Home > Economics - General > Wegman plagiarism case: GMU jury out to permanent lunch

Wegman plagiarism case: GMU jury out to permanent lunch

October 8th, 2011

It’s been eighteen months since George Mason University began an investigation into allegations of plagiarism by Edward Wegman and his co-author Yasmin Said. Wegman and Said became famous for writing, at the invitation of anti-science Republican Joe Barton, an attempted takedown of the work of Mann and others on the “hockey stick” increase in global temperatures observed over the 20th century. Along with the statistical “analysis’, the report included a ludicrous foray into network analysis. Unfamilar with the field, Wegman and his co-authors cribbed extensively from Wikipedia, something that has turned out to be common pattern in his work.  They were silly enough to submit it for publication in a journal with a friendly editor, leading to a highly embarrassing retraction.

Now there’s yet another piece of Wikipedia cribbing, reported by Dan Vergano in USA Today, with more from Andrew Gelman and Deep Climate who, along with the redoubtable John Mashey, have done most of the hard work in this case

The big question is how long GMU can keep on getting away with doing nothing. They ignored a critical editoral in Nature in May, and it looks as though they will keep on doing nothing unti some external agency forces them to move (or perhaps Wegman will decide to retire and render the case moot for them).

There’s a broader point. On the evidence here, Wegman has single-handedly made more ludicrous errors and committed more violations of academic ethics than the total of all the allegations made against the climate science profession (the vast majority of which have been proved false). His work has been demolished at all points. Yet this has barely moved the faith of his allies in the  anti-science movement or the Republican party more generally.

At this point, any assumption of good faith on the part of climate “sceptics” is unwarranted.  They  either people who believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence, or say things they don’t believe because it suits them politically. Either way, there is no point in reasoning with them or seeking compromise. Our only hope is to outvote them.

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. PeakVT
    October 8th, 2011 at 03:11 | #1

    GMU is a public university, but it has deep ties to the conservative movement. Look at the Mercatus Center, for instance, where Tyler Cowen works. Or look at the people on the GMU BoV. It’s not surprising that they won’t give on this issue.

  2. October 8th, 2011 at 06:24 | #2

    ‘Conservative’ doesn’t describe Tyler Cowen very well, although he is a supporter of Wegman’s :-)

  3. Freelander
    October 8th, 2011 at 06:28 | #3

    And contrary to their guiding philosophy that permanent lunch is most likely free!

  4. Fran Barlow
    October 8th, 2011 at 08:52 | #4

    Typos: {doing nothing unti{l some }; {They are either people who believe what they want to believe}

    At this point, any assumption of good faith on the part of climate “sceptics” is unwarranted. They {are} either people who believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence, or say things they don’t believe because it suits them politically. Either way, there is no point in reasoning with them or seeking compromise.

    Exactly so. There’s no sense from them that basic honesty or integrity is relevant here. This is culture war and all weapons are available for use, including lies about observable reality. They are now in the bullsh*t and FUD business — agnotology as Oreskes has it — so it’s not surprising that they count amongst their ranks incompetent plagiarists.

    These people are the cultural equivalent of malware — they attempt to rewite knowledge about the observable world in order to render worthy people passive, capture minds without adequate intellectual firewalls to launch denial of service attacks on scientists and people devising public policy, and to run interference for the worlds filth merchants and their coteries.

    Once one sees them as malware, it is clear how one ought to respond. One needs to keep one’s malware definitions up to date, spotting trojans (concern trolls) and deleting them wherever possible and failing that, exposing their dirty games. One should scrupulously call out their lies and misdirection when it appears in public space. Let us support and contribute to places like Skeptical Science and Deltoid by documenting this malware and the behaviour of its victims.

    Battle should be engaged with these vandals without let or hindrance until their scripts are seen for the malicious threat to rational public policy they are.

  5. andrewt
    October 8th, 2011 at 09:44 | #5

    Wegman retiring and Said severing whatever connection she has with GMU doesn’t resolve GMU’s problems – there is also the matter of apparent plagiarism in theses of 4 of Wegman’s PhD students. In at least one thesis it appears serious enough that I don’t think it can be ignored. Personally I think at least rewrite and resubmission should be required in all 4 cases.

    I’ve previously defended GMU’s slowness because it thought it would be prudent for GMU to throughly examine all Wegman’s groups publications & theses, and discover cases like the latest copying(manging) of Wikipedia, from before taking any action. But they’ve had more they enough time.

    Wiley have also had more than enough time to act. Two WIREs CS editors-in-chief have in 2 separate papers copied from Wikipedia and other sources and not only that mangled the text they have copied introducing crude errors that would embarass an undergrad. Doesn’t show much commitment to quality control at Wiley does it.

  6. shocked (just like Kylie)
    October 8th, 2011 at 12:24 | #6

    Sounds like the guys who insist that Shakespeare was Bacon, or some sort of committee. Apparently real Shakespearian scholars just refuse to engage with them.

  7. Freelander
    October 8th, 2011 at 13:55 | #7

    Shakespeare was born a commoner so he couldn’t possibly have written the stuff; must have been written by an aristocrat. But if you believe that then you have to believe that Newton couldn’t have done what he did because he suffered from the same impediment. Likewise Wegman is a priori (and ex post) innocent; he has simply been framed by a conspiracy of facts.

  8. may
    October 8th, 2011 at 15:56 | #8

    “conspiracy of facts”

    love it!

  9. October 8th, 2011 at 16:34 | #9

    “The big question is how long GMU can keep on getting away with doing nothing”

    It’ll be forever. Nothing is likely to happen there. The climate scam is over boys. Over.

  10. Ernestine Gross
    October 8th, 2011 at 18:23 | #10

    @Freelander

    “… he has simply been framed by a conspiracy of facts.”

    - an axiom which simplifies the analysis of the problem tremendously – a cost saving result for everybody except those who don’t want to lose their marbles.

    Brilliant insight, Freelander.

    .

  11. Ernestine Gross
    October 8th, 2011 at 18:26 | #11

    “They ignored a critical editoral in Nature in May, and it looks as though they will keep on doing nothing unti some external agency forces them to move (or perhaps Wegman will decide to retire and render the case moot for them).”

    Are “moot cases” compatible with the notion of a university that has a research objective?

  12. Freelander
    October 8th, 2011 at 19:58 | #12

    Edward “Cut-and-Paste-Hands” Wegman and Yasmin “Enough” Said. The World has a new dynamic duo!

  13. John Quiggin
    October 8th, 2011 at 20:30 | #13

    @Steve at the Pub

    Face it Steve. You’re smart enough to know that all the “experts” on your side are liars and frauds, and that the conspiracy theory on which you rely is nonsense. You’re a willing sucker for stuff you would see through in a moment if it didn’t suit your political/tribal allegiances.

    And for Steve, read everyone on the political right in Australia with the exceptions of
    (a) People like Greg Hunt, who know it’s a con, but lie or keep silent to hold on to their jobs
    (b) Malcolm Turnbull

  14. paul walter
    October 8th, 2011 at 21:05 | #14

    Plagiarising Wiki. That is one redoubt not even the most oppressed of undergrads would contemplate, for an eight hundred word tute paper. But supposed academics? Although its difficult to say more not knowing the actual fully nuanced circumstances. One presumes actual plagiarism is proven, here.
    George Mason University can’t be that small, its name crops up quite a bit (must google it in mo).
    These odd hard conservatives in the US definitely ARE a weird mob, though; a religious history museum with pictures of humans with dinosaurs is almost whimsical, but the white anting of US civil society by the ultras is not.

  15. Donald Oats
    October 8th, 2011 at 21:05 | #15

    The trouble arguing with the usual climate denier is that they are mere distractions from the real attackers, namely those whose attacks are backed with political clout. Once political heavy-weights are in it, the prospect of climate science proceeding on any better terms than Darwinian evolutionary theory is blasted to smithereens. They aren’t appearing to argue in favour of reality, no-sir-r-ee! Senator Inhofe and his minions have much to answer for, in the only life-time that matters, ie this one.

    Trouble is, it is just such a good news story showing how a sceptical scientist—backstory: ostracized by his peers—comes good and wins the Nobel prize; The Australian has two such stories, one of them with two Nobel laureates in it! Bet they did a shindig ’round the editor’s desk when they thought of that one, yes-sir-r-ee! It is the such easy framing of a story to suit an editor’s personal beliefs that propagates the myth that every so-called sceptic is actually the harbourer of the correct theory of some part of reality. For every one such sceptic on the right side of science, there are 99 who are but footnotes in history, if they are that lucky.

  16. paul walter
    October 8th, 2011 at 21:31 | #16

    Actually funny how stuff drifts about the aether. Checked up an anti enviro blog hadn’t been to for a while and there it was, like “Days of Our Lives”, same old line taken up immediately, about the devilish wicked green lobby and the poor oppressed old woodchippers, as the writer attempted a clumsily executed attempted reversal, easily set right by a slight rearranging the first sentence or two.
    The Ghosts of Andrew Bolt and Glen Milne must having beaming on from the rafters along with whoever is footing the bill$.

  17. October 8th, 2011 at 23:19 | #17

    @ JQ: I don’t have tribal allegiances. I don’t have a religion. I don’t have a side. But I know a fraud when I see one. The AGW jig was up the minute the Hadley revelations became public knowledge. It has only got worse from there one.

    Think of it as “the science is now settled”.

    Not a big believer in quotes, however Leo Tolstoy was good for a few, including this one: (It goes a long way toward explaining why there are many deniers who will not concede that the AGW scam is over.)

    “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives”

  18. Jarrah
    October 8th, 2011 at 23:40 | #18

    “Think of it as “the science is now settled”.”

    Who are you quoting? Because I never see that phrase except when denialists are busy building strawmen.

  19. Sean
    October 8th, 2011 at 23:49 | #19

    @Steve

    That’s strange, because every inquiry into the Hadley emails has resulted in the scientists being cleared of wrongdoing and the science of AGW remaining intact. Is there something you know that the Science Assessment Panel, Sir Muir Russell, and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee don’t? If so, would you care to enlighten us?

  20. NickR
    October 8th, 2011 at 23:57 | #20

    @Steve at the Pub
    Steve are you seriously suggesting that your (self-proclaimed) nose for fraud spotting is more trustworthy than the near consensus of the world’s scientific community?

    In some ways I admire you denialists. It must take an incredible amount of gumption to make such arguments :)

  21. John Mashey
    October 9th, 2011 at 02:03 | #21
  22. TerjeP
    October 9th, 2011 at 07:02 | #22

    There is the consensus the scientists have achieved (which actually has quite a bit of diversity but does generally support the core AGW thesis) then there is what the IPCC publishes which some claim as holy writ and then there is the stuff that floats around the media quoting alarmist individuals with little authoritative background. It is quite possible to accept the AGW thesis, as I do, and still be sceptical, or in my case cynical, about much of the associated noise.

    Saying that solar and wind subsidies and schemes like MRET are stupid get’s you labeled by many as a sceptic when it is not the problem you are rejecting but merely one set of proposed solutions. You sometimes also get labeled if you are disinclined to credit the more extreme warming scenarios. Likewise if you reject the carbon tax policy proposed by the Gillard government. I call myself a sceptic not because I reject the AGW thesis but because I reject a lot of the pointless and harmful action that we are asked to pursue in the name of AGW. And because I don’t want to stand with people advocating silly policies. So yes in a way there is a tribal aspect to the decision to identify as a sceptic. There is a sense in which it is “all crap” to quote Tony Abbott. However most people I know that line up as sceptics don’t reject the AGW thesis but nor are they lying to anybody when they say they are a sceptics.

  23. andrewt
    October 9th, 2011 at 09:19 | #23

    Paul Walter I’m afraid the same depressing evidence of copying you see with undergrads is present. For example, when Said&Wegman cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia they didn’t notice superscripting wasn’t copied – and so they claim a d-dimensional cube has 2d vertices rather than 2^d. In another place they’ve copied this from Wikipedia:

    “Suppose in the standard form of the problem there are n variables and m constraints, not counting the n nonnegativity constraints. Generally, a vertex of the simplex corresponds to making n of the m+n total constraints tight, while adjacent vertices share n-1 tight constraints.”

    and changed the variable n to d, except they missed one place leaving a singleton n floating their text:

    “Suppose in the standard form of the problem there are d variables and m
    constraints, not counting the n non-negativity constraints. Generally, a
    vertex of the simplex corresponds to making d of the m + d total
    constraints tight, while adjacent vertices share d − 1 tight constraints.”

    There is plenty more from Wikipedia and other sources and where they haven’t copied the text is very poor – their description of simulated annealing reads like an undergrad who has skipped your lectures & opened the textbook the night before the exam.

  24. John Quiggin
    October 9th, 2011 at 09:50 | #24

    “I don’t have tribal allegiances. I don’t have a religion. I don’t have a side”

    Give me a break!

  25. Chris O’Neill
    October 9th, 2011 at 12:10 | #25

    @TerjeP

    There is the consensus the scientists have achieved (which actually has quite a bit of diversity but does generally support the core AGW thesis) then there is what the IPCC publishes

    This is one of the denialist memes that there is a significant difference between what scientists say in their papers and what the IPCC says in its publications.

    I call myself a sceptic not because I reject the AGW thesis but because I reject a lot of the pointless and harmful action that we are asked to pursue in the name of AGW. And because I don’t want to stand with people advocating silly policies.

    In this case he won’t be standing with Tony Abbott and his silly “direct action” policy. Reminds me of those ridiculous anti-Carbon tax TV ads where they say “get Carbon policy right” without ever mentioning what that means. Of course we all know it means do nothing.

  26. October 9th, 2011 at 12:26 | #26

    No break given JQ. Perhaps your preconceived notions are showing through!

  27. TerjeP
    October 9th, 2011 at 13:29 | #27

    @Chris O’Neill

    Correct. Tony Abbott is advocating very silly policies in regards to AGW. I’ve said so often. I’ll keep saying so until he changes policies.

  28. paul walter
    October 9th, 2011 at 19:40 | #28

    Yes, it was not edifying watching Abbott on the news tonight with silly redneck jokes about climate change.
    Switching from wheat to chaff, Steve, do you really want to remembered by future generations as one of the people responsible for the enviro catastrophe they’ll possibly have to live through?
    From you own post, you give the impression you don’t care. Perhaps you are getting older and grumpier, like me- you think the world has put itself in its own mess, why should you care?
    But even in a wasted world a person can find value and meaning, even in expression of a scepticism of an unfounded proposition that day is night, based on experience and later confirmed by reliable people; NOT the likes of Bolt, Lord Haw-Haw and Murdoch.
    Is the only difference between Terje, myself and everyone else here and yourself, that we all, for some reason, can find time to think and care and you can’t?
    If that’s not desolation, I dont know what is.

  29. paul walter
    October 9th, 2011 at 19:52 | #29

    Which reminds me: on things tribal.
    Am inclined to think with SATP that tribalism is indeed, a rum cove, after Central District, in pursuit of a fifth straight premiership, got rolled by a miserable straight kick in todays SANFL footy final. Apart from Sturt, the only side capable of rolling us in the big one over the last dozen years has been John Quiggin’s old working class battlers, Woodville/West Torrens, now twice.
    So others must forgive me for a moment’s tribal loyalty and reconnection of a slightly different kind in expressing congrats to my footy foe, the prof, for his old Eags win, I know from past communication that he’ll be glad for them, they don’t always get freebies ’round that part of town,
    Adelaide’s western battlers, the community that set him on his intriguing path through life.

  30. October 9th, 2011 at 19:54 | #30

    Paul Walter: Whoa! I am young, still in the vigour of youth. “Getting older” is very very relative.

    It is those who fell for the scam, or who were adherents of the warmy religion who have their misguided beliefs preserved on the internet. The day will come when they viewed as flat earthers of old are viewed today.

    Yeap, doing my bit to rape the planet. Air conditioner turned on, computer running, lots of unnecessary one-person motor vehicle journeys, & so on.

    I’m hardly a minority (seeing through the bunkum) though that need not be a measure of accuracy. Apart from those on the gravy train, & those who haven’t yet got their feet on the ground (i.e. uni students, greens voters, women in overalls etc) there aren’t many who DO swallow the AGW bunkum, or ever did. It is a religion, nothing more, nothing less.

    Lord Haw-Haw you don’t need to worry about. He got his neck stretched in 1946.

  31. paul walter
    October 9th, 2011 at 20:06 | #31

    Its ok Steve, I know how its going. Am actually back because my departure from this thread is not conplete without mention of John Mashey and that invaluable and detailed spaghetti diagram re Wegman and co, as to plagiarism.
    RE HawHaw- that’s true. And Mockton (hopefully) will get his stretched in 2011, for the same reasons

  32. Freelander
    October 9th, 2011 at 20:28 | #32

    Edward “Cut-and-Paste ScissorsHands” must be an expert on Network Analysis. ‘ScissorHands’ and his ever faithful side-kick ‘Enough’ Said are continuing to publish extensively in the field:

    https://par.cos.gmu.edu/biblio/author/Wegman

    In fact the two “have [just] been awarded a patent titled, ‘Policy Analysis and Action DecisionTool’. The basic idea is to model the distribution of acute outcomes based on a hybrid directed graph/social network. The prototype tool was for acute outcomes associated with alcohol use in Fairfax County.”

    George Mason must be a top university.

  33. John Quiggin
    October 9th, 2011 at 20:34 | #33

    So, just to be clear Steve, you really believe that Wegman and Said demolished the “hockey stock” in their report for Barton, and that Lord Monckton is a credible scientific authority. I note you’ve avoided the issue so far.

  34. John Mashey
    October 10th, 2011 at 03:50 | #34

    Freelander: your link includes:
    “Yasmin H. Said, Edward J. Wegman, and Walid K. Sharabati. “Author-coauthor social networks and emerging scientific subfields.” In Data Analysis and Classification, edited by F. Palumbo, C. Lauro and M. Greenacre, 257-268. Studies in Classification, Data Analysis, and Knowledge Organization. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2010.”

    See this, an addendum to SSWR … which includes the plagiarism flow into that, called [SAI2010], or item “s” in chronology.

    BTW, this is another one that Acknowledges government contracts.

    Hypothesis:
    GMU is
    a) A university with some reasonable people (I know some, at least by reputation and friends of friends) doing OK work, getting research grants from Federal government and elsewhere. But this is more like a facade (of reasonable people) in front of the core.

    b) The core is a set of institutes (like Mercatus Center), and key departments (Econ, PoliSci, Public Policy, Law School), heavily funded by the Kochs and friends to dismantle the Federal government, train VA Attorney Generals (Cuccinelli), etc. Fred Singer used to be associated with one of the institutes, Pat Michaels is a Fellow and has taught a course recently, etc.
    The administration certainly understands the key missions, which may have something to do with the absurd process.

  35. Freelander
    October 10th, 2011 at 09:24 | #35

    Amusing that their crime is ‘recycling’ (although, not their own to recycle); how very green. Very unfortunate that there are billionaire loonies to fund these outfits. If there weren’t, these people would either have to go out and get a real job, or join the ranks of the unemployed.

    Mind you, I might be wrong. Because, some of these loonies have managed to work their way up in bureaucracies and academia, hence there are some of these outfits being generously funded by taxpayer dollars.

  36. October 10th, 2011 at 14:56 | #36

    > But this is more like a facade (of reasonable people) …

    Bringing to mind John Holbo’s (excellent) 2003 Confessions of a Former Protein Sheath
    http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/2003/11/confessions_of_.html
    (re Tech Central Station turning out to be lobbyist-owned)

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