|2011-02-23 05:08:17||Energy & Environment threatens a libel suit against RealClimate|
I don't think anything will come of it; but it's an interesting topic!
E&E threatens a libel suit
Abuse of the UK libel laws is so commonplace as to require no real introduction (but see the Campaign for libel reform for more details). Because of the ridiculous costs and pro-plaintiff assumptions, it has been (ab)used by many and fought against successfully only by a few. In the realm of discussions about science, Simon Singh’s triumph over a libel suit brought by the British Chiropractors Association stands out, as does Ben Goldacre’s successful £500,000 defense against Matthias Rath – a vitamin salesman peddling bogus AIDS cures. But despite that, it remains (for now) a potent threat to throw around if you want to try to intimidate a critic.
We received this letter on Friday:
The comment in question was made in the post “From blog to Science” and the full context was:
The point being that if the ‘peer-review’ bar gets lowered, the result is worse submissions, less impact and a declining reputation. Something that fits E&E in spades. This conclusion is based on multiple years of evidence of shoddy peer-review at E&E and, obviously, on the statements of the editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. She was quoted by Richard Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education (3 Sep 2003) in the wake of the Soon and Baliunas fiasco:
So the claim that the ‘an editor publishes papers based on her political position’ while certainly ‘terribly damaging’ to the journal’s reputation is, unfortunately, far from ridiculous.
Other people have investigated the peer-review practices of E&E and found them wanting. Greenfyre, dissecting a list of supposedly ‘peer-reviewed’ papers from E&E found that:
Also, see comments from John Hunter and John Lynch. Nexus6 claimed to found the worst climate paper ever published in its pages, and that one doesn’t even appear to have been proof-read (a little like Bill’s email). A one-time author, Roger Pielke Jr, said “…had we known then how that outlet would evolve beyond 1999 we certainly wouldn’t have published there. “, and Ralph Keeling once asked, “Is it really the intent of E&E to provide a forum for laundering pseudo-science?”. We report, you decide.
We are not surprised to find that Bill Hughes (the publisher) is concerned about his journal’s evidently appalling reputation. However, perhaps the way to fix that is to start applying a higher level of quality control rather than by threatening libel suits against people who publicly point out the problems? Is being known as the journal who tries to sue critics of their editorial policies (or worse, tries to intimidate critics by threatening libel suits) really going to help?
As a final note, if you think that threatening unjustifiable UK libel suits against valid criticism is an appalling abuse, feel free to let Bill Hughes know (but please be polite), and add your support to the Campaign for libel reform in the UK which looks to be making great headway. In the comments, feel free to list your examples of the worst papers ever published in E&E.
Bill, if you are reading, you can take this ‘form of words’ as a full and complete response to your email.
Comments can be found at the link below:
"Dr. Gleick' s statement that "I consider that Michaels is to the science of climate change like the Flat Earth Society is to the science of planetary shape" is likewise not actionable as libel."
Comedic gold that one.
What the heck is Hughes thinking? The RealClimate comments about E&E were dead on. He thinks he'll improve the journal's deservedly crap reputation by suing people who criticize it?
RC is spot on - instead of suing people for discussing the non-existent standards of E&E, try implementing some real standards! You know, besides the one requirement that a paper be "skeptical" of AGW.
It's probably just an empty threat: Hughes is trying to get a retraction, because if he doesn't, he's giving tacit acceptance of this judgment on E&E.
Of course if he actually follows through, it will be great fun. I assume NASA will stand behind Gavin; if not, we'll have to gin up a legal defense fund.