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The Alimonti Addendum
More details on an egregious failure of scientific publishing
No it’s not the next Bourne thriller, it is instead one of the most egregious failures of scientific publishing that I have seen, SpringerNature have retracted a 2022 paper — Alimonti et al. — after it received negative press coverage in The Guardian and AFP, including criticism from oft-quoted climate scientists. This week both The Guardian and AFP ran stories celebrating their success in getting the paper retracted.
It may be akin to removing a speck of dust from a rubbish heap, but I confess to taking satisfaction in seeing this egregiously bad #climate study retracted. The remaining question, of course, is how it got into a Springer Nature journal to start with
You can see the SpringerNature retraction notice in full below. Note that it does not detail any substantive issues with the paper, only vaguely referring to The Guardian and AFP articles in the passive voice” “Concerns were raised . . . “.
You can read the full backstory of this sordid affair in my original post. I won’t rehash any of that here, but if you are unfamiliar with how events transpired, I recommend that you start there first.
Several readers have asked for the original documents associated with the unusual “Addendum” to the original paper that was required by SpringerNature and the original two reviewer reports of that Addendum. As I explain in my original post, later in this highly irregular process, two additional reviews were sought and an adjudicator was brought in — none of this followed any formal procedure of the publisher or the journal, it was apparently invented as they went along.
I have thus far refrained from commenting on the substance of Alimonti et al. and the Addendum, as the issues here involve a violation of procedure and norms, which on their own are sufficient to judge the retraction improper. However, it is my strong opinion that the sole reason for the campaign to retract this paper is not due to anything having to do with data or analysis of that data. It has to do with a single sentence in the original paper:
In conclusion on the basis of observational data, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet.
Were I a peer-reviewer of that original paper I would have asked for the editorializing to be removed as it added nothing to the analysis. Anyone familiar with peer-reviewed literature knows that editorializing is common, and in the climate literature absolutely pervasive. For instance, a search of Google Scholar finds more than 300,000 papers that assert a “climate crisis.”
A minor editorial comment by the authors that passed through peer review is in no way a justification for a retraction — even one that you or I might disagree with.
As you will see in the Addendum (linked below), a similar editorial comment can be found:
We thus believe that the main findings concerning extreme events reported by our original article are in good agreement with AR6 conclusions and that on the basis of observational data, the climate crisis that, according to many media sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet.
Whether or not a “climate crisis” is happening is of course a political judgment and not one that emerges from data and evidence — though people can look at data and evidence and certainly make the case for or against a crisis. Not asserting or believing there to be a “climate crisis” is not a legitimate basis for publishing, not publishing or retracting a peer-reviewed paper. This is obvious and uncontestable, right?
A reminder, the documents linked below were provided to me by a whistleblower associated with SpringerNature. I have asked Prof. Alimonti for permission to publish them, and that permission was granted. I am publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and to expose the shenanigans that still go on in climate research far too often — and which I have unfortunately experienced personally on many occasions.
Alimonti et al. original paper - PDF
Alimonti et al. Addendum - PDF
Reviewer 1 of the Addendum - PDF
Reviewer 2 of the Addendum - PDF
I encourage you to read them carefully and to discuss them in the comments.
In my view, and I’m not holding back here — We should not be in a situation where activist journalists, many funded by billionaires, enlist activists scientists to demand retraction of a scientific article and then the world’s arguably leading scientific publisher meekly obeys. We must do better.
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