Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Significance of Peer Review

Climate Skeptic: In "big boy sciences" like physics, study findings are not considered vetted simply because they are peer-reviewed. They are vetted only after numerous other scientists have been able to replicate the results, or have at least failed to tear the original results down. Often, this vetting process is undertaken by people who may even be openly hostile to the original study group. For some reason, climate scientists cry foul when this occurs in their profession, but mathematicians and physicists accept it, because they know that findings need to be able to survive the scrutiny of enemies, not just of friends. To this end, an important part of peer review is to make sure the publication of the study includes all the detail on methodology and data that others might need to replicate the results (which is something climate reviewers are particularly bad at).

Indeed. For instance, Jim Hansen at NASA has written a great many peer-reviewed articles, but he nonetheless refuses to disclose the algorithms and methodologies used to generate his GISS temperature data, data that is materially different than that produced by competing authorities like UAH, RSS and Hadley. In fact, when Steve McIntyre discovered a Y2K error in Hansen's data, an error that significantly overstated recent warming and one which NASA has now acknowleged, it was only by reverse engineering it.

And yet, it is Hansen's unaudited temperature data set that seems to get all the press and that is used in so many climate models, perhaps because it's the only one that shows any statistically meaningful global warming over the last 20 years.

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