Remote Sensing shakeup

The editor-in-chief of the open-access journal Remote Sensing has resigned. An editorial in the journal explains the situation. The short version is that this journal is the one that let that Spencer & Braswell paper slip through peer review; that publication has fatal flaws throughout its assumptions and analysis. The paper was quickly and brutally criticized in the climate-blogosphere, but exaggerated and praised in the right-wing, and much of the mainstream, media. The journal was criticized for letting such a poor paper get published. The editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Wagner, has now had a chance to review the criticisms and the paper and the review process. He has come to the conclusion that the paper should not have been published. The reason seems to come down to poor selection of reviewers by the editor that was in charge of that paper. The reviews came back with little criticism, to which the authors responded, and that basically tied the editor's hands and the paper had to be accepted.

From my point of view, the failing was the editorial board's misunderstanding of the subject matter and clear mishandling of the review process. From the tone and content of the paper, it was clearly a contrarian point of view and had the flavor of ideological bias. I suspect that the reviewers were selected from the list of suggested reviewers supplied by the authors. In cases of controversial content, there needs to be at least one critical reviewer selected from the community involved, and I'm pretty sure none of the reviewers in this case were in the mainstream of the climate change community.

I'm glad that Wolfgang Wagner has stepped down. I don't know that he did anything wrong except let the other editors make some bad decisions, but this move does help to show that the journal doesn't want to build a reputation for publishing garbage, contrarian papers. Hopefully this will be a small blemish on the journal's reputation which won't mar the whole thing.  It will be interesting to see if the next editor-in-chief conducts a review of the evidence and officially retracts the paper (it is unclear whether this journal has provisions for that, but they should consider it).

The original paper can be found from the journal's web page. The editorial is worth a read, and can be found in the current issue [LINK]. On a related note, a new GRL paper by Andy Dessler destroys the Spencer & Braswell argument in under 4 pages [LINK].

UPDATE: Lots of coverage of this story on the climate blogs. One worth seeing is Mooney's post on DeSmogBlog, which rehashes some similar scandals involving climate, intelligent design, and autism. [LINK]

No comments: