A quantitative study of one-sided citing in a conflicted domain: Cloud seeding

Now online for everyone to see, a 2019 rejected proposal for an “Essay” Opinion piece for the Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society entitled:

Should “one-sided citing” in journals be considered a form of scientific misconduct?

 

Rejectee and author,  

Arthur L. Rangno

Retired, Cloud and Aerosol Research Group, University of Washington

Abstract

 

Peer-reviewed and other publications that lack the full “story” via author omissions of relevant literature having opposing viewpoints are said to exhibit, “one-sided citing.” This is especially frequent phenomenon in journal articles in the domain of weather modification in which the author has worked. 

One-sided citing is particularly pernicious to journal readers who are deliberately misled; to authors that go uncited and lose ground in citation metrics, and are, therefore, perceived to have less standing in their field than they should.   Implicitly, one-sided citing also damages the institutions whose authors practice it. Raising the bar to “scientific misconduct” on such activity will stop it.

That one-sided citing regularly reaches the peer-review literature in controversial arenas is testimony that the peer-review system is broken and needs to be repaired.

Examples of one-sided citing are discussed.


Below are items that must be filled out in support of your submission to BAMS.

  • Category: Essay/opinion piece on “one-sided citing.”

 

  • Purpose: 1) Bring attention to a serious problem in some peer-reviewed publications that will likely lead to future remediation; 2) open a dialogue for others, who, like this author, have had their modest careers diminished by “one-sided-citing.” 

 

  • Importance: alerts journal readers to the phenomenon of “one-sided-citing” in a medium they otherwise trust and perhaps imbue them with a “caveat emptor” attitude when reading articles in controversial arenas. 

 

  • Length: 1770 words

 

  • Illustrations:none

 

  • Scientific context/interpretation of one-sided citing:

 

One-sided citing is a deliberate act by authors to mislead journal readers by “cooking and trimming” truth.  It inflicts material harm on researchers whose work should be cited but isn’t since one’s standing in his/her field, awards, promotions are often evaluated via citation metrics.   Besides in the cloud seeding domain, it has also been observed in the climate literature.

It arises because of poor, or “one-sided” peer-reviews of manuscripts, which in turn, might well be traced to the practice of authors suggesting reviewers to journal editors, which, not surprisingly, leads to fault-ridden, peer-reviewed articles. 

It is recommended that the AMS adopt wording analogous to that of the FTC regarding consumer fraud and label such acts as “scientific misconduct” to put an end to this practice. 

Examples of one-sided citing are provided in the essay.

 

  • There will be no electronic supplements.

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Response to the letter of rejection for this

essay/opinion piece from the 

Bull. of the Amer. Meteor. Soc.

Thank you, Jeff R., if I may, for taking your valuable time to respond with an assessment of my provocative proposal.  

I knew this would be a pot boiler, but I reasoned that forming a question about the lamentable practice of one-sided citing in the title that it would fly right in for peer-review!  I have 40 years of experience with this kind of activity. 

So why BAMS (again)?

Here’s what I saw about what BAMS says it publishes from the BAMS web page on “article types for BAMS.”  I hope these words remain and do not disappear.

  • “Essays: Up to 5,000 words (average length is about 3,500 words). Based on experience, opinion, and qualitative or quantitative analysis. These peer-reviewed contributions are designated as a “Forum” within the Articles section.”

Certainly, with 40 years of experience with journal literature, the observation of one-sided citing in it, which I quantify by examples,  falls within the criteria stated by BAMS.

We’ve got that.

Can one determine “one-sided citing?  Of course, IF one knows the literature!  You can’t know what’s being omitted if you don’t know the literature!

The inspiration for this essay?  The AMS recommended book, Eloquent Science (Schulz).  Here’s what Schultz had to say about this phenomenon, which I suspect you have not seen:

One-sided reviews of the literature that ignore alternative points of view, however, can be easily recognized by the audience, leading to discrediting of your work as being biased and offending neglected authors…”. 

For emphasis, please observe that Schultz believes, as we who have been subject to one-sided citing do, that it is “easily recognized.”   

You are of the opposite opinion concerning recognition, which I did not expect.  

But then no single editor such as yourself can possibly know enough about any segment of the literature his journal covers to recognize omissions; one-sided citing.

I discuss an example of one-sided citing that appeared in JAMC, the lead author of that article from a respected institution who knows my work in the weather mod domain well.  He had co-authored one or more articles with the beloved leader of the experiments that were brought down by my work; those at Climax, Colorado.   In his article the discredited Climax randomized cloud seeding experiments are cited once,  Mielke et al. (1981).  End of story.  

The long journal paper trail of reanalyses, beginning with Rhea (1983) that showed those Climax results and the hypotheses behind it were ersatz were ignored.  The journal reader, in examining the single reference to Mielke et al. 1981 will learn of a robust cloud seeding success in a randomized experiment!  End of story#2. 

This is misconduct in MY OPINION—the discussion of which is allowed in BAMS essays/opinion pieces.    Others, of course might disagree, not realizing that the lead author was well aware of the unraveling of the Climax experiments. 

Why should it be formally considered “scientific misconduct”?

Many are harmed:   

  1. the journal reader who expects to find truth in a highly acclaimed journal, 
  2. the authors who exposed faulty claims whose work is not cited (impacting citation metrics), 
  3. the journal it appears in can be deemed, in fact, unreliable for “truth”, 
  4. the institutions from which one-sided citing emanates are harmed implicitly by being seen as houses of bias.  

Why is this not obvious?

Again, I can tell you positively that the lead author of that JAMC publication knew of that journal paper trail regarding his home institution’s (Colorado State University) experiments.  

But let’s write him, with you cc-ed, and ask if he “deliberately” omitted contrary findings?  He can’t say he didn’t know about them.  What other answer is then left?  Q. E. D.

The problem for me, as senior members of the community I represent pass (e.g., Roland List, Bernie Silverman, et al), is that younger researchers will no longer “easily recognize” the abuses of one-sided-citing in this domain.  I myself have been deemed, in two recent e-mails, “the last of a dying breed” and “the best of a dying breed.”  It was use of the word “dying” that made the most impact…and resurrected thoughts of the bucket list.  Jeff Rosenfeld is on the receiving end of that list I’m afraid, thoughts left on the table…

The motivation  to address the one-sided citing problem (after discovering it was still occurring, and represents a blatant sign of inadequate reviews in weather mod.  Those are likely due to the regrettable practice of authors suggesting reviewers to editors (who are out of their element and cannot possibly know all the resources they should be commanding for the breadth of topics of their journal).  

I was not, of course, asked to review those publications.

I will pass my take on to David Schultz, and see what his take is on it, and whether he thinks BAMS is a good place or?  PNAS?

To use the NRC-NAS phrase in their publication on science ethics, one-sided citing can be described as, “cooking and trimming” the truth.  We should all be against such practices in the strongest way and openly condemn them.  That’s why I recommend that the AMS, first, resurrect their abandoned “Code of Ethics” and incorporate wording of the FTC, adjusted for science, concerning consumer fraud.

Sorry to be such a pain in the butt, Jeff, but, as the song says, “I gotta be me.”

art

PS: My goal was to ignite a Society-wide discussion of this problem with a splash in the BAMS opinion/essay domain.  “One-sided citing” is easily proved.  Examples are discussed in detail in my essay/opinion piece, and briefly here.

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I will post what became a full journal manuscript, well-beyond a mere essay about one-sided citing soon, and will link to it rather than making this blog unseemly long. I name names and orgs, too, from which one-sided citing most frequently emanates to mislead readers.

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