What about the Jones et al co-authors ?

Except for his 1994 update, Professor Jones tended to publish with many co-authors.

I see that the BBC says, Phil Jones, the professor behind the “Climategate” affair, has admitted some of his decades-old weather data was not well enough organised.

Well, I am asking myself, what about all these co-authors, presumably some of them worked on the data too, otherwise why would they be co-authors ? Is their data too, “..not well enough organised..” ? They are all from big instos – did none of them park a copy on their HDD ?

Or is co-authoring on this scale just an exercise in influence peddling and mutual career building – facilitating a network of supportive mates to ease the way in the peer review process.

I am curious to see if anybody else has thought about this.

9 thoughts on “What about the Jones et al co-authors ?”

  1. My experience in co-authoring is varied. Sometimes an electronic file of “the data” is kept by each of us (usually I just store it, without further checking beyond what we did as we analysed it and wrote it up). Sometimes just one of us is expected to be the storage man. But I have no experience at all with observational data – the sort that is irreplaceable if ever it is lost. Nor have I any experience with data that is used to justify policies costing trillions of dollars.

  2. Are you implying that a co-authored paper is like of those goofy Internet chain letters where everyone takes the quiz, signs their name and passes it on to their friends?

    I was surprised to see well-documented instances of paper-kiting in the IPCC’s reports. If this kind of practice is routine, chain-lettering is certainly not out of the question, especially for the climate rock stars at CRU and Penn State.

  3. I am on the editorial board (and reviewer) of an international journal. It is quite clear that some co-authors are included only to add to their publication list. The lead author of a technical paper is usually a Post Graduate fellow or student. The Head of the Department frequently is mentioned as as one of the co-authors even though they may have contributed nothing. The University system of publish or perish forces academics who want to climb the ladder and achieve higher rewards to publish even if they have had little input and do not fully understand the work performed. Data is often obtained by technicians. Many of the researchers are not familiar with the analysis equipment or techniques and have no appreciation of errors. Sometimes but rarely the technicians are listed as co-authors but normally they have no input into the article. The raw data sits in the technicians exercise book or on their computer, and over time is discarded especially if the technician decides to go elsewhere.
    I have rejected a number of papers that have no novel input, are based on normal laboratory work which anyone could do, or have no or insufficient supporting data . I believe that standards of scientific understanding and analysis has become lower in that last 20 years in line with the lowering of standards in education. Does 30% of the population being tertiary graduates have any meaning. Are today’s PhD’s upto the standard of a 4yr University graduate 50years ago?
    Many of the climate papers show a lack of scientific understanding and lack of appreciation of errors. I would have loved to review Kiehl &Trenberth 1997 (Earth’s Annual Global Mean Earth Budget) for publication. I would have rejected large parts of it if not the whole paper.

  4. Are you implying that a co-authored paper is like of those goofy Internet chain letters where everyone takes the quiz, signs their name and passes it on to their friends?

  5. In climate science, I think a long list of authors is like a petition and is done for political purposes. Probably only one or two authors did all the work and the others are just endorsing it. They think a long list of authors has an impact on policy decisions.

    In particle physics, by way of contrast, a long list of authors occurs because all of them were contributors in one way or another to the experiment that they are describing.

  6. Hi Warwick; I’m a fan of yours; you’re mentioned on this site www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/327/5968/934/DC1
    BBC interview with Phil Jones
    (thought you might like to comment)
    One of those skeptics was Warwick Hughes, who wanted station data. What did you mean when you wrote in an e-mail “even if WMO [World Meteorological Organization] agrees, I will still not pass on the data? We have 25 or so years invested in the work.”

    P.J.: I’d rather not go there. It was an e-mail written in haste.

    No comments on that site but you might like to comment on your own site

  7. ” I’d rather not go there” is a somewhat Californian take on the good old English expression “Guilty as charged, m’lud.”

  8. Phil Jones certainly was in the position to have been able to avail himself of the assistance of graduate students. They certainly could have helped him organize his data.

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