Following treats a submission by W.-C. Wang to the University at Albany; the submission was made in Wang's defense during an investigation into the fraud allegation. (The following assumes familiarity with the allegation.)
As detailed in my allegation, two papers of Wang relied on data from 84 meteorological stations in China. Those papers cite the data as being from (a pre-publication version of) a report by DOE/CAS (U.S. Department of Energy and Chinese Academy of Sciences). The DOE/CAS report states that the data it presents contain “the most comprehensive, long-term instrumental Chinese climate data presently available” (§4). For 49 of the 84 stations, the report says “station histories are not currently available” and “details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times … are not known” (§5).
The DOE/CAS report was made under the auspices of the Carbon Dioxide Research Program, and Wang was the Chief Scientist of the Program. Thus Wang presumably had good knowledge of the report, at the time that he was authoring the two papers. In any case, Wang was responsible for ensuring the correctness of the citation and claims about the data that were made in the papers.
The letter of Zeng
The submission by Wang to the University, in Wang's defense of the fraud allegation, is apparently based on a letter written by a colleague of Wang's, Zhaomei Zeng (who is in China). A full copy of Zeng's letter is not available to me; so here I have relied on Wang's description of it.
Zeng's letter claims that, despite what the DOE/CAS report says, histories for the 49 stations were actually available in 1990. The letter presents no evidence for that claim, other than Zeng's word. Note that Zeng is one of the four authors of the report. Hence if Zeng's claim is true, we are left to wonder how the authors of the report—including Zeng—could have made such egregious errors.
Zeng's letter additionally claims that the histories for the 49 stations were not included in the DOE/CAS report due “partly to the huge effort coupled with inadequate resources (manpower and hardware) to digitize them”. Yet the resources to process the raw temperature data were available. Processing the histories would have required only a tiny extra effort. Hence the claim makes little sense. (This is particularly so as the temperature data is much less valuable without the station histories.)
Zeng's letter further claims that Zeng remembers the histories of 41 of the 49 stations. Zeng apparently makes that claim even though the letter acknowledges that Zeng is remembering over an “almost 19-years time span”. I find the claim extremely implausible. I.e. the claim further diminishes the credibility of Zeng's letter.
Wang's submission says that the documents for the 49 station histories, which would have been highly valuable and archived at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, are “no longer available”. Thus Wang's submission is based solely on Zeng's claimed memory.
Zeng's letter actually summarizes the histories of all 84 stations, including the 35 stations whose histories were in the DOE/CAS report. We can thus compare the letter's summary histories with the report's histories. Such a comparison, for all 35 stations, is here. This shows that Zeng's letter and the report often materially disagree. I find that bizarre; I have no explanation.
There is also another issue. Wang's submission claims that Zeng was responsible for selecting the stations and ensuring that those stations met stated quality-control standards (the same claim was made by P.D. Jones during September 2007, in his comments on the paper that I submitted to Energy & Environment). It further claims that the statements cited in my allegation as being fraudulent were authored by Zeng—i.e. the submission holds Zeng responsible.
Zeng, however, is not credited as a co-author of the paper by Jones et al., nor is Zeng mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of the paper (this was noted in my allegation). Moreover, an e-mail from Jones states that Jones “did all the analyses” for the paper and that Wang role's was solely to provide data—and there is good evidence to support Jones's statement (described in my allegation). Hence, if Wang's submission were truthful, then Wang committed plagiarism: the appropriation of another person's work without giving appropriate credit.
The paper of Jones et al. was published in the world's most highly-regarded scientific journal, Nature. Getting a paper published in Nature brings much prestige to a scientist and a substantial boost to a scientist's career (in terms of promotion, funding, etc.). The consequences of the plagiarism are thus substantial.
The claim that histories for the 49 stations were available (and are remembered by Zeng) is not credible. Did Wang know, in 1990, that the histories were unavailable? That is the question that needs to be answered in order to judge whether Wang is guilty of fabrication. Before answering, first consider the evidentiary standards that the University's Policy and Procedures on Misconduct in Research and Scholarship specify; the Policy is quoted below (§III.H).
The standard of proof for a finding of misconduct will be by a preponderance of evidence. This means that the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the respondent committed misconduct.
Under those evidentiary standards, Wang should be found guilty of fabrication, in my judgment. The situation can be contrasted with judging under the evidentiary standards of criminal law, which require proof beyond reasonable doubt. Under the evidentiary standards of criminal law, Wang should be found not guilty of fabrication, in my judgment.
If Wang is indeed not guilty of fabrication, though, then he must be guilty of plagiarism. (This is true regardless of the whether or not the station histories existed.) Indeed, that is an implicit part of Wang's defense: that he plagiarized the data from Zeng. Plagiarism and fabrication are two of the three classes of scientific fraud (the third is falsification). Hence, in any case, Wang is guilty of fraud, and this is true regardless of the evidentiary standards employed.
Recall that the research was done as part of a program for which Wang held the position of Chief Scientist. That is prima facie evidence, then, that if Wang committed plagiarism, as his defense implies, then Wang also abused the power of his position to do so.
❧ On 2009-11-26, a link to this web page was sent to Wei-Chyung Wang. To date, I have received no reply.
|•||Allegations of research misconduct|
|•||Remarks on Keenan [Energy & Env., 2007]|
Jones P.D., Groisman P.Y., Coughlan M., Plummer N., Wang W.-C., Karl T.R. (1990), “Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land”, Nature, 347: 169–172. [This is one of the two research papers that relies on the fabricated data (the other is by Wang et al.); it is cited by IPCC (2007: chap.3).]
Keenan D.J. (2007), “The fraud allegation against some climatic research of Wei-Chyung Wang”, Energy & Environment, 18: 985–995. doi: 10.1260/095830507782616913.
Tao Shiyan, Fu Congbin, Zeng Zhaomei, Zhang Qingyun (1991), Two Long-Term Instrumental Climatic Data Bases of the People’s Republic of China, ORNL/CDIAC-47, NDP-039 (Oak Ridge TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory). [This report resulted from a joint research project by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It contains conclusive evidence that Wang's claims were fabricated. A second version of the report was published in 1997; its Table 1, which contains station histories, is identical to Appendix B in this version.]
Wang W.-C., Zeng Z., Karl T.R. (1990), “Urban heat islands in China”, Geophysical Research Letters, 17: 2377–2380. [This is one of the two research papers that relies on the fabricated data (the other is by Jones et al.).]