GMU investigating climate change skeptic cited by Cuccinelli
A leading skeptic of climate change science whose work was cited last week by Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli is himself under investigation on charges that his work contained plagiarism and inaccuracies, a George Mason University spokesman confirmed Friday.
The investigation was first reported by USA Today, which quoted GMU statistics professor Edward Wegman as saying he knew of the investigation but he had been asked not to comment about it by the university.
Wegman headed up a 2006 congressional committee that reported problems with scientific research that showed the earth has experience rapid, recent warming, notably a 1999 paper by then-University of Virginia professor Michael Mann.
The Wegman Report was cited repeatedly in the civil subpoena filed last week by Cuccinelli's office to the University of Virginia seeking e-mails and documents related to Mann. The citations came in an attachment to the subpoena intended to show that there was reason to believe that Mann might have committed fraud as he sought state money for research.
Cuccinelli says he wants to investigate a $214,000 grant Mann received from the state. Mann says the grant funded research unrelated to climate change, but the civil investigative demand alleges that he might have used his earlier research on the topic to help get the funding.
In the subpoena, lawyers for Cuccinelli noted that the Wegman Report found the data in Mann's articles "poorly documented and archived."
But now it turns out that Wegman and his report are the subject of scrutiny as well. Other scientists have been posting analyses of his work online, indicating that portions are plagiarized and that the report contains inaccurate citations.
Dan Walsch, a spokesman for GMU, confirmed that the university was investigating charges that the report was plagiarized and that it contained inaccurate information.
Referring to the university's faculty handbook, he indicated such charges are investigated by a faculty grievance committee that turns over its findings to the university president. According to the handbook, tenured professors can be terminated for "violations of professional ethics" or for "a finding of research or scholarly misconduct."
USA Today quotes University of Massachusetts professor Raymond Bradley, a co-writer of Mann's 1999 paper, as saying he wrote GMU a letter in April raising concerns about Wegman's report. Scientists examining the Wegman report have found text that appears to be taken from Bradley's work. He received a letter from the university indicating that it anticipated completing an investigation into the charges by the end of September.
It's worth noting that climate change science has become such a hot potato that professors on both sides have come under scrutiny. Pennsylvania State University convened a panel to investigate charges of professional misconduct by Mann this year. It concluded that there was no evidence Mann falsified or suppressed data.
Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is trying to withstand scrutiny from a judge, who had found that an earlier demand for documents from U-Va. insufficiently explained why Cuccinelli had reason to believe that Mann might have committed fraud.
We've asked Cuccinelli's office for reaction to news of the GMU investigation and we'll bring you any response we receive.
| October 8, 2010; 3:32 PM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman
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