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Last Wegman post (for now)

John Mashey points me to a news article by Eli Kintisch with the following wonderful quote:

Will Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who questions the consensus view on climate, thinks Mashey is a destructive force who uses “totalitarian tactics”–publishing damaging documents online, without peer review–to carry out personal vendettas.

I’ve never thought of uploading files as “totalitarian” but maybe they do things differently at Princeton. I actually think of totalitarians as acting secretly–denunciations without evidence, midnight arrests, trials in undisclosed locations, and so forth. Mashey’s practice of putting everything out in the open seems to me the opposite of totalitarian.

The article also reports that Edward Wegman’s lawyer said that Wegman “has never engaged in plagiarism.” If I were the lawyer, I’d be pretty mad at Wegman at this point. I can just imagine the conversation:

Lawyer: You never told me about that 2005 paper where you stole from Brian Everitt. That was a mistake, dude! Everitt’s a more famous statistician than you are!

Wegman: Ummm . . . I think my other student did that one. But I can’t remember, I must have lost the files in an office move. . . .

P.S. This is not a personal vendetta on my part. I’ve never met Edward Wegman and have nothing against him personally. I just think it’s super-tacky to plagiarize, and even more so to not admit it when you’re caught. Yeah, I know Chris Rock says: when you’re caught, just deny everything. But Chris Rock’s a comedian. Wegman is supposed to be a scientist.

The funny part is how clear the evidence is–that’s why I keep throwing in jokes. The sad part is that Wegman, Goodwin, Fischer, etc etc don’t have the decency to say they’re sorry.


  1. joshtk76 says:

    Could you post a link to the article?

  2. thingsbreak says:

    Any chance we can entice you into digging into the *statistical* problems with the Wegman Report? ;) Mashey and DC have some interesting findings that seem to be worth following up on…

  3. John Mashey says:

    My 5 seconds of Science fame was fun… although

    1) I have started getting fascinating information in the mail, like marked-up newspaper items and claims that no greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere longer than 100 hours, because it falls to the ground and stays there.

    I was not aware of these “facts” but whoever sent them sadly has not signed their name so I can thank them.

    2) Then, here is an anthropologist Peter Wood writing in a Chronicle of Higher Education :


    He runs the National Association of Scholars (NAS*), which has a small office, but pays well and has a big travel budget, has gotten some funding from certain foundations I’ve gotten to know well. He has clear opinions on many topics, as does NAS*

    The NAS* website really doesn’t like sustainability. This is an interesting series by Wood: “Sustainability Tyranny or Theft?”.

    NAS* is based in Princeton; maybe he knows Will Happer. I am sorry to have been demoted from a “destructive force” to merely P.T. Barnum or Bruno Latour (eek!).

    Wood seems to claim to speak for humanities and social sciences, which I always thought were supposed to include critical thinking and civil discourse.

    Anybody ever run into these NAS* folks?

  4. Andrew Gelman says:


    I followed your links. Perhaps I'll discuss that stuff briefly on the sister blog (since I can't post on it here during my 30 days of statistics). Briefly: the P.T. Barnum analogy was interesting because I got the feeling that Wood was oscillating between (1) using Barnum as a symbol for non-scholarly P.R. and (2) using Barnum as a symbol of good old-fashioned American ingenuity, in contrast to the anti-business types in academia.

    I've never met anyone from the National Association of Scholars–at least, not to my knowledge. I checked their website and they don't seem to have any members at Columbia.

  5. John Mashey says:

    Assuming that's the Monkey Cage, yes, I suspect this topic has much more to do with political science than statistics. :-)

  6. hankroberts says:

    This NAS* guy Wood is a hoot — he's claiming to be writing columns at Chronicle of Higher Education about academic policy, and claiming to be agnostic about global warming.

    He seems to be focusing on familiar fossil fuel industry talking points.

    Wood claims the one epidemiologist he likes (who didn't get renewed for a non-tenure-track position) took no tobacco funding for work claiming no second-hand-smoke problem, when tobacco funding is identified in the man's published work.

    Wood outs by full name the user who pointed his misstatement out, in the comments, and attacks the reader for noticing he had it wrong.

    Wood says for California taken as a whole there's no association between diesel pollution and mortality — cherrypicking to hilight a single comparison favoring the industry argument, out of multiple associations reported; see the draft here:

    I'm puzzled seeing assertions so poorly supported being published in the Chronicle as though they were facts — they're leaving it to their readers to check the facts, then abusing the readers who do.

    No wonder there are so few comments after Wood's articles, and so many "liked" numbers after those critical of the man. He's proprietor of a hostile environment posing as a discussion forum.

  7. hankroberts says:

    The link John Mashey posted above is broken, but this gets you to the part of that series with the stuff I comment about. The spin on the statistics is worth looking at: