Sunday, March 25, 2012


So I've got this paper to referee, this horribly written mess. Among its author list are esteemed people I know who clearly didn't even read the full text. It's a silly paper just to pad the CVs of some listed. I know I'm supposed to just sign-off on it, but I can't. I know I'm supposed to point out the most atrocious of the comments and be done with things. Indeed I've already gone through and mentioned most of them. But now I'm thinking of deleting them all and telling the editors that they should publish as is! Right away! Maybe with footnotes next to the most ridiculous stuff saying explicitly that all the authors agree on these points. What do you think?

In any case, I just worry a bit about anonymity...the editors know who is doing the refereeing, and the editors can be pretty chummy with certain folks. Indeed, when one does email reviews of NSF proposals, the panel *sees* who wrote the review! Maybe something similar happens here...someone on the editorial board finds out, and lets the authors know how obnoxious and insulting I was to these people.

But here's the kicker...I'm pissed off that I've probably spent more time "editing" this paper than some of the established authors!

Friday, March 02, 2012


I'm somewhat sympathetic to those reluctant to accept anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Indeed, it seems that for many their reluctance is in large part a reaction to the force with which "they" try to force it on people. So instead of trying to argue the science, let me try respond gently to certain fair, but likely misguided points, that some of these "deniers" make:

  • they don't reject science, but instead choose which scientists to accept: I think what many people fail to realize is that one can find scientists who say the craziest things. Even Nobel-winning physicists have some crazy ideas. Sure, science isn't a democracy, but when just a small minority of scientists take a certain opinion, the odds are against their being correct. And so one could choose to accept that relativity is wrong, that the mechanics even of the very small is truly deterministic, that evolution is wrong, that the big bang never happened. Heck, moving beyond science, one could choose to believe those who are sure mankind never visited the moon, that six million people didn't die in the Holocaust, etc.
  • climate scientists are motivated to scare the public to maintain their jobs: Ok, fair enough. But aren't we all motivated out of self-preservation?  However, it wouldn't occur to me to publish something I didn't think was true for some professional gain. Besides the dishonesty, I would fear the inevitable refutation by other scientists. Academic scientists are no saints, but I think it fair to say that the motivations are more likely to have them steal the ideas and credit of others rather than to attempt to steer a research program along some particular agenda. And could they even pull such a global conspiracy off? But even if you dispute this, surely one so misanthropically inclined would have even greater suspicion of the intents and effectiveness of huge multi-national companies supporting the denier community.
  • there are many instances of mistakes or disputed claims. The science is either wrong or not well established: Deniers have often referred me to read the denier blogs. However, what these blogs generally have are fine-scale critiques of certain small claims, but with titles suggesting a larger scale of the critiques. I think what many scientists are good at is reading a paper and assessing weakness and strengths. Just because there may be some valid criticism of some aspect of some certain research, that's not necessarily an indictment of the entire field. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how critical to be in my paper which basically says that a competitor is wrong. But at the same time, the competitor is wrong in degree because he's over simplifying. As such, his overall position isn't even as "wrong" as the deniers claim about AGW. This isn't a court of justice with a final verdict. It's a messy, complicated system that we need to understand.