Journal editor resigns over failure to verify crap he published

The editor of a science journal has resigned after admitting that a recent paper casting doubt on man-made climate change should not have been published.

The paper, by US scientists Roy Spencer and William Braswell, claimed that computer models of climate inflated projections of temperature increase. It was seized on by “sceptic” bloggers, but attacked by mainstream scientists.

Wolfgang Wagner, editor of Remote Sensing journal, says he agrees with the criticisms and is stepping down.

“Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science,” he writes in a resignation note published in Remote Sensing. “Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims.

“Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell… is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published…”

In essence, Dr Wagner, a professor of remote sensing at Vienna University of Technology, is blaming himself for this failing. But he also blames the researchers themselves for not referencing all the relevant research in their manuscript.

“The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted…, a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers…

Scientific papers that turn out to be flawed or fraudulent are usually retracted by the journals that publish them, with editorial resignations a rarity.

But Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said Dr Wagner had done the decent thing. “It was a mistake, he’s owned up to it and taken an honourable course, and I think he’s to be commended for it,” he told BBC News.

“I think it remains to be seen whether the authors follow a similar course.”

Since the authors of the crap article have their strongest commitment to right-wing politics and a “Christian” view of science – I think there is little or no likelihood of honor and ethics straying into their path.

Falling birth-rate can bring prosperity

Birth figures are falling and the proportion of elderly people in the population is rising. This development is often associated with negative consequences for economic growth, but there are no reliable empirical values to back this up, nor can economic models provide clear statements to this effect. Business mathematics analyses at Vienna University of Technology have now shown that a drop in population could actually have a positive effect on prosperity. However, this would require an increase in the level of education of the workforce – at every age.

There has never been a population development like this before, with a decline in the birth rate and rising life expectancy. This means we cannot rely on historical examples in our forecasts. It is vital to come up with alternative model approaches that look not just at economic framework conditions, but also the changing age structure of the population. “We have expanded the neo-classical model of demand for labour to include the age structure of employees,” explains Prof Alexia Fürnkranz-Prskawetz…

The models developed at TU Vienna can help people make the right choice in major decisions: Should preference be given to employing young people instead of older people? Should the budget available for further education be invested more in young people or older people? “Our model shows that the best approach is also to invest in the further education of older members of the workforce,” explains Prof Fürnkranz-Prskawetz. More education for older people results in significant advantages for a company, particularly as there are fewer young people…

Prof Alexia Fürnkranz-Prskawetz recommends that companies should recognise the strengths of older employees and not just look at personal work output: “The collective know-how within the company and the organisation structure are often more important than individual productivity.” The mathematical models also show that it is worth it for companies to prepare in good time for future demographic developments.

And some companies – in some countries – will do exactly that. Some will stick to trying to figure out what the next quarter will bring. RTFA.

The concept has always seemed reasonable to me. Malthusian horrors are always premised upon the cost of maintaining a society – regardless of changing demographic – as either being steady-state or increasing. Doesn’t especially have to be so.