Monday, October 11, 2010

What is Copygate and what does it mean?

A new phrase has been coined in the climate wars. Copygate refers to the alleged plagiarism of material in the Wegman Report. For those not familiar with the Wegman Report, it was a report to the US Congress dealing with the Hockeystick Controversy produced by Dr. Wegman, a renown statistician. It has since been alleged that of the 96 page Wegman Report, 35 pages were plagiarized. Not good for a report from an Academic.

Now, apart from the point that Dr. Wegman appears to try to pass himself off as an expert in fields where he has little to no expertise, would plagiarism impact the results of the Wegman Report? I would say not (although there may be other surprises hidden in the Wegman Report). So why the big deal!

In my opinion it depends on your view of the stolen e-mails from the CRU. Consider the released e-mails from the CRU. The only think that they show for certain is that some scientists don't think well of those who criticize them. The same with the alleged plagiarized part of the Wegman Report. All it really shows is that some people like to sound more knowledgeable than they are (although granted that the repercussions in academic circles are much more serious for plagiarism than they are for saying mean things).

However the interesting point here is how people are going to react to the two incidents. Consider, there is nothing in the stolen e-mail that show any wrongdoing at all. Instead, it is said that they show a pattern that makes people mistrust the science associated with AGW. If that is the case, then shouldn't a plagiarized document cause you to hold a similar view about the science of the deniers side? Keep in mind that the Wegman Report is one of the few actually published works that criticize some aspect of AGW.

For myself, I don't think that the stolen e-mails reveal anything that damages the science of AGW. And I don't see that if there is plagiarism in the Wegman Report it will change the results. But it is amusing that there is a lot of pretzel twisting going on in certain circles to allow people to hold the two positions that some e-mails taken out of context is devastating, but real academic dishonesty is a minor incident. Pass the popcorn and some turkey; I suspect there is going to be a lot of wailing and screeching in the next while.

Hat Tip to John Mashy and Deep Climate for the truly monumental work this took!

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