There was quite some fuss in the media about a paper claiming there is a climate emergency, supported by a list of 11,000 signatures of scientists. I didn’t had much time back then, so I just downloaded the list of signatories to look at it later.
The petition was held at the site of the Alliance of World Scientists and it links to the article World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (where the list of signatories is downloadable). There are five authors and at the Alliance of World Scientists web page, the petition list is put right behind the authors. suggested that all those signatories are scientists on par with the authors:
The number of signatories is not shown anymore because there was an issue with, ahem, “invalid signatures”. That is a nice way to say that some crazy input were found in that list. In the meanwhile I also read a CBC news article in which the lead author was asked about the inclusion of a certain “Micky Mouse” as one of the signatories. This was his answer:
When asked how Micky made it on the list, William Ripple, one of the authors of the paper, said in an email that he and his colleagues used a four-step process to check the signatures but that this one seems to have “slipped through our checks.”
He said the vetting process involved:
- Removing duplicate signatures;
- Scanning the list for invalid (fake) names and removing them;
- Removing signatures of individuals who are non-scientists;
- Removing signatures with no associated professional position or institution.
The website hosting the climate declaration was down most of Tuesday and Wednesday because of high traffic and was updated with a message that read: “Viewing signatures is currently unavailable. We are correcting the list of scientist signatories on our website based on an additional validation process.”
On Thursday morning, the site was updated and said it had “removed 34 names from the original list, most of which were duplicates.”
When contacted earlier this week about the published paper and asked why one person identifying simply as a “student” was allowed to sign, Ripple said the authors do try to remove names that don’t have any institutional affiliation.
It is not just one name that was missed by the check. The additional check resulted in 34 names being removed from the list. When I look at the updated list, then it indeed it mentions that 34 names were removed and 11,224 names are left. So now everything should be fine, no?
It didn’t take very long before a plan was brewing in my evil denier brain. I have the list before and after the validation, so I can compare them and look at what was removed. I indeed found that 34 names were removed from the original list:
- Is one of the authors (Phoebe Barnard)
- A “Copy Editor, Enrollment Coach and mom to a scientist”, not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist
- A “National Director (UK)” and institution is “Scientists warning”
- No affiliation (just a “MD” from USA)
- Is one of the authors (William Moomaw)
- Micky Mouse, a, ahem, professor at the “Micky Mouse Institute for the Blind” in Namibia
- There is an author of a paper in hydrology by this name, so it is a mystery why he is removed from the list. He has more credentials than most on the list.
- Someone with a degree in “Sexology” (Rob Rob)
- Just “Psychology” as professional activity and “1976” as institution
- Affiliated with “steadysun” in France (is the guy a pensioner who moved to the South of France?)
- A “Sales assistan” (sic)
- A Science Illustrator and instructor
- Has the interesting degree of “BS Detection and Analysis” in “Mohawk College”
- Wrote “N/A” as her professional activity and her institution. Doesn’t look like a active climate scientist.
On the one hand, it looks logical why these didn’t make the cut, but on the other hand it doesn’t look good for that “four-step vetting process”:
- Most of these removals are duplicates (20 out of 34). How did so many got through that first step of the vetting process?
- Scanning for fake names is the second step on the vetting process, yet for some reason “Micky Mouse” of the “Micky Mouse Institute for the Blind” made it to the list.
- Those who are not scientists should also be removed, yet a copy editor, a sales assistant and a science Illustrator got on that list too.
- Those with no associated professional position or institution should also be removed according to that vetting process, yet a “N/A” as professional activity and affiliation didn’t get filtered out.
If this is the quality of the vetting process, then what else is still on that list…?
Let’s start with duplicates. Looking at the validated list, this is most likely the same person (IAU = Islamic Azad University):
Is this a typo, or are there two emeritus professors in Animal Ecology with almost the same name in the same department?
Two researchers with the same name working in the same botanical garden?
Again two employees with the same name working in the same center?
By the way what does a GP on the list of authoritative researchers on climate change? Unfortunately, she is not the only one.
That “additional validation process” still left quite some meat on the bone. I didn’t go through the list items systematically (that would take quite some time), let alone checked whether these are real persons. These samples were all found by playing around with the data for a couple hours. Who knows how many duplicates are still left in the rest of the list?
There are also still non-scientists on that list:
I understand just enough Spanish to know that this lady is not a scientist, let alone that she would be authoritative when it comes to declaring a climate emergency.
Then these guys:
I don’t think they are (climate) researchers either. Also, all kind of students are still on that list. There are several per page. Is climate science rejuvenating?
Last, but not least, there are still loads of signatures without an associated professional position or institution: on the first page alone (just 15 names) there are 4 who didn’t mention their professional position or institution:
This list is a joke, as is its vetting process.
And yet the main stream press immediately shouts: “1000 scientists”! Once the lie is out in the open, it spreads like a virus and there is no stopping it.
That is how it works..
Even when the authors would get their vetting process in order and clean up their list, the message went already out a long time ago, broadcasted by journalists and social media, copying the story uncritically (maybe even without looking at the data).
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