An open letter to Donna Laframboise (or, You have got to be F*!$*%@&! kidding me)


I don’t even have a Ph.D. I probably shouldn’t be handling chemicals.

Yesterday, I read a lovely article on Foxnews.com with the headline “U.N. Hires Grad Students to Author Key Climate Report.” The article was about a new ‘book’ by ‘journalist’ Donna Laframboise, or as Fox put it “A scathing expose”. Scathing. The book is called “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.”

After I calmed down, I decided that the best way to cope with the idiocy in this article with my strong feelings about the article was to write this little letter to her. I will have to say two things up front. First, I didn’t read the book because, honestly, I could barely make it through the terribly written Fox News piece. I don’t think I would have survived the book (nor do I have the time to read it).

Second, I am not a climate change expert (or even an expert at all, according to Ms. Laframboise), but she isn’t really qualified to comment on climate change, either. Ms. Laframboise has a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s studies. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for people who study gender issues. It just doesn’t make them climate scientists.

I do believe I am qualified to write about the scientific process, and what it means to be a graduate student in the sciences, and that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

So, with that, a calmly written letter…

Dear Ms. Laframboise,

I read with interest an article about your new book about the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.” Because I know, from reading your Google profile, that you are a constantly evolving person, I thought I might help to speed up the process a little in one important aspect.

You write that the people performing much of the research relating to climate science are graduate students, people in their twenties. In fact, it is much worse than that: much of the research in all of science is performed by these people whose “experience of the world,” you write, “is neither broad nor deep.” You seem upset by the fact that these young scientists are called upon as experts to aid in the writing of the IPCC’s reports.

The problem appears to arise from your complete lack of knowledge of how the academic system works. I can’t blame you, since you never experienced it yourself, having stopped after your undergraduate degree to pursue a higher calling. A calling that includes labeling people who DO pursue a higher degree as incompetent and unqualified.

For example, the article on foxnews.com states, “Grad students often co-author scientific papers to help with the laborious task of writing. Such papers are rarely the cornerstone for trillions of dollars worth of government climate funding, however — nor do they win Nobel Peace prizes.” I will assume that the bit about “Nobel Peace prizes” was a mistake made by the Fox News writer, since as I’m sure you’re aware, scientific achievements do not lead to Peace prizes. Further, most science of any kind doesn’t lead to a Nobel Prize. They really don’t hand out that many of them.

But let’s de-construct this one a little more. Grad students often are the lead author on scientific publications, because they carried out the work. I know you feel that this shouldn’t be the case. How can they do science without a Ph.D?! Well, it turns out that’s how you get a Ph.D. By doing research that leads to publications. I can’t comment on the “cornerstone” comment because I genuinely have no idea what the point even was.

I was astounded, and personally very offended by this little gem, though I’m sure you had the very best of intentions:

“We’ve been told for the past two decades that ‘the Climate Bible’ was written by the world’s foremost experts,” Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise told FoxNews.com. “But the fact is, you are just not qualified without a doctorate. In academia you aren’t even on the radar at that point.”

First of all, what is a Climate Bible? The Bible is a collection of books that the faithful believe is the word of God and cannot be refuted. The IPCC recommendations, on the other hand, are based on evidence, research, and the scientific method, all of which can be refuted if research is performed that comes to a different conclusion. It’s not a bible, but rather the conclusions drawn from an enormous base of scientific results.

Secondly, I’m not even “on the radar”? Come on, that’s just hurtful. The fact is, if you are working toward your Ph.D. under the supervision of an established researcher, you *are* qualified to write scientific articles, including reviews, and to be on advisory panels. Getting your Ph.D. is not a magical transition from being a useless grunt to having all the tools necessary to do science. It’s a long road. You have to perform world-class science, be published in peer-reviewed journals, and present your work at national and international meetings, among other things. By the time a grad student receives their Ph.D. he or she should most certainly be “on the radar”. Their names should be known to top scientists in the field. They should be an expert in that field long before they get a magic piece of paper that gives them the right to say “Doctor” before their name. The expertise doesn’t come after.

But while grad students do author many papers, and are often the corresponding authors on those papers, they are always co-authored by their mentor, an established researcher in the field, one who goes by Doctor. This author is often called the “senior author,” not “lead author.” I think that’s where you got confused. Those “top experts” in a larger field are the senior authors. The lead authors, often graduate students, are in training to be top experts in a large scientific field, as well. However, they are the top experts in their own narrower research field, which is why they are called upon as experts by the IPCC.

In reading the article on foxnews.com, I found myself confused about some of the sensational information from the book that I thought you might be able to clarify. Specifically, I was confused about why the information was sensational.

The article states:

One lead author of the 2001 edition was a trainee at the Munich Reinsurance Company in 2000 and lacked a master’s degree while on the panel. He did not earn a Ph.D. until ten years later.

Is the issue that he didn’t have a Master’s or that he didn’t earn his Ph.D. for so long? Granted, 10 years or more is a long Ph.D., but it seems he was working at a company at the same time, so it doesn’t surprise me. Further, most graduate students in science working toward their Ph.D. don’t have a Master’s degree. It’s not necessary in many countries, including the U.S.

Or this one:

Another lead author in 1994 earned his master’s only two years earlier and had his first academic paper published in 1995.

First academic paper only three years after starting his Ph.D. program? I also think it’s pretty impressive. I assume that’s what you were getting at.

Dutch geography professor Richard Klein has been a lead author for six IPCC reports and in 1997 became a coordinating lead author. He was promoted to the panel’s most senior role while he was 28 years old — six years prior to completing his PhD.

Wow, he had a lot going on during his Ph.D. Was probably difficult to work with the IPCC and complete all his research. I guess you were also impressed by this? And the fact that his research was so recognized by the scientific community, even before publication (which always takes forever, let me tell you), that they promoted him to this senior role.

I read that you said, “neither [Klein's] youth nor his thin academic credentials prevented the IPCC from regarding him as one of the world’s top experts,” so I guess you were simply impressed. That’s right, in science, you can be good at your job even if you’re young and have yet to publish numerous papers.

Finally, I’d like to comment on the closing quote you gave for the Fox article:

“We’ve been told that [the IPCC] is a responsible business man in a three-piece suit, but it turns out it’s a sloppily dressed teenager — a spoiled brat that can’t be trusted,” she said.

Yes, we scientists may be sloppily dressed, having no reason to wear a three-piece suit to do our jobs, but judging the validity of the IPCC based on the fact that it recognizes the contributions and expertise of young scientists is irresponsible, offensive, and uninformed.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I know you hate “intellectual laziness” and “hysteria”, and greatly value “independent analysis” and “fair play”, according to your own profile, I might think that you wrote this book simply to push an agenda of climate-change denial. I hope that my letter has helped you realize that one of your points, the youth of some scientists, is not a valid one to use to bash the work of a respected community of scientists within the IPCC. Unfortunately, though, I can’t help you see the flaws in your logic on climate change. I’ll leave that up to the experts.

Sincerely,

Brooke LaFlamme (a graduate student).

123 thoughts on “An open letter to Donna Laframboise (or, You have got to be F*!$*%@&! kidding me)

  1. Yo Brooke; I agree that Ms. Lamfraboise has no clue; but that’s never stopped conservatives pundits before for attacking science on the flimsiest premises. However, I feel compelled to mention the part about the Nobel Peace Prize was not her mistake but a jab at the IPCC who shared the 2007 Nobel peace prize with Al Gore.

    • I didn’t know that about the IPCC winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks, guys, for pointing that out! However, I still don’t quite understand the point they were trying to make…grad student work rarely wins Nobel Peace Prizes? They also don’t win Pulitzer prizes.

  2. Pingback: Authoritarians always confuse credentials with expertise. Take Eleven. | DrugMonkey

  3. “Modern Americans behave as if intelligence were some sort of hideous deformity.”
    ― Frank Zappa

  4. Well done, Brooke. I posted a one star review and several comments over at Amazon. I only wish I had had this gem to post. Will Tweet and Face Book. Get ready for the trolls…..

    • I haven’t really had any trolls on my blog before. Could be interesting…
      By the way, I read all the one star reviews on Amazon and was really happy they existed. Just wish there were more! And I was really impressed that you made it through 50 pages of the thing. I skimmed a few pages, but couldn’t handle it.

  5. Laframboise did some decent journalism over a decade ago but has focused on photography since. For reasons unknown (too much reading of extreme right-wing blogs?) she suddenly decided climate change was a hoax and IPCC chief hoaxers and she had to ‘out’ them. People used to send me links to her blog but it was clear she knows little about climate science nor has any first hand knowledge about the IPCC and how it works. Nearly everything seemed to be cut and pasted from other denialist sites and was heavy on the conspiracy/incompetence memes.

    That did not encourage me to look at her book.

  6. The amazing thing is that on Amazon.com, 98 people reviewed the book and 78 gave it 5 stars. An ode to denialism and stultifying ignorance.
    I wonder how many of them where apostles of Anthony Watts, or paid trolls for the Koch brothers.

  7. If you did actually bother to read the book, you’d understand that it has little to do with climate science at all. The science is touched on only tangentially.

    What is does have to do with is an organisation that has little or no accountability to the outside world, and has a large number of self-interested lobby organisations (particularly WWF) involved in it.

    WWF stands to make a very large amount of money out of “climate change”

    Perhaps you’d feel differently if she were writing about a UN body that was proposing to fill you with medication funded by vested interests.

    Unfortunately, the message just isn’t getting through to you guys.

    • When a nonprofit organization (such as WWF) “makes a lot of money”, the revenue goes back to supporting the organization’s mission. Noone’s getting rich there. Also, to whom should those who study climate change be accountable? The American public? I frankly prefer the “peer review” system utilizing very well educated folks with similar levels of expertise.

      • Non-profit? The company makes $200 million annually and the top guy makes six figures and you consider that non-profit. The top guy at the Salvation army makes about $50k, now that’s non-profit.

        cheers

    • Andy, perhaps you could explain how the WWF will “make a very large amount of money” from a rapidly-warming planet. Or Greenpeace, perhaps? It may be counterintuitive to you, but when everyone is forced to think like the WWF, the WWF becomes irrelevant.

  8. Brooke: your

    I will assume that the bit about “Nobel Peace prizes” was a mistake made by the Fox News writer, since as I’m sure you’re aware, scientific achievements do not lead to Peace prizes. Further, most science of any kind doesn’t lead to a Nobel Prize. They really don’t hand out that many of them.

    Ummm…the IPPC and Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    So, you really did not research or investigate any of this article, then? They did not win for the science. They won a politcal prize. And you thought they had won a science prize. Plus you are commenting on a book you have admittedly never read.

    Says a lot, no? Sadly, it says nothing positive of you or Mandia.

    • I love this whole Peace Prize thing. I realize now that the IPCC and Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize (well, I already knew about Al Gore), and I think it was a well-deserved prize. However, my comment was about the wording in the Fox News article, which was completely nonsensical. While I appreciate your concern, rest assured; I understand the difference between a Nobel Peace Prize and a Nobel Prize in the sciences. You can now sleep well at night. You’re welcome.

      And, no, I didn’t read the book, except for a very small portion. I am not commenting on the whole book, and I did not intend to. The parts I did read of it looked like absolute gibberish, and I think my brain would melt if I tried to read the whole thing. My comments are about the dismissal of the role graduate students play in generating scientific research and their ability to act as experts in their field.

      • The Nobel for A Gore was well-deserved. Just like Obama won it the next year after less than one year in office and while conducting wars in two separate nations. A Peace Prize for that was well-deserved too.

        Sorry but the Nobel for Peace has no credibility.

        cheers

    • Brooke is commenting on the horseshit about graduate students that was steaming up that article, not about the book. But it’s worth it to point out again the irony of someone with a bachelor’s in the humanities choosing to comment about the role of graduate students in the sciences. Maybe humanities grad students aren’t on the radar–I wouldn’t know–but in the sciences, graduate students are. Ms. Laframboise was wrong–hilariously but insidiously so–in every statement she made about the process of training scientists and the relevance of graduate students.

    • The hand waving and straw man creating has begun. This post addresses the article written about the book, not the book. But that is the isue you wanted to address so you just changed the subject.
      The denialists have nothing but noise to offer and offer that, they do. Empty vessels the lot of them

      • Empty vessels perhaps, but the denialists have killed anthropogenic climate chnge as an issue. They`ve won. A demonstration of that victory will be seen in a couple of weeks at Durban, where almost no leaders will appear, almost no news media will be there, it will be a complete flop. I would not be surprised if Al Gore himself does not attend, he`ll get the flu or soemthing. Just watch.

        I can`t wait for Durban.

        cheers

      • [edited--please refrain from debating climate change per se in this forum. There are better forums for that. -Brooke]

        I don’t think the denalists have killed the issue. Economic issues have temporarily become the dominant issue. Given the number of bizarro weather events that have occurred the past two years, I suspect GW has become a background stressor rather than a complete disappearance. It’s hard to be concerned daily about a train wreck that occurs over fifty years and that people who identify with the “99%” feel powerless to stop from occurring.

        By the way, Brooke, you might also have noted that sometimes when the almighty PhD has been achieved, expertise begins to decline. See Judith Curry.

  9. Adriana: your

    Loved that letter!! Well done. What an ignorant piece of work that person must be. All of us with PhDs were once graduate students.

    And how many of you grad students deserved to be an IPCC lead author? Making scientific decisions that will cost trillions (yes, with a T) of dollars?

    • Albert Einstein began publishing his work that would eventually become the theory of relativity in 1905, at the ripe old age of 26. I’m 26 years old and I’m a grad student. Many students work on advanced degrees into their late 20s and 30s. “Les”, do you realize how condescending you sound when you question whether “us grad students” deserve to be lead authors on anything? Would a 50-year-old who has been studying ice cores in the Arctic for 20 years, and then decides to toss his name into the ring as a climate change expert, be more qualified than a 30-year-old grad student who has been reading every relevant publication and conducting relevant research on the topic for the last 5 years? Give me a break.

      • The inexperience of the IPCC authors is only one issue addressed in the book. Another key point is that certain more experienced scientists in their respective fields were ignored or discounted. I’m not going to recount each point in the book.
        You can leave a review at Amazon if you want.

        A one star review which admits that you haven’t bothered to read the book generally doesn’t work to the advantage of the reviewer, at Peter Gleick found out.

      • Ben: So you are comparing your self to Einstein? Interesting.

        your

        Les”, do you realize how condescending you sound when you question whether “us grad students” deserve to be lead authors on anything?

        Condescending? No, more like antagonistic. While you may be qualified to be lead author on the school paper, you are not qualified to lead a scientific body on which trillions of dollars of decsions will be made.

        your

        Would a 50-year-old who has been studying ice cores in the Arctic for 20 years, and then decides to toss his name into the ring as a climate change expert, be more qualified than a 30-year-old grad student who has been reading every relevant publication and conducting relevant research on the topic for the last 5 years?

        Its quite likely that the 50 year old wrote many of the papers you are reading from the comfort of your dorm room. Its also quite likely that the 50 year old has read the same papers, and much more, than you have. So yes, he likely would be more qualified, in the theoretical, practical and political worlds, especailly where they overlap. Its unlikely someone in their 20s would have expertise in all 3 areas.

      • Andy, as Brooke has pointed out extensively (but you failed to read), this blog post is not about the book.

        Les: “reading from your dorm room.” What the . . . ? You have no idea of what you’re talking about. Most of the doctoral candidates I know who are investigating earth sciences do not sit in their dorm rooms reading. They’re out doing field research. Most don’t live in dorm rooms. Many have families. You must be thinking of undergraduates.

  10. This should be entitled “an open letter to Fox News”, because by your own admission you have not even opened the book. Frankly your letter bears no relationship to the contents of the book whatever (I cant comment on the Fox story, as I haven’t read it).

    Ms Laframboise makes an awful lot of valid and extremely well documented criticisms of the IPCC, but the straw man you appear to be answering is not among them. She certainly makes no claim that graduate students should not author academic papers, as you appear you believe. She does question calling said grad students “the worlds top climate experts” and choosing them as lead authors on controversial chapters (that’s IPCC chapters, NOT academic papers), especially when so many more senior scientists are passed over for having inconvenient views.

    You would have known at if you’d read the book, or even the first 7 chapters available free at Amazon. And then you wouldn’t have made such a fool of yourself.

    • On your recommendation, I did take a closer look at the book. She definitely disparages grad students as unqualified for the heavy lifting, which is what I disagree with. You’re right, that she doesn’t explicitly say they shouldn’t author scientific research, but she claims their judgement and expertise should not be sought out by an organization like the IPCC because they don’t yet have their Ph.D. This despite the fact that those students are producing much of the research used by the IPCC to write their reports.

      Her argument seems to be that the IPCC is not picking the best people because many of the people on the advisory panels, or who are authoring parts of the report, do not yet possess their Ph.Ds (or fall into some other category she finds unsavory) and haven’t even published their first academic paper. A lot goes on before that first paper or the Ph.D. It’s called research, and you get to be an expert in a field through research. The other obvious point is that those grad students are studying under an advisor, someone who is well established in the field, who most likely recommended their student for the job.

      Chapter 7 was also a hoot. She says that climate modelers are not scientists because modeling doesn’t involve testing a hypothesis “in the real world”. Those climate models are science. Just because she doesn’t understand how it works, doesn’t make it something other than science.

      • You see, you actually read (some of) the book, and your comments make more sense already! . Its just that it was the IPCC themselves who proclaimed their work to be authored by legions of the worlds “top experts” – a graduate student may be quite brilliant, and engaged in ground breaking research, but they are still not the worlds top expert, not yet anyway. Of course, no-one is suggesting their research should be ignored, just that they are perhaps not the best people to be sitting in judgement on the research of others.

        Although Ms Laframboise’ complaint about author selection is more related to the ubiquity of activists with affiliations to NGO’s, such as Greenpeace, WWF, FOE etc. If a report opposing climate alarmism was shown to be largely the work of employees of oil companies and right wing activists, would you give it much credence? What makes environmental activists proper people to be preparing what is supposed to be an impartial scientific report? The lack of proper conflict of interest policies, and the manner in which the IPCC systematically flouts its own rules, are major themes, if you read past the free sample chapters

      • Don’t get me wrong. I still disagree with everything she said pertaining to grad students. I’m really not going to get into the credibility of the IPCC. The scientific community has already vetted them, and continues to do so.

      • “I’m really not going to get into the credibility of the IPCC. The scientific community has already vetted them, and continues to do so.”

        That is just simply not true, which is a major theme of the book.. The IPCC says it is all thoroughly vetted, but it isn’t, and Ms Laframboise documents very clearly a great many instances where the IPCC’s rules are not followed, where objections by experts are disregarded (Himalayan glaciers are just the best known example), and where a small group of researchers have hijacked the process to push their own agenda. They are able to this because, despite all assurances to the contrary, no-one is checking!

    • This post was about that idiotic article. No one has to read the book to comment on the fact that the article’s representation of graduate students in science was wrong from top to bottom. Yet you choose to comment on the book rather than on the Fox article discussed in this post, which should have exploded an irony meter somewhere in your vicinity.

      As for writing book chapters? Yep. Do that in graduate school too.

  11. To expand on what Andy said; The WWF has a VP in the IPCC, by the name of Richard Moss. His section deals with REDD (reducing emissions from deforestattion in devleoping nations).

    The WWF hopes to make 60 billion dollars selling REDD, as they have purchased the rights to Amazonian Forests, with World bank money.

    No conflict of interest there, right?

    • And Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, was effectively oil family member George W Bush’s choice.

    • Hey but they bought all of that forest to save the planet form the global disease called humanity, its not about the money remember. Think of the children. Sniff..Lol!

  12. Brooke: your

    And, no, I didn’t read the book, except for a very small portion. I am not commenting on the whole book, and I did not intend to. The parts I did read of it looked like absolute gibberish, and I think my brain would melt if I tried to read the whole thing. My comments are about the dismissal of the role graduate students play in generating scientific research and their ability to act as experts in their field.

    So, you are expert enough to comment on a book you have never read? Interesting.

    As for brain melting? I doubt it. The writing is easy to understand, and everything, and I mean everything, is hyperlinked to the source. Of course, you would need to actually read it, rather than make a judgement without reading. They did teach the value of research at your school, right?

    For the last point, why should undergrads be linked to trillion dollar decisions? Especially when the IPCC states that only the best and brightest are involved. I would love an expansion on this theme.

  13. Brooke: your

    A lot goes on before that first paper or the Ph.D. It’s called research, and you get to be an expert in a field through research.

    So, you are saying that these post-grads are expert enough to head IPCC chapters? Would not older, more published and respected researchers be a better choice? What you seem to be saying is these people are experts before their first work hits peer review. Is this a correct summary?

    I am glad to see that you finally applied that thing called “research” to the subject of your animosity. A bit late, perhaps.

  14. Brooke: your:

    Chapter 7 was also a hoot. She says that climate modelers are not scientists because modeling doesn’t involve testing a hypothesis “in the real world”.

    My profs told me that models should be used, but not believed. My 30+ years work in fluid modeling has not disproved this maxim. The real world proves the model, not vice versa.

    • “My 30+ years work in fluid modeling has not disproved this maxim. The real world proves the model, not vice versa.`

      I have noticed that its usually the old guys who have been doing this for decades who beleive that maxim. New grads, not so much.

  15. As you can see from the link the IPCC originally marketed itself as an elite climate group of 2400 scientists. They were very effective at creating this image

    http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/esi/1998/p/humansources/backgroundinfo.htm

    The reality was that only 60 carefully selected climate scientists were involved in their report and Ms. Laframboise uncovered the fact that a high % of the PCC report was based on non-peer reviewed information.

    Ms. Laframboise is a modern day Ralph Nader for exposing the false marketing and lies that the IPCC has perpetuated. The IPCC sold themselves as a Corvette when in fact Ms. Laframboise shows they are really only a Corvair. What the IPCC is selling, fewer and fewer people are buying.

  16. Donna Frambroise is not claiming to be a climate expert and the book is not about climate science per se. The book is about a bureaucratic process that is vulnerable to the agenda of advocacy groups that work within the IPCC.

    Those of us who do have graduate degrees in Earth science should be ashamed that we left this investigative job to a journalist. Laframbroise DOES have expertise in communication and she has used her expertise to reveal to us that key policy documents issued by the IPCC are biased by promotional documents provided by advocacy groups such as the WWF. Moreover, she has shown that the authors of key documents are connected in various ways with the advocacy groups and that these authors are in a position to either ignore the science or to slant the science to support the agendas of the advocacy groups.

    In a word, Donna is an expert in smelling out propaganda and she has show how the IPCC has limited capacity to protect itself from propagandists who work within.

    I have studied environmental economics and climate science for over 50 years and have worked with international agencies since 1970. My experience led me to write to the author applauding her efforts.

    • She may be an expert at “smelling out propaganda” (ewww), but her expertise in the role of graduate students in the sciences is at about the level of my recently deceased dachshund, and she should have left commentary and insights about that to someone else.

  17. Brooke says:
    November 4, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Don’t get me wrong. I still disagree with everything she said pertaining to grad students. I’m really not going to get into the credibility of the IPCC. The scientific community has already vetted them, and continues to do so.

    Sorry Brooke but I have to disagree here. I don’t believe anyone has vetted the IPCC, including the scientific community.
    If you have contrary evidence, then I’d be glad to hear it.

    So, contrary to your fears, your blog wasn’t infected by “trolls”, but by polite well-mannered people who seemed to have a reasonable position.(Again, correct me if I am wrong)

    I was once a grad student and no one here is “attacking” grad students, including Ms Laframboise. We are critical of activist-driven science and government driven agendas

    I genuinely wish you well in your studies. The penile thrust of a duck sounds a lot more colorful than my thesis! I hope that doesn’t sound patronising.

    Best Regards..

    • Unfortunately, the duck penis stuff is not my thesis work, alas. It’s just something fun I put on the blog. I did make sure to carefully moderate the comments so that nothing too inflammatory and troll-ific made it on. While I disagree with many of the comments on here, I do feel that they add to the discussion.

      • For that attitude, at least, you are to be congratulated. This debate badly needs more openness to opposing views, which is so rarely found on sites run by IPCC supporters.

  18. “Such papers are rarely the cornerstone for trillions of dollars worth of government climate funding, however”

    Well, that’s completely true, isn’t it? I mean, compared to the number of “cornerstone papers” (whatever that means) from undegrads in the most highly regarded journals, like Science or Nature or Lancet, from all the different fields of science, a few IPCC reports are hardly noticeable. Rare, they are!

  19. Brooke, very nice letter. Laframboise’s whole premise is really backwards. I work for a major scientific journal, and we pride ourselves on our peer review, where submitted papers are reviewed by experts in the field. Very often those experts are graduate students (firet recommended by their advisors) – and those reviews are often among the best, most thorough, most diligent that we receive. Senior scientists often (a) are too busy or (b) too divorced from the day-to-day detailed practice of science that graduate students see, often living their science for 60 to 80 hours a week. Senior scientists do often have a better global perspective on a field, but the grad students are the ones in the thick of the details of a particular area,

    Preferring credentials over real expertise is preferring symbols over reality. At its best science is focused on the reality that nature presents us. IPCC is, science at its very best.

  20. To give a flavour of Laframboise’s book, this is from chapter 24:

    ”No matter what they said the problem of the moment was – over-population, ozone depletion, acid rain, global warming – environmentalists have long advocated the same basket of solutions.
    These solutions amount to humanity forsaking industrialized society and a good measure of individual freedom. Apparently the answer is a return to Eden – to a slower, greener, more, ‘natural’ pace of life that embraces traditional values rather than mindless consumerism.”

    How much of industrialized society and individual freedom have we actually forsaken to fight ozone depletion or acid rain?

    • You`re right, we`ve forsaken almost nothing. I think that demonstrates that environmentalism has been an overall failure.

  21. Donna is a spin meister herself. mediamatters does a pretty good reality check on the article that quoted her regarding ‘undergrads’.

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/201111030015

    Only 1 out of 1250 authours of the 2007 paper was an undergrad.
    Jonathan Patz – who was a lead authour two years after earning his master’s was already a medical doctor at the time and has gone on to significant achievements.
    Klein – who has been an authour on WGII had two MSc by the time he was a coordinating lead authour – he got his PhD in 2003.
    Fox (and Laframboise?) information about Lisa Alexander is apparently just plain wrong.

    Does Laframboise ever mention the role that ExxonMobil played in the ousting of Dr. Robert Watson as the IPCC chair? A scan of the memo to the White House is available at

    http://www.nrdc.org/media/docs/020403.pdf

  22. Pingback: Oceans in the media | Words in mOcean

    • I’m not trying to win anything. I just think some of the comments are inflammatory and not relevant. I can publish them, though, if it makes you feel better.

    • Since Donna doesn’t trust them, why did SHE use them as a reference?

      What about the spin she put on the others?

      The IPCC’s batting average is significantly higher than that of Ms. Laframboise and Fox.

      • Eileen: what other reference is there for IPCC authors?

        What spin? Be specific.

        The IPCC has very low batting average. Glaciers gone in 2035? Africa food production declining 40% by 2020, based on an NGO report, on one crop, in one country? The disappearance of 40% of the Amazon based on an NGO report? North American snow cover reduction via a snowmobile trade magazine?

        There is also the IPCC errata page. Until AR4, they did not have one.

        The IPCC was recommended to flag all grey literature, as per its own rules. They changed the rules instead, so now they don’t have to flag grey literature. Which was over 30% of the AR4, BTW.

        Lastly, there is the issue of the IPCC and NOT having a conflict of interest policy for AR5. Pauchuri felt it would be unfair to existing members.

      • Les – what spin? The spin that they were somehow unqualified. The spin that a handful of non-PhDs would somehow impact the report.

        What other reference? Well, the PDF version of Chapter 3.

        Since mediamatters managed to figure out the situation with Lisa Alexander, it is obviously possible to double check who the lead authours were. Also, I would suggest that anyone as familiar with the IPCC reports as Ms. Laframboise would have noticed that the Chapter 3 html page a) lists no contributing authours b) had a large number of ‘lead authors’ – larger than most other chapters. A real journalist who had real concerns might perform some due diligence – even checked with the IPCC.

        I don’t consider a handful of errors – that do NOT affect the science – out of what, 3000 pages to be a low batting average.

      • No mistakes in WG1 the Physical Science. I say start paying them. It is a 3000 page report, after all.

      • Eileen: qualifications should be easy to show. What groundbreaking research did the grad students engage in, to warrant inclusion in the IPCC?

      • Eileen: your

        I don’t consider a handful of errors – that do NOT affect the science – out of what, 3000 pages to be a low batting average.

        Errors don’t affect the science? I hope soemone is auditing your work closely.

      • Eileen: your

        A real journalist who had real concerns might perform some due diligence – even checked with the IPCC.

        She is a real journailst. She worked as one.

        She did check with the IPCC. But, lets get this straight; you are blaming Donna for using the IPCC as a source? It does not set some flags off that the IPCC can’t even get its list of authors straight? Or that until AR4, it never had an errata section?

  23. I just would like to ask that people not try to argue climate science here, as I do not feel this is the correct forum. I will delete any new comments that are simply trying to make a point for or against the legitimacy of climate research.

  24. The discussion is about the relevance of the IPCC, and the qualifications of grad students as lead authors and contributors as part of that relevance.

    Showing the IPCC mistakes should be integral to that process.

    • Nope. This discussion is about the misrepresentation in that Fox “article” about the role of graduate students in science and the relevance of their training and contributions. The article completely misrepresented the entire process, primarily thanks to the quotes provided by Ms. Laframboise. Graduate students are, across the board in the sciences, expected to first-author papers. Period.

    • Well, the discussion may be, but not the article. The argument Ms. Laframboise makes is, basically, if you’re young (under 30?) and/or don’t even have a PhD, you aren’t qualified to do world-class science. Hence, the IPCC reports must be poorly written mumbo-jumbo of some unqualified hippies. However, the same should be applied to ALL scientific publications, no matter if its about biology, physics, math, chemistry, medicine, sociology, etc. Some undergrad’s paper made it to Nature? Its a scam, obviously, they’re only lab rats who smoke pot in their free time!

  25. Emily: your

    Graduate students are, across the board in the sciences, expected to first-author papers.

    Author papers, yes. Be lead authors in a multi trillion dollar process? No.

    • Even if they are conducting research in a field in an area where nobody else is working? Thta’s a bold statement indeed.

      • Are you suggesting that any of the junior scientists identified by Donna as authors and lead authors have expertise not available in a more experienced person? If you are, you need to be quite specific to be taken seriously.

        It seems much more likely they were chosen for their known malleability, activist connections and adherence to the consensus line. Donna has already been very specific on her reasons for suspecting this, so I don’t have to be:)

    • Peter, you really have no idea, do you? Doctoral students are expected to take on challenging research projects. There is also an assumption in your arguments that the interpretations of the IPCC–the “big money” interpretations–are based on the work of a few scientists. No. The science that supports the theory of AGW is massive, and the basic physical model has been established (and endlessly tested) for well over a century. The collective work of thousands of scientists–young and old–has, bit by bit, confirmed and corroborated the theory. Every publishing graduate student in all sciences is involved in the “multi-trillion dollar process”–and several other multi-trillion dollar processes. So what? It’s not about age; it’s about the scientific method. Maybe we should talk about Judith Curry and Murray Salby, two aging “experts” who have clung to ridiculously bad ideas (and paid the price in public humiliation) recently.

  26. FoxNews claims:

    “A scathing new expose on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change — which sets the world’s agenda when it comes to the current state of the climate — claims that its reports have often been written by graduate students with little or no experience in their field of study and whose efforts normally might be barely enough to satisfy grad school requirements.”

    The phrase “have often been written by graduate students ” is grossly misleading. The contribution of grad students is really minor, as is apparent by the handful of cases listed by Laframboise compared to the total number of authors (~1250).
    And to claim that those few graduate students have “little or no experience in their field of study” is unfounded.

  27. And why is FoxNews quoting blogger Anthony Watts (WUWT) about the role of grad students? He has no PhD, and has – as far as I can find out – not even been enrolled in grad school.

    • Ah but he is older and reported on the weather for a cable channel for years. His age and experience outweigh anything anybody younger than him has to say about anything. My grand dad farmed for 70 years and experienced the weather daily for at least twice of Watts experience of it and possibly 5 times that of these grad student whipper snappers so he clearly should be writing chapters for the IPCC.

  28. Laframbroise’s “auditors” didn’t seem to understand that self-cites are still citations, and many of the books they say are not peer reviewed are, in themselves, collections of the peer reviewed literature and/or standard textbooks in the field. The “auditors” need auditing.

    • I was one of those “auditors”, and this self-citing issue was one of the rules. We only counted primary peer-reviewed sources, and we certainly understood this. Whether you agree with it or not is another matter. I think the rules were laid out quite clearly in the publication of the results.

      If you want to do your own analysis then be my guest. I believe we did this in an open and transparent manner as possible.

    • “…this self-citing issue was one of the rules.”
      Your system was gamed, then.

      Like I say, if you want to do your own review, be my guest.
      When doing an audit like this, you have to come up with some rules, like do you count multiple citations of the same paper or report, for example.

      If you don’t like it, do your own, or expand on our work. I’m sure the raw data is still available (unlike some climate studies I could think of)

    • Yes, Pell’s piece is a hoot. Like when he quotes Plimer on underwater volcanoes or Viscount Monckton on the state of our knowledge about the climate system.

  29. So let’s see, over four years later, after one for-real error (ironically originating with journalist Fred Pearce) and a few arguable semi-errors were found in the IPCC WG2 report, denialists looking for *actual scientific errors* errors in the key WG1 report have found… bupkis. It’s funny how on their own blogs they’re so sensitive to ad hominem attacks (most of which are just plain old criticism) but somehow fail to notice they same thing writ large so long as it’s pulling in a direction they like. Scientifically the IPCC process worked quite well, which would seem to be their real problem.

    I suppose these folks must also think that U.S. presidents write their own speeches.

    Brooke, have you considered Quell for this nasty case of wingnuts you seem to have acquired? Oh no, wait, that’s for head lice. Sorry. :)

    • Steve Bloom.
      Presumably, in the world in which you inhabit, it is OK to call anyone who critises the IPCC or any aspect of climate science, whether it be process, accountability, or the actual science, a “denialist”.

      Personally, I have given up finding the term offensive, but it does speak volumes about the person using the term.

      • I on the other hand find the term quite enjoyable. I have been a science nerd since I was a kid, I have an undergrad in science and I work in science fulltime, with an office full of scientists. To be called a climate denier happily reminds me that I`m on the right track.

        cheers

      • Steve: I have linked to the discussion. I will let people decide on who the heros and who the villains are.

        In that discussion, you present no facts, only ad homs and innuendo, and in the end, your own single source shows you to be wrong on every single point you bring up.

        You still owe Korhola an apology for your bevaiour, too.

    • Steve: your

      It’s funny how on their own blogs they’re so sensitive to ad hominem attacks (most of which are just plain old criticism) ….

      Which seques neatly to this:

      Brooke, have you considered Quell for this nasty case of wingnuts you seem to have acquired? Oh no, wait, that’s for head lice. Sorry

      Good illustration, Steve.

      • Sometimes an insult is just an insult, Les. Maybe you could try looking up the meaning of ad hominem?

      • Steve: your

        Sometimes an insult is just an insult, Les. Maybe you could try looking up the meaning of ad hominem?

        Don’t need to. Its latin for “against the person”. In other words, arguing the person’s supposed shortcomings instead of the facts of the debate.

        Of which your statemements are the perfect example, even if its at the grade school level.

  30. Good article, Brooke. Authoring papers with my graduate students is one of the true pleasures of my job. The student brings the laboratory data and (hopefully) fresh ideas, and the PI brings experience, the broad view and the corresponding author stamp (i.e. where the buck stops/responsibility). It’s an excellent system that both produces sound research and trains the next generation of scientists. To misrepresent that as the graduate student solely leading the research (or the research project) described in a paper presumably arises from a lack of knowledge about how the academic process works.

  31. Brooke, I quite agree that the FoxNews article was considerably less than optimal and that by zooming in on one pixel, FoxNews failed to convey the Big Picture that emerges to anyone who has actually read Laframboise’s book. She has readily acknowledged her target audience [pp. 97-98 in PDF version]:

    In this regard it’s worth mentioning that the focus and content of this book is highly strategic. This is not a catalog of every bad thing the IPCC has ever done. Rather, it is an argument. I have chosen my examples with care, selecting ones I thought might be easily digested by the average person who knows little about the climate debate.

    In my mind’s eye I am addressing an audience of ordinary citizens and the questions under discussion are: What is the IPCC? and Can it be trusted? I’ve marshaled my evidence and ordered my argument in the way that seemed to me to have the greatest chance of persuading a reasonable person with an open mind that this organization wields an inappropriate level of influence over our lives – and that it has a credibility score of zero.

    And as she also notes: [p. 99]

    When the subject under discussion is controversial and the stakes are high, we should all be wary of taking anyone’s word for it.

    Although it is time-consuming, I strive to back-up every factual statement with a direct link to its source so that readers may readily verify matters for themselves. This standard of proof is much higher than that provided by a typical newspaper, news magazine, or television broadcast. It is also higher than that found in many books. [emphasis added -hro]

    Brooke, if you are at all interested in the Big Picture – as opposed to the FoxNews pixel – you might consider reading some reviews by those who’ve read the whole book – and taken the opportunity to verify her claims for themselves. For example, a review by Dr. Judith Curry, or perhaps the review by Peter Foster in Canada’s National Post, a few weeks ago.

    You might also consider taking a look at the 2010 report of the InterAcademy Council (IAC) on the Policies and Procedures of the IPCC. They found many of the same shortcomings that Laframboise discusses. And, as she notes in her book, much of her evidence comes from the words of the IPCC insiders whose views were incorporated into the IAC’s report [links to which can be found throughout the book].

    Hilary Ostrov [Full disclosure: My name and blog are cited in The Delinquent Teenager...]

  32. mattodchem: your

    To misrepresent that as the graduate student solely leading the research (or the research project) described in a paper presumably arises from a lack of knowledge about how the academic process works.

    Ummm…thats the point. Grad students were in charge of whole sections of the IPCC and were authors.

    As you state, albeit not directly, grad students normally do not have the expertise or experience to operate at that high a level, without supervision and guidance.

    • Grad students were ‘in charge’ of whole sectionS? Please be specific. It would be useful to have the section, the coordinating lead authour(s) and the lead authours.

      • Eileen: I would have thought a grad student capable of doing research. Perhaps I overestimated expertise.

        Richard Klein, Lead Author
        Lauens Bouwer, Lead
        Lisa Alexander, contributing
        Sari Kovats, lead and contributing
        Jonathan Patz, lead

        links in the book. Chapter 4.

      • As far as I know, being lead author or contributing author does not equate to being ‘in charge’ of whole sections. Please provide your research showing otherwise.

        You still haven’t shown that these people did not have the necessary expertise to play these roles.

      • Eileen:Your

        You still haven’t shown that these people did not have the necessary expertise to play these roles.

        Did these people have any published reasearch on the subject prior to being made members of the IPCC? If the answer is no, then they are not qualified.

        You are also asking me to prove a negative. Conversely, I am asking you to provide proof in your contention tha they were qualified. Give us published papers, prior to being nominated to the IPCC.

      • Les – you’re right I’m asking you to prove your negatives. You are building straw man arguments and casting negative aspersions on the IPCC and grad students. You have provided no proof to support any of your assumptions both about the individuals and about the responsibilities and structures of the writing teams and how they interact within the working group.

        In the comment below, you stated that none of the people you listed had published. Yet here, you admit that you don’t know. That is a straw man argument in any case.

      • Steve: it should be a short list. It only takes up 1.5 pages of the book, and it is a very minor point of the book. Seems to have irritated some people though.

  33. Open to questions to all the oppressed grad students here:

    1. How many of you are working (or worked as a grad student) without any supervision or guidance?
    2. What work did the grad students do that gave them the expertise to be appointed to the IPCC? (as either lead authors or as authors)

      • Eileen: your

        Which grad students were working on the IPCC reports without supervision or guidance?

        All of them.

        Which grad students do you think did NOT have the expertise and why?

        All of them, as they had no peer reviewed publications in the field.

  34. Brooke: For what its worth, I like your site. It quirky, well written and with humour, and has interesting and weird evolutionary strategies. I have added it to my science section favorites.

  35. We scientists have been sprung! Undergrads are often caught doing research and analysing data without their supervisor’s knowledge. They then cunningly manage to sneak their fabricated results into journals and hey presto the whole scientific community buys into it. Except of course for these really smart heretics driven by oil industry interests.

    Personally I think that its just a diversionary tactic in an effort to stall urgent policy measures if we want to avoid cooking the planet. Unfortunately we don’t have much time either before setting off a number of tipping points that will make the job exponentially harder. Scientists shouldn’t waste time having to fend off absurd accusations, but need to focus on the problem at hand, how to deal with the billions of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  36. Tony: your

    We scientists have been sprung! Undergrads are often caught doing research and analysing data without their supervisor’s knowledge. They then cunningly manage to sneak their fabricated results into journals and hey presto the whole scientific community buys into it.

    Thats the point, Tony. Your sarcasm aside, undergrads, for the most part, do very little original research that would spring them into the elite of climatology. I also note the use of the word “supervisor”. That is also a point I have been making. Under grad work is supervised and monitored. Why? Because they have not shown themselves capable of working without it.

    your

    Except of course for these really smart heretics driven by oil industry interests.

    Tin foil cap time….Nothing like believing the other person is driven by greed or other less savoury motives.

    Heres a little factoid for you: Ih the attachments released with the so-called “climategate” papers, was one describing Phil Jone’s grant money. Over the last 20 years, Phil, by himself, has generated as much money (about 20 million) as Exxon gave in its entire history to skeptic groups. Also note that Exxon gave $100 million to Stanford, for its climate change program. Using your implied logic, we should ignore all Stanford reasearch, for being tainted with oil money.

    • “Over the last 20 years, Phil, by himself, has generated as much money (about 20 million) as Exxon gave in its entire history to skeptic groups.”

      Phil’s been busy over 14 years. $1.43 million a year? Good for him. How many temperature series have the “sceptics” come up with? Oh, none, apart from when they’re verifying Phil Jones’s. What on earth do they spend their money on? Perhaps paying $300,000 one year to Bob Ferguson of SPPI, curiously not via SPPI but via the Idsos’ organisation, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. Look for the Form 990’s.

      Here’s a list of CRU’s funding contributors from CRU’s website, just in case you wondered where the dough actually comes from:

      British Council, British Petroleum, Broom’s Barn Sugar Beet Research Centre, Central Electricity Generating Board, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Commercial Union, Commission of European Communities (CEC, often referred to now as EU), Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), Department of Energy, Department of the Environment (DETR, now DEFRA), Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Eastern Electricity, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Greenpeace International, International Institute of Environmental Development (IIED), Irish Electricity Supply Board, KFA Germany, Leverhulme Trust, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), National Power, National Rivers Authority, Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), Norwich Union, Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Overseas Development Administration (ODA), Reinsurance Underwriters and Syndicates, Royal Society, Scientific Consultants, Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), Scottish and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research, Shell, Stockholm Environment Agency, Sultanate of Oman, Tate and Lyle, UK Met. Office, UK Nirex Ltd., United Nations Environment Plan (UNEP), United States Department of Energy, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Wolfson Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

      As for the “sceptics”, you forgot the Kochs, the Scaiffes, the US Chamber of Commerce, amongst many others whose names and amounts may never be known because it’s channelled through third parties.

  37. “Over the last 20 years, Phil, by himself, has generated as much money (about 20 million) as Exxon gave in its entire history to skeptic groups.”

    Of course you are comparing apples with apples. I think a closer comparison might be if we assume Phil Jones was a car dealer and was receiving funds to sell his vehicles which are OK except that the breaks don’t work. Phil then uses the funds to run a campaign to convince an unsuspecting public that the breaks are perfectly safe. Similarly fossil fuels are safe except for the problem that is brought about by climate change. More droughts, floods many lives lost, homes destroyed, a situation that will only get progressively worse.

    On the other hand perhaps you could convince me that Exxon has given funds towards research for the public good. Maybe you could cite the publications that shows the research performed by skeptic groups that has improved our understanding of climate, the environment or any area pertaining to the public good, I am willing to keep an open mind. Specifically what research have the skeptic groups performed, preferably something involving measurements of relevant parameters, collating data, and publishing what they believe the data means. Hint, it’s called science.

    “Under grad work is supervised and monitored. Why? Because they have not shown themselves capable of working without it.”

    Quite right and nobody is disputing this. All branches of science involve several tiers of scrutiny, a point which Lafambroise seems to be missing. Grad students do the legwork, but the ones pulling the strings are the supervisors. If a grad student makes a discovery they need to go through several hoops to demonstrate that what they are measuring/observing is real, and usually through the guidance of their supervisor or colleague(s) that have a better idea of how to eliminate artifacts. Climate change is no different to any other discipline, except that with climate change we don’t have much time to fix the problem before it will become totally out of control.

  38. Tony: your

    Maybe you could cite the publications that shows the research performed by skeptic groups that has improved our understanding of climate, the environment or any area pertaining to the public good, I am willing to keep an open mind. Specifically what research have the skeptic groups performed, preferably something involving measurements of relevant parameters, collating data, and publishing what they believe the data means. Hint, it’s called science.

    Willie Soon, Harvard, He is critisized for doing exactly what you suggest. He does research, with so called skeptic money, notes that on his papers, and is critisized for it.

    Tell you what Tony. For every paper you quote me supporting CAGW, I will quote one with a counter viewpoint, on the same subject. Peer reviewed and published, of course.

    Go ahead. I will give you the first shot.

  39. Tony: Goklany’s paper:(note that he is an IPCC author)

    http://www.jpands.org/vol14no4/goklany.pdf

    Drought mortality is down, according to Goklany:

    Figure 3 shows that for droughts, the single most deadly category
    for the entire period, both deaths and death rates apparently peaked in
    the 1920s. Since then, they have declined by 99.97% and 99.99%
    respectively.

    My emphasis.

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