Sent: February 7, 2004 2:23 PM
To: Rosalind Cotter
Cc: Ross McKitrick; Ziemelis, Karl
Subject: Communications Arising Submission - PriorityMail
Thank you for your email of January 23, 2004.
We are somewhat concerned about a comment in this email and would like to clarify something regarding the status of our submission. As we specifically stated in our cover letter, we have made two submissions to Nature, a Communication Arising (i.e. the paper to which your email referred) and a separate Materials Complaint, which has been handled by Karl Ziemelis. In your email to us, you referred to our submitted paper as a ‘complaint’, perhaps unintentionally conflating the two. It is important that they be treated in their own categories. We made a submission as a Communications Arising on the belief that it is an “exceptionally interesting or important comment” on an original paper published in Nature (see www.nature.com/nature/submit/gta/index.html #8.) and not merely a “complaint”.
your email, you state that Nature has a policy that “Communications
Arising are only published as such if they represent a scientific
advance over the original paper”. But in the on-line policies, the
term “scientific advance” is not used in connection with
Communications Arising, only in connection with “Articles.” The
criterion for Communications Arising is the phrase quoted above
(“exceptionally interesting or important comments and clarifications
on original research papers”). That said, we believe that the
elimination of error, especially in such a famous and influential
study, is a significant form of scientific advance. Additionally, the
effort represented by our short paper goes well beyond the effort
typically involved in a “complaint”, including the development of
computer programs, compilation of large data sets and careful and
patient analysis of these large data sets. In our view, our submission
would, in any event, qualify under either criterion.
your email, you state “critical comments such as yours may instead
be addressed in the form of a published correction/clarification from
the criticised authors, if this is recommended by our referees”,
referring presumably to http://www.nature.com/nature/submit/policies/index.html
#10. I find this
language hard to reconcile with the procedure outlined in www.nature.com/nature/submit/gta/index.html
#8, where a procedure
is described for obtaining a reply from originating authors to a
Communications Arising. As noted above, this is what we thought
would happen. We have put a lot of time and effort into this
investigation, and along the way have taken a great deal of public
criticism on earlier findings published elsewhere, including some from
high-profile scientists and commentators. The present submission is a
substantial advance from our earlier findings and serves as a
complete response to these criticisms. Although we would have
obviously liked to have already responded to these attacks, doing so
would have required divulging the contents of our submission to
Nature. Thus, at some personal sacrifice, we have let some attacks go
unchallenged, so as to allow the Nature review process to operate
confidentially. If our findings are correct, the originating authors
not only applied incorrect methodology, but their disclosure of
methods and data to the editors, reviewers and readers of Nature was
inaccurate, and substantially influenced how the paper was received.
It would be inequitable if our findings are upheld, but the
originating authors are allowed to present a “clarification”,
without simultaneous presentation of our findings. Moreover, this
potential procedure would be inconsistent with the procedures set out
is possible that we misunderstood some of the comments in your email
and that you raised a situation which was merely hypothetical, without
specific reference to the facts in this particular case. We hope that
it is the case. However, in order to forestall any misunderstanding,
we wish to make it clear that our paper under review was submitted as
a Communications Arising, under the criterion of an
“interesting comment”, rather than as a “complaint”.
We note from your on-line policies that authors of work being commented on have two weeks to submit a reply and that today is the end of the two week period for Professor Mann’s response. In our cover letter, we suggested some names of independent reviewers. We re-iterate our concern that at least one reviewer be an expert in the appropriate statistics, preferably one who has not been previously involved in the climate change debate.
you for your consideration.