The Dictionary of the Climate Debate (DCD)

peer review
Definition: The process of subjecting an author's scholarly work to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field.

A climate-science peer-review controversy

There has been controversy over the quality and fairness of the peer review process within climate science. For example, here is Roy Spenser explaining why his papers weren't getting published.

Richard Lindzen on peer review

"Even in the present unhealthy state of science, papers that are overtly contradictory to the catastrophic warming scenario do get published (though not without generally being substantially watered down during the review process). They are then often subject to the remarkable process of ‘discreditation.'

This process consists in immediately soliciting attack papers that are published quickly as independent articles rather than comments. The importance of this procedure is as follows. Normally such criticisms are published as comments, and the original authors are able to respond immediately following the comment. Both the comment and reply are published together. By publishing the criticism as an article, the reply is published as a correspondence, which is usually delayed by several months, and the critics are permitted an immediate reply. As a rule, the reply of the original authors is ignored in subsequent references."

The BBC's Jon Stewart reports on the issue

Some CRU-email evidence of the problem

Edward Cook e-mail message to Keith Briffa (June 4/03)

"I got a paper to review (submitted to the Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Sciences), written by a Korean guy and someone from Berkeley, that claims that the method of reconstruction that we use in dendroclimatology (reverse regression) is wrong, biased, lousy, horrible, etc. They use your Tornetrask recon as the main whipping boy….

If published as is, this paper could really do some damage. It is also an ugly paper to review because it is rather mathematical, with a lot of Box-Jenkins stuff in it. It won't be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically…. I am really sorry but I have to nag about that review -- Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting--to support Dave Stahle's and really as soon as you can. Please"

[To read the complete email, click here.]

Tom Wigley e-mail message to Timothy Carter (April 24/03)

"Mike's [Mann] idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work--must get rid of [Hans] von Storch too, otherwise holes will eventually fill up with people like [David R.] Legates, [Robert C.] Balling, [Richard S.] Lindzen, [Patrick J.] Michaels, [S. Fred] Singer, etc. I have heard that the publishers are not happy with von Storch, so the above approach might remove that hurdle too."

[To read the complete email, click here.]

Tom Wigley e-mail message to Michael E. Mann (January 20/05)

"If you think that [James E.] Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU [American Geophysical Union] channels to get him ousted."

[To read the complete email, click here.]

Real Climate on the weaknesses of the peer process

For an alternative point of view, click here to read an analysis by Real Climate's Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt on the weaknesses of the peer review process.

1. "For the record 'peer review' is simply a call for rudimentary error checking - it is not thesis confirming and it is by no means systematic, thorough, or even unbiased. It has its place but it is neither an essential nor required component of sound science. Theory confirmation is derived by outcome - not opinions of self proclaimed 'experts'."

Comment at Skeptical Science: Bruce Frykman at 09:04 AM on 19 March, 2009

2. Click here to read an article by the skeptic essayist Frank Furedi that examines the peer-review controversy.