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What You Should Know / May 16, 2011

arstechnica.com -- The so-called "hockey stick" plot of recent climate, in which recent temperatures appear as a sudden and anomalous rise after a thousand years of relative stability, has become a bit of an icon for climate change. Even though it's rather secondary to the concerns about rising greenhouse gas levels—CO2 would be a concern even if we were limited to the 150 years of instrument records—the hockey stick attracted so much attention that, in 2006, it was the subject of Congressional hearings. Now, it appears that the sharpest critic of climate scientists at those hearings relied on plagiarized material to prepare his report. The report in question was prepared by Edward Wegman of George Mason University. In it, he criticized the methods used to generate a version of the hockey stick graph generated by Michael Mann, a Penn State climatologist (similar results have been produced by other researchers). But he also raised questions about anything published by climatologists by performing a network analysis that ostensibly showed that it was a small field in which most participants collaborated and then served as reviewers on each others' papers, despite the potential for conflicts of interest. That analysis was later published as an independent paper, in which certain styles of research were suggested to be prone to "group-think, reduced creativity, and the possibility of less rigorous reviewing processes."

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