Sunday, December 06, 2009

Chris Reed criticizes Sacramento Bee over Hier Tran story

In a post titled Bee defies own policy, won't fix error, Chris Reed criticizes Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters for not disclosing Reed's role in breaking the Hier Tran degree fraud story. Excerpts:

I broke this story on Dec. 18, 2008, with a blog item headlined "Breaking news: Air board investigating whether lead scientist on diesel regs lied about his Ph.D." that was picked up by Rough and Tumble. (...)

Yet Walters wrote this in his column:

"Although reports of Tran's deception circulated for months, including a couple of brief media mentions, it wasn't until recently that CARB officials publicly acknowledged it."

The notice of adverse action as to Tran is on the internet. Paragraph 12 explicitly mentions some of Chris Reed's efforts. Paragraph 6 explicitly mentions a document by Dr. James Enstrom, and others, that was placed in the regulation record on December 3, 2008, indicating a problem with Tran's degree. Paragraph 7 indicates Enstrom raised the issue with Board Member John Balmes on December 5, 2008. Paragraph 10 mentions rigorous internal and external peer review. Paragraph 12 noted that one Lois Henry had inquired about the peer review process on March 9, 2009.

The Bakersfield Californian wrote:

In an era when the opposing sides of assorted political and social issues wield competing scientific studies like clubs, it's more important than ever for legitimate policy-making bodies to be meticulously forthright and above-board. Critics are watching them, double-checking their numbers and reading their e-mails. There's no room for fraud, even fraud as relatively minor as Tran's might have been.

IPBiz does not think lying about having a degree from UC/Davis, when one obviously did not have such a degree, is "relatively minor." Further, while IPBiz totally agrees that getting diesel soot in your lungs is bad, the issue before the Board was tailoring the right regulation to the known risk/exposure. If the guy in charge really didn't have the degree in statistics he said he possessed, who is going to believe him?

The "peer review" dodge is used to cover up author/journal error. Note LBE's discussion in SSI-11, near the text

"I contacted the editor of the journal. Of the non-citation and mis-citation issues, nothing was
done, and in fact the mis-citation was repeated in a later paper. Of the issue of arguably bad science, the
key assumption was re-characterized as the existence of amorphous and crystalline phases in the coal. "

The editor noted an (anonymous) world expert had reviewed the paper in question and the editor stood behind the
work (just as the Board is standing behind Tran's work). [see also X-ray diffraction used to measure levels of sp(2) and sp(3) carbon in fossil fuels: A microcosm of the 1990's, working harder and getting less
PETROLEUM SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. 1997; 15 (1-2): 171-183]

Having once allowed the bad science through, the editor of course had a vested interest to bury the problem, rather than publicly admit a screw-up. The Board's failure to publicly discuss the Tran problem for a long time is along the same lines. Moreover, if one goes back to the early days of the Hwang Woo Suk fraud, one recalls that the editorial people at the journal Science initially characterized the problem as a mere mix-up with figures (see 88 JPTOS 239 ).

Going back to the initial point, Reed is unhappy about Walters not talking about Reed's initial work "breaking" the story of what Enstrom pointed out to the Board on December 3, 2008. The Board and Tran's employer knew about the problem before the rule passed, but took the position that responsible peers found the work acceptable. Query: how come the "peers" didn't know Tran did not have a real degree? Tran had some publications as a co-author while an MS student at UC/Davis, and, if the peers were really on top of their game, they would have known Tran's pedigree. They apparently didn't know and/or didn't care. The Board's dog won't hunt.

See also

Citation and the x-ray diffraction of meta-anthracite

**Update. Of the dangers of soot:

Top 5 Suspected Everyday Carcinogens in the American Cancer Society's Scary New Report:

The odorous fumes [of diesel exhaust] have been linked to lung cancer in a myriad of animal studies and a few small evaluations of truck drivers and others in the automotive industry. But because diesel exhaust is absolutely everywhere, and confounding factors (smoking, lifestyle) are tough to eliminate, more research is necessary.

Where will you find it? Everywhere, all of the time, in every city across the country. As the report notes, exhaust is "ubiquitous in urban areas, with substantial exposure to those who commute on highways for years."


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