Vermeer and Rahmstorf paper rejected

January 31, 2014

Vermeer and Rahmstorf had a paper rejected by the journal “Climate of the Past.” This news is 16 months old, but I just heard about it, and could find very few references about it on the web.

This paper, On the differences between two semi-empirical sea level models for the last two millennia,  promoted their earlier sea level rise models.  They couldn’t seem to get traction with this paper.

Here are some reviewers’ comments…

One of the major problems with this work is the decidedly biased analysis and presentation.

Highly biased analysis and presentation.

It currently takes significant effort to figure out which pairs of models and training data sets the authors use, and whether they have evaluated all the relevant combinations of the same.

No surprise here.  Rahmstorf has a history of alluding to all kinds of data sets and implying that he has taken them into consideration, but only presenting results for those that support his thesis.

And the final blow…

In the light of the two negative reviews and one comment which all require new analyses and point to fundamental flaws in the methodology of the current paper, I regret to inform you that my conclusion is to support rejection. I strongly dissuade the authors from submitting responses and a revised version.

Here is the paper…

Click for full PDF version

Here is the reviewers’ discussion that lead to the the rejection.

Of course, Vermeer and Rahmstorf do not give up that easily, and similar papers have been shopped around to other journals


  1. Reblogged this on Climate Ponderings.

  2. I haven’t read the paper, but the reviewers’ comments remind me of the point the late physicist Richard Feynman made in a published commencement address of his from the ’70s that can be found under the title “cargo cult science.” I think it worth quoting at length:

    “But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school–we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

    “Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.”

    I haven’t read many “climate science” papers, but the few I have read were completing lacking in this respect, and thus I’d categorize them as cargo cult science (Google to read the full address to learn the basis of the term). Was I just “lucky” in the samples of papers I’ve read, or is the problem widespread?

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