Pielke Jr. implies conspiracy over routine journal procedure


In a blog post, Roger Pielke Jr. strongly implied a connection between his earlier critical post about a climate change paper and his subsequent dismissal from the editorial board of Global Environmental Change, the journal to which it was submitted. Following the journal’s point by point rebuttal, Pielke conceded the incident was a miscommunication — but some anti-science media have continued to portray the story as a “peer-review conspiracy” to shut out skeptical views.

The following is a guest post by Climate Nexus (in PDF format here):


In a blog post, Roger Pielke Jr. has strongly implied a connection between an earlier critical post about a climate change paper and his subsequent dismissal from the editorial board of the journal to which it was submitted. The editors of the journal, Global Environmental Change (GEC) rebutted these implications point by point, and requested that their response be posted on Pielke Jr.’s blog. Pielke then conceded that the incident was a miscommunication. Despite this thorough response, some anti-science media have continued to portray the story as a “peer-review conspiracy” to shut out skeptical views.

The claim:

In Pielke Jr.’s own words: “Five days ago I critiqued a shoddy paper by Brysse et al. 2013 which appeared in the journal Global Environmental Change. Today I received notice from the GEC editor-in chief and executive editor that I have been asked to ‘step down from the Editorial Board.’ They say that it is to ‘give other scientists the chance to gain experience of editorial duties’… [Editor Neil Adger] did not comment on my critical blog post. I take his response to mean that I am indeed the only one who has been removed at this time. So there you have it, another climate ink blot. Coincidence? You be the judge.”

The facts:

Pielke Jr.’s dismissal had nothing to do with his criticism of the paper. The editors had already decided to remove him from the board in November 2012 due both to Pielke’s sparse contributions of editorial reviews and to standard journal protocol. GEC board members are expected to review up to five papers per year, as part of their official duties. Pielke Jr. did not meet this quota. The only misstep by the journal was the long delay before the publisher, Elsevier, communicated with Pielke Jr.

Straight from the editors:

  • “To create clarity let us put this on the record for you… The timing of you receiving a letter from Elsevier is a coincidence.”
  • “The Editors reviewed the Board at our meeting in November 2012 and subsequently informed Elsevier of who to rotate off. We had no further correspondence with Elsevier about this till they wrote to you on 20th February 2013… In addition to yourself, five other Board members have been not been reappointed for the new term and this has been conveyed to them in the past few days by Elsevier.”
  • “In the original appointment letter we wrote that we expected Board Members to review up to five papers per year. We have invited you to review 18 papers in the six years, of which you agreed to review just six and submitted five reviews (on one occasion we uninvited you before submission of your review as the review process had been completed). Your last review was submitted in August 2010. Last year, in 2012, we invited you to review, and you declined to review, in January, May and August.”

Pielke Jr.’s concession:

“I will chalk this up to poor communication coupled with unfortunate timing… For the record, just now I received a very gracious apology from Elsevier for how this situation was handled. I appreciate it.”

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4 Responses to Pielke Jr. implies conspiracy over routine journal procedure

  1. Eli Rabett says:

    Would that the Pielkesphere worked that way. It was the least gracious concession known to bunnykind. Roger could not resist withdrawing a paper that was in revision at GEC and sounding the dog whistle:

    “I will chalk this up to poor communication coupled with unfortunate timing. Surely based on your experiences at UEA you have learned that erring on the side of being forthright is always a good idea.”

  2. Albatross says:

    An open letter to Roger:

    Very disappointing Roger, on your part that is. You really ought to cease and desist with the knee-jerk reactions and juvenile temper tantrums. You seem to feel entitled to the benefits (and esteem) of being an editor without putting in the required time and effort.

    As for your opinions about Brysse et al. and your silly suggestion above that you are perhaps justified in pulling your paper because “….After Brysse et al. … 😉 “. Really, you think this is a time to be glib?

    Whatever the merits of Brysse et al., one supposed bad paper (at least in your opinion) does not give you the right to write off the journal. IMO, you making that generalization amounts to defamation of the journal and its editorial board. Admit it, even though it is so painfully obvious to people following this, you suggested that about GEC because your ego has been dented.

    Did you consult with all of your co-authors and obtain their approval before making that public declaration? If yes, could you show us please? I will note that you seem only too happy to post other correspondence pertaining to this.

    Your post and comments on this thread by your uncritical supporters smack of conspiracy theorizing. Instead of hypothesizing and suggesting malfeasance you should have done what a responsible adult would do and sort the story out first and then write it up. But that would not garner nearly as much attention for you now would it?

    I believe that you have still not provided any compelling evidence whatsoever that the board’s decision had anything remotely to do with your post on Brysse et al.

    I would also question the ethics of a board member making public disparaging remarks about a paper published in the very journal on whose editorial board they sit.

    This is yet another appalling example of you throwing your toys when you do not get your way, you seem to revel in the attention or at least trying to get attention.

    Again, how disappointing. GEC is, without a doubt, better off without you. Elsevier may have been gracious, but your behaviour has been anything but.

    That you refuse to accept any responsibility whatsoever in the mess that you created for yourself is very telling indeed, and it does not reflect favourably upon you, not in the least. I would not be surprised if future (and current) journals will think twice about inviting you on board after this little saga.


  3. Hank Roberts says:

    > another climate ink blot

    Which sort of “blot” is he seeing there?

    Damage to the journal’s reputation?
    blot 1 (bl t). n. 1. A spot or a stain caused by a discoloring substance: a blot of paint. 2. A stain on one’s character or reputation; a disgrace.


    Damage to his own reputation?
    “… the Rorschach interpretation is unreliable and invalid.”

  4. Temmuudjen says:

    Wow, I am having trouble trying to separate the man from the boy here.

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