Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Comments welcome?

Following the rip-roaring blockbuster success of the comment on Schwartz, Jules wanted a taste of the action so we did a more detailed analysis and critique of Chylek and Lohmann's attempt at estimating dust forcing and climate sensitivity using paleoclimate data. Of course we sent the comment to GRL first, and after one round of review (including reply from C&L) the editor decided he couldn't be bothered dealing with it any more. Seriously, his email simply said that it wasn't worth his time and that of the reviewers to deal with a revision. Regular readers will recall that I've had trouble in the past with GRL editors finding feeble excuses to avoid dealing with comments on wrong papers, but even so this seemed rather extraordinary. It may not be immediately obvious to non-scientists, but re-reviewing is generally a much less onerous task than the first round, as it only requires the reviewers and editors to check that any significant criticisms have been dealt with and spurious comments have been rebutted. Needless to say there were basically none of the former and the latter would have been easily dealt with. Contrary to their official written policy, the way that AGU journals deal with comments seems to be to use one reviewer suggested by each of the comment and reply authors. Thus however compelling the case may be, there is generally one reviewer predisposed to be sympathetic to the original paper and the editor can often find sufficient doubt to block publication of the comment if he is so minded. In our case, one reviewer was strongly supportive, and the other tried his best to defend the original paper but that's hardly a viable position to take and in doing so he clearly evaded the main issue. Maybe we would have fared better had we enlisted a couple of eminent co-authors...

Anyway, after some brief thought we soon realised that Climate of the Past would be an ideal venue for the paper. So we sent the manuscript, very lightly edited for the different format and in light of the few substantive comments that had been received, and included the original reviews (after checking the GRL editor agreed) along with our responses to inform the CP Editors as to the history of the piece. The paper took some time to be posted up but now can be seen along with the first reviewer comment which seems if anything even more sharply critical of the original paper than we were.

Quite by chance, a couple of weeks ago Jules spotted this comment and the response which had just appeared in GRL. Obviously this had been going through the review system at the same time as our manuscript was at GRL (their first submission predates ours by about a month), but we didn't know anything of it. It is interesting to see that they have a set of entirely unrelated criticisms, illustrating that while the truth is generally constrained to a single path, there are any number of ways of being wrong. We'll surely refer to it briefly in our revision for CP.

In the meantime we still have another reviewer (maybe two) to wait for, and in stark contrst to GRL's attitude, any other relevant comments are welcome either here or there (best at CPD if you have something that impinges on the content). I'm a big fan of the EGU system where reviews are available to view and the decision making process is out in the open, and think it is especially well suited to comments where reviews may have a tendency to be polarised.


Belette said...

Ah well, of course Ganopolski *is* famous :-(

Steve Bloom said...

The Eos editors seem to have a liking for this sort of thing, although maybe they'd be more hesitant when another AGU pub is involved. I'm recalling in particular a few years ago when they devoted the entire front page to slam-dunking Christy's bogus California central valley irrigation paper (published in JoC IIRC).

I just happened to see this article quoting Matt Huber on an issue of interest to you, James. This seems to be his most recent relevant pub on the subject, although it doesn't discuss the implications for current sensitivity. Your views?

James Annan said...

Ah yes, I remember seeing that commentary in EOS. I wonder if that was originally rejected from JC too. Of course the accepted practice is that these things should be dealt with in the same forum where the original was published, so that the same readership gets to see the debate (and so the journal has the responsibility for cleaning up after itself).

As for Matt Huber, I'm not aware of the particular work in question, but certainly the general area. Going that far back in time, the proxy data are increasingly unreliable and poorly understood. For example, there are fundamental issues like the latitudinal temperature gradient which suggests (to me at least) some unmodelled influences on the proxy data which may affect the interpretation. In other words, I agree that this sort of analysis does seem to point towards highish sensitivity, but it seems a rather weak data point.

Chuck said...

How many journals run comments and responses or articles from other journals? Any chance you know specific titles in the mineralogy literature?