Friday, May 16, 2014

Climategate II vs. Reviewer 2

My first Third Battle of Manassas was the 1988 one, though they appear to have been flaring up since sometime in the 19th century and show no sign of going gently into that good night. The lesson for hed writers is simple: Before you reach for that particular cliche, spend some time in the files and see how often you and your colleagues have invoked it already.

That's the trouble with "Climategate II": Fox has already declared it -- without the question mark, no less -- in a September story. Like First Climategate, the first Second Climategate was a fabricated scandal that relied on deliberately stupid misreadings of cherry-picked information, but you probably guessed that. Anyway, here's Fox catching up with the top story in the morning's (Murdoch) Times and at Drudge:
Some are calling it the new "Climategate."

A paper by Lennart Bengtsson, a respected research fellow and climatologist at Britain's University of Reading, was rejected last February by a leading academic journal after a reviewer found it "harmful" to the climate change agenda. The incident is prompting new charges that the scientific community is muzzling dissent when it comes to global warming.

Apparently it took Fox a while to find an appropriate "some" to put everything into context:

"[Bengtsson] has been a very prolific publisher and was considered one of the top scientists in the mainstream climate community," said Marc Morano, of the website, which is devoted to questioning global warming.

Bengtsson had grown increasingly skeptical of the scientific consensus, often cited by President Obama, that urgent action is needed to curb carbon emissions before climate change exacts an irreversible toll on the planet with extreme drought, storms and rising seas levels.

Well, rejection sucks, and reviewers have moments in which their inability to read the methods section is indistinguishable from their animal urge to take revenge for every slight inflicted on them since their first theory course. Those are known hazards of journal submission. You can chance it yourself whenever you like, which -- from the other perspective -- should remind you that the bar for submitting material to peer review is pretty low and that sometimes the reviewers are right. The Mail, of all places, has some comment from the publisher, but without the reviews and the editor's letter that sums them up, you're still in the academic equivalent of a landlord-tenant dispute -- which is an uncomfortable journalistic place to be unless, like Fox, you only cover the side you like.

The chocolate milk ban, in case you're wondering, is another made-up scandal, notable only for the social reality readers construct in the comments. The VA story was pretty interesting until someone decided it should be about Kenyan perfidy, rather than gross negligence. The Indian election, as of the screen grab above, was No. 20 on the bulleted list of "latest news" stories, which makes perfect sense: With all the bogus news, who has the patience for those pesky transfers of power in nuclear states?



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