PAGES2K, Betts and the bee in Bothe’s (biased?) bonnet … and speculations

In my previous post, I had highlighted what appeared to be some inconsistencies that had come to light regarding Nature GeoScience‘s policies and practices, particularly wrt that which they publish as a “Progress Article”.

First, a brief review of the bidding, so to speak …

This all started off on that least desirable of dialogue platforms, twitter – thanks to IPCC Lead Author and U.K. Met Office head of climate impacts, Richard Betts’ decision (for whatever reason) to herald to his followers in the twitterverse:

Steve McIntyre’s comment about “pressure” on Nature to accept PAGES2K seems to be entirely speculation.

Now, put yourself at the keyboard of a newbie. Would you have any idea at all that this “pressure” observation, in context clearly indicated that the author had fully acknowledged that it was speculation? No? Of course not!

So, I took issue with this – particularly since there was so much else in McIntyre’s at that point two – and by now at least four – posts on the PAGES2k paper that Betts could have commented on.

If you follow the discussion, pursuant to my April 23 post, you will see that on April 24, McIntyre subsequently clarified his remarks for Betts’ edification.

Betts’ brief (unthreaded April 24) reply included a statement of the blindlingly obvious as well as a speculation:

Thanks for your comments. We are both working entirely in the dark here, as neither of us actually know what the PAGES2K reviews said, but I would make entirely the opposite presumption to you about the approach of Nature and the reviewers. They would have known full well that you would be certain to subject this paper to considerable scrutiny on Climate Audit and are more likely to take *extra* care in the review process, and definitely not rush it through because of the impending IPCC deadline. IPCC authors, and climate scientists in general, are only too aware that our work is under scrutiny as never before. [emphasis added -hro]

On April 25, Betts’ colleague, Oliver Bothe, subsequently posted a much longer (threaded) reply, in which he had noted that:

I think the synthesis provided by the PAGES2K consortium perfectly fits the scope of a progress-article in Nature Geoscience.

On April 27, McIntyre posted a (threaded) reply to Bothe, in which he had cited Nature GeoScience‘s policy on Progress Articles, in light of which he had concluded:

Now that Dr Bothe has drawn attention to the curious fact that PAGES2K was published as a “Progress Article”, I think that it is entirely possible that one or more of the Nature reviewers, like the Science reviewers, may have recognized the impossibility of careful review of seven reconstructions using multiple methods and that someone therefore had the bright idea of circumventing the problem by labeling PAGES2K as a “Progress Article”, thereby lessening the review burden. Speculation on my part, but perhaps Dr Bothe can ask the authors whether my speculation is correct.

I had closed my earlier comment with the observation “I recommend that readers should not presume that the journal peer review constituted serious due diligence of the PAGES2K article.” Given that Dr Bothe has pointed out that the PAGES2K was merely published as a “Progress Article”, the recommendation seems even more appropriate. [emphasis added -hro]

And then it appeared that the sounds of silence had descended on yet another dangling conversation.

Earlier today, I was alerted to the fact that Bothe had, in fact, responded … but not on this blog – or McIntyre’s! Although I have not mentioned this previously, in Bothe’s tweets and comments that I had read, it struck me that there was a bee in his bonnet! However, I attributed this to the fact that English is not Bothe’s first language – and, therefore, made allowances for it.

It wasn’t until I saw his “reply” on his own blog that I realized that perhaps he really does view skeptics with some hostility! And here’s what stuck out like a sore thumb – at least to my eyes! It was an April 22 tweet (that I had not previously seen), in which he had written:

interestingly null hypothesis in sceptical PAGES2K-wild-guessing is: Climate Science & Publishing corrupted. reasonable null? don’t think so

That seems to be the “prior” from which Bothe had been working all along. In his intro, he had linked to my previous post and prefaced (and concluded) the above tweet with:

To be honest, I have rather few intentions to comment at the blog-post linked above. Therefore, I’ll do it here. Probably I shouldn’t react at all to the but once more just for completeness.

Anyway, I don’t have to say much. The linked blog post is primarily interested in highlighting the too lite review for climate papers. I don’t agree but I don’t know whether it is worth discussing it since this

[Bothe’s tweet from above -hro]

still is true.

I would invite anyone to find a post of McIntyre’s in which he had made an allegation that even remotely resembled a declaration that a process is “corrupted” – let alone that of “Climate Science & Publishing”. And, I would add, such an allegation won’t be found in any post of mine either!

Clearly Bothe’s … uh … speculation(!) on the skeptical “null hypothesis” (not to mention his “summary” of a post he has chosen to address behind closed screens, so to speak) is his “prior” or fundamental premise – and his problem. Not Steve McIntyre’s and not mine!

Although it does occur to me that <<speculation alert>> in Bothe’s books any questioning or (Gaia forbid!) speculation on the part of a skeptic is tantamount to an allegation of “corruption”. But more likely it’s a consequence of Bothe’s confirmation bias in overdrive.

Whatever the case may be, these modes of communication – in this instance manifested in the failure to acknowledge McIntyre’s expertise, or to address the validity of his concerns about the implications of the absence of due diligence regarding the statistical underpinning of PAGES2K (and other papers relied on by the IPCC) – is no more conducive to constructive, respectful dialogue than an unwarranted context-free accusation launched via … twitter.


One thought on “PAGES2K, Betts and the bee in Bothe’s (biased?) bonnet … and speculations

  1. I really would like to understand what’s the point of your two posts.


    That seems to be the “prior” from which Bothe had been working all along.

    This “prior”, this tweet did primarily refer to conversations on this and similar topics on twitter. Please have a look at one of the replies to my tweet.


    failure to acknowledge McIntyre’s expertise

    Pardon? Could you please repeat the start of my comment on your first PAGES2K post?


    the statistical underpinning of PAGES2K (and other papers relied on by the IPCC)

    In contrast to you but I think agreeing with Richard Betts, I rely not only on the process but also on the integrity and expertise of my colleagues (though not unconditionally). I say it again: publish the criticisms in the scientific literature.


    unwarranted context-free accusation launched via … twitter.

    Sorry, if you look, you are going to see that the tweet isn’t completely context-free.


    Hostility against sceptics. No only against putting climate science under general suspicion.

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