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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 .

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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 15 2011

18:52

Report: Broad Bipartisan Support For Action On Climate Change

A new report by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication shows that voters in America are concerned about global climate change, and would support broad action by the federal government to prevent future disaster. The report shows that voters from both major political parties are at odds with most Republicans in Washington, who have made it clear that they are not concerned with climate change and their voting records reflect that lack of concern.

The focus that most Congressional Republicans have had involving climate change revolves around U.S. energy policy. They believe that the only solution to America’s energy crisis and high gas prices is to drill in every available square inch of American soil or American waters. And while the report shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of more domestic oil drilling, it is likely because they are unaware that any new oil produced in the United States would have no impact on energy prices.
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Here are some of the key findings from George Mason University’s report:

71 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (13%), high (27%), or medium (31%) priority for the president and Congress, including 50 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Democrats.

91 percent of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (32%), high (35%), or medium (24%) priority for the president and Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

Majorities of Americans want more action to address global warming from corporations (65%), citizens themselves (63%), the U.S. Congress (57%), President Obama (54%), as well as their own state and local officials.

Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, 67 percent of Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (29%) or medium-scale effort (38%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

82 percent of Americans (including 76% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (56%), or has no effect (26%). Only 18 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.

Large majorities (including Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81%), thewater supply (80%), agriculture (79%), wildlife (77%), and forests (76%).

84 percent of Americans support funding more research into renewable energy sources, including 81 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.

68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.

Josh Nelson at EnviroKnow created some charts to help illustrate the findings:

Again, as these numbers from May 2011 show, both Republicans and Democrats support efforts to reduce climate change, and yet the Republican majority in Congress is doing everything in their power to prevent any climate action. This year alone, Republicans have voted 7 times to continue giving billions of dollars worth of subsidies to oil companies every year. They cut almost $900 million from the federal budget for research into renewable energy. They stripped $6 billion worth of ethanol subsidies. And filibustered a bill amendment put forth by Democratic Senator Max Baucus (MT) that would have provided the following:

Tax credits for heavy hybrid and natural gas vehicles and a 30% investment tax credit for alternative fuel refueling stations.

A $1-per-gallon production tax credit for biodiesel and biomass diesel and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon extended through 2011.

A 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for biomass and other alternative fuels.

Tax credits for energy-efficient appliances and homes.

Adding $2.5 billion in funding for Section 48C the advanced energy manufacturing 30% tax credit for companies manufacturing advanced clean energy products and materials.

Reinstate the Research and Development tax credit for renewable energy.



The actions being taken by Congress are clearly not in line with the desires of the American public. However, with the economy still performing poorly, these issues will likely take a backseat to economic issues in the next general election.

June 09 2011

16:08

Americans Still Split on Global Warming, Poll Shows

In a poll, only 47 percent of American adults say that global warming is caused mostly by human activity.

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.

 

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May 26 2011

16:58

Nature Scolds GMU over Wegman Inquiry

George Mason U dragging its feet on plagiarism complaint

An editorial in the current issue of Nature questions why George Mason University has taken more than 14 months - so far - in its review of the plagiarism complaint against Edward Wegman, even though GMU's own policy says that such a complaint should be dealt with in 12 weeks.

"Long misconduct investigations do not serve anyone, except perhaps university public-relations departments that might hope everyone will have forgotten about a case by the time it wraps up," the Nature editorial states.

The editors go on to say that this is as particularly pressing issue because Wegman's (purportedly) shoddy work has been used to prop up government policy, as well as to dilute the quality of climate science.<!--break-->

Finally Nature says this:

"Perhaps it should fall to accreditation agencies to push for speedy investigations. Tom Benberg, vice-president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools — the agency that accredits George Mason University — says that his agency might investigate if the university repeatedly ignored its own policies on the timing of misconduct inquiries. To get the ball rolling, he says, someone would have to file a well-documented complaint."

Gee, that sounds exactly like an invitation ...

February 03 2011

19:11

Most Americans Want Congress to Focus on Clean Energy Legislation


Most Americans want Congress to focus on clean energyAccording to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last month, of the eight major legislative initiatives Congress could accomplish this year, 83 percent of Americans want a clean energy bill to top their list of priorities.

Respondents to the poll favored Congress focusing on clean energy more than overhauling the tax code, withdrawing from Afghanistan, passing stronger gun control, and dealing with immigration issues. The results also suggest that Americans want progress on clean energy development more than expansion of oil and gas drilling.

Given the often ridiculous nature of partisan politics in Washington, another encouraging sign for clean energy action, at least the idea of action, is the partisan breakdown of the numbers: 93 percent of democrats favor passing clean energy legislation, followed by 82% of independents, and 75% of republicans. In a statement Gallup said:

“With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and Democrats in control of the Senate, it would appear the proposals with the best chances of passing are those that generate strong bipartisan support. That is clearly the case for a bill that would provide incentives for increased use of alternative energy”

Just don’t say “cap and trade”

The support for clean energy comes with a pronounced absence of any reference to climate change or global warming. An idea supported by a study conducted last year at George Mason University (pdf) that tracked the US public’s declining interest and concern over global warming. In that study researchers found that 85 percent favor increased support for solar and wind, while only 58 percent believed that cap and trade was a good idea for the country.

The Gallup poll results come on the heals of president Obama’s State of the Union address last week calling for 80 percent of the nations electricity come from clean energy sources (unfortunately including “clean” coal).

Additional source:
ClimateWire (subscription required)

December 14 2010

23:06

GMU Paralyzed by Plagiarism Investigation

Plagiarism charges against George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman have brought the university's administration to an apparent standstill, according to the latest report from John Mashey (attached).

Wegman actually stands accused of having committed a host of infractions with the “AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE 'HOCKEY STICK' GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION” that he presented to Congress in 2006. The worst, however (and the easiest to prove) is that he or his co-authors plagiarized a huge amount of material from a book by one of their targets, Raymond Bradley. In many cases, the only differences between Wegman's lifted quotes and Bradley's original material occurred when Wegman (or his assistants) changed the text to change the meaning.

Per Mashey's report, Rice University received a similar complaint against one of Wegman's co-authors, David R Scott. Rice responded immediately, investigating the charge and clearing Scott as the culprit in nine days. Nine MONTHS later, GMU has made no finding. We wait with interest ....<!--break-->

AttachmentSize strange inquiries v1 0.pdf2.59 MB
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