In her book, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, Donna Laframboise highlighted in Chapter 29, The Cut-and-Paste Job (Kindle Locations 1725-1728) the highly dubious appointment of an Anthony McMichael as the Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Climate Bible’s first health chapter. McMichael is an Australian epidemiology professor.
Donna had noted:
According to a 2001 bio, McMichael’s early research interests spanned a considerable range of topics – mental health, occupational diseases, the link between diet and cancer, and environmental epidemiology. In the late 1980s he co-authored a “bestselling guide to a healthier lifestyle” that discussed nutrition and physical fitness. The bio tells us it was only “during the 1990s” that McMichael developed “a strong interest” in the health risks associated with global environmental change. So in the early 1990s, out of all the experts in the entire world the IPCC might have chosen to oversee the writing of a chapter examining how climate change might impact human health, why was McMichael selected?
I suspect it had a great deal to do with another book he wrote – the one that appeared in 1993 titled Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and the Health of the Human Species. This book’s central theme is that human activity is undermining the planet’s ecosystem. Its tone and analysis are similar to hundreds of other environmental treatises published in recent decades.
But the really interesting part about the IPCC’s first ever chapter on climate change and human health is:
There is a straight line between what the UN’s 1995 Climate Bible told the world about health issues and what McMichael had already written in his 1993 book. Planetary Overload isn’t included among the 182 references listed at the end of the health chapter. Which is curious, since entire passages of the Climate Bible were lifted directly from it.
My research has indentified 11 instances in which the wording in these two documents is almost identical. (Kindle Locations 1759-1775) [emphasis added -hro]
Quite astounding that such a thorough and transparent “gold standard” process should have let so many examples of blatant unattributed text slip into an assessment report, don’t you think?!
Kind of makes one wonder how many more such examples might be found in other assessment reports.
But at least this time around – according to the files leaked to Donna by the Secret Santa – the IPCC is making an effort to identify (prior to publication) any suspect text.
On the Green data stick there’s a folder called “WGII AR5 FOD Plagiarism Screen” [path green\Buenos Aires Documentation\c_ExpertReviewFiles\]
There’s a report for each chapter, as well as a document entitled “Explanation of iThenticate Report.pdf” [copy available here] which indicates the following:
iThenticate checks written work for duplicate and unattributed content against the world’s largest comparison database, providing in–‐depth reports to the WG2 TSU. This software ensures that all work in the FOD is original before the AR5 goes to press.
Every chapter has been checked using the iThenticate software. The report generated for your chapter was then edited by the TSU to include only pages that contain passages of content that is inadequately attributed.
The PDF is comprised of 2 parts. The first part lists what iThenticate identifies as original material. This is listed starting with the largest match. These original sources are then ranked according to the size of the match within the text. Each source is given a different color to help identify it within the text. [emphasis added -hro]
It’s certainly too bad for the IPCC that a product such as iThenticate was not available at the time of McMichael’s involvement in authorship, don’t you think?
I also wonder what might have precipitated the IPCC’s decision to utilize such technology – and when it was first implemented. If – as I’m inclined to suspect – it’s because they got caught with their pants down as a consequence of Donna’s investigations, the very least the IPCC could have done was say “thank you”, wouldn’t you agree?!
And, of course, there’s no guarantee that the powers that be (i.e. the Chapter Authors – or perhaps the TSU?) are obliged to follow the recommendations – just as they are not obliged to respect Reviewer Comments, or those of the Review Editors.
YMMV, but I find it quite astounding that they would go to all this trouble to make sure that source material is “adequately attributed”, yet they find it “too impractical” to include a simple flag which would identify non-peer-reviewed source material.
[UPDATE: 01/11/2013 11:39 AM PST: Please see additional info on use of grey lit in my comment below -hro]
Unlike the recommendation that existing rules on flagging be strengthened, this check for plagiarism wasn’t even included in the InterAcademy Council’s 2010 Review of the IPCC Procedures and Processes.
But all of that aside … it is a sign of slight improvement. First one I’ve seen, come to think of it ;-)