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

More like this

Dan Vergano reports that Social networks of author-coauthor relationships by Said, Wegman, Sharabati and Rigsby has been retracted by Computational Statistics and Data Analysis. Deep Climate has more details, but I want to highlight one particular thing: "Neither Dr. Wegman nor Dr. Said has ever…
Retraction Watch have an article up about the Wegman plagiarism stuff (also covered by Eli). GMU aren't making the full report public, though, doubtless to protect the guilty (which I think largely means the shoddiness of the report). There is an oddity in what they have released: As sanction,…
I'm wondering a bit if I took Prof Wegmans credentials a bit too much on faith. A commenter on the previous post wrote I'm not too knocked out by Wegman's credentials as a prof at George Mason U, nor do I think he, who was leader of Reagan's idiotic "Star Wars Program", could be seen as an…
Said and Wegman 2009 does contain original and accurate material. Alas, the original material is not accurate and the accurate material is plagiarised, mostly from Wikipedia. Deep Climate has the details: This paper is the fifth major work that I have analyzed from Wegman and Said. From the 2006…

Eh, that's plagerism

/me ducks

By Martin Vermeer (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

Wegman blames some "student". And Butters in South Park was kidnapped by "some Puerto Rican guy". Should this student turn out to be real, it is really classy of Wegman to blame him/her.
Sooo...why did not Wegman et al proof-read the material of this alleged student, whose name is not listed as a co-author?

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

"No, sirree, no plagerism at all from me! I just ccopied stuff from a student I don't acknowledge as source of the material. Can't help that he copied that stuff from somebody; but *I* did not plagiarise a darn thing!"

Just like South Park Tony blames Canada. In Orange county Canadians are the bad guys.

By John McManus (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

So, after all, it is NOT a self-refuting paper, it is a self-confirming paper!

This is a texbook case of a scientific paper written by a smalle clique of habitual co-authors. The main theme of that paper is that such papers are associated to poor scholarship. And now Whammo!, the paper is being retracted!!

So they are right! Such small-clique papers do lead to poor scholarship!!!
That's a major discovery.

NWO gags Wegman! /devil's advocate.

In Orange county Canadians are the bad guys.

Even worse, according to Anthony Watts, are anonymous Canadians:

Well, congratulations to Deep Climate for being able to attack a man in another country without having having to put your name behind it. Such courage. You must be proud.

"Azen says he must have overseen an earlier, more extensive review of the paper involving outside reviewers."

Really? "Extensive reviews"? for a paper received on 8 July 2007 and accepted on 14 July 2007? ...hmmmm...

Social networks of authorâcoauthor relationships
Yasmin H. Saida, Edward J. Wegman, a, , Walid K. Sharabati1, a and John T. Rigsbya

aDepartment of Computational and Data Sciences, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA

Received 8 July 2007; accepted 14 July 2007. Available online 9 August 2007.

re: 5
Well, as the originator of the self-refutation idea, see SSWR, p.150, where I wrote:

'"Finally, the mentor style of co-authorship, while not entirely free of the possibility of bias, does suggest that younger co-authors are generally not editors or associate editors. And often they are not in a position to become referees, so that the possibility of bias is much reduced. Nonetheless, even here, a widely respected principal author has the possibility of smoothing the path for his or her junior collaborators, while the papers of a high reputation principal author may not be as critically reviewed as might be desirable."

This paper is "self-refuting."'

That is, the claim is that Wegman-style mentor networks are less prone to problems ... written by Wegman and 3 of his students ... and filled with problems.
But of context, read all of pp.148-151.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

Really? "Extensive reviews"? for a paper received on 8 July 2007 and accepted on 14 July 2007? ...hmmmm...

Formally accepted on 14th July. Azen's email informing Wegman that the paper had been accepted is dated 13th July. A five-day turnaround for a proper review isn't impossible. Just very nearly impossible, and phenomenally implausible.

Re: duration of review.
See SSWR p.149, which lists all the papers, sorted by (Accept-Received) days, graphed at right. The median is 204 days.
Two papers were quicker, at 0 and 1 day.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 16 May 2011 #permalink

John, thanks for checking in here, and thank you for your amazing deep research into the Wegman controversy (may I call it that?).

Do you know if the text in the (now retracted) paper was substantially similar (or even identical) to the text in the Wegman report itself ?

As I understand, the paper only covered only the Network Analysis part of the Wegman report, and not Wegman's plagiatism of Bradley's work nor Wegman's use of McIntyre's controversial 'red noise' graphs.

So I just wonder to which extent this paper retraction after Wegman's admission of plagiatism therein affects the Wegman report itself. And if it's not time that 'misleading Congress' get filed against the Wegman committee...

By Rob Dekker (not verified) on 17 May 2011 #permalink

re: #13
See the PDF: SSWR, W.2.3.
p.118 is the intro and flow diagram.

This finally revealed a slight error, bottom right:
I had no reason to think Reeves had done the original plagiarism.

In any case, pp.119-128 has the side-by-side-by-side comparisons of the originals, the WR, and Said(2008) or as called there, SAI2008. Take a very quick look and see what your conclusion is. From the color codes you can see what was done.

SSWR went through the 10 pages of plagiarism DC found (of which this is about 4.5), and the 25 (easy ones) that I found.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 17 May 2011 #permalink

Thanks John.
The comparison you did between SAI2008 and the WR is truely stunning. There are some small syntax and semantic changes, but other than that it seems a one-to-one copy.

Other question : seems that SAI2008 was retracted because of Wegman's own admission of plagiarism. But plagiarism of what ? The WR ? If so, was the WG report text on Social Networks original ?

Finally, another controversy : In 2009, a paper was published by Lindzen and Choi. It was hyped in right-wing media such as Fox News, and pushed by Monckton as being the "end of the AGW scam". I discovered a blatant (deliberate) mistake in that paper, which ultimately let Spencer to denounce the paper.
Essentially, Lindzen claimed negative feedback from his ERBE result where there was none.
I reported the mistake to GRL, and got in contact with Lindzen and a reviewer. It becomes interesting after that.
Are you interested in digging a bit deeper into this ? If so, let me know.

By Rob Dekker (not verified) on 18 May 2011 #permalink

more will appear soon.
1) SAI2008 was retracted over Wegman's dead body:
he proposed that they just be allowed to do an errata sheet giving the references. Elsevier didn't buy this, unsurprisingly. It's up to authors to get this stuff right.

2) Because she had just taken a short course, he thought Denise Reeves was the most SNA-knowledgeable (great! a grad student taking a short course provides the material for one of the two key memes in the whole WR, supposedly produced by experts).

3) All will become clearer soon.

4) Normally, I'd be interested in the Lindzen thing, but right now, not for a month or so. Life is hectic.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 19 May 2011 #permalink

Oh well, I finished it now and the second part is at DC's.

Re: Impatience. Sensible, in this case, but..

Some anti-modelers have been too impatient to look at a computer simulation of anything for about 30 years.

I can think of one FRS, who is so extremely busy, that his views on climate are determined entirely by impatience and the media; he * cites Ian Plimer. Another one cites Wegman.

* Fortunately too busy to become an activist.

By Deconvoluter (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

Oh, be so good as to post links to any such citing Wegman. I collect interesting things like that, especially when they are going to get much more interesting in the near future.
From UK, I already have 2 books and 3 submissions to Parliament about a Climategate.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink

For "the rest of the story" see 17-page PDF @ DeSmogBlog

Before reading Wegman email trying to escape retraction, put coffee down. Your keyboard will thank you.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 24 May 2011 #permalink

That was spiffy when he was doing dark deeds in darkness. Now this has all blown up Azen has rather modified his story.

By frank habets (not verified) on 26 May 2011 #permalink


Azen told Vergano:
"I would never have done just a personal review,"

See p.149 of SSWR.

In the issue in which this appeared,of the 31 articles graphed, one was 0 days, one was 1 day, said(2008) was 6 days, and everything else was 61+ days.

So it looks like there were 3 with personal reviews, but the other two were discussing resampling techniques (bootstrap, jackknife) on which Azen has often written.

[That is interesting. So Azen would have seen nothing too strange about just doing reviews himself? Perhaps you might (had you the patience) look back at some previous issues to see if it was commonplace. Still seems like pretty poor policy to me -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 26 May 2011 #permalink

Eli gets the feeling that the kind of statistics that Wegman and Azen do is a fairly small club with a couple of journals and conferences amongst them which explains the network effect, that and the DOD funding.

Well, it is plausible that a senior editor-in-chief, getting a paper well within their expertise, might do a quick accept, in some journals. In this thread, Andrew Gelman says he thinks that an editor review within their expertise is not apriori bad.

In this case, the two other quick reviews seem well within Azen's expertise, with one set of authors from the Netherlands and another from Portugal.

So, the quick review showed there was no normal peer review, but the problem wasn't really the quickness (as 2 others were even faster):

a) SNA is not generally published in CSDA.
The right answer was "Not for CSDA, send to Social Networks.
b) None of the Associate Editors claimed SNA expertise.
c) The corresponding author was a long-time close friend.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 27 May 2011 #permalink

Doesn't matter in the slightest. The scientific-minded already knew that it was bunk. The people we'd want to convince (for some reason) will give far more weight to the paper than its retraction (which they will also say was due to pressure from the international scientific cabal).

This is all just a waste of time. The politicians are never going to really get on board with this. The scientists already are. The scientists need to start figuring out how to mitigate the damage instead of struggling so that one day, one politician (or skeptic) might say, "huh, y'know, maybe you're right!" long after it's far too late to do anything about it.

This isn't about being right.

Whilst you may be right Knightly, that also implies you may be well-wrong.

One of the advantages of living in a putative democracy is that the instititions of that democracy are compelled to go through the motions.

Thus if federal research funding has been fraudulently misused - there must be an investigation. Likewise if an international group have conspired to mislead Congress through use of that fraudulent research - there must be an investigation.

As the original Watergate crew found to their cost, control of even the highest office in the land couldn't contain the sh*tstorm that was unleashed. The string pullers don't have a very high threshold when exposed to daylight.

If anything, D.C. & John Mashey's work shows that we are not inconsequental to how events pan out, no matter how many times the suggestion of impotence is thrust upon us (ooooer missus!).

Apropos to Knightly's post:

I noticed something interesting a few days ago during an atypical bout of television watching. Lots of the advertisements talked about how companies were reducing their carbon emissions, etc. Now the substance of their claims may be debatable, but the important thing is that they are making them. A far cry from "they call it pollution, we call it life."

Could it be that our Republican congresscritters are out of touch with the big-business interests they think they are defending?

[I've noticed that in a few places, though I couldn't now provide sources. But often in the context of not actually admitting a problem. As in "we're good, because we're reducing co2. But co2 isn't actually a problem, of course". Usually a bit better disguised that that.

BTW: Hello Boris! -W]

By G.W.F. Hegel (not verified) on 28 May 2011 #permalink

Now the substance of their claims may be debatable, but the important thing is that they are making them.

Greenwashing to soothe the sensibilities of the hoi polloi? Wonderful! 350 is a sure thing, now.

so the sociology is not original but it may still be credible. Is the criticism of Mann's mathematical abilities atill plausible?

[I don't think the sociology is credible; the point is, they didn't really know what they were doing. DC has details. I don't think the crit of MBH gets any better -W]

Is any sociology credible?

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 30 May 2011 #permalink

One of the advantages of living in a putative democracy is that the instititions of that democracy are compelled to go through the motions. [...] Likewise if an international group have conspired to mislead Congress through use of that fraudulent research - there must be an investigation.

I'm not so sure, chek. Remember that Attorney-General Eric Holder is still acting dumb about the Wegman nonsense, even though the main facts are all there, and prefers to expend effort in investigating 'oil speculation' for which evidence is thin.

Ultimately, justice will only be served if people will actively fight for justice -- even in a democracy.

-- frank


I don't think this rises to the level of DOJ. Right now it would be the ORI which should be handling this.

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 31 May 2011 #permalink

> the instititions of that democracy are
> compelled to go through the motions.

You mean go through the "motion" -- find the guy responsible.

This guy's charged with causing the mortgage meltdown and collapse of the world financial system, for example:

As an old black-and-white TV show called "That Was The Week That Was" once put it, in seeking to assign responsibility for the population explosion then just beginning: "Gentlemen, somewhere in the world a woman has a baby every three seconds. Our task is to find this woman and stop her."

Probably some evil librarian or typist caused this whole Wegman problem, once they drill down far enough. Or some programmer's copypaste bug. After all, he's one of the good guys. Just ask him.

Rattus Norvegicus:

If the issue at hand is whether the "Wegman Report" was part of a conspiracy to deceive Congress, then the DoJ should very definitely be involved. Except they aren't.

-- frank

Nice TW3 reference Hank - very reminiscent of that one about 'a woman in New York is raped every 3 minutes - and understandably, she's getting a little tired of it'.

In the current political climate where even previously moderate/ptogressive Republicans are eager to proclaim their born-again, T-party style ignorance, I'm not expecting anyone to step up to the plate ahead of the pack.
But I do expect the investigations to grind on, getting kicked up a level as they progress.

Much as I sympathise - or even empathise - with Frank's cynicism, even in the Corporate States of America, I refuse to accept at this stage that the organised deception that D.C. and John Mashey's diligence has exposed will ultimately count for nohing.