There are a number of people who seem to object to one of the reviewers of Lennart Bengtsson’s paper saying
Summarising, the simplistic comparison of ranges from AR4, AR5, and Otto et al, combined with the statement they they are inconsistent is less then helpful, actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of “errors” and worse from the climate sceptics media side.
One of the criticisms seems to be that this politicises science. Well I don’t really understand this objection. All the reviewer is really saying is that the conclusions drawn in the paper are not really indicative of “errors” and “inconsistencies”, and so framing it in this way could lead to it being mis-interpreted. That, by itself, seems fine.
One could argue that the reviewer could have made this point without mentioning “skeptics”. Possibly, but it seems clear that there are people who do, regularly, mis-represent published climate science papers. Being aware of this and trying to make it harder to do this would seem like a reasonable thing to do. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that authors and reviewers should be constantly thinking of this, or that it should become a major consideration; I just see no reason why a reviewer can’t point out that the way something is described in a paper is open to mis-representation.
I also fail to see why what the reviewer said is overtly political. It does seem that some mis-represent science for political means, but quite why trying to make that harder is, itself, political. It’s almost as if people as saying “misrepresenting science is an acceptable political act and therefore overtly trying to prevent this is itself political”. Well, I don’t quite see the logic of that, if that is what people are suggesting. What I do agree with (and maybe this is what some are getting at) is that the political fight should not be allowed to pollute the scientific literature (H/T Victor Venema). This is certainly a valid concern but, again, I still don’t see how what this referee has said is really doing that.
So, I can certainly see that people should be careful about how they respond to the possible mis-representation of their work. It’s also probably unavoidable at some level; so worrying about it too much would be counter-productive. Making it harder – where possible – would, however, seem sensible. I also think that people should bear in mind that this was one paragraph in a reasonably lengthy response by one of two reviewers. In general, I would think that we’d rather reviewers felt free – within reason – to say whatever they think is appropriate. The editor can always choose to ignore it, the authors can always respond to counter it, and – if necessary – there is always the option of getting extra opinions.
At the moment, I’m struggling to see how those who object to what this referee has said are not essentially saying “how dare a referee say something that would make it harder for so-called “skeptics” to mis-represent climate science papers. It’s not fair!”