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Alleging 'Malpractice' With Climate Skeptic Papers, Publisher Kills Journal

17 January 2014 3:00 pm
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Alleging 'Malpractice' With Climate Skeptic Papers, Publisher Kills Journal

Pattern Recognition in Physics

A European publisher today terminated a journal edited by climate change skeptics. The journal, Pattern Recognition in Physics, was started less than a year ago. The editors-in-chief were Nils-Axel Mörner, a retired geophysicist from Stockholm University, and Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, a geophysicist at the Algerian Petroleum Institute.

Copernicus Publications, based in Göttingen, Germany, publishes 25 peer-reviewed open-access journals. It specializes in “[s]trict, but fair and transparent peer-review.” The publisher considers proposals for new journals, and, according to a note on its website:

The journal idea was brought to Copernicus' attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.

Problems cropped up soon afterward. In July, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, noted “serious concerns” with Pattern Recognition in Physics. As he wrote on his blog about open-access publishing, Beall found self-plagiarism by Ouadfeul in the first paper published by the journal, which Ouadfeul co-authored. “Is this the kind of ‘pattern recognition’ the journal is talking about?” Beall quipped. The first five articles in the journal consisted of a pair by Ouadfeul, another two by climate skeptics, and the fifth article had “a significant amount of self-plagiarism.”

Managing Director Martin Rasmussen, who could not be reached for comment, noted on the Pattern Recognition in Physics website that he was concerned by a special issue in December in which the editors concluded that they “doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming as claimed by the IPCC project.” Rasmussen went on to write: “In addition, the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing.”

In a reply, which Mörner provided to ScienceInsider, he disputes that charge. “All papers were excellently reviewe[d] with very constructive comments,” he wrote to Rasmussen. The termination, he wrote, “is taken on completely wrong and unfair grounds.”