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Curses!

February 5, 2010

I’ve been a little slow to comment on the so-called Himalaya 2035 curse in the IPCC  AR4, WG II; and that’s partly because I haven’t been particularly keen to spend my time figuring out what happened. As far as I’ve been concerned, it was sloppy science, done by appealing to the grey literature.

Looks like there’s a little more to it than that, as this nice overview from the Yale Forum points out. Seems as though it was a case of plagiarism; and if not plagiarism, then near plagiarism.

And that’s sorta what makes this interesting. Here’s a case where cribbing a sentence and adding one or two modifiers to that sentence isn’t really a major incident of plagiarism, but at the same time, this is arguably one of the biggest incidents of plagiarism and its repercussions that one can imagine.

Think of all of the attention now directed at these few sentences. It’s astonishing. This could well have been avoided not only by citing good studies, but also by compiling and interpreting the scientific reports rather than lifting them straight out of their source.

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One comment

  1. Ben:

    Your right, this is an excellent piece.

    I had read about the 2350 – 2035 typo in the Pielke Sr. piece from last fall and assumed that was the error (which was blamed on NewScientist by the way) – but I did not realize there were other errors.

    Very interesting.

    I would imagine that the IPCC will have to make some significant changes, both to increase the interaction between groups I and II and also to better coordinate the interaction between the writing group and the commenters – not to mention relying on grey literature, which it seems was partly to blame here as well.

    If nothing else, this should improve the next IPCC report – which if it happens, will be a positive result.



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