28 November 2009

GRL and James Saiers

Having seen his name mentioned in the CRU emails as a possible "skeptic" needing to be removed from the editorial board of GRL, I contacted James Saiers, Professor of Hydrology at Yale University, to see what he had to say about all this. He emailed me the following response which I post with his permission:
I haven’t looked for, and don’t intend to look for, my name in the CRU emails, but one of my colleagues did alert me to an email written by Wigley in which he suggested that, if I were a climate skeptic, then steps should be taken to get me “ousted.” Wigley’s suggestion stems, I believe, from the publication of a GRL paper (by McIntyre and McKitrick) that criticized certain elements of Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick paper. This paper caused a bit of a stir and because I oversaw the peer review of this paper, I assume that Wigley inferred (incorrectly) that I was a climate-change skeptic. I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term, long after the excitement over the McIntyre and McKitrick paper had passed. My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.


  1. I now understand why Dr. Wigley declined McIntyre’s recent “outreach” offering “a guest post for Climate Audit … and responding to comments”.

  2. A discussion of the all the ramifications of the contents of Wigley's e-mail and in Saier's response to Roger would fill a book.

  3. 'his name mentioned in the CRU emails as a possible "skeptic" needing to be removed from the editorial board'

    Roger, this is not a fair characterization of the email discussion at all.

  4. Of course, the explanation provided by Saiers does not answer the question why he was replaced as the editor for handling responses to MM as described here: http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2008/8/11/caspar-and-the-jesus-paper.html

    When one looks at story from SteveMc's perspective it does appear that behind the scenes politiking was going on and that there was interference in the editorial process even if it did not result in Saiers getting sacked.

  5. #3

    It would be interesting to know what you consider a "fair characterization" of this is:

    >> >
    >> > This is truly awful. GRL has gone downhill rapidly in recent years.
    >> > I think the decline began before Saiers. I have had some unhelpful
    >> > dealings with him recently with regard to a paper Sarah and I have
    >> > on glaciers -- it was well received by the referees, and so is in the
    >> > publication pipeline. However, I got the impression that Saiers was
    >> > trying to keep it from being published.
    >> >
    >> > Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers
    >> > is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary
    >> > evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get
    >> > him ousted. Even this would be difficult.

    I suppose it would be best for folks to read the entire e-mail and judge for themselves which direction "Mike" was headed with this.


  6. I read McIntire's website and do not think he is necessarily a climate change skeptic, but rather a climate scientist skeptic.

  7. -3-fws

    I wrote that Saiers was "mentioned in the CRU emails a possible "skeptic" needing to be removed from the editorial board of GRL"

    Wigley writes: "If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary 1evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted."

    Care to explain my mischaracterization?

  8. I now understand why Dr. Wigley declined McIntyre’s recent “outreach” offering “a guest post for Climate Audit … and responding to comments”.

    On what basis? McIntyre didn't raise the issue of Saiers being fired; that came directly from the emails.

    Roger, thanks for getting this for the record.

  9. There seems to have been campaign against Saiers even if it didn't result in his removal. The key email was from Mann iirc saying that "the leak seems to have been plugged."

    Maybe Mann had dodgy plumbing and the email was misinterpreted :-)

  10. Reading some of the e-mails gives me the impression that many times the persons involved were some kind of fire-bucket brigade rushing from brush fire to brush fire. However, all the fires seem to occur on only one side of the street. And at times, really big buckets were used.

    I've also noticed that there doesn't seem to have been any internal independent reviews of the papers and reports. Only the authors worked and re-worked the papers. This is, I think, a fatal error. I have seen a few e-mails in which one person attempts to open the issues, but without success. And it's the same person each time.

    I think it is also correct that several of the authors of the papers were also on the authoring teams for the IPCC assessment reports. Another fatal flaw, in my opinion. A lack of independent review, verification, and assessment seems to be a universal characteristic of climate 'science'.

  11. edaniel, remember that the emails in the CRU data dump were selected by some unknown party. As such, it's probably inappropriate to infer anything from what emails are not there.

  12. I've noticed that a lot of hydrologists lean toward the skeptic side, or at least to the "AGW isn't yet proven side".

    I wonder if it is somehow related to the sort of political ideological trends I've noticed in academics in general vs engineers.

  13. MrUsufruct (#5):
    My characterization would be that the email in question represents the birth and immediate demise of a dumb idea. If you have served on journal editorial boards, you will know that stuff like this comes up from time to time, and usually, as happens here, nothing comes of it.

    I think that Roger’s characterization made it more sinister than it is; but perhaps that’s why he brought it up in the first place. In any case, the point is not worth pursuing.

  14. Charlie, if your observation is a general trend, there are a number of reasons that could be hypothesized. Each discipline has its own personality and culture to some extent - there has been some literature on this.
    For hydrologists I wonder if there is either a) a basic element of pragmatism (let's just get the engineers to develop carbon-free technology and stop wallowing in all the debate) OR b) a skepticism toward changing behaviors based on models that can't be empirically tested in real time. Working with models and then testing them in nature, such as hydrologists do, may make people generally more humble about models and predictions.
    It might be interesting to do further research on- the psychology of disciplines vis a vis climate change.

  15. fizzy water solution (#13)

    Ross McKitrick has weighed in on this at the Bishop Hill blog.


    His recollection is that Saiers may not have been "ousted" as editor, but certainly had "the file" regarding the paper in question taken away from him.

    (Note, try as I might, I haven't been able to change this moniker in Google mail, which I had assigned myself in a fit of irreverence at one time. My usual blog moniker is John M. I have to admit though, when Connelley was basically asking me to cyber-step-outside a while back, it was kind of nice being even more anonymous. Little did I know that macho-man-up challenges are actually common in the field, as the e-mails show.) ;)

  16. John M (#15), aka MrUsufruct:
    “…McKitrick has weighed in…”
    So I see. At last, a neutral, objective perspective…;-)

    (Hey Roger, can I have another one of those little trash-can thingys?)

  17. fizzy (#16)

    Do you have any factual information that would contradict McKitrick's recollection of the events?

    John M

  18. My reading is that there has been justifiable consternation that articles by non-scientist climate skeptics are being submitted to peer review journals, not in the interest of science, but in the interest of discrediting climate science by gaining a toehold of legitimacy by slipping articles in when possible. If and when there are editors who help facilitate this tactic, there will be scientists who will be aware of it and who will counter this. Unfortunately, the result of poor science slipping through in this political climate is that this research will be cited by deniers in various levels of the debate, even after it is firmly rebutted in the scientific arena. That Dr. Saiers is not a climate skeptic seems clear from this email. That he was not removed under pressure also seems clear from this email. Typical much ado by those with an axe to grind who grasp at straw after straw to influence the political arena, as ineffectual and discredited as they are in the scientific arena.

    Using cherry-picked quotes from a fraction, likely a very small fraction, of the emails among scientists exemplifies the level that the deniers exist at.

  19. John M -(#17)

    No, none whatsoever. But McKitrick didn’t recollect a “witch hunt”; he surmised it. Unconfirmed by either Dr. Saiers or Dr. Famiglietti when given the opportunity. So who knows? I suspect that .nfO9AcVpfNME6_BeAtON3kLH_AU (#18) has it right.

    But enough of this for me. I didn’t mean to join the hens clucking over the stolen scraps tossed over the fence.

  20. Fizzy,

    "I don't mean to join the hens clucking over the stolen scraps tossed over the fence".

    You already have.

  21. I appreciate the comments by Saiers. But it makes little difference here. If the people were trying to get him ousted for political reasons namely that he didn't do what they wanted against the right people then that shows corrupt intent on their part, regardless of why Saiers leaves.