The CR Problem

After a conflict with the publisher Otto Kinne of Inter-Research I stepped down on 28. July 2003 as Editor-in-Chief of Climate Research; the reason was that I as newly appointed Editor-in-Chief wanted to make public that the publication of the Soon & Baliunas article was an error, and that the review process at Climate Research would be changed in order to avoid similar failures. The review process had utterly failed; important questions have not been asked, as was documented by a comment in EOS by Mann and several coauthors. (The problem is not whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century, or if Mann's hockey stick is realistic; the problem is that the methodological basis for such a conclusion was simply not given.) It was not the first time that the process had failed, but it was the most severe case. However, my authority as Editor-in-Chief did obviously not cover the publication of an editorial spelling out the problem. The publisher declined the publication, and I cancelled my task as Editor-in-Chief immediately on 28 July 2003.

I withdrew also als editor because I learned during the conflict that CR editors used different scales for judging the validity of an article. Some editors considered the problem of the Soon & Baliunas paper as merely a problem of "opinion", while it was really a problem of severe methodological flaws. Thus, I decided that I had to disconnect from that journal, which I had served proudly for about 10 years.

Today I am not longer related to the journal Climate Research in any way. Only the review process of those manuscripts, for which I initiated the review process, will be completed by me. After that I will be completely detached.

Three more editors withdrew namely Clare Goodess, Mitsuru Ando and Shardul Argawala. In mid September 2003 Andrew Comrie resigned as well.

The whole story was covered in part by the press; the article by Antonio Regalado in Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2003 was a good description of the context and some of the major facts. It seems that poor "Climate Research" is a very minor detail in a political struggle in North America, see Andrew Revkin's article in New York Times on 5 August 2003. A more detailed acount was offered by Rich Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education on 4 September 2003.

Later the story was taken up by Süddeutsche Zeitung, which earned me a furious accusation of being a "junk scientist".


This web-page was written in 2003, and has not been changed since then (apart of updating of web-links). Now, it has been provided as a link on RealClimate - so that a little addendum may be in order:

I have been often in the crosss-fire of alarmists and skeptics, two politicized gangs of climate activists - who often have something useful to say, but who are conditioned by their respective loyalties to their "agendas", while not being too much interested in providing the cold and impassionate science needed to come up with reasonable and acceptable climate policies.

We are facing an interesting phase in the postnormal science of climate, where the ideological debate between the camps, the self-serving wagon-circling of others, and the understanding that climate change is a serious issue and needs our attention not only in general "protecting climate" (i.e., reduction of emissions) but regional and local adapatation as well.

A paper dealling with part of these problems has been published in 2009:
von Storch, H., 2009: Climate Research and Policy Advice: Scientific and Cultural Constructions of Knowledge. Env. Science Pol. 12, 741-747
For those without access to the journal Environmental Science and Policy, ask for a pdf at "hvonstorch(at)".
Another paper, "On the sustainability of science" is in preparation. Ask for preprint if interested.

Hans von Storch
23. November 2009

Relevant media reports
Wall Street Journal - online, 23. November 2009
Tagesspiegel, 24. November 2009
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24. November 2009
Nature, 24. November 2009
Spiegel online 24. November 2009

Impressum: Hans von Storch, Kirchenallee 23, 20099 Hamburg, +49 40 4192 4472, hans(at)
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