes the last section to arrive at a conclusion exactly opposite to Bradley's own. Bradley, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of using tree rings, says this:

"If an equation can be developed that accurately describes instrumentally observed climatic variability in terms of tree growth over the same interval, then paleoclimatic reconstructions can be made using only the tree-ring data."

Wegman, who had added confusing or "confounding" references in the midst of several earlier paragraphs, removes Bradley's concluding sentence and adds instead this flatfooted statement, instead:

"Thus tree ring proxy data alone is not sufficient to determine past climate variables."

 

Finally, Mashey demonstrates that Wegman was also guilty of that most obvious of undergraduate cheats: bibliography padding - the inclusion of numerous references to give the impression of careful scholarship.

Mashey writes: "Bibliography-padding can also be a form of fabrication, and 40 of 80 references (in Wegman) are never cited, leading one to wonder if the (Wegman Report) authors had actually ever studied them. Many are clearly irrelevant or found in dubious sources inappropriate for such a report. A tabloid writer's 1987 ozone article in a fringe technology magazine is listed as an “Academic paper.” It cannot possibly be relevant."

As usual, Mashey's own report is painstakingly annotated and he generously credits the previous excellent scholarship by DeepClimate. Wegman, who must surely have been humiliated by having a related paper thrown out of a scholarly journal - also for plagiarism - must surely stand accountable soon, lest the reputation of George Mason University be permanently damaged by its tolerance of this poor and political performance.

 

AttachmentSize strange falsifications V1 0.pdf791.72 KB
Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

May 24 2011

06:35

Mashey Report Reveals Wegman Manipulations

Strange Tales and Emails: Said, Wegman, Sharabati, Rigsby (2008)

The discredited Dr. Edward Wegman tried to blame a student for the plagiarism in a paper that has since been retracted from the journal of Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, according to emails released in a new report by computer scientist Dr. John Mashey (attached below).

The emails, originally obtained by USA Today reporter Dan Vergano, reveal that Wegman and his friend, CSDA Editor Dr. Stanely Azen, both tried to convince the publisher Elsevier to allow the discredited paper to stand, perhaps with an errata sheet attached as what Azen described as "punishment" for the Wegman team's academic misconduct.<!--break-->

Mashey and the Canadian blogger DeepClimate have been the two most effective forces at discovering, analyzing and revealing the incorrect, plagiarized and academically incompetent work generated by Wegman, his collaborator and former student Yasmin Said, as well as other students including Walid Sharabati and John Rigsby in their ongoing attacks on climate scientists who contributed to the iconic "hockey stick" climate reconstruction graph (inset).

Earlier Mashey reports include Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report and Crescendo Climategate Cacaphony, both of which leverage DeepClimate's research and then canvas in extraordinary detail the connections and manipulations that mark the Wegman campaign. The retraction of the CSDA paper is the first obvious result of Mashey and DC's painstaking scholarship. This new report is yet more evidence that more dramatic punishments may still be in store for the Wegman team and for the Republican legislators (such as Joe Barton) and functionaries (including Barton's staffer Peter Spencer) who originally engaged Wegman to launch the hockey stick attack.

 

AttachmentSize strange.tales_.pdf1.57 MB

April 23 2010

19:15

Deep Climate exposes more cheating by team Wegman

Plagiarism and poor scholarship rife in statistician's tight circle

The blogger Deep Climate has released another devastating analysis of the shoddy scholarship and obvious cheating that characterized the work of the statistician Edward Wegman and his team, authors of a report to Congress that Deep Climate calls "nothing more than a politically motivated attack on climate science and scientists from the start."

DeepC, surely on of the most careful, thorough and tireless researchers currently working the climate blogosphere, has been here before, collecting evidence that demonstrated massive plagiarism by Wegman and his proteges when they were preparing their Republican-commissioned attack on Michael Mann's oft-vindicated, but still controversial hockey stick graph.

As on the last occasion, DeepC has prepared a side-by-side analysis showing the work of Wegman and his principal assistant Yasmin Said juxtaposed with the documents from which they mined a shocking amount of their material. It's shocking because they didn't attribute any of it and, on many occasions, the few efforts they made to change the text merely obscured or rendered insensisble the original meaning. It's not just that they were cheating, they were doing it in a way that invites applications of the term "incompetent."<!--break-->DeepC calls at the end of his excellent post for an investigation by George Mason University, whence this substandard work originated. It seems relevant, though, to also call for Congressional attention. Some of this material was prepared using government funding and even if the specific intent was NOT to mislead Congress, there is certainly a compelling argument to be made that Congress was, indeed, misled.

That, in lots of different ways, is a crime.

February 08 2010

19:16

Wegman's Report Highly Politicized - and Fatally Flawed

"Independent" Hockey Stick analysis revealed as Republican set-up

The purportedly independent report that Dr. Edward Wegman prepared in 2006 for the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce was actually a partisan set-up, according to information revealed today.

Wegman, who had presented himself as an impartial "referee" between two "teams" debating the quality of the so-called Hockey Stick graph was, in fact, coached throughout his review by Republican staffer Peter Spencer. Wegman and his colleagues also worked closely with one of the teams (and especially with retired mining stock promoter Stephen McIntyre) to try to replicate criticism of the Hockey Stick graph, while at the same time foregoing contact with the actual authors of the seminal climate reconstruction.

The Hockey Stick refers to a graph (by Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes) that became a defining image of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It also became a target for Steve McIntyre and the Guelph University economist Ross McKitrick, who since 2002, at least, has been a paid spokesperson for ExxonMobil-backed think tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Fraser Institute.<!--break-->

According to a detailed analysis by the blogger Deep Climate, McIntyre and McKitrick's criticism of the Hockey Stick graph was aggressively promoted and disseminated by an echo chamber of think tanks and blogs, all of which had financial or ideological associations with fossil fuel industry funders.

Then, in 2005, (and perhaps through the machinations of CEI climate specialist Myron Ebell), Republican Rep. and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton began calling for an investigation into the graph. But Barton rejected an offer from National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Ciccerone to conduct a formal and independent review in the highly professional manner typical of the nation's foremost scientific body. Barton chose, instead, to engage a statistician (Wegman) from one of the most conservative institutions in the country (George Mason University) and to task him with setting up a team to dissect Mann's Hockey Stick.

The result was predictable. Collaborating with McIntyre, Wegman's team recreated and then endorsed the critical view of Michael Mann's work. According to earlier revelations from Deep Climate, Wegman also cribbed - arguably plagiarized - work from Raymond Bradley, lifting whole sections of his 1999 textbook, but periodically changing material or inserting information calculated to cast doubt on the reliability of tree-ring data (the source of the MBH  climate reconstruction). In the most outrageous example, suspiciously unattributed, Wegman's report actually suggested that tree rings might be affected positively by automobile pollution. ("... oxides of nitrogen are formed in internal combustion engines that can be deposited as nitrates also contributing to fertilization of plant materials.")

All this could be dismissed as typical politicking except for two things. First, because this was presented as an independent and impartial review, it is reasonable to ask whether Barton, Wegman, et al, are guilty of misleading Congress, a felony offense.

Second, the same echo chamber that promoted Steve McIntyre's criticism of the Hockey Stick is now fully engaged accusing scientists of manipulating data to increase global concern about climate change. The manipulation of both data and public opinion are certainly evident in this story. Science has most certainly been politicized. But (thanks to Deep Climate's careful research) the record shows that the manipulation and politicization has been bought and paid for by the energy industry and executed by a sprawling network of think tanks and blogs - and by leading Republicans and their staffers.

This is, at the very least, fodder for a Congressional investigation as to whether the Energy and Commerce Committee was, indeed, intentionally and perhaps disastrously misled.

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