Wegman plagiarised, but there is worse

Well yes, as is slowly becoming obvious. Deltoid reports USA today (or you can also look at the full Mashey). In the curious world of academe (which I presume Wegman aspires to) plagiarism is a no-no far more serious that just getting the wrong answer; and has the virtue of being fairly easy to spot.

But whilst plagiarism is bad (possibly even fatal) for your academic reputation, it doesn’t directly say anything about science, or the validity of conclusions. It is evidence that the author has been sloppy and – in this case – bolsters the argument that the author didn’t really understand what he was doing, or was deliberately misleading.

And that is the important bit: that the Wegman report’s slavish copying of M&M lead them to incorrectly evaluate MBH. For that you need to plough through the detail at Deep Climate (as briefly ref’d by me).

To quote DC directly:

Wegman et al took the M&M critique of MBH at face value, and deliberately excluded all substantive discussion of scientific literature answering M&M (especially Wahl and Ammann).

Wegman et al completely misunderstood the M&M simulation methodology, and claimed that M&M had demonstrated that the MBH short-centered PCA would mine for “hockey sticks”, even from low-order, low-correlation AR1(.2) red noise. But in fact the displayed figure (4.4) was taken from the top 1% of simulated PC1s generated from high-correlation, high-persistence ARFIMA-based noise, as archived by M&M. (And I also show that simulations based on AR1(.2) noise would have shown much less evidence of bias from “short-centered” PCA, even if one focuses only on PC1).

The point about what you can get done for is interesting, though, and worth a little musing. It is (obviously) unacceptable to zap researchers for just getting the wrong answer; that would be too big a constraint on academic freedom (sliding gracefully over the question of whether that applies to reports to Congress). But in the normal course of things, Wegman’s report would be a paper, and it would have been subject to peer review. And quite likely it would have failed, for the plagiarism. It might well have failed for the science, too, for the problems that DC found. But if had it passed, it would then have been open to a reply in the literature, which it isn’t really now. Having decided that you can’t zap them for the wrong answer, you’re then left not being able to zap them for deliberately getting the wrong answer, and tenaciously clinging to the wrong answer despite the evidence; this seems regrettable.

Refs

* Eli (and Eli scents blood)
* JEB
* In Salon – but note how slow this story is. The MSM is clearly very nervous of it.