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Steig vs. Steig

08 Feb

Update 2/9/11

Ryan responded and told me that he sent the preprint on Dec 5th or early on the 6th, and then learned that Steig was Reviewer A later on the 6th. So Ryan sent a preprint before he knew Steig was a reviewer.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Eric Steig’s role in reviewing the O’Donnell et al 2010. That paper reviewed Steig et al 2009 (SO9), and Steig himself was a reviewer. O’Donnell and Jeff Condon, authors of the paper, both feel that Steig was dishonest about his role. It is now known that Steig was Reviewer A, and the review process is all online here. I decided to take a quick look at his comments to see if I could find anything interesting. I found several seemingly contradictory statements.

There are many interesting comments made by Steig, but one in particular caught my eye. This document is named Second Review A. I am assuming that this is Steig talking here based on the fact that he has been identified as Reviewer A in other articles. If it is not Steig, then you can disregard this post entirely.

On the first page, Steig says the following (bold mine):

O’Donnell et al. have substantially improved their manuscript and clarified a series of
items that led to some confusion on my part (for example, my impression that they had
detrended the satellite data). I appreciate the great amount of work that has gone into
this manuscript, and the thorough documentation of the results. I also am convinced
that the methods discussed are a substantive contribution to the literature and represent
real improvements to the methods used in earlier work. I also think that main findings
of the manuscript – that Steig et al.’s overestimate mean Antarctic temperature trends,
particularly in winter in the Ross Sea region – are likely to be correct.
This is important
because it has implications for the causes of recent Antarctic temperature changes, for
which the distribution of surface temperature variability and trends is a key test.

The sentence in bold is the interesting claim. He admits that Steig 09′ overestimates temperature trends, and especially so in the Ross Sea. Overall he supports the paper, but he continues on to explain why he still wants another round of review before publishing. Having read this, you would think Steig is fairly reasonable. Plus, he admits that his paper was wrong. However, let’s look at one of his comments at RC left this morning (in this post):

The bottom part is Steig’s response. He says:

[Response: I haven’t bothered to go read what is evidently being written about me, but if this is an accurate description um.. you’re kidding right? I’m now being blamed for their writing a lousy paper? Really? If this weren’t so sad it would be hilarious!–eric]

Now he claims it is a lousy paper. This is especially odd since he said something entirely different again in a December 9th post at RC. He is talking about temperature in Antarctica, and he sarcastically mentions the recent O’Donnell paper. Note that all of this is Steig writing, he’s jokingly attributing words to others:

2010
Ryan O’Donnell: Our paper in the Journal of Climate shows a somewhat better way to look at the same data. Antarctica is warming a bit more in summer, and a bit less in winter in the Ross Sea region. In fall it is cooling a bit more too, and so the overall trends are smaller. Still, West Antarctica is definitely warming significantly, as Steig et al. found. That’s interesting.

Eric Steig: Nice paper Ryan. Thanks for sending along a pre-print.

Steve McIntyre: Hey, we got published in the Journal of Climate! Another paper showing that the “team” made up the data again! (Sotto voce): Ryan says it it is warming a bit more in summer, and a bit less in winter in the Ross Sea region. In fall it is cooling a bit more. Otherwise we get the same results, though the magnitude of the trends is smaller. But West Antarctica is still warming significantly. But I really don’t care. The peer review process is broken, which is why.. umm…our paper was published in the leading climate journal.
Liberal Media: That paper wasn’t published in Nature, so we’re not very interested.

Conservative Media: Antarctica is cooling. Global warming is a fraud.

Public: zzzZZZzzz

————-
P.S. For those actually interested, yes, I’ll have more to say about O’Donnell et al., but overall, I like it.–eric

Notice the P.S. at the end. He likes the paper, overall. It’s not lousy after all. There is another interesting thing about this post. You’ll notice when he is talking as himself, he says:

Eric Steig: Nice paper Ryan. Thanks for sending along a pre-print.

This gives the impression that he hadn’t seen the paper until Ryan (O’Donnell) sent him a copy. This is obviously false, since he was a reviewer. This isn’t the only time he did this. One week earlier than this post, he wrote the following comment at The Air Vent:

Back when Ryan O had written comments at RC, I said something like “I encourage you to submit this work for publication.” I’d glad to see that this work has gone through the peer review process, and I look forward to reading it.

I appreciate also Ryan’s comment that “I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement” and his emphasizing that their results (evidently) back up our most important point – -the significant warming West Antarctica.

This is indeed the way things ought to work — and evidently do. Too bad Steve McI seems bent on spinning it otherwise. His claim that this new work ‘refutes’ mine is a prime example of why I cannot take him seriously.

Ryan, if you don’t mind sending me a preprint, and a link to your reconstructed data, I’d appreciate it.

I will presumably have more to say after I get a chance to read the paper, but it’ll be a month or more as I’m simply too busy with current projects.

He looks forward to reading it? He’s already read it, numerous times. He asks for a preprint on the 2’nd, and then on the 9th he thanks Ryan for the preprint. I don’t know if Ryan sent him one during that week, but I do know that Steig didn’t need any preprint. What’s this all mean?

He intentionally made it look as though he hadn’t read the paper, on two separate occasions spaced one week apart.

I don’t know Steig personally so I won’t speak to his character, but his actions surely seem dishonest. He clearly wanted to create the impression that he didn’t know anything about the paper until he received a preprint from O’Donnell (or claimed to). Also, as a reviewer he admits that S09 overestimated warming, yet as a RC moderator he calls it a lousy paper. This is a jumbled mess, and I’m curious to see what Steig’s response is.

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3 Comments

Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

3 responses to “Steig vs. Steig

  1. Nat

    February 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Umm… You’re aware that reviews are anonymous, right? And if Eric wanted to maintain his anonymity at the time of his comments, he’s not going to make it obvious that he already has seen *an unfinished version* of the paper. The other point is that he never saw the final version of paper before acceptance for publication – the final version was not sent back to the reviewers, so Eric would not seen if his final concerns were addressed (see recent RC post). Therefore, he really hadn’t read the paper until he got a re-print. Finally, I don’t think he ever was calling the paper “lousy” – he was saying that if the ridiculous scenario in the comment above were true, then he would be blamed for them writing a lousy paper. Obviously, he thought that was a laughable premise.

    Overall, I think you’re reading into the exchange too much.

     
  2. Sam

    February 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    “Eric wanted to maintain his anonymity at the time of his comments, he’s not going to make it obvious that he already has seen *an unfinished version* of the paper.”

    Yes, but there is a difference between maintaining anonymity and intentionally pretending he hadn’t read it. He could have simply not commented, probably the best course.

    “Finally, I don’t think he ever was calling the paper “lousy” – he was saying that if the ridiculous scenario in the comment above were true, then he would be blamed for them writing a lousy paper. Obviously, he thought that was a laughable premise.

    That may be true. But it seemed an odd comment from someone who had repeatedly claimed he liked the paper.

     

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