Reproducibility of high resolution reconstruction – one year on

It is about a year since my paper discussing the reproducibility of high resolution reconstructions was finally published, so I thought I should give a full account of what has happened since.


None of the authors of the papers I critiqued have tried to prove that I am mistaken. Many of the assertions I made should be extremely easy to disprove. For example, to prove that the calibration-in-time models are cross-validated, the authors only need to publicly archive their C2 file. That they haven’t, suggests to me that they cannot disprove my assertions. Nor have the authors corrected or retracted their papers.

What about the editors? Surely they are concerned about potentially problematic papers in their journals. Alas, I gave up expecting robust action from editors a long time ago. Anyone who follows @MicrobiomDigest will understand.

Against this pessimism, the editor of The American Naturalist did an exceptional job in dealing with dubious spider data (the original blog posts have been deleted; lawyers have been sending letters)

What about institutions?

The Integrity Officer at the University of Bern assured me that they were still investigating the Silvaplanasee and Seebergsee papers. One of the concerns with the Seebergsee paper is that the chironomid counts might be as low as three rather than the reported thirty. To prove this one only needs to be able to count to three. I have no idea why it has taken the University of Bern more than two years to do this. Perhaps they employed a two-toed sloth and it ran out of fingers.

Previously, the University of Bern had determined that, other than some regrettable confusion about whether nineteen is larger or smaller than fifty, there were no critical issues with the Zabinskie paper.
Apparently is it quite normal for the data to change half a dozen times after publication; for redundancy analyses to contain more sites than the underlying data; and for sites in a principal component analysis to bounce around and disappear like the contents of a box of frogs watched over by a heron.

The University of Bern may have discovered mountains of evidence that exonerates the authors, but their policy of maintaining complete secrecy about integrity proceedings conflicts with the need for the transparency required for trust.

One of the rationales for keeping integrity proceedings secret is to protect the reputation of anyone who is mistakenly accused.
This policy might have been viable some decades ago, but now that any fool can raise concerns on twitter or post anonymous comments on it is at best a quaint relic of a more patrician era.


About richard telford

Ecologist with interests in quantitative methods and palaeoenvironments
This entry was posted in Peer reviewed literature, reproducible research, transfer function and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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