Influential climate change report 'was copied from Wikipedia'United Kingdom
Research questioning the validity of global warming was copied from Wikipedia and textbooks, it has been claimed.
A report by statistician Edward Wegman criticised earlier research led by scientist Michael Mann that said global temperatures were highest in the last century than the previous 1,000 years.
But according to plagiarism experts, “significant” sections of the 91-page report were lifted from “textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticised in the report”.
In a report in USA Today, Paul Ginsparg of Cornell University, Ohio State's Robert Coleman, and Virginia Tech's Skip Garner said the Wegman study showed 'fairly shocking' and 'fairly obvious' academic misconduct.
Republican congressman Joe Barton had commissioned the report in 2006 when he was leader of the House Energy Committee in an attempt to counter claims that man was causing climate change. The Wegman report called into question Michael Mann's so-called 'hockey stick' graph which suggested a rapid rise in recent global temperatures.
The study was lauded as “independent, impartial, expert” work and helped shape the US's policy on climate change but its credibility has now been called into question.
Climate scientist Raymond Bradley first raised the issue of “clear plagiarism” from one of his books while he was looking at the Deep Climate website and after reading a report from computer scientist John Mashey.
Mashey's study concluded that 35 of the report's 91 pages were “mostly plagiarised text, but often interjected with errors, bias and changes of meaning”.
One section of the Wegman report reads: 'The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors.'
A book by Prof Bradley, meanwhile, states: “The mean width of a ring in any one tree is a function of many variables, including the tree species, tree age, availability of stored food within the tree and of important nutrients in the soil, and a whole complex of climatic factors” A further passage in the report appears to be almost identical to a phrase on a Wikipedia page which predated it.
Professor Wegman has vehemently denied the claims of plagiarism and said: “I will say that there is a lot of speculation and conspiracy theory in John Mashey's analysis which is simply not true.
“We are not the bad guys. We have never intended that our Congressional testimony was intended to take intellectual credit”. He did admit that the team compiling the report felt pressure from Congress to finish the report quickly but saidthat it had not been tilted politically.
He said politicians “wanted our opinion as to the correctness of the mathematics. They wanted the truth as we saw it”.
Yet plagiarism expert Gardner, who has been looking into whether passages were lifted, commented: 'It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticising others' integrity when you don't conform to the basic rules of scholarship.
“If I was a peer reviewer of this report and I was to observe the paragraphs they have taken, then I would be obligated to report them. There are a lot of things in the report that rise to the level of inappropriate”.
Reports from 1998 and 1999 by Penn State scientist Michael Mann about the increase in the earth's temperature were criticised by Rep Barton in October 2005 as being “rooted in fundamental errors of methodology that had been cemented in place as ‘consensus’ by a closed network of friends”.
Commenting on the claims of plagiarism in the Wegman report that followed Rep Barton's complaints, Mr Bradley said: “It's nothing personal. I don't want these guys fired or anything.
“They should just retract or withdraw this report as you would any scientific publication that has these sort of problems”.
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