Wegman paper pulled for plagiarism

[May 26th: Pulled to the top to update with the Nature editorial which, as well as noting the paper being pulled, also notes the mysteriously dilatory George Mason University investigation.

June 3rd: And pulled again, since Science have a piece on the actual retraction, and again note the GMU lack-of-progress.]

Well, this is exciting: Climate study gets pulled after charges of plagiarism says USA today:

Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming… The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

Deep Climate has more.

[Update: it looks like even more folk are mysteriously finding that the dog has eaten their homework. USA today has a follow-up which contains, amongst other stuff, an attempt to probe the mysteriously quick acceptance – just a few days – of Wegman’s paper.By bizarre co-incidence the journal editor, Stanley Azen, was a friend of Wegman. Azen said:


Dear Ed: I personally reviewed your very interesting (and unique) manuscript. I think the paper is very interesting, and I could not identify any errors. So, I am pleased to inform you and your colleagues that your paper “Social Networks of Author-Coauthor Relationships” has been accepted…

Which fits the facts perfectly: its from his buddy, of course it can go in. That was spiffy when he was doing dark deeds in darkness. Now this has all blown up Azen has rather modified his story:

Azen says he must have overseen an earlier, more extensive review of the paper involving outside reviewers. But he says he has no records of this earlier review, because his records were destroyed in an office move. “I would never have done just a personal review,” he says.

Oh yeah: there must have been a review. But, err, he has no records of it. Err. Nor can he remember who did the review. And office moves don’t destroy email.

[Update: seeing some comments elsewhere, I should say that the problem with Wegmans work (and that includes the Wegman report itself, as well as this paper) isn’t just plagiarism: it is that the analysis is junk too. It is not just chance that Wegman could only get this published in a journal with his buddy as editor. But in this world of ours plagiarism is a sharp line that is easy to see. Getting people to see that the analysis is junk too is harder. See Deep Climate for more details, as usual.]

[Another update: Moyhu (similar to DC) has an example of how Wegman copied-without-understanding from M&M, pretended to redo their analysis, but actually simply repeated their errors.]


* USA today: Our view: America, pick your climate choices
* Wired
* Making it recursive
* Copy and paste – Nature 473, 419-420 (26 May 2011) doi:10.1038/473419b
* Eli
* A (not quite) grand unified theory of plagiarism, as applied to the Wegman case
* Wegman Report: Not just plagiarism, misrepresentation
* Another Wegman plagiarism – Andrew Gelman